I had been enjoying the sound of my LWE-I speakers for years without any knowledge of their hidden motional feedback circuit that dramatically improves their performance. It was David WInebrenner's rave review below that inspired me to find out what my LWE-Is were really capable of.
A former guitar teacher sold me the LWE speakers a few years ago because he had bought another full stereo system from a friend. He didn't know anything about the extra wires so when I brought them home to connect to my cheap "Circuit City special" Kenwood KR-A4040, I just connected the postive and negative leads and snipped the other wires so they wouldn't short out.
Even with my relatively low-end amplifier (and no feedback network connected), I could tell that these speakers sounded much better than my Pioneer speakers, it was like the LWEs were more natural sounding, especially with jazz and classical music, my Pioneers were real bass-heavy, a bit scooped sounding, while these LWE-Is had a big, clear midrange that really sort of "spoke" to you, especially with Miles Davis recordings, well...anything with horns sounded fabulous on the LWEs.
Recently, I did a google search for LWE to see where they came from and stumbled across this webpage and learned about their hidden (to me anyway) capabilities, so I decided to connect the negative feedback circuit to an amplifier and hear their full potential.
After contacting various people, I ended up calling Louis Erath himself and, via mail, he helped me connect them to a NAD 2600A amplifier that I bought on ebay. I was pretty blown away that this guy who turns 90 years old this year is still standing behind speakers that he built 40 years ago - now that is dedicated customer service!
Anyway, after trading schematics with Louis, I finally connected the appropriate wires and my jaw just dropped...wow!...it sounded like someone turned on a subwoofer!
Now my LWEs with their clear, open presence, also have this nice muscular low-end!
The bass is not scooped sounding like my Pioneers, or boomy, but when the music calls for a hard hitting deep bass, the LWEs deliver effortlessly. I'm just overjoyed at the additional capabilities, especially with my some of my favorite electronic drum 'n bass music with it's subsonic, LFO generated bass lines.
I am definitely keeping them, and I was so inspired by the sound and creative concept (yet dismayed by the lack of information about them on the web), that I started a Yahoo LWE users group so that people who own these speakers can share tips, tweaks, parts, photos, data on how to connect the negative feedback circuit etc...
LWE Users Group
When I was a teenager, many kids were into cars. I was into audio. I'll never forget about 1968 when I heard my first LWE1's. I was blown away.
It was the best thing I ever heard. I had to have them. Well, it took a lot of lawn mowing jobs for me to get a pair. Back then, you could buy them unfinished and save a few bucks. So I did. I finished the outside, built a speaker cover, and a floorstand.
I had to send my amp to Houston to have it adapted to the LWE1 feedback system.
It worked great and sounded great.
I also stumbled across a pair of LWE-1's. I found at a pawn shop in Houston about 21 years ago. I was only 15 years old so the only important feature to me was their size, they were big and heavy! One hundred bucks and 21 years later and I still believe it was one of the best purchases I have ever made.
The speakers have aged very well. The surrounds and cones are in excellent condition, the cabinets still square and solid. They have been used with a number of different amps and recievers but are currently being used with a Pioneer SX-1010 reciever from the mid '70's. The combination of these capable speakers and powerful reciever has relegated my Sony pro logic "toy" to garage duty.
I still wish to have more info on these speakers such as power handling, frequency respones, etc.. If you happen to find a pair for sale I would highly recommened you buy them!
