|The studio was situated at South Norwood in London and was used to record most of the Big-K Sunday programmes onto cassette tape. The exception being Phil Hazleton's who, living in Holland, recorded at home and diligently posted in two shows once a fortnight by airmail!
The studio was fitted out with two Goldring turntables, two Akai 4000D tape recorders (later Revox A77's), a 6 channel SIS mono mixer with a custom PPM meter to replace the rather haphazard VU that manufactures insisted on fitting and an AKG D202 microphone. Actually we experimented with different mics but settled on the AKG because it sounded good and the BBC used them (we may have disliked the BBC but they know a good microphone when they hear one!) We didn't use cart machines, they were too expensive and the cheaper "Disco" ones were too unreliable.
The legendary Big-K sound was mainly due to running the mixer output through an APOLLO CL36 compressor/limiter producing a crude form of the sound processing all radio stations use today. But in those days British legal ones just used them to stop the transmitter from being over modulated, not to enhance their sound. American AM stations on the other hand used compressor/limiters to give their output a richer and louder sound, especially on the edges of their transmission area where the signal is likely to be weak. Kaleidoscope used it's compressor to squash the sound into another dimension! Today it could be thought of as totally over-the-top but in those days it was ..er different.
Each hour long programme was recorded onto one side of a C120 cassette with the presenter re-setting the studio clock to the start time of his show so time checks could be accurate (assuming the cassette was transmitted on time!) On the day of transmission the crew drove to the location which could be anywhere in or around London to set up the transmitting equipment for the 10 am start.
Pirate transmitters were always 'home made', you couldn't simply go into a shop and buy one and each seemed to have it's own 'personality'. The first transmitter we used in the early days of '73 was made by an ex-naval radio operator called Maurice who, although much older than the rest of us held a boyish enthusiasm for razzing up the authorities. He also shared the dream of running a radio station. So much so he had his small bungalow stacked with racks of records, including the latest hits! Tragically, later that year Maurice died and Kaleidoscope went through a succession of transmitters and engineers.
The 'classic' 70's landbased pirate transmitter (TX) was quite a simple, but effective, affair. Consisting of either a single or double 807 output valve driven by a two stage anode-screen modulator. It was crystal controlled, often using old World War II army crystals, and was powered by a war surplus rotary converter which turned 24 volts from two car batteries into the 300 or so volts needed to run the valves. A 'pi tank' coil was wound round a piece of cut down plastic drain pipe (or a loo roll!) connecting to the aerial system which was simply a long length of wire slung between two tall trees and brought down to the ground as an 'inverted L'. A good earth was as essential as a good aerial and to this end several short lengths of copper pipe were hammered into the ground and connected to the transmitter with thick lengths of copper wire.
To tune up such a transmitter was a black art, as usually there was only a current meter to show current flow through the output valve. Two tuning capacitors were manipulated in sequence to obtain maximum power. Sometimes an aerial current meter was used, but these were expensive thermo coupled devices and couldn't be left connected in case of a raid, so they were taken out of circuit after the TX was tuned up valves were robust and could handle the aerial load suddenly being disconnected!
When all was fine and dandy (hopefully before the 10am start) the first programme was made ready for the off in a Philips 3302 cassette machine. We always tried to start on time and usually did, listening to the pips on BBC Radio 2 (disgraceful) for our cue. Then the cassette button was pushed for our own special pips five short ones and one higher one (just to be different) and the programme started!
In order to eliminate gaps between programmes and to make it sound live, a crude passive mixer was used on site to mix between two cassette recorders, one of which was unplugged and hidden after a programme had finished just in case.