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Kearney W. Barton 1930 - 2012

With great sadness, I report the passing of Kearney W. Barton, the Dean of Seattle Recording Engineers. He went peacefully at 8pm, Tuesday, January 17, 2012. He had been receiving hospice care since September.

Kearney Barton | Audio Recording | Seattle Washington
This page began as a way to document the custom mixer in a Seattle-area studio, but it's morphed into a documentary of a person's life. Kearney Barton was my introduction to the world of location recording, and to recording in general. My high school decided to present a musical, which would be a joint production of the drama and music departments. Someone decided it would be a Good Thing to record the show, and to ultimately present it for sale.

Kearney was hired to record it. He showed up with an Ampex 351-2, a mixer of some sort, and 2 Neumann microphones (a U47 and an M49, I think) and 2 altec coke-bottle microphones. How was he going to record a stage play and an orchestra at the same time? The Neumanns were hung over the stage, likely in omni, and the coke-bottles were on the orchestra, maybe 15 feet apart on tall stands, pointed straight up. He monitored on headphones, the same old war-surplus phones that he used thru the 50+ years that his studio existed. He let me hear the mix in the phones, and I was hooked. Sucked in. Down for the count. I still am.

It was my first ever up-close audition of Neumann microphones, and my first-ever of stereo, headphones or not. Later in 1966, a band that I did sound for recorded a single there, and that was my introduction to studio recording. I learned a trick that day that I later put to use about 20 years later (putting a count onto a tape, after the fact, without splicing). It was also my introduction to what equalization could do for a signal. It went way beyond cool.

Here are various items of interest.

Interview of Kearney on KUOW radio  (17mb mp3)
Flckr slideshow of the Kearney and the studio 
Wheedle's Groove  - CD of 60s and 70's Seattle funk-n-soul, a fair amout recorded by Kearney.
Wheedle's Groove 2nd release  named for Kearney, with a picture of the house on the cover.
Planet of the Tapes |  Dave Segal's article in the Stranger about Kearney and his tape library.
Let The Records Show  Steve Fisk's article about Kearney and his studio.
Vagrant's page  about Glenn White, who designed Kearney's console and the acoustics for the 5th Avenue Studio. HistoryLink article about Kearney 
HistoryLink article about Joe Bowles,  another 50's era Seattle recording engineer (a competitor)
A article about early Seattle Recording Studios. 
Detailed description of Kearney's mixing console.  (8mb pdf)
The console hits Ebay. 
The Ebay ad mentioned in the Stranger 

Memorial Service Program 

Kearney's Oatmeal Rock "Cookie Power" Recipe 
Kearney made batches and batches of these cookies and took them with him to the hydro races on Lake Washington. They were a favorite of all of the crews there.

The Console

Kearney's console was custom made for him by Glenn White Jr. and Ken Heidt using Langevin components. It's a classic piece of minimalist engineering. I needed to document the mixer/console so it could be sold. This is a really unusual piece because there isn't any switching; the signal flow diagram is engraved into the panel, and all of the signal flow is via TT patch cords. This is really intuitive to anyone with any signal flow sense, and probably completely impenetrable by anyone who really doesn't understand signal flow. In it's usual operating mode, STUN, it's covered with patch cables, and only the area where the faders are is really accessible. There's no per-channel equalization because even the Langevin 251 program equalizers were $270 and the EQ253 graphic equalizers were $600... and those were in 1963 dollars! Thus, this mixer has 2 graphic equalizers and 3 program equalizers, and you patch them in where they are needed. The result is a mixer whose signal path is about as minimalist as you could ever make, and there's no extra BS anywhere. This suited Kearney's style to a T. Finally, don't forget that in 1965, when this mixer was built, the studio had a 3-track machine. It was some time before he got an 8-track, and that's as far as it ever went.

The Rest of the Story

In the end, nobody came forward with a serious Jones for this mixer, and it went on eBay. That got it the exposure needed to find someone to buy it. And buy it they did. Finally, in late April, I got the mixer crated, and it was shipped to its new home in Nashville, where it will go on making music for its new owner. Oddly, the new owner is a past resident of the Seattle area and knew about Kearney and the mixer.

