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Ever since the first hominid beat a stretched skin or a hollow log to make sound, man has been enthralled by the pleasures the aural sense can bring.
Perhaps only sight has a more direct affect on our daily existence. Yet it was not until just over a century ago that science gave us the opportunity to bring the delectations of sound home.
Every great change in the flow of technology begins with one small step, and for the loudspeaker industry it began with Alexander Graham Bell's invention of the telephone in 1876. Bell's "wondrous machine" proved it was possible to electrically transmit and receive sound.
That proof was also the challenge of the century, and it launched dozens of the brightest scientific minds of the age on a search for better and better ways to reproduce sound.
The search for a better way began in America, and it is still being pursued by dreamers and innovators from coast to coast.
This is the story of some of those who joined this quest.
ACOUSTIC RESEARCH (AR)
For almost four decades the initials AR have denoted innovation and a tradition of excellence and fidelity in the American loudspeaker industry.
Founded in 1954 by Edgar Villchur, Acoustic Research was originally headquartered in Cambridge, MA, the home of Harvard and MIT.
The first two innovations to come from the new firm changed forever the face of the loudspeaker industry worldwide.
The long throw woofer and acoustic suspension enclosure, incorporated in the now legendary AR 1, were shown for the first time at the New York Hi-Fi show in 1954, and the pioneering work of Villchur and his team astonished the industry.
The research continued and in 1958 AR invented and introduced in the AR3 the first dome drivers. That system, which used a 1.5 inch domed midrange unit and a 3/4 inch dome tweeter, rapidly became the standard by which all other speakers were measured. The quality and performance of AR products also allowed the company to be the first to introduce a full 5 year warranty A when the industry standard was 90 days.
Building on the concept of full service manufacturing, AR brought forth a series of innovative and unique products, each of which set new standards and in many cases produced design elements and concepts still in use today.
For example, the XA turntable, premiered in 1963, gave the industry the three point floating suspension, low RPM motor, and damped tone arm concepts still found in many of the world's most exotic and expensive turntables. That unit set standards for wow and flutter, as well as signal to noise ratio and feedback immunity that were not to be exceeded for many years.
Throughout the 60's and 70's AR continued to be an innovator in the rapidly expanding worldwide audio industry. High current amplification, liquid cooling of drive units, and baffle treatments such as the Acoustic Blanket (TM) were all first seen in AR products.
As an integral part of IJI's plan to return AR to its historic position as an industry leader, the H.I. Series is available through specialist dealers and has gained enormous critical acclaim worldwide. The Ml, the smallest system in the line, recently received the prestigious "Best Buy" award from Britain's HiFi Choice Magazine.
For 1992, AR continues to advance the art of audio reproduction even further with the introduction of two new lines. The "Classic" series of home loudspeakers are very high quality moving coil systems employing AR's SRA (Symmetrical Radiation Array). This drive unit/ crossover module, places a 1" soft dome tweeter between two vertically aligned mid/bass drivers to create a virtual point source.
First shown to U.S. dealers in September 1992, the reaction has been excellent, with the sound being described as "seamless and transparent, but with real weight." These new Classic speakers are the fruits of AR's re-organized Engineering Team under it's new director, David Day. David, known for designing the world's best FM tuner, the Day Sequerra FM Reference, joined AR in 1991 at the same time as HI acquired the Davidson Roth Corp., manufacturers of Day Sequerra products. He and the Day Sequerra engineers are part of an alliance whose purpose is to develop AR's new "Limited" line of high-end audio components.
Day Sequerra, AR and Cello, Ltd., are collaborating to realize Mark Levinson's concept (he is the founder and President of Cello, Ltd.) of an "affordable reference quality system." The system will encompass all aspects of audio, including cables and furniture. These new products, whether separate or combined, will redefine performance levels at their price points, a fact assured by the skill and integrity of the participants.
These products will be hand made in the U.S.A. "Limited" refers to availability will be modest.
Arthur Blumenthal, Vice President and general manager of AR, noted that "by combining the skills and abilities of the three companies, we can produce a product family that will bring ultrahigh end performance at a very affordable price." He added: "This will continue the tradition AR established from its inception-bringing the highest levels of American research, design and engineering expertise together to produce products that can equal or better the finest the world can offer."
The story of Infinity is one shaped by three driving passions-music, sonic perfection, and excellence.
It begins in 1969 when Cary Christie, now Infinity's president, began meeting with two partners from the aerospace industry on weekends to pursue their mutual dream of building the ideal audio reproduction system.
