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Thread: Old Shearer Horn, Altec, VOTT Found, And Question

  1. #1
    Member Flamingo's Avatar
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    Old Shearer Horn, Altec, VOTT Found, And Question

    I am new to the forum, but have lurked on and off over the years. My company is finally updating a sound system (a ten-year process!) in a 1941 Navy base gym. One of the requirements is to remove the old sound systems, which was as far as we were told was a basic Soundsphere-TOA affair.

    In the process of establishing conduit routes a few years ago, I see the first picture attached (could not get directly to it, just on a ladder from about 10' away). I thought, "cool, we'll have to check that out if we ever get this contract."

    Long story short, we started work last week, and finally got into that loft. Sitting there for who knows how long are one of the single Shearer Horn modules (A4), its two old 415 bass drivers, a 288-8G HF driver on I think a 45x60 horn, a single A8 and a singe 816A. No multi-cell horns though...

    We will fulfill our contract obligations and remove these old sound system parts as well I'll make sure these items get to good homes who can restore them properly, put correct cones on the field effect drivers, etc. The only thing I'm not sure about is the actual plywood horn - is that worth getting out of there for someone to work with? For sure I'd want to get the dividing network and schematics, but the logistics of getting the big horn down are significant.

    To see this stuff in the wild, some with 80 years of dust on them but still surprisingly intact blows my mind. Reading up on the history of these again makes me realize just how we stand on the shoulders of giants, Hilliard and Olsen in this case.

    We're installing Danley GH60 and TH212 with SM60F for center and sidefill. I feel like we're maintaining a respectful legacy by installing the current generation of horn-loaded goodness, but I can't help but wonder what it was like for the sailors and shipyard workers to come into that big gym to watch Casablanca or Bambi, or The Flying Tigers on the big screen and big speakers!
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    More A4 Pictures

    Her's the main question - is there anyone in the Puget Sound region who would want this A4 for the cost of what it will cost me to get it out in one piece?

    Of course if anyone is interested in the other items, I'll be selling them. I couldn't ascertain from my first read of forum rules what the appropriate place is for that, so I apologize if I'm out of turn here.

    I am just in awe of seeing a real Shearer bass horn in person, and how the high sensitivity of the system with efficient amplifiers could actually fill up the 2500-seat gym and its balcony!
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    Senior Member 4345's Avatar
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    I think so

    Do I see a paper label on the wood cabinet? If so, that would make it absolutely a factory made cabinet. That is not a A4 211 enclosure, which is fairly common. That is an older folded horn enclosure. I think one like that is much rarer and would definitely be worth the effort. PLEASE try to save it. I am sure you can sell it. Maybe some other members know more than I.

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    Member Flamingo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4345 View Post
    Do I see a paper label on the wood cabinet? If so, that would make it absolutely a factory made cabinet. That is not a A4 211 enclosure, which is fairly common. That is an older folded horn enclosure. I think one like that is much rarer and would definitely be worth the effort. PLEASE try to save it. I am sure you can sell it. Maybe some other members know more than I.
    Thanks for the reply 4345! Yes, those are actual little blueprint papers on the back inside of the folded horn. The model number on those says 30W5, and I believe it is one of the bass horns shown in this picture. I have the rear cover with the elongated slots in it, as well. I don't see any of the baffle wings, but the pedestal to get the horn to the height of the opening is sitting upside-down on top of it in one of the pictures in my first post.
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    Calling Steve Schell ( one of the originators of this site ).

    Great stuff there !!!

    The woofers will easily sell ( highest $$$ most likely from the Asians ).

    Thanks for the pics ( BTW ).


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    Senior Member 4345's Avatar
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    I hope you can sell it to someone from the forum. I wish I had the space. I am not sure if both cones on the 415 woofers are bad. I would not rip out the cones. Just preserve them as best you can exactly as you found them and do let any surface (like the metal of the magnet area) get scratched or scraped. Do not have them re-coned or attempt a repair at all. Let the buyer do that. Since they are field coil drivers you need a power supply for them. If you see that, it is important to keep it together. The wiring looks really nice. You should preserve all the pieces associated with the cabinet exactly as it was. Do not just cut wires and trash them etc. Those things are important to collectors. I would also try to sell the woofers with the cabinet. At least keep them together at first. I think it is nice to have the original woofers that came in that exact cabinet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Earl K View Post
    Calling Steve Schell ( one of the originators of this site ).

    Great stuff there !!!

