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Title: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Michael 'Bink' Knowles on March 30, 2008, 04:55:18 am
I know Cerwin Vega constructed the Sensurround subwoofers in '73 and '74 for the movie "Earthquake" but those Universal-designed boxes only reproduced a simple triggered noise track. What about subwoofers that were expected to reproduce music and actual sound effects? Who made the first ones?

-Bink
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Mac Kerr on March 30, 2008, 10:03:40 am
Michael 'Bink' Knowles wrote on Sun, 30 March 2008 04:55

I know Cerwin Vega constructed the Sensurround subwoofers in '73 and '74 for the movie "Earthquake" but those Universal-designed boxes only reproduced a simple triggered noise track. What about subwoofers that were expected to reproduce music and actual sound effects? Who made the first ones?

-Bink
I think Meyer made the R2? as a response to the bad performance of the  CV Sensurround system. The Meyer site doesn't name them, and says they were developed for "Apocalypse Now"

Mac
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Michael 'Bink' Knowles on March 30, 2008, 01:54:24 pm
Mac Kerr wrote on Sun, 30 March 2008 07:03

Michael 'Bink' Knowles wrote on Sun, 30 March 2008 04:55

I know Cerwin Vega constructed the Sensurround subwoofers in '73 and '74 for the movie "Earthquake" but those Universal-designed boxes only reproduced a simple triggered noise track. What about subwoofers that were expected to reproduce music and actual sound effects? Who made the first ones?

-Bink
I think Meyer made the R2? as a response to the bad performance of the  CV Sensurround system. The Meyer site doesn't name them, and says they were developed for "Apocalypse Now"

Mac



At the bottom of Meyer's 650-R2 Operating Instructions there's a printed date of September 1994. I wonder how much earlier the product came out... I think I was using R2s as early as 1992.

Did barrier strip termination exist for the R2?

-Bink
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Mac Kerr on March 30, 2008, 02:06:09 pm
Michael 'Bink' Knowles wrote on Sun, 30 March 2008 13:54

At the bottom of Meyer's 650-R2 Operating Instructions there's a printed date of September 1994. I wonder how much earlier the product came out... I think I was using R2s as early as 1992.
I may be wrong, but the sub I remember reading about came before the 650. I thought is was just called "R2", and it was deeper than it was wide. It was developed for cinema use, and the paper I remember reading talked about how they made them sound louder by adding some distortion.

Mac
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Craig Hauber on March 30, 2008, 02:18:43 pm
I'm guessing JBL, but Altec could have too.
They had those super-loose 18's in reflex boxes out before the '80's and were definitely in the theater-cabinet product line and were not intended as the primary low frequency device below the 2"
-Also EV and their TL series.





Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Antone Atmarama Bajor on March 30, 2008, 02:53:22 pm
I remember the JBL 2245's in the early 90's  For cinema subs.

    I don't think real hefty Cinema subs started being pushed until the days of THX.

    I remember seeing Star Trek 4 at the Cinema in Corte Madera, CA.  And remembered how the rumbling sound of the alien probe made me feel ill.  Well before THX but that was Lucas's premier screening theater for a while.  

    So they must have had something unusual.

    I still don't think most of the theaters have anything that is actually decent.

    Even in THX theaters I've heard the LFE cabinets making god awful sounds that couldn't be part of the master.
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Tom Danley on March 30, 2008, 05:49:26 pm
Hi

Other than the special run installation subs, like the CV subs used in movies like Midway etc, I think it was Tomlinsin Hollman’s work which lead to the THX standards that (among other things) drove the need for extended low end.   Jurassic Park was the turning point in the movie industry so far as getting down if I recall.
I think the first modern widespread “standard” subwoofer  for theaters was the Kintec KT-90 if I remember right.   It was a 2X15 vented box, self powered and made specifically for cinema use and installed in many theaters.  I remember that one as they were the same size as the TPL-2 we made at Intersonics at the time.
Prior to that when there was lf extension it was via big horn systems made by Altec, RCA, WE and others.  Big cool looking and impossibly large cabinets and horns, ah and no power compression either (because the voice coils came off the former before they got that hot)
Keep in mind the technical “knowledge base” even in the 80’s said that for live sound, nothing below 80Hz was needed or desired and you can’t make real bass with a horn.  
It was a great time to come up with a motor driven horn loaded woofer I’ll tell you haha.
Best,
Tom Danley
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Al Limberg on March 30, 2008, 06:37:43 pm
I recall reading an article regarding Meyer subs vs. the CV 'Earthquakes' years ago in Mix Magazine.  Meyer was only slightly less than flabbergasted that a theatre full of typical viewers being used as test subjects repeatedly picked the CVs as 'louder' even though actual test results showed the opposite.  Perhaps that was what lead to the 'added' distortion solution to the problem.