The group knew that the technology accessible in the products available simply could not give them the kind of accuracy, purity, and realism that they wanted. To find the path that could lead them to their dream, an R&D shop was set up in a garage at one of the group's home in Woodland Hills, CA, to begin the search for a state of the art speaker system using new scientific principles brought from their aerospace backgrounds.
Late that year the initial realization of the dream was produced, and a whole new concept in loudspeaker design was born. The Servo-Statik 1 was a true breakthrough, combining for the first time two electrostatic elements (as satellites) with a dynamic servo controlled sub-woofer bass system.
With funding from outside investors, the partners put their concepts and their ideas to the ultimate test-they quit their full time jobs and moved their budding hi-fi company from the garage to a real factory building in nearby Chatsworth. Infinity was born.
However, the company quickly realized that good as it was, the debut product was simply out of reach for most serious music enthusiasts.
They turned their attention towards developing smaller and less costly systems but kept their focus on innovation, accuracy, and the application of aerospace technologies to the challenges of musical reproduction.
The goal was then and is now to produce no-compromise, leading-edge designs and then bring as much of that technology as practical to each and every product in the family.
The drive to bring to the consumer the best that American technology could produce allowed Infinity to achieve a number of firsts, propelled along by the enormous explosion of hi-fi sales in the mid 1970's as music became an integral part of During that period the company embarked on an ambitious research program which produced the world's first true digital power amp (a full decade before digital audio "arrived"), a unique all FET pre-amp, again years ahead of its time, and the world's first air bearing turntable.
The key developments from that program, however, were the signature EMIT(TM) (electromagnetic induction tweeter) and EMIM(TM) (electromagnetic induction midrange) drivers which allowed Infinity to establish reproduction and performance standards still being attempted by others.
These drivers combined for the first time the potential of the extremely low mass that Kapton diaphragms could provide with the power of rare earth Samarium Cobalt magnets.
This marriage of aerospace technologies to state of the art magnetic materials allowed spatial detail and a musical presence previously unobtainable.
Those drivers led directly to the company's flagship product, the IRS (Infinity Reference Standard), which in the no-compromise tradition not only broke ground across the reproduction frontier but has also served as the R&D platform for the technology now incorporated in less expensive products.
The ongoing R&D embodied in the IRS systems produced another group of advancements and industry firsts during the 1980's including the Watkins Dual Voice Coil system and the use of IMG (TM) (injection molded graphite) cones.
These two proprietary breakthroughs combined to bring low frequency performance to a new level of realism.
As we enter the latter half of the 90's, and the full flowering of the digital audio age and explosion of audio/video entertainment systems, Infinity continues to bring its unique American blend of aerospace materials technology, no-compromise reproduction, and a quarter century long passion for sonic excellence and musical purity to bear on the needs of today's home entertainment consumers.
One of the more innovative of America's loudspeaker pioneers was Rudy T. Bozak.
The company that bears his name took shape as a result of Rudy's commitment to the recreation of lifelike fidelity and the spatial perspective of live musical events.
Bozak was responsible for engineering the first known 360° acoustic perspective and first stereophonic reproduction demonstrations to the general public, which took place at the 1939 New York World's Fair.
Rudy Bozak's unique approach was best demonstrated in the Lagoon Of Nations sound system, which was installed within a fountain and used a 27 inch loudspeaker with a 450 pound magnet structure whose overall frequency response was 28 Hz to 10 kHz + /-4 dB--an astonishing achievement for the time.
After the successes at the World's fair, Bozak founded the R.T. Bozak Company in Buffalo, N.Y., and began manufacturing woofers, midranges, and tweeters of his own design, many of which utilized a proprietary coating of neoprene rubber compounds making them able to resist the effects of moisture and humidity-often a problem with designs of the time.
The business prospered, and in 1953 Bozak built a furniture factory to permit him to begin marketing completely assembled loudspeaker systems and equipment cabinets for the nascent hi-fi industry.
Bozak's designs were based on the infinite baffle principle, and his flagship model was the 18 cubic foot system Rudy called The Concert Grand.
Since Bozak was aware that many customers could not afford to purchase the system outright, he developed a pioneering modular approach that allowed the customers to begin with a modest system and add to it over time until they had built up a complete Concert Grand.
In the 1950's Bozak added to the loudspeaker line with the addition of amplifiers and electronic crossover systems to feed the needs of the growing audiophile community.
The two individuals who lead today's Norwich, Connecticut based Bozak Audio Laboratories bring their own heritage of experience to the daily process of guiding the company's future and maintaining the commitment to recreate the lifelike fidelity of live music events.
