Tuesday, 24 May 2016

30 Years of Revelation VII – The Resume

Hello fo everybody reading on in my blog.

When I temporally did end last year this series of articles with an interview with Keith Aschenbrenner, I did hope that my time in Hong Kong will extend my knowledge about the Asian audio culture, but it didn't come out as I expected. My time in Hong Kong did not deepen my insight into Asian audio practice, this city seem to be focused generally into other values and times. So I will try to continue where I did take a brake and deliver now the resume.

As already in several former articles stated, Japanese aficionados were in a foremost stage the founders of the vintage audio culture with more than 40 years of extensive practice. Japan was the pioneering Asian country of electronic mass products in the 1960ties. Their typical cultural behavior in a tireless seek of perfection have forced a trailblazing economical success at a global scale. This success entailed on the other opposing hand an incomparable range of handmade specialist audio products employing a stage of expertise incomparable to second. Enabled by the respectful highest degree of mastermind culture in order to find the last and tiniest compromising aspect in a given audio playback system.
Japan was followed by the Korean economic and cultural catch up, where audio enthusiasts did try to follow as well in the same fields of expertise. Almost time contemporaneous attended by some exclusive audio entrepreneurs in Europe (F, I, GB, D) while in the same time almost completely ignored in the motherland of its technical origin the US, only noticed by a handful of radical enthusiasts (NY Triode Gang).

Today the situation is more comprehensible. The Japanese movement laid once the track for a highly sophisticated organised replica industry of former unavailable vintage equipment made at Chinas working bench. Focused to form a advanced reproduction process copying original products from the US-brand Western Electric and their subcontractors, aimed to be an economic business for luxury needs. Today almost any necessary product for a highly collectible and advanced historic cinema set up is available from several Asian companies directly from the storage shelf. All products are made as faithful precise replica of the vintage original or even made as a revised product. When the interest into historical products started in the early 1970ties, the most Japanese forerunners needed years or even decades to find out about things and important interrelations; and of course first they needed to find the vintage products for a first hand personal evaluation. Modern Chinese production processes in combination with Japanese and Korean supervisisional knowledge about the original products and their inherent qualities, have made possible a reissue production line of such quality level.

The typical Western Labo Co. set up.

Companies like Line Magnetic, PandC, Western Labo, Victor, Kanno, GIP, Wu, etc. are all courting the same small group of customers, who are willing to spend a 50 to 100k amount (for a start) into a catalog of seamless dedicated replica products based on the 1930ties WE-cinema-sound-systems with all-time favorite repeating same components:

1. large wide band horn transducers (WE 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22 /A replicas or similar other horns)
2. large open baffle or dipole low frequency extension cabinets (incorporating TA4181, Lansing 15AX FC or other similar Jensen FC replica speakers or even arrays of them) with more or less
3. the same tweeter (WE 597/A).
4. Up to personal taste of the customer and available room for the dedicated listening space, different amplifier conceptions are available to match perfectly (here legend started with 300B tubes). Several replicas from Western Electric originated amplifier designs, like WE 89A, 91A , 121A up to completed cinema racks (WE41A) featuring 211 and 805 PPP tube amplifiers are repetitively copied for a common sales strategy.
Any legendary WE-transformer from history is reproduced already, rewound to original cores (171A, 618A/B, etc.) rigged out at electro junkjards in mainland China. Of course on sale are replicas of all typical dedicated power supply designs, like Tungar, Selenium or tube regulated are offered for a authentic completeness and aural superiority. If you only take the aural distinction of tungar low voltage power supplies to the fields coils of the 597/555 drivers in mind, it is almost a sensational effect on itself. Once aural internalized you will not do without anymore...
Every vintage exceptional product you might need for such a sophisticated sound texture is on sale by now,  – you don't need to research anymore for yourself, no more need to find experienced knowledge,  nor there is a need of building diy skills for absolutely unavailable products.  – You just need money and a dealer of your trust. Google will do the rest...

WE91A replica with original WE cores by PandC

GIP 12A horn replica with  GIP 555/A receiver GIP 597A tweeter 
A incredible speciality of Western Labo in Japan is the improved 21A horn design,
with 84 x 79cm opening and a good 40 cm longer development, the 21A is
the almost perfect match for wide band operation in typical living room sized environments.
It is extending the lower frequency end of the 22A to useable 150 Hz and since its longer
development up to 6000 Hz at its physical end of performance (with 555/A receivers).
It seems to be almost global consensus within a experienced community, that such historic given arrangements with Western Electric inspired remakes are the state of the audio art today. Of course they mark the top of any audio desire, since the originals never have been available to a private market, the most components were even in their professional time only available as a rent product.
To my own references from 30 years with vintage tube based audio equipment, I must state these wide band horn installations with 555 receivers are unsurpassed in any audible discipline. When absolute refinement in tonal realism, dynamic distribution and natural audio perception is to be aimed, there is nothing coming even close. Period!
Any paper cone based loudspeaking unit made through such 70 years of history, independent of its magnetic technology, does not have the slightest chance, in physical and as well in audible terms to match the sparkling naturalness of tonal resolution of these first wide band horn loudspeakers. If you have got the matching amplifying devices, you will be rewarded with unparalleled obsessive attitudes.

