Western Electric

Discussion in 'Tube Audio' started by naturallmyst, May 29, 2018.

  1. naturallmyst

    naturallmyst AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Recently I had the pleasure to visit Western Electric in Rossville Georgia. Visiting manufacturers is something I enjoy and have used those visits in the past to get a better feel for companies I may want to invest in. This time the visit was for pure pleasure as I am a great fan of the 300B tube. Western Electric has played a very important part in the history of audio reproduction, I expect anyone sincerely interested in the vacuum tube would find that history interesting. More on that in another post.

    My visit began a few weeks before with a cold call to the main WE phone number. A pleasant receptionist connected me with Tim Walsh, Western Electric’s Chief Technology Officer. On that initial phone call Tim filled me in a bit on what is happening at Western Electric and welcomed my request for a visit.

    Once I arrived at Western Electric, easy to find as it is the largest building in Rossville, Tim met me at the door. We then headed upstairs to meet Charles Whitener, CEO. A quick signing of a NDA and the fun began. I have worked with corporate leaders, CEOs, CFOs, CTOs, CAOs, etc most of my professional career and one observation I have made during that time is that the leadership influences the entire corporate structure. Seems obvious but it is a lesson that still needs to be learned by many a board of directors. In the case of WE this corporation is in very good hands. The years of technological experience, hands on design experience, troubleshooting, and management in this industry would be hard to find in most companies, that, combined with simply being a bunch of really great people sets the tone for this organization.

    We began my little visit with Charles showing off some Western Electric historical items which included, tubes, Western Electric microphones, literature, original WE amplifiers, original vellum drawings of WE tubes, and numerous other items. Had I thought ahead I would have made a list! Fortunately there is some thought being given to a future WE Museum. It would be well worth a visit should that happen!

    An important part of Western Electric’s business is military sales. I did get to see some of the tubes and testing equipment that WE builds for the military, but you guessed it right, I can’t write about that.

    Tim and Charles then showed me some remarkable speaker technology WE is developing. I can safely say the world has never seen anything like it. A truly unique approach to driver technology. Again that is as much as I can say at this time.

    We next went to the WE listening room and lab where I got to hear the latest WE 300b integrated amplifier, the 91E. It was definitely a prototype but I have to say an amazing sounding one. I currently own an Audio Nirvana 300B amplifier with KR Audio 300B balloon tubes, Northern Electric 6SL7 and 6SN7 driving Crites Cornscala Speakers, this combination still impresses me at each listening. Though I doubt I would get rid of my current set up, after hearing the the WE 91E prototype I’ve already started to budget for a future purchase. Oh what an amplifier!

    WE has partnered with Gauder Akustik of Germany which makes the Berlina ceramic and diamond speaker systems. They are remarkable speakers driven by an amplifier, I can’t recall the manufacturer, it wasn’t a WE, but the system was a delight for the ears. The Berlina rc11, at a meer $264,000 retail, provide crystal clear highs, in front of your face mids, room filling precise lows, when my eyes were closed i felt teleported to the venue of the original recording.

    At this point in the visit my head was already swimming with all that I had seen and heard, mercifully it was time for break. I was treated to a good southern blue plate diner luncheon before we finished up for the day.

    Post luncheon our merry group went to visit the future “Rossville Works” production facility which is just a short drive from the corporate offices. Currently Charles is loading trucks at the WE Dalton warehouse as we speak. The empty room will start filling up this week! Though still a long way from a working factory it was great for me to see the before, can’t wait to see the after. I was delighted to find that WE chose to gut and repurpose an existing building which has been reengineered for and cleaned to clean room standards. There was a rather gigantic water deionization plant in place and an AC/air scrubber system, but that was all to see other than space, lots and lots of space. Once we had a good look see of the future production plant we went back to the office to wind down the visit.

    My overall impressions can be stated simply. This is a quality group of people, with many years of technological experience in this field, building quality, zero compromise products, who give a enough of a damn about their reputation to earn it and their end users loyalty. Not once during my visit did I feel I was being ‘sold’, rather, I felt these folks were proud of their work and enjoyed showing it off to someone that had a genuine interest.

