Sunday, 18 October 2015

30 Years of Revelation II

Hello to everybody,

interested to follow on about history of Fidelity. In my last article I did try to explain that at the beginning of the 1970ties a decisive step happened, when Japanese audio aficionados made some exceptional experiences with the earliest technologies in audio history. As in the last part bespoken, they came across that with first generation public address systems like for cinematographic use, audible superiority was already achieved in absolute perfection. Comparing such 40 year old vintage professional products with than actual mass market hifi products, the vintage technologies captivated with a by far wider range of expressive characteristics, harmonics and deeper emotional habits. These japanese evaluations did extract best possible engineering standards of those days in the 1930ties and perfectly instrumented productions responsible to gain exceptional audible results. More precisely said, these products were superior because of extremely low and simply realized power amplification and highly efficient supporting horn speaker systems perfectly designed. These systems did hardly vary the than common idea of audible fidelity. With exceptional homogeneously integrated structures of finest detail and far more realistic dynamic representation, such systems dominated the performance of contemporary equipment.

WE16a in a japanese installation

So legend started with Western Electric cinema applications of the 1930ties to be synonyms of such technologies, they have set the pace and got unsurpassed precept till today. The Western Electric wide band horn designs, like WE15a and WE16a together with the first compression drivers WE555a in history, were able to cover a frequency spectrum between 70 and 6000 hz, almost the bandwitdh of the human voice with one simple organized system. Thus driven from a WE 91a/b single ended 300B amplifier amplified by one single direct heated power tube, got to be the most remarkable amplifier of audio history by this fact and its resulting aural benefits. Less simpler it never ever got again. Today we do know that such early days marked already the zenith in quality terms within history of audio, a history with a inherent permanent decline in quality vs. growing mass as progression motor. Isn't it curious that at the same time when japanese mass market companies like Pioneer, Yamaha, Sansui and lots others flooded the world with "everything built in, plus extras for half the price"-products,  Japanese Audio aficionados praised hand made US american cinema products to be the "crown of Creation"!

Private Japanese Installation of original vintage Western Electric horns with tube amplification,
(the small horn centered reminds me to the classic Altec 811, just for the sizes) 

From these first evaluation days of vintage WE300b triodes these got the most wanted tubes of all times, together with several other direct heated triodes like 2A3, 45, AD1, R120, ED, PX25, 845, 211, etc.. These early findings created a new elaborated audio business around all necessary parts and hard to obtain products like amps, transformers, tubes, speakers, enclosures and horn developments in all different design issues. A typical asian replica boom started to bring several copies of unobtainable originals to the market within the early 1980ties. A new business model did evoke by refining such original designs with more modern technologies in Japan. Tango and Tamura as world class suppliers of all sorts of tube amplifier incorporated transformers might be a good example here to explain the unique exercises of the Japanese audio culture within these years.

Ad of GIP Company, a manufacturer of almost original and newly made Western Electric components in Japan

Small variety of japanese "Utopia" made enclosures for vintage speakers, they manufacture almost 100 different designs of enclosure types for the audio aficionado with vintage drivers.

In these days european or american ambitious hifi nuts did spend their money at hundreds of class a watts powering small sized compound coned low efficiency speakers with amplifier sized crossovers for advanced levelling of any impedance irregularities. They still did follow the dream of a technical perfected audio performance in theory, where any sort of imperfection was fought with antidotes. An ideal of perfection which was followed with master degrees in technical measurement parks and its testing praxis and a still unbroken solely belief in man made progression of advancement. On the other hand the cutting cost factors from Transistor design and later on integrated designs of highest wattage per dollar always have to be taken in mind with every question about quality till today.  Today we know a bit better that any commercial enterprise will fail once in its typical inherent dislocations. Just look today at the international banking system, Volkswagen escapades, Fifa, etc. ...

The Japanese culture building is traded with a thousand year old tradition were copying is the essential value in perfection for the achievement of mastership as progress. Subtile evaluation of differences will lead to final results and is mandatory to the expected success. Japanese culture is to my knowledge by far the most sensitive, subtile and the most evaluated world wide because thought from the end point. Just look at the tradition of food, beside the italian culture discipline here, the japanese food shows by far the most advancement in its refinement standards. Who is making the best Whisky in the world? Not the Swiss... Another fact here helps to understand what I do want to explain. I believe the japanese culture is as well one of the most hedonistic cultures in our world. They do not accept any limitation when quality of pleasure is in question. Several examples might illustrate this thesis. Look at the famous Kobe cow, who else beside the Italians would care a young in outer nature living cow for three years with everyday treatment of classical music, best organic grown food and beer massages, just in order to get the most perfect structured beef possible. Who else in the world would do such enormous effort to make "Dashi", a soup base made from seaweed and bonito flakes, just the flakes are masterpieces on its own. The Zen culture and its inherent "Wabi Sabi" formular is a well explaining tradition for those who want to learn more about this careful culture. Today the web is a good resource to get more informations about. I have the feeling sometimes we in our western influenced consumer culture could profit a lot, if we would accept only a tiny bit of such principles for our daily decisions.
I am quoting myself from the last entry: "In Japan the sense for qualities and historical role models is traditionally extremely sophisticated, independent of its business, so it does in audio." With other words I want to say, if the Japanese with one of the most successful audio cultures in commercial terms do verify and rate 80 year old tubes, dedicated amps and horn systems to be excessivly better than anything current made, than it was a quite easy formular for Jean Hiraga in the beginning 1980ties to be overtaken as main strategic issue for his restart in Europe.

Read on soon, Volker