Line Magnetic LM555 mounted at LM22A horn

These qualities of wide frequency horns seem to have widely established in global scale. Those users with elaborated listening experience prefer loudspeaker concepts without limiting enclosure types. In audio history different design conceptions did establish in order to use the backward radiated waves of the cone to extend the total low frequency energy; like backloaded horn enclosures, enclosures with conducted port or reflex enclosure types. But even with large sized and damped sealed enclosure types unwanted energies together with unfavorable effects to the cone are always present. All this common used concepts are more or less a hefty compromise to a quality intended lf-response. The open baffle concepts from the early beginning show up with a tremendously improved performance and by far with lowest negative side effects to the sound structure. They are fast and open, they are room covering, but not very efficient in terms of radiated energy, for adjustment you might add cone size for improved efficiency. If you don't have the room for such a huge installations with large woofer (arrays), you better should forget about a historical cinema installation for your own.

A typical Western Electric cinema based installation shows up with properties unknown to ordinary commercial audio products. Because of their time related technology, they were once constructed with a main focus to optimize the acoustic-physical efficiency in mind. They are aimed to overcome the typical limitations of 1930ties audio performance, i.e. limited power output of the existing amplifying devices. They needed to perform in cinema halls with seats for several thousand people. So arrays of extra efficient horn speakers, have been for a long time the only technical solution to  succeed with a handful of watts of output power. The physical approach intended to resolve the best possible loudness energy ratio together with the best audibility to a given output power. The early ingenious solutions incorporated highly efficient mechanical transmission systems to couple the electro dynamic movement/energy of a small scaled coil to a maximal amount of air. Customized to different tasks, i.e. long low frequency or short high frequency waves were different treated. The low frequency drivers are in a foremost stage the graves for the supplied energy. The size of the radiating  cone decides about its lowest transmitted frequency, its physical weight determines the necessary electrical energy input. As everybody knows the size of the baffle limits physically the longest wave where the radiated wave parts from both sides of the cone distinguish each other. With a funnel like shown here from WesternLabo a particular part of the radiated frequency will be transmitted to better ratio, here it might be 1:1,5 for frequencies upper 100hz. With a 18'' woofer such a system brings a certain lot of air into movement, much more than the driver alone.
When you look at the immense ratio of the wide band horn development between opening and mouth you will find a ratio of one to several thousand. This system covers not only the most important and delicate frequency range, it determines decisively the tonal character of the whole installation. The extremely light weight diaphragm/driver mechanism 555 is designed to cover a frequency range of 100 to 7000 hz. The mounted horn development (like WE15a 100-3000hz, WE22a 250-6000hz) with its limiting parameters decides if such a horn can cover the complete range of the human voice or just the range of a  common trombone. The immense mechanical amplifying ratio of the horn development animates additionally a huge amount of moved air into the sound structure, a tremendous lot more than modern small scaled based speaker systems will do. I believe the amount of  animated air is the most typical and shaping effect for their incomparable sound structure.
This rarely iluminated aspect is to my personal experience the most important reason for the unique sensation of trueness and natural scaled instrumentation. To my perception this effect creates a fundamental physical difference into the final soundstage, a extra spacious and defined stage of sound. As well the listening ability is a lot easier at the ear than with small scaled drivers with long stroke radiated wavefronts, known from typical hifi speakers, but as well from professional studio monitors. Even here, when the overall sound structure might be extremely similar in tonality, the physical definition of the projected sound stage is completely different. The loss of air between instruments is a remarkable criteria.

A typical Western Labo set up in detail

Today ownership is not anymore a challenge, it is just a question of money and room. If you can accept to spend 2 to 4 K $US for shipping costs from Asia to Europe or into the US, you can order such complete sets directly from several Asian homepages. Certain manufacturers and companies are selling more or less the same replicas in similar qualities and confusingly same appearances for more or less similar price ranges.
Alternatively in Europe if you are adventurous and gifted with hand craft you can ask for some custom made support for the woodwork here ore here with additional options for necessary decided equipment. For all others it might better get in physical contact first with your more or less locally operating drug dealer. There you can get some real impression of these favourite products, of course coming along with additional charges but as well guarantees. In Germany you will be perfectly served by a institution and pioneer for such questions: Keith Aschenbrenner from Auditorium 23. Together with a highly extended amplifier range from Shindo-Labs and some unique own products like LM-based speaker designs, unique stepup-transformers, tonearms and cables, you will be opposed with several Line Magnetic components from the here shown classic WE-replica-speaker-portfolio. Within the American continent there will be Jonathan Halpern‘s associated network of tone import dealers would be happy to do serve a similar request for the interested aficionado.

