THE LEGENDARY FAIRCHILD 670 - A STORY OF INNOVATION AND LEGACY
The Fairchild 670, considered the granddaddy of all tube-based compressors, has earned its place among the audio gear immortals due to its rarity, price, sophistication, and legendary sound. In this post, we'll explore the origins of this iconic piece of equipment and its impact on the history of recording technology.
The Fairchild 670 was designed by Rein Narma, a brilliant inventor and audio engineer frustrated with the limitations of gear available at the time. He co-founded Gotham Audio Development in 1954 to build high-quality audio components for professional use. Narma developed plans for a compressor/limiter and carried them with him when Gotham eventually folded and he started his own company. Enter Sherman Fairchild, the heir to his father's fortune and a genius inventor in his own right. Sherman had a passion for both photography and audio recording and had established the Fairchild Recording Equipment Company in 1931. He agreed to license Narma's design and hired him as Chief Engineer of the company. Although Narma only stayed with the company briefly in the late 1950s, he left behind an incredible audio legacy: the Fairchild 660/670.
The original design was the model 660, a single-channel compressor built around a series of RCA 6386 tubes. Approximately 800 of these units were manufactured, with the first 10 units being hand-built by Narma himself. The very first unit was sold to Rudy Van Gelder, a fellow New Jersey resident who used it to great effect when cutting lacquer masters for Blue Note jazz records and Vox classical records. Once the mono 660 gained traction, Narma used the resources of the Fairchild Company to create a two-channel version in 1959. By doubling all of the tubes and wiring of the original design and adding a matrixing network to connect the two channels, the massive model 670 was born. Weighing in at 65 pounds and housed in a 6-unit rack size, the 670 featured a full complement of 20 tubes, 11 transformers, and 2 inductors. It was a formidable piece of equipment, not for the faint of heart!
Today, the Fairchild 670 is revered by audio engineers and producers for its warm, transparent sound and its unparalleled ability to control dynamics in a way that is both musical and precise. Despite its rarity and hefty price tag, it remains a sought-after piece of audio gear that has left an indelible mark on the history of recording technology. Countless famous bands and musicians have used the Fairchild compressor over the years, making it a staple in many recording studios around the world. The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Frank Sinatra, and Ella Fitzgerald are just a few examples.
The Fairchild 670 is an iconic piece of audio gear that has left a lasting mark on the history of recording technology. Its amazing sound and ability to control dynamics have made it a coveted piece of equipment by audio professionals and enthusiasts alike. Despite its rarity and hefty price tag, the Fairchild 670 remains a staple in many recording studios around the world, continuing to influence the sound of music today.