Q It Up: What’s the oldest piece of audio equipment or software you still use, even if only occasionally? Maybe it’s an old compressor or external reverb or effects processor that has a sound you just can’t find anywhere else. What do you like about it? What use does it still serve? Maybe you have an old DAT deck, turntable or reel-to-reel that still serves a purpose! What about old software that’s still in use, like Cool Edit or some early plug-in that still does the job for you?
Scott Walker Paulette, Equip FM: I’m still editing daily on Adobe Audition 1.5. I also have AA 3.0, but for me 1.5 is very comfortable and serves my purposes well. I am sorry to see Adobe and others moving to a cloud based or subscription model. We’re still using Cool Edit (not Pro) to record the Bible teaching at our church, on a Windows 98 machine! Granted, we should update that PC soon before it fails on a Sunday morning, but the original Cool Edit still works very well. I’ve not tinkered with the latest version Adobe offers because I don’t want a subscription, and while it may offer some features I might enjoy, I’m happy to keep on truckin’ with 1.5!
Gary Michaels, WASK, WKOA, WKHY, WXXB, ESPN, Lafayette, IN: Great question! I still have and use my old Eventide H3000 Ultra-Harmonizer. It's routed through an aux send on my board. I can tune in the reverb, echo, pitch shift and other vocal effects on it so incredibly fine and extremely quick. I use plugins for a lot of things in normal day-to-day production, but there's times when only the Eventide gives me exactly what I'm looking for. I'll use it till it retires itself!
Dennis Daniel, Cameron Advertising, Hauppauge, NY: The oldest piece of equipment I use in ME. My voice has been with me for 55 years... and while it has changed somewhat over the years (I used to sound like a baby, then a kid, then a teenager, then an adult in various degrees of base and treble), I find that it still gets the job done... especially with some lubrication. My mind has also changed with the advancing years, but I still believe that being partially insane has helped me survive in an insane business. My voice and mind... best pieces of equipment I ever owned.
Danny Zamarron, La Mejor, Atlanta, GA: I don’t know if this applies, but I do still use some of the ol’ lazers, zips and zaps. I’ve found that by taking bits and pieces of certain vintage sounds and adding them to new FX, a unique composition can be made.
Dave Savage, Creative Services Group, iHeartMedia, Atlanta, GA: One of the coolest things we have at the CSG studios is the Legacy Room. It’s a small room with a computer running Adobe Audition. Connected to that is a simple mixer that has all the old equipment connected to it – turntable, reel, mini disc, DAT, and cassette. Every now and then one of us will find a box full of some sort of outdated audio that needs to be digitized. Of course for me, many of those items are much better in my memory than actually hearing them. Haha.
Gord Williams: The oldest piece of equipment in the studio is me. Everything else I bought in the past five years. I guess there isn't anything but a smart answer for this one.
Archer Dusablon: For software, it's Cool Edit 2000, because it creates an antiquated audio format several clients need for their phone prompt systems. My oldest piece of hard equipment is a Teac X1000M reel-to-reel for digitizing old analog tapes.
Ben Thorgeirson, Ben Thorgeirson Voice Over: Our drive guy does a ‘90s music oriented show in Vancouver, so I have a DAT player in my studio to rip his old interviews. Recently we've had to download a converter so we could get his RA files as well. And I have a mini disc player and a cassette deck in my studio just in case we need to get an old interview. Unfortunately, no reel-to-reel, haha.
Dave Cockram, Indie88, Toronto, ON: Outboard gear is something I miss. It’s a hassle to set up, and signal flow has never been my strong suit. But when I worked at JACK FM in Vancouver, they had a great Eventide FX processor with amazing Analog Delays I miss to this day. I can’t even explain why I liked it so much. I think this machine was how I learned to use Tap delays where I could sync the delay to the beat of the music. A simple and subtle effect I use almost every day to this day… but without all the AUX sends and routing. Now a tap delay is about 3 clicks away.
I also had a tape deck back then. I loved dumping library music/fx to cassette then back into my DAW. It was the easiest way to replicate lo fi sounds.
