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Motown 1960's Signal Chain
Old 15th March 2016
  #1
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Motown 1960's Signal Chain

Hi everyone,

I've always loved music from this time period and I still get this crazy excitement and energy when I listen to an old classic.

I know they had engineers make some of their own equipment but I'm just curious if anyone has any info on what Microphones or Preamps Motown used in the 1960s.

Songs like:
The Marvelettes - Please Mr. Postman
Mary Wells - You Beat Me To The Punch
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
- Jimmy Mack
- (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
Marvin Gaye - Heard It Through The Grapevine

I challenge you to listen to any of those without tapping your feet, singing along, or dancing up a storm.
Old 15th March 2016
  #2
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Didn't they use Altec Lansing consoles?
Old 16th March 2016
  #3
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
They used a Neumann tube console and modeled their studio after the PAMS jingle company of Dallas. There was a sign next to the console that said "Just Like PAMS".
Old 16th March 2016 | Show parent
  #4
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by mstrwzrd ➑️
Didn't they use Altec Lansing consoles?
You may be right, thank you for the response! I've read that Altec Lansing equipment was popular for the time. I also just read about an interview with Mike McLean who was chief engineer at Motown for some time and apparently they used, at least at some point, an AKG C-12 to Altec 1567A into a Fairchild compressor. However, this is information being relayed to me third hand and via the Internet so the accuracy is uncertain.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Truth ➑️
They used a Neumann tube console and modeled their studio after the PAMS jingle company of Dallas. There was a sign next to the console that said "Just Like PAMS".
Haha, I had no idea that was the case, thank you for the info! I'll have to read more into PAMS influence. I did check out their website, they have some awesome jingle samples from several decades. It was interesting to read about the influence radio had on the industry. That seemed to be the major medium for advertisement aside from live performances. So cool to ponder such aspects of those times.

UPDATE:
I've been trying to find pictures of artists in the Motown studio to see if I can catch a glimpse of the equipment.
Is that a Neumann in this photo?!
Attached Thumbnails
Motown 1960's Signal Chain-gordy_supremesinstudioa.jpg  

Last edited by HackyZach; 16th March 2016 at 03:44 AM.. Reason: Photo Addition
Old 16th March 2016
  #5
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Don't be fooled by the current PAMS website. It's a totally different company now. The original owner and driving force behind PAMS, Bill Meeks died in 1999. All of great PAMS jingle singers of the 60s are either really old or dead. The PAMS studios where the jingles were made in the 60s is now a totally different business. The PAMS studios of the 60s had all state of the art equipment including a Neumann tube board, Neumann U-47 mics, Pultec Eqs, Teletronix LA-2As and Fairchild 660 and 670 compressor limiters, EMT 140 plate reverb, Ampex multitrack tape recorders. Berry Gordy, president of Motown, was so impressed by PAMS and Bill Meeks that he modeled the Motown studios after PAMS. Berry Gordy also mixed all the Motown songs just like PAMS mixed jingles. Bill Meeks was a big believer in the Fletcher-Munson theory.
Old 16th March 2016
  #6
Gear Maniac
 
SydBeretta's Avatar
 
🎧 5 years
This article goes through some of it for the early stuff.

The Four Tops: 'Reach Out I'll Be There' | Classic Tracks
Old 16th March 2016
  #7
Lives for gear
 
DCtoDaylight's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Through the Miracle of Gearslutz, you can get insight into this stuff from Bob Ohlsson, who did a lot of work at Motown.

I think this link will take you to a list of his posts:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/sear...rchid=89291276
Old 16th March 2016
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 5 years
neumann tube desk? Never happened afaik.
Old 16th March 2016 | Show parent
  #9
Lives for gear
 
cheu78's Avatar
 
4 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by DCtoDaylight ➑️
Through the Miracle of Gearslutz, you can get insight into this stuff from Bob Ohlsson, who did a lot of work at Motown.

I think this link will take you to a list of his posts:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/sear...rchid=89291276
Link doesn't work but Bob is definitely the one to talk about the motown era gear.
He will probably tell you that was more about playing great arrangements together in the room, not really about the tube consoles or (now) vintage mics (although they were pretty great sounding).

Paging @ Bob Olhsson



Cheu
Old 17th March 2016
  #10
Lives for gear
 
🎧 15 years
Reading about this Motown compressor technique should be educational (you can use the same trick in a DAW with plugs).

http://www.recordinginstitute.com/R2KREQ/excomp.htm
Old 17th March 2016 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Truth ➑️
Berry Gordy also mixed all the Motown songs just like PAMS mixed jingles. Bill Meeks was a big believer in the Fletcher-Munson theory.

