1950’s: PYE BROADCAST AUDIO CONSOLES | PART THREE: THE VALVE STUDIO MIXERS

2021-06-14 0 By David Taylor

UPDATED ARTICLE:
A NEW HIGH-RESOLUTION PHOTO OF A PYE 16-CHANNEL MIXER HAS ALLOWED ME TO EXPLORE MORE DETAILS OF THESE VALVE CONSOLES FROM OVER 60 YEARS AGO.

This 16-channel Pye desk was until recently in the proudly ‘all-valve’ Preston Records Studio in Melbourne.
More details on this in the new additions below.

Contents:
1| 1950s: THE PYE VALVE STUDIO MIXERS
Typical 1950s Installations

2| 1957-59: A Typical Pye Valve Mixer (Type 2948F) In Detail
Film of the GTV9 Pye 16-channel ‘in action’
Setting up the 16-channel Pye desk for a simple show
The Painton constant impedance rotary fader
3| 1959: Anglia TV’s 16-channel Pye desk

Mixing an ‘LE Show’ on Anglia’s Pye 16-channel desk
4| Granada’s Studio 10 at The Chelsea Palace
The Duke at The Palace

5| A Scottish Pye
Replacing The Valve
Desks

1| 1950s: THE PYE VALVE STUDIO MIXERS

As we have seen in Part One and Part Two, the earliest Pye Television equipment went into Outside Broadcast scanners, starting with the MCRs for the BBC. Pye though were soon installing equipment into TV studios, such as Photicon cameras at Lime Grove in 1950, but there is scant information on when they started building valve audio consoles for broadcast.
In the 1950s, and for many years after that, the BBC usually built their own sound consoles for radio and television and Pye and Marconi were the only companies building audio mixers for the ‘independent’ broadcast world. However, the first Pye mixer in a ‘studio’, was possibly when a Pye valve console of 16 or 24 inputs was installed in 1953 in the ‘BBC Television Theatre’, as the Shepherd’s Bush Empire was re-named when the BBC took it over.

Here’s a 16-channel Pye valve console of the mid ’50s:

A Pye console with 16 big Painton channel faders and a pair of rotary Group Output pots.
From a Pye ’50s audio brochure via Richard Ellis. [1]
Bob Moore in the Pye audio departments lab, setting up a valve mixer before delivery to ITN.
Photo via Richard Ellis.

Here’s a similar mixer of this design in operation at Granada TV:

Pye 24-channel valve mixer of Granada TV.
Photo: via Richard Ellis

Pye equipped studios 2, 4 and 6 at Granada TV when it went on air in 1956 with consoles like the 24-channel valve desk in this photo. [1]

As we can see later, these consoles usually had the big Painton ‘quadrant’ faders for channels but in the Granada desk above there are three banks of 8 faders, and it’s possible that the middle set may include ‘group faders’ or ‘independent faders’, so it’s not necessarily a 24 input desk. Certainly, each of the outer sets with their differing coloured fader knobs would route to their dedicated groups.
This console differs from the previous two illustrated by having just a single big rotary Painton fader, so here it’s going to be the ‘Main Output’ fader.
These consoles have lots of ‘chunky’ selector buttons and bakelite rotary selectors and switches, but everything about desks like this was big…..perhaps that’s because everything ‘valve’ was on the large size and all the amplifiers for the console took up at least a couple of full-height 19″ bays somewhere behind the console.

Looking like this in fact:

Two equipment bays for the valve mixer.
Photo: Pye via Richard Ellis

Each mixer required 2 or more bays to house everything else necessary for the desk’s operation. The top left here are the channel mic amps, with the jackfields underneath and the routing jackfields on the right. The Power Supplies and Output Amps are also in there, plus another 19″ rack carrying the Foldback and PA line amplifiers, all requiring installing in a TV sound control room. The PA speakers were 100-volt line column types, powered from 100-volt output power amplifiers and the studio Foldback speakers would be mounted on big castors or trolleys with in-built valve amps.
Most rows of jackfields like these Mosses and Mitchell ones were wired as ‘listen/line/apparatus’. This enabled you to plug your headphones (‘cans’) into the top ‘listen row’ to check the incoming signal without it breaking the signal arriving on the middle row, which was coming from the ‘line’. The ‘line’ in this case was perhaps the studio wallbox ‘tie-lines’ but mainly the high-level inputs from CAR (Central Apparatus Room) for the Telecine or VT machines, or even your local tape or turntable ‘grams’.
The third row of this jackfield was then wired to the ‘apparatus’, usually the channel or other part of the desk such as the monitoring, which was the ‘destination’. Plugging into the middle ‘line’ jack though broke the normally wired signal going to the ‘apparatus’ , which then enabled patching that signal to a completely different ‘destination’.