Howard Jacks, President and Chief Designer, has been a collaborator in the design and marketing of eight major U.S. loudspeaker brands, as well as the design, manufacturing, and supply of quality OEM loudspeaker components. Chairman of the Board David Luchs has been involved with the manufacturing of electronic component systems, complete loudspeaker systems, and high-quality furniture products on an OEM basis for more than 30 years.
The current products maintain the focus Rudy placed on linear, wide band response, highly accurate transient response characteristics, minimal harmonic and intermodulation distortion and coloration., and sufficient acoustic output to permit the reproduction of music at realistic live performance levels.
To accomplish this, each cone driver component is operated only within its linear piston range, thus avoiding the coloration due to irregularities and improper driver to driver transition. In the three top models multiple small drivers (a Bozak tradition) are used to achieve high acoustic output with a minimum of cone excursion as well as maximum control over cone motion.
One of the most distinctive aspects of the Bozak products is their cabinet design. Far more than a simple exercise in esthetics, the enclosures feature extremely thick front baffles (up to a massive 2 inches in the Grand). This provides the drivers with a highly stable and rigid platform from which to launch the acoustic wave front.
All but one system also employ the company's exclusive "Acoustic Insolation Enclosure," constructed from two different types of wood products to produce a non-parallel walled enclosed volume of air, inhibiting standing waves within the cabinet and permitting the drivers to produce maximum detail and clarity.
This enclosure is inserted into a furniture grade outer cabinet. The space between the two is then filled with foam in place of polyurethane, creating a highly braced, rigid, yet absorbent structure which drastically reduces acoustic re-radiation and the distortions it can produce.
Looking towards the future Howard Jacks noted that "the doctrine of pragmatic innovation and sonic reality that Rudy created will continue to be a core element in all our products. After all, our pursuit of acoustic reality is based on more than a half century of tradition."
LEGACY REEL TO REAL DESIGNS
During the late 1970's and early 1980's engineer Bill Dudleston, (BS, Engineering, Univ. of IL) found himself spending more and more time refining stereo recording techniques and playback systems.
Like many other American engineering professionals and experimenters of the time, he had great difficulty finding a loudspeaker system that could give him the kind of accuracy he felt was possible. Comparisons between the original sources and the reproduced material kept showing annoying faults in the speakers.
These frustrations were the beginning of Dudleston's personal voyage into the world of invention.
Acknowledging his needs, he took the highly personal and uniquely American approach and put himself and his ideas on the line.
With his business partner, construction entrepreneur Jacob Albright, and the stunning sum of
$2000, Dudleston, who had been a process engineer for a polymer manufacturer, left his current position as supervisor of a digital research lab and began what is today the Springfield, IL, headquartered Legacy Loudspeaker Systems division of Reel to Real Designs.
Spending the familiar nights and weekends tweaking, comparing, and most of all listening, what emerged was the Legacy-1, an elaborate four-way design he felt could achieve the performance results required. Some nine years later that system, now incorporating hundreds of hours of further refinement, is still being produced, but its brothers and sisters now number nearly a dozen.
Crediting the work of Roy Allison, D.B. Keele, and Olsen, Kellog & Rice as pushing him to follow the experimenter's path, Dudleston's interests in room acoustics (he is now busy exploring the potential uses of DSP for active control of loudspeaker performance and its potential in the area of psychoacoustics and the ear/brain interface) and the extensive time he has spent examining the way the room and the electrodynamic reproduction devices we call loudspeakers interact have led to a philosophy that emphasizes two key elements.
Because, instead of acknowledging that we have a great deal of knowledge about how and where the buyer will use his system, designers often chose to measure and test in anechoic laboratory spaces which have, according to Dudleston, "little connection to reality, and are in fact a deep abyss into which good ideas disappear," he suggests that first we should acknowledge that loudspeakers will be operated in rooms and incorporate low frequency room gain into the operational performance of the system.
Second, keep midrange reflections to an absolute minimum since the ear's exceptional sensitivity in the 300 Hz to 3 kHz band make inaccuracies, and anomalies in this area are exceptionally detectable.
By incorporating the concept of increasing the piston area uniformly and progressively as the frequency drops, and avoiding any crossovers in or near the critical midrange region, the systems produced by Legacy offer the audiophile the opportunity to experience highly stable imaging coupled to low distortion, high dynamic range power distribution into the listening environment.
FOCUS (Field Optimized Convergent Source), the 165 lb. flagship of the company's loudspeaker line which incorporates more than 400 sq. inches of total piston area, and utilizes a unique driver array optimized to minimize the colorations caused by floor and ceiling reflections, is an example of this engineering philosophy.