I stumbled on to a pair of LWE-I's through a local sales flyer. The guy was asking $65 for the pair, they were in near mint condition with the original matching stands. I had a friend many years ago that had a pair of these when I was growing up in South Texas and was always fascinated with them and you do not hear much about them anywhere. I had not seen the name LWE in close to 20 years when I spotted this pair for sale in a local flyer so I immediately scooped them up. I had never realized what the extra wires were for on the "jones" connectors until I saw the review below. I did not get the modified amplifier with them though, but nonetheless they sound great. I am a Klipsch speaker fan and I used my Heresy II's to A/B the two, they are equally as efficient as the Heresy's but have more solid lower bass than the Heresy's possibly due to the 15" driver I suppose. They have some cool controls on the back for room gain, and high and mid compensation that the Heresy's do not. They use the same EV T-35 tweeter as the Heresy buy have a 6" cone midrange that delivers very smooth detailed vocals for not being a horn loaded driver. I would love to try them on a modified amplifier using the internal "negative feedback" circuit to really try them out. I really love these speakers and cannot believe there condition for being 30 years old, all the drivers are perfect as are the grills and cabinets, very well built. My friends did not have the original woofers in them and his had a phase switch on the back for 0 or 180 degrees, mine have the spots for them but no switch I wonder if I could just add them? Anyway if you happen upon a pair of these I am sure you will not be disappointed. I cannot find much more information on these on the web at all I am interested in some of the other models that were made.
David L. WInebrenner
a an Audio Enthusiast
Date Reviewed: June 10, 1999
Not too many speaker systems are truly unique. Just look at the long listing of all the manufacturers models that are on this review site may of them VERY SIMILAR IN DESIGN (and sound). This listing doesn't even scratch the surface of what has been made since the 1940's. A geophysical engineer in Houston named Louis W. Erath started a tiny speaker system manufacturing firm in Houston back in 1966. The first product was a bookshelf system (Model 1). The basic designer choices then were identical to what we have now; acoustic suspension, reflex, or horn for the low frequencies. As we all now know, the acoustic suspension systems are inefficient but with extended low end, the bass reflex types are more efficient with potentially better transient response but somewhat less ultra low-end response in smaller boxes, and the horns; the most efficient with the (potentially) best transient response and dynamic range of all but with teh largest size and (usually) higher cost. Of course there are many more subtle considerations within these choices, but these are the basic limitations design engineers have to work with. Surely there must be some of you out there that have dreamed of using classic high efficiency large magnet woofers (normally reserved for bigger reflex designs) in a relatively small bookshelf size box and "somehow" designing the box or the venting or "tuning" or "something" so that you could get the extended low end response of an acoustic suspension system but at a much high efficency and not give up the transient response. Erath's experience in designing transducers and amplifiers for geophysical survey trucks with their ultra low frequency 'ground-thumper' systems designed to shake the earth enough to get recordable reflections back from subterranian strata was a really unique background for branching off into loudspeaker system design and production. He invented and developed a design that did cheat and win handsomely. As a point of reference you can see what happens if you mount old classic high efficiecy large magnet drivers in a WAY-TOO-SMALL-BOX by referring to the Klipsch model H (Heresy). I know there are some of you out there who love this little box system, but frankly the extreme low end down at 32.7 HZ (LOW C on pipe organ) just isn't there at all. All that the model H produces is harmonics of the fundamental ferequencies down in this range. I know it may be wonderful through the rest of the range but lets face it the extreme bottom end is crucial for the emotional impact that we all strive for in a system. The LWE approach to get around this is based on "negative feedback control". OK....in a typical ampifier (still mostly vacuum tube back in those days, of course) you have anywhere from 25-80% of the output of an ampifier used in reverse phase as negative "feed back" used to minimize distortion and in some gross cases to make an amplifier stable (not oscillate or 'howl'). The out-of -phase signal is fed from the output of an amplifier's final output stage back to the input of that same stage. Actually the same concept can be used in any intermediate stage of amplification as well. The concept works well in lowering distortion and, in some cases, increasing stability. An interesting effect which is actually pretty well known by most design engineers is that if you reduce the negative feedback of an ampilfiers output stage by 3 db the output will increase by 3 db. If there were no other limitations present (power supply current ratings, etc., the amplilfier would double in power. Of course there might be a slight increase in distortion in some designs depending on the original design goals and criteria in design. Erath's principle was to reduce the negative feedback selectively only at the extreme low frequencies where a big 15" woofer in a really tiny box was just not capable of responding fully. This would leave the feedback and distortion character untouched at frequencies up above 50-70 HZ.
