29 Apr AC/DC In The Studio: Recording Info Insights (Update!)
UPDATE: Our friend and member Currentpeak has just found this superb interview in audio form where Powerage sound engineer Opitz describes how Angus recorded the album back then.
This is Currentpeak‘s understanding, I am posting his comment as a whole:
It is a Michael Butler’s (of Rock ‘n’ Roll Geek Show) interview with Mark Opitz. As we know, he was an audio engineer/mixer/producer for many Albert Productions’ artists including AC/DC, The Angels, Rose Tattoo = real rock royalty!
In fact he was an audio engineer of Powerage recordings. He mentions some bits like:
– if you are looking for AC/DC tone you should look for 1959 Marshall head, but nothing past JCM800 (but that’s what we already know)
– Angus used wireless on solos (he didn’t remember the name, but mention that “the one” was popular brand at that time – of course it is SVDS) – he was recording the solo for Riff Raff in control room standing next to Mark (and it is Mark’s favourite AC/DC song to this day)
– he also mentions his technique of placing the microphones – 2 per cabinet, 90° angle, facing the center of the cab, 8 inches from it at the start, 1 cardio/dynamic (for mids) 1 condenser (for bottoms&tops)
Audio can now be found here: Opitz Interview
Here’s Rob version of it, only mattering elements:
Opitz tells that he was recommended to Vanda and Young by the artist John-Paul Young (remember him? he did the song ‘Love is in the Air’ in ’75) common mis-conception that he was a relation but not true.
Opitz then says he joined at the tail end of L.T.B.R (confused by this as he also says he mixed ‘Love is in the air’ which WAS 1975 and was L.T.B.R ’77).
Talks randomly about following Vanda and Young around, some AC/DC live stuff and working with the Angels and Rose Tattoo.
Then says V + Y just positioned the mikes but didn’t have any depth of knowledge at that time, he introduced the scientific approach (from Powerage). He says that before the band came in he would match the all of amps with the speakers, and each speaker with each other, this would take him weeks to do but he then knew the best equipment for miking from.
Amps up really loud and just touch the strings on the eigth notes’ (he took this technique to other bands from AC/DC).
The interviewer implies that the guitar tone is his signature but Opitz immediately corrects this with ‘I’d like to think that my signature is invisible and the tone is down to the people you’re working with and getting the best from them’.
He says for AC/DC use heavy gauge strings and a 1959, nothing newer than a JCM800.
Now he starts to talk about mike technique!
His way makes the ‘guitar amp in the control room sound like it does out on the studio floor’. He says this is very hard to do through a control amp. His technique is
‘two mic’s at a 90 degree angle, facing the centre of the speaker box but crossing the middle as oppose to facing it, is my format’ . ‘Ones a cardioid and ones a condenser mic(adds) a dynamic mic – more middle range, condenser – good on the bottoms and the tops. These mikes to start with, just to get the basic sound, at 90 deg, it’s an X-Y configuration about 8″ in front of whatever speaker you consider the main speaker, right in the middle, just pointing at the sides. He says (for getting a little technical) ‘he just flips one out of phase until the guts disappear and then just brings it back in and bang there it is, but it’s very simple’.
He says, in the old days with a centre mic people spent two or three days moving stuff around the studio but he doesn’t with this technique.
He’s then asked about pedals and says ‘people have there own sound that they bring with them so he doesn’t necessarily discourage them’. The Young brother’s didn’t use them.
He then relates how V + Y didn’t realise that they weren’t paying him for the first 6 months and he was too afraid to mention it.
Talks about radio mic’s on Angus guitar’s for the solo’s and standing beside him (i.e behind the desk but Angus in the control room) when played.
He used the wireless so he could ‘gun the amplifier in the studio’ (must be what we know about the boost and comp then eh!)
He can’t remember the make ‘Could have been a Shure or something like that’. The way he says Shure makes me think Schaffer is in his mind. He adds ‘popular one at the time American’.
After Powerage he left Albert.
SoloDallas Note: On Powerage, SUCH mic technique was NOT used; only ONE microphone per guitar was used and that was a Neumann U47 FET.
Thank you Rob
My old time brother Max (Canadian) has provided additional and precious info regarding Opitz’ microphone positioning as stated above:
Just to clarify what the engineer was saying about one Dynamic Cardioid and one condenser at 90° at 8″
he’s pointing the two mics so that they form an ‘A’ shape 8″ from the cone, with each mic pointing at the side of the cone
he then flips one of the mics out of phase and tries to get as much phase cancellation as possible (thinning of the sound) so that when he switches the phase back to normal the two mics will be ‘perfectly’ in phase.the combination of one good dynamic and one good condenser is a good part of the sound IMO. the dynamic gives you more immediacy in the sound.
the U47 FET mic has the second generation K47 capsule which is a bit flatter on the top end than the U47 tube mic, which was designed to pick-up orchestras and voices from a distance. The U47 FET is also a raunchier sounding mic because of the early solid-state electronics. It is not a modern Phantom mic, and needs it’s own power supply like a U47 does.
I think Bon Scott recorded his vocals thruough a 47Fet as well.
I am basically robbing the book taking out some technical details. I won’t be posting exactly its phrases though so, at least in this case, I can’t be held for copyright infringement (and as usual, I bought my copy of the book). All of that follows is in fact taken from AC/DC In The Studio (Amazon)
For documentation purposes here at solodallas.com, I intend to write down here exactly what amps and microphones were used on the following records, where documentation of this exists in the book (and it’s never complete).
As for most of the book, very little documentation exists for Angus and Malcolm of what they really used. So, one has to read between the lines. Some data is clearly stated though.
The sound engineer that recorded Powerage says that Angus and Malcolm were into the room with everyone else, but the guitar speakers of both were into a separate room.
They were placed “…back to back” and microphone types were exactly one Neumann U47 FET (no tube, transistor version) for each at “maybe one inch” distance from the grill cloth.
(Fil’s note on the Neumann U47 FET: this microphone was the transistor alternative to the tube Neumann U47 that had to be replaced because of ceasing of production of the VF14 tube; it is reported that one of the close replica’s of the Neumann U47 FET is the Audio Technica AT4047sv which – you may now by now – is a microphone we have and we have tested extensively here at solodallas.com!)
No information on the speaker types.
He does mention what amps were used, when he describes the fact that Malcolm and his heavy strings gauge and right hand would light the tube amps very quickly (i.e., by striking hard) so they set the pre-amps at a level useful to have harmonic distortion where it was needed so not to blow the speakers.
In other terms, they had Master Volume amps, which at the time, were the only Marshalls with pre-amps knobs to set the distortion independently not having to be too loud. And evidently, I think this was for both of them.
Since you wouldn’t break a 4×12 with a 2204, 2203s were used.
Solos were recorded separately by Angus later on and thanks to the above update, it is now clear that Angus used the Schaffer Vega for Powerage solos too!
No other meaningful mention on their gear appears.
Highway To Hell
For both Ang and Mal the speakers cabinets were towards corners, and baffled (i.e., the speakers/grill cloth side was against the corner to attenuate the loudness and enhance bass frequencies).
Microphones used were a couple of Shure SM57s and one MD421 per cabinet (i.e., three mikes per cabinet), one cabinet for each brother). Close mics as well used here.
Now, the most important thing you may want to listen to now is that Mr. Mark Dearnley said that Angus overdubbed all of the Highway To Hell solos with… “his radio unit”.
That meaning, The Schaffer Vega. Meaning that, once again, the SVDS was also used on Highway To Hell, at least on the solos.
To be continued.