To achieve those goals in the FOCUS and the 11 other systems Legacy offers, the company designs its own low frequency units. In its unique 17-person craft workshop, which the company invites anyone interested to visit, exotic woods merge with injection molding, driver design and testing, system buildup, nulling, and final matching.
Building on the more than a century and a half of looking for a better way inherent in the American loudspeaker industry's traditions of innovation and refusal to accept the existing state of the art as the best that can be done, Legacy, in its own way, has brought to the marketplace ideas and concepts which have opened up further options for more research.*
In January 1902, one of the men who was to forever change the face of the loudspeaker industry in America was born. James Bullough Lansing (born James Martini) was, over the course of his 47 years, to bring American audio industry a number of vital innovations, designs and manufacturing processes still in use.
The young Lansing showed a remarkable aptitude and interest in all things electrical and mechanical. That inquisitive bent and his drive for perfection and improvement (the signals from a radio transmitter he built at age 12 were so strong that they caused interference at the Great Lakes Naval Air station, a significant distance from his home) became critical building blocks of his passionate desire to make a better device and improve both the processes by which loudspeakers were made and the sound they produced.
His vision and willingness to take a different path were the elements which enabled Lansing to seek out and find the unique and innovative ideas he brought to the nascent loudspeaker manufacturing industry beginning in the 1920's. Having migrated to Los Angeles, he formed Lansing Manufacturing Company in 1927. By 1930 the company had more than 40 employees. Although Lansing's company produced products used to reproduce the first sound picture (The Jazz Singer, 1928), the explosive growth of motion picture sound gave the company its first real opportunity to provide the kind of ultrahigh quality "signature sound" products of Lansing's own design to professional users. In 1936, working from designs generated by film sound legends Douglas Shearer, John Hillard, and Robert Stephens, Lansing produced components for what became known as the Shearer horn system. That system won an Academy award for technical excellence.
In 1946 the company we know today as JBL, Inc. was formed as Lansing Sound. The work done by Lansing during the 40's and 50's on theater sound perfectly positioned the new company to become a key player in the developing professional sound industry as a supplier of studio monitors (becoming the benchmark for Capitol Records and EMI worldwide) and sound reinforcement components. The quality and strength of the Lansing designs was also what led Leo Fender to choose a modified version of a JBL cone transducer to provide the "sound" for his new electric guitar amplifiers.
The company, which is now a part of Northridge, CA headquartered Harman International, continues the Lansing legacy of innovation. In addition to its leadership position within the professional sound reproduction field, JBL loudspeakers are designed for use at home and in the car. Matching finely crafted furniture to technologies first introduced to the industry by JBL has extended the company's leadership position to the home audio arena. Cast-frames and vented gap cooling are but two breakthrough technologies distinguishing the company's car audio offerings.
Today with more than 60 years of American innovation as a base, and using the same technologies that have made JBL the choice of 7 out of 10 recording studios, hundreds of the finest concert venues, live performance systems and THX licensed movie theaters the world over, JBL brings to the listener precisely what the people who performed, recorded and mixed the performance heard-accurate, effortless, precise reproduction of the original source.
The time is the early 1970's. The place is the central San Joaquin Valley of California, near Fresno.
Richard Vandersteen is very frustrated by the sound quality of the affordably priced loudspeakers he can find at the local hi-fi shops and dealers.
He believes he can produce something better. This belief is the beginning of what was to become Vandersteen Audio.
Working from his military electronics background and his extensive reading on the subject, Vandersteen designed and built a pair of loudspeakers for his own use. The friends and relatives that heard these first speakers liked them so much that Richard quickly found himself building pairs for them as well. Very soon he was spending almost all his time crafting, by hand, each pair of speakers. The process of improvement for Vandersteen followed a similar course to the one taken by many other innovative American loudspeaker entrepreneurs. Small improvement were made along the way, until in 1976 it all came together for Vandersteen in the product that turned him into a full time manufacturer--the revolutionary Model 2.
Using all that he had learned and adding in some new ideas about minimum baffle designs and proper driver alignment, Vandersteen produced the Model 2. The reaction from the growing circle of enthusiasts who owned one of Richard's systems encouraged him to show the design to a few of the local audio retailers. Their highly positive reaction and his belief in his designs convinced Vandersteen that it was time to put his concepts to the test.
In 1977 Vandersteen Audio was founded, based out of Richard's house. The garage was the factory, and the rest of the house became his lab, storage, and warehouse facilities. He built each pair of speakers himself using custom jigs to speed production, but within a few months the demand had exceeded his capabilities. It was time for a factory and a few employees to help produce the systems.
Now 15 years later, Vandersteen Audio has firmly established itself as a first line American manufacturer of high-end loudspeaker systems.
