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Voice Of Theater Speaker System?

Discussion in 'Amp Central Station' started by Rhomco, Feb 25, 2008.

  1. Rhomco

    Rhomco Friend of Leo's

    Oct 8, 2004
    DFW, Texas
    We do not have a forum for PA's but I need some info on the old Voice Of Theatre Speakers. I have a line on a very nice working pair of these big boys and wonder if any of you have experiences with them. Would a pair be worth $500.00 delivered to my door? Would they replace a quad of Yamaha 115's? I dont intend to haul them around so the size is probably not much of an issue for me.
    Your thoughts please,

  2. Dogbear

    Dogbear Tele-Meister

    Jun 18, 2005
    By "Voice of the Theater" are you referring to the bass reflex cabinets or the horns? The system was designed by Altec to be used together. Most big theaters and performance halls used them in the 60s - 70s. In 1968 I played in an indoor theater that had four cabinets and two horns on each side. I remember some fool who put his head up into a cabinet during the set. I was wearing ear plugs. I also remember that I swore I would never haul another set up a flight of stairs, but; then I also said that about a Hammond organ.

    The last time I used a complete (all Altec) system was in 1969. Up until six years ago, I used a set of Altec "Voice of the Theater" horns (with Eminence 40 watt drivers) with a set of Peavey 500 international cabinets for outdoor venues. The horns will cut through about anything, especially when they feed back :lol: . Try listening to old 60's outdoor concerts. The bass reflex cabinets were designed for mid and (very) low end. By themselves, they were not ideal as they tended to be muddy and didn't cut through. The 15" speakers in these old systems should be old style Altecs. Most likely they have been replaced.

    Are they worth it...depends. The cabinet system is old and bulky, but they do sound good when set up with horns and eq'd out. For example, my horns were given to me and by the time I built the cabinets and installed the drivers I was in for about $225. I’m sure that you will get at least $300 worth of wood. :p

  3. jhundt

    jhundt Poster Extraordinaire

    Mar 23, 2003
    I can't really answer your question, but I would like to thank you for giving me a very pleasant "jab from the past"!

    When I was 16 ('69 or so) we bought two home-made VOT bass bins for 50 bucks. My friend's dad parted out his extremely high-tech 60's home stereo which was based on the VOT design, so he gave us the bass drivers and the big old horns. The set looked as cool as all get-out and it was a pretty suitable PA for a group back in those days. It was a pain to move, but then again all our stuff was way too big and heavy. We were very proud to have such impressive gear.

    I don't know if the cabs would sound right to today's spoiled eardrums. But they sure would look good.

  4. Poppatwang

    Poppatwang Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    St. Paul, MN
    Without doing an A/B test I can't say how they stack up against current speakers.
    But my guess is there's something much smaller, more efficient &
    lighter that will do the same job. Did I mention lighter?

  5. Tremo

    Tremo Banned

    Man, I remember using those things way back when. Huge heavy bulky monsters. LOUD. Very efficient as well, we drove a pair from a 15 Watt stereo once for a party and it was loudern'hell.

    The only issue is the horns. Yeah they sound OK and cut through, but after a while, you do get ear fatigue from the things. They'd be fine for 4 hour gigs, but I wouldn't want to listen to them all day.

    I remember doing a pretty big outdoor gig with 4 of them. Plenty of volume.

    Remember the old Crown DC300s?

  6. Rhomco

    Rhomco Friend of Leo's

    Oct 8, 2004
    DFW, Texas
    Thanks for the comments

    Thanks guys, I have not seen these yet, a friend has them. He described them as about 30 inches wide and about four feet tall. I am thinking they are the horns. I'm also thinking I might be better off to stick to my Yamaha Clubs. I figured on selling them if I got the VOT. It is hard to sell and ship PA Gear without loosing your.... you know.
    Thanks again,

  7. David Barnett

    David Barnett Poster Extraordinaire

    The old Altecs are cool and all, but keep in mind that the power handling for an A7 is around 75W.

    These days they're more popular for home hifi use than for PA. You can get satisfying levels out of them in your living room with a 3W single-ended amplifier.

  8. Tim Swartz

    Tim Swartz Friend of Leo's

    Many of the single 15 bottoms got turned into low-mid cabs once the EV4050 arrived in the mid '70s (and actually produced 30hz enmass)... but at the cost of having to tote cabs the size of large refrigerators.

  9. Tim Swartz

    Tim Swartz Friend of Leo's

    I still have one!

  10. Poppatwang

    Poppatwang Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    St. Paul, MN
    A lot of folks around here used Phase Linear for power.
    And always brought a spare. Pffffffft!!
    jimash likes this.

  11. Dogbear

    Dogbear Tele-Meister

    Jun 18, 2005

    Interesting article about Altec and "Voice of the Theater".

    Yes, one has to watch the high frequency gain. Not doing so can be painful. They also have a distinct sound that I call "race track concert". Long after the other frequencies fade in the distance, you can still hear those horns.

    Anyone remember the old Wurlitzer 1965 (ish) PA Systems? They came with two amplified cabinets and these horns that looked like trumpets. The cones on the horns came in two sizes, long and short. The short ones would rip your ears off.

