What piece of equipment do you have to show us today?
Well I hope this isn’t cheating, but it’s actually a combo of two pieces that form one of my favourite character recording signal chains I’ve found to date. First up in the chain is my circa 1950-60s Toshiba Ribbon Mic - a Japanese made clone of the RCA 74 Jnr - plugged directly into my Tube-Tech RM8 all valve Mic Pre / Opto Compressor / Pultec style EQ chain.
How did you come across this particular item?
The Toshiba Ribbon was an eBay find. I bought it from a TV station in Japan. The mic had been immaculately kept and has worked perfectly ever since I got it years ago. I know there’s always a risk buying vintage mics on eBay, but when you can get them serviced or repaired locally for a couple hundred bucks I think it’s always worth that risk for the curiosity and character they can bring into your workflow.
My Tube Tech RM8 was also purchased on eBay as four separate pieces from one seller in the USA. The timing was perfect as the Aussie dollar had surpassed the greenback in value so the savings were incredible. I’d first heard about the units on a ‘Daptone Studio Tour’ video and as I’m a huge fan of that classic sound, I knew if it was good enough for Gabe Roth it was definitely good enough for me.
What is that you like so much about it?
‘Toshie' has such a nostalgic tone and unbelievably creamy sound that breaks up just right when you hit it with a bit of volume. On vocals it provides me that special saturated tone and grit that we hear on so many old school recordings that newer mics, even ribbons, just don’t create. On guitar amps it gives me a richness and a midrange quality that rarely requires any further EQ. And it just sounds perfectly old. Also paired with the all valve input path on the tubetech and its variable impedance on the pre, the variety of sounds I can get from this one chain truly amazes me and kicks tone goals daily.
How do you use it, and how has it shaped the way you write music?
Toshie is my go-to old school sounding mic. Whatever I want to sound vintage, be it vocals, drum rooms, upright bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, horns or percussion, the 1950’s Toshiba Ribbon hits the spot. Its got more croak than the frog in your dunny. Of course, it has a noise floor, but seriously, would you choose pristine cleanliness over all-time vibe?
The TubeTech RM8 is my favourite pre to pair with Toshie and I think the variable impedance has a lot to do with this. At 2.4K, the vintage ribbon is much brighter and cleaner sounding with more dynamics. Then dialled down to 600hz, its like adding a limiter and glorious vintage saturation to the mic. If you want that vintage dirt, this is the way. The RM8 is also the best bass DI signal path you could ever ask for, and it sounds completely amazing on vocals, whichever mic I use. The opto compressor does it all from subtle peak controls to smashed out room mics and the EQ is pure delight.
Toshie was used during the creation of the soundtrack for Men of Wood & Foam, which we recently did on Sol-R’s guitar amp. It was then also used to record the vocals for the theme song and all the guitar overdubs we did on the 'surf guitars' section of the soundtrack. Our brief was to emulate the sounds of the 50s, 60s and 70s for the soundtrack, and so we used a simple oldschool live recording setup with all vintage mics and outboard spring reverb. Toshie basically had this in the bag for us before we even started.
Any other interesting points/stories about it?
I’ve searched for info about this mic, and furthermore the chance to buy another one, for years now, and the only picture I can find of this model is the orginal eBay photo the Japanese seller put up. I have a feeling it’s extremely rare. If any readers know anything more about Toshiba Ribbon mics from the 50s and 60s please get in touch.
Band of Frequencies are touring nationally in March. If you have any information about Toshiba ribbon mics from the 50s and 60s you can get in touch with the band via their Facebook.