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Typical 1950s Installations

Here’s a shot of a typical small 1950s installation of a desk, speaker and picture monitor:

A mixer, probably 12 channel, in a typical mid-1950’s room.
Photo: Pye

Mixers were pushed up against the studio windows like this, although this doesn’t look like a TV Sound Control Room, more likely a small sound studio, perhaps for voice-overs. The design of this desk differs from the Granada model and also appears to have faders on the sloping upstand. It’s not a UK broadcaster either as there are no ‘BBC PPMs’ on the desk.
The walls in the Granada photo are lined with the ubiquitous ‘peg board’. Acoustics was still a primitive art at that time and many rooms were still fitted out poorly for sound absorption, The photo at Anglia TV later also has those visually dull-looking acoustic tiles….just like the Redifussion studios had when I went to Wembley in 1969.

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2| 1957-59: A Typical Pye Valve Mixer (Type 2948F) in Detail

Having searched for a detailed colour photo of a Pye studio mixer from the ’50’s, I was pleased to be sent a photo of the 16-channel console that had until just a few years ago been in use at Preston Records Studio in Melbourne until the death of its owner Graeme Thomas. This mixer almost certainly was originally supplied to GTV Channel 9 TV station in Melbourne and dates from between 1957 to 1959. [2]

A typical 16-channel Pye Studio mixer from 1957-1959.

To illustrate these consoles, I have applied some Photoshop doctoring to the above photo to more accurately represent a typical Pye mixer of the late ’60s and this is how the Anglia TV console looked that I first tentatively learnt how to mix simple shows on after a year or so of ‘basic sound training’, which would have been in 1967.

Pye audio equipment was usually delivered with a blue paint finish, and on the mixers, this was mainly light blue with a darker blue surround, just as above.
The desk from Preston Records, which we’re pretty certain came from GTV9 in Melbourn, is however two shades of green or grey, so below is what I believe looked like a short while into its life at GTV 9.
This is only part of a complete Pye TV valve audio mixer of course; just the very unergonomic laid-out ‘control surface’. All the valve electronics are housed in adjacent equipment bays.
The maker’s tag beneath the VU’s tells us that it is an Audio Mixing Unit – ‘AMD, Type 2948F’, Serial 23′. I’ll describe it better with the numbered photo below:

The Pye 16-channel as it looked at GTV9 in Melbourne

1: Although missing here, the console’s talkback microphone was fitted with a big Cannon EP3 mic connector and mounted on a flexible ‘wand’. It can be seen fitted on a photo Anglia TV console shown later in this article. EP3s were still the standard connector for all professional studio microphones until the arrival of the smaller XLR connector that was first made by Cannon. This was being introduced through the audio world by the early ’60s.
2: We can see in ‘The Seekers’ film shown below, that this blank space beside the TB loudspeaker would have carried a rotary selector, most probably for the VUs, but the Preston Records console had at some later stage been fitted with another 3rd matching VU meter here.
3: Even single-output Pye mixers sometimes had twin meters and here they are VUs, although the BBC Type PPMs would be the chosen meters for UK broadcasting clients.
4: Bakelite rotary knobs by Bulgin were used by Pye for both switching and for volume control knobs throughout. This one controls the ‘Headphone’ level.
5: One of a pair of large head tethered screws that allowed both the upper and lower parts of the panel to pivot for maintenance.
6: Indicator lights – left to right: ‘Cue 1’, ‘Cue 2’, ‘Censor’, ‘Telephone’, ‘Foldback’ and ‘PA’. I would have expected the ‘cues’ to show the operation of external Cue Lights switched from desks’ associated panel switches. ‘Censor’ implies an external ‘profanity mute’ facility for live shows, and ‘Telephone’ would show an incoming call. ‘Foldback’ and ‘PA’ perhaps just indicate that one or more channels are switched to those.

