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Clearly PWK foresaw the adoption of stereo?


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EDIT: 6/22/09 @ 10:23 AM EDT

The subject of the thread has been changed. Now the question becomes when and how PWK's 3 channel model was promoted and received.

EDIT: 6/21/09 @ 2:13 EDT - The Forum seems to dislike pasting in text from a document created in MS Word. The gibberish above is the result.

A thread in the Garage Sale
forum: '54 & '56 Khorns $1,550 in
Detroit, spawned a digression regarding the extent--if
any--to which PWK foresaw stereo when he built the first Khorn in 1948. That discussion seems more suited to
2-Channel so I've moved it here.

Regarding the extent to which PWK might have
anticipated and then ultimately embraced stereo, I feel that High fidelity was
always paramount to him. There are two aspects of this analysis that are
brought to mind, especially today, Father's Day.

First, I can hear my late father telling me
that a good monaural hi-fi (which he owned) was better than a bad stereo.
I suspect PWK initially felt the same, although he had an economic interest in
embracing 2-channel, the accurate reproduction of live music seemed to be his
unwavering focus.

Second, in 1967, as a freshman at Michigan State University, I first heard a Zenith "Circle of Sound"
stereo. To me, it proved my father's mantra to be wrong. That
crappy stereo sounded better than my father's hi-fi. To some extent, the
same phenomenon takes place today when comparing 2-channel to
multi-channel. To many peoples' ears, a mediocre home theater in a box
from Wal-Mart sounds better than an excellent 2-channel system, especially when
watching explosion films.

If the goal is to recreate a live music
performance, then an excellent multi-channel system will often outperform an
excellent 2-channel sytem. PWK liked opera (hence naming La Scala after the
world famous opera house) and symphonic music. While an excellent
2-channel system can recreate the intimacy of a small jazz club, it cannot
recreate, as well, the size and ambience of a large concert hall.

An argument can be made that it depends on
the source material. Several Forum members have expressed a preference
for mono when playing vintage recordings that pre-date stereo. If the
original recording was well produced and recorded in mono, playing it through
2, or more, channels is unlikely to enhance the listening experience. The
same would apply to an excellent 2-channel recording played through a
multi-channel system. I'm reminded of efforts to "colorize' classic
black & white films. To me, it was a step backward.

On the other hand, do I want to watch Dark
in black & white on a CRT with mono or 2-channel sound?
What do you think?

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When did PWK first try to play back 2-channel recorded music? He probably had access to multi-channel reel to reel before commercially reproduced stero LPs or R2R tapes were generally available.

From a marketing perspective, the sooner 2-channel was accepted by
consumers, the sooner Klipsch had the potential to sell twice as many
speakers to each hi-fi enthusiast.

It's clear that he was a leader--without many followers--of the 3-channel system. His motivation seems to have been the quest for accurate reproduction of music, rather than a marketing ploy to sell center channel speakers

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He publicized his 3-channel system at the 1958 World Fair in Brussels, where the Heresy was introduced (see under 1950s): http://www.klipsch.com/na-en/news/features/celebrating-60-legendary-years-details/. This was prominent in Klipsch advertising materials at the time.

PWK summarized the 3-channel system in a 1960 article summarized here: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/Xplore/login.jsp?url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore.ieee.org%2Fiel6%2F8335%2F26282%2F01166249.pdf%3Farnumber%3D1166249&authDecision=-203.

It looks like he participated in the adoption, in a way that served his musical and business interests.

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It seems to me he must have been very much on top of the situation.

As mentioned by others, multichannel had been used by the Bell Labs system. You can check the web but the movie Fantasia had a a multichannel set-up in major cities and a traveling system. Five or more channels were put down on a film type system which was synced to the movie. That was about 1940.

The issue was probably just when there would be a consumer system of recording. The first phonograph record was in 1958, per Wikipedia. The system was patented in 1931 by Blumlein. It is interesting that PWK had his three-channel demo at the World's Fair that same year. If there is two-channel, he knew derived three-channel would be better. We should check dates about when PWK first had access to a multichannel tape machine.

I can only think that the consumer industry knew there would be some trickle down from the audiophile level to the masses, but how quickly?

The audiophile's must have winced a bit at the notion that now you need yet another expensive amp and speaker. There may have been something else going on which helped. In the '60's the consumer industry was making television sets which, naturally, were very sophisticated by the standards which went before. The ability to manufacture such things and demand for TVs must have supported the "stereo" industry in a way. Two channel amps and receivers became similar commodities.

Let me throw in a personal story. In the late '60s my parents bought a a GE console which had FM multiplex, removable speakers, and a stereo record changer. An honorary Uncle visited. Apparently he had an audiophile-like set up from years earlier in which an FM multiplex decoder was an option he had not purchased. He said the listening experience made him want to buy the outboard decoder. The honorary Aunt did not state full approval. It just shows that consumer products eclipsed audiophile.products in a short time.

In another five years it was difficult to find mono equipment. Transistors had taken over too. Eight-tracks in cars were being displaced by cassettes.

In conclusion, it seems that no one could foresee the exact path that would be followed.

Wm McD

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The vast majority of the RCA "Living Stereo" classical albums were three channel recordings from the 1950s on. Klipsch only built on the Bell three channel setup. so there were any number of folks in the industry who were clamoring for such. Shoot my Fisher and Scott amps/receivers from back in the day almost all have summed third channels, so it wasn't exactly an unknown commodity.

The big consumer obstacle was cost. When you could buy a car for $600, a top flight stereo would set you back even more. Klipsch actually had a huge marketing advantage - his speakers could be driven with any amp - while the highly inefficient air suspension speakers of the day needed some serious watts.

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Hunter would be the one to ask.

Klipsch has some of PWKs recordings on reel to reel. It would be cool to hear those. Here is an Ampex in the Klipsch Audio History Museum. Nice gear.


I wish I were in Hope right now on Pilgrimage with everyone...(there's not one going right now, I'm wishing for y'all, too)

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Gil said, " It just shows that consumer products eclipsed audiophile.products in a short time."

I agree. That was my experience when the stereo produced by that cheesy Zenith Circle of Sound eclipsed my dad's high end mono system. It's also the phenomenon that let's pedestrian HT in a box systems displace SOTA 2-channel systems for HT playback.

The commercial market for large footprint speakers, such as Khorns, Jubilee , etc., which don't attempt to ignore the laws of physics to reproduce low notes, seems to be insufficent to make them economically viable products for a large company. That will leave it to the DIY crowd and boutique fabricators to produce alternatives to the Bose cubes and the like.

The whole 2-channel concept is being pushed aside by HT.

Edited by DizRotus
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