    The woofers will easily sell ( highest $$$ most likely from the Asians ).

    Thanks for the pics ( BTW ).

    Thanks for the pointer to Mr. Schell, hopefully he can chime in with some regional contacts who would be interested in the components or better yet restoring the system.

    Does tagging work in the threads, hopefully this gives Steve Schell a direct notification
    Steve Schell

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4345 View Post
    I hope you can sell it to someone from the forum. I wish I had the space. I am not sure if both cones on the 415 woofers are bad. I would not rip out the cones. Just preserve them as best you can exactly as you found them and do let any surface (like the metal of the magnet area) get scratched or scraped. Do not have them re-coned or attempt a repair at all. Let the buyer do that. Since they are field coil drivers you need a power supply for them. If you see that, it is important to keep it together. The wiring looks really nice. You should preserve all the pieces associated with the cabinet exactly as it was. Do not just cut wires and trash them etc. Those things are important to collectors. I would also try to sell the woofers with the cabinet. At least keep them together at first. I think it is nice to have the original woofers that came in that exact cabinet.
    Thank you for the reply and the confirmation of my gut instincts, 4345! I agree wholeheartedly it should be preserved intact, but I may even have to take parts of it off to keep them from being damaged during the removal process. If I have to do that, there will be copious pictures taken, and all original screws and nails kept. The plywood is in reasonably good shape, I've seen touring road speakers in much worse!

    Both 415s are torn, but they are otherwise intact. I know enough about reconing to know these are not a typical size, and I would want them to be done by someone with specific experience with this vintage of Altec.

    I'm guessing like most on this forum, I've been fascinated with audio for a long time. I've had more than a few chances to hear the unique sounds of well-restored vintage equipment - that is, put into as close to original condition as possible, without trying to "improve" it - but rather to let it speak accurately for its place in audio history.

    How many of us have heard one of these horns in action? I know I want to! I feel I have something of an obligation to help make that happen somehow, but I'm not in a position to do it myself at this time.

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    Update And More Pictures

    Thought I'd give everyone an update. Over the last couple of months, I've been doing a ton of research on the field coil approach and the specific 415 drivers and 30W5 cabinet. All of that only made me want to get this thing out of the loft even more!

    We had tried to manipulate the horn by hand into the specific orientation to get it out the hole, but it was just heavy enough and awkward enough to not be safe. So I went ahead and brought in one of our baby 1/4-ton chain motors, rigged it from the steel structure overhead in the stage house (it was about 55' up, not the 40' we thought earlier), and connected it to a long spanset we wrapped through a 15" hole and around the horn. We figured there was a possibility of the cabinet not being strong enough for that, and it might pull apart, but we also figured this approach was the last best option to saving this cabinet from the dust of obscurity. So, worth a shot.

    It pulled up and away just like we'd hoped, and the horn section in the cabinet didn't even flex! These were well made! We now have it out on a motor case ready to bring back to our shop in the truck (wouldn't fit in the utility van) later this week.

    Here are some more pictures. First, the schematics inside the rear of the cabinet. I took them out (along with the junction box and cabling) to prevent them from possibly being damaged in the lift.
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    Pictures of the 30W5 getting out and on the ground:
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    So now we have the cabinet, two 415 drivers, and the 220V cabling / low voltage signal cabling coming out of the junction box. that was attached. It looks like the 220V supply was cut off inside the box (I'll post a couple of pictures of that later) when it was taken out of service.

    The three 220V twistlock connectors are there, as well as the three low-voltage signal pairs. No horn or 287 driver, or any mounting hardware for that to be seen. This was definitely mounted horizontally on top of the stick frame base in the first set of pictures - there was a slight curve cut out of the "bottom" side (the open "right" side in the new picture) where the staff had set up a hinged rail assembly to protect people from falling out of the speaker loft, but still give them access when needed. Halves of that are still attached to the wall and the stick frame base, but it's interesting how they just used the mass of the speaker as part of the guardrail system

    Now that the parts are all out of the loft, is there anyone interested or can point me to anyone who would be able to restore this as a unit again? I noticed Mr. Schell hasn't posted since almost a year ago - I hope he is well, because I've come to really appreciate his posts in this and other forums during my research.

    Any insight at all as to what should be done with this wonderful piece of history is welcomed!