7: Rotary selectors – left to right: ‘VU Sel’ for ‘TR (transmission) or ‘REH’ (rehearsal), ‘VU2 Attn’ and ‘VU1 Attn‘, attenuation controls with the visible markings showing ‘+8’ setting, which isn’t a standard VU level of course, but the ‘peak level’ UK broadcasting one. ‘Meter Dim’ would be for the internal VU lights and lastly ‘Grp Sel’. This latter might be to select either of the two groups to the Main Output.
8: Row of toggle switches – left to right: ‘Cue 1’, ‘Cue 2’, ‘Cue 3’, 3 unlabelled switches, ‘TB CO’ (talkback) and ‘TONE’ (line-up tone).
9: Two rows of the Bulgin rotary knobs, giving 10 in all. Most are for ‘Echo Sends’, but as ‘Echo 9’ and ‘Echo 10’ labels are discernable, these are the Echo Send pots for some of the channels, and as there aren’t 16 of them, some channels must not have Echo capability.
The last control in the upper row is labelled ‘Trans’.
10: Four PO jacks labelled ‘Lines‘, and ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’.
11: Two large illuminated indicators showing the desk ‘status’. Left shows ‘Single Output’ or ‘Dual Output’ and the right ‘Transmission’ or ‘Rehearsal’. TV was mono, so the ‘Dual’ condition probably allowed a separate output from each of the two Groups.
12: The two desk Groups ‘White’ and ‘Blue‘, each had a large rotary Painton fader mounted centrally on the panel. These large rotary faders were constructed with each internal stud giving a constant impedance output of 600 ohms, and were the forerunner of the Painton quadrant faders used on the desk channels. More details of the big rotary Painton pots is given below.
13: Rotary level pot, function unknown.
14: Two vertically mounted selector switches for the two centre channel faders, channels 8 and 9 – top to bottom: ‘HL Inputs 1 to 5’, then ‘Microphone’. The High-Level Inputs would be via the jackfield and typically the Tele-Cine, VTR, OB or Grams inputs.
The two outer switches in this bank are for channels 7 and 10, and have both ‘Echo’ and ‘Microphone’ selectors.

15: Bakelite volume pot for ‘LS Dim’.
16: 10 black Talkback toggle switches with label strip and indicator lights. The visible labels don’t make sense for TB though, as these are : ‘Echo Rtn’, ‘Echo M/c’, ‘Prefade’, ‘Foldback’, ‘PA’, ‘White Gp’ and ‘Blue Gp’, so the label isn’t the original one.
17: Two volume pots: ‘LS Mon’ and ‘LS Select’.
18-20: Three rows of push-button selectors.
The top row (18) is for ‘LS Mon’: ‘PA’, ‘White Gp’, ‘Blue Gp’, ‘Trans’, ‘Radio’, 2 blanks, then ‘Echo Rtn’, ‘Echo M/c’, ‘Prefade’, ‘Foldback’ and ‘PA’.
The middle row (19) is for ‘VU Mon’ with similar choices and the lower row (20) is for ‘Video Mon’, which has labels for ‘Amps 10 to 16’. These may have been monitoring points added after its TV days.
21: 16 switches to select Foldback for each of the 16 channels. Beneath is a master ‘Foldback’ level pot. In the late ’50s, it was still normal to have no individual level send pots for channels, the post-fader level being used for each channel send with just the overall master level being controllable.
22: PO Jack socket labelled ‘Mon Sel’.
23: Selector bank for ‘Effects’ with ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘Off’ and ‘Remote’ selector buttons. Presumably, a simple switching unit tied to the vision mixing panel in the Production (Vision) gallery, usually for sound effect switching or ‘telephone distort’ effects in TV dramas. Selectors like this became more sophisticated over the next few years with additional panels to choose the particular cameras and the quality of EQ and distort required for a believable ‘telephone distort’ effect.
24: 16 Painton ‘quadrant’ faders for each of the desk mic channels. These were a newer version of the big rotary stud faders that Painton had been making for many years. They still have scaling with ‘0’ at the top, and not ‘+10’ as came on later P&G faders. In 1962 Painton superseded them with a much slimmer version still using the ‘quadrant’ constant impedance stud design.
Above each fader is a ‘Balance’ pot, for pre-setting the channel gain. It’s possible that these balance pots controlled the gain by feedback within the ‘remote’ mic-amps, or that the rack-mounted mic-amps might have separate coarse mic gain settings, probably of +40 and +60 dB gain.
25: Each channel has a push-button ‘Prefade’ button, a small rotary switch for ‘Group Selection’ and the indicator lights for the ‘White’ and ‘Blue’ Groups associated with the group selection.
26: Perspex fader scribble strip. It probably would have been ‘segmented’ to assist in the channel ID.
27: 16 switches to select PA for each of the 16 channels. Beneath is a master ‘PA’ level pot. Just as the Foldback had no individual level controls for each channel, the PA also only had a master send level adjustment.
28: A pair of handles on each side allow the heavy front face of the mixer to be pivoted and propped allowing maintenance underneath.
29: Headphone PO jack socket.