GIP 7331 with TA4181 and GIP 597 and GIP403A with 594A. The dipole enclosure for the 18'' field coil low frequency radiator

The resume is sobering, after 80 years of audio development (?!) and certain stages of redefinition of state in audio technologies, like its included 30 years of digitalization of the music signal and by now the superior panacea of digital signal shaping with its benefits for consumer claims and applications, the earliest beginning technology has never been matched in overall performed quality again.
The first wide band receiver unit, the WE555A is by far the best sounding compression speaker mechanism for wide band use ever made and will be the central component in such a set up. It is the key component and performs by far better than any of his technically glorified successors. The simplicity of such a acoustic principle, the small lightweight diaphragm acting as wide band unit, mechanically amplified by a carefully designed exponential horn development to cover the widest possible frequency range (again WE 12/13/14/15/16/22/A) is by far the most delicate, refined, fast, naturally detailed and dynamic loudspeaker principle ever made. The WE597/A is its perfect hf-extending companion for the best high frequency response money can buy, as its lower end counterpart the 18'' TA4181 FC driver will perfectly round up the lower end. Such sets are a extreme statement of input and as well a challenge for the performed music material.

The most enthusiasts of such sets are hardcore analog addicts with a deep conviction about the supremacy of vinyl. For my own conviction and belief I must state here again, that just such incomparable qualities of the here described sets have shown myself the first time in my life the limitations of vintage analog recordings stored on vinyl. For a long time I did ignore completely the outstanding qualities of modern digital recordings (past 2000), – it may not be too influential, if you put five-figure euro sums in first released vintage vinyl jazz records – you must suffer from a disease well spread in such circles. In order to feed my own hardcore analog addiction before 2010 such first releases of vinyl  from the golden age were the only acceptable program material. Personal wrong interpretations of unlimited varying recording qualities in terms of broad tonalities, captured dynamics and refinement of resolution did confirm my completely wrong interpretation of richness and realism. The exceptional smooth, refined and natural response of such historic horn installations with its incomparable amounts of balanced micro textured informations, showed me first how wrongly I did misinterpret the typical inherent variations of vintage recorded vinyl. This experience made a completely new evaluation of digitally recorded music for me five years ago possible again. I had made my basic experiences with digital music at the beginning of the 1990ties. Mainly justified by transcriped CD's from originally analog recorded music, I decided to ignore for the next 20 years the digital medium completely. These early cd releases showed not only limited sound qualities, they showed on top like any other step of reproduction as well a even greater limitation of the widely varying analog originals. Such limitations are completely absent with actually completely digital produced program material (past 2000). The digital source is now on par with the best recordings on vinyl and the best thing about is that the tremendous differences between recordings known from analog times are almost obsolete.

SPU Gold in a SME3012 on Platine Verdier, for 20 years my gospel to audio heaven.

With this final part about the last 30 years of audio history I have reached as well at a end of my planned blog activities. Sometimes when I think back and talk to my self, it reminds me to my youth when I did listen to my Grandpa. I feel quite similar now when talking about such exalting audio sets like he did permanently refer about his deep affection by two world wars, a topic nobody liked to follow 20 years later... Being poised by such extravagant and room expansive audio installations, I feel in a similar situation. In particular when I see my students happily using Bose's bluetooth speakers with their mobile phones... And they are right, the Bose Soundlink mini is a exceptional milestone in history of audio, quasi the physical complementary product for today of the here shown Western Electric installations, but equally breathtaking impressive for what it is. If you are thinking instead of Western Electric horns about downsizing your former hifi life, this product might be your future...


Friday, 29 April 2016

Western Electric in Hong Kong  – A visit at Mr. Wu's workshop

Hello to everybody reading on,

finally it did happen and I got one of my contacts working in Hong Kong. I did meet with Mr. Western Electric of Hong Kong, better known as Mr. Wu.
In these days of mobile internet any business address is available at a fingertip, in particular here in HK, where the people run crazy with mobile web. Everybody is permanently online with a minimum of two cell phones at once, independent of age, just to prevent not to miss any incoming message. In these days businesses are getting rare without a web page or a email address. When Google will provide any information worldwide on a fingertip, you need to accept that there are still some people existing which are hiding to such digital ease. If you want to meet Mr. Wu, you need to know somebody who might be able to give you his physical address. He does not have a business card, a web page or a any other registered form. There is neither a telephone book in Hong Kong, nor other options to find the location of his company – wonderfully out timed.

Wu is located at the very end of the 荃灣線 -line (Tsuen Wan Line) of Hong Kongs MTR (Mass-Train-Railway/Subway) in a remote industrial area. With other words, just another 300 m distance and you will match the western end the urbanized territory of this megacity. It is a 30 minute foot walk from the subway station through warehouses and fabrication units, when you will end up in a place of nowhere. A 30 level warehouse with a entrance corridor of 100 meter length and maybe 500 stainless steel mailboxes at the wall. At the 4th floor, at unit L in the remote dark end, round the corner, a very little workshop is hidden, secured with extremely rigid and solid locks. Just  lettered with a tiny golden "Western Electric"-sticker at a metal sliding door.
To here loads of Japanese and Korean audio enthusiast did pilgrimage in order to get some of his famous Western Electric Amps. That's the way to do it and it is the only way to meet him, bring a trolley for the long way back, – no Paypal.

