Altec Lansing Voice of the Theater Questions

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Parker Clack, Apr 13, 2002.

  1. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    Years ago I listened to a pair of VOTs that I helped a friend build out of a kit and I have never heard anything (to my ears) that has compared since.

    It has been a long time and I am not sure of the model numbers but I think they were a pair of A7s with the 511 or 512 Horn on top. You used to be able to buy them for the home too with the horn enclosed in its own box stacked on top of the woof in a folded cabinet. I am not sure what those were called either.

    At any rate I am interested in finding out more about these speakers and if they are still being made by Altec or anyone in new models. Does anyone know of anyone that makes them for people. What kind of price range are we talking about for one a new one of these now a days?

    Also, just out of curiosity I was wondering what you guys think of what a speaker set up that would have the 511 or similar horn in a MTM arrangement as a dipole. Or just have a dipole arrangement with just the horns.

    Wasn't part of the great performance of these speakers related to the crossover that was used?

    I know that they are big bulky speakers but god they sounded good and with their efficiency ratings very low power was needed to drive them.

    I am really curious about these speakers and what is available today.

    Parker
     
  2. Harold_C

    Harold_C Stunt Coordinator

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    Altec A7's are still probably the most widely used screen speakers in movie theaters.

    They are extremely efficient, but not really very good speakers otherwise. They will have poor high frequency response, relatively limited bass extension, and generally wouldn't make pariticularly good home theater speakers until you were trying to fill a barn.

    If you need extremely high efficiency because of an inordinately large room, some of the larger classic Klipsh designs would probably be a better choice than the A7.
     
  3. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    Thanks for the suggestion. Yeah, I remember looking behind the screen of the local movie theaters and seeing the VOTs lines up.

    I also building a Dynaco pre amp with a Heathkit poweramp and putting on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon using a Dual 1249 turntable and the sound that came out of those speakers was nothing short of amazing all the way from the highs to the lows.

    I would love to hear what they sound like using today's electronics.

    Parker
     
  4. Russell _T

    Russell _T Supporting Actor

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    When I was a kid, I had a Mac MC 1700 powering a pair of Altec VOT's and using a Dual 701 as the source. I don't remember the model of the VOT's, but they hammered everything else on the U of A campus at the time. They were big and boxy, but mine didn't have the separate box on top. I do remember those though. Altec seems to be primarily focusing on the multi media market these days.
     
  5. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Parker---The VOT was one of the finest sounding speakers ever made, one that's strengths far outweighed it's faults. IMO they are far superior to any Klipsches; much more natural in the midrange and smoother highs. One could talk for hours on the various versions of the speakers from their introduction in 1945 until when the "real" Altec company was killed by corporate shenanigans in 1999; there were literally dozens of professional and home versions of the VOTs though basically they fall into 2 groups: large format and small format. Large format used the 1.4" throat 288 driver and the model 515 15" woofer. Small format used the 1" throat 802 driver and the 416 15" woofer. But this only begins to scratch the surface. To discuss these speakers with avid and knowledgable Altec freaks go to the high efficiency forum at www.audioasylum.com Also look at these sites www.audioheritage.org www.voiceofthetheatre.com And look at my website, just click on the www icon over the post. There are still a great many people using VOTs and the components are sought by horn DIYers. Indeed the number of people using VOTs is growing as many audiophiles grow disgusted with the compressed, lifeless sound of most modern direct-radiating speakers. And they are also sought by those needing suitable speakers for use with low powered SET amplifiers.
     
  6. Harold_C

    Harold_C Stunt Coordinator

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  7. John Sully

    John Sully Stunt Coordinator

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    Ah yes. My loudest dorm room system was a pair of Celestion 3's powered with twin bridged Dynaco 410's. 600 watts a side and clean, clean, clean until the woofs would bottom.

    I had a friend who's father had a pair of VOT's powered by a Heath amp. They were really clean and could play really loud. The guy's father liked to listen to orchestral music at realistic levels and the VOT's really filled the bill with very low distortion and extremely loud SPL's. Great for rock when his folks weren't around.
     
