Columbia Records' Customized Model 300
by Tim Halchuck
(Fountain Hills, AZ)
In the late 70s I maintained the tape recorders for the A/V and Language Labs at the Boston area universities. A friend asked me to come to the home of E Power Biggs, the concert organist, to overhaul the Ampex 300 on permanent loan to him from Columbia Records which he used to edit the safety tapes of his performances. The electronics box was a bit strange, with an "extra" control knob mounted on the right-hand side of the panel and showing the remains of masking tape, apparently applied to hold the knob in position. I admitted to Mr. Biggs that I had never encountered this "extra" knob before. Mr. Biggs chuckled and said, "It's the Stokowski Knob." As he explained, during playback of the "takes" Stokowski would fuss to the recording engineer about EQ, mike mixing, etc. so the engineer put in a "control pot" and had Stokowski adjust it for optimum voicing. The engineer would lock the knob into position using masking tape, and the recording session would continue. At the end of the session Stokowski would examine the knob to be certain nothing was disturbed. Of course, looking inside the box there were no connections to the pot, not even a sign that the tabs had ever been soldered. A week after finishing the job, which included significant lapping of the 3 heads, I returned to collect my fee; a home-cooked supper at table with Mr. & Mrs. Biggs. (for the record, she always called him "Biggsie.")
I often wonder if that Model 300 is still in service somewhere.