80's AM loudness War

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mrmodulation
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80's AM loudness War

Post by mrmodulation »

Anybody remember what audio processing and transmitters the "Big Gun" AM stations used back in the day? How high could they push the positive modulation and clipping?
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Jim Sofonia
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by Jim Sofonia »

I remember it clearly as my first radio engineering job was in 1981. The guy I worked for was always pushing hard on the BL-40 Modulimiter, then later the Optimod 9000. I thought it was a kinda dumb thing that only radio employes do pushing preset buttons between competing stations and worrying about the loudness. The listening public didn't know or care. If they wanted it louder they just turned up the volume knob.
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Bill DeFelice
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by Bill DeFelice »

I remember back in my teens a station employee brought me up the AM rocker located mid-state from me for a tour. I don't remember what the first processor was but I recall seeing a Gates AM limiter (the two-tone green rack faceplate solid state one). I remember being in awe as I gazed at the Belar AMM-1. Except when the jock was talking the damn meter looked like it was stuck in calibrate mode!
Last edited by Bill DeFelice on Mon Jun 15, 2015 4:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by Deep Thought »

Bill DeFelice wrote:Gates AM limiter (the two-tone green rack faceplate solid state one)
Ah yes...the Gates Solid Statesman distortion generator. :lol:
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mrmodulation
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

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Although I have never seen a BL-40 in use at a station I have been watching some videos on youtube showing them in operation. I can honestly say from what I have seen and heard these boxes smash the audio! That's the way I like it dense and loud, There are several after market units based on the BL-40 using modern components and one is a kit you put together yourself.

Sadly many of these boxes have been replaced by optimods and have landed in the hands of recording studios. Most of them are modified to the hill and finding an original working box is getting harder each day. When they do come up for sale they want an arm and a leg for them. :(

I found a video on youtube of a solid statesman AM AGC / Peak Limiter combo but the audio is muted so I can't hear what it sounds like. I have been told by several people they suffered from bad distortion especially when pushed hard. They had a habit of pumping on heavy bass and the AGC just floats around trying hard to keep the audio constant. I guess that is because they didn't have a "Gain Platform" like the CBS/Thompson CSF/RCA units.
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

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Take a look at these Gates AGC/Limiters on Ebay this guy has been on here selling broadcast processors for a while.
Looking at the condition and price makes me wonder if the seller is on drugs :lol:

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Gates-994-65 ... 2a3f8be1f5

http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/Harris-Gates ... 2a3ce6d31f
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

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mrmodulation wrote:Although I have never seen a BL-40 in use at a station I have been watching some videos on youtube showing them in operation.
I have a small AM client that was using a BL40 up to just a few months ago. The owner constantly complained that it wasn't as loud as the other stations but never upgraded... The BL40 had been sick for years, but it finally going completely down is the only thing that prompted him to order a rebuilt 9100.

I think that he has 3 or 4 of them laying around. Some of his stash probably was used in the legendary Muscle Shoals AL recording studios at some point.
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by w4cl »

End of the 70's GainBain into a Dorough 310 got the audio LOUD and clean. Later the GainBrain's were dropped out and the Dorough 310 into a Optimod 9000 was a favorite in my area. It was loud and clean without all that, what I call, whoosh sound, when the compressor on the GainBrain went "to infinity and beyond!"

The BL-40s just sounded horrible compared to a GainBrain, that really wasn't much better if you cranked it too loud. As the old saying goes, a little dab 'ill do yah!
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by dbuckley »

mrmodulation wrote:When they do come up for sale they want an arm and a leg for them. :(
Anything old and analogue, no matter how crap, is now "vintage", and thus apparently worth arms and legs.
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by Bill DeFelice »

According to the documentary for "The Big 8" CKLW chief engineer Ed Buterbaugh designed and built the processor that they used. With Ed's passing in 2008 we'll never find out about it unless some other staffer was privy to it but I would be quite curious to what he was up to.

Yes, it does pre-date the 80's but it was mentioned that Buterbaugh's processing was quite loud and legal.
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by RGORJANCE »

Bill:

You rang some bells in my fossilized brain.

"Back in the day", Ed installed the very first Harris MW-5 in Detroit. I heard that it was the hand built prototype. The second MW-5 went to WTMJ in Milwaukee. It was called "the pre-production prototype". This one was used as a test vehicle where they built an unvented box around it and ran it till it quit. From those failures, they would make necessary component changes. WTMJ used that rig for many years before sending it to a 5kw station they owned in Wausau, WI. It ran there as a main for many more years. I believe it is still there as a backup.

I heard stories about Ed and his processing. The stories said it was really loud on the dial.

The loudness wars were interesting to say the least, and I saw some really awesome positive peaks that could be attained back in the 70-s and 80's. I was known as an "arms dealer" in the Chicago market. Sold lots of transmitters and processing. It was a "fun time" to say the least.

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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by ChuckG »

the Dorough 310 into a Optimod 9000 was a favorite in my area.
I still like the DAP as a pre-processor in small stations without much of a budget. DAP into an Inovonics 222 with the 222 doing 2db limiting max is a nice sounding combo too. In front of a CRL PMC the DAP was good if you wanted loud at the expense of grit. Not so easy to find good DAP's anymore and they (still) aren't much fun to keep aligned.
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

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mrmodulation wrote:Take a look at these Gates AGC/Limiters on Ebay this guy has been on here selling broadcast processors for a while.
Looking at the condition and price makes me wonder if the seller is on drugs :lol:

Yikes. That's in awful condition. "as is, needs repair" and rusted like a 70's Chrysler. 7 watchers. Maybe like watching a train wreck.
I have one of the Solid Statesman AM limiters in the "things that shall never again be plugged in" box and it's truly a POS. Who knew they were worth money now.

This company http://www.retroinstruments.com/products.php is manufacturing New Sta-Level and other classic processors up in Northern California. I'm afraid to ask the price.
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Bill DeFelice
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by Bill DeFelice »

mrmodulation wrote:Take a look at these Gates AGC/Limiters on Ebay this guy has been on here selling broadcast processors for a while.
Looking at the condition and price makes me wonder if the seller is on drugs :lol:
Many of us have noticed that "Flower Pot Man" (if you look at his pictures you'll see what I mean). everything is overpriced for what it is and I surprised that the money he expends on repeated listings allows him to make any money. He's gotta be on something pretty sweet, especially with those prices!
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Re: 80's AM loudness War

Post by Kelly »

HA! Flower Pot Guy! I'm surprised he sells any of that old CRL and Orban stuff on FleaBay, considering the pricing. I wonder where he comes up with his stock?

A station I worked at in the early 80's had an RCA Ampliphase 5kW modulated by three UREI LA3's (Low Mid High slow AGC) 3 LA4's ( fast attack and release) to a modified BL-40 and the transmitter clipper circuit. When playing music, positive peaks never went lower or higher than 124% and negatives lower or higher than 95% It was almost ridiculous actually. The FunnyPhase was replaced by a Collins Power Rock as the main TX and a 9100 Optimod.
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