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    Senior Member 4345's Avatar
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    Repair

    I think it would depend on what you plan to do with it. If you plan to keep it for a long time and have a place ready for it, then it might be worth getting the woofers repaired. If you want to sell it, I would sell it as is. If you want to just try it out, you might look for a pair of later model permanent magnet models that would work well in the cabinet. I think either a 515b or 416A. However, ask other members to be sure which is best. You also want to make sure the screw holes are in the exact same location.

    Fixing the 415 woofers is delicate I am sure. I think Bill at Great Plains Audio might have similar but not exact parts. Exact would only be the original cones from 1941. Keep in mind, a purest might not want them repaired at all. Always best to leave it to the buyer. I think trying to fix them in any way would be a mistake if you want to sell it. I think the real value is in the historical nature of the item. It is huge and will not compare to todays speakers. You will also need to power the woofers. I hope others can chime in.

    I would love them along with most other old Altec/JBL speakers. However, I already a have bunch of extra speakers I just look at.
    Last edited by 4345; 01-23-2020 at 01:51 PM. Reason: spellin

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    Update 03-31-2020

    I've been meaning to do this for a while, but haven't had time until now, since my business is shut down for the foreseeable future

    Thanks for your advice earlier,4345 and your idea about substituting the 415s for something permanent-magnet based. I have to admit the process of learning about it and its history has made me go down the rabbit hole a little. Okay, a lot.

    1. Restoring this as an original field coil system was more than I had money / time to collect everything for;
    2. But to still hear the horn in something similar to what it originally sounded like was something I really, really wanted to do.

    With that in mind, I've been able to sell the two 415s and wiring box to a fellow AH member, script56, who is working on his own field coil project. We had several good chats about the technology, and in the process of answering his good questions helped give me direction for next steps. With his permission, I'm posting more pictures of the 415s posterity.

    3. The A8 cleaned up very nicely, and sounded great. It was barely used, if at all, before it was stored It went to an old-school analog recording studio in the Everett area (Soundview Analog Recorders). He had one already, needed another for his studio playback monitors. He already has a nice pair 612 (with real 604 in them) for actual control room monitors, so it was the perfect home! https://www.instagram.com/p/B7Pu-_iprpQ/. I'll post some pictures of the inside of that one, too.

    4. I was able to reassemble the 816A bass cabinet and MR64 horn and put an OEM Altec-Lansing binding post on the 288H-8 driver. Unfortunately this didn't make noise, so I investigated further, and whenever the original binding post got smashed, part of it pressed a hole in the diaphragm and separated the voice coil wire from it Just to try and get it all working, I replaced the diaphragm with a Simply Speakers replacement. Seems to be okay, after aligning it (it was rubbing a bit on the first installation, so I took the driver off and used the low-volume/low-frequency sweep method to get it aligned without rubbing). Using the N8500-8 network in the 816A, I just hooked up the 288 from the HF output posts on the back of the 816A. The MR64 horn's mounting holes lined up with T-nuts installed in the front-top of the 816A, so that assembled up like it was originally installed in the old gym. I've been listening to it in the shop a lot as I've been working on other things. Definitely a "horn" sound, and there doesn't seem to be much above 6KHz? Not sure if that's the driver, the horn, or the N8500. I'll have to run some tests on it during my COVID-19 vacay.

    5. 4345 - After researching, I found the 515B was the definitely preferred driver for horn-loaded boxes like the 30W5. I found a probably mid-1950s AlNiCo pair on eBay from a gentleman who had GPA recone and re-gauss them for a project he never completed. He gave me a good deal on essentially brand-new drivers in a close vintage that would give me a representative sound.

    6. I found locally (Seattle area) an H515 tar-filled horn, from the same vintage (1939 - 1943) as the 30W5 bass horn. It came with a brass 30172 dual-throat adaptor for 288 drivers. I plan to put a plank-foam plug in half of it, and use the 288G-8 driver from the MR-64 setup to test it.

    7. I already have some really nice QSC, EV and Ashly solid state amps, 96KHz DSPs (I personally have a strong dislike for the Behringer/dbx Driverack level of gear), so I can make decent noise. Not tube noise. Not original noise. But close, and with the ability to hear the the system's horn-loaded design in a similar fashion to how it would have sounded almost 80 years ago.

    Pictures to follow!

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    A8 Pictures

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    I thought it was interesting there were QC marks and touch-up paint at this corner. A piece of wood look like it had chipped away before it left the factory. The scuffs and dings from sitting in a loft for 40 years were much worse, lol.
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    816A / 288H-8 Pictures

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