Film of the GTV9 Pye 16-channel ‘in action’

In 1964/5 the Melbourne pop/folk group ‘The Seekers’ had the first of a number of world-wide hits, when ‘I’ll Never Meet Another You’ was released. The single was recorded in November 1964 at EMI Abbey Road and in 1968 a TV Special ‘The World Of The Seekers’ was made on film that told the story of the group’s rise to fame. Here’s the sequence purporting to show them recording ‘I’ll Never Meet Another You’ in the London studio and in fact, it was obviously filmed in Australia, either in the Melbourne GTV9 TV studios or in a very good imitation set. The mixer is obviously a 16-channel Pye.

The Pye standing in for Abbey Road Studio 2’s REDD console.
From ‘The World Of The Seekers’ (1968) produced by Ajax Films.

I couldn’t help myself from doing a bit of extra dubbing on the clip…..once a soundman, always a soundman! Notice that the ‘White’ and ‘Blue’ group faders in this clip are swopped from how I expected them to be.
Is it in GTV9? The two full-size Mole-Richardson Booms with those Electro-Voice 642 gun mics in the background could certainly be either a TV or film studio and the ‘peg-board acoustic screens’ could have been constructed by the designer. The mics are a C-28 on Judith, a pair of KM54s on guitars and a U-47 on their vocals, plus another C-28 with a metal windshield on Athol and a D-24 on his bass. All pretty believable, except for the positioning of Judith’s mic I guess.

GTV9 was famous for its long-running ‘In Melbourne Tonight’ show, which started in 1957 and the Pye mixer would certainly have been used on it.
Some years later the GTV9 Pye desk appears to have still been in use, and an ex-GTV9 sound guy, recalled his years there in the early ’70s:

PETER EVANS:
“The news at GTV9 came from the old IMT (In Melbourne Tonight) band shell in Studio 1, using the Studio 1 control room. The Studio 1 audio mixer was an old Pye valve affair with Painton quadrant faders controlling the valve mic amplifiers racked up in nearby Master Control.” [B]

Peter was subsequently able to update me some more after contacting more colleagues with GTV9 contacts, such as Graeme Stevenson:

PETER EVANS:
“The only console I ever remember being in Studio 1 was the 16-channel Pye valve that Colin Stevenson (Graeme Stevenson’s dad) used to mix IMT on until the move to Studio 9 in 1964.  I think Studio 1 control was gutted when we went to colour.

I’m almost certain that the ‘Seekers’ clip must have been shot in TCS (Television City Sound) Studio 4 at GTV, where there was also a Pye 16-channel mixer and a very similar complement of mics and stands.  TCS had started out as the audio production arm of GTV for recording the ‘chorus’ numbers shown in every IMT, when the use of a sound boom would have been impractical. It also recorded advertising jingles, and later morphed into one of the best 1970s rock studios in Melbourne.
There is a possibility that the engineer in the clip is a very young John French. The floor-level control room is right for Studio 4, as is the position of the studio door linking the studio with the control room.

GTV had a lot of Pye gear – OB van, 3.5 and 4-inch image orthicon cameras, foldback and monitor speakers etc.  The reverb in Studio 1 was a Grampian spring and I don’t think there were any individual studio limiters at that stage, there was a ‘brick wall’ limiter in Master Control, and we usually monitored ‘off-air’ when live to hear any limiting artefacts. Monitoring in Studio 1 in the IMT era was a pair of Leak Sandwiches.

So thanks to Peter we now know that GTV9 had a pair of 16-channel Pye desks and that ‘The Seekers’ film sequence was shot in the Television City Sound Studio, as it was in 1968.
This still leaves us without knowing which of them is the surviving Preston Records desk, but the addition of a third output and additional volume pots to the Foldbacks makes it look like a ‘recording desk’, which would be the TCS one surely.

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Setting up the 16-channel Pye desk for a simple show

The mic-amps for the Melbourne 16-channel Pye – photographed when they were already more than 60 years old.

My point earlier about how ‘unergonomic’ for the operator these were compared with later desks, can be illustrated by describing the setting up of the input channel and desk settings.