Now I guess the oldest technology I have is a turntable. It’s a new consumer USB turntable. The needle sucks, and the DI is noisy, but it’s perfect for sampling really terrible specialty music from my weird vinyl collection. That being said, I haven’t used in for a couple years. I’ve already ripped most of my library. There’s a lot of dust on it.
I also have a Zoom H4 from about 2008 that I never use. I use to carry it around to grab backgrounds, but now I just use my iPhone. I’m saving this for the day I have to do on location testimonials because there are 2 XLR ins. I know that day is coming!
CJ Goodearl: My mouth! Seriously, I still have a million SFX and stuff I've made or collected on minidisc. Sony MDS-B5 still goin' strong!
Mitch Todd, Sirius/XM, New York, NY: Wow—Should I date myself this badly?!
I have some mics I still use from the ‘70s/’80s for VOs and occasional field recording. Two Sennheiser 421s (not just for tom toms & AM radio anymore)!
And the truly indestructible EV 635A for its unique sound on a VO (occasionally for more of an effect where the mic’s used VERY close, that I’ll further process like a PA mic, or just looking for a “vintage” sound). Also a handful of original Shure SM 57s & 58s that can always come in handy somewhere!
A pair of UREI 1176 compressors that still sound GREAT (and have been re-capped twice already in over 17 years). Nothing sounds like these babies to my ear.
I also still have a CBS labs Audimax & Volumax in the attic — if anyone wants them (they were working in ’85)!
OK-Enough memory lane. Got a few new plug-ins I have to master!
Colm Dunphy: Still using my original:
- EV RE20 mic - as my main mic (although it now goes through a FetHead microphone preamp to get levels right for newer USB sound interfaces).
- Beyer DT 100 monitor headphones - for monitoring without upsetting the wife.
- Shure 58 mic - any mic work outside the studio.
- My Technics 1210s for scratching - still using the pair I bought 30 years ago, but the needles have been changed!
Although I have nice Mac Book Pros with Ableton Live, Adobe Audition CC, etc. in 2 older studios I have Cool Edit running on 15 year old PC computers running Windows XP and TASCAM external USB interfaces that are used just for recording mic VOs. You can't get the drivers for the newer operating systems but the hardware is fine. Just don't connect those machines to the internet!
I didn't think they were that old until I recently plugged in my MBOX PRO 2 to find that the latest drivers for OSX Yosemite no longer support the sound card! There is a hack that gets it working again ;)
Art Hadley: It’s sad. Just retired my Windows XP laptop running CoolEdit 2.1, with the USB Red Rover hardware controller with a ten foot cord. Now running Win 7 and 10, with up-to-date subscription to everything Adobe, but still using Audition 3.0. Many keyboard controls (like alt-T to get into filtering, reverb, compression, etc.) unchanged for decades are gone in the newest version of Audition. I only open the new one when there’s something the old one can’t do, like strip out the audio track of an MP4 video or magic Photoshop-style audio healing.
Oh, I’m using it to record Neumann and Audio-Technica mics that are turning 40 soon.
Don Elliot, Levine/Schwab Broadcasting, Hollywood, CA: When I established "the sound" of KIIS-FM, I had a chain of items that together produced an unbeatable sound. They were, mainly, a Sennheiser 416 shotgun mic, an Aphex aural exciter and, last but not least, our Universal Audio LA-3A compressor/limiter. There are hardly words to describe this other than punching, present, and still yet "big as a barn door" the way it "printed" on the air without additional meddling or interference from the air-chain.
I have owned a number of them over the years in my private studios and studios that I have built for others. At one time, I thought that technology had progressed where I could match the sound with other devices and/or software; so I sold my units to raise money for whatever seemed important at the time, to my great regret! It has only been in the last six months that I acquired a pair of original vintage units and had them completely re-capped and restored by one of the KIIS engineers, "Genius Jerry" Burnham. A pair of these vintage units will set you back around $3000 right now, and the newly manufactured ones from UREI or Universal Audio list for around $3500. They sound as good as the original?… Maybe. I haven't tried a pair. But obviously the demand for "that sound" caused the manufacturer to build this "reissue" series to meet demand for those in the know about them.
