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1959 Rein Narma Fairchild 670 Compressor Limiter

The Fairchild 670 is often referred to as the "holy grail" of outboard devices

Nearly half a century after its birth, Fairchild compressors remain prized audio tools. This stereo 670 model is one of two owned by Trutone Mastering Labs in New York City.

Photo courtesy Carl Rowatti

The Fairchild 670 is often referred to as the “holy grail” of outboard devices for its rarity, value (currently about $30,000 on the used market) and usefulness in a wide variety of studio situations. And this hand-wired stereo unit is a beast, with 20 vacuum tubes (or 21 if you include the 5V4 rectifier) and 14 transformers tucked within its 65-pound chassis. (Click here to view/download a copy of a vintage Fairchild 660/670 datasheet.)

The origins of the 670 (and mono 660 version) are fairly humble, coming from Estonian-born Rein Narma. In the post-war years, this refugee from Soviet Russia worked for the U.S. Army as a broadcast/recording tech during the Nuremberg trials, later immigrated to the New York and took a job at Gotham Recording. Narma and several others founded Gotham Audio Developments, to build recording gear. Les Paul hired him to modify his first 8-track and later Narma built consoles for Rudy Van Gelder, Olmsted Recording and Les Paul, who also asked him to build a limiter. After beginning the project, Sherman Fairchild heard about it, licensed the design and hired Narma as the company’s chief engineer. After a stint at Fairchild, Narma moved to Northern California and was a vice-president at Ampex.

LISTEN: Must Play
Les Paul talking about Rein Narma and the origins of the Fairchild limiter