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Say Hello to Electro-Voice -- Behind the Scenes at a Legacy Brand
  By PRWEB Say Hello to Electro-Voice -- Behind the Scenes at a Legacy Brand

The year 2017 marks the 90th anniversary of Electro-Voice. In celebration, American Musical Supply is proud to bring special recognition to their ongoing and extended relationship with this iconic American brand.

From EV microphones to Electro-Voice speakers (PA speakers and & powered speakers), it is easy to see the individual milestones when looking back at nearly a century of innovation and audio excellence.

Back to the Beginning

As with so many hi-tech success stories, Electro-Voice also begins in a tiny shop with a big idea. In this case, the idea was to make a better and more affordable microphone. So in 1927, with a drill press and a milling lathe, Al Kahn and Lou Burroughs set up shop in South Bend, Indiana and expanded from PA system installations to microphone manufacturing. South Bend, Indiana was smack in the middle of the Midwest manufacturing surge and already the home to Studebaker automobiles and Singer sewing machines. It is hard for us to imagine the American landscape when Electro-Voice was born. A scant two-thirds of American homes had electricity. World War I had ended less than a decade earlier, and the great depression was still a few years off. Radio was the medium of the day.

The Name Says it All

The name Electro-Voice is bit of a portmanteau based on the phrase “Electric Voice" coined by legendary football coach Knute Rockne. In South Bend, Rockne had coached the Jolly Fellows Club football team. Once at Notre Dame, Rockne had come to Al Kahn and Lou Burroughs to have PA system installed. In ill health, Rockne wanted to address the players on multiple scrimmage fields from a single raised platform. Rockne loved the PA system. He referred to it as his “electric voice" and the name stuck.

Out of This World Sound

With the advent of World War II, Electro-Voice developed the differential circuitry needed for a noise-cancelling microphone. In a spirited and patriotic move, Electro-Voice made the technology available at no charge, allowing other companies to manufacturer under these patents to assist the war effort. Ship crews and captains, pilots and gunners, tanks commanders and drivers, all benefited from having clean, clear, intelligible communications while on the move or in battle – saving countless lives. In 1962, EV microphones reached new heights while accompanying American astronaut and statesman John Glenn on his historic flight orbiting the earth.

The Audio Arts

While the war years, sports legends, and outer space adventures add spice to the story, they only tell part of the Electro-Voice saga. What really put Electro-Voice on the map was consumer audio consumption. While in London, founder Al Kahn visited Decca Records for a secret demonstration of the stereo phonograph record. On his return to the states, Kahn had his company tool up to create stereo phonograph cartridges. When stereo LPs did hit, Electro-Voice was ready. According to Kahn, “for six to eight months are sales department was walking on a cloud. All they had to do was allocate." During this same time, Radio listening had grown to mammoth proportions, and television was on the upswing. Electro-Voice created the Model 664 microphone – affectionately known as the Buchanan Hammer – reflecting both the robust pressure-cast casing, and the company's move to Buchanan, Michigan.

The EV Model 664 was the first to use their Variable-D technology, eliminating the proximity effect that had plagued cardioid microphones, and ensuring even response at an equal distance. The Electro-Voice 642 Cardiline shotgun microphone was awarded an Oscar in 1963 for its ability to capture dialog at a distance, while remaining out of sight from the cameras. It was the first audio product to receive an Academy Award. By 1970, Electro-Voice had introduced the RE20, perhaps their most famous microphone to date. The Electro-Voice RE20 Variable-D mic revolutionized the broadcast booth and news production everywhere, and quickly found its way into major recording studios and sound stages.

Waves of Knowledge

The Knute Rockne, John Glenn, and Academy Award stories are part of the Electro-Voice story. “In all of these cases, Electro-Voice uncovered the concepts and invented the technologies to solve some very real-world issues," claims EV's Guy Low. “We are not a ‘Gimmick' company, not then and not now." Michael Doucot agrees, “We create technologies more than products – the humbucking coil to eliminate the sixty-cycle hum, the use of rare-earth neodymium magnets – but it's all based on finding solutions so that people can be heard and sound their very best." Indeed, it is this mastery of sound waves and audio propagation that have driven some of the legendary Electro-Voice breakthroughs.

Early PA (Public Address) speakers were little more than electric bullhorns, with no regard for fidelity, dispersion, or coverage. Understanding these limitations and challenges led Electro-Voice to develop both the multi-element Compound Diffraction horn and the Constant Directivity horn to improve coverage, clarity, and off-axis fidelity. The renowned RE20 microphone combines tuned phase ports on the capsule with precision venting in the mic casing to create the classic Variable-D broadcast tone and to improve off-axis response. Solutions can be acoustic as well as electronic. As Rick Bell, the EV Mic Guy on YouTube reminds us, “It's just physics."

Quality of Craft

In addition to a complete range of microphones, AMS is proud to carry the latest Pro Audio Loudspeakers from Electro-Voice. In a market crowded with makes and models, Electro-Voice stand above the crowd. Titanium tweeters are matched to Constant Directivity horns. Efficient Class D amplifiers drive exclusive transducer designs. “We have also worked to improve our enclosures, with triple scoop handles for easy transport and positioning, pole mount fixtures, rigging points, and the designs allow for vertical or horizontal placement," according to Michael Doucot.

Good Engineering Makes Great Sound Effortless

In the modern age, there is more to spectacular sound than worthy components and competent design. With their strong roots in Americana, Electro-Voice is a major player on the international stage.

This is an abridged version. To read the complete story, scroll down to the bottom of the official AMS Electro-Voice brand page

Copyrights: use of this story, in part or in full, is granted provided source is referenced.

By Malcolm Doak, the music industry journalist behind this story.

Read the full story at

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