  12. 51tele

    51tele Tele-Holic

    Aug 15, 2006
    new orleans
    back in the early 70's we used 8 voice of the theatre cabs with horns--------------we could just about knock down any wall

  13. Dacious

    Dacious Friend of Leo's

    Mar 16, 2003
    I had one of those 421 Altec white-frame 16" rim extended low frequency speakers (15" size cone) in a ported bass reflex cabinet which was chipboard. The weight was 25lb for the bare speaker and 95lb in the cab. Definitely coloured the sound, but in a good way. 97db 35hz-8000hz @ 100 watts which is impressive. Intended as noted for cinema sound systems.

    If you held the highs down to <2khz my friendly speaker coners said it'd handle 300w RMS which is JBL E140 territory. James B Lansing started Altec with others and sold it to Western Electric before being involved in ElectroVoice and then starting JBL. Altec is still around in premium sound today.

    I wouldn't replace your Yamahas with these unless you could use them in a static setup. Otherwise you'd need a furniture va to move the cabs.

  14. Tim Swartz

    Tim Swartz Friend of Leo's

    I think Altec also has their name on regular junk computer speakers and low end home theater systems.

  15. David Barnett

    David Barnett Poster Extraordinaire

    Altec pro audio is part of the EV/Telex/Bosch family. But one of the cheap car audio companies, I think it's Spark-O-Matic, has the right to use the name "Altec" on consumer audio products. That's where the cheap stuff you find at Best Buy comes from.

  16. Tremo

    Tremo Banned

    Pfffft was right. Those were notorious for blowing up. OTOH, the Crowns were nearly bulletproof.

  17. pedenphoto

    pedenphoto TDPRI Member

    May 8, 2006
    New York City
    Had a pair of Voice of the Theatre speakers and hung them upside down in the corners of a big photo studio. When Doc Watson was on the stereo you were inside his Martin (older recordings) brought them to NYC and put them on the floor of my studio here. Powered them with old Marantz tube amps and yes they do color the sound but at night Emmy Lou Harris made the hair on my neck stand up. Then in a not terribly big rehearsal room used them for P A and I have to tell you as much as I liked them for stereo in the studios you really have to be at some distance to really appreciate them. We got some powered monitors and a Mackie mixer from Craig's list and we are much happier and when we play out and have to bring P A we don't have to rent. They are cool "old school" speakers and they don't need a lot of power (they love tubes) but IMHO they should be in a big space. J.P.

  18. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

    Mar 17, 2003
    Sunny San Diego, CA
    I remember, doot-do...

    Ah, that really does bring back the memories!


    There was a whole line of ALTEC VOT products, as you can see, with cabinets designed for many venues. IMHO they far and away had best fidelity for LONG THROW and HIGH VOLUME applications available for a long time, sixties through seventies. Serious stuff! The A7 cabs were the most common, the "big gig" indoor/outdoor SR workhorse. The A8 (designed for shorter throw) was found in a few studios and was used tons of church-style (indoor) PA installations. At the time, these were the BEST SR systems available (IMHO). Besides the improvement in fidelity over typical column-style speakers, these were far more efficent, giving you more SPL for yer amp/wattage dollar.

    As I recall, the typical A7 had a 150 watt 15" speaker, a 500hz or 600hz crossover, and a 60 or 90 watt compression driver (horn) blowing through the externally-mounted bell (lense) you see. I played (sang) through my share of A7 and variants/copies, and we found them fabulous for outdoors, "gym dances" and other big gigs, though not so great for smaller club gigs. Their biggest shortcoming for me (besides SIZE) was that they were just two-way, and pretty quickly rolled off anything above the high-mids/low high-end - no sizzle or sparkle - but they sounded pretty dang good, compared to the Shure Vocalmaster setup we used to use - and they were so much LOUDER!

    I also recall that as they lost market to newer high-fidelity SR systems (late seventies, early eighties??), Altec came up with a phase plug they called the "Tangerine," which mounted between the driver and bell (lense), which either smoothed out the mids or accented the highs, or both, and that really made them sound better (less harsh), especially at moderate volume levels, which kept them in the game for a few more years.

    In the mid-seventies, we moved away from the A7s and picked up four Peavey SP-1 cabs, which were smoother-sounding and had a better top end - to our ears, at the time... and looked cooler, stacked two per side.

  19. Slim Shady 777

    Slim Shady 777 TDPRI Member

    Jul 24, 2017
    Detroit, Michigan
    One thing I have noticed about speakers from the 60s and 50s. They can handle much more power than their extremely conservative power ratings.

  20. Paul in Colorado

    Paul in Colorado Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    Mar 17, 2003
    Fort Collins, CO
    My friend's band had a pair of A-7's and an eight channel Sunn mixer. I think Crown amps. Their drummer and one of their guitarists played with me in a spin off band and we hauled that rig to a few gigs. The Fillmore and Avalon in SF had a bunch of A-7's for the PA. I remember Lee Michaels augmenting them with a stack of Sunn 2 x 15" cabs and radial horns. He played LOUD!

    Once Alembic got into building PA cabs, things started changing. Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead started experimenting with different systems which led to the Wall of Sound and later John Meyer's Time Aligned four-way rigs.

    Someone mentioned the Wurletzer trumpet horns. John Cippilina of Quicksilver Messenger Service used them for the high end powered by a Dual Showman head for his three way guitar rig.

    But those Altec cabs and horns were state of the art for their time.

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