Gear Stories With Sylvia Massy: Mr. Williams and the Fairchild 670

Dec 1, 2010 9:00 AM, By Sylvia Massy



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Analogue Tube’s AT-101, showing off its colorful wiring—as close as you can get to the real thing

Analogue Tube’s AT-101, showing off its colorful wiring—as close as you can get to the real thing

Fairchild licensed Rein’s compressor design, and a handful of 660s and 670s were manufactured in the early 1960s. Fairchild’s mastering equipment was in competition with the Scully and Neumann gear of the same era, but the Fairchild compressors managed to jump into other audio processing applications and became very desirable for recording popular music. Paul McCartney and Geoff Emerick were rumored to have used their Fairchilds across nearly everything they recorded. “Grey Ghost” Jim Scott (Barenaked Ladies, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting) would never leave the house without his 660, and, of course, Jack Joseph Puig (Weezer, Green Day, Jellyfish) drove his 670 like a rented mule across his major mixes. In fact, JJP has a terrific, modern, digital version of the Fairchild 670 in his current Waves JJP plug-in collection today.

Names like DeMaria, Fairman, Esoteric and D.W. Fearn come to mind when looking for a modern analog equivalent to a classic Fairchild compressor. But the one unit that seems to be the most honest, accurate reproduction of the stereo 670 seems to be the Analogue Tube AT-101. Just like the original, the AT-101 uses eight of the 6386 tubes. In fact, the developer behind the AT-101, Simon Saywood, worked directly with JJ Electronics to put the impossible-to-find 6386 back into production. Of course, you’ll need to pump up your wallet to put an AT-101 into your rack. They list for around $18k on a day that the UK exchange rate is good.

Sylvia’s vintage Fairchild 670 compressor, manufactured circa 1960

Sylvia’s vintage Fairchild 670 compressor, manufactured circa 1960

Fueled by hazy stories of discovering a real vintage Fairchild 670 being used as a doorstop, I thought if I just put my mind to it I’d eventually find one. This quest took me to some pretty scary places. Finally I just couldn’t wait any longer, biting down hard and paying a boatload for a sweet beautiful 670 in the mid-’90s. I never looked back. Today, my 670 gets used on almost every session, either for recording a good squashy drum room or finishing a mix by patching it across the stereo bus. So everything worked out just fine in the end.

One last thing to you fellow treasure-seekers. Forget trying to find Mr. Williams in Joliet. Because his name isn’t really Mr. Williams and he doesn’t live in Joliet. You gotta be kidding. You really thought I’d give up one of my best sources? You should know me better by now!

The unconventional producer and engineer of artists including Tool, System of a Down, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty and Prince, Sylvia Massy is a member of the NARAS P&E Wing Steering Committee and Advisory Boards, and is a resident producer at RadioStar Studios in Weed, Calif.

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