Sound Larger Than Life – How Allen Sides Chose the Mics for the Ocean Way Mic Collection


When Bill Putnam and I talked about this,
the premise was to come up with really exceptional versions of each of these microphones. To make these comparisons and do these tests. And so that’s what we did. You know, in regards to sourcing these microphones:
When Bill Putnam and I were buying out, we probably bought about 35 studios. Including CBS Studios in San Francisco, Wally
Heider Studios, Record Plant NY, RCA Studios in Hollywood. Before I bought the original United Western
Studios, there was a time when a lot of studios were just buying new product. And they just wanted to get rid of the tube
stuff with the power supplies and all. It was a hassle and so also clients were requesting
“can I get the new 414?”. So they said: “Out with the (Telefunken) 251s,
in with the 414s.” So I was happy to provide. So at that point, I got the original (Neumann)
47s, 251s, (AKG) C12As that were the original United Western microphones and they ended
up in my collection. Otherwise they would have been gone. So eventually, when I took over the studio,
I had all the mics that Sinatra, Bing Crosby, and Dean Martin used. I had all those microphones. So they were never lost, they stayed in place. In a lot of studios, even at the Capitol days,
Capitol had a phenomenal collection of microphones that just disappeared. Times changed and people were concerned that
they needed the newer product, and… Chris: “Maybe some just walked?” – I would not be the least bit surprised. You know, when European broadcasters were
just basically dumping the stuff, I was there to get a great deal of those microphones. The BBC, I think, I must have gotten 50 (Neumann)
M49s and M50 from the BBC alone, and the Austrian broadcast. The European broadcasters were government
organizations, so when they bought stuff, they bought the best. And when they got rid of it, they got rid
of it in big loads. I think I bought over a thousand microphones
from Europe over a ten year period. In the various studios we bought out, we got
probably 500-600 more microphones in the studio buy-outs. And so over a period of time I got a fairly
vast collection. I would go through with my electrostatic headphones
and I’d sit and listen to every single pair, every microphone, make comparisons, and pick
the ones that I thought were the best. Chris: “Do you feel like you had a certain
style of sound or a certain quality that you liked?” Certainly, a portion of that has to come into
play, because as a producer, engineer, and musician, I’m looking for a certain thing. But I always had that concept: I love things
to sound bigger than life. I like it to sound as exciting as possible. Not to say that, you know, with some microphones
you might get one that has a nasty peak at a certain frequency that isn’t something you’re
looking for, which I didn’t like. Because I tend to like things that sound musical
and pleasant. But I’ve been doing this for so many years
that I can put my electrostatic headphones on and I can talk into that microphone and
I can tell you in two seconds what it sounds like. I don’t have to hear it on ten different instruments
to know what it sounds like. And I always have reference points to compare
it to. So I pick: Here’s M49 #2, I like this one. And I’ll put that up and I have 6-7 microphones
and I’ll compare them all. And then I’ll make a choice as to this is
a good match to this. This sounds big, it sounds open, I really
like the air. I’m listening to the sound of my voice and
the sound of the room that I’m listening to it in. It’s all those things that come into play. And so I was able to come up with a selection
of mics that I thought are pretty darn great. Chris: “It sounds like it, yes!” And so when Bill Putnam and I talked about
this, the premise was to come up with really exceptional versions of each of these microphones. To make these comparisons and do these tests. And so that’s what we did!

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