Square and diamond pins

The SME 3012 type I has a rotating headshell socket, good….the candid eye could think that this allows to play between star and square pin configurations.

Not that easy!

You can see in image below that if you rotate the socket for the headshell then the pin configuration is off. So you need to rewire or alternatively make a complex box that will switch wiring.

The only know tonearm that had the particularity of having a rotatable head-shell socket was the SME type I. The type I was made for broadcasting purposes but never really succeed in that field. The idea was that it would sell to all studios using star or square pins. The result was the type II that was less expensive to produce and focused on audiophile market of the day, this having the permanent square pin (aka SME).

The design was not intended to be switched from one to another, the documentation of the type I gives the various wiring at arm connector, designed to be wired once and for all.

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Clean your pins….

Okay we play with our toys and keep in going…an audio freak (nice guy) came by to collect some vt4c nos GE’s he got from me. Indeed I have a large stock but no 211 amp remains in my house, maybe another day! Anyway we spun a vinyl as he did want to hear the we12a…you bet! The sound was awful,,,,distorted and dull, etc….oh my…..well the last time I did any serious spinning was when friends came around and it was late night stuff, sounded good and even better as the wine sunk in….recently I have been CD addicted with the dCS rig that is pure magic…(more on that later)….anway the good “E” with his tubes in hand got some bad analog but then I played the r&s tuner….okay he left understanding that these big horns deliver the goodies! He smiled!

But today after my Sunday cycling and lunch on this beautiful day my wife and I decided on playing some records….ouuuuuu not good the sound …. real bad…! I said okay lets work on this….cleaned the pins at head shell and cartridge…..magic back….analog does rule but needs TCL….a lot of it and that is why we like it?

So clean your pins!

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Questions….questions…..western electric 12a

I have received a great deal of questions on how to make the western electric 12a, well this is how….count about 150 pieces of wood per horn (that is 300 for two horns…) planed concave, convex, bevels on both sides and as hide glue is used to assemble the best thing is to be straight, true and precise. The side panels are twisted shape that demands more than sharp tool and patience! In fact it is nerve wrecking,,,,Stable hardwood is mandatory and in sufficient quantity to select appropriately. Anyway given that there 4 side to each of the 300 pieces of wood good arms are need….oh yes I did say that all is done by hand….slow, quiet and the noise of a sharp wood plane is nothing short of magical….here to give an idea

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And as I did one horn at a time after the 1st one was finished (details not yet done) the 1st western electric 12a I was installed as a “workshop” sound system….run off ipad radio and Boyer compression driver attached with no throat. Actually I was making the throat casting models at that stage. Actually looking back at this I find it was kind of cool, need to get the next project going!

Mirella Freni

 

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Mirella Freni is worth every second you can get. A true lady, a true performer till her 60’s who is still with us…. Again we have a budget set that in all honesty played on the better digital chains give  many hours of pleasure and discovery. This is a sub 25€ set of 14cds. It will let yours ears get into her style and take it from there….yes mono or stereo lps will take you to other places but this cd set is great start..enjoy…please! 

 

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Western Electric 12a….after some listening time!

There have been “many” questions asked about the sound of the WE12a horns versus the 16a & 15a…all these big baby horns have been extensively listened to here. More often than not the question is “what is best, better….”. What I will keep on repeating is nothing is really “best or better” in sound reproduction, it will be different, and you will like it more or less but not better or worse…the key factor will remain in this order, music, interpretation, recording and then…..”& only then” the reproduction system itself.

Having said that this is what I previously said about the 16a and 15a :

* 15a is impressive, large, crazy, dynamic and for the aficionados’ of larges scale listening

* 16a is emotional, engaging, intimate crying out for long engaging listening experiences

You can read here “CLICK”

Then into the equation came the 12a that was a work of love and labour to achieve but the only solution as no originals around…! I feel very happy to have offered to some of my closer audio freak friends the opportunity to listen to the WE12a. As stated before this is most certainly the very 1st time the WE12a have ever been in Europe. Maybe Silbatone will grace us with the 12a at the Munich high end…now that would be cool!

1st some boring technical matters. The 12a horn length is approximately the same as the 16a with a mouth that is not as large, but the 2 x 12a’s are installed so the total mouth areas is in fact larger with the same two WE555 drivers. Then the materials: the 16a as we know is steel and the 12a is solid hardwood 25,4mm thick and not to forget the 15 with plywood. So this leaves us with more surface area, same horn length. This should equate to less out of phase vibrations from the horn and by definition a cleaner sound? This I consider to be one of the aspects of the 15a most difficult to live with. Anyway this is exactly what Chung (Silbatone) and Joe Roberts told me about the 12’s and you will be hard pressed to find any higher authority with hands on experience with “all” the WE horns.