?;o)
Al
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Mac Kerr on March 30, 2008, 09:47:25 pm
Al Limberg wrote on Sun, 30 March 2008 18:37

I recall reading an article regarding Meyer subs vs. the CV 'Earthquakes' years ago in Mix Magazine.  Meyer was only slightly less than flabbergasted that a theatre full of typical viewers being used as test subjects repeatedly picked the CVs as 'louder' even though actual test results showed the opposite.  Perhaps that was what lead to the 'added' distortion solution to the problem.

?;o)
Al
That sounds like what I remember, i don't know when that would have been, but I think it would have been before 1986 when I left my full time sound company job.

The large Altec cinema speakers, like the A2 were loaded with Altec 515 woofers, which were the lowest extension speakers they made at the time, I think they were rated for 75 watts. I don't know what were in the CV W "Earthquake" subs, but the only time I ever used them 4 of them got blown away by two Meyer 650s. This was long after they were out of the movie theaters. Associates and Ferren were using them as SFX speakers, and I thought they sounded awful so I replaced them with the Meyer. That would have been in 1991.

Mac
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Troy Gwin on March 30, 2008, 10:14:59 pm
Mac Kerr wrote on Sun, 30 March 2008 21:47

I don't know what were in the CV W "Earthquake" subs...


We actually have one of the original "Earthquake" subs from the movie in our shop.  It lives up on one of our pallet racks and is one of those things we just don't throw away.  It still has the union house mark that built it.

As for what's in it.  It has a single CV 18" that was manufactured so that the relaxed position of the cone was at one end of the travel.  By design, the cone would only move outward and would distort when it tried to pull back.  Good for earthquakes, not great for much else.
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Mike {AB} Butler on March 31, 2008, 08:00:57 am
Michael 'Bink' Knowles wrote on Sun, 30 March 2008 04:55

I know Cerwin Vega constructed the Sensurround subwoofers in '73 and '74 for the movie "Earthquake" but those Universal-designed boxes only reproduced a simple triggered noise track. What about subwoofers that were expected to reproduce music and actual sound effects? Who made the first ones?

-Bink

Bink,
The first true sub I saw was in late 1979, and it was John Meyer's box - I'm only guessing it was his first. It was an 18" EV-looking driver inside a very nondescript grey large ported box, and had a 1U processing unit to go with it (of course). The shop spent like 2 days rattling everything in the shop.. and I never saw it again.. but I think they ended up getting some. I remember the comments that it was hard to justify a 30 hz box.. when the JM-3's already were going that low..  Cool
HTH,
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Michael 'Bink' Knowles on March 31, 2008, 12:16:03 pm
Mike {AB} Butler wrote on Mon, 31 March 2008 05:00


Bink,
The first true sub I saw was in late 1979, and it was John Meyer's box - I'm only guessing it was his first. It was an 18" EV-looking driver inside a very nondescript grey large ported box, and had a 1U processing unit to go with it (of course). The shop spent like 2 days rattling everything in the shop.. and I never saw it again.. but I think they ended up getting some. I remember the comments that it was hard to justify a 30 hz box.. when the JM-3's already were going that low..  Cool
HTH,



Heh heh heh. JM3s go that low... that's rich. Maybe in a large array measured with a -10dB ruler.

McCune had a pile of single 18 gray carpeted subs when I arrived in 1989. They were rarely used; they weren't considered "musical" by the old hands.

If it was 1979 it must have been right before Meyer split to form his own company across the Bay. Funny how all the Meyer promotional material mentions his time in Switzerland at the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in "the 1970s" but not his time at McCune.  Rolling Eyes

-Bink
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Iain_Macdonald on March 31, 2008, 01:19:54 pm
index.php/fa/15052/0/

Hi Craig,

The pic is an 8182 Altec dedicated cinema sub from 1981/82. THX research started in 1982 at Lucasfilm before the name THX was incorporated. Design work was done specifically for Return of the Jedi, #3 in the series.