Hong Kong's Mr. "Western Electric" – Wu

His workshop is so small that three persons are blocking each other already in movement, so one needs to get outside, to get space for the two others. I would estimate, may be 15 square meters for two sections in one room, where the storage shelf will be the dividing wall to the heavy metal work bench.

Mr. Wu is a extremely warm, nice and simpathetic man, he doesn't speak any word of English, but he laughs a lot for compensation. He did originally work as an electrical engineer for a Chinese Company. When this company did move back to China mainland, he decided to set up his self employment and started to restore vintage Western Electric amplifiers like the 91A or the 124's and their variants and derivates. The rising interest in the growing asian vintage audio markets pushed him fast into the position, that he needed to find other resources for original vintage amps and unreplaceable spares. So he decided to make replicas of famous Western Electric -transformers using original WE cores, -amp parts, covers and bodies in order to reissue the original designs and their matching to the original specifications. He found lots of vintage Western Electric military and telephone equipment, originally sold as rubbish from US Government to China to get rid of the metal trash in the 1970ties. He did work out that some of this trashed transformers were made with identical iron cores than many famous audio transformers like the legendary old WE 171A (the output transformer of the WE91A), the 618A/B input device or several others dependent designs. As a main idea of his business he rewinds these vintage WE- cores and this gives hime the opportunity to build up amplifiers with almost identical attitudes than the rare vintage originals. Original is a funny word, the western meaning is unknown to the asian culture.

Some of his power amplifiers, on top the 124's, in the middle the 91A, beside some
kits for different layouted preamps

In the western world we have a completely different understanding of "originality" than in Asia. The foremost asian countries like Japan, Korea and China do practice a cultural tradition since more than 1000 years, which is called Shanzhai. Shanzhai means a permanent improvement through copying the best, practiced with art, skills and as well with commercial products (a well known problem, where the western copyright ends in its own set limits). In such basic tradition any product can be optimized when ressembled with all necessary improvements supplied.

So Mr. Wu did start to make replicas of famous WE-amps, like the WE 91A, the WE 124A's, at the beginning mainly directed to Japanese customers. Later the Koreans got as well interested, as some Hong Kong residents together with some people from the western world got supplied by him. All his transformers, a wide choice of input-, stepup-, interstage- and output transformers, create a fundamental base for a wide spread range of different pre- and power amplifiers. He orientates the finish as well to the rare and obsolete vintage originals in designs in color and built quality. His famous preamp line, featuring the direct heated WE-tennisball tubes (from the 100 and 200 DHT line), has been discontinued for several problems with vintage tube stock. Now Wu just offers kits for different preamp designs including all necessary transformers and body parts for the interested, of course in WE-gray.

The rewinding gauge, the central work space

Heavy metal workshop for body work, actual 2,5 sqm space.  .

Storage shelf for ready made WE-amplifiers of different dedication.
This is Mr. Wu's set for the demonstration, a set of his legendary preamps driving two
driver amps, ending into power triode booster amps, able to bring
30 watts to his Heathkit speakers, all strictly separated into two monophonic rails.

One patient waiting for service to complete the demonstration set up for stereo.

It is already time again that lots of audio enthusiast will visit Munich for the coming High-End-Show soon. You can be safe about the fact, that you won't see any product from Wu there. This typical battle for attention of techno audio addicts or the all around "bling-bling"-audio from mainland China will be there. But refined intimate made products with a sustainability like the here shown products you will not find at such events anymore.

For this you might need to get into the old-school habit of a real personal visit to this unique place. If you are interested into Mr. Wu's audio creations, you need somebody to bring you there or you will need a precise description to find him in Hong Kong, I will be able to provide such.

Read on soon, Volker

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Extending my last Posting

Hello to everybody,

I know that my blog is hardly neglected since I am in Hongkong. But to be honest it is extremely difficult to find issues about vintage hifi products here. To me it seems to be a hermetic sealed community, which has some interest into such things, but no interest to get in contact with foreign people.  Hongkong, a city tremendously believing into the future with a hard limited affinity to history, is not the place for such themes.

So I visited again my "friend" at the flea market in Sham Shui Po, who everyday sits there and assembles his own tube amps made from vintage parts. Last weeks he has got a new sets of WE input transformers with a ratio of 1:10. When I was there he installed a pair into his standard tube amp. After perfect matching he did play for me some some classical piano music, – I was sitting in the perfect hot spot of his speakers at his stand, and I was very surprised about the sound coming from his Japanese speakers from the 1970ties (maybe Sansui or similar). Maybe it was as well because of his open stand, without any side walls, but it did sound extremely balanced and natural.