Richard was continuously looking for new ways to improve and enhance the systems he was building. This is what led him to become a pioneer in the application of computer based analysis to system design in the late 1970's.
Using a Gen-Rad 2512 FFT analyzer to aid in his R&D program, he was also one of the first manufacturers to specifically address the shape and size of the baffle boards used to mount the drive units. By using a board only just large enough to hold the required driver(s), Vandersteen was able to significantly reduce both reflections from and diffraction caused by the baffle, as well as reducing the flexing and resonances often associated with larger baffle surface area approaches.
As a natural extension of his work on diffraction and reflection, Vandersteen and his company began a research project into the internal reflection characteristics of the drive units themselves.
The first product from this extensive project was U.S. patent number 5073948 granted to the first dynamic midrange cone driver to incorporate a reflection free zone behind the cone.
In a conventional midrange unit the energy from the back side of the cone immediately strikes the front of the magnet assembly and is reflected back through the cone into the listening area.
The research project enabled Vandersteen to find a unique way to minimize the frontal area of the magnet structure by utilizing a combination of advanced materials and proprietary construction techniques. The narrower profile presented by this design reduces internal reflections and the distortion they cause. This special driver is used in the company's Model 3 system.
To further aid in the ongoing process of improving the product, the company recently began a project in which it is applying minimalist techniques to produce a series of reference recordings to be used during the evaluation and listening test phases of speaker development. These recordings are now being marketed by the company on its own label.
The current product line encompasses the Model 1B, the Model 2Ce, and the flagship Model 3. In addition, the Model 2W powered subwoofer with a integral 300 W amplifier is available.
Only critically damped dual chamber metal dome tweeters, cast basket low frequency and mid frequency drivers, and transient perfect first order crossover networks are used in Vandersteen products. Every component used is tested prior to assembly and each finished system is compared by computer to a model reference unit under real world conditions.
Known for its exemplary workmanship, superior price to performance ratio, and highly reliable designs, Vandersteen Audio is continuing a decade and a half tradition of American loudspeaker innovation and advancements.
Sometimes an individual gets the chance to follow his dream twice in a lifetime. In 1972, Sandy Gross and two of his friends and classmates at Johns Hopkins University formed what was to become one of the most successful and well-known American loudspeaker companies.
In 1988, after more than 15 years of innovation, and with a store of knowledge and experience regarding the pitfalls and practicalities of starting a company, Gross left to begin again.
This time he wanted to pursue, in true American dream fashion, a goal that had eluded him the first time-to produce a unique world class, high-end product with exceptional performance, incorporating as much of the available new construction techniques, materials technology, and design ideas as possible.
He felt that the progress that had been made in quantifying performance, analyzing the perceived sonic qualities of loudspeakers, and the availability of new cabinet construction options had not been fully utilized by any of the available products.
To explore this concept Gross began his journey down a familiar route-one whose sign says "I know there is a better way to do this." To climb his personal mountain, Gross sought to define what he believed was missing from the marketplace. What he found was that there was an unfilled niche.
He saw an opportunity to provide high-end loudspeakers equally superb for music reproduction and home theater, which delivered the performance, technology and build quality of the most exotic and expensive systems, but offered affordable prices, utilizing lifestyle oriented designs that would blend into the space in which they were placed, and would seem to simply disappear when played.
Realizing that dipolar planar system designs provided the lifelike presence, accurate imaging, and sound stage depth they sought, but that their size, bass limitations, inefficiency, and room placement requirements often presented problems, Gross and his team set out to design bipolar towers with the efficiency, dynamic range, and extended bass response that the best conventional box systems offered.
Taking advantage of the newly available resources, the Definitive designers spent hundreds of hours with programmers using another American innovation, the super computer, to investigate the concepts surrounding the transmission line loading of low frequency drivers.
Their efforts produced a new and unique approach to the idea, the "computer synthesized transmission line" cabinet that was far less complex to build yet still produced the required effect.
Gross explains: "Without the ability of the super computer to model in extreme detail the loading characteristics of a transmission line, and the ability to investigate almost instantly any idea or option, we simply could not have designed the systems. Doing it the old way would have probably meant years of experimentation, then having to actually build each version to find out what the changes meant. With the computer this process takes just a few days." Coupled to the application of modeling and investigative techniques developed for the high tech American aerospace industry, Definitive Technology took advantage of a another proprietary American resource--the facilities of the National Research Council laboratories in Ottawa, Canada.
Working with a research partner and loudspeaker engineer Don Givogue, Gross brought the considerable resources available at NRC (considered to be the best facility of its kind in the world) to bear on the process of refining and quantifying the performance of the Definitive Technology systems.
