Recently, we sat down with a few of our veteran audio consultants to talk about some of the most memorable gear sales they’ve been a part of over the years. Joining the Vintage King team in 2005, Akane Nakamura has brokered some of the most exotic audio equipment sales in the business, from legendary tube microphones to iconic mixing desks. In this installment, we take a look at some of Akane’s favorite pieces to come through the VK doors. But first, let’s learn a little bit more about Akane’s rich history in the recording industry. 

Originally hailing from Tokyo, Japan, Akane found her passion for music at the early age of 3 when she began learning to play piano. Still an avid pianist, Akane continued to sharpen her skills throughout her youth—until she saw a recording engineer being interviewed on TV. It was then that she decided to pursue a career in audio and began studying the recording arts at Kogakuin College in Japan.

In college, Akane learned about signal flow and mic placement, but also studied vintage gear, like her favorite design, the Helios mic pre and EQ. After college, Akane served as an engineer at the SAM recording studio in Tokyo, where she refined her approach to making records:

“I try to get the best atmosphere in the studio so that the performance and instrument will work together well.”

With dreams of working at the most prestigious studios in the world, Akane left Japan in order to further her studies at the L.A. Recording Workshop and make connections with some of the facilities in town. After a few months of hard work, Akane landed a gig as an engineer at the legendary Mix Room in Burbank, CA. 

After working in California for a few years, Akane relocated to Detroit and began engineering at F.B.T. Productions and 54 Sound, where she is proud to have worked on Eminem's GRAMMY-nominated album, The Marshall Mathers EP. It was here where Akane was first introduced to Vintage King, whose headquarters were right next door.

Akane joined the VK team as an Audio Consultant in 2005, specializing in vintage gear and relationships with our clientele in Asia. Since then, Akane has helped engineers and collectors secure countless pieces of priceless gear. We spoke with Akane to learn more about five of her favorites.

Helios Console (The “Eric Clapton Console”)

We brokered the desk when the owner of Wunder Audio was selling it—they had previously owned the console. To be honest, I’m not sure how Mike, the owner, came to own the console. It was sort of known as the “Eric Clapton” console, so there are plenty of shots online of it. It had 10 input channels and two of the console compressors in it. That Type 69 module is, as we know, the most popular of the Helios modules now—H2 Audio makes them again and we sell a lot of them. 

I don’t think we had to do too much repair-wise on that desk, as the modules had already been inspected by the people at Wunder Audio. It mostly just needed a quick cleaning when it came in. My client bought it for his private studio in 2009.

Scully / Neumann Cutting Lathe

These are originals from back in the 1950’s, I believe. These were the most popular record-cutting lathes back in that era. Now that the vinyl record market is back, they’re really highly sought after again. 

A mastering engineer in New Jersey was going to close his mastering studio and so the lathe was for sale. I knew Sony Japan was looking for a lathe, so I introduced the two parties, and Sony ended up buying pretty much everything that the studio was selling. Things like Lavry Gold’s and Sontec EQs. The sale would’ve happened in about 2015. Sony Japan have put the lathe to use for quite a long time since then. They were actually recently looking for another one, in fact. Understandably, they don’t come up very often.

Motown Studios EQ

Only about 40 of these units are still known to exist today. I’ve sold three of them in total: one single, and one pair. It really is the most amazing EQ. Of course now, as a result, a lot of companies are bringing back recreations of the Motown EQ design—people are finding out how good the units are. But these were original units. They’re some of the best EQ’s ever built, easily. They’re very sturdy and well-constructed. It’s a passive design based on a Langevin design. With that EQ, as soon as you pass sound through it, there’s the immediate Motown sound. In a similar sense to a Helios, you hear these and it’s just its own distinct sound. We had a few at some point and eventually got a consecutive pair. I think we made the sale in 2017. The buyer was a collector that had some really crazy gear—a lot of it, in fact. 

Neumann U47 with Oil Capacitor

Neumann made a couple of different U47 versions, and this is one of the rarer and more desirable ones. We had a few of them a long time ago and they just sound a bit different from the others. I’m pretty sure the oil capacitor was a choice based on parts availability at the time, but it sounds a little warmer and rounder than the other U47’s without it. We would have had this one come through about 2010. I went into the Tech Shop and got to hear it, and it sounded so distinct compared to other U47’s I’ve heard. The oil capacitor U47 examples seem to be some of the really sought-after ones.

Telefunken ELA M 251 E pair

I’ve sold several mint-condition ELA M 251’s over the last 14 years of working at VK, but actual pairs and close serial number units are super rare. These were in really great condition—I think one was used a bit more often than the other, but it’s not very often that these mics come in as pairs. We got these in 2019. I ended up selling them to one of the really big bands in Japan at the time. 

I personally like the ELA M’s more than a U47, to be honest. Plus, I think it’s a more attractive-looking microphone [laughs]. I love getting to get my hands on some of this vintage gear. It’s really enjoyable to do. A lot of these pieces are worth far too much for me to own, but with a job like this, I get to hear these things and play around with them a bit.

Learn more about these rare Telefunken ELA M 251 E microphones in our Around the Shop video.