A little late round the next corner I did have the chance to listen to another set with Uesugi brothers preamp and some Japanese vintage mono tube power amps in combination with some quite ordinary JBL speakers of the 1970ties. No, not the well known 4000 series of studio designs, some more ordinary floor standing three way units with 12'' woofer and particle board enclosure. This set was not even able to bring half the authenticity and life of the flea market set up  into performance. I would expect for 10 times the money...

Last not least I would like to get you some idea of the situation here about hifi. Just look at this image it will tell another story for the analoge enthusiast. But to be honest, I did find a record store in town, – with exactly the same new high end releases known from Europe, and that of course for the same amount of money.

Stay on, I will com back quite soon and maybe I will bring another interesting entry?


Monday, 14 March 2016

My First Hong Kong Post

Hello to everybody,

reading here. Before I came to Hong Kong I did try to use several sources to get some personal contact to the extremely vivid Hong Kong vintage audio scene. I would estimate that almost 70% of world wide vintage audio products sold at the platform Ebay since 2000 did strand in Hong Kong. I follow since the early 2000nd years at the Review33 platform such activities with fascination. So I do know quite well what was going on here. I could verify the most interesting figures of the scene over the years within this forum. Beside this scene several people in Europe did mention important people living in Hong Kong to me, which I needed definitely to meet...  So I started already a year ago to establish contact lines using email, forum mail, etc.. Some of them I did try to contact several times. At the end of the day I had not even one response when I left Germany two weeks ago. It was absolutely frustrating for me coming here and not to be able to get in contact with some of the interesting figures living here. So if here no coincidence will happen, I will not be able to report about this interesting scene here within my blog.

Today I went to a market in Sham Shui Po, a very typical Hong Hong street market were lot of things for every day needs are sold. Clothes, vegetables, meat, animals, short the well known market offers. At one very far end this market shifted suddenly to some sort of flee market with a tiny couple of stands selling typical flea market goods. Suddenly I did realize in my canthus some tubes on top of a case, designated with a golden relief inscription 6SN7.

I made a side step into that stand. There was a man sitting and welding tube amplifiers together from used parts. Actually he had a 300b amplifier on the bench equipped with Audio Note output transformers driven by EF37A tubes, – well,  not the worst topology.

Vintage tubes, paper caps good transformers and a matching diagram are good choices to start audio romance...

With a second look I could realize that he had a whole bunch of Chinese output transformers from the 1960ties lying around. These were looking extremely well made, almost identical to early Tango or Tamura iron with porcelain perls as isolators and Copper cans. These types were Shanghai brand 9K PP primary and 4/8/15 ohms at the secondary with a power output of 20 watts. These were really nice looking. I did try to get in contact with the guy. Unfortunately this ended like always here, the guy did not speak the slightest word of english. But I persistently did try on to communicate with him, since somebody else came and tried to support his friend. This man was able to difference the words yes and no in English. It took a whole while till I realized to take a pen and paper and I did write down some unmistakable synonyms like Western Electric, WE15A, WE91A or LeakTL12.1. Reading such words opened the mind of this guy, he did realize that I exactly did understand what he is doing. I gave him my blog address and told him to come back after he might have informed what I am doing here.

Being in Hong Kong now for two weeks I have learned that this city rejects any sort of history. The most architecture is new, all historical has been demolished and resembled with modern buildings by the Chinese Government. Of course they have an interest to make the British time forgotten. I cannot imagine anything older than this period to be desired by typical Hong Kong inhabitants today. If you walk through the streets you will not see private cars older than two years, everybody has always the newest smartphone, mostly two, computer and all architecture rejects any historical form. It seems to be fact, that history is a strange smell for the Hong Kong Chinese. I have never before seen people acting so deeply history forgot than here.

Read on soon, Volker

Monday, 8 February 2016

The TrueFi Tannoy Speaker – What others say

Andreas V. wrote at 27th of March 2017: 

