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calendar   Saturday - August 01, 2015

Audiophile Rock

The Wall Of Sound

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A 75 ton, six channel, line array, 28,800 watt stereo for the band to play through, using early prototype phase inverted noise canceling microphones. 650 speakers, all powered by glorious blue McIntosh 300w tube amps. In 1974. Because getting the sound right was important. Right meant clean and clear. Alive. Not just loud, but effortlessly dynamic.

How right was it? On a clear night you could stand half a mile away and hear every note and nuance. For real.

Who built it? Who else but the Grateful Dead? (officially retired now as of last month, 50 years in the running, and 20 years since the death of lead guitarist Jerry Garcia)

There had been nothing quite like it. The Wall’s scientific base was seemingly so far ahead of its time that everyone interviewed for this story, including some of the Wall’s many original engineers and crew members, said that most everything about this particular system has gone virtually unmatched ever since.

“The tones of the instruments—the clarity of the instruments—has not been matched,” said Turner, who worked for Alembic ... indispensable in conceptualizing and building the Wall from the ground up. “It’s just as simple as that.”
...
Still, at nearly 28,800 watts of continuous power in its loudest iteration, the Wall was the most powerful sound system built to that point by a considerable margin. On-stage Wall levels once registered around 127 decibels. That’s about as loud as a military jet taking off at a standing distance of 50 feet. But few people who caught a Wall show, or who were involved in designing and perfecting the system as it evolved, would say the system roared like an F-16. The Wall emitted such a clear mix ... that it simply didn’t seem loud. The fidelity was that high.

Here’s a link to a bootleg tape made from an audience recording of a 1974 concert. The sound is so clean you’d swear it came straight from the mixing board. Except there was no mixing board. Because getting the sound right also meant giving it completely to the performers.

“A straight wire with gain” is what all audiophile systems strive for. “Needs to be delivered by two semi trailers” isn’t usually part of the description, but was for this purist monster.

McIntosh is still in business. They still make lovely tube amps with the big blue illuminated meters, and they still cost a fortune.

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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 08/01/2015 at 11:50 PM   
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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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