kinds of things. And there was also a thing
made by EMS called the HiFli, which was
a sort of console device that had an early
form of chorusing on it and some other
effects. It was an interesting box.
PARSONS’ GO-TO MICS
You’ve said in the past that you’re not a
big fan of compression, except for managing out-of-control dynamics. Did you
use much compression on the Dark Side
of the Moon mixdown?
What generally tended to happen was
either no compression or compression on
everything except the drums, because I
totally hate— with a vengeance—
compressing drums. So, although [producer] Chris
Thomas wanted to compress everything, I
talked him into compressing just the instruments and vocals, but not the drums.
The Neumann U47, U 67, and U 87 microphones mentioned by Alan Parsons in this
interview have probably been used to record more hit records in more styles of music
than just about any other microphone models. They’re quite expensive—especially
vintage U 47s and U 67s—as are newer reproductions like those from Telefunken and
Bock Audio. However, below we’ve also listed some quality alternatives that will impart
much of their magic at a pretty reasonable price.
You created some pretty cool sounds with
very little studio gear on Dark Side—
basically, an EMI console, a 16-track tape
machine, Fairchild limiters, and an EMT
Every sort of time-based process was done
with tape—there were no digital boxes
then. We might have had as many as five
or six tape machines doing various delays,
reverb delays, and so on. I distinctly
remember on the mix having to borrow
tape machines from other rooms to get
delays and stuff.
Neumann U 47
Manufactured from 1949 to 1965, the U 47 was a large-diaphragm tube condenser microphone with a switchable polar pattern. It is outstandingly versatile and excels on almost all sources,
including vocals and guitars. It has a clean sound with good presence and nice top-end warmth. The Beatles’ producer, George
Martin, has stated that the U 47 is his favorite microphone.
In 1969, the U 47 FET—a very different microphone with
solid-state electronics—was released. Many engineers prefer
the FET version for recording kick drums and upright bass.
Neumann U 67
In the early ’60s, the U 67 was introduced to address some
complaints about the U 47—some engineers felt the U 47 could
be harsh and bass-heavy when used for close-up vocal recording, which was becoming popular at the time. The U 67 is still
a large-diaphragm tube condenser, but it adds a bass roll-off
switch and has a slightly reduced upper midrange. It is also very
versatile, with a large diaphragm, switchable polar patterns, and
a tube-based condenser design. The U 67 became the studio-standard workhorse for many engineers and producers.
There were a lot of tape loops, too.
Did you do a lot of actual tape editing
Oh, plenty. The 16-track was an edited
tape. You’d think that all the connecting of
the songs was done at the mix stage, but it
wasn’t. It was all there on the master tracks.
There was a break between side one and
side two, just as there was on the vinyl, but
you could play the whole multitrack as a
continuous piece, so everything was there.
Neumann U 87
The Neumann U 87 is among the most widely used mics in the
professional studio market. It’s a solid-state condenser with a
large diaphragm and switchable polar patterns. Many engineers
rely on it for vocals, but it has been used for almost all applications, including orchestra, drums (Bruce Swedien of Count
Basie, Duke Ellington, and Michael Jackson fame swears by it
for toms), electric guitar, and more.
Large-diaphragm tube condenser alternatives: Mojave Audio MA- 200
($1,095 street), Rode K2 ($699 street), SE Electronics Z5600a ($849 street), Avantone
Audio CV- 12 ($499 street), or Studio Projects T3 ($599 street)
You actually did the edits right on the
master recording, the master multitrack?
Yeah. That was a challenge for getting tracks
well played, getting the right instruments in
the right places and not having any problems at the crossovers [tape splice points].
Large-diaphragm solid-state condenser alternatives: Mojave Audio MA- 201
FET ($695 street), Audio-Technica AT2035 ($149 street), Rode NT1000 ($329 street),
Blue Bluebird ($299 street), AKG Perception 220 ($179 street)
To do a new take, you had to erase the
old take. So the new one always had to
be better—because you couldn’t click
undo like we do digitally today, and you
didn’t have a bunch of tracks to spare
like we have now with digital audio
Well, we ended up second generation in order
to make more tracks available. [Ed. Note:
“Second generation” refers to a bounce or submix
from one multitrack tape machine to a second
multitrack tape machine to free up tracks for
additional overdubs.] There were even some
songs, I can’t remember which ones specifical-
ly, where the bass and all drums were reduced
to two tracks on the second-generation tape.