Waveform Orchard Studio, Mark 5

(also known as a Western Electric broadcast console retrofit)

Late in 2015, I acquired an older Western Electric broadcast console. I had bid on it via eBay in 2013, but lost to a person in Seattle who subsequently put it on sale himself. It was advertised as a Model 25b. If it is that model, that gives it a late 1940's vintage, potentially designed for the pre-RCA FM broadcast band centered on 46 MHz. However, it doesn't look like other 25b's I've seen online– the logo says it has to be earlier than 1969, and the style of the board suggests it is a close contemporary of the 25b. Beyond that, I'd need to hear from someone who knows more about these.

It is most interesting to me in that while it is in fair shape physically, it has been completely gutted. I've been building and operating a studio out of my home since 2014, for a broadcast radio show and a number of podcasts. I would like to use this board as the interface and enclosure for my studio.

The General Idea

Really, it'll just be a big and heavy pile of knobs and switches tied to a PC via a microcontroller, more likely than not an Arduino. There are thousands of arduino studio interface projects out there, but I do not believe there's anything quite on this scale. Given the amount of space unused inside the board, I believe I can store the PC and associated audio gear inside.

There are some general rules I'll be following for this project, which I'll talk about in the first “project update.”

Project Updates

Here are the most recent updates on the project, in something of a blog style. I'll also have a hackaday.io page to get some more attention. This projects is going to require that I learn some skills I don't presently have, so wide distribution is good.

Before Photos

Here are some picture of what the thing looks like. If more detail is needed please contact me.

Overview

From the business end. I built a cart to move it around on.
Here's the UI portion.
The rear of the console
Underside, including the box that would contain the circuits.
The sides of the enclosure are open, giving me an easy place to put connectors.
The bottom of the enclosure swings open, making it easy to access.
The underside again.

Control Detail

The far left of the interface. The hole apparently held a small patch panel. I will be using this space to install a small touchscreen.
The far right of the interface.
The middle of the interface.
Detail on one of the VU meters.

Insides

The panels on top also open up.
I've not encountered one of these on a board before. I imagine they're to fine tune gain control on channels. May have to remove these.
Back of the mixer knobs.
Continued. Note that the mixer knobs aren't rheostats, but resistor swtiches. That will likely have to change.
Continued, including the back of the VUs.

Damaged Areas

Damage to some of the bakelite knobs.
Damage to the molding.
Continued.
Damage to the desktop.
Damage to paint and evidence of repainting.
Continued.
State of the metal legs.
2016/04/04 17:47 · sam

First Update: Project Ruleset

I have a few parameters for the project, which I'll outline now.

Externally, I'd like to restore the board to as stock as possible.

Under the hood, it'll be a completely different beast. LEDs will replace lamps. Knobs, switches and meters will all be driven by mcus. Mic output will go directly to digital audio interfaces. But on the outside, I want it to look as much like the original board as possible while still serving the purposes I'm desigining it for.

No further structural modifications.

If, by some chance, this piece of equipment goes somewhere that has the ability to restore it to it's original (tube based) function, I'd like to make sure that's possible. I've seen a lot of retrofit projects that turn a restorable piece of gear into something significantly less restorable. I don't want to do that.

Free software through and through.

It is what I do. The working studio as it is now is based entirely on free software, and I have no desire to change that.

However...

All that said, this was (and will be) a working board, and not a museum piece. There is evidence of previous modifications by whatever station used this board before I got it. It has cut outs in the metal and the table for modifications, and it appears to have been repainted. I'd like quieter pots and switches, and I'm planning on a touchscreen to control call-ins and other systems.

2016/04/04 17:03 · sam