Visiting Volker and listening to his 15” Tannoy Reds based speakers was quite exciting for me. I was really curious. Not too long ago I was way into Tannoy sound. Once you get accustomed to this warm, mellow and space-filling sound you can get from a 15”- or 12”-Tannoy alnico driver, it is hard not to get addicted to the Tannoy sound. The coax offers you all of the musical fidelity and liquidity you need to have to understand the musical massage. In this sense Tannoy alnico driver are very unique surpass many other conventional speakers. On my way through the Tannoy world I owned many Tannoy speakers mainly older alnico models and some other modern made Tannoys, like Turnberry, Kensington and the mighty Westminster SE. Frankly speaking, I almost owned them all, some of them even more than once. My personal interest belonged to Arden, Berkeley and Cheviot from the HPD series that I untypically combined with tube amps. Obviously I finally run out of space to store the cabinets. I found that the special sound delivered from Alnico driver with older crossovers was one reason for the typical sound, but I also had to learn that the soft Tannoyplas built in all HPDs (all but Eatons) suffered from control and texture in bass, at least when fed by meager powered tube amps. Solid state amps make a different picture and mostly gain control on HPDs, but on the other side lack of refinement and brilliance compared to fine tube amps. On my way to the high fidelity Mount Olympus I found after all more attended to full-range speakers like Salaberts or Line Magnetic replicas of the Western Electric 755a. The coherence and homogeneity of these fine full-range speakers is incomparable to all others. But they don’t quite offer the brilliance and deep bass as of an excellent coax system can offer. So I found that you have to decide which side you want to belong to. 
After visiting Volker I realized that he managed to create a speaker that incorporates the best of both worlds. His speaker offers the liquidity and musicality a good coax combined with the coherence and homogeneity of the world finest full-range speaker. We listed to a lot of his vinyl collection. The speaker’s bass is totally incomparable to conventional bass reflex speaker. It is so precise and naturel that it is almost shocking. Trebles are present, but never disturbing. Thereby never distracting from the music, but rather focusing on the essence. Actually, you totally lose interest in pinpointing criteria, like soundstage and treble or bass-qualities. Not saying they don’t perform well, the opposite is true, you rather stop counting beans and start enjoying records. And that’s what it should be all about, shouldn’t it? I personally realized after spending some hours of fulfilling listening time with Volker’s set what capabilities his speakers offer. 
So if you are looking for a very special speaker aside from mainstream high fidelity, skillfully hand-crafted, that has the capabilities to unleash the musicality, I honestly recommend that you listen to Volker’s speaker.

Patrick Leuba, owner since February 2016: 

I know Volker since quite some time, mainly via e-mail contact, but I’m so happy I finally met him. For about 3 years we were regularly exchanging e-mails on many different topics, but always keeping a focus on audio subjects, beside cooking, Italian kitchen, mushrooms, and other subjects. Volker helped me a lot in many areas of the improvement of the reproduction of an audio signal, finally he even guided me through the DIY built-up of a tube pre-amplifier, an excellent piece of sound. But this is a different topic.

Quite some months ago, I do not remember the details, but somehow I asked him, if he would agree to build a pair of his Tannoy dipole speakers for me, the ones described in his blog. I never had heard them, but I had the feeling, these speakers have a great sound quality. After some hesitation, he finally agreed to this project. The set-up, the source of the wood, the right colour, the bending facility of the front horn, everything had to be found, defined, produced. It took quite some time to Volker, but he managed to find a suitable solution for every production step.

 Finally, one day, I got the news about the termination of the building process, but, a bit frightening, also news about a big difference in sound compared to his own speakers. Volker was concerned, but quickly realized, that by adding hour on hour of playing, the performance improved. It needed a few days of intensive playing to bring the new speakers to a comparable performance. I never would have expected such a long play-in time for such "old" speakers. Came the day, Volker confirmed that their performance was now as expected and asked me to pick them up. Volker, staying more than 600km away from my living place, how to bring them to me? Fortunately enough, my wife still owns from her father a 20 year old Volvo 850, in this the Tannoys fitted perfectly.

So, I and my wife decided to drive to Volker. On a Thursday we started, arrived in the late afternoon in Düsseldorf and went for dinner together with Volker. It was a very pleasant evening, excellent Japanese food, in one of the biggest Japanese communities in Europe, a new experience.

Next morning we met at his place and he started to play music on these speakers. Firstly, I was surprised on all the musical details, the depth, the stage I could identify out of the music flow. I really never encountered such a musical reproduction, especially out of a single speaker. I have some experience with broad band speakers, but this experience was really surprising. Not a single minute I felt any doubt on my decision to ask for such speakers.

The final comparison was only possible at my home, in my listening room, where I was able, to easily distinguish the sound differences compared to my old speakers. And now, after a few weeks of intensive listening, I can only repeat above statement. I usually listen with CDs or vinyl as source, mainly rock, jazz, world music, and a bit modern classical music, especially piano. With my old speakers, I sometimes lost interest listening to music, or I had to turn the volume up. With Volker’s speakers I’m again listening nearly every day, at lower volumes and still all kind of different styles, they reproduce any music  in an excellent way. I re-discovered many of my older recordings. Their sound is different from anything I heard before, pleasant, detailed, rich, dynamic, including a wide and deep stage, where you can identify the placement of almost every instrument. The frequency range is well balanced, a tight bass, going very deep, a very clear midrange and sharp heights. There is no special frequency range dominating or popping up. Everything very well balanced. The placement of the speakers as well is quite uncritical. My listening room is quite high, with a lack of damping materials. The effect is none compared to my previous speakers. Good recordings sound terrific. No need to judge bad recordings, they just remain bad.  With Volker’s Tannoys, it’s becoming difficult to listen to other speakers. I got with these speakers a true gem!  Volker has such a great experience in testing items, combined with a clear vision for a good sound. I have a great respect on his judgement capabilities for sound. He really knows what a good sound is. And his speakers sound accordingly. Great! And they look beautiful. A masterpiece of craftsmanship.

