After a lengthy period of negotiation, I can finally reveal the story behind my new stash of audio gear. Well, the audio gear isn't new but the stash is new... for me anyway.
I've been sitting on this post for a few months now. What a good blogger I am! I was going to post pictures. Perhaps I will soon.
My partner takes an interest in real estate. Prices would have to drop by 40% before we'd even consider buying, so we've decided to keep renting for now. Nevertheless, she keeps an eye on things. So she was trawling realestate.com.au and came across a listing for an flat in Canterbury. One of the pictures was a room filled with old audio equipment, most notably an RCA 44BX.
Now that's the sort of thing you don't see, as the vendors and their agents usually want to present the property in the best possible light. This was weird.
So I sent a message to the agent saying "I'm not interested in the property, but I am interested in the audio gear". The recipient very kindly sent the email on to the vendors.
It turns out that the flat came onto the market from a deceased estate. The gentleman who lived there was an ex-3AK engineer. He'd kept a bit of old equipment, presumably when the station upgraded. His daughters were faced with the prospect of selling the property and they had to clear it out first.
The place was full of records, hi fi equipment (more cassette decks than you've ever seen in one place!), tape machines, mics and some radio station gear. He had lots of books about audio, trains and model trains. He even had a model railway line around the perimeter of his studio room.
I started talking to the sisters and told them my interest and what I'd be willing to pay. I gave them lots of information and stated what the gear could be worth if it was tested and restored. As they didn't have the means or inclination to do so, they accepted my offers. Some items were claimed by old friends of their father's... and that's fair enough.
When I returned from my travels last month, one of the sisters very kindly contacted me. They had only a few weeks to empty the flat of gear.
So, what was the gear? Here' a comprehensive list:
- RCA 44BX - legendary vintage ribbon mic, apprently in full working order
- STC 4033 microphone - a huge old piece with ribbon and pressure gradient elements - use either one or mix them together!
- Sennheiser MD421 - vintage with the Tuchel connector
- Sennheiser MD21 - omni "reporters' mic"
- Byer 77 tape machine - these can apparently be turned into funky mic pres
- Pye limiter - valves glowing and working
- A weird piece of Pye with input only - it seems to be some sort of signal measuring device
- AWA G51 limiter in pretty bad shape - this will need a lot of restoring
- Uher handheld mic with a DIN connector - probably cheap and nasty but you never know
- Nagra tape machine
- Two enormous hand-built radio consoles
What did I get? All of the above except...
- The family decided to keep the RCA 44 but lend it to an old radio mate of their dad's
- The 421 was promised to someone else
- One of the Byers was promised to someone else and I thought I'd try just one, to convert to a mic pre
- The Nagra went elsewhere - that's OK since I don't want a tape machine
EDIT: To make greater senseLater, a Telefunken-badged Sennheiser MD21 and a rather cheap-looking Uher mic which turned out to have a Shure Unidyne 55 embedded inside it, without the tranny (that's weird), turned up, so I got them too.
I took the weird Pye thing because they didn't know what to do with it.
Now, all of this feels a bit odd. Every sound engineer hopes to come across a stash of gear. But it's become increasingly unlikely that there are many to be found. People realised a long time ago how good the older gear is. It's no longer possible to pick up classic Neve modules for a few hundred bucks. All the TV and radio stations have been cleaned out and one would have to trawl garage sales if there was even the slightest whiff of electronics. (And any electronics gear at a garage sale probably wouldn't be pro audio anyway. Still, if you have a pair of AWA G58s lying around, do contact me!)
It's not that this stuff is particularly high-end, but, still, I never thought this would happen to me.
I also feel like a bit of a pirate. I shouldn't. I was completely up-front with the family. I told them what the gear was worth, what it would take to restore it, what I was willing to pay and why. So I count myself very lucky.
There's a bit of money to be spent: the AWA has to be restored and modified, the Byer needs to be cleaned up, racked and modified, and the Pye should be checked. And then there are the four Calrec modules and two Auditronics modules I have sitting in the queue! I also have a JBL 7510 with three cards (12 mic pres) which needs to be wired up (I got the one with proprietary connectors, not the one with XLRs) and possibly modified.
I'm in audio purgatory!