Amplifiers, Western Electric 43A & 46C amplifiers in rack, designed & manufactured by Western Electric Co., USA, 1928 - 30
These audio amplifiers were designed for use in theatre and cinema sound amplification systems and were in use until 1975 in the picture theatre at Inverell, NSW. Although it is unknown where this rack of amplifiers was initially used it dates from the late 1920s and was one of the first amplifier systems to be used by cinemas and theatres to present amplified sound with film.
An audio accompaniment to 'silent' film was initially performed by a small orchestra with the music program often selected by the film director. Score and cue information would be distributed along with the film to theatres. Photoplayers and the like (pianos and organs with a small selection of sound effect instruments) were also employed by theatres allowing an abbreviated score with effects to be performed by a single musician.
Although there are infrequent and earlier examples of recorded sound with film, earnest efforts and conversion to 'talkies' commenced in 1928. The early part of this transition saw two new and competing forms applied to the presentation of pre-recorded audio; pre-recorded disks with mood music and sound effects played (not synchronised) with a film, again according to scores and cues; and pre recorded disks on platters mechanically synchronised to the projector movement. Both forms required the purchase of expensive and high maintenance amplifiers. Installation of the synchronised disk players was even more costly. This transitional period was followed by the adoption of an optical sound recording technique that united and synchronised the image and sound onto the film.
The transition from 'silent' to sound film brought about dramatic changes in film making and content. The make up of theatres evolved from predominantly small auditoria to more imposing structures to accommodate larger audiences. There was also a gradual shift in the audience demographic from predominantly working class to a broader socially mixed audience resulting in a reduced sense of communal identity during the cinema experience.
These amplifiers would have been used in a system employing the disk type of media (synchronised and non-synchronised) and later continued for use with the optical sound track technology. There are two amplifiers in the rack so that in the event of a failure the second amplifier may be switched into operation.
From late 1920s through the 1930s movie sound and audio circuit design was at the forefront of the electronics industry. The Western Electric amplifiers were designed by the Western Electric Company the manufacturing and research and development (R&D) arm of AT&T (the Bell Telephone System). Their experience in developing electronics for telephone systems enabled Western Electric to establish and maintain a leading role in the introduction and development of sound to cinema.
Nearly eighty years later elements and nuances of Western Electric audio amplifier design from the 1920s and 30s continue to be rediscovered and resurrected by audio circuit designers and incorporated into circuit designs in the High Fidelity (HiFi) industry (USA, Japan & Italy).
Campbell Bickerstaff, 2007
Designed and manufactured by Western Electric, USA, 1930
This amplifier was used untill 1974 in the picture theatre in Inverell. The amplifiers were most probably initially installed in a capitol city cinema as the original cost / running cost of this equipment (in the USA WE systems were leased over ten years) was prohibitive to a small regional theatre.
The Capitol theatre at Inverell had been wired by Western Electric in February 1930 - from a correspondence with Phil Corby, January 2012