Hans Andreas Schiffer did say at the 7th of February 2016:

"Ich empfinde es als wohltuend, das zunehmend mehr Menschen sich an die Werten historischen Konzepte erinnern und dabei deren Vorteile beibehalten und auch ganz in diesem Sinne weiterentwickeln. Nachdem ich mehrmals den Lautsprecher bei Dir hören konnte, bin ich nicht nur von den überragenden Qualitäten der alten Tannoy Chassis überzeugt worden. Überraschend gute Transparenz und Schnelligkeit für eine 15-Zoll-Pappe und als Ergebnis eines H-Dipol ähnlich dem berühmten WE7331. Dies kombiniert mit den Qualitäten des Ausnahmehochtöners des Tannoy und durch einen vorgesetzten Trichter anzubinden, machen das System so verblüffend. Es erinnert mich in seinen positiven Eigenschaften erstaunlicherweise mehr an meine LM-Installation als so vieles andere, das sich meist in ungeordneter Bemühtheit verliert. Chapeau!"

Mike Thomas did say at the 19th of January 2016

Ich höre mit einer Horninstallation (siehe Artikel in diesem Blog) und empfinde Volkers Lautsprecher als wirkliche Alternative.

Die herausragende Homogenität und Geschlossenheit paart sich mit einem farbigen, federnden Grundton und Bassbereich. Die Wiedergabe über diesen Lautsprecher gestattet einen einzigartigen Zugang zur Musik. Historische Tannoy Lautsprecher zu hören war immer schon ein besonderes Erlebnis, vor allem der Hochtonbereich hatte immer eine Qualität, die man bei praktisch allen anderen Lautsprechern vermisst. Volker hat es geschafft mit dem Rest des Lautsprechers an diese überragende Hochtonqualtität anzuknüpfen.

Zum klanglichen Erlebnis kommt eine optische Ästhetik die den Lautsprecher zu einem wunderbar verarbeiteten Möbelstück macht.

Monday, 1 February 2016

The TrueFi Tannoy Enclosure – The Manufacture

Hello to everybody,

continuing reading here in the new year 2016. So I will start with a new article about my Tannoy speaker design. Still I cannot believe how exceptional these speakers in such a cabinet design do work out, even after two years of every day use I do not miss anything. People who know standard alnico versions from Tannoys classic or prestige range (mostly with reflex designs and a more or less too small scale volume) do not have a close perception of what this speaker is able to do. Almost refined and rich textured invisibility with fast transient response, due to its dipole design, combined with finest detailed natural musical resolution show a stage of musical completeness, tannoy normally are not known for. The typical bold, hardly textured and more than rich sound of historical Tannoy speakers, has been improved to a before unknown level for such 15-inch speaker. They remind me a lot more to the typical cinema horn installations with their impressive refinements in micro acoustic terms. Of course such a speaker is not able to show the same degree of micro acustic resolution, its physically handicapped to do so, but you never will ask for anything missing. A exceptional homogeneity, hard to obtain with such complex horn installations, has indeed more affinity to small scale full range speakers, but with a much improved dynamic ability. So these speakers do mark a full unique alternative option in size, living room ability and performed quality, last not least seen from the money point of view. The only natural predator in this league might be Voice of the Cinema-types of speakers, which would be from certain points no alternative for me...

The by now first manufactured samples are finished and are in deliver to their new owners. I have spend a good amount of time of the last year to find refinements for the production and manufacture process. The front loaded dipole enclosure is some sort of ultimate cabinet for the 15-inch Tannoy Dual Concentric speaker with the 15 ohm hard edged version of cone, i.e. Monitor Black, Silver, Red and Gold with 8 ohms. Almost any detail of my prototype cabinets got improved for the series production.
The most problematic detail is still the curved front horn extension. It is made from solid layers of 3 mm mahogany veneers, each glued to the next within a specially made press form, to a final thickness of 18 mm solid wood. Mahogany wood is a ideal material, since it is grown in long strong fibers, which will be bendable in a perfect way and will give the necessary elastic stiffness for preferred sound values. I still hope that FSC certified tropical wood is not only a placebo for the conscience of the consumer and will give some extended sort of sustainability.

Different stained fronts are available to customer requests

 The front of this speaker design is exceptional important design feature, since it is acting as a relevant extension of both different speaker units. The HF-compression part will be extended to lower frequencies, since the LF-cone will be supported in the important lower mid frequencies of 400 to 1000 hz. In the same time the fronts are acting as frontal part of the well known h-dipol design (original WE 7331), they need to mount mechanically the more than 10 kg heavy Dual Concentric speaker to the enclosure with all known advantages and problems. This is a highly delicate question to solve and one main issue bringing vintage alnico equipped Tannoy speaker enclosures into a refined singing mode. Within a misunderstanding of this little detail lots of generations of Tannoy speakers from last 40 years didn't reach their inherent built world class smooth expression.
The open back needs to be completely lined with 10 mm woolen felt in order to minimize direct reflections inside the cabinet, the extension cases are lined with low density boards. These extension cabinets are just movable only for transportation reasons to keep the enclosure sizes small.

