My Studio – 1978

It all started when my older brother Bill came home with a beat up old Wollensak tape recorder he bought from someone on Maxwell Street on a Sunday morning back in the mid 1960’s. Soon we were doing everything from pretending to be radio DJs to doing silly skits. That old machine had died by the time I got into high school, but I saved my pennies and bought myself a really sweet Aiwa portable machine that I used to record music and make little skits. It used 5-inch reels and ran on 4 “D” batteries.

When I graduated from high school with honors, my grandpa offered to buy me a gift. I chose the Wollensak stereo reel-to-reel machine that I kept all through college until the 80’s when I finally could not repair it anymore. It served as the heart of my system for 15 years ( see machine #2 below ).

As I got more serious I started buying equipment, new and used, with the intent of building a recording studio for producing audio drama.  Below is the studio at it finest. Below that are details of the equipment I used, for those of you who are interested in “antique” stereo!

1. Sony 440 Stereo Reel-to-Reel recorder

This was the heart of my system. I used it to master all of my recordings, including radio drama performances.  It was an on the shelf demo at Carson Pirie Scott, where I had an account, so I got a deal. It easily paid for itself. I used it to record on location concerts and recitals; jazz, classical and gospel.

2. Wollensak 5750 Stereo Reel-to Reel-Recorder

This is the beautiful machine that my grandpa bought me as a high school graduation gift. We got it at Allied Electronics on Western Ave in Chicago. It was my entire strereo system for a couple of years. I bought my first pre-recorded tape album to play on this machine.

3. Roberts 450 Stereo Reel-to-Reel deck

For those who don’t remember, the difference between a recorder and a deck; a deck does not have it’s own amplifier. I’m pretty sure I got this as an off-the-shelf demo at either Allied Electronics or Olson Electronics across the street.  This was the beginning of building a studio. I used it along with the Wollensak above to create things that I used on my radio program in college (WIIT).

4. Sony TC-350 Stereo Reel-to-Reel deck

I honestly don’t remember how I got this one. I know I got it really cheap or maybe even free because it had problems that I was able to repair.  It didn’t have to work hard.  Only used it when a third (or 4th) machine was needed for some effects.

5. Technics RS-615 Stereo Cassette deck

I mentioned above that I used to record live concerts and recitals. I bought this machine primarily to make cassette copies for customers, although a couple of times I had to use a professional duplication service to produce a large quantity of tapes.  The quality was so good that it was occasionally used for special effects in my audio productions. I think I bought this at Musicraft on Oak Street.

6. BSR Graphic Equalizer

Mine did not have the fancy brushed metal front. This was very useful in many of the effects used in Day of the Martians and Night On Bald Mountain.

7. Sony MX-12 Stereo Six Channel Mixer

Of course I needed an audio mixer. But I also needed one that was portable for the on location concerts. This little workhorse fit the bill beautifully. It literally tied everything together. It ran on AC or six “D” batteries.

8. Gerrard Type A Stereo Turntable

I had the obligatory Gerrard turnable that was all plastic and it eventually gave me problems.  I only needed a turntable to copy vinyl to tape. So I couldn’t see spending a lot of money on a replacement, but I needed quality. I saw this thing in a resale shop for $5 or $10. The power cord was all wrapped up in electrical tape. I bought it, thinking I would have to replace the AC cord. As it turned out, the cord was ok and it worked perfectly. Used this for years. I mounted on the side of the desk with some shelving brackets.

9. Toyo CHR-335 8-Track Recorder

Yes, I owned an 8-Track recorder deck. One of my biggest recording clients was a music teacher. Twice a year I would record recitals featuring all of his students.  Some of them wanted cassette copies, some wanted 8-tracks.  This thing paid for itself a couple of times over.

10. Dynaco Stereo System

Originally sold as a kit, I bought this tube operated sysem from a friend. The preamp and tuner fit inside the desk as showm. The power amp is not visible in the photo. At 70 watts RMS it could produce great sound.  And the tubes helped to keep the apartment warm.

11. Koss Pro-4 AA Stereo Headphones.

They were state of the art at the time. The cusions were oil filled for a good fit and seal. Todays headphones are a lot lighter, but I’ve never had a set of phones that sounded that good, until a couple of years ago when my wife got me another pair of Pro-4’s. Yes, they still make them

12. Old desk

I actually found this desk in the trash. There was a middle drawer missing. The Dyanco pre-amp and tuner fit perfectly in this space. Inside the top drawer was my homemade patch panel. I could connect any component to any other component by moving RCA jumpers. I attached two large shelf brackets to hold the turntable, and a metal shelving unit sat on top to hold the tape decks.

13. (not shown) Sont TC-124 CS Portable Recorder

This nice machine came with a leather case, a stereo microphone, speakers and later I got a rechargeable battery. I used this to collect sound effects.  The outdoor background scenes in Day of the Martians, and the interior sounds of the elevated train in Murder on the Evanston Express were recorded with this. I had a set of lighweight headphones and would walk through the park with this machine on my shoulder listening to music years before the Walkman came out.

14. (not shown) Marantz Superscope C-206LP Professional Cassette Recorder

Later, I replaced the machine above with this professional model. It could accept a 1/4 stereo plug for headphones and would easily function as a deck.  Loved this machine

15. (Honorable Mention)
Philips L6X38 T Transworld de Luxe Antoinette radio.
Purchased this beauty at a resale shop. I’m sure I paid no more than $20 for it. It fulfilled my dream of a multiband radio reciever.  Along with AM/FM and TV audio, it picked up shortwave bands, Citizen’s Band (CB), aircraft and police/fire radio. I used this to help create the shortwave radio effect in Day of the Martians.  This model is also rather famous for it’s appearance in a James Bond movie.