History Lesson I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the Technology Showcase on automatic microphone mixers by Allan Soifer in the May 2003 issue. The
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Jul 1, 2003 12:00 PM

History Lesson

I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the “Technology Showcase” on automatic microphone mixers by Allan Soifer in the May 2003 issue. The comparison table on p. 58 is a particular joy. But a bit of his history may need some clarification and modification. From 1971 through 1995, I was supervisor of a house of worship sound system, with backup maintenance handled by Alex Rosner. The original installation included the original Altec version of the Dan Dugan analog automatic, and it was replaced with each Altec upgrade. The original did its job, and it was Altec's request that we try the newer models. I was always able to get good performance from these Altec automatic microphone mixers. But the subsequent models required a great deal of trial and error in balancing the input gain controls against the master output control, and the instruction manuals were not much help in this matter. Possibly, this is the difficulty that led to a decline in the reputation of these mixers among contractors. Possibly, instead of being smug about getting good operation, I should have offered my services to write a decent manual for these units. This was a simple four-input system. I can imagine the fits these units must have given contractors and users when this adjustment feature was not optimized in installations where several of these units were chained together for many microphone requirements.

But all was not lost during this dark period. Before the '70s were over, Ivie produced its own analog automatic microphone mixer system (modular), then Shure produced its first automatic system that included specialized microphones, and into the early '80s, Industrial Research Products produced a successful digital automatic microphone mixer. I dare say some of these installations worked well enough that this equipment is still in use in well-maintained systems some 25 years or so later. Also, during this period, my former partner Larry King and Dan Dugan himself first began experimenting with including automatic microphone mixers within large operated theatrical control consoles to permit operators to devote attention only to those inputs where automatic control could not do the job, and ears connected to a brain connected to hands were still necessary.
David Lloyd ben Yaacov Yehuda Klepper

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