Someone asked why the mixer wasn't headed for EMP. I think that everyone involved really wanted to see it go on making music. At EMP, it would have just become another artifact, something to be seen but not heard. That's the hard way to check out of this world.


Click on any picture to see it at full size (camera is 5184 x 3456 pixels, about 6mb image size). The small images are roughly 640 x 470. I claim copyright on all of them.


view of top left


view of center section


view of right part of panel


master fader. At the top of the box, you can see the bobble in the line caused by the 1965 Seattle earthquake. At the moment of the earthquake, the mixer's panel was clamped in an engraving machine, which was chewing out the legends seen on the panel. The earthquake caused the panel or the engraver head to move off the line, and the result is the tiny bobble seen in the line. Rather than scrap the whole panel, they chose to keep this bit of history intact.


mic preamp patching


echo section patching


equalizer section patching. The round knobs are level controls used to adjust the insertion loss because the AM16 amplifiers have more gain than just the insertion loss of the equalizer. Several equalizers could be patched in series, making the insertion loss adjustment necessary.


high pass and low pass filters.


graphic equalizer


a different view of the graphic and program equalizers.


program equalizers (3), and one of the cutoff filters


mixer 3 of the 5x1`mixers. The yellow knob was the monitor volume for this mixer, and the green knob was the level to tape. The monitor level control isn't really part of the mixer, since it followed the tape machine in the signal path. The monitor level adjusted the volume of that mix into one of the 3 A-7 monitors that were mounted above the control room window at the 5th avenue studio location.


console guts, from the left. You can see the AM16 amplifiers inside below the graphic equalizers.


Closer shot of the console guts from the left. The terminal strip with the resistors visible holds the passive combining networks for the various mixer sections.


View from the right.


at the top of the picture, you can see the AM16 amplifiers, and at the bottom, you can see some of the numerous terminal strips that are the console's inputs and outputs.


Here you can see the AM16 amplifiers sitting in their trays. These amplifiers provide all of the gain needed in the console. They are all the same, and completely interchangeable.


Here you can see the AM16 amplifiers sitting in their trays. These amplifiers provide all of the gain needed in the console. They are all the same, and completely interchangeable.


immediately below and to the left of the left-most vu meter, you can see a box with some RCA plugs going into it. That's more added circuitry. might be the talkback, might be the monitor remix. It turns out the box held 4 phono preamps.


the thing on the other side of the fan is the power supply for the mixer. Behind it is another supply for the phono preamps and the monitor mixer. That supply is loose, as is the fan.


left part of panel, without patch cables. the male XLR connectors are the preamp inputs, which are males because that's how you got 12 XLR connectors stacked in that fashion up the left edge of the panel. Towards the middle of the panel, where the two male XLRs are are the three echo mixers. The left XLR went to a mic located in one of the three live chambers (5th ave location), and the right XLR went to the AM-16 that brought the level back to line level. The echo mixer was the SEND mixer, and the output of the echo return AM-16 went to a channel one of the 5x1 main mixers.


Another view of the left side of the panel.


center part of panel. the 5 black knobs are part of the equalizer section. the three groups of three white knobs are the echo send mixers, which could also be used for making cue mixes.


here you can see 2 of the 5x1 mixers. Note that the 2nd one is missing the monitor level control. The rotary control in the panel above it replaces that control. the panpot can be seen in this picture. It is the control oriented horizontally.


Note the single panpot (purple knob)




view of mixer from the left. You can see the divot in the table here. When the mixer was moved from 5th Avenue to the house, they just cut the table that the mixer sat in, and moved the thing into the house. To the left of the mixer is a panel of XLR connectors. These are the outputs of the tie lines coming from the studio mic panels.


right-side of the mixer. The "peak" in the cabinet is 10" above the table top.


here you can see the monitor mixer. It's the one on the right-bottom of the picture. The 8x1 mixer is just to the right of VU meter #5. It is passive.

Last modified 05/04/2011. 21:03:59 ble end