Gross explained: "Although I built my first electrodynamic transducer based bipolar system in 1973, it was not until we began to measure and explore our prototypes at NRC that I was able to bring into focus all the ideas running around my head and see the results of the various options we had investigated.
This allowed the company to meet one of its key goals of bringing the performance of the ultrahigh end systems down to affordable, livable products that meet world class quality objectives.
He noted that "its easy to build high end loudspeakers when cost is not an objective," however, he added "to design a truly superior product offering high value as well as exceptional performance, which can be efficiently manufactured to a consistent quality standard takes more than a good idea. It takes experience, expertise, and very hard work."
For more than two centuries, experimenters and researchers have worked at the production of electrostatic transducers. Despite huge amounts of time, effort, and funding during the mid-1920's and onward until W.W.II, the restrictions imposed by available materials, amplifiers, and breakdown voltage limitations hindered the realization of the inherent potentials of planar drivers.
These limitations were all too clear to James Winey, Magnepan's founder whose confessed hi-fi addiction and a true love of music had led him to invest more than $2500 (1960's dollars) in building up the best music reproduction system he could assemble from available components. A pair of electrostatic loudspeakers were a part of that system.
However, Winey felt that those systems could still be improved, could be made even more accurate, and thus provide the listener with a more realistic sound field. Working alone, at night, and on weekends, he began to experiment with his own ideas on electrostatics, and ended up with a system that he described as "too flat and unstable." Looking back on those days Winey recalled that a rubberized magnetic material from 3M was the trigger for the "idea" that became the first Magneplanar (electromagnetic panel) speaker.
Although the sound that emanated from that first working model, in the dead of night, was described by Winey as "puny," three years of additional tweaking, adjustments, and modifications culminated in a stable working system that finally satisfied the precise reproduction goals Jim had set for the system.
Winey, driven by his internal knowledge that there was a better way to solve the known electrical problems with electrostatic drive systems, had created what is now generically called a planar-magnetic driver.
His pioneering breakthrough permitted direct coupling to the driving amplifier and because it used permanent magnets required no high voltage source for polarization.
That original system, completed in 1969, was the first working version of the type of planar magnetic driver still found in every system the White Bear Lake, MN based company produces. That prototype, which Winey showed to potential investors, friends, and dozens of audiophiles who he believed would be potential customers, was a full range system and was never actually converted into a production version.
With the help of Leland Vander Linden, a Pleasantville, IA businessman and friend, seed capital was raised, and the beginnings of what has become one of the audio industry's best known, longest lived technological innovators was in place.
Two more years filled with sweat, experimentation, further capitalization, and a hefty portion of plain old American ingenuity were to pass before the first salable units were produced in 1971.
The concepts behind the Quasi Ribbon/Planar Magnetic driver, and the pure ribbon driver system introduced in 1982 for high frequency applications and now used in the company's three larger systems, have allowed Winey to address several fundamental quandaries facing loudspeaker designers.
One key element to the system's sonic performance is the extremely low mass mylar film and ribbon driver (approaching as close as current materials technology will allow the holy grail of loudspeaker design-the massless driver).
Only .001 thick, the ribbon, attached to the .0005 inch thick mylar diaphragm, permits the systems to respond essentially instantly to musical transients since there is no significant mass to put into motion.
The use of an open baffle design allows it to work in a symmetrical environment against the air pressure of the room producing a highly uniform pressure response, as well as a correspondingly even and regular phase plot.
This, coupled to the intrinsic energy conversion efficiency of the motor (since it does not have to bleed off energy to cover voice coil heat losses, magnetic-hysteresis losses, or eddy current losses), allows a highly uniform radiating structure to be produced.
Now, more than 20 years and 160,000 loudspeaker systems later, Magnepan's unique technologies are still giving audiophiles the world over the spacious and visual imaging coupled with the liner power response only the almost massless planar drivers can produce.
The story of Martin- Logan is one of dedication, innovation, and commitment to the ideas that first, "it can be done" and second, "we can do it." Martin-Logan began as a dream in musician, part time marketeer, weekend inventor and tinkerer Gayle Sanders' head.
Sanders was convinced that only electrostatic loudspeakers could bring to the listener music in it's purest and most transparent form. He knew the history of the technology all too well, and was aware of the 200 years of attempts by dozens of others to make these systems stable, safe, and wide range enough to deliver the full musical spectrum. But Sanders remained positive that the problems could be solved, that there was a better way.
So, putting his money and his ideas on the line, Sanders in 1979 organized a small team to complete the 10 years of personal development work on an original user friendly design that did not destroy power amplifiers, did not arc, and delivered realistic volume levels.
