Subwoofers: The Early Years
Today's subwoofers had their humble beginnings in the garage of a couple of entrepreneurial men by the name of Arnold Nudell and Cary Christie, in the latter part of the 1960's. Mr. Nudell was physicist and Mr. Christie, an airline pilot.. They formed a Company named New Technology Enterprises, which later become renamed and reorganized as Infinity. The proto-type subwoofer enclosure was an 18 inch Cerwin Vega with the addition of a second winding to send signal to the enclosed amplifier. This first unit sold for just under $1800 in and around 1967 and at that time was some 40% more costly than its closest competitor, which at that time was a loud-speaker system. This first enclosed bass subwoofer unit was called the Servo Statik 1.
Around that same time period a music store owner in Los Angeles was receiving complaints from customers regarding the inability of the electrostatic speakers, the best of their kind at that time, to handle the lower bass frequencies. Mr. J. Miller approached his friend and partner Ken Kreisel with the problem and Mr. Kriesel engineered a powered subwoofer that could handle the lower frequency spectrum, a true bass subwoofer.
Subwoofers became widely recognized by the general public with their use in the movie "Earthquake." The Sensurround system was purchased and installed in several theaters throughout the country. This system comprised of multiple 500 watt amplifiers that were controlled by soundtrack control tones. By the latter part of the 1970's, as a result of this box office hit movie, there were several hundred more theaters that were to install the Sensurround system to provide a new listening experience for their patrons.
Unfortunately, for the independent homeowner it was not until the introduction of the cassette and CD media which allowed for the recording of the bass ranges. Some in the beginning were able to use the tape to tape drives for recording the lower frequencies, but for mass distribution it was the introduction of the smaller form factor cassette and CD which allowed for mass distribution and recognition of the lower frequency ranges.
With the continued development and miniaturization of components and technology, subwoofers are routinely added to today's home surround systems and are relatively inexpensive compared to the first units built by New Technology Enterprises back in the late 60's. subwoofers can be self-contained within the home theaters systems of recent times or they can be purchased as standalone units that can be plugged into older systems and enjoyed for years to come.
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