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!

 

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BBC Type B equipment

eve-bbc-type-b-amplifierBBC Type B modular equipment was introduced in the mid 1950s, to replace the larger and more expensive post war Type A installations.

Based on a smaller and more readily available valve, the ECC81 (or 6060 with lower microphony) the Type B became a familiar sight in many BBC studios across the land, including of course the Radiophonic Workshop. It is surprising that so few appear to have survived!

RWS12

King of the roost was the AMC/5 microphone amplifier with fixed gain stages of 40 to 70dB. This had been developed from the earlier general purpose GPA/4 amplifier which was also used for microphone applications. Further down the gain chain was the C/9 line amplifier with 10dB in hand.

eve-bbc-type-b-installationAmplifiers were attached to specially designed frames, held in standard BBC issue 19″ racks.

Consoles were passive, constant impedance, utilising Painton stud faders and in some instances with quadrant faders, such as at the Radiophonic Workshop as seen here in the capable hands of Delia Derbyshire.

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BBC OBA Type 8 type amplifier

 

OBA 8 amplifier and psu

The OBA/8 system was introduced in 1938. Intended for portable use with war in Europe looming, it was more lightweight then predecessors and utilised a pentode valve for the first time in British amplifier design.

The whole system, designed for self operation, consisted of two OBA/8 amplifiers (one on standby), a passive MX/18 mixer, LSU/1 loudspeaker and comms.

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Many units, particularly the MX/18 mixer, continued to find a use long after peace had been declared, in provincial studios and of course the Radiophonic Workshop.

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Here is a picture of Daphne Oram with three such passive mixers, which utilised wire wound constant impedance attenuators (and an OBA/8 in the foreground).

daphne-oram-with-bbc-passive-mixers

BBC OB Type 9 amplifier

EVE BBC OBA 9 in situ

The OBA/9 system evolved in the 1950s to replace OBA/8, with a smaller footprint and expanded facilities to meet the demands of outside broadcast engineers as the needs of broadcast expanded.

OBA 9 close up

The whole system was designed to be ‘portable’ of a fashion; consisting of an MX/29 passive mixer, OBA/9 valved amplifiers with high gain and power supply, along with monitoring amplifier and distribution facilities. Ancillary items included a loudspeaker LSu/11 and communication units CMU/9 and CMU/10

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The Kingswood Warren

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Kingswood Warren passive trolley mixer

The ‘Kingswood Warren’ system was originally custom built in the 1960s by R&D at Kingswood Warren for their loudspeaker testing facility.

Selected members of the audio fraternity were invited to listen to such famous BBC loudspeaker designs as the LS5/8 and LS3/5 monitors from behind a curtain, after drinks and canapes, as part of the design and commissioning process.bbc-listening-room-at-kingswood-warren

After the R&D establishment was relocated, the Kingswood Warren was re-purposed by EVE’s Radiophonic Studio as a unique mixing system, primarily for mastering use by Eve Mastering. Sadly the field telephone is missing, but everything else remains.

The Kingswood Warren
EVE Mastering

The Kingswood Warren is unique in being entirely modular. A vertical modular mixer!

Everything is patchable, with particular attention being paid to impedance matching between building blocks across the system to maintain level topology.  The entire system operates at 600 Ohm.

Whilst the original design did not require dedicated amplification being purely passive, the Kingswood Warren is now powered by 1950s ultra linear BBC Type B valve line bridging amplifiers, with the ability to switch via cross patching to BBC Type B microphone amplifiers, decade attenuators and external amplifiers if and where desired.

EVE BBC Type B amplifier
BBC Type B ampifiers

The mixing console is based on a passive constant impedance design, having the unusual feature of mechanically ganged faders, making it ideal for stereo work. This is achieved through an amazing precision engineered cog system using machined brass teeth.

Kingswood Warren photo by Hannes Bieger
Thanks to Hannes Bieger for this photo

Special thanks to Chris Chambers, Alistair Biggar and Phil Macbean without whom the Kingswood Warren would never have been possible.