View Full Version : Interesting W.E. 555W auction

Steve Schell
11-29-2006, 10:35 AM
This ebay auction is for a pair of very early Western Electric 555W drivers in good shape. They may even be NOS. Only the earliest ones have the mesh covering over the rear opening; later ones have a solid plate.

It will be fun to see where this one ends. Price is already up to $5,750, with 14 hours to go.


11-29-2006, 11:48 AM
Next thing you know, old theaters will be broken into. Think of all the small town Main Street Monoplexes that exist across the country...

Steve Schell
11-30-2006, 08:56 AM
The winning bid was $9,313.09, the highest I've seen for a pair of 555s.

11-30-2006, 09:51 AM
Unreal. I hope the buyer follows through. I've noticed a lot of relisted big-ticket items lately.

11-30-2006, 09:57 AM
Wow! Wow on the items and wow on the price.

Steve Schell
11-30-2006, 10:18 AM
The bidder (in Japan) looks solid, and has come through on some big ticket items. He will have some mighty nice 555Ws to add to his collection.

Mr. Widget
11-30-2006, 12:43 PM
The bidder (in Japan) looks solid, and has come through on some big ticket items. He will have some mighty nice 555Ws to add to his collection.Looks like he REALLY wanted them. He bid three higher amounts after being the high bidder at over $9K. I bet he bid up to $15K.

...and looking at Don's photos of some of those vintage collections in Japan... it's no wonder they have excellent collections, they're willing and able to pay for them.


Mr. Widget
11-30-2006, 12:46 PM
I thought I'd put in a couple of the images from the auction...

11-30-2006, 12:50 PM
I wish I could find those all day long and then I would never have to work again in my life!


Yeah, wonder if any small town theatres are being robbed. ;)

12-23-2006, 08:33 AM
Do these actually sound amazing or is it just purely vintage hysteria? Are they made of gold? I just dont get it...

Steve Schell
12-23-2006, 09:18 AM
Spwal, I have heard 555s sound everywhere from pretty good to magically delicious. They use a field coil, and have the very transient and detailed yet relaxed sound typical of the breed. Their diaphragm's suspension is highly compliant, so they can be run lower on the right horn without sounding hooty or resonant like many other compression drivers. They are limited on top due to the rudimentary phasing plug, rolling off badly by 7kHz. or so. Their main reputation is as a supreme midrange driver, and they succeed quite well at this.

12-23-2006, 09:20 AM
But Steve -

Is that really worth the price that some of these NUTS are paying?

Just wondering.


Happy Holidays!


Steve Schell
12-23-2006, 09:50 AM
Storm, I guess the best answer is that, to the new owners at least, they are worth the prices being paid. I don't think they are nuts, as they are buying pieces of high-functioning industrial art, which are finally becoming quite rare after nearly 80 years of service life. The original W.E. pieces are also cherished status symbols in Japan, and have historically been very good investments. To me this makes better sense than paying extravagant sums for, say, faceted chunks of compressed carbon, though I suppose I am in the minority opinion on this. It makes me feel really good to know that some remaining examples of our audio heritage are being revered, collected, and USED by appreciative owners; this secures the survival of this equipment.

12-23-2006, 09:38 PM
And just how do we know which theatres might still have these?

12-23-2006, 10:51 PM
Try this site;
http/ does/your/local/theater/have/any/vintage/audio/gear/I/can/steal/and/get/rich/on/eBay?.con

Surprisingly enough, the unwitting actually answer such questions when they arise without giving a second thought to the motive or the results of their "helpfulness". Then they bitch when all the high $ antiques go to Japan....:dont-know

I know of a few intact installations, but if you think I'm gonna tell anyone the details you should reconsider. Personally, I'd rather see them put back into service for the good of the many. Alternatively, I'd rather see the gear turn to dust and rot away in a rat-infested old building than to score some mad money by selling it to some rich snob for his vanity toybox.

Steve Schell
12-27-2006, 06:51 PM
Oh I dunno moldyoldy, it is mainly those rich guys who have saved the small percentage of classic theatre gear that has managed to escape the landfill. I'm talking about the 1920s-1940s field coil stuff, mostly.

The ironic thing is that it was during the hi fi boom of the late '40s to mid '60s that most of the really great old equipment, the stuff that brings huge prices now, was thrown away. Many of these drivers and horns were superior sonically to most of what was being sold new, but it was a very well kept secret. I don't ever recall reading the slightest suggestion in the literature that a dedicated hobbyist might try using surplus theatre gear. The only instance I can recall was a construction article from 1950, where the author mentioned that the field coil from a W.E. 555 could be scavenged to wind crossover inductors!

I don't resent the overseas hobbyists and collectors that have the wisdom to appreciate the best U.S. made gear. It is just simple economics that most of the surviving pieces end up where the highest prices are paid. I am disappointed and perplexed though that the equipment has been so underappreciated in its homeland.