After plugging the required mics to the desk inputs, you’d have to walk over to the equipment bay like those in the photo above, to check that the input impedance switch on the mic-amp was set to either the 600 or the 30-ohm setting your mic required and that the coarse mic-amp gain was correct. It was great to have Neumann or AKG condenser mics, but they did require separate power supplies and cabling of course and giving about 10dB more than dynamic mics you had to be aware of input clipping of the mic-amps.
At the mixer, you would switch to the required group – ‘white’ or ‘blue’ and move across to the left of the panel to the FB switches and select the channel you needed to ‘On or Off’. Now over to the right side and the ‘PA’ switches, and repeat the ‘On or Off’ selection. Parallax error made toggling the incorrect switch far too easy and there are also master toggle switches to be selected for the ‘FB’ and ‘PA’ to ‘On’ (I think!).
For both FB and PA you need to set the master Send Level volume pot.
For ‘Echo’ we should check the row of Echo Send volume pots, also on the right side, are turned down along with its master volume pot. Patch up the EMT echo plate and pre-set its reverb time as well. Now assign a channel to be the ‘Echo Return’, with channels 7 and 10 having switched ‘Echo Rtn’ inputs.
Switch channels 8 and 9 to the correct High-Level Input, after having first patched them correctly from the VTR, Tele-cine or Grams machine outputs.
There is no built-in EQ, but by the end of the 50s external EQ units or even a Pultec EQ were available, so these could be wheeled in (they were always heavy) and plugged to any channels needing EQ.
The same applied to compressors or limiters. The most frequently found at the end of the 50s were still the very heavy Fairchild Limiters, which rarely resided in the studio you were working in of course, so more wheeling in on a trolley.
Now check your metering and monitoring selections and switch the ‘Tone to Line’ and check that the Fairchild is going to stop you ‘going over’, and line up with the High-Level sources, such as your VTR playback machine.
A call on talkback to VTR would get you a burst of tone at PPM 4, for you to tweak the channel balance pot so your fader was usually at 10 db down from the top (the faders had calibration markings to 0 and not +10). In turn, you’d need to send your PPM4 Line-up Tone to the next in the signal chain, which is probably to the TV station’s ‘Master Control’.

If hopefully your sound assistant did a ‘scratch round’ of the mics and someone gave you voice or instrument level checks, hey, you’re probably finally ready to go!

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The Painton constant impedance rotary fader

Here’s a picture of the inside of a BBC version of one of those big rotary faders, as used on the Groups on the Pye valve cosoles:

The studs and resistors in the Painton faders.

The twin-bladed wiper tracks across each pair of studs that are wired to resistors, giving a constant impedance of 600-ohms throughout the fader’s attenuation. The Painton ‘Quadrant’ faders continued this, but now with the wipers transversing an arc instead of the circle, and the bowed shape of travel made it physically possible and suited the hand much better.
From the earliest days, on through the 50s
and into the early 60s, it was considered that matching both the input and output impedance to 600-ohms was the way to engineer professional audio equipment. However, it slowly dawned on manufacturers that it was unsatisfactory to lose so much signal if you sent your 600-ohm output device to more than one receiving 600-ohm destination, such as even sending to a pair of tape decks. It was better to send from a low impedance to a higher input impedance, as the loss then was negligible. This ‘low feeding to high’ change in electronic design also brought the move up to 5k and 10k faders consoles circuits as well.

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3| 1959: Anglia TV’s 16-channel Pye desk

Looking almost identical to the mixer I’ve detailed above, this is the 16-channel Pye desk in Studio A at Anglia TV which was supplied in 1959, and this is still how it was when I joined the company in 1966:

Sound Supervisor Sid Denney at the 16-channel Pye valve mixer, with Colin Eldred operating the EMT927 turntables during a ‘drama’ in Studio A.
Photo: Anglia TV

The Anglia TV Sound Control A’s Monitor Loudspeaker, a big Tannoy York like the wall-mounted one visible beside the picture monitor stack in the Production Gallery, was hung up above the studio window that was beside Sid’s right shoulder, and there weren’t any Picture Monitors at all in this sound control room; you had to view the programme through the window into Production.
Anglia’s 16-Channel desk also had an ‘Effects’ switching bank, so that ‘Telephone Distort’ could be pre-selected to switch in and out following camera cuts. All the Pye equipment; the sound mixer and the consoles housing those EMT927 turntables were coloured light blue with dark blue surrounds, as in the earlier 16-channel mixer photo.

The light blue Pye front panel from an EMT turntable console.
Photo: Paul Faraday

This is the control panel on those EMT turntables, with a volume pot labelled ‘prefade’ for your cans and that output pot was also a large Painton constant impedance studded type, which had a short arc of rotation and therefore allowed a fast fade-up, and built-in microswitch also triggered the turntable start.
Many FX discs were still being cut as 78s, giving faster access than using a tape, and note that Colin in the photo above has a 45rpm 7″ disc sitting on the left EMT deck and a 78rpm 10″ one on the right.