  8. Geno

    Geno Supporting Actor

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    Vot's are about the clearest speakers out there. I listen to some connected thru a 35 watt amp and they could wake up the neighborhood. these puppies rock. If I had 6 I could setup an amazing HT!!!! but I guess that would leave no room in my apartment for a chair to sit in.LOL.
     
  9. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    Tom:

    What were the model numbers that Altec used for the VOTs in a box with the horn enclosed? They gave them a furniture finish with a grill. Thanks for the links. Looking over the pictures the speakers I remember listening to were the A7 500B.

    Personally give me the old grey box with that huge horn on top and I would be a happy camper. I agree that, to my ears, the VOTs always sounded better than my friend's Kornerhorns.

    What I remember about them most, except for their exceptional dynamics, was that you could drive these puppies with just about anything. They are so efficient that driving them with 10 pure watts RMS per channel would produce volumes loud enough to make you leave the room.

    Parker
     
  10. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Parker---Altec made many models with the VOT drivers in furniture cabinets---Iconic, Malibu, Carmel, Valencia, Flamenco, Barcelona and Model 19 come to mind. Speaking of horn dipoles as of your original post; a friend has a dipole rig using EV components on DIY tractrix horns. He used bass, midrange and tweeter horns facing opposite directions and wired out of phase. The rig is VERY bulky and very strange looking but it sounds good, real good, kinda like a Magneplanar but with big balls.
     
  11. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    Tom:

    I was just thinking that it would be really interesting to hear what a A7 with the horns in a diplole layout sounds like. I'll bet the sound would be unbelieveable.

    The Valencia is the one I remember seeing in my local HiFi store in the mid 70s. It was killer but the A7 500B was a better sounding setup. The horn used in in this setup was unreal.

    Parker
     
  12. Ron Shaw

    Ron Shaw Stunt Coordinator

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    The horn was the 511B, designed for a 500Hz crossover. I don't think I would want to use them in a dipole setup. Part of the advantages of a horn is the controlled dispersion pattern. You have less problems with your room screwing up the soundstage that way. They were very efficient (around 104db/w if I remember correctly). They were the smallest of the VOT line, designed for smaller venues. Some were fitted with the 811B horn (800Hz crossover), but the 500 Hz versions were considered the best design (crossing over at 500Hz for a 2 way evenly split the spectrum. 5 octaves each to the bass/treble drivers). They were not perfect (for home use), because of the way they were designed. The hi end was designed to roll off above 8kHz to minimize noise from the optical soundtrack (8kHz was the upper limit for the optical tracks in those days), and the bass unit, using a short horn, began to roll off below 100Hz, using a reflex port to augment the output. This was fine in the theater, where room reverberation and gain allowed useful response to about 40Hz, but in a domestic environment, you don't have a big enough room to get that benefit. For home use, you would want to add a HF unit to extend response above 8k, or equalize the system. Adding a sub would help the low end, however, it would need to be a large sub (around 12 ft3 or more) if you want to utilize a high efficiency driver, and take full advantage of a high efficiency system). After these tweeks, using the smallest of the VOT systems at home would make an extremely satisfying system, and guaranteed to break your lease. All you would need is a good 5 watt amp. The DIY class A ZEN amp from the Nelson Pass site would sound great. As far as comparing it to the Klipsch offerings, the Altec drivers were far better in quality and performance. Not to berate the Klipsch designs. (The designs were very good. The drivers were usually not top shelf). I could go on and on about the advantages of high efficiency speakers. In my opinion, that is the only way to approach realism, if that is your goal. Regardless of the qualities some of the expensive exotic loudspeakers have, such as smoothness, imaging, etc., without high efficiency, they will fail in the quest for realism.
     
