The AC/DC sound - guitars, amps, and mics

The Recording of Back in Black at Bahamas. tony plat, the recording engineer, writes

O.K. - the details about the recording of B in B are quite widely documented but the basics are.

I do have various preferred microphones but will always vary my choices to suit the room and the particular instruments.

The drums mics were O/H - U87 or U67, Snr top - KM86, Snr under - Shure SM57, Toms - Shure SM7, Kick - U47, Hats AKG 414 or 451.

Gtrs - 1 x U87 & 1 x U67 on each

Bass - AKG D12 & DI

Room U87

Vocals U87

no compression on drums or gtrs

Can't remember vocal compressor

analogue 24track @ 30ips

MCI console

Tannoy monitors

and of course the most important components - AC/DC!

I know this sounds a bit obvious but really the gtr sound comes from getting it right when it comes out of the amplifier and then recording it properly. When you do that then the musician plays better because they can hear the results of their efforts and then that makes you look good because that makes it sound even better still. Choosing a good place in the room helps and using good equipment (and applying some good old common sense) plays a part.

Originally Posted by Rockman
Hi Tony,

It's an honor and a pleasure to have you here. I had a follow up question about the drum sounds, if you don't mind... I was particularly interested in how you got such great depth on the snare sound on that album. I read somewhere that there were some delays and an eventide H910 involved. Would you feel comfortable expanding on that topic a little? To be more specific... What kind of settings did you generally use on those delays? And how far down did you detune on the H910? (which I assume was blended in with the original snare).

Thanks Tony!


[tony plat:] You are absolutely right! We fed a gated snare signal into an H910 detuned to about 93 with the feedback and anti feedback up. This was a real pain as it would fail to trigger sometimes. Yes it was just under the real snare. no other harmonizer will work!! I often use short delays to fatten up the sound of many instruments.
Couple of questions regarding the mic setup for the guitars.

Firstly was it one cab per guitarist or was it a more involved setup?

Yes - but we changed the combinations of head and cab to get the sound for each song.
how did you place the mics? what kind of distance from the cabinet was involved and how did you balance and blend the two mics together from a phase coherence perspective? did you adjust this dependant on the song or to the extenet to which the head cabinet combo was being driven volume wise?

I don't really know how to answer this! I combined my experience with my instinct and used my ears to decide what worked. I honestly am not trying to be a clever **** - that is the way I work! Obviously I avoided phase cancellation and adjusted as required.

Did you start with one as your main picture and add some 'air' with the other or did you opt for getting a wider tonal picture by having them both similar distances from the cab and having them on different parts of the cone/cabinet? Was the any degree that you offset the angle of the diaphraghm to account or the amount of air pressure etc. just looking to get some idea of what you were fishing for when you were micing them up and if there were any hard and fast starting points outside of the 'touch and tone' the Mal and Angus supply to getting the results you did?

Again it really isn't that complicated! I listened to the sound of the guitar and found the best way to get that tone and power on to tape. What I was fishing for was to capture what they did.
Apologies for the multi questons - It's pretty much the best rock guitar sound ever committed to tape and I'd kick myself if I didn't take the opportunity to ask!

No problem! I hope I have got you closer to the feel of how I go about things and thank you so much for your kind words.


Originally Posted by timtoonz
Which MCI console was it? I've got an old 416B I'm having fun with - mostly as a front end for drums.

You know I'm not sure - one of the JH series?
And NO compression on drums? Never woulda' guessed that. It sounds like an 1176 on 'smack'. Huh!

No compression on recording - sometimes a little on the toms or overheads when mixing. Is an 1176 on 'smack' like a DBX on 'crack' [refeers to the comment above]

Of course, I don't have a U47 for my kick, either....
Then a Beyer M380 is awesome!


What I really want to know how this album have such a amazinf prescence and a great center!...if you listen "You shook me all night long" what strikes me is the center...the kick and snare are just in perfect center and the vocal right in the middle ///is scary ...sounds like brian is singing just here in my face!! maybe sounds crazy...but how you make this amazing center...I did not hear that often....

