Over the past 15 or 20 years, the recording industry has undergone a paradigm shift, in process and procedures. 

In the past, a truly professional recording studio required many large, expensive equipment choices: multitrack tape machines ($55,000 or more, each the size of a washing machine, weighing in at around 400 or so pounds), large format mixing consoles (from $50,000 to $800,000 and more, up to 15 feet long and weighing as much as a small car), racks and racks of outboard processing gear (EQ’s, compressors, reverbs, delays and more, each likely ranging in the thousands of dollars).  Not to mention the physical, “brick and mortar” building for the studio itself.  Recording procedures were limited by the constraints of the technology available.  The traditional setup involved a studio room where the majority of the musicians would perform, some isolation rooms for separating individual players and singers, and a control room to contain and isolate the enormous amount of gear required.  Every session was preceded by an hour or so of tape machine cleaning and calibration, in addition to cabling and microphone setup and placement. 

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The Neumann U 47 is without a doubt the most sought-after, legendary, and unfortunately rare microphone in the history of the recording arts.  Known primarily as a vocal mic, it is equally impressive at a wide variety of tasks: from acoustic guitar to upright bass to room sounds for everything from orchestration to drums.  The high end response is silky-smooth and the low frequency reproduction must be heard to be believed.

The history of these amazing mics begins at Georg Neumann GmbH as far back as 1928 with the production of the CVM 3 microphone, sometimes refered to as the “Neumann Bottle” mic and seen in historical films of speeches from that era.  During World War Two, the Neumann factory was bombed and they were forced to move to Thueringen, while their offices stayed in Berlin.  Eventually, in the 1950′s, the East German Government seized the factory and produced microphones there, at first under the “Neumann” name and then under the name “Microtech Gefell”.

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The dbx company grew out of the need to reduce tape machine noise.  It was founded by David Blackmer and the first products used a solid-state voltage control amplifier (VCA) coupled with a RMS based detection and control circuit.  The idea was essentially to compress the dynamic range of the incoming audio signal, then record the result on tape.  At this point, the audio would exist on the tape as well as the inherent tape noise.  However, since the audio signal was compressed before it was recorded, the volume of the signal on tape was always relatively high.  Upon playback, the dbx system would “expand” the entire replay signal (noise included now) with essentially the reverse of the compression curve.  Now when the signal was quiet, the noise was expanded downward.  During louder passages, the noise was for all practical purposes “drowned out” by the original audio signal.  The system did not require elaborate input and output calibration, making it easier to use than the popular Dolby system.  Unfortunately, I have always felt that the dbx noise reduction system created too many noticeable artifacts, such as “pumping” and unnatural attack transients.

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The AKG C 414 condenser microphone has been in production since 1971. It evolved from the tube classic C 12 which first appeared in 1953. The C 12 and its close sibling, the Telefunken 250/251, are still coveted by recording engineers around the world. The Telefunken 250/251 were manufactured by AKG and sold by Telefunken with their nameplate and used the same capsule and, in some models, the same tube and transformer.

The C 12 had two models, the C 12 in 1953 and the C 12 A in 1962. The C 414 came about with the introduction of solid-state amplifier technology powered by a DC voltage ranging from+12 to +52 instead of an external supply.

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