Here shown with slightly stained and oiled oak veneer for the main corpus and dark brown
stained color for the extension enclosure in the back.

All veneers are thick types of minimum 2mm thickness to give the enclosures a robust surface
and a solid wood appearance since they are made from lumber core plywood, the best sounding
wooden boards for speaker enclosures.

Listening to these Tannoys shows a well expected improvement in the naturalness and liquidity of the  typical tonal impression, comparing these with my plywood cabinets. The coniferous solid wood inside sounds better articulated with less resonant edges in the tonal accuracy. They will improve within the next month even more, when they get played in, a process known well from a typical wooden musical instruments.

10 mm woolen felt is my preferred damping material inside enclosures, in order to minimize
reflections inside cabinets. pine strives of 10mm thickness add some controlled strength to
cabinets. These are arranged in proportions of the the "Golden Cut" to find the best dispersed
reconance distribution.

I was almost shocked when I did refurbish the first pairs of chassis with original "recone kits" supplied by Lockwood Audio. These typical preassembled units (paper cone with surrounds, centering unit and voice coil) don't make a lot of problems to the experienced and get perfectly installed into the well known chassis of the dual concentric loudspeakers. It struck me down when I did a first listening test after the reconing process, I was save about the fact that both high frequency units are defunctional. Even if I did measure them before, I stopped the listening test and reopened the tweeter for a second inspection. I was quite save that the didn't work by listening. But I was wrong, the paper cone was absolutely not able to perform its dedicated frequency ends, i.e. the lower frequencies below 150 hz, as it could not resolute the frequencies above 500 hz. So these units over roared with 200 to 500 hz frequency parts so loud, that it was impossible to hear the hf unit or some lower bass.

Variants of the enclosure in different stained color and again with retractable back.
This option needs a precise felt gasket between outer and inner case-

After almost 4 hours of first playing the music started to open up and was already sounding in a way which did remind me a bit to the typical Tannoy sound. After 50 hours play from radio they started to sound quite well, still with a reserve of resolution of 5 % to match. It will show in future, I think it  will need another good 100 to 200 hours till they will show their best attitudes.
As well the cabinets itself need a extensiv cuing in process very similar to wooden musical instruments. At the very early beginning they don't sound refined. Quite edgy and inharmonious in their musical behavior within the first hours, they start to brake in after eight hours play of music. After another 20 hours play in time, they show some first musical insight and convince with some first harmony distribution. I expect them after 100 hours playing time to reach their final exceptional transparency and harmony in a stage, where thy are already acoustically invisible. This process seem to be very similar to the run in process of wooden instruments. Interesting, normally when you build a speaker one time, you can not realize such effects. But if you listen to a new sample of your well known speaker, you are able to observe even the smallest changes.

The crossovers are made from copper foil inductors and oil-paper capacitors and solid 2mm copper wire. They have got a metal housing, close in design to the original crossovers known from the legendary Tannoy Monitor Silver and Reds. So I have spared no effort to take care about any technical but as well optical detail to match the original or better standard these speakers were known for. I think it might be a pleasure for the future customer to see how much attention has given into any detail of these speakers. Details which haven't been seen for more than 50 years from commercial sold speakers, even if they were manufactured in low amounts. I did try to make one of the best loudspeakers in history even better and keep its almost legendary standards to the highest possible level. Like several other recently issued remakes from history, like the LineMagnetic series of speakers or the Western Electric 15A horn replicas from Aldo in Italy, I try to manage a similar idea of reissuing with a main interest to a before unavailable quality with vintage Tannoy speakers. I am happy to present with such speaker a stage of improvements, which was never available before, nor it can be found in in their current own pricy legacy releases known as "Prestige Series".

Fresh reconed chassis are looking like new

Of course they have got the TrueFi logo
I prefer felt gaskets like known from the early Monitor Silver, better than the later
introduced high density foam in black or white (shown in one image above),
known from Monitor Red, Gold or HPD.

These speakers are available to order as complete loudspeakers equipped with refurbished Red units or can be alternatively equipped with own speakers from the Tannoy Monitor Silver, Red or Gold line. They can be made with different veneer types as they can be customized in several details on request.

It's always good to have some spare Reds in house, you never know what will
happen...As well some spare recone kits might give safety.

Read as well what other say who have listened to this speaker!

Sizes and technical informations:
95cm high to 60cm wide, with a minimum of 65cm depth variable extendable between 45 to 80cm.
Made from 18mm lumber core plywood, veneered with 2mm furniture veneers.
Funnel made from solid mahogany 3mm veneers.
All used solid wood from coniferus sorts between 1.5 to 6 cm strength.
Soft rubber rollers integrated in the base.
Total weight 52 kg each equipped with speaker and crossover.

Read on soon,