Western Electric 12a & 13a stereo setup’

Some years ago I embarked on a road to replicate the “Adam and Eve” of cinema sound speakers. At that time many did raise their eyebrows saying build methods of  the venerable WE12a and WE13a horns were hard and too expensive to master. Woodwork, castings, sourcing materials and getting wood from very same foresting areas as the originals was the work ahead, yes it took time, devotion and freinds…

I was advised that the plywood path of the WE15a was “enough” sound and far less challenging. But knowing the 15a (*). I knew that the stronger build of the 12 and 13 would reap better results. Also the  challenge was exciting indeed. Whilst having a full time occupation I filled spare time with the project.

(*) 13Audio is working on something very special related to the 15a/b horn

These 12 and 13a horns are just “rare” only scarse originals left. Take a look at this extact from the western electric manuals of the time… “what happened to the 12a and 13a’s?”  Yes resurecting these dinasours from the very history of sound is challenging, apealing and perhaps relevant beyond there sound reproducing merits ? I’ve been happy on every single step and I am still walking!

However “D” did strongly encorage me foward believing I if anybody could make it happen. Thank you “Monsieur D”!

D and I 1st met when I was selling my WE22a horns (Kanno replica). The WE22a road even with original WE555 drivers and good 597a tweeters etc…was not the road for me (read here ) Anyway D was intereted and finally took my WE22a horns. He heard them at my place in Paris and said he’d take them, the setup was well balanced and sounded okay.  The problem? He then helped me install a “BIG” WE horn after having pulled down the 22’s. Well… he never even listened to the 22a horns again…indeed he had offered his ears the “big western electric horn”, oupppssss….albeit this big horn setup was very “roughly” setup. So game over for the 22a that was, he then sold them himself. If you pay attention you’ll frequently see 22 horns replica horns or sale I guess there is a reason.

Monsieur D started on his Western Electric Road landing up with a replica 15a setup. Then D made a “visit”….he listened to the 12a and 13a horns I had made. At this point I had taken my passion further and setup to commision build these 12a and 13a beauties.  Setup, filters, wires and phases all pretty much in check. He so “naturally” asked me to build him some. Then the long road started sourcing the drivers, repairing some of them and as D was moving it delayed things but still over several years we worked as a team to acheive a goal. I arranged that D have the very 1st horns I ever made the 12a but also the very 1st 13a , these were my personal horns that can be seen here at my blog.  Myself I was moving also and space during the transition to my Normandy paradise was an issue. I allowed D to have these 1st builds because for D from day one supported me and knew that I’d make it happen, maybe more than myself!  BUT….my very 1st 13a was made based 1st plans I had that a good friend “S” offered me….well I came to realise as I got deeper into making these horns that this one was not “exact” as original (read here). Not a big issue however only normal that D’s second 13a be exactly the same as the very 1st made, indeed when you look at my builds today that are strict original dimensions you can see the differnce even from one’s listeing position. Sound wise? well you’ll have to hear both!  So I had to “rebiuld” another one to match the 1st one…that was harder than I had imagined! Made a whole new set of jigs and forms…paint I used at the time was no longer avaialble so I had to turn myself into a sort of “patina” freak to match appearance…thanks D!

So in the end it all come together and we started to install the system as written about here.

And now last week the final stages the whole setup is with electronics, sources and gear that is upto the task and yes tungar power supply from my paddock of goodies.

These kind of horns tell you all about what’s upstream in your setup, no flaws allowed, sorry!

And in case you are asking yourself what does it sould like….awesome!

It needs a few more sessions where things will get even better :

  • xover components
  • wires
  • Bass

That will be over time with fun…

So this is the one of the extremely rare full 12a and 13Audio stereo setups on the planet, a rare thing indeed. More will exist as I am currenly working on several of such projects in parellel on pretty much every continent…

All fun…

Western Electric 12a and 13a « combo »

In the heart of Switzerland a 13Audio replica horn setup has been installed for what I can call a “very keen” listener “I” who is very happy playing mono even from stereo recordings, good man!

I is also into his whiskey as I discovered when I opened the door behind the horns, does that help bass in anyway? Time will tell!

13Audio will design a bespoke bass that will be big yet concealed in the room. Typically with this setup we are looking at one and half or two octave below the 13a. It’s just that those octaves need to be as fast and open to match and big 12a and 13a and deliver nothing nasty into incomparable midrange sound that only the we12a and 13a deliver.

The two horns work simultaneously enjoying the same signal yet attenuated by about 3db versus the 597a tweeter. This is achieved via a 13Audio crossover network that has no resistors or autoformers in the signal path. The crossover is built with original 1940 western electric capacitors checked and selected. The air coil is handmade by 13Audio. Wires are bespoke made by 13audio.

My friend “I” was fortunate enough to score a pair of original 555 drivers whilst I was crafting his horns…these were serviced by 13Audio with replacement diaphragms fitted they sing as they should! 597a is from GIP. The tungar is a motiograph lodged into a 13Audio enclosure (here)

This is a sort of plug and play vintage horn system. Setting up was a breeze in a well balanced room.

Any weak link or shortcoming in the upstream components is discovered straight away and I is aware that tuning the system to his likes will take sometime, but worth it !

All fun….

Berlin Berliner

Having good audio friends in Berlin and knowing  their audio community is very active I had to post about Emile Berliner (May 20, 1851 – August 3, 1929)….

This German-born American actually invented the flat disc “gramophone record”…we owe him so much!

Now the Berlin will call themselves Berliners?

All Fun…

Visit to machining shop

Castings come out “rough” and need machine work….Not much but it makes all the difference. Drilling, threading, surfacing….all so that they fit neatly in place matching the wooden junctions.

A few images of my friends place, glad to say has not caved into all CNC….keep it real in a world of 3D printing….!

All fun…

a

Western electric 12a and 13a

A few posts ago I showed a 12a hanging and this is a follow up.

Only one channel now but the second will be setup soon.

I’ll be spending a fair time setting the system up, tuning to get the sound needed. This is truly unknown territory indeed ! We could go for the all vintage xover etc… but I know that doesn’t always deliver the sound that’s needed. Anyway updates are to follow…

Great to see my 13Audio horns in such posture….

All fun….

Design 1st half of 20th century?

I’d really like to know what was going on during the 1st half of the 20th century….

Okay I think that the Western electric horns are not only fantastic at what they are designed to do delivering a level of audio efficiency unheard of but also the organic shapes are just pieces of art….btw that another reason I reincarnate them…

Here we have some train design….did they do this on purpose? Man it’s just awesome to see what they did!

The Cleveland Mercury took to the rails in 1936 and remained in service until the 1950s.

All fun…

Western Electric 13a feet that count…..

The we13a needs good feet to support the mouth. These are like originals supporting the horn at the exterior sides of the mouth. It’s strange that when you support the 13a in the middle of the mouth it affects the sound. Actually when you listen to a pair in stereo one being correctly supported and the other not you immediately hear the difference. It’s like putting a central tension point. The mouth is 62 inch (157,5cm) side and the wood is about 1″ thick and it’s supporting a great deal of the horns weight. So that kind of all puts a lot of pressure on the centre of the mouth. When supported at the exterior there is no flex at all. 13audio make the appropriate legs to support the mighty 13a.

All fun….