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 Electro-Voice microphones to Electro-Voice powered speakers, it is easy to see the individual milestones when looking back at nearly a century of innovation and audio excellence; the RE-20 Variable-D™ microphone, Compound Diffraction and Constant Directivity horn designs, EV-1 Eliminators, the Humbucking Coil, Neodymium magnet use, Sentry 100 active monitors, Ring-Mode Decoupling, Manifold Technology … the list goes on and on. But Electro-Voice is more than all that. For Electro-Voice remains an American company, with a history deeply entwined in the American experience.
American Musical Supply and Electro-Voice enjoy a shared existence on many levels. EV Marketing Manager for Portable Audio Mike Doucot explains further, “Our main offices and the AMS call center are both located in the upper Midwest. We share a lot of snow. But more importantly, the AMS staff is extremely knowledgeable and is able to service the Electro-Voice customer with confidence. The staff at American Musical Supply also collects valuable feedback from the end users that they can then share with us, allowing us to look for ways to improve our product based on real-world experience.” From the AMS point of view, Electro-Voice is a legacy brand delivering an incredible value and stand-out reliability.
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. Silent pictures gave way to “talkies” with The Jazz Singer in 1927 – the same year that Electro-Voice began. So EV was there at the beginning, installing theater and concert sound systems as soon as the need arose.
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. “It really is all in the name,” states Guy Low, Creative Manager at Electro-Voice. “In all we do, we serve justice to the human voice, with clarity, and with intelligibility. That’s a good description of who we are.”
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 benefitted 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.
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.
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.”
In addition to a complete range of Electro-Voice microphones, AMS is proud to carry the latest Pro Audio loudspeakers from Electro-Voice. In a market crowded with makes and models, Electro-Voice speakers 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. “Every component, each design, and all of our technology is created, designed, and engineered in-house; there is nothing off the shelf.” Guy Low concurs. “Everything we do is derived from decades of the proven expertise and engineering know-how,” claims Low. “We have the expertise from our large-scale touring systems and line arrays that we can effectively deliver to gigging bands, DJs, corporate clients, the worship market, and pro audio consumers at a competitive price and without compromise. The result is a satisfying audio experience, running smooth and flat with warm upper mids, and silky-smooth transients extending into the upper vocal range.”
In the modern age, there is more to spectacular sound than worthy components and competent design. Electro-Voice software innovations include the QuickSmartDSP; Signal Synchronized Transducer™ waveguide design; Cardioid Control Technology; and Finite Impulse Response (FIR) filter technology to elevate the fidelity and impact of any audio performance. Even the popular and cost-effective ZLX15P and ZLX12P Powered EV loudspeakers incorporate the QuickSmartDSP. The EKX18SP powered Subwoofer adds in the Cardioid Control Technology. “In the end, it is all about the customer,” EV’s Guy Low concludes, “Electro-Voice digital processing allows the user to quickly set their system up properly – without being a speaker scholar. It’s not about making the speakers sound good, it’s all about making the venue sound fantastic. We know a great sounding system inspires confidence, and that, in turn, builds loyalty to our brand.”
With their strong roots in Americana, Electro-Voice is nonetheless a major player on the international stage. Over a decade ago, EV became part of the BOSCH family. BOSCH is a privately held enterprise, immune to the demands of shareholders. This relationship provides Electro-Voice with access to the latest skills in manufacturing and world-wide distribution. Plus, all EV product made outside the USA is manufactured in a BOSCH owned facility, with the latest production tools and with rigorous quality control.
About the Author - Malcolm Doak
What started as a simple string and pedal sales catalog has grown exponentially over the past thirty years. The early days were a time where catalogs didn't have much of a presence in the industry, but what began as a college dorm room operation grew rapidly. In 1986 we moved to a full product offering and 64-page catalog, which over the years has grown to 162 pages. Join the AMS family and get your free catalog now!
Copyright © 1996-2018 American Musical Supply, Inc. All rights reserved. American Musical Supply reserves the right to correct pricing and/or product specifications in the event of typographical errors found in our print catalog or on our website. If a product is listed at an incorrect price due to such errors or because of inaccurate information received from a supplier, American Musical Supply shall have the right to refuse or cancel any orders placed, whether or not the order has been confirmed and your credit card charged. If your credit card has already been charged for the purchase and your order is canceled, American Musical Supply will issue a credit to your credit card account in the amount of the charge.