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Mixing an ‘LE Show’ on Anglia’s Pye 16-channel desk

In an earlier article HERE, I showed photos of an Anglia TV Outside Broadcast for the ‘Glamour ’67’ show. Let’s look at undertaking the ‘Final’ of such a programme back in Studio A at Anglia House in Norwich, where the Pye desk was installed.
Although that 16-channel desk might have appeared satisfactory for Anglia’s Studio A in 1959, it would have showed its limitations for this Glamour series ‘Final’. Sound Supervisor Sid Denney had to cope with a live 12-piece band, 4 Judges and some vocalists, plus an audience.
Peter Fen the MD had the following band, and I’ll list Sid Denney’s original mic choices as well:
1. String Bass – Miked with an STC 4037 (omni) wrapped in foam and stuffed into the bridge. A classic way of close-miking the upright bass at that time.
2. Piano – ‘Baby grand’ miked with an AKG D-25 over the treble end.
3. Electric Guitar – AKG D-20 on the amp.
4. Drum kit – AKG D-25 overhead, a D-20 on kick drum and a D-24 on snare.
5. Woodwinds – Baritone and Tenor sharing a D-24 and an Alto doubling flute on another D-24.
6. Trumpets – 3 trumpets sharing a pair of STC 4038 (ribbons). On the OB these were possibly ‘Y-corded’ to one channel.
7. Trombone – STC 4038.
8. Hammond B3 – STC 4038 on top of Leslie speaker.
That’s 12 mics, possibly down to 10 though if the trumpets were paralleled and the snare mic was omitted.

The show has a table of 4 competition judges, each with an AKG C-61 mic. Being valve condenser mics, these also had separate power supplies.
The presenters and vocalists had dynamic D-24s on upright stands and Radio Mics were just not yet available at Anglia in 1967, but in the studio now, a big Mole boom could now be used.
The studio audience might number a couple of hundred on a raised ‘audience rostrum’. Perhaps 4, 6 or 8 mics would be suspended above them, between the slung PA speakers, probably AKG D-20s.
We are already over the number of mic channels available on the Pye console and the inevitable compromise decision becomes “What to put through a sub-mixer?” to save channels. The audience would certainly be sub-mixed, as they could be pre-set in level and Anglia’s sub-mixers were 4-channel Vortexions or 4-channel Pyes. Both were simple valve mixers with rotary gain pots, and two would be required for the 8 audience mics although the outputs could be paralleled into one desk channel.
The decision on putting the 4 Judges’ mics through another sub-mixer would be more difficult, as leaving all 4 mics ‘open’ all the time when the judges were talking would be far too ‘coloured’, and correctly controlling the 4 mics so that only one was open when needed was difficult as you risked not get your fingers fast enough around 4 rotary pots
. Even if we accepted 3 mics on the judge’s desk by careful positioning, I would still think there’d be some sub-mixing within the band; most probably ‘the brass’ and the ‘woodwinds’. Occasionally lifting the level of say a trumpet or flute solo wasn’t too difficult on the little sub-mixers if they are close enough to hand.

Let’s plug up the desk inputs like this:
Ch1: Kit OH – White Gp
Ch2: Kit BD – White Gp
Ch3: Kit Sn – White Gp (Maybe also to Echo?)
Ch4: Gtr – White Gp
Ch5: Piano – White Gp (Would need Echo)
Ch6: Hammond B3 – White Gp
Ch7: Woods and Brass Sub-mixers (Parallel)- White Gp (Echo….but it will go equally to all the instruments!)
Ch8: Vocal D-24 – White Gp – To both PA and FB (Echo…..same as the Band though!)
Ch9: High-Level Inputs-VTR PB switched to Grams if needed – Blue Gp – To both PA and FB

Ch10: Echo Return – White Gp – To both PA and FB
Ch11: Bass – White Gp (Pity the desk means it has to be here though!)
Ch12: Audience mic Sub-mixers (Parallel) – Blue Gp
Ch13: Presenter D-24 – Blue Gp – To PA

Ch14 to 16: Judges 1 to 3 – Blue GpTo PA

The limitations of the desk gave us some compromises….like putting the Bass on Ch11, away from the other Band channels because only channels 1 to 10 have got Echo Sends, which the Bass is never going to need. That’s also because Ch9 has easy ‘High-Level’ switching, and Ch10 has an ‘Echo Return’ input button.
Having accepted 3 mics for the Judges, let’s put the Presenters channel next to the Judges which allows for juggling of the ‘chat faders’ when the presenter talks to them.
The Audience comes in from the paralleled 4-channel sub-mixers, and since Ch12 hasn’t got an ‘easy High-Level’ input switch, a pad on the input might be the only way into its mic-amp.