I first used it at 1500 AM / KROQ, KBLA, KBBQ Los Angeles, in production with RCA 77s, Western Electric birdcage 639-A's, and others. But the 416 packs a punch for promos that is really hard to surpass. Its wall of sound is unbeatable in a theater setting with trailers -- TV, AM, FM, or other digital arenas as well.
One of the reasons they sounded so good was you could rely on them having a fast attack and slow release all preprogrammed. Part of this was due to the action of something called an "optocoupler" which software attempts to emulate now on their clone of it... and I must admit, with some success, but it's not the same. Also, this device users transformers, which I am a fan of the sound of… I never really liked the new gear that became transformerless, including the Neumann mic's after they remove the transformer circuits… thus, "TLM" series meant transformerLESS, not with transformer!
Other gear that I wish I never sold that I have used until very recently include an ARP 2600 keyboard and an original Moog!
Brings me to the ongoing realization that new isn't always better!
Tom Fridley: Adobe Audition 1.5 -- reliable, easy to understand and easy to teach the basics to new users.
Wally Wawro, WFAA-TV Creative Services, Dallas, TX: I keep a Technics turntable handy along with a Revox reel-to-reel and a Denon cassette deck. But my favorite "vintage" gear in the rack is the Eventide H-3000B Ultra Harmonizer. It doesn't get used often but it just works. I like the hardware version much better than the software plug-in -- plus preset 410, Stereo Copter, rocks!
Austin Michael, NRG Media, Lincoln, NE: I’m sure there is something older hidden under the cabinet somewhere, but I have an old TEAC W-600R Stereo Double Cassette Deck on my office desk. I don’t know its age. All I know is that it was dug out of an old box in my GM’s attic for the following, singular purpose:
You see, there was a client a few months back that needed to update the on hold messages for his 30+ stores around the state. He could only upload them into the system using cassettes.
A jimmy rig here and a plug there had it hooked into my computer to record things to the cassettes… every single one in real time because the motor in the second cassette deck, used for dubbing, was slightly off, making everything warble.
That was a fun 3 ½ hours.
Pulled out of service a month ago: a pair of JBL 4311 monitors, vintage 1978, still functioning just fine. (I swapped rooms and the new studio/office is smaller, so they're physically too big right now.)
Also on the shelf if needed: a terrific JoeMeek ThreeQ preamp, an AKG C3000B mic, and a little Behringer mixer, all from early 2000s, and a Kenwood direct-drive turntable, 1978.
My desk is a sturdy, wooden dining room table from the '70s. And the bourbon is 12-years old according to the bottle. Since your question now makes me feel quite ancient, I'll go pull a shot or two.
Al Peterson, Radio America Network, Washington DC: I don't use it all the time. In fact, not as often as I'd like to. But I have a 1972 MiniMoog D synthesizer that I got when a station I used to work for was sold.
In 1988, I was production director for WHEN (AM) Syracuse, and the studio was tricked out with some great gear, including the Moog. By 1996 I was in Washington DC and received word that the new station owners were scrapping everything that was surplussed in the garage and the bomb shelter. The chief engineer remembered how much I coveted it when I was there, so he rescued it from the dumpster, stuck it in a box and mailed it to me. For free.
For basic zaps and bleeps, nothing beats these old analog monsters. And with modern effect processing, the sound is unlike anything else out there.
Chadd Pierce: I admire anyone who can keep on the cutting edge by investing the very latest, but I'm on a one-man-entrepreneur's budget. On my 2013 PC, Macromedia 2004 handles my website design, Photoshop from 2007, ProTools 9, not sure how old my Avalon 737 is (early 2000s?), got a dbx hanging around from around '07, but my pride and joy is the 1971 Neumann U87. It's only fair to acknowledge my classic Sega Genesis, complete with Game Genie, for Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam 98, and Madden.
