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House of Rock

10 Feb A Few Synthetic AC/DC Facts relative to “recording”

relative facts small

The original text, in image form above.

I just bumped into an email I had written to someone sometime ago, and I thought that it would be good for all of us to keep things summarised as such:

 

We must separate the various albums though, because they were mostly different approaches and gear until Flick of The Switch in 1983, which starts the “un-interesting” period in my humble opinion.
Also, as many relevant sound engineers will confirm, the exact nature of the pre-amps (mic preamps) is not so important for recording guitars, and definitely not as important  as other components in the signal path/sound chain, as the guitar and the type of hum buckers used; the amplifier, its tubes and wattage; the speaker types; the microphone used and ultimately, the type of board equalisation used to record and/or mix the albums of interest.
Once you secure some good enough, qualitative mic preamps (such as, APIs, Neves or SSLs, for example) you’ll be already set for a great start.
So let’s get back to Let There Be Rock (the album) to begin with.
Let There Be Rock was recorded about Feb/March 1977, so no Schaffer Vega Diversity for Angus yet (he’d get it the following August). How to get that overdriven tone (that both guitars have, by the way)? That was done by overdriving the mic pre-amps to the point of clipping (and beyond). But I didn’t mention any tubes there; only maybe that I was using a tube Neumann U47 (but I wasn’t overdriving the microphone!), in place of what they used back then which was a Neumann U47 FET (a recurring microphone for recording guitars, Bon’s vocals and Phil’s kick drums in those years – Vanda & Young were using U47 FETs at all times!). The microphones though are rather different and different sounding. The FET version is definitely preferable to the tube version, that is also more delicate.
At the time, all I had though was the tube version (now I sold it to Vintage King Audio and got from them money & a FET version, so I will be covering all that territory – early AC/DC – soon). But these are maybe irrelevant details.
For Let There Be Rock, you want:
– Marshall Super Leads (model 1959)
– G12Ms “greenback” speakers
– At least one Large Diaphragm condenser microphone per cabinet (one is already enough) (they tracked with the Neumann U47 FET)
– you want to clip the microphone preamp, which does not mean clipping the microphone, but just the preamp you will connect to it, by raising its gain to saturation.
– Console is unknown, but I believe they were tracking with a Neve of some sort there
For Powerage,
– Marshall 2203s (100 watts Master Volume)
– G12M “greenbacks”
– Cabinet should be against an angle (two walls), also with baffles. This will increase the bass response from the cabinet (the 2203 is short on bass frequencies).
– Again, one Neumann U47 FET used here, so at least one Large Diaphragm condenser microphone per cabinet (one is already enough)
– ALL the solos and additional rhythm played from the control room with a Schaffer-Vega Diversity System
– The console they tracked it with such be the same as above, so much likely Neve
For Highway To Hell
– Marshall 2203s (100 watts Master Volume)
– G12M “greenbacks”
– at least one Shure SM57 and one Sennheiser MD421 per cabinet (better vintage ones if possible, they were different); close micing was used (they used two SM57s and one Sennheiser MD421 per cabinet; cabinets again against the wall and baffled).
– ALL the solos and additional rhythm played from the control room with a Schaffer-Vega Diversity System
– Tracked likely on a Neve and mixed on an Helios console (type 69).
For Back in Black
– Marshall Super Leads (model 1959)
– Rhythm cabinet usually with Celestion G12-65 (might have used G12Ms for some tracks!)
– Soloing (for Angus) usually Celestion G12Ms (must do more matching on this, he could have used G12-65s as well; several types of cabinets were used, and also one 50 watts Marshall head was used for some solos).
– ALL the solos and additional rhythm played from the control room with a Schaffer-Vega Diversity System
– Microphones used here are one Neumann U67 and one Neumann U87 per cabinet (one cabinet per Young brother)
– Console for tracking was an MCI JH500 series – mixed on another type of console though!
For For Those About To Rock
– – Marshall 2203s (100 watts Master Volume) for rhythm tracking
– Marshall type 1959 & at least a Marshall 50 watts (unknown type yet) for solos
– – Rhythm cabinet usually with Celestion G12-65
– Solo cabinet usually Celestion G12Ms
– One or two Shure SM57s per cabinet
– unknown console used for tracking (it was a mobile studio)
Tips: never push the amps to the max! Huge mistake. Naturally, playing this way will be way more difficult for you guys. But this is how it was and it still is for the Young brothers. They are a couple of underestimated virtuosos, both of them.
However, they are the rock band that sold most albums of all the others. So this tells us something.
Usually, the maximum you should go with the master or volume in general of the amplifier is 7. If your amp is a Master volume, the preamp can go as high as 8. Usually 10 is useless (better to crank a bit more the Master then).
The Schaffer-Vega has a capability of further overdriving an amplifier that is second to none; with its on board compressor and clean boost, is a no-match for any device but the overdrive pedals that started pouring in in the 1980s (and have never been used by AC/DC).
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02 Feb Now a GREAT example of an Old Times “AC/DC Microphone” Would Be… a Neumann U47 FET (Audio Update)

Minor update (2 audio files) please scroll to the bottom to hear a Wizard Modern Classic/The Schaffer Replica® GT combo recorded with this Neumann U47 FET!

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Oh yes. It is my theory in fact that most (if not all) of early (up to 1977, including “Let There Be Rock”) AC/DC studio album recordings were mostly recorded – guitars and Bon’s vocals – with Neumann U47 FET (NOT the tube versions!). And maybe – just maybe – even bass drum with it (the Neumann U47 FET is also famous for that).

For the technically curious: Neumann U47 FET

My own Neumann U47 FET out of the Vintage King Audio packaging! Near Mint.

My own Neumann U47 FET out of the Vintage King Audio packaging! Near Mint.

I just got my own unit. I am not sure yet of its date of manufacturing (they were made from ’69 to the early 1980s), just got this yesterday.

Unopened Package from the great Vintage King Audio guys - thanks Nick Buzinski for trading with my Neumann U47 Tube

Unopened Package from the great Vintage King Audio guys – thanks Nick Buzinski for trading with my Neumann U47 Tube

This is an extremely expensive microphone, and a rarity too (especially in this near mint conditions). So given the times – where I already have spent quite much for the development of our beloved Schaffer Replicas™ – I traded this for my original, 1950s Neumann U47 tube version, that was specifically used on vocals, and that I had saved from my Studio58a times but was mostly useless for me.

Microphones for me are for recording guitars mostly, and the Neumann U47 FET was used countless times for guitar recording in the past.

(more…)

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