You heard that right! The MR50 and Sound Techniques cool sound system

Publish Date:
December 2, 2021

Agriculture, Aviation and Rock ‘n’ Roll?

Yes, you read that right.…switches from Elma Electronic are known for more than just their presence in rugged industrial and defense applications.

Known by respected and astute audio engineers, studio owners and sound technicians, Elma has a long history with audio manufacturers and audiophiles who have used our switches and knobs for decades, creating some of the most iconic recordings of our lifetime.

One such company, Sound Techniques Ltd., started as a recording studio in 1964 in Chelsea, London, and grew to be one of the premier recording spaces at the dawn of rock and roll. Scores of artists, including Pink Floyd, The Who, David Bowie, Elton John, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and of course, The Beatles, all recorded on Sound Techniques consoles.

The original Sound Techniques A-Range consoles employed Elma’s knobs and switches even back then.

Now headquartered in Southern California, Sound Techniques was resurrected in 2015 by Danny White, a member of the Arizona Music Hall of Fame, recording engineer and former owner of Sixteen Ton Studios on Music Row in Nashville.

Sleeper Sounds Studios inLondon use Sound Techniques new audio systems

He and his partners developed a state-of-the-art reproduction of the Sound Techniques flagship A-Range console with updated electronics, mixing facilities and cutting-edge, modern-day circuitry. This process was driven by a singular goal: to recreate every aspect of the world-class sonic footprint of the original Sound Techniques console, now called the ZR and maintaining its storied audio performance.

Elma’s new sealed MR50 switches have been central to the switching aspects of the ZR, improving its performance with the MR50’s high efficiency characteristics. At the same time, the MR50 offers Sound Techniques’ clients the peace of mind that reduced maintenance and greatly improved component longevity are built into the switch architecture of the ZR. The new ZR console nails the sonic characteristics of the original – we’re talking “Hey Jude” levels of innovation. Take a listen to that iconic track and you’ll hear the power of Sound Techniques. Fast-forward half a century, let’s explore some rock and roll history!

Where it all began…

In 1964, Geoff Frost and John Wood, two staff engineers working Levy’s Sound Studios in London (which became CBS Studios-London) decided to quit their jobs, venture out and start a recording studio of their own. With little money but a solid working knowledge of the recording industry, the two pooled together what they had and set up in a former 18th Century dairy located in Chelsea, West London. Their resources helped them purchase various high-end microphones and outboard processors, however, creativity was needed when it came to the recording console. In that day and age, nothing was available commercially, so they had no choice but to build their own from scratch.

That console, the A-Range, with its Elma switches, quickly earned such a reputation that studios around London and the world wanted to get their hands on one. Soon, executives at Sunset Sound Studios and Elektra Sound Recorders, both located in Hollywood, heard about the Sound Techniques A-Range and placed orders. These became the first British-designed recording and mixing consoles to be sold in the United States in 1967 and 1968 respectively.

Gone but not totally forgotten…

Sound Techniques ceased operations in the 1970s and was essentially forgotten, becoming the subject of audio folklore and stories of lost greatness, shrouded in mystery for nearly forty years. Ken Scott, the legendary producer and engineer who worked with The Beatles, David Bowie, George Harrison and John Lennon, to name just a few, remembered the Sound Techniques sound and how fantastic the albums he helped create with the Sound Techniques console were…his fondest memory being the recording and mixing of George Harrison’s masterpiece, All Things Must Pass.

Building a console to last a lifetime.

The unique appeal of the new Sound Techniques ZR can be found in the fully transformer-balanced input module, with a spot-on re-creation of the variable impedance controls in line with the microphone amplifier, as well as the Dual class A discrete transistor amplifiers. The original inductor-based EQ has been expanded beyond the limited original A-Range design to meet modern day expectations.

According to White, beyond the sonics, reliability and serviceability are the most important attributes of a console or rack unit when working in a studio. The first Sound Techniques rack unit, a limited edition run, introduced in conjunction with Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood (now sold out!), was the first unit to fully utilize Elma’s new MR50 switch.

Sound Techniques Sunset Sound Panel - Closeup shows Elma's MR50s at work

It’s All About the Fit and Feel

Over time, dirt, dust and moisture can work its way into the switch. Of course, this is problematic in any working environment, whether it be in a recording studio or in an aircraft. Unnecessary component degradation needs to be avoided at all costs.

White noted, “As a studio owner, re-switching a console or any piece of gear isn’t something you want to do! It’s expensive and it can shut down your facility. We’re the first company to employ the enhanced Elma MR50 in Pro Audio and from a manufacturing point of view, it’s incredible and it feels fantastic, like the originals. It’s a completely sealed piece and indexed from the factory”.

This prevents the loss of labor time in the building process, like wasting time in fitting tiny switch stops and clumsy stick-on bits to hold the stop in! Moreover, the MR50 eliminates the risk of indexing a switch incorrectly and being faced with de-soldering, should it be placed incorrectly, which is a complete time sink. The MR50 is right every time and basically a lifetime component.

White continues, “our clients expect the finest components in the industry when buying a product from Sound Techniques. We’ve designed the Elma MR50 switch into our PCB designs and have made no provisions for a substitute, because there isn’t a substitute in my mind. Elma is today, and always has been, the best and that’s why we use them.”

The MR50 - Rotary Switch of Choice

The new version of the multi-pole, miniature MR50 rotary switch used on Sound Techniques ZR console and outboard gear includes more positions and poles than previously available. This increases on the number of possible circuits on the switch, which helps save space. Thanks to the invaluable feedback from White and his team, Elma’s MR50 offers more switching options, while the size remains the same.

The MR50 also has an excellent tuning feel, especially the 3Ncm torque version. Good switch feel is difficult to create in any switch, large or miniature. The MR50’s dual-omega “Swiss-Click” spring design provides the perfect precision tactile feedback that confirms to the user that the position has changed. Of course, long and reliable service life is a trademark of Elma

All MR50s have the option of front panel sealing to IP68 specifications, a critical need in the recording industry to provide protection against dust and moisture ingress in live sound situations, where engineers can be battling rain and blowing dust, or in the studio where the possibility of spilled drinks is always omnipresent. This is not unlike the conditions that farm equipment faces on front panel controls.

Whether it’s in the agriculture, aviation or the recording industry, no one wants a control switch failure…and precision design, ruggedness and superior water sealing are just a part of what Elma’s knobs and switches are all about.

Thank you, and ‘Rock On’ Sound Techniques!


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