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1960's vintage public address equipment - adapt or replace?

A post by David Mellor
Monday May 30, 2005
A Record-Producer.com visitor reports success from a 1960's vintage PA amplifier used in his church. But is it time to replace? Is there anything better around?
1960's vintage public address equipment - adapt or replace?

A question received by a visitor to Audio Masterclass...

I have been helping a small church get their sound system set up. Considering what I had to work with, it sounds pretty good. No nasty feedback or harmonics. Amazing considering I am using hardware that literally predates my birth in 1970.

I'm not knocking the equipment because it does work very well for its age. The system definitely could benefit from a good cleaning.

The one problem I have is that there is no line out, tape out or obvious monitor out. The system consists of one mic and one electric guitar terminated in 1/4 plugs, a 4 channel powered mixer, (choke) 2 consumer speakers from a stereo system and a tape deck for recording. Mic and guitar inputs are fine.

The gain controls definitely need replaced or cleaned because of the scratchy sound they make when adjusting levels. I won't even go into the horrors of the speakers. As I mentioned before there is no tape, line or monitor out.

There are a number of 1/4" jacks labeled as follows. 1 Aux input, 1 PGM, 1 EQ send, 1 EQ return, 1 Power.

I am wondering if the PGM is a monitor output? If not, what is PGM? The reason I am asking is to eventually not have to record the way I currently have set up.

What I have works, but... I have tapped off the speaker outputs from the mixer, ran it through a home built adjustable passive mixer to the record inputs on the tape deck. As I said, it works but it isn't the way it should be.

At the moment, the budget for equipment is rather tight but newer equipment may be the only way. Any suggestions would be helpful.

Thanks for continued excellence, Steven Willis

David Mellor replies...

Equipment of this age tends not to be as standardized as equipment now. Manufacturers had not settled on the 'correct' ways to do things. So what 'PGM' is, I have no idea.

I think you need to ask yourself whether you are getting good results. If the results are good enough for your purpose, then it doesn't really matter that you are taking your signal for recording from a speaker output.

You could spend time and effort investigating further, and perhaps making modifications. But I suspect that the expiry date of this equipment is somewhat overdue, and a refit will be necessary.

I would suggest however that you either go the whole hog and engage a contractor whose systems you have seen and heard and know to be good. Either that or replace your amplification system first, leaving the speakers as they are if they are working OK.

You wouldn't need much - I would be inclined to go for a powered mixer like the Spirit Powerstation 600, or even the Spirit GigRac 300, which is cheaper and has less scope for user error (I imagine you are not the only person who would be operating).

Whatever you choose, don't be taken in by sales talk - there are too many churches with PA systems that are totally unsuited to their needs. The need is to get the word (as in The Word) to the congregation, and a small but properly designed system can do that perfectly well.

A post by David Mellor
Monday May 30, 2005 ARCHIVE
David Mellor has been creating music and recording in professional and home studios for more than 30 years. This website is all about learning how to improve and have more fun with music and recording. If you enjoy creating music and recording it, then you're definitely in the right place :-)