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Theory does not rank high in my agenda when it comes to my personal choice for audio equipment. This is the very reason I experiment with my audio16 blogger friend.

So…. with my friend D and W2 who both assisted installing these 100kgs beasts it was evident off the bat that these were wonderful. At the end of the 1st day after taking down the 16a we just had time to winch up one 12a.  All we did was connect this single 12a with a solid-state power supply, PP 300 amp fed by EMT927-139st and then just played full range, sweet full deep, inviting and a tone pretty close to the 16a run in same configuration at lower volumes. The night went on and we added a 597a tweeter. The whole rig was wired with crocodile clips! …far fetch from the standards of the high-end crowd! The sound was just mesmerizing on sopranos and promised great moments ahead.

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Once the whole setup was installed with bass open baffles with 4181a woofers, 597a tweeters and Tungar Power Supply it was time to run various xover configurations.

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No vibrating panels! You can crank up the volume and these babies have no out of phase vibrating at all when compared to the 16 and 15 this is somewhat of a novelty. Oh Yes…… the 12a (and 13a), in solid wood made prior to the 16’s and 15’. They have a heritage in the Victrola horns that live inside gramophones such as the Credenza. Solid wood construction, 1” thick, all animal glued and built well out of the proportions needed to entertain the crowds filling the 1st sound on film theatres! Having made these 12a’s myself and knowing the 16 and 15 I see the very reason they cut the ties with The Talking Machine Company, commissioned to built the 12/13 for Western Electric, and that reason was cost and delay! The construction of the 15 & 16 are based on industrial methods, pressed sheets of steel, large plywood panels, nails or welding…and out the factory they went. 12/13 horns require a high level of skill, huge quantities of hardwood, animal gluing…!

The level of flexibility these horns offer is incredible! You can tune the sound from vintage and romantic to sharp and defined. Such dramatic changes were not as apparent on the 16a or 15a they seemed to retain the horns character to a greater extent. This could mean that the 12a is has a neutral characteristic or at least more so than the 16 or 15? At last hearing more of the WE555 diaphragm beauty with its silky smooth sound and less of the horns colours?

 

Testing and tuning: after hanging angle and position of horns down to the xover stuff. Lessons learnt on 16 and 15 help here, not being one for the “straight and open wide range approach” I have had the opportunity to play with numerous configurations on these big horns.  These babies share the same genes.

So…full Range, low pass bass and high pass tweeter: This is the recommended setup that Suzuki San CEO of GIP Laboratory uses. He was kind enough to share his setting and measurements once he knew about my efforts to build the 12a horns. This is the most vintage/romantic sound of all, full vintage, large scene and a room filled with it…And then…6db Series xover between Bass and 12a with high pass on tweeter, parallel 6db, full range 12db low pass and 6 db high pass, extra tweeters, 12db high pass and 12db low pass with 6db mid…long list & actually longer. These were all tested with and without attenuation on the WE12a, such attenuation was with L-pads, Auto formers from Dave Slage or RCA’s, Kanno transformers… a lot of testing that was really enjoyable and for a great part shared with the hungry ears of friends! Conclusion?

All the above work and offer a truly superb sound in mono and stereo alike. All these settings and changes were “immediately” perceptible and anyone used to playing with xovers will very quickly find the sound for their ears…A good stock of coils and capacitors will be mandatory…unless you just go full range! Anyway you need a pair of 12a’s 1st…!

I think that in an ideal world two xovers will make it happen:  The one Suzuki shared and another one offering a higher degree of resolution and details. The good thing here is that this is “possible”…and maybe just at the flick of a switch! Yes I have the intention to make some WE replica xover boxes that offer the space to do just that!

The upstream amplifiers used demonstrate what the amps are about so up to one’s taste. This is not unlike the 15 and 16 horns and both amp configurations make it happen (at least for me…)

So 16a, 15a, 12a? If you can get any of these you will be happy so long as you put the time in to making them work for “you” in “your” room. I insist that they must be connected to well-chosen drivers, upstream electronics and most of all best records to meet ones taste. There is no quick plug and play approach here even if some state they have the sacred grail of settings…! I have heard WE systems that sound really “really” bad and others that leave you mesmerized. The difference between the two is often down to details. Remember there are no reassuring audio reviewers to write about the right from the wrong. No glossy magazine to reassure ones choices. It’s down to you and what you want and being fully content with the way you like things…

I am a very happy man with these horns!

All fun…