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Excerpts from the article:

 “Nothing New Under the AM Sun” 

by Michael N. Stosich

Originally published in the January, 1977, issue of Audio magazine.

“...The trend towards modern component hi-fi, actually began during the 1930s, and E.H. Scott was the foremost manufacturer of custom high-fidelity component systems, being the Crown or McIntosh of his time. Custom is not an idle word either; Scott aligned tuners to work better for different geographical locations and added or subtracted controls to suit the purchaser.

Scott was born in New Zealand in 1887, orphaned at 14, and while in the Australian Army Corps, invented an automobile trouble shooting device which eventually brought him $46,000. After World War I, he migrated to Chicago where he wrote auto maintenance articles syndicated in 50 U.S. and Canadian newspapers. His interest soon gravitated to radio, and he began to write articles on that subject too. On a holiday in New Zealand in 1924, he took with him a set specially constructed for the occasion to receive U.S. broadcasts while there. The feat of having received 117 programs from 19 stations, all at least 9,000 miles distant, with his World Record 9 receiver eventually put him into the radio manufacturing business.

His high fidelity receivers were bought the world over by those famous in musical circles. Scott owners included Sir John Barbirolli, Eugene Goosens, Tullio Serafin, Lauritz Melchior, Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Deems Taylor, Guy Lombardo, Rudy Vallee and Arturo Toscanini.  These names attest to the authenticity of the sound produced for that period. Other owners included Prince Otto von Bismarck, the Baron de Rothschild, and the Chicago Tribune’s Colonel McCormick. The Hearst press used Scott receivers to monitor world news events. A Scott tuner was used to receive one of the earliest experimental television broadcast demonstrations during the 30s in Chicago.

From his earliest receivers on, Scott emphasized good tone, realistic sound, and the custom look. There were always several different super-crafted console cabinets available for both the receivers and the speaker systems. All but the very first were sold directly from the factory to the customer. Each set was built to order by an individual technician, and all sets were “burned in” before final testing. The Scott look lasted until the late 50s, that is, lots of chrome and massive construction. As the chassis and all coil and tube shields were heavily chrome plated, many owners bought only the basic component equipment, the tuner, power amplifier, and speakers. They would then, as now, proudly display their component equipment on shelves or table tops with the speakers mounted in the walls or in speaker enclosures, either custom built or made by Scott. This, by the way, was in the early 1930s.

 But, what of the technical quality of the Scott receivers? How does this obviously archaic equipment compare with modern components? Well, first of all, Scott was initially bound to AM for radio reception, and he was forced to develop AM receivers to the technical limits of the period. His tuners, unlike most modern tuners, had an audio bandwidth that permitted the reception of everything being transmitted. For instance, my last $300 tuner had an AM response of a mere 1,500 Hz. My new $400 tuner with a new IC AM circuit has an audio response of 4,000 Hz. However, my 1930 Scott Air-Wave 12 had a response of 4,000 Hz. I should add that the list price of the Scott was $600, during the depression years to boot.

The early sets had a fixed, flat-topped IF. response, and consequently fixed wide-band audio response, just like the modern solid state super tuners. The use of a broad IF. is fine for local stations which transmit wide-band information, but distant stations or limited bandwidth stations require progressively narrower IF. bands. Soon Scott introduced a stepped IF. bandwidth and later a continuously variable IF. control. This allowed the user to adjust the IF. to suit both the station and the atmospheric conditions. 

“...The year 1937 saw the introduction of one of the best high-fidelity AM receivers ever built and, I imagine, to this day unexcelled. To approximate it today you might purchase the following: a McKay-Dymek AM tuner, a DBX-119, a Burwen 1201 Noise Reduction unit and an Audio Research tube amp.