Iain.
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Mike {AB} Butler on March 31, 2008, 03:14:19 pm
Actually, He HAD already split off and started his own company by that point.. the controller box DID say Meyer (not sure if it was Labs or Sound Labs, though..)..
As far as the boxes going to 30 Hz.. I ended up running sound from some researcher that had a lecture hosted at the SF in Union Square. The playback was SO low the standard SM4's weren't going to cut it.. so we ended up using a single JM3 inside that small meeting room - sort of analogous to a elephant piggy-backing on a dog - and I was "chosen" one to go and do this. Most of the stuff he had WAS indeed sub-40 hz.. and the JM-3 had at least enough to make it sound believable down there. Good thing they weren't screaming for more than 90 db C weighted though..  Laughing And I bet the group in the next room over got a good massage out of it..  Twisted Evil
That.. and the JM Sub.. were the reason I am doomed to spend my life building and enjoying subs..  Cool
Best,
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Michael 'Bink' Knowles on March 31, 2008, 09:53:49 pm
Iain Macdonald wrote on Mon, 31 March 2008 10:19

index.php/fa/15052/0/

Hi Craig,

The pic is an 8182 Altec dedicated cinema sub from 1981/82. THX research started in 1982 at Lucasfilm before the name THX was incorporated. Design work was done specifically for Return of the Jedi, #3 in the series.

Iain.



Dude, you're awesome.  Cool

-Bink
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Craig Hauber on April 01, 2008, 06:07:38 pm
8182 Altec, -thats exactly the one I couldn't remember.  Some audiophiles were using them too -They went quite low, but weren't very powerful but who cares because they out-did everything else in that 25-30Hz range.
Also remember coming across some pre-1970 30" EV drivers in the back of a theater once too -about the size of a minivan and with a 90-watt tube amp.  -They were probably for the organ.






Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: DAVID J. SYRKO on April 01, 2008, 07:03:46 pm
Popular Electronics had a DIY article on how to build a cabinet for the 30 inch driver. I have it laying around somewhere. The front of the cabinet was almost the size of a 4 X 8 sheet of plywood!   Much 2X4 framing inside.
Title: Altec 8182
Post by: Michael 'Bink' Knowles on April 01, 2008, 08:21:26 pm
Craig Hauber wrote on Tue, 01 April 2008 15:07

8182 Altec, -thats exactly the one I couldn't remember.  Some audiophiles were using them too -They went quite low, but weren't very powerful but who cares because they out-did everything else in that 25-30Hz range...


This document says the 8182 was tuned to 20 Hz. Nice.

-Bink
Title: Re: Altec 8182
Post by: Duane Massey on April 02, 2008, 12:39:40 am
There was a design called the Imperial folded horn that we built several of in the early 70's. We did one small disco with four of them lined up along the dance floor, and they were fairly impressive.

Didn't spend much time in theaters back then (still don't), but we did pull some old Altec 2x15 horns out of the Windsor theater here in town in the late 80's that were fairly massive, although I doubt they would be classified as subs.
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: TrevorMilburn on April 02, 2008, 06:45:40 am
For the world premi
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Bob Leonard on April 03, 2008, 10:38:01 pm
For all the kids I would have to beleive the first dedicated sub used in a theatre may well have to be the Sheerer horn.

http://www.audioheritage.org/html/profiles/lmco/shearer.htm
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Mac Kerr on April 03, 2008, 11:37:12 pm
Bob Leonard wrote on Thu, 03 April 2008 22:38

For all the kids I would have to beleive the first dedicated sub used in a theatre may well have to be the Sheerer horn.

http://www.audioheritage.org/html/profiles/lmco/shearer.htm
I think a bass device that covers the range of 50-500 can't really be considered a "sub" even if it actually made it down to 50Hz, which in light of the speakers of the day is doubtful. The only other driver in that system is a compression driver on a 1505 multicell horn.

Mac
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Michael 'Bink' Knowles on April 04, 2008, 10:32:46 am
Mac Kerr wrote on Thu, 03 April 2008 20:37

Bob Leonard wrote on Thu, 03 April 2008 22:38

For all the kids I would have to beleive the first dedicated sub used in a theatre may well have to be the Sheerer horn.

http://www.audioheritage.org/html/profiles/lmco/shearer.htm
I think a bass device that covers the range of 50-500 can't really be considered a "sub" even if it actually made it down to 50Hz, which in light of the speakers of the day is doubtful. The only other driver in that system is a compression driver on a 1505 multicell horn.

Mac




Agreed. The follow-on to the Shearer Horn was the Voice of the Theater, another cinema system that had a large bass bin but not a real subwoofer.

I forget where I read it but certain mainstream audio folks back then thought the total frequency response of the system was supposed to be centered logarithmically around ~500 Hz. If your system went down to 63 Hz (three octaves below 500) then it should go up to 4k (three octaves above 500.) It was thought that higher and lower frequency material wouldn't be missed if you maintained the balance.

A lot of horrible LF noises on film would have been revealed by strong subwoofer capabilities.

