The company first announced the intention to resume full production of new tubes in September 2018, in a letter published in the Western Electric website. As Charles Whitener announced, the 300B, used in high-end audio amplifiers, will be again assembled in Rossville, Georgia, at a new and reimagined electron tube works facility. This will signal a pivotal momentum for reestablishing the 150-year-old brand in the current market, as part of a strategy to revitalize Western Electric and capitalize in the strong popularity of tube-based high end audio systems.
Back in 1869, General Stager, Professor Elisha Gray and Enos Barton contributed $2,500 each and opened a shop in Cleveland, OH making electrical parts. Their move to Chicago set the stage for a storied future involving Bell Telephone, Bell Labs, AT&T, and Westrex among other legendary names. The famous 300B triode was developed at Bell Labs in 1933 in the form of its predecessor, the 300A, which was modified, patented, and then produced at many historic works facilities beginning in 1938. The 300B has journeyed from the original New York tube shops, to the legendary Hawthorne Works, Allentown Works, Kansas City Works, then the Huntsville Works.
More recently, entrepreneur Charles Whitener, in cooperation with AT&T, reestablished Western Electric and the Westrex Corporation and in 1997 resumed manufacturing the first 300B single-ended triode tubes in Kansas City. They received universal praise and quickly became the gold standard.
In 2003 the company moved 300B manufacturing to Huntsville, AL, and through those years served the US Department of Defense with electron tubes and test sets. Western Electric also designed and engineered audio amplifiers, CD players, phono pre-amplifiers along with other audio components. In 2009, the company moved to Rossville, Georgia. Now, the company revealed some ambitious expansion plans, with a new and re-imagined electron tube works facility (https://youtu.be/dTVe_jDW-lo).
The plans for the revitalized Western Electric were already discussed publicly, with the company's participation in the Axpona 2018 show in Chicago, and plans for a series of presences at other audio shows throughout the year, including the High End 2018 show in Munich, Germany.
As Charles Whitener details, "furthering our commitment to manufacturing excellence, we are installing new hydrogen reduction ovens, automated cathode cleaning lines, new laser welding systems, a state-of-the-art water deionization plant, and an updated testing system with improved accuracy. However, the 300B will still be manufactured from its original tooling and assembly specification standards.
"Although we’ve invested in a modernized production line, many of its aspects will of course remain true to tradition. For example, the core material, the so-called “secret sauce” embedded in each cathode is derived from an original Hawthorne Works 1963 melt. Western Electric’s attention to each delicate detail and historic promise of quality place the WE 300B in a category of its own."
The company also confirmed the new 300B’s will be priced at $1495 per matched pair or $695 for a single. They will also be available in quads and octets. Each tube ships with a 5-year limited warranty.
At the Western Electric demo room in Axpona, the company already unveiled a prototype of the forthcoming 91E single-ended amplifier, an homage to its famous predecessor the 91A, first introduced in 1936. The 91E embodies a new proprietary Class A2 parallel feed current source topology (patent pending), combined with toroidal output transformers, and microprocessor controlled automatic bias. It will achieve in excess of twenty watts per channel — a never before realized level of performance for the 300B in a single-ended circuit. The