April 14, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

In yesterday’s post, I reminisced about my first experience with a subwoofer. And boy, not just any subwoofer. Lucky for me, I got a taste of the mighty Cerwin-Vega 18s, then the biggest, baddest subwoofer yet made. In fact, even today there aren’t many that can match what those beasts were capable of producing.

What I failed to mention that was sitting directly atop those woofer boxes was another breakthrough product, the world’s first “full-range” electrostatic loudspeakers, double stacked JansZen 1-30 4-panel arrays. Here’s a picture of those bad boys sitting atop a pair of ARs.

Arthur Janszen founded Janszen in the mid 1950s and I don’t know much about him other than to relay what my former partner and founder of Infinity, Arnie Nudell, told me. That Art was a physicist (as was Arnie) that had to stoop to the level of engineer to get his work done. Indeed, it was said somewhat tongue in cheek but I suspect deep down Arnie had just a wee bit of contempt for anyone not studied in the arts of physics.

What an amazing experience I had that first day of being exposed to a true high-end audio system. I suppose it had on me a lifelong impact that to this day has set the course of my life.

It’s perhaps good to remember that every time we have the privilege of showing for the first time our systems to newbies, it may be an event that sparks their passion for a lifetime yet to come.

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22 comments on “Janszen”

  1. Indeed, first impressions remain in our memories. My first real camera, a Pentax SP1000, in 1975. The same year, my first introduction to real hi-fi was when my then girlfriend, now wife, played her favourite Beatle album on a Dual turntable, matching 10 WPC amplifier, and efficient speakers. A revelation!

    Today I can remind her that any time and money I have spent on music software and hardware is due to her influence.

    Mind you, the amortised cost over that period is very little, so no guilt whatsoever.

  2. Engineers need to consider making reproducible products. Physicists often “play” and “invent” things with little to no concern for manufacturability. Each has his/her place but wouldn’t consider one profession “stooping” to any lower level to achieve the others’ goals. Sorry, but I didn’t care for the tone of this post.

  3. Coming from you, an engineer, your recollection of Arnie’s thoughts and his of Arthur, thumbing a nose at engineers, came to these ears as quite humorous. I enjoyed this post.

  4. Some of us aren’t as fortunate in our experiences . My passion was sparked by a new HTIB.

    Arnie Nudell’s comment sounds like something Physicists say to make fun of THEMSELVES.

  5. JanZen’s family has carried on the company which seems to be doing well. I get their newsletter. The factory is just a 15 minute drive from my home but I have never been there nor have I ever heard the speakers. They continue to offer tours by request. They also I think have a side business doing restoration work on speakers.

  6. Great to learn about the old day’s. For me I’m still not sure how to connect a subwoofer to my system. Many pre-amps are suited with a pair of XLR outputs and a pair of RCA’s. These outputs are connected to the poweramps and to the Subwoofers internal amp. Output paths are connected somehow. Because when I switch on or off my subwoofer it backfires some enery to the pre-amp and I hear a blob on my loudspeakers. It also happened the other way arround. Is this normal? My question is, is it safe to use a subwoofer this way? Can it damage the pre-amp or loudspeakers?

    Best regards,

    1. So, the sub is fed from the preamp’s RCA and the power amp from the preamp’s XLR? If that’s the case, these outputs are all “the same” in that the RCA is merely sharing one of the XLR’s output pins.

      When you switch off the subwoofer’s power its input amplifier likely puts out a blast of DC or something like that and that gets injected into the power amplifier.

      It’s probably not the best practice to do that.

      1. Yes indeed that is the case. I was already afraid it wasn’t the best thing to do…. The work around is to switch of the pre-amp before switching on the power-amp and subwoofer and vise verca, although i’m not very happy with it!


  7. As a retired physicist let me explain that physicist come in two flavors: theorist ( who used to spend their days at blackboards but now spend their days at computers ) and experimentalist ( who build equipment, collect data and analyze the data ). Arnie and Art must have been experimentalist ( as was I ).

    As to engineers turning experiments into manufacturerable products, sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it is not so good.

    1. I have seen the new biology and it is chemistry. I have seen the new chemistry and it is physics. I have seen the new physics and it is mathematics. I have seen the new mathematics and no one knows what the heck* it is.

      * Keep it (relatively) family friendly in this public forum.

  8. Ah, the old days of cobbled-together speakers. Couldn’t even come close to affording a Servo-Statik to supplement my used unfinished pine AR-2a and walnut AR-2 so I bought a Miller and Kreisel (M&K) Goliath II in glorious vinyl finish. And the Janszen tweeters were also beyond my means. So I bought a pair of Philips AD 0160 T8 tweeters at Lafayette that I mounted in aluminum Budd boxes to sit on top of my AR’s. The epitome of grad student elegance.

  9. I am not an engineer nor a physicist. With degrees in wildlife ecology and applied social sciences, I taught natural resource conservation for some 35 years. During my career I have taught classes with and conducted research with several engineers (mostly civil and transportation, and agricultural engineers). I had a lot of fun–we all did! My engineering colleagues informed me that there were 2 kinds of engineers: those who have one tried and tested solution for a problem and use it for ever; and those who delight in finding new solutions to old problems.

  10. Paul: I was a college student working part-time at High Fidelity Unlimited in Porltland, Oregon in1962 when I brought home essentially the speakers you feature today but with the addition of the Ionivac tweeter for the high range. Between occasional sputters by the tweeter and little continuity of sound, it sounded ok and was a good room deodorizer.

  11. It’s not just physicists and electronic engineers. There is a long running (mostly) good natured back and forth between geologists and civil engineers. But deep down, we know that both are important. Well, most of us do. I have known (and not that well, really) only one geologist who did have a sense of humor. I suspect that he had been metamorphosed into a bureaucrat.

  12. Hi Paul,

    What memories!

    In my earliest audiophile days I bought a Cerwin Vega 18″ passive in-line subwoofer, with the juice coming from my Technics receiver and the sub feeding whatever power was left to my wall-mounted Polk Audio bookshelf speakers. Think it crossed over somewhere around 30hz.

    I wasn’t an ideal set up but was thrilled! it sure changed my thinking about what’s possible in the bottom end… Today I have twin REL powered subs which are integral to creating magic in my system. I’m still amazed how much ambience and power they reveal in the music across the entire spectrum.


  13. My first experience with a subwoofer was 24 years ago when I purchased online HSU Reseach’s first cylindrical black-fabric-covered cardboard tube model with the walnut cap that was very inexpensive and satisfying. It was passive and did a phenomenal job in my setup in those days. It came with a TELARC recording of Michael Murray playing the Ruffatti organ at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco. That recording is excellent and I still use it to assess deep bass performance when I change gear. The first track played through full-range speakers or speakers supplemented by a subwoofer has bass that you feel penetrating your body.

  14. I would love to add a pair of AR 3’s or 3a to my collection but they are getting very expensive. 12’s are good enough for subs, example Carvers Sunfire Signatures that come with 12’s and a 12 inch passive radiators. If you want good 12’s or 15’s I like PSB for the money and Velodyne make some ass kicking 18″ Subs. Any pair of those I mentioned will work nice in any system.

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