The first product didn't quite meet those goals however. The flat electrostatic panel the team produced was audibly stunning to all who heard that first demonstration-but when in their enthusiasm they turned up the volume, sparks flew, smoke curled towards the ceiling, and a horrific lighting storm flashed across the aluminum panel.
That failure fully convinced Sanders that there were problems with the existing approaches which simply could not be mitigated sufficiently to make the products safe and reliable enough to be used in a home environment or stable enough to produce sufficient level to re create the dynamics of live music accurately without either blowing up the driving amplifier or failing themselves. So he went looking for solutions from other industries.
He knew that new aerospace industry-developed polymer materials, better and more stable power supplies, and a host of other cutting edge ideas had not been applied to the electrostatic problem.
What emerged took advantage of state of the art conductive coatings, applied to a .0005 inch mylar diaphragm sandwiched between two perforated steel plates.
During one midnight testing and evaluation session, the unique curved shape that is a Martin-Logan trademark came forth. Seeking to emulate the dispersion of a sound wave front, the curvilinear shape that allows the company's system to achieve their remarkable dispersion and sound field spaciousness was suddenly obvious.
The ability to achieve a coherent wave front with high transient capability and near perfect phase coherency was now within reach. This patented transducer configuration, which has earned the company 6 design awards from the Consumer Electronics Show, a remarkable achievement, produces the signature 30° pie wedge of sound energy with almost perfect dispersion.
The development process continued, and three years of intensive work with the firm that was developing the filtered windows for the space shuttle produced the patented vapor deposition system that creates the stable and optically clear diaphragm that supports the required 5000 V charge, yet was safe enough to operate in any home environment.
The work continued producing the completely insulated acoustically transparent stators that sandwich the diaphragm and the controlled resistive surface on the diaphragm.
All of that technology was incorporated into the Monolith, a full range hybrid ESL (electrostatic loudspeaker) that was introduced at the 1983 CES.
By 1989, the company had grown to the point where it made Inc. magazine's list of the 500 fastest growing privately held companies in America. The company made that prestigious list again in 1990, a rare honor. Currently, more than 50% of the company's sales of its line encompassing four hybrid electrostatic/dynamic systems, and one pure full range ESL system covering a wide price range, serving the needs of music lovers, and audiophiles the world over, are being done through export to more than 30 countries.
The mid-1970's were very prolific years in the American audio industry. That period saw the founding of many of today's well known names in consumer audio.
Throughout these pages you will see a number of innovators and inventors who began their quest for better audio and the pursuit of their own dream, much like Steve Eberbach, (an aerospace engineer fascinated by loudspeaker design) Howard Krause (a engineering school student fascinated by loudspeakers) and Bob Watestripe (a top notch real estate salesman, who wanted to sell hi-fi).
Their pursuit of better audio made in America began with a casual conversation in an Ann Arbor, MI delicatessen. That chance meeting led to a trip to the Consumer Electronics Show, and shortly thereafter to the formation of the partnership that eventually became the DCM Corporation in 1974.
Like many others who had been hooked by hi-fi, Steve, Howard and Bob had a better idea--that the future of audio was in audiovisual style home entertainment. They knew that there was a need for cost effective, reasonably sized loudspeakers that could supply a spacious wide image yet maintain good localization and positioning. Yet none of what they had heard tit this description.
After some false starts with a new power amplifier idea, and some serious learning curve experiences with the venture capital marketplace, they got some very sage advice from another entrepreneur: "Don't ever forget that the key to your company is your partnership, which is very strong." The decision was made to postpone the amplifier project and focus on the loudspeaker vision that had first brought them together that night in the deli.
Steve was working with a local PA company (Fanfare) which was doing rock concerts. They had a shop where he could spend his spare time building up and trying out various loudspeaker designs. Howard was also experimenting with loudspeaker designs, trying to make something better than what he had purchased primarily because he could not afford the much higher cost of the superior products then on the market.
Steve and Howard combined their ideas and talents with Waterstripes' bottomless enthusiasm and sales ability, and following the advice they had received, they managed to survive.
Howard, who had left engineering school to work on the speaker project, then decided to return to business school. He commented, "I figured that either the company was going to be successful, in which case I would need the training, or it was NOT going to be successful, in which case I would need the training." Bob and Steve continued to build speakers, three pairs at a time, tinkering and experimenting all the while. Steve recalled: "In those days we did our R&D testing with the people who came to the house to buy the systems." The company continued to grow, and when a friend offered the use of a warehouse, and tools to use in the off hours, they jumped at the chance. Now they could make 100 units at a time, buying the more expensive components as required.