  13. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Ron---Nice post. IME with VOTs the collapsing directivity in the vertical plane of the 511B horn with 806 or 902 drivers gives a fairly extended high-end on axis; with my Edgar saladbowls, with collapsing directivity both horizontally and vertically, I get flat response out to 16khz, the highest reading on my RTA. Of course this narrowing directivity is, in effect, a form of EQ. Though I have JBL 076 "catseye" tweeters handy I prefer the sound tweeterless though I admit the very top is a little "soft". My A5 cabinets start going south right at 100hz, I use 2 JBL 4648 theater bassbins to augment the Altecs below 100hz. That gives me 4-15s and 106db efficiency below 100, a good match for the dynamics and low distortion of the A5s.
     
  14. John A. Casler

    John A. Casler Second Unit

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    Yeah Parker you are bringing back memories. I had either the Valencias or Santiagos, in the front, powered by a Phase Linear 400 (200 watt per channel) and Bose 901s in the back (I always went 4 speakers)

    I remember lighting the system up one night (and maybe something else) and playing ELP "Lucky Man". At the end of Lucky Man there is a subsonic synthesizer sweep. I don't think most have ever felt this (cause you don't hear it you feel it) and I haven't been able to reproduce it.

    Maybe it is "rolled off" of the later recordings, but I had the Dual 1219 running through a Pioneer Quadraphonic set I beleive. The turntable was in a seperate room or else it never would have happened.

    The halcyon days of Hi Fi.

    John Casler
     
  15. jeff morris

    jeff morris Agent

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    I had a college buddy who had a set of UREI studio monitors. They had 604-8G drivers with an additional 15" LF driver and were in 12cu/ft cabinets. He had a pair of Crown DC150's strapped for mono each and the end of the drum solo from ELP's "Tank" would push you off his couch. Also, Janis never sounded finer this setup, you'd swear she was in the room!!
     
  16. Parker Clack

    Parker Clack Schizophrenic Man
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    John:

    Oh....I remember that sweep. I am sitting here getting goose bumps just thinking about it. Keith Emerson....shit he is a fine keyboard player. For me it was hearing coke being snorted on "Money" instead of it sounding like someone dragging something across the floor.

    All:

    Here is what my friend that owned them sent me back:

    "I had not thought about those speakers in many years. The woofers used in those cabinets were Altec 816b. The horn drivers were the symbiotic diaphragm's. These had response out to 20k but only handled about 30w rms. They also made a phenolic diaphragm that handled more power but response only

    went out to 12k. The crossovers I had were at 800hz....."

    I still remembering setting there on the couch about 6 feet away from them at 10 watts per channel. The hair on the back of my neck stood straight out. I have been trying for that same feeling ever since.

    Parker
     
  17. Tom Brennan

    Tom Brennan Screenwriter

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    Parker----Well just get yourself a set. :) Used Altecs are readily available. For $1000 or so you can get some real nice Altecs, a bargain, I mean people spend that for chinless speakers with 6" plastic woofers and cheap tragic domes. And if so inclined with VOTs you can get into that loony SET trip or vintage tube amps. In my "small" rig upstairs I use Altec 605A DuPlexes driven by an early 1960s Fisher SA-100 15wpc tube poweramp; CD player direct into the amp. The speakers were $350 at a garage sale and the amp was $275 at the swap tables at the recent Midwest HornFest. I'll put the rig up against almost anything at any price.
     
  18. Ron Shaw

    Ron Shaw Stunt Coordinator

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    The symbiotic diaphragm was just Altecs name for the alloy used to make them (all metal diaphragms were made of this material), although the surround material varied. All of the 800 and 900 series drivers were rated at 30W. These were accurate ratings. It used to be manufacturers would use 'continuous sine wave' ratings for power handling, and this is the ratings Altec used. This rating, again, was a continuous rating, and allows for dynamic peaks of (usually) 10db, which is 10 times the power for brief periods. Today manufacturers use this peak rating to rate their products. I think we should go back to using those sine wave ratings, as that tells you the actual dissipation rating of the motor system. If what I read from a lot of posts here, power specs for loudspeakers cause a lot of confusion, and rightly so. People wonder why their 200w speakers die when the amp they are using only puts out 100w.[​IMG]
     

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