This has a lot to do with using the sound of the room and mixing very gently and quietly - that way you can get the definition right. making sure everything is in phase helps too and ensuring that the signal path is as clean as you can get it.
Originally Posted by Jaguar Dreams

Thanks so much for sharing the mic choice information. I recently found myself studying BIB and thinking "no way in hell that's a 57 on those guitars, must be an LDC or SDC". I was also pretty convinced that was an AKG on the hihat. It's cool to get some validation from the source!

A few more drum questions since they do sound so awesome:
a) Can you talk about the mixing on the overheads? It sounds, on Hell's Bells in particular, like the cymbals are in another room from the rest of the drums. Was that natural reverb from the room, or did you have the overheads going to a send where they were high-passed and then verbed?

I can't say I had particularly noticed that!. There was no reverb on the overheads and i never high pass cymbals as the main harmonics of cymbals are actually the lower frequencies. I wonder if you are listening to a 're-mastered' version which (in my opinion) is nothing like the original mastering?
b) Can you talk about how you got the kick and snare so isolated? In a nicely live room it can be hard to, for instance, keep something like a U47 on kick from picking up tons of stuff besides the kick. Same thing with the KM86 on the snare. Was it just really good mic placement or did you, for instance, use a blanket tunnel on the kick?

They are not really isolated as such - it's just that the spill from one to the other has not been compromised by excessive EQ. I do sometimes use a blanket tunnel on the kick and I have been know to create a snare 'collar' to keep hi-hat out of the snare mic. Generally though this is when either the kit is not well balanced acoustically or the drummer does not have good dynamic control.

Thanks so much for being a part of such an awesome album, and for taking questions!

My pleasure!
Originally Posted by The Reel Thing
wow, thanks for that tip! i tried it and it works wonders.
i used to fatten the snare with a sansamp unit, but the H910 sound is so instant 80's - really cool!

The irony of course is that whenever I have tried to use it on contemporary recordings artists often say it's 'too 80s' !


Originally Posted by jbuntz
That 910 trick really works! I tried it on a low, dry snare it really made it sound quite back in black. Any more details on the kick in terms of head? How ballsy can you get with the 47 in terms of proximity. Putting a 47 on the kick makes me nervous. I don't want to do a $8000 experiment.
The head on the kick will have been a white coated. I quite like the thicker Emperor heads.

The U47 is perfectly capable of taking the kick drum. It is of course not inside! I always angle it slightly away too and use the pad - the -6db is best but the -10db will help if it is a very loud drum.



I often find the world is divided with those who prefer H to H and those who prefer B in B!

They were recorded in different ways. I didn't actually record H to H - it was done in Roundhouse Studios which was very dead so there was no spill between the instruments. As a result when I came to mix it I needed to create the impression of the room and fed drums and guitars through speakers into Studio 2 at Basing Street.

I was quite pleased with the results but when I was asked to record B in B this led me to make sure I had plenty of controlled spill to help blend the instruments.

I'm not sure I would describe B in B as darker or H to H as warmer so I am not sure what you mean? I think h to H is perhaps lighter than B in B?

The two microphone thing came about because I wanted to spread the guitars more without pushing them too loud.

Thanks for the compliments!

Originally Posted by desol
Hi Tony!

Tony, i need more. lol

Are there any other little tid-bits you could share about the mixing of highway to hell? Any other thoughts, insights, gear used.... Maybe what board it was mixed on? It doesn't sound like there was a whole lot of compression used.

Thanks Tony,

Well it was mixed on a Helios console which had some F760 compressors built in but no not much compression used. I really only had the EMT 140 plates, EMT DDL, tape delay, some Eventide gear, 1176. It was the same room and board where I mixed Catch A Fire.

I used some Altec monitors to feed stuff back into the studio and create more ambience.
Sorry - not much more to tell!

Tony ... black.html