-Bink
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: TrevorMilburn on April 04, 2008, 11:17:02 am
This Vitavox cinema system from the UK (date unknown) has a claimed response to 35Hz - again, very doubtful for use as a sub. Note the enormous power handling of the bins - a whole 40 English Watts!!!
http://membres.lycos.fr/stephane3000/pdf/vitavox/vitavox_lf. pdf

regards,
Trevor
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Tim McCulloch on April 04, 2008, 01:58:32 pm
Hi Bink-

35mm film runs at 90 feet per minute, which works out to 18ips.  IIRC the width of the optical track and limitations of the phototube and film grain led to a bandwidth spec of about 80Hz-3k..  The variable density soundtrack was a hissy beast, even with a 3k top end.  I found a nitrate reel in storage at a theater I worked at while in highschool, and the head projectionist ran it for me...  Noisy as it could be, and I got a demonstration of nitrate's combustion.

Magnetic tracks arrived in 1953 (CinemaScope 4 track stereo) and extended the bandwidth to 50Hz on the low end and 6k on the top end IIRC...  

Magnetic heads wore quickly, and many smaller exhibitors went back to the variable area optical tracks rather than spend the money to relap or replace the mag heads.

Reproduction was also limited by the A-7s behind the screen and the 20-30 watt Altec tube amps that warmed the booth (along with the arc lamps).  I'd imagine that any contemporary low end would send the amps well into clipping and blown rectifier tubes and launch cones as the required LF drops below resonance.

Nowadays the digital tracks are optical, too.  Kids these days!  For a close up look click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:35mm_film_audio_macro.jpg

Audience expectations have changed, much has been done to meet those expectations with audio on silver-based imaging.

With the continual conversion to digital cinema, there are nagging questions about how to archive new digital content, and how to deal with "remastering" archived movies that are sitting down in a salt mine 40 miles from me...  Maybe silver ain't so bad after all?  Probably best left to a Basement discussion.

Thanks for the memory jog, Bink!

Tim Mc
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: John Roberts {JR} on April 04, 2008, 03:45:51 pm
Tim McCulloch wrote on Fri, 04 April 2008 12:58

Hi Bink-

35mm film runs at 90 feet per minute, which works out to 18ips.  IIRC the width of the optical track and limitations of the phototube and film grain led to a bandwidth spec of about 80Hz-3k..  The variable density soundtrack was a hissy beast, even with a 3k top end.  I found a nitrate reel in storage at a theater I worked at while in highschool, and the head projectionist ran it for me...  Noisy as it could be, and I got a demonstration of nitrate's combustion.

Magnetic tracks arrived in 1953 (CinemaScope 4 track stereo) and extended the bandwidth to 50Hz on the low end and 6k on the top end IIRC...  

Magnetic heads wore quickly, and many smaller exhibitors went back to the variable area optical tracks rather than spend the money to relap or replace the mag heads.

Reproduction was also limited by the A-7s behind the screen and the 20-30 watt Altec tube amps that warmed the booth (along with the arc lamps).  I'd imagine that any contemporary low end would send the amps well into clipping and blown rectifier tubes and launch cones as the required LF drops below resonance.

Nowadays the digital tracks are optical, too.  Kids these days!  For a close up look click here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:35mm_film_audio_macro.jpg

Audience expectations have changed, much has been done to meet those expectations with audio on silver-based imaging.

With the continual conversion to digital cinema, there are nagging questions about how to archive new digital content, and how to deal with "remastering" archived movies that are sitting down in a salt mine 40 miles from me...  Maybe silver ain't so bad after all?  Probably best left to a Basement discussion.

Thanks for the memory jog, Bink!

Tim Mc


I am almost tempted to slog through my father's old notebooks to see if I can glean any pertinent clues but that would take a few hours. He was the "machinery" guy at Vitaphone the early talking movie joint venture, and I recall seeing some short pieces of film in at least one of his notebooks when they were researching some aspect of the sound reproduction. I recall lots of work with wow and flutter, and mundane things we take for granted. (Note the film stuff was probably much later than the Vitaphone gig, they were still syncing to records IIRC.)

I find the now archaic SMPTE IMD test tones of 60 Hz and 7 kHz instructive. 7 kHz for them then may be like 20kHz for us now.  I suspect the 60 Hz was not as representative of bottom end response as related to mains power frequency (present in lamp light sources). Since I don't know when this IMD spec was dated it does not give me a temporal anchor. SMP(t)E has been around since 1915 or so, while the "t" was added later.

Optical tracks in theory should be capable of response down to DC, but surely didn't. Magnetic tape "could" have been a step backwards in LF response but apparently wasn't in practice. Back then, like now speakers were difficult to get loud, low, and large.