Erath's feedback control unit was in the speaker box next to the crossover network. That meant that the negative feedback lines from the amp's output stage had to be "clipped" and extended out to the speaker using some 6 conductor shielded Belden cable. 2 conductors for the regular voice coil audio, and 4 conductors for feedback 2 incoming and 2 outgoing. This was all connected using 6 conductor TRW/Cinch-Jones "jones Plugs" which made it all very convenient and inexpensive.
As you can imagine, some amplifiers didn't seem to care about having 15 or so db of their negative feed-back 'whacked away' at the low frequencies and some didn't like it all. In Erath's defense, I will say that he recognized and dealt with this problem in a very honorable way and would openly tell prospective buyers which amplifiers worked well and which ones didn't. Erath made a 60 watt per channel solid state amp that nestled right into a cavity that was in the rear of the model 1 box and was isolated from the inside of the box. This one was so stable it would allow far more feedback to be removed than most commercially available amplifiers at the time.
So.....how well did they work? In a word, extremely well. The model 1 had a rather high efficiecy (96 db at 1 w/1meter) 15" woofer with a fairly stiff suspension with a 5 " high efficiency cone mid range (both made by Chacag Telephone Supply or 'CTS'),and an Electro-Voice T-35 for high output 'top-end' response. This was the same tweeter used in the 104 db at 1 meter/1 watt K-horn at the time so you can see that the tweeter would have to have about 6-8 db of padding to match this combo). This was sort of like a "hot-rod and scaled up model 'H' if you will. I even know of a few cases where Klipsch K-1000 horns were tried with various drivers and padded 6-8 db instead of the 5" paper cone radiator, but I always thought that the CTS 15 incher didn't have enough output in the 600-1KHZ range to use this mid range because a slight 'trough' in the response curve would develop in this range. (a larger 600 HZ mid range horn would not fit inside the box though)
A very neutral sounding speaker system with very little or virtually no coloration or "sound character" of its own. It played loud like the Klipsch model H, but the extreme low-end down in the mid 20HZ region would rattle the fluorecent light fixtures in the old sound room at (now long-gone) Audio Center sound room, (where I worked part-time during my years at U of H),in Houston where I first heard these. It compared so well to really large high efficiency classical systems that we ended up placing them on top of the Klipschorns and of course comparing them frequently on a variety of program material.
There was an old Bel Canto 1/4 track Ramsey Lewis open reel jazz piano/bass/drums tape ('Stretching Out'), that was utterly amazing on the LWE 1's. It was typical of back room jazz recordings of black musicians in the late 50's and early 60's with a not really too wonderful and slightly out of tune upright piano and a small sounding studio with no frills/no EMT reverb, just dry, clean sound. The sudden impact from the drums and cymbals and L.D. Young with his very long fingers whacking mightily on the big double bass (and on cello on one cut) always was a crowd pleaser in the old sound room. In background you could actually hear and feel Ramsey stomping his foot on the old studio wooden floor as he powerfully ripped through some extremely complex and satisfying passages. Wow! It was very hard to listen to the model 1's on this stuff without smiling.
I you ever happen onto a pair of these or any of the other smaller or larger LWE speaker systems made later on, I would highly recommend that you buy the amplifier (with modifications intact) along with the speaker system. These don't sound too wonderfaul at all played from an 'un-modified amp'. The best of all would be to find some model 1's with the Erath amplilfier in the back of one of the two speakers. I wouldn't pay a lot for these if you see them at a garage or estate sale. The manufacturer has been gone for many years and there are no parts or replacements specifically available. On the plus side, chances are, if you find these, the woofer suspension edges will probably be in perfect condition as Erath never used polyurethane grey foam edges because he knew that it was an unstable material. We had discussed this marterial (it then used only on British Wharfedale speakers) when I worked for Louis part-time in the late evenings and weekends at the LWE plant in Houston on Rampart street. I wired rotary switches, and assembled systems and control networks. It was a wonderful and enlightening experience.
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