Joshua Mackey, www.MackeyVoiceTalent.com: The oldest piece of equipment I currently use in recording and audio production is my microphone. It's a discontinued R0DE NTV large-diaphragm capacitor mic. It was purchased new about 20 years ago, and I've been using it since 2000. It started as a vocal microphone for the music projects I was working on at the time. Then it took a vacation while I was in radio and not really doing any side work. In 2011, I fired it back up and it is now my main microphone for voiceover. It's still being used because it is a solid work horse and sounds great, just like it did back in 2000 when I purchased it. Other than that, I have some odds and ends that I use occasionally including an AKAI MPC2000, Event 20/20 monitors, and two Technic SL1200 turntables (all used as part of my DJ and music production business). Currently, all software and hardware for my recording rig is fairly up-to-date.
Jay Rose CAS: The electro-mechanical stuff. It doesn't go bad or get obsolete.
Like microphones. I still use my AKG C451/CK1 combos from 1972, and they still sound great, though I'm also using a 20-year old RE20 and a 15-year-old AKG414. (I regret selling the 77DX that I bought used in 1971 -- Lord knows how old it was then -- and had RCA rebuild in 1978. If I'd kept and taken care of it, it would still be working fine… or would pay off my mortgage.)
Also speakers. The JBL4410s I bought in 1990 are still running fine, though I demoted them to aux use (dialog channel for film mixing) when I bought a pair of 4412As in 1999. Those bigger guys are still my main monitors, and still tell me everything about my mixes.
On the software side, I'm still using the a/r and project-tracking app I built in 1994… and Eventide is still selling the DSP4000B effects processors I wrote in 1996… but both of those had to be ported to newer hardware and operating systems. So they're still youngsters.
George Johnson: Great Q It Up question this month! The oldest piece of equipment in my studio is "Me"! But I'm not electronic, therefore that reply doesn't qualify as a satisfactory answer to your question…
Because everything recorded, starts at the microphone; I'll have to say, it is my RCA 77-DX Poly Directional microphone, which I purchased from a retired audio engineer in Memphis, TN. I rarely use it, but when I do, it's very bold & brilliant, depending on the frequency of voice that's being projected through it. There are many videos on YouTube showing Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Wanda Jackson performing with this type of mic.
Dennis McAtee: All of our studios have digital consoles, with one exception, in the event that the digital console engine fails. So we're using an Autogram Pacemaker, circa 1980-something, in the main production studio.
Dave Spiker, Imagination Media: Great question! Yes, still use Cool Edit occasionally. If I get a wacky WAV file that won't open in any of a half dozen other DAW programs, it ALWAYS opens in Cool Edit. Then I can re-save and use elsewhere. What would I do without Cool Edit. The other OLD software I use is a plug-in suite from (now defunct) Arboretum Software. I use its Hyperprism Harmonic Exciter a lot. You know how a good aural exciter adds just enough shimmer to the highs without being heavy handed? Yeah? This isn't it. No, it's heavy handed and brutal. But if I'm handed some kind of miserable piece of audio from an old cassette, copied from a retro Wollensak, of some guy who sounded like he had a sock stuffed in his mouth, that software will reach through the sock past his tonsils to find some high frequencies to bring back to life. Yes, the software is so old and so poorly coded that it crashes my DAW half the time, but when one asks for the impossible, one has to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.
David Boothe CAS, www.HopeForTheHeart.org, Dallas, TX: The oldest piece of gear I still use is a Quad-Eight AutoMix 3-B. This is a little-known compressor built in the early to mid-1970s. Gain reduction is accomplished by a proprietary, potted submodule. There are only two compression ratios, 2:1 and 4:1.
This compressor can smooth out a VO or lead vocal with no pumping or other artifacts. It also has an uncanny ability to make the VO or vocal pop out in front of a mix, unlike any other compressor I've used.
We also have a Klark-Teknik DN780 digital reverb from the mid-1980s. This reverb has a smooth, transparent quality, without the grittiness or "digital" quality that many reverbs from that era have. There are many fine reverbs being built today, and the DN780 does not replace those. But there is nothing that works in a mix quite like it.
Howard Hoffman: Yes, I’m still using these two jurassic mechanisms, mostly to retrieve archived stuff and recycle the sounds or material:
The Tascam 32, circa 1983, with new belts and hubs…
And from 1996, a Sony PCM-R500 DAT deck, just fully refurbished last year.
Ken Martin: Still on the audio chain (see pic of Optimod FM).