G.I.P. Laboratory visit

In June 2011 we had the honor to visit G.I.P. Laboratory in Japan for two days, and hear seven of their systems!

All G.I.P. units are field coil drivers, like the Western Electric originals. Field coil units are more complicated to manufacture than normal drivers, instead of a magnet they use an extra coil to generate the field. This coil needs to be powered, so a power supply is needed. Field coil technology went out of fashion when magnet production technology improved. In general it was a step forward in speaker evolution because they became a lot cheaper to manufacture, however for ultimate quality you still need field coil technology. These field coil drivers can reproduce music with a level of definition, uncompressed dynamics, and with a live feeling that is simply beyond reach for even the very best normal drivers.

When you see the construction of these drivers, you start to realize that the Western Electric engineers did an incredible job, both in designing and manufacturing them. Some parts look more like space age technology than something from the 1930’s. Even by today standards it’s high-tech engineering and their construction surpasses any modern driver. We could compare various original Western Electric parts with the G.I.P. replicas. Suzuki-san of G.I.P. makes no compromises, everything is machined to the highest standard. Many prototypes were made (f.i. some 30 prototypes of the paper cone for the 18″ woofer, the reproduction of the 594A diaphragm took over two years of trial and error testing). You start to realize it’s a nearly impossible project to re-manufacture all these parts exactly, it takes lots of time, experience, knowledge, huge investments, and highly skilled craftsman in various fields. All this made it a bit easier to understand why these drivers have to be so expensive.

We had a chance to compare the JBL-376 compression driver to the GIP-594A (GIP’s exact copy of the Western Electric 594A), both without horn, the difference is huge, the JBL sounding typical midrangy, what you expect from a compression driver. However the 594A sounded so much better, full range, clearly defined and very dynamic, you can actually enjoy listening to this driver without horn, it’s remarkable.

The first system we listened to consisted of a double GIP-4189 8″ woofer and a GIP-597A tweeter compression driver on a 211 single ended triode amplifier. Beautiful, subtle music reproduction, lots of deeper magic.

Next we listened to was the GIP-826 with a GIP-4601A 18″ woofer and a GIP-5015A compression driver on a 4 cell horn. This system is pure heaven for normal rooms. Very addictive, musical reproduction. We also listened to this system in combination with a 597A tweeter, but we preferred it without, it sounded more coherent, more real and we didn’t miss anything.

We compared the GIP-594A to the GIP-5015A, both are very similar, but the 594A is constructed with more expensive parts and materials (5015A is almost half the price of the 594A, however still very expensive). Their performance is very close.

Then we compared the GIP-5015A to the GIP-555, they’re not designed for the same purpose, but it’s still very interesting to get to know the differences between these marvelous drivers. First we listened to them without horn. Comparing voices on the 555 vs 5015A, the 555 sounded more full range, it’s a very special driver with beautiful mid-lows, on the 5015A the voice balanced more towards the highs, it has a beautiful, delicate and highly refined mid/high reproduction. The 555’s efficiency is much lower and it’s highs are less extended (the 597A tweeter is designed for combination with the 555). Adding the adapter to 555 (as in the picture above) increased it’s efficiency, but we could hear the same basic differences in character.

Then we listened to the GIP-7003 system with GIP-4181A 18″ woofer, GIP-594A with 4 cell horn and GIP-597A tweeter. Incredible live sound, totally relaxed and extremely dynamic at the same time. 

The GIP-7005 system uses a 10 cell horn and adds a second 18″ woofer. After hearing the GIP-7003 system we didn’t expect much room for improvement, but the GIP-7005 added even more realism, and not only with big orchestras.

Thereafter we went to another demo room where we could listen to the GIP-5005 on a 211 SET amp. The GIP-5005 is big system which is suitable for small rooms. It’s bass ports are placed on top. It had a 10 cell horn, this time driven by the GIP-5015A.

Up to the next demo room, the huge GIP-7396 system, a replica from the Western Electric TA-7396. The big GIP-7005 we heard earlier is a downsized version of this one, but it sounded just as big to us. This was driven by a 300B push-pull amp. The dynamics these systems can reach are frightening, but at the same time they keep sounding totally relaxed all the way, no hint of compression or distortion. Setup of this system is difficult, we were told.

The GIP-9700A system pushes the envelope with no-compromise versions of the field coil drivers: two GIP-9461 18″ woofers (30kg each), a GIP-9101 compression driver (this driver weighs 45kg, that’s without the wooden horn!), and a GIP-9501 horn tweeter. These drivers incorporate a larger field coil and other improvements over the Western Electric originals, resulting in a 3dB higher sensitivity than the WE-594A and TA-4181. What can I say about the sound? Well all the magic as described before and more. Very natural reproduction. With a single 300B amp this system can blow you through the ceiling.

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