Michael Raphael, owner at Rabbit Ears Audio, has finally released his fourth library, called Metal Machines, featuring recordings of 11 incredible machines from a vintage train repair facility.
Shake, Rattle, and Rumble. Those are just a few of the sounds that heavy machinery makes when it is fired up and put into action. The age of the steam locomotive has long faded in the United States, but the tools used to maintain them, rebuild them, and fabricate new parts are very much alive.
I visited a shop whose primary focus is repairing old steam locomotives and building replicas for use around the country (Thomas The Tank Engine is big business). This library features 11 pre-1950s tools that will get your motor running and add texture to your mechanized needs. I hired a machinist to perform the following mechanical masterpieces of the industrial age: Wheel Lathe, Metal Planer, McCabe Metal Flanger, Metal Shaper, Summit Engine Lathe, Summit Engine Rapid Traverse, Hendy Engine Lathe, Vertical Turret Lathe, Bridgeport Milling Machine, Large Air Needle Scaler, Small Air Needle Scaler.
All of the machines have such wonderful qualities that smooth computer-controlled contemporary machines don’t possess. Metal Machines is here to bring on the flap, whirr, grind and whine that your work needs.
Quality and prices
- METAL MACHINES HI-RES+ $70 – 24 Bit 192 kHz | 301 sounds | 2.9 GB download
- METAL MACHINES HI-RES $50 – 24 Bit 96 kHz | 301 sounds | 1.45 GB download
- METAL MACHINES $25 – 24 Bit 48 kHz | 138 sounds | 503 MB download
- METAL MACHINES $9 – 16 Bit 44.1 kHz | 66 Sounds | 176.7 MB download
If you want to know more about this library the work behind it, here is a Q&A session I had with Michael, talking about these huge metal machines:
Designing Sound: How did you get started with this library? Why did you decide to record those machines?
Michael Raphael: I’m not a train repair buff, but I do have a bit of history with steam trains and steam train repair. About ten years ago I was hired to record some turn of the century trolleys and heavy machinery for a Smithsonian exhibit and I was immediately enamored with the sounds. All of the machinery had such character and heft to it, and it just stuck in my head all these years.
DS: What kind of machines did you find in that place?
MR: All of the machinery is pre-1950 and most of the units are in decent shape. The is the full list:
Wheel Lathe, Metal Planer, McCabe Metal Flanger, Metal Shaper, Summit Engine Lathe, Summit Engine Rapid Traverse, Hendy Engine Lathe, Vertical Turret Lathe, Bridgeport Milling Machine, Large Air Needle Scaler, Small Air Needle Scaler.
The Wheel Lathe from 1910 was stunning. It’s a machine that is used to fabricate large train wheels on old steam engines. It is very ominous looking . . . you don’t want to get your fingers stuck in it! Not only was the thing enormous, but it had tremendous personality. The lathe has two large wheels that spin, and has the cogs and gears in the back. The wheel has a wonderful deep rattle and the gears in the back have a plinky high frequency thing going on.
DS: Any happy accident included in the library?
MR: At the time it wasn’t so happy – there were these vents at the side of the shop that would get caught in the wind and squeak and creak. When we were recording we had to keep stopping so the squeaky vents wouldn’t overlap the recording, but after a little while I stopped bitching and just recorded the vents. The vents are not in the library, but it was a nice accident. Maybe I’ll release them when I do an HVAC library!
Ultimately, I think the happiest accident was our Machinist, Eric. He was not just there to get some OT, but was really into it. He knew all the machines and was constantly making suggestions to make the recordings more interesting. I love when that happens.
DS: How challenging was it to deal with those big sounds?
MR: Preparation is really important. I made a site visit months before I did any recording. I knew well in advance that the lighting in the location was going to be an issue because it had a cycle hum. I made arrangements for different lighting, which meant we had a couple of spotlights and lots of mood lighting!
In terms of the sounds themselves we knew it was a big space, so we tried to minimize the room as much as possible. Most of the session was recorded with a Schoeps MS pair and my good friend and colleague, Rob Byers, used an MKH 60.
The biggest challenge was time. I was only able to rent the space and hire the machinist for 7 hours and we had a lot to do. Working for 7 hours with such high SPL content can really be brutalizing so we were glad to both have a pair of Remote Audio High Noise Headsets that enabled us to monitor at a reasonable level.
DS: What’s next on Rabbit Ears Audio?
MR: I have a few things planned, but I haven’t decided what will run next, so I’ll have to keep you in suspense for the time being! I keep thinking it would be great to do a Rabbit library but they don’t make that much sound.
Thank you very much for your interest, Miguel.
More info at Rabbit Ears Audio.