White Group is therefore – ‘The Band’, along with the vocalist(s) plus the Echo Return, giving an overall fader for them and allowing them to be fader out totally, cleaning up the spill or band noises when not required. Everything else has to go to Blue Group of course.

Not having individual level controls for the ‘vocal’, would probably require a sound assistant wheeling the FB speaker in a close position and lifting the level so the vocalists could hear themselves OK, possibly with Echo fed back as well (remember it will have the band on that Echo). Many vocalists were fine at singing without hearing themselves…but some weren’t. The basic FB level would have been set for the playback of VTR or Grams to the ‘studio floor’.
The PA speakers were large ‘Pamphonic’ 100v line column speakers hung above the audience. Moderately directional, they would be set for the ‘chat’ levels from Presenter and the Judges. Howling the PA was not acceptable!
The Echo would be from an EMT140 mono plate, and alas with only one feed, the vocalist(s) will receive the same Echo as the band.
By the way, (shock horror!) no compressors or even an ‘Output Limiter’, Anglia just relied on the ‘transmitter protection limiter’ in 1967.
Lots of compromises all around
then for what was then just a typical TV music entertainment show!

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4| Granada’s Studio 10 at The Chelsea Palace

Let’s jump back a few years and look at a couple of small Pye OB desks with the big Painton quadrant faders transferred for studio use:

Two Pye OB desks in use at the Chelsea Palace, which Granada used as a studio from 1959.
Photo: Michael Harrison via TV Studio History.

Michael Harrison gave the following information about the Chelsea Palace sound setup:

The original sound mixer is seen here with James Goldby at the controls.  It was later replaced after a big technical refurb, but for the first few years, this was it! The mixer was in a cubby hole just to the right of the stage. The equipment was Pye OB kit, and the sound supervisors of the day only had 16 channels to cope with full orchestra, two booms and small music groups.  The shortage of channels was coped with by re-plugging microphones – the plug board can be seen on the left. Mike Roberts mixed most of the shows and he showed enormous skill and a cool head by re-plugging during live and very expensive top-class shows. [3]

The studio was used for the series ‘Chelsea at Nine’ which started in 1957:

“Chelsea At Nine was Monday night’s big variety offering presented by Granada TV from its Chelsea Palace theatre and it showcased top transatlantic stars, such as Billie Holliday, Alan Young and Ferrante & Teicher, with American directors employed to give the show an international sheen. As well as major entertainment names of the day, the programme included regular comedy skits from the team of Mai Zetterling, Dennis Price and Irene Handl, and excerpts from contemporary theatre shows, while The Granadiers were the house song-and-dance troupe, directed by Cliff Adams. [4]

Johnny Dankworth on one of the ‘Chelsea’ shows in 1958.
Photo via Nostalgia Central website


Some ribbon mics in use during Chelsea at Nine (later Chelsea at Eight) in 1958. Johnny Dankworth soloing into a Reslo Ribbon and another on the bass, and there are a couple of STC 4038s also visible. It appears that the Chelsea Palace was refurbished in 1959, so a new desk would have gone in, but as Pye was the preferred supplier to Granada, I guess it was like the bigger desks seen earlier.

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The Duke at The Palace

The Duke Ellington Orchestra were at the Chelsea Palace on 21st and 22nd January 1963 for another networked Granada TV show, ‘Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra’:

Ellington on the cover of TV Times for February 1963.[5]
Duke Ellington conducts during the recording of the Granada Television show ‘Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra’ at the Chelsea Palace, London on 22nd January 1963, which was transmitted on 13th February 1963.
Photo by David Redfern [6]

I don’t know who mixed that Ellington Chelsea Palace recording, as Mike Roberts mentioned was at ABC in Teddington by 1961, but it had good sound and some tunes from this Duke Ellington TV programme have been released on CD, along with others taken from Hugh Barker’s mix that the BBC recorded on 20th Feb 1964 in Television Centre TC4. These had been collected by Ellington’s son Mercer from audio tapes. [6]

