Legendary Studio’s Priceless 1960s Microphone Collection
Pictured with vintage restored microphones at Sunset Sound are (L-R) Wren Rider, Mick Higgins and Paul Camarata. Photo by David Goggin.
Hollywood, CA, July 2018 – Sunset Sound recording studios, founded in 1962 by Walt Disney’s former director of recording Tutti Camarata, has restored its priceless vintage microphone collection, thanks to TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik of South Windsor, CT.
“The problems really started about 30 years ago,” recalls owner Paul Camarata, son of the founder. “We started noticing that the plastic components on these mics were starting to deteriorate. The capsules were starting to weaken, the switch mechanisms weren’t working, the bodies were cracked and we were in serious trouble. At that time, there was no Telefunken, they had disbanded, so we started looking into re-manufacturing these plastic pieces, which turned out to be a nightmare.”
Sunset Sound’s original single room studio began cranking out Disney recordings for “Bambi”, “Bedknobs & Broomsticks,” “Mary Poppins”, “101 Dalmatians” and dozens of others, many in the then state-of-the-art format: magnificent mono. The studio eventually grew into a three-room complex, driven by a credo of technical and musical excellence without compromise. Clients through the years include Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Michael Jackson, Bob Dylan, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, and hundreds more.
Camarata recalls their initial repairs, “I had a friend of mine who was a machinist make some head mounting capsules. He machined new parts out of some sort of composite so we could mount the capsules. We no longer had the switch on the mic, but at least the mic became stable and solid enough to use. Decades went by, and luckily Telefunken was resurrected. We first saw them at an AES show, and sent a C24 stereo mic for repairs and it’s worked perfectly ever since. ”
Studio technician Wren Rider recalls, “One of our mics really got destroyed when it got swung on one of the large Atlas booms, smashed into a wall and was shattered into pieces. I spent months gluing this microphone’s plastic pieces together, putting that mic back into service as best I could. Eventually we sent it over to Telefunken and they took care of it and made it a really excellent mic with the new parts now available.”
TELEFUNKEN restored five of Sunset Sound’s vintage ELAM 251E large diaphragm condenser microphone systems. Details varied with each repair, but entailed replacing pattern switches and refurbishing amplifier housings, plus power supply updates and cabling maintenance. Additionally, two vintage CK12 capsules were reskinned (membrane replaced) and sonically matched for the studio’s AKG C24. TELEFUNKEN also restored their vintage U47 system, which included a new power supply, reassembly of the cable, and general cleaning.
Sunset Sound technician Mick Higgins adds, “We’ve worked a lot with Telefunken’s senior technician Ian Cluggish. He lets us know exactly what he’s going to do and how he’s going to make the repairs. The entire process is very professional and the results are consistently flawless.”
Paul Camarate concludes, “You know, I hate to say it, but these mics will probably be around much longer than we will.”
Learn more about TELEFUNKEN Elektroakustik vintage microphone repairs: