Old School Console

Gates Studioette from the Ross Revenge

Today I found a reference to the Gates Studioette console.  Remember them?  This console resided in the pirate ship Ross Revenge, “The Boat That Rocked”.  If you’re not familiar with the history its well worth an hour of reading!   Radio Caroline was an amazing station.

My first experience with the Gates Studioette was a visit to then WAWR-FM in Bowling Green, Ohio.  The station was on 93.5, mono, and in a college town, Bowling Green, Ohio.  The announcer giving me the tour was Bob Ladd who later went on to own a station in Bellevue, Ohio, on 92.1.   I never forget the tour of WAWR.  It was awesome.

The console was typical of that era.  Tubes, step faders, but the interesting part was the construction.  Note how the chassis was made, the number of brakes made in the metal.  Knobs which you can actually handle.  Then there is the switching on the front as well as the escutcheon plates detailing the function.  Those, by the way, are steel and silk screen.

Today you don’t see that craftsmanship.  Recently I had to look for a console for work, and I was dogged by the fact every darn one of them is either a computer, or a production/stage mixer type of console.   OK, they look cool and futuristic, but they can’t be fixed at the component level, (you’re beholding to a manufacturer), or they don’t “feel” right.

Soon I’ll be starting on converting an old tube Yard, (circa 1958), to a modern stereo console.  The restoration will be interesting as the Yard’s old guts go, replaced by my own designed amps, but I want it to look like it did in 1958.  I’m also adding some options which include mix-minus for the Telos, and solid state relays for the On-Air light and remote starts.

The cabinetry will be the hardest part, as well as replacing switches and knobs.  Presently I’m trying to find a source for the Gates knobs uses at that time.   Due to our economy, (or lack thereof for the past several decades), we don’t make things anymore in this country.  So it’s going to be hard to find a company to make them.  I did find someone to make the switch knobs, except he didn’t have the dye they used to make colored caps.  Only black.

VU meters?  Try to find one.  Most are unobtanium due to the complex nature of the meter.  The specifications are rather narrow, and only new old stock is available.  If you buy any of the VU meters from China, they will likely be DC meters 500mA, and even with an AC to DC conversion, the ballistics are not right.

The bottom line is, after the Gates Yard is finished, I might start on a Studioette.  It’s a classic.  But to make it, it’s going to require learning metal braking, silk screening, and other jobs which we simply don’t do here in the United States.



About Frederick Vobbe

I’m presently employed as Director of Engineering for Block Communications, Inc., and I’m Vice President and Chief Operator for the a group of television stations in Lima, Ohio. On the amateur radio side I’m the trustee for the KT8APR repeaters on 53.630, & 145.370. These repeaters are analog, IRLP. I was the long time editor of the DX Audio Service, a non-profit radio magazine on audio cassette devoted to the medium wave DX hobby. The magazine ran from April 1985 till the National Radio Club shut it down in April 2015, I’m a member of B.P.O.E. #54, Eagles #370, past Salvation Army board of directors, past member of the Lima Host Lions Club where I served as President, VP, and on the board of directors. I hold the Melvin Jones Award, one of Lions Club top honors. In my nearly 50 plus year broadcast career I’ve worked at recording studios, radio, and television stations. One of my other hobbies is collecting “oldies” from the years 1955 to 1990 that charted in the radio industry in the Whitburn/Billboard charts for Rock and C&W. I have my own automation system & Part 15 radio station where I can listen to “good” music. I also restore old recordings of radio jingles, airchecks, and production music from tape and records. Another hobby is designing circuits and home-brewing equipment such as audio processors, tube compressors, switcher & control systems, audio distribution amplifiers, and audio mixers. Originally from Toledo, Ohio, my ham radio call sign, W8HDU, was granted via the vanity callsign program, and was my grandfather’s call. He worked at Western Union during the days and at night he operated on 80 meters from his home in Toledo using a home brew transmitter and receiver, working the CW mode.
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