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5| A Scottish Pye

As I mentioned in the earlier part about OB desks, when Scottish Television went on the air in August 1957 they had a Pye-built scanner but were also using one of the Pye valve mixers like Anglia’s in their new ‘studio’. Like Granada at the Chelsea Palace and a number of other ITV companies, this was actually a converted theatre, the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. [7]

A brief shot of the STV Pye desk in the Theatre Royal studio. [6]


The Scottish Television Pye desk was in the Production Gallery, alongside the Director’s monitors, as shown by a clip from their 1957 Hogmanay show. Here it is in a ‘screengrab’, and the sound mixer is wearing cans because Ray Purdy, the STV Programme Controller was introducing the show from ‘the production gallery’ right alongside him. [6]
By 1963 The Theatre Royal was
housing a total of 4 studios, but the building was destroyed by fire in 1969 and STV had luckily by then obtained another ‘theatre studio’, The Gateway in Edinburgh, so production moved across the country to there.

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Replacing The Valve Desks

These were the last valve consoles before both broadcasting and recording studios moved to transistors and although the new germanium transistor designs arrived at the very beginning of the ’60s, some valve consoles lasted another 10 years until silicon transistor console designs like Neve’s finally replaced them.
Despite the fact that many modern engineers would love the ‘warm sound’ of a valve mic amp into their digital Pro Tools rigs, most engineers at the time were pleased when big, hot, inflexible valve consoles were replaced. However, some’ like Geoff Emerick at Abbey Road felt that the new transistor consoles didn’t give the sound they got from the previous valve models.
In Part Two I reviewed the first of Pye’s OB transistor desks but it was Pye’s first germanium studio desks that broke new ground with a truly innovative modular ‘wrap-around’ design. Those are covered in Part Four.

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Credits and References:

[1] Many thanks for all the information I received on Pye sound desks and installations from Richard Ellis. Richard’s book gives us the following names from the Pye audio department in its early years: Ron Blackler, Charles Peck, Bob Barrass and Bob Moore.
[2] The Pye 16-channel mixer from Melbourne was resident at the ‘Rockabilly’ recording studio Preston Records, run by Graeme Thomas, a bass-playing ’50s rock enthusiast. It is most probably the only example of any of the Pye studio valve desks still existing!
[B] Quote from Peter Evans’s memories of his first period at GTV9 1972-1979 at his website: peterevans.com.au/career/gtv9_audio.htm
[3] Details from Martin Kempton’s remarkable website about the history of our TV Studios over the years:
https://www.tvstudiohistory.co.uk/itv-studios-in-london/chelsea-palace/
[4] The report of ‘Chelsea at Nine’ comes from:
https://nostalgiacentral.com/television/tv-by-decade/tv-shows-1950s/chelsea-at-ninechelsea-at-eight/
[5] TV Times cover and details from the Transdifussion website: https://www.transdiffusion.org/2018/02/14/tonights-granada-tv-in-1963-3.
Ken Val’s Book ‘Duke’s Diary Part 2 tells us: “MONDAY 21st JANUARY – GRANADA TV studios in Chelsea, London to rehearse and pre-tape ‘Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra’ for transmission on 13 February.
TUESDAY 22nd JANUARY – GRANADA STUDIOS, CHELSEA to complete pre-taping for ‘Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra.
Take the A Train / C-Jam Blues / The Eighth Veil/ Rockin’ in Rhythm /Angu / Mood Indigo / A Single Petal Of A Rose (DE Piano solo) / Don’t Get Around Much Anymore  / Diminuendo In Blue and Wailing Interval.”

‘Jazz on Film and Video in the Library of Congress’ by Rebecca D. Clear 1993 states:
DUKE ELLINGTON AND HIS FAMOUS ORCHESTRA”. Valburn/Ellington Collection Granada TV, 1963. Director: Eric Price; Producer: Peter Wilderblood. : A 1/2″ Videotape in Library Of Congress Archive”
Most of the music appeared on a 1990s CD, The Great London Concerts, reissued on Nimbus 2CD, NI2704/5.

[6] Photos of the Chelsea Palace Duke Ellington recording, taken by noted Jazz photographer David Redfern are on the Getty Images website and there are at least two music CDs are available containing 6 tracks taken from the Chelsea Palace Granada recording coupled with 8 more from a BBC show at the TV Theatre 20th Feb 1964-mixed by Hugh Barker, on a Pye desk. (Travelog CD 518 446-2 and Nimbus NI 2704/5)
[7] Video of the first Hogmanay broadcast by Scottish TV, shows the Pye desk as part of the Production Gallery in The Theatre Royal, Glasgow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XEL9YHJgIRk

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