    To be clear, I am not an employee nor investor in WE. Nor have I been given any products or remuneration. Until this visit I had only seen the announcement emails from WE I had signed up for and had not met nor spoken to anyone there. I’m simply sharing my visit. I’ll be going back in the fall for another visit. I’ll take notes then so I can provide more detail.

    Since you have made it to the end of this little narrative you deserve a reward! This is a link to the WE knowledge base:

    Western Electric - Technical Support and Knowledge Base

    For those as interested in WE history itself this link will take you to some corporate history information:

    Western Electric - Corporate History

    You could spend a lifetime reading what is in these links. It was no small effort to gather, digitize, and organize this information and hopefully you will find it as fascinating as I am.



    Lastly many thanks to Tim Walsh, Charles Whitener, EJ Christensen, Andy, and Cobi Boykin of Western Electric
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2018
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  2. radioactive

    radioactive tube gear fanatic Subscriber

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    Thanks for sharing.
     
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  3. soundmotor

    soundmotor super modified Subscriber

    Whew, I was becoming alarmed.
     
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  4. naturallmyst

    naturallmyst AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Yes, I did recognize that my enthusiasm might seem that way.
     
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  5. AudioHertz

    AudioHertz Can You Hear That? Subscriber

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    Very informative. Thank you!
     
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  6. naturallmyst

    naturallmyst AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    5746AA67-5546-41F2-BF8D-B07557547185.jpeg 7E75059E-9C00-4A07-B752-89FC021D8F19.jpeg FF2D442C-9A7F-4319-BF36-5A63E576E95B.jpeg I received an email update from the folks at Western Electric. Those who are subscribed to the Western Electric email list will be getting an update soon, which should have some in-progress videos. It would be exciting to see the process of setting up the factory floor as I really enjoy that sort of thing, but I’ll just have to be patient until the next visit in the fall.
     
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  7. TENER

    TENER Active Member

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    Did you see any 205D's? Thanks for sharing.
     
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  8. naturallmyst

    naturallmyst AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Location:
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    Hi Tener, I don’t recall seeing the 205D, but that doesn’t mean a thing. In Western Electrics support information I Found this: http://www.westernelectric.com/static/library/specifications/tubes/205D.pdf The PDF is too large to upload. That looks like a pretty sweet tube. I do believe that they will be making other tubes besides the 300B but I can’t recall which ones at this point. When I visit again in the fall I’ll do a better job of paying attention and will take some notes to aid my memory. Are you using the 205D in an amplifier currently?
     
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  9. TENER

    TENER Active Member

    Messages:
    201
    No. About 9 years ago I had a pair of them. I like a fool sold them on ebay for about $2,000. The money was nice but I know I will most likely never find another set like I had again :( Here is a pic of a 205E I had also.
     

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  10. TENER

    TENER Active Member

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    I found the pics of one of the 205D's I had.
     

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  11. Pio1980

    Pio1980 AK Member Subscriber

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    :yikes:
    I'm trying to get my mind around what makes these more desirable than a decent UX26 as a low mu triode.
     
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  12. TENER

    TENER Active Member

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    Yes they sell for crazy money. I don't understand that also.
     
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  13. Pio1980

    Pio1980 AK Member Subscriber

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  14. PakProtector

    PakProtector AK member

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    Wow!!! I think I will hold my breath in anticipation of WE 300B's priced less than an order of magnitude more than current stuff from the East.
    cheers,
    Douglas
     
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  15. Palustris

    Palustris Well-Known Member

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    Right now IMO the EML (Emission Labs) tubes made in Prague, Czech Republic are the state of the art for 300B tubes and the more modern variations like the 320B XLS. EML has only been making the 300B for 16 years, but the personnel and the manufacturing equipment has been around since the 1950s. There may not be a more experienced crew manufacturing 300Bs outside of Russia. It is hard to understand how the new WE expects to build state of the art 300B tubes starting completely from scratch with new equipment and new engineers. The EML tubes are extremely impressive in quality and construction and are the benchmark for the new WE. The plain vanilla EML 300B are priced at less than $550 a pair. The is no way the new WE can compete with that price and it will have a very difficult time matching the quality.
     
