Happy New Year!
OK, over the past few weeks, i've been listening to a lot of recordings from the late 50's early 60's... This is probably my youth speaking (and i use youth relatively, since i dont feel young) but, I don't get it. you got some really catchy songs that even by today's standards are GREAT songs... but all my ears focus on is the insane amount of distortion on just about everything I'm listening to. The vocals on just about every "agressive" (i use that term loosely) Beatles song I've heard sounds like its either hit the tape with the ferocity of a charging bull elephant, or the pre was so far in the red, the clip indicator is still cooling off some 50 years later... and they could never quite straighten the needle on the meter ever again from hitting the stop... And its not only the beatles. (which brings me to another discovery... that everyone from that era was just trying to clone that sound without even trying for something different) So is this the "sound" that everyone is looking for? Distorted, loose performance, noisy? I understand that the style of music was new and engineers of the day were still experimenting with techniques and pushing new technology to its limits and in that, I can hear it as a great history lesson. But I just hear it differently I guess, since to me, it wasn't something so radically new.
I dunno about that, groups like the whitestripes and the vines go for that aggressive (shall we say) sound with overloaded everything. They're doing it as an artistic expression (well that and if you've ever seen an interview with them... you'd probably want to smack them... kinda like a bafoon that piles dirt in a museum and calls it art... i digress)
Nor can he (Jack White) sing like Dexter Romweber who made plenty of cleaner modern recordings in the late 80s.
Plus, also, too, his sister Sara was in THE GREAT Let's Active, led of course by Mitch Easter, who made records that were the soundtrack to my junior and senior years in high school and all throughout college. (I remember going to Pier Platters in Hoboken every day for like three weeks, asking Bill or whoever was working, "Are the tickets for Let's Active at Maxwell's on sale yet?" I did get ticket #1. I was such a geek.
We are talking about the world of fixed gain 40 dB preamps. Before the advent of high output mics and loud bands, these seldom overloaded. Let's not forget that RCA introduced the 'preamp' as we somewhat know it today to get the 'new' ribbon mics up to the level that condensers and carbon mics naturally presented to the bus. Then the ribbon took over for a long long time, and the preamp became a mandatory part of the equation. One made gain adjustments after the preamp, not within it's gain structure. Broadly speaking, preamps were tools to get normal mic levels up to mixing bus level, which was typically -20 dBm. This is before the time that the mic amp and the bus amp might well be the same thing, and redundant to one another. So, the preamp overloaded, or it didn't. Cut and dried, almost. If it did overload, it probably only did it on occasional peaks, the sort the band never presents during soundcheck, sitting on the launch pad. If it was obvious it would overload, the only real option was a front end pad that irrevocably subtracted from potential output level. Not like today, where you pad an overloading input stage and turn up the NFB based gain loop to compensate. Add to that mix the variables in pad theory. On portable broadcast and other cheaper mixers you find 150 ohm T pads feeding a passive mixing bus, which feeds a single amp stage, so you have the losses occurring at mic level, rather than high level. Add to that the impedance issues of paralleling a bunch of mics and T pads into a single 150 ohm mic input stage. Or consider a console with discrete input amps, one mic to one preamp. What kind of pad might they have used? Easily a matching pad rather than a bridging pad, which may well change the sound of the mic radically. If one is near the edge of overload, but thinks it possible to get away without a pad, rather than change the sound of the mic negatively, one will probably take the risk. Especially with poor monitoring that is far better than what the man at home listens on. Oh yeah, you probably don't have a pile of inline pads laying around in the first place.