Antique Engines, New Library by Rabbit Ears Audio

Rabbit Ears Audio has released Antique Engines, a new library of 192k recordings of 11 different engines, including 9.63GB of sound data.

REA_009 is a collection of stationary antique engines (both steam and gas) that were used for DC power generation. At the turn of the century before electricity was widely available, these engines were used to provide energy to water plants, factories, farms, and just about anything that needed power. These contraptions are a gold mine of mechanical sounds: steam chuffs, exhaust puffs, whirrs, whines, and bangs.

Antique Engines features over 11 machines from the turn of the century that will fill all of your gas and steam powered needs. Many of the larger engines were recorded with at least 4 channels so different parts of the engines can be emphasized to taste.

The Engines were recorded with the following pieces of gear: Sennheiser MKH30/40, Sennheiser MKH 60, Schoeps MK4/MK8, Sanken CUB-01, Cooper CS-104, Sound Devices 744T.

You can get it for a special price of $75 at Rabbit Ears Audio. Includes 192k and 96k versions. And below, Michael Raphael shares some details of the process behind this new release:

How was the preparation for this library? what were your expectations or goals before starting it?

I had met a steam and engine expert, Conrad Milster, on the campus of Pratt University while teaching a class there. Conrad Milster maintains the steam power plant that used to provide the power for the entire university. Conrad ran a few of the engines for me and recommended a long list of places that have either gas or steam powered engines in working order. My aim was to capture as many unique mechanical, combustion, and steam sounds I could. I knew that many folks would not be using these sounds literally, so I started studying different engines and learning how they function, and where the sounds emanate from. Youtube can be an amazing research tool.

How similar/difficult was this process compared to other releases such as the metal machines?

These engines were quite a bit different than Metal Machines. They have a lot of moving parts and I had to spend some time studying where most of the interesting sounds come from. I found that the train repair machinery was a bit easier to isolate and focus of specific elements. In the case of the steam engines, there were exposed pistons, pilots, mufflers, exhausts, and flywheels. They also all tended to move at once.

What about the recording process? I wonder how you dealt with the mics positions and focus… Any special thought on that?

Because of all of the moving parts I decided to get multi-channel recordings of most of the engines. By working with different perspectives and mics mounted on the engines themselves, I could isolate some of the unique characteristics of the engines. The Sanken CUB-01 is a boundary layer mic that production sound recordists love to use as a plant mic, but it also is great mounted in unusual places. I was able to mount that mic in nooks and crevices around different engines to really isolate some of the mechanical elements. The CUB-01 also has a wonderful low end qaukity that makes it perfect for heavy machinery.

Is there any favorite sounds from this package?

It is all about the air intake! A number of engines have exhaust sounds that are wonderful, but the air intake on some of the engines provide some of the most characterful sounds of the collection. I recorded a giant engine called the OTTO that was used at an old water treatment plant and had the hugest sounded air intake. The Otto is a gas engine, but the chuffing of the air intake almost makes it sounds like an old steam engine. The Otto also scared the living daylights out of me when it backfired several times.

Another great machine was a one cylinder mill engine that was steam based. It has these small suction like devices called dashphots which regulate pressure. Those little cups just hissed and released pressure in the most wonderful way. The rhythmic nature of the dashpots where a bit too relaxing when I was editing. Forget about the keening of the whales . . . . you can have the soothing sounds of dashpots!

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