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….

Interesting reading here that dates back to 1928

So blog partner goes into the future with High Res digital and I work backwards to the roots of sound reproduction. This is how we imagined Audio16 in the outset, two angles of the same subject matter.

This article dates back to 1928 when the WE555 was hot cakes and as the article says way ahead of the competeiton at that time. The fact that this drivers is today still unbeatable seems unbelievable…but true..okay it has its specific applications as the articles puts it, long horns with low cut off…but when that condition is reached its a magic combination…

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The Trumpet from Mars…

… as some friends call the high frequency/ super tweeter on top of the BV 88 by TAD/Exclusive. In fact it looks like a species from a different planet. Does it sound like that?

Yes and No!  But it is hard to describe as this 4 way horn system, including a large field coil bass driver of SupraVox, provides so many possibilities catering to the needs of the listener.

Bavarian Voice 88 trumpet  (2)My blog partner recommended using the Fostex attenuators for adjusting the three TAD drivers.BV 88 DRIVERS – a good choice!

BV 88 trumpet dark

The western electric 13a, sound?

It has been asked about and asked about, what does the WE13a sound like?


Now there was the WE12a and WE13a “combo” demonstration at the Munich highend this year and yes this is/was impressive in its own rights standing as it was as a demonstration that not much has really changed. “HUGE” credits to the man behind Silbatone for making this happen, read here


Here we are “here” on the old continent attempting to make these large horns fit into “normal” houses to provide long-term listening pleasure of a unique genre. Making this happen requires a great deal of dedication, as I trust readers here understand and perhaps appreciate. Anyway as explained at this blog my deep(est..?) dedication took me to build the Western Electric 12a and 13a horns otherwise impossible to get ones hands on….or “very deep” pockets are mandatory…


I have taken to writing this article as I feel that the WE13a “mono” setup now in my room is pretty much “spot on” and as far as I can take the concept. But also the second WE13a is nearing completion that means stereo setup. Yes I built the second WE13a just to experience that “option”…I will tell that story later…


Mono? Hummmm…Okay at 1st it was mono from cartridge tip to ear so none of the issues attached to summation…that means no need to sum the left right and “middle” channels.


In pure mono the WE13a is mind blowing just on its own; that means no tweeter, no bass and “full range”. Okay its has its limits if you live in the “hifi” or “high end” arena. This is not my aim. I need sheer pleasure from sound, deep, textures, scenes, sense of emotion etc…and a mono record to WE13a gives me just that. Fine? Nope…add a tweeter be that WE597 or more recent very high efficiency ones and it sings even more, one capacitor and all the messy fuss about xovers is behind you. In this configuration the lower end is sufficiency supported by the 13a that scoops down low enough and the seamless flow from the mid range via lower mid and bass makes you forgive that it does drop to 25hz…Add bass? Yes just a touch with a pair of WE4181’s and your done. Here xover works becomes necessary on the WE13a and the greatest of attention is needed not to “strip” the sound of its easiness and flow.Having played up and down with WE15a, WE16a, WE12a and now WE13a made this stage pretty easy as I kind of have knowledge on these babies and what works and what doesn’t.


So we have a three way system with a mind blowing almost full range horn that is providing 90% of what I need filled with some highs and lows. A good listener from Hong Kong (Hi…W) when listening here preferred the rendition without tweeters; W is a guitar player, keen audiophile and collector.


This is a bog simple system and I have baptised as the “most democratic of the big horn solutions”, as it can just be one horn one amp one source…


The 13a knocks the WE16a out of the room in many “many” ways. 1stly it goes way lower, goes higher and can be played at low levels with still and outstanding clarity and dynamic (quality that the WE16a but not the WE15a) but then it can be played loud, I mean really loud whilst still retaining its qualities and yes in this arena the 16a just falls apart whilst the WE15a come alive, and …. I love my 16a BTW…As for the WE12a it sits in another place as you can read here




Add the tweeter and the bass and you enter a new horizon.!


Okay Stereo on the mono WE13a? Here is the challenge indeed….I have a large variety of music tastes and to satisfy them would be impossible with encountering stereo recordings. The issue is the summing if the L/R and middle (created from L/R). Various solutions exist, passive, active, but it was my trail and error go me to the one that leaves the musical integrity with no nasty spikes or emphasised frequencies. This leaves a musical presentation that where one does not miss “stereo” the scene is large, wide, big, deep, dynamic and full of textures…wonderful…As my good friend D and W2 say it, no effort needed at all to listen to the music flow.


WE13a in stereo? Next step…. its almost done and audiophile friends are getting impatient….paint is going on!


All fun…


The second western electric 13a build

Snap shot of the second horn nearing completion.
As I make these in France things may be delayed! Indeed foundry doing the casting will close for a month!….like all over France getting things down in July and August is hard work….places closed, less workforce…let’s see!

All fun…


Western electric horns in use….

Here we have some nice images that have been sent to me. Yes at Madison square garden those are we15a


And here a pair of we16a horns (actually the very rare version seen in the patent, search this blog to read) attached to the back of the retractable cinema screen…..who wants a home video like that? …..


Saying goodbye to the western electric 12a's

So after making them and living with them the time came for them to go to another home. I know it’s a good home and in time the proud owner will make them sing as they did here at my place. These are extremely rare horns as already said never set foot in Europe before this adventure I set myself on. I am left with my original 16a and growing 13a’s that as you can observe at this blog are nearing completion.

So farewell…


Horns from 1926 and digital source from 21st century?

Can the digital era music feed the large and so revealing horns such as the western electric 12a? For those who know these horns they are not like the shorter horns, backloaded etc….these babies give a straight drive from 100ish hz to 5k….and all that with no xover….they reveal just about all the good and bad….things upstream. Make no mistake until you have heard these and then lived with them for a while you cannot imagine…leave the Goto, ale, jbl, altec….candidates aside. Okay not the topic…

Can we mix them with the digital, clocked, dithered and reduced jitter candidates of today’s era?

Between my audio16 partner and myself we have graced in our rooms the most exotic digital sources that can be found on the planet…having said that analog as well…! I had the esoteric, Kondo, cec…..the boutique DAC’s with so called miracle design resorting to low or high impedance chips, using coupling transformers to shape sound, rare and so called “unique” capacitors that if you listen to the users of them are the ultimate….sorry…..”ONLY” solution to grace the ears of the most demanding audiophiles….all the same I just heard these said to myself “WOW” and the ended up back with analog and my faithful EMT 927. I just ended with a broadcasting CD playing to…spin some silver ones…..

Then a good friend of mine using we15a and advice from friends from and in Japan all using the big western electric horns. I was advised to give the dCS Elar plus a shot….my audio16 partner here was all on for this step of mine…he is the hardcore of hardcore digital advocate! He is all clocked in with atomic frequencies! I got him into he EMT 927 turntable game and he even started a thread for the screen focused forum dwellers to expand there capacity to express themselves….go here go here

This was his turn to get me lauched!

I spoke with dCS and what struck me was there detached and simple way of expressing their knowledge. Digital is not analog, this is about equations, algorithm….speed, etc….and etc…no not bias of tubes, capacitance etc….another world indeed….and those who try to transpose the learnt lesson of analog signal to digital are I think making mistakes….

And….well I got the hardware and installed the dcs elgar plus to my Emt 981 that has a word clock in and all better aes digital out…marvellous…just plain fantastic!

I will build up the ladder to see how far one can go on this road and if adding boxes, up sampler, clock and top notch drive will enhance or reduce the magic sound this combo offers to my ears!

Thanks my Bavarian and Japanese friend!