Manchester Playhouse stereo control desk

One reincarnation of the Manchester Playhouse BBC studio facility, featuring an early stereo desk. Transportable stereo desks, based on C series transistorised amplifiers, were pioneered by John Longden in London and John Bower in Manchester who also experimented with early surround sound console designs.

This desk looks to be an earlier B series console, judging by the portable Type B racks, which may have been brought in as additions to a pre-existing Type B installation.

Also visible in the top photo are what look to be no less than 5 x AKG C24 valve microphone power supplies and associated stereo pattern boxes!


EMS Synthi


The infamous Synth A, aka ‘Portabella’, developed by David Cockerell in 1971 for Peter Zinovieff’s Electronic Music Studios, EMS.

The original A version needed a separate keyboard, the DK1 ‘Cricklewood’ ,which was also used to control the VCS3 or ‘Putney’ (the better known table top version of this synthesiser, probably on account of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon).

Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon sleeve

The Radiophonic Museum’s keyboard is a prototype DK0, of which only 2 other are known to exist.

EVE BBC EMS Synthi DK 0 Cricklewood keyboard

The Synthi A became the Synthi AKS, with slightly revised patch matrix. The KS keyboard sequencer was integrated in the Spartanite case.


It also included a Presto Patch which is a very handy thing.

EMS synthi features

Much information exists on the web about these wonderful instruments which were more often than not found in laboratories, educational music facilities and experimental electronic music studios, including of course the Radiophonic Workshop.

the radiophonic workshop

Suffice to say, the Radiophonic Workshop were not alone in the iconifcation of this diminutive briefcase.  EMS themselves were the master of this art.


The Reverbatron

The Reverbatron

The Reverbatron was built by John Phillips in the 1960s from recycled radiogram parts and a tonal choice of different electric fire springs. A truly inspiring and unique invention with a wonderfully distinctive ‘spring reverb’ sound like none other I have heard.

Power for the Reverbatron is delivered by a kit built 1960s Heathkit valve amplifier.

Heathkit Thanks John!


BBC Acoustic boxes as diffusors

Whilst these are absorption boxes are designed to be attached to the wall directly, or on wooden battens, I found that by offsetting them from the reflective surface, they also acted in part as a diffusor. For ceilings, this was achieved by hanging the boxes from high tensile steel climbing wire using coat hooks as runners.


BBC MX/29 passive mixer

Part of the OBA/9, the MX/29 incorporated 4 passive constant impedance attenuators.

Utilised across the BBC during the Fifties, the one in the photo below was the original mixer for the Radio One Roadshow which launched in 1967.

OBA 9 mixer

The Manchester Playhouse, home to the Northern Dance Orchestra, utilised an array of BBC OB equipment, including no less than 5 x MX/29s as seen on the RHS of the picture below


BBC Marconi AXBT microphone

Marconi AXBT microphone

The BBC Marconi AXB pressure gradient microphone was introduced in 1934, reputedly as a means to avoid the cost of importing RCA44 microphones from the States.


With its 2.5 inch ribbon and bass proximity boost, it became synonymous with the ‘voice of Aunty’ and an iconic symbol of the Corporation’s global reach.

bbc-axbt-chinese-sectionSubsequently improved with advances in magnetic materials, the T-painted AXBT (see top photo) with Ticonal magnet appeared in 1946 with an improved sensitivity for 6dB more output gain and better transient response.


Whilst designed primarily for the speaking voice,  a fabulous microphone for ambient applications such as drum overhead with a tight angle of incidence and general room vibe in the modern music studio.

STC 4038 microphone

4038 employing the old BBC handkerchief trick

Iconic BBC ribbon design, commercially manufactured under licence by Standard Telephone & Cables using spider technology.


Developed from the PGS, the 4038 was the BBC’s successful attempt at designing a general purpose pressure gradient microphone, with excellent linear performance at a reasonable size and cost compared to the AXBT.

The red line is Cole’s master reference microphone, kept in their anaechoic cupboard

Two versions were produced, a 30 Ohm version for outside broadcast and television studios, a 300 Ohm version for the sound studio.

Used just about everywhere in the BBC.

STC standard T-bar for 4038s, with debatable comb filtering effect

Wonderful on just about everything!