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Al Kahn (1906-2005)

Electro-Voice Founder

Al Kahn

Industry pioneer Albert R. (“Al”) Kahn passed away on June 15, 2005 at his home in Diamond Lake, Mich. Born July 9, 1906 in Iasal, Ill., Kahn had a childhood interest in electronics and was granted the first ham radio license in Illinois.

In 1927, Al Kahn and Lou Burroughs founded the Radio Engineering Company, to install and repair radio receivers in South Bend, Indiana. The company grew and evolved into a successful retail operation as well, but was almost completely wiped out by the Great Depression of 1929. The company regrouped by moving into audio and designed a portable P.A. system for Notre Dame football coaching legend Knute “The Gipper” Rockne, who referred to the system as his “electric voice.” Kahn and Burroughs liked the name and Electro-Voice was officially incorporated on ]uly 1, 1930.

E-V moved into producing quality ribbon and dynamic microphones for the expanding fields of film sound, broadcast and recording. Some of the company’s groundbreaking innovations were the invention of the humbucking coil in 1934 and the T-45 noise-canceling microphone in 1942—just in time to help with the war effort. E-V was also among the first manufacturers to use alnico magnets, which improved dynamic range and lowered handling noise. Later, E-V’s development of Acoustalloy synthetic plastic (non-metallic) diaphragms helped bring dynamic microphones into the studio realm.

The innovations kept coming. In 1963, E-V received an Academy Award for its advancements in film sound for the Model 642 shotgun mic. Later, the company’s Variable-D system reduced the excessive bass build-up from the proximity effect of cardioid microphones and was used in its 1968 RE20 microphone—a classic that even today is used by engineers worldwide in broadcasting live sound and studio applications. Another breakthrough came in 1973, with the Constant Directivity horn—a major development in sound reinforcement technology. More recently, E-V’s pioneering brought the first high-output, neodymium-based N/Dym® dynamic microphones to market.

Today, Electro-Voice continues as a leading force in professional audio, a fitting tribute to the vision and insights of Al Kahn. His spirit lives on and he will not be forgotten.