 The 1937 Scott 30-tube Philharmonic receiver came standard with features many of us are now seeing newly reintroduced and rediscovered. This set had two tuned RF. stages and four audio IF. stages. The audio IF. response was continuously variable and flat topped at all points but the narrowest, from between 4 kHz and 32 kHz wide, which permitted 16 kHz audio. Sensitivity was advertised as 0.5 microvolts. Just as with the latest Luxman $900 tuner, this set had effective AM muting, only it was continuously variable. The IF. was front-panel adjusted by a control mechanically linked to each stage and trimmed each transformer primary and secondary, to accomplish stagger tuning.  The Philharmonic employed both IF. AGC and delayed RF. AGC. Each AGC voltage was separately derived by an extra tuned gain stage and rectifier. It could almost be said there were three IF's in the set, one for audio, one for RF. AGC, and one for IF. AGC. The use of tuned AGC amplifiers reduced the effects of modulation on the AGC voltage. That is, you don’t hear the station breathe at you as the AGC voltage follows a broadcaster’s voice. 

“...Quite a bit of audio processing was employed in the Scott Philharmonic. Besides the usual bass and treble controls and loudness compensated volume control, there was also a dynamic range expander and an automatic noise reduction system. The +-20 dB bass control, by the way, had a ganged 60 Hz notch filter to correspondingly minimize hum with the bass boost.

The dynamic volume range expander utilized a “Magic Eye” tube to indicate the degree of expansion, somewhat as its solid-state counterpart does on a DBX unit. It also had a continuously variable expansion control as does the DBX. The Scott noise reduction system is usually ascribed to H.H. Scott and is said to have been invented by him in 1946. This is not true. H.H. Scott (no relation) described in his 1947 Electronics article how he improved the time constants of the earlier 1937 E.H. Scott Radio Laboratory Automatic Needle Scratch Suppressor in developing his DNS. It has been suggested in AES literature that Burwen used the H.H. Scott DNS for inspiration in developing his now famous product. This, of course, was a standard feature of the Philharmonic.

Other audio features of the Philharmonic were a 10-kHz audio notch filter, a40-watt class-A power amp employing push-pull output devices, and a two-way speaker system employing a 15-in. woofer and two five-in. tweeters. The set was constructed on two welded, heavy gauge, chrome-plated chassis, one for the tuner and control section and a second for the power amplifier/supply section. Later versions included a third chassis, which contained an LC crossover network. Dial calibration was advertised as 0.2 per cent.

The 1937 Scott Philharmonic, then, was quite advanced even for 1977! However, it was missing one important feature which Scott had in limited production in 1936 (and Sony and Crown in 1976)- tri-amplification. One channel was used for each of the following ranges, 30-125 Hz, 100-600 Hz, and 3-16 kHz. This set was the 40-tube, later 48-tube, and still later a 57-tube; Quaranta. Besides employing an 18 in. woofer, two 12-in. midranges and three tweeters, some Quarantas came equipped with a disc-cutting lathe and ribbon microphone. At up to $5,000 in cost, its production must have been very limited.

E.H. Scott had several competitors. The most significant among them was a dashing young genius named McMurdo Silver. Silver was a continuous contributor to technical articles to Radio News magazine (the predecessor of Popular Electronics) throughout the 1930's. He was a polo player, gun collector, and is said to have been quite a bon vivant. Formerly the president of Silver-Marshall, Inc., he set up the McMurdo Silver Corp. and began building custom high-fidelity receivers in competition with Scott.

While good, his receivers were never quite the equal of Scott’s. One of Silver’s most famous owners was Dr. Lee DeForest, inventor of the vacuum tube. DeForest owned a Silver Masterpiece V and praised it in the final chapters of his autobiography. Throughout the 1930s, Scott’s and Silver’s advertisements would do battle trying to “one up” the other’s in technical achievement. Features were stolen and lawsuits initiated. Finally, Scott won the battle and bought out the failing Silver in 1940. Scott then introduced a new, bottom-of-the-line receiver and designated it as the Scott Masterpiece. I do not know if the gesture was meant as a tribute to his archenemy or to rub salt in the wounds. Silver eventually committed suicide in 1947.

Later, Scott high-fidelity receivers came with 40 MHz FM, 100 MHz modern band FM, and push button, motor-driven remote-control tuning. By 1947, the last great Scott receiver was built -- the AM/FM model 800B, but the company was in advanced decline. Because of Scott being eased out of his company and the advent of post-World War II TV, Scott Radio Labs died in the early 50s.”



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