Skip to main content

Architects, Music and Hi-Fi

Music at home
Frank Lloyd Wright was known to have equipped his luxury home projects with a grand piano. When I visited Fallingwater some years ago I vaguely remember seeing a Fisher 50C preamp tucked inside a wall mounted console but no grand piano. Perhaps this was because it was designed as a weekend home for the Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh. 

The following are scans of how architects approached music reproduction in homes during the first half of the 20th century.

Charlotte Perriand's Modular Cabinet was part of a Bachelor Pad concept presented on behalf of Le Corbusier in Brussels, 1935 - looks like a  ~ 6" fullrange speaker, AM radio/phono amp + an early electric turntable? And it seems like acoustic feedback was not yet a major consideration in those days ;)

Walter Gropius living room in Lincoln, MA
Click on picture for a larger view of the hi-fi components right of center as well as the coaxial speaker further right (infinite baffle?).

Living room of the (Julius) Shulman House,1950 by Ralph Soriano. Cool Jensen DU201 to the right ;)

Pierre Koenig's living room - lots of LPs and I see a Luxman CL35 preamp on the equipment rack. Partially visible on the right edge of the picture is a lowboy speaker cabinet...

...a stereo pair. I wonder what drivers are inside as well as the  loading configuration,  vented box or?

Eames Three Way
 
This is an interesting picture of a Charles Eames/Stephens Trusonic collaboration sent a while back by Thomas Patrick Shortall, Jr. aka sixcats with another intriguing speaker in the background ;)  Robert Stephens was part of the Shearer Horn project before starting his own company. I have seen a few Stephens drivers and the quality of construction is comparable to an Altec or JBL. But I never saw or heard this particular speaker system which according to a brochure in Hi-Fi Lit contained a 15" woofer in a folded horn chamber, compression driven 10 cell horn midrange + super tweeter. It is a rare piece and probably samples have been snapped up by mid-century modern collectors long before audio aficionados became aware of the sonic virtues of vintage equipment.

Keener eyes will notice that the Eames Trusonic E3 share the same wide front baffle aspect as Pierre Koenig's lowboy enclosed speakers. I have a gut feel Koenig's speakers are actually E3s distorted slightly by a wide angle lens or that's just wishful thinking? ;)

The point is, after years of fiddling with speaker enclosures and open baffles I have come to a conclusion that the prevalent narrow and tall configuration of modern speaker designs does more harm than good to the sound. Gifted architects like Charles Eames and Pierre Koenig probably knew better then...

Comments

  1. Dear JE, Thank you. A friend shared your SE45 instructions and last summer I built a pair of mono blocks that run a pair of Altec Valencias, I've never been more happy with the sound in my house. I noticed a Stan Getz piece on another of you posts, I too love the man.
    Again thanks and if you ever make it to Sacramento, Cal. I at least owe you dinner. Maybe a drink and an evening of jazz would do you. Hit me with an e-mail and I'll roll out the red carpet.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the kind words and invitation!

    I don't think I'll be in your vicinity any time soon but will keep it in mind.

    Happy listening!

    ReplyDelete
  3. great blog.....have to follow...keep it up

    http://great-and-old.blogspot.ch

    ReplyDelete
  4. Joseph, I have also scrutinized the gear at Fallingwater but, as you know, they hustle you in and out of the rooms it is hard to take it all in, Well, at least for me. Be sure to visit the Jackson Pollock house and studio in eastern Long Island. Bogen tube amp, Garard tt, and, best of all, an Altec or similar duplex speaker built into the closet door of the dining room. You can see the amp and TT in one of the photos, here: http://sb.cc.stonybrook.edu/pkhouse/
    Best wishes, Joe

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Joe,

      Cool set-up Mr. Pollock had! Sorry I overlooked this comment and took me a couple of years to reply.

      Happy listening!

      JE

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Altec 2-way horn system redux

Truth be told, I was never fully satisfied with the performance of the Altec 2-way which is why I never uploaded the old article in the Arkiv.
Let's recap how the 2-way horn system evolved...


The project was conceived in mid 1998 because I needed a monitor system that was more efficient than the OB/755 so I could listen to SE amps with 2 watts output and below.
I commissioned my cabinet maker neighbor to build 614 bass reflex cabinets and loaded them with Altec 419A 12" drivers + 811 horns (early version/heavy sand cast) and 804A compression drivers gathered from hamfests and radio shows. Crossover was a textbook 1st order/6dB/octave hinged at 900 hz and the horn padded down to match the sensitivity of the low frequency driver.

Eventually I acquired proper 12" woofers - Altec 414As, which lack the upper midrange nasties of the 419As. The 414As have great midrange quality even if they lack the bass end of their larger 416/515 brethren.

802D compression drivers replaced t…

2017 Update: Hi-Fi Room

One year progress report

Stereo
Garrard 301 + Ortofon RMG 309/SPU GME or SME 3012 + Denon DL103 Altec 4722 MC step-up
Digital line level sources processed  through UTC A20 transformers

JEL Stereo Preamp DX
JEL Stereo SE2A3 DX amp with Tango NY15S OPTs
Altec 2-way Altec 414As in 3.5 cf bass reflex enclosures + Altec 32A horns with 802D compression drivers
or
Mono Neat P58H 4 speed idler turntable + Velvet Touch viscous damped tonearm with Denon DL102 or GE RPX cartridges

je2a3 mono integrated amp

Stereo > Mono Line Level Mixer

Mixing line level stereophonic signals into full dimensional monophonic ;)
Here's a DIY project for mono aficionados that's so basic, I should have uploaded it many years ago. But other things got in the way.

Just like an MC step-up, these are entirely passive devices. 

The simplest way to convert stereo to mono is to connect left and right channels via a Y connector. But there's a more elegant way than just shorting two channels.

Resistors can blend two signals into one better by...

...using Allen-Bradley carbon composition for warmer sound ;)
We can end the mixing quest here but...

...the most elegant way of mixing two channels as was done in the studios by audio pros of yesteryears was through transformers.


This single UTC A-20 transformer was in a box lot of tubes and parts I picked up at a radio show. It's a high quality transformer designed for mic, mixer or line matching applications. Instead of trying to find a mate for MC step-up duty, I repurposed it for a g…