1977 saw expansion of DCM, with a working capitol loan from Ann Arbor Trust, and the move to a 1200 sq. ft. facility. 1978 saw the growth explode and a move to an 8000 sq. ft. facility. 1979 was even better and now in 1992 the 50 + employee company calls 15,000 square feet home. Three specific technologies are unique to the DCM systems.
These are ported transmission line enclosures, time equalized coaxial drivers and acoustic sound absorbing "lenses." They combine to provide high sensitivity, accurate phase response, and uniform distribution of the sound field.
The company's Time Window, Time Frame and CX series products continue to prove that innovation and dedication can provide a better sound. This is all embodied in the latest version of the legendary Time Window series products, the flagship Time Window Seven.
Combining all the renowned features first seen in the original products and updated through the succeeding series, this version makes dramatic steps in imaging, dynamic capabilities, and sensitivity.
The almost two decades since 1974 have seen continual growth for DCM, but more importantly, DCM has made significant progress toward the dream of bringing virtual reality into home entertainment.
Now known as International Jensen Inc., the company consists of the Acoustic Research, Advent, Day Sequerra, Jensen, Magnat, NHT, and Phase Linear brands. It has clearly positioned itself as an American technology leader and is continually adding to the legend Peter Jensen started almost 80 years ago.
Although many brilliant inventors moved forward from Jensen's original work, his engineering breakthroughs truly built the stage upon which all that followed were to perform. The seed that Jensen planted essentially makes him the great grandfather of the loudspeaker industry as we know it today.
From that seed came the company that was the first to make dedicated, high quality automotive speakers, the first to produce a Triaxial system and the first to develop a graphite cone.
Headquartered in Lincolnshire, IL, IJI has operations across America. R&D is located in nearby Schiller Park, IL, Acoustic Research in Canton, MA, NHT in Benicia, CA, and the General Magnetic operations are sited in Dallas, TX.
The plastic and metal stamping work, along with home loudspeaker assembly, takes place at the facilities in Punxsutawney, PA, final car product assembly in Lumberton, NC, and the company manufactures its woofer cones and voice coils in Clinton, NC.
Using its vertically integrated manufacturing capabilities, the company's 2000 + workers, using the PDQ (Products Demand Quality) team approach, prove every day that quality, American engineering, and home grown management can compete on a global scale. In fact, export sales to the Orient are continually expanding, as the quality and technical superiority of IJI products provide its worldwide customer base with first class, made in America loudspeaker systems.
One of the core divisions within the IJI family is ADVENT. Acquired by DI in 1982, and now 25 years old, it was a part of the explosion in American loudspeaker development and technology centered in New England during the mid 1960's. By the 1970's one out of every six loudspeakers sold in the United States was an Advent.
Starting with the first model, called simply The Advent Loudspeaker, the line expanded to include two models, and the Smaller Advent joined its original parent, now dubbed the Large Advent. These products rapidly became the loudspeaker of choice for an entire generation of Americans, providing them with "Sound as it was meant to be heard." After the acquisition, HI re-launched the company with the "Baby" and over the last 7 years has expanded the family to include a range of products to serve the needs of audiophiles, including the special Limited Edition 25th Anniversary version of the original Large Advent, which graced more than a half million homes. Most recently, the company developed a full line of mobile audio products to bring the unique Advent sound to the automotive environment. These products continue the quarter century of design innovation that is the company's heritage by this year introducing Advent Mobile for the automotive environment, the first ICT (Inductive Coupling Technology) drive system in the U.S. where the high frequency reproduction element is inductively coupled to the woofer's voice coil, providing point source imaging in a very compact, low profile unit. The result is a speaker that is reliable and fits 90% of all car installations.
Today Advent continues to provide a whole new generation of users with excellent price to performance ratios as Fortune magazine noted when it rated Advent one of the 100 Best made American products.
In addition, a special award was presented to the now classic Jensen Triaxial 6x9 automotive loudspeaker system, first introduced in 1976, and still the standard after more than a decade and a half.
The future for IJI is focused on continuing the 80-year tradition of innovation. This effort is centered around a team of world-class acoustical, electrical, and mechanical engineers. The sole goal of this group is to move ahead by introducing new home, car, and lifestyle loudspeaker and electronics products.
The proud heritage of American innovation embodied in Advent is also found throughout International Jensen Inc. At the 1992 Summer Consumer Electronics Show, IJI received a record 6 Design and Innovation Awards. Advent home and car speakers, the unique Jensen BBE amplifier, Acoustic Research, and NHT offerings all earned awards.
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