JR


Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Antone Atmarama Bajor on April 08, 2008, 01:17:22 am

    I inherited some old Kintek's from Skywalker Ranch.  (The Single 15" versions.  They had their own plate amp and some 4 Ohm RCF 15 200 AK's, apparently the Plate amps were not well matched and one of them had a persistent hum.

    If anyone wants the empty boxes with the Plate amps... they're up for grabs.
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Charlie Zureki on April 19, 2008, 09:15:36 pm
 University Sound manufactured what they called a Bass Horn dating back to the 1940's.

 EV manufactured a 30" driver for Sub/Low Frequencies, in the mid to late 70's , some were sold commercially but, the size of the cabinet housing recommended, made the driver impractical, larger than a refrigerator and few commercially available amps were powerful enough to drive it.

 ALtec Lansing made the models 200-210 vented bass horns early 1971 (painted mostly a beige color, some gray), some of these were huge also!

One of the most common Subwoofers in the seventies was the JBL Scoop. Invented by a Detroit Area Guy,who was/is an un-sung hero in the development of professional, high powered, sound systems,and supplied many theatres with his superb sound systems,one that I know of, still being used today.

Hammer
 
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Mark "Bass Pig" Weiss on April 30, 2008, 12:54:10 am
That 30" driver was actually 29-3/4", and sold by Electro-Voice in the latter half of the 1970s under the model designation "30W". It has a 2.5" voice coil, a 93dB max SPL at 4' with 100W of input, according to the E-V brochure that I have here..
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Art Welter on April 30, 2008, 02:26:51 am
Mark,

Please check out the brochure again, though I never have seen the actual specs I would think the 30W  could put out 113 or even 123 dB at 4 foot. With 100 watts and a refrigerator size cabinet, those units could certainly make way more noise than 93 dB max.

Cone sag was a problem for the 30W long term,  a lot of styrofoam hanging on a little voice coil in a narrow gap.

Interesting to look at older specifications, the 1987 EV brochure for the EVM-18B shows:
30 feet at .001 watt input: 51 dB
10 feet at 1 watt input: 91 dB
4 feet at 200 watt input: 122 dB

Takes some math to convert those figures to the 1 watt one meter standard!

Anyway, I have seen unintentional errors in EV brochures, but the 30W was basically an SRO with a humongous flapping cone, so I would expect it to be in the mid 90 dB range at one watt one meter like most of their cones. Someone on the  Lansing Heritage site posted a much higher figure than that, FWIW.

Have not heard any good things about the cone, other than it went damn low, but it was one of the few cones from that era that was able to get down to the low pipe organ notes with appreciable level and efficiency.
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Gene Hardage on June 05, 2008, 10:31:39 am
Not sure of the time line but let's not forget our good buddy Rick Ramsdell for his early efforts to bring the low notes forward with his 27" sub.   I think that was about 20 years ago maybe more.  In talking with him he mentioned that the only large woofers at that time were kinda weak - like the EV 30 thing that only handled about 100 watts.  He made that 27 to do some damage and it handled some serious watts.  One of his demos was to plug a zip cord into a wall outlet connected directly to the speaker and watch it dance at 60hz without blowing!   I wonder how many are still in use today?
Title: Re: Who made the first decent professional cinema subwoofer?
Post by: Dave Rickard on June 07, 2008, 11:53:46 pm
Art Welter wrote on Wed, 30 April 2008 00:26

Mark,

Please check out the brochure again, though I never have seen the actual specs I would think the 30W  could put out 113 or even 123 dB at 4 foot. With 100 watts and a refrigerator size cabinet, those units could certainly make way more noise than 93 dB max.

Cone sag was a problem for the 30W long term,  a lot of styrofoam hanging on a little voice coil in a narrow gap.

Interesting to look at older specifications, the 1987 EV brochure for the EVM-18B shows:
30 feet at .001 watt input: 51 dB
10 feet at 1 watt input: 91 dB
4 feet at 200 watt input: 122 dB

Takes some math to convert those figures to the 1 watt one meter standard!

Anyway, I have seen unintentional errors in EV brochures, but the 30W was basically an SRO with a humongous flapping cone, so I would expect it to be in the mid 90 dB range at one watt one meter like most of their cones. Someone on the  Lansing Heritage site posted a much higher figure than that, FWIW.

Have not heard any good things about the cone, other than it went damn low, but it was one of the few cones from that era that was able to get down to the low pipe organ notes with appreciable level and efficiency.


I just came across one of these EV styrofoam woofers mounted in a very large cabinet at a local church.  I'll see if I can get photos.