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Old 14th March 2012, 05:25 PM   #1
JZatopa is offline JZatopa  United States
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Default Western Electric 1928 - How far have we come in the last 100 years?

So I saw this video yesterday and it got me thinking. How far have we really come in the last 100 years in speaker design.

1928 Western Electric cinema speaker - YouTube

Although it is to big a project for me to do currently, I am curious to know how much better we could make this speaker with current modeling, design, materials and drivers.

Wouldn't be interesting to see how a version of this speaker, using all we have learned would compare to the original?1
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Old 15th March 2012, 02:18 AM   #2
Mr. dB is offline Mr. dB  United States
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The drivers are the best thing about those WE systems.
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Old 15th March 2012, 02:42 AM   #3
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very hard to beat on a number of levels... because the WE engineers and designers were the very best in their day, and they tackled basic problems and found elegant solutions.

The 555 compression driver is still very difficult to beat, difficult if not impossible to copy and get equivalent performance, and sonically extremely good.

Also those WE drivers spawned Altec and JBL directly.


...besides that's Joe Roberts and JC Morrison... the former being the founder & publisher of Sound Practices Mag, you can figure out who the latter is...
http://www.bearlabs.com -- Btw, I don't actually know anything, FYI -- every once in a while I say something that makes sense... ]

Last edited by bear; 15th March 2012 at 02:45 AM.
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Old 15th March 2012, 02:51 AM   #4
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Default 100 years

Well it's only 85 years so we still have time to prove how much smarter and better we are than those old fools, right?
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Old 15th March 2012, 06:43 AM   #5
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Magico have their $440,000+ speaker called 'The Ultimate Loudspeaker'.

Magico Ultimate II Speaker | Home Theater
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Old 15th March 2012, 12:10 PM   #6
Pano is offline Pano  United States
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I've worked with the old W.E. stuff.
We can now do smaller, cheaper, louder and more bandwidth.

Those considerations aside, we can't make it "sound better". (IMO)
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Old 15th March 2012, 12:51 PM   #7
a.wayne is offline a.wayne  United States
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You heard them new .....?
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Old 15th March 2012, 01:58 PM   #8
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Man, how'd they get that monstrosity all the way to Germany? Joe sure has changed over the years. I met him about 20 years ago, before he moved to Texas.
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Old 15th March 2012, 02:09 PM   #9
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Without a doubt vintage speakers do have a certain sound - that probably only 100 years of aging could duplicate.

One of the neatest speakers I have ever heard was the Atwater Kent Type E. It is VERY clear, has a very hi-fi sound - but I don't think I need to get into the flaws of this type of speaker, which are many.

I think it would be cool to try to duplicate the old WE sound, which can be done largely by Bakelite diaphragms, open back cabinets, field coil drivers, etc. - but it's all about chasing nostalgia, IMO. I've looked at a lot of this stuff, and the fact is if one wants better sound there is simply no beating modern drivers, materials, and methods.

I get the draw to old speakers and the like, I really do, but not to look back at it as an ideal, which is the equivalent of saying the epitome of the car was the Model T, and it has all been downhill ever since. That is just flat out false - unless the criteria is a nostalgic ideal. Then, of course, there IS only one way to go.
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Old 15th March 2012, 02:30 PM   #10
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The diaphragm in a WE 555 is NOT a bakelite diaphragm... fyi.
I am not familiar with any WE stuff that uses bakelite as a diaphragm material.
Aluminum, paper and phenolic, afaik.
The horn on the tweeter they made (can't recall the number now) that may have been phenolic, not sure.
They also did not use open back cabinets.

Field coils are not inferior at all. They are more expensive, which is the main reason that manufacturers went to permanent magnets, to save money, and make things more compact. There are some advantages to field coils actually.

Not all WE stuff is outstanding, and clearly not *most* old gear is even good. But there is no doubt that amongst the best compression drivers today, that the 555 is up there with the best. The large format horns that WE made are rather impressive too... not nearfield monitors or for tiny rooms though.

Equaling the performance of the 555 is not something that *any* driver I know of today is doing. It is unique in that regard. Look into it!

The use of "modern" drivers, materials and methods unfortunately does not assure or guarantee anything like "good sound". It is all a series of compromises, yin/yang, and choosing which are acceptable and can be lived with. No panacea in modern speakers at all. With that in mind, and given the space requirement, few speakers can compete with a 555 driver on a WE horn even today. Unlike automobiles where very few cars from the 1930s would compete with modern ones (there are some though...), the best of the WE stuff is up to today's standards. The comparison to the Model T is not valid as the things that are equivalent in audio pre-date the WE designs, and the WE designs were intended to provide orders of magnitude improvements over what were "Model T" age sound systems.

http://www.bearlabs.com -- Btw, I don't actually know anything, FYI -- every once in a while I say something that makes sense... ]

Last edited by bear; 15th March 2012 at 02:33 PM.
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