It’s a sign of real accomplishment for an artist to have a monograph of their work published. I would imagine that a few hundred are published worldwide by recognized publishing companies each year. But much more rare is the collector’s monograph. That’s right. You have amassed a collection of (x) that is so stupendous that “let’s make a book about it!” And the book costs like $60.
Of all the cults and sub-cults of audio-equipment collecting, few are more rarefied and costly than collecting antique movie-theatre equipment; especially equipment made by the Western Electric Company (hf. WE). I won’t go into WE; the company had such a complicated history filled with intense government regulation, so tightly intertwined were they with the communication industries in American life; check out wikipedia for the details. Suffice to say that, along with RCA, WE was a main manufacturer of the equipment used to playback sound in movie theatres at the dawn of the sound-film era (late 1920s). Since the equipment was designed for such purpose, quality and reliability was very high. Also massive.
(from “Recording Sound For Motion Pictures,” McGraw-Hill, 1931)
Here’s RCA’s theater system from that era:
(from ‘Audels New Electric Library,’ Audel+ Co, 1931-1958)
Mr. Yashima had quite a collection of this stuff.
(scanned from “Makoto Yashima Collection,” Seibundo, Japan)
It’s hard for me to say what the value of these WE components is, but i can easily imagine single pieces trading in the 5 figures.
Getting back down to earth, WE stopped making theatre-sound equipment in the late 1940s due to anti-trust regulations (complicated, right?), but RCA kept on building it.
This brings us into the realm of more accessible (even downright cheap!) devices. Even though this later hardware may be inexpensive nowadays, we are still dealing with equipment that is designed for ultimate reliability, and really very good fidelity. After all, tens of thousands of people sat in these theaters every year, paying a good fee in order to watch and listen to the latest films… this is a case where quality really matters.
I picked up this circa 1960 RCA 9362 booster amp for… maybe… $70? on eBay a while back. I had no idea what it was, but it looked like it might be useful in the studio. And here is where it gets technical….
Continue reading TECH: antique theater equipment