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  16. Pio1980

    Pio1980 AK Member Subscriber

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    A good time to reprise this documentary.
     
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  17. dowto1000

    dowto1000 Active Member

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    Great post Palustris !!

    Thank you.

    Additionally, the filament structure ( cathode in a DHT ) on the Prague tubes is beneficially constructed in a symmetrical manner, typically 8 filament strings, as in the very earliest of 2A3s called a " harp" fashion. The Prague tubes' eight equally-spaced ( to each other AND to the plate ) filament strings has a larger, more powerful cathode radiating area, as well as a more linear and symmetrical radiation path to the plate

    Both of these factors make our modern tubes inherently superior .

    This is an improvement over the old vintage DHTs having asymmetrical filaments, shaped as "Vs" "W's, or "Ms" depending upon how you are viewing them.

    A JJ 2A3-40, at a bit over $100 a tube, has this same large and symmetrical structure of the cathode / filament as does the EMLs. I use these JJs at home on my VOTT A7-8s.

    Dowto1000
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
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  18. naturallmyst

    naturallmyst AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Palustris and Dowto1000 thanks for those posts. I have both EML 300B and KR 300B tubes as well as a number of Chinese brand 300B. The KR 300Bs I have are the balloon glass model. Currently my personal preference is the KR balloon glass 300B. We each have personal taste preferences in many things we enjoy in life such as food, drink, entertainment, etc. I’ll have to give my EMLs another listen. I fully agree on the quality of build on both the KR and EML brands and believe WE quality will be right there with EML and KR. Though I had the opportunity to listen to the WE300B during my visit, and what I heard sounded delicious, I haven’t had the opportunity to do what I would consider a solid listening test, which for me, means sitting in my own space, listening to my own system, with my own media and just rolling between tubes. I do know I am influenced by pretty much everything, the sound, the circumstances of purchase, quality of product presentation, product quality itself, and who knows what else so being both truly objective and precise are impossible for me. That being said part of my personal excitement about the WE is that these tube are coming from as close to the original source as can be done without going back in time. There is some serious history in the form of employees, equipment, and materials being brought to bear in the new WE Roseville Works. Even some of the raw materials (that is the special sauce referred to in their literature), are from much earlier manufacturing runs of the 300B, and for what ever reason I find that pretty neat. Of course I’m reserving judgement about the tubes themselves until I own a pair, but I have a feeling they will be some very nice tubes. Thanks to everyone who is taking their time posting, it’s really great to see I’m not alone as a 300B fan.
     
  19. dowto1000

    dowto1000 Active Member

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    188
    Thanks for your kind response. For the record, I am not a 300B advocate. I prefer the JJ 2A3-40. ( I DIY my own amps and design around the JJ tube.) In 2018, my personal favorite amp - is two stages, 1/2 a 12BZ7 directly coupled to the grid of a JJ 2A3-40. It has a L1/C1/L2/C2 B+ filter to the Final stage, Ls under 8 Ohms DCR and C1,C2 are 56 uF or less. I truly enjoyed reading your reaction to the visit. Thanks for posting that.

    Dowto1000
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
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  20. Pioneered

    Pioneered Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    A lot of good and interesting info here. Strange how one thinks of different companies and their products when each are involved in a different aspect.
    What I mean is that Western Electric and all the different products that they have produced over the many years in business, different people depending
    on there interests will have that one thing that comes to mind when there name is mentioned and, thought it funny that you all think of them for audio equipment
    and vacuum tubes.(maybe funny isn't the proper word but,.......)
    Where I on the other hand, the first thing that comes to mind when Western Electric is mentioned is Phones and electric fans, even though I know they
    manufactured much much more. Just a thought, maybe not so smart of one but, I thought it interesting.
    Oh, and just to add, even some telephones had a tube in them. I recall some models of the #302
    had a tube but, sadly don't recall the tube number right now.
     
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