Really interesting point! We should elaborate some more about the "basicness" of stuff and the flether-munson theory as it pertains to music mixing.I feel like Serban really embraces that these days.
Old 22nd March 2016 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Head
 
🎧 5 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Truth ➑️
Don't be fooled by the current PAMS website. It's a totally different company now. The original owner and driving force behind PAMS, Bill Meeks died in 1999. All of great PAMS jingle singers of the 60s are either really old or dead. The PAMS studios where the jingles were made in the 60s is now a totally different business. The PAMS studios of the 60s had all state of the art equipment including a Neumann tube board, Neumann U-47 mics, Pultec Eqs, Teletronix LA-2As and Fairchild 660 and 670 compressor limiters, EMT 140 plate reverb, Ampex multitrack tape recorders. Berry Gordy, president of Motown, was so impressed by PAMS and Bill Meeks that he modeled the Motown studios after PAMS. Berry Gordy also mixed all the Motown songs just like PAMS mixed jingles. Bill Meeks was a big believer in the Fletcher-Munson theory.
Man you are just chock-full of awesome information! Thank you so much! I'll definitely be looking into that equipment and seeing if I can model my little home studio after it (within my budget of course haha). Also, the Fletcher-Munson theory is completely new to me, that's going to be really helpful come mixing time. Can't thank you enough for this info, you're the man!

Quote:
Originally Posted by SydBeretta ➑️
This article goes through some of it for the early stuff.

The Four Tops: 'Reach Out I'll Be There' | Classic Tracks
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr ➑️
Reading about this Motown compressor technique should be educational (you can use the same trick in a DAW with plugs).

THE EXCITING COMPRESSOR
These are going to be super helpful, full of information on their processes! Thank you both for the links! So great!

A big thank you to everyone else, I had no idea Bob Olhsson participated in the forum discussions. I'll look up his posts and see what I can find! You guys rock!

Sorry for being so giddy haha, I've just always had a serious appreciation for the Motown style of music. There's just a beautiful upbeat energy in their music no matter how happy or sad the lyrical story is. All of this info helps me get one step closer to being able to create my own music using the style I love. Thank you guys!
Old 23rd March 2016 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Guru
 
kennybro's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by HackyZach ➑️
I had no idea Bob Olhsson participated in the forum discussions. I'll look up his posts and see what I can find!
Yeah, he's a frequent poster, and a fountain of info on Motown facts and details.
Old 23rd March 2016
  #14
Here for the gear
 
🎧 5 years
Fletcher-Munson Theory

For those of you who don't know what it is or how to use it in mixing, I thought I'd explain it.

Fletcher and Munson worked for the Bell Telephone Company in the 1930s. They did research to find what frequencies the human ear could hear the best so they could equalize phone lines to optimize those frequencies. They found that the human ear hears frequencies between 3000 and 5000 cycles the best.

How does this apply to mixing?

The Fletcher-Munson Theory is the only way to make something seem louder to the human ear without using compression. It was especially important for rock and soul on AM radio in the 50s and 60s because most AM radios rolled off above 5000 cycles. If you listen to just about any 50s and 60s song, you'll hear a big boost at 4000 cycles which is the mid range of the Fletcher-Munson Theory. Berry Gordy used it extensively on all Motown mixes. George Martin used it extensively on all the early Beatles singles. All PAMS Jingles were mixed that way. These are a few examples. Everybody used it.

Here's how and why to use it today.

If you want something exciting and punchy sounding on rock or soul, use it. If you want high fidelity on classical or beautiful music, don't use it. If you're going to use it, boost your 4000 cycle eq as much as possible until it begins to sound thin. When it begins to sound thin, back off the 4000 cycle eq about 2 to 3 db and you'll get all the benefits of all the mid range punch without it sounding thin.

If you have any questions about it, I'll be happy to answer them.
Old 13th July 2017
  #15
Here for the gear
 
I actually acquired a matching pair of McIntosh 2100's at auction. These units came out of the Motown engineering dept; playback amps. They have the stamped metal Motown tags which have their own separate Motown serial numbers outside of the one's used by McIntosh. Yes I've had them in use for almost 5 years. The find of a lifetime they should maybe be in museum. My future plan is to have them completely and carefully serviced by none other than McIntosh labs in New York. I've had my time with them so it's off to the auction. I'm selling the pair together personally I don't think they should be separated. The reserve will probably be set somewhere around 20k.
Old 13th July 2017 | Show parent
  #16
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ponzi's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Truth ➑️
...It was especially important for rock and soul on AM radio in the 50s and 60s because most AM radios rolled off above 5000 cycles. If you listen to just about any 50s and 60s song, you'll hear a big boost at 4000 cycles which is the mid range of the Fletcher-Munson Theory...
Very interesting, thanks for documenting this.

Maybe too fine a point, but Fletcher Munson documented the average human perceived loudness to various frequencies, so I wouldn't call it a theory, more like a reference chart. I have always seen it referred to as the Fletcher Munson Curves. I think the objective of the phone company was to identify the minimum bandwidth necessary to convey speech in an intelligible manner and with a minimum of power. Targeting the frequencies the ear is most sensitive to lowers the power requirements.

What you are describing in the mixing process looks to me like the equalization was done to accommodate the technological limitations of the consumer playback gear, not the human ear sensitivity to certain frequencies. Though the human ear sensitivities would factor into how the songs sounded. The Fletcher Munson curves would come into play when one would boost the higher and lower frequencies so they would sound as loud as the mid-range. I believe this was the main purpose of the 'loudness' control on old stereos, as the Fletcher Munson curves were different depending on loudness.

This makes me wonder if playing back these songs on full range equipment would sound far different than the original mix was expected to sound--too much high frequencies, for instance.
Old 13th July 2017 | Show parent
  #17
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by ponzi ➑️
This makes me wonder if playing back these songs on full range equipment would sound far different than the original mix was expected to sound--too much high frequencies, for instance.
Funny you should say that... I have the Hitsville USA box set, which contains mono transfers that were made to sound very true to the tape sources. Indeed the mixes sound pretty strident in the 3 - 5 kHz range, especially on a high end system. Still an exciting listen, though! The magic is there.
Old 13th July 2017
  #18
Lives for gear
 
vernier's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by HackyZach ➑️
Hi everyone,

I've always loved music from this time period and I still get this crazy excitement and energy when I listen to an old classic.

I know they had engineers make some of their own equipment but I'm just curious if anyone has any info on what Microphones or Preamps Motown used in the 1960s.

Songs like:
The Marvelettes - Please Mr. Postman
Mary Wells - You Beat Me To The Punch
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
- Jimmy Mack
- (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
Marvin Gaye - Heard It Through The Grapevine

I challenge you to listen to any of those without tapping your feet, singing along, or dancing up a storm.
I dunno ...they had that big tube direct box, probably was something else converted to what it is. And wasn't there a couple rack size Altec mixers? ..seems a photo somewhere had them. For mics, wouldn't that be U47? . .and maybe a tape echo of some sort?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #19
Here for the gear
 
🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by HackyZach ➑️
Hi everyone,

I've always loved music from this time period and I still get this crazy excitement and energy when I listen to an old classic.

I know they had engineers make some of their own equipment but I'm just curious if anyone has any info on what Microphones or Preamps Motown used in the 1960s.

Songs like:
The Marvelettes - Please Mr. Postman
Mary Wells - You Beat Me To The Punch
Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
- Jimmy Mack
- (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
Marvin Gaye - Heard It Through The Grapevine

I challenge you to listen to any of those without tapping your feet, singing along, or dancing up a storm.
I know this post is 5 years old but thought you would find this useful: https://recordingmag.com/resources/r...io-archaeology
Old 3 weeks ago
  #20
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
The talent and performing skill of the subject artists is more than 90% of sonic magic these recordings offered. Bob Ohlsson certainly is one of the few available authorities today that were really working there putting the sonic genie in recordings that changed our pop music expectations. The gear they used or invented was, IMO, the least important element of the Motown sound.
Hugh
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #21
Lives for gear
 
DCtoDaylight's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by hughshouse ➑️
The talent and performing skill of the subject artists is more than 90% of sonic magic these recordings offered. Bob Ohlsson certainly is one of the few available authorities today that were really working there putting the sonic genie in recordings that changed our pop music expectations. The gear they used or invented was, IMO, the least important element of the Motown sound.
Hugh
Very true! And there are also some workflow elements involved that are only tangentially gear-related, like the way they handled the multiple guitar players' signals. Sending them all through a single shared monitor speaker (as discussed here: Motown sounds) meant that the players had to think of themselves as a unified whole right from the get-go.

And to your point, for that approach to work, the musicians involved had to have excellent ears and performing skills, as well as a willingness to be part of an ensemble.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #22
Gear Guru
 
monkeyxx's Avatar
 
18 Reviews written
🎧 10 years
This just came out: very informative overview





My personal "favorite" is the Wolfbox direct box, I build them and I love them, love that old school P bass tone.

Although, yeah, they had a lot more great gear on top of those, and a great room to record in.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #23
Lives for gear
 
🎧 10 years
https://acmeaudio.net/#mtp66

This box was well used back in the day.

Cheers
Old 3 weeks ago
  #24
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avare's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
I hope you are joking. The sixties is decade of great change. There are numerous threads on this. If you intrigued him, Bob Olhson will reply.
Old 3 weeks ago | Show parent
  #25
Lives for gear
 
mahler007's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio Truth ➑️
If you listen to just about any 50s and 60s song, you'll hear a big boost at 4000 cycles which is the mid range of the Fletcher-Munson Theory. Berry Gordy used it extensively on all Motown mixes. George Martin used it extensively on all the early Beatles singles. All PAMS Jingles were mixed that way. These are a few examples. Everybody used it.
Interesting. While I am very familiar with Fletcher-Munson, I did not realize that people were exploiting it so directly back in the day. This goes a long way towards explaining why β€” in what is likely an unpopular opinion β€” I quite dislike the sound of a lot of the old music that folks rave about (though I do love the music itself).

I know the Beatles are amazing, but I have never particularly liked the sound of any of their records, save for maybe some specific tunes from Abbey Road. They always sound very thin to me.
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