The oldest-known EMI recording desk

By Brain Kehew

This mixer is the oldest-known EMI recording desk in existence. It was a bespoke design made for Abbey Road studios (then called the EMI Recording Studios Ltd.) When the studio complex was young, there was very little commercially-made studio equipment; so studios built their own. This desk is an early example of almost 50 years of EMI desk designs. (It is likely there were at least two more of these desks, as the studio had three main studios in operation.)

The desk has two “scenes” which are level settings for 5 microphones; one scene on the Left and one on the Right. The engineer would fade from one pre-set scene to the other using the centre fade control. This allowed quick transitions between microphone setups, as linear controls (now called faders) were not yet common.

Below each of the 5 level controls are on/off switches, with corresponding green and red lamps above to indicate the on/off setting for each input.

This photo shows the desk in use at Abbey Road in the 1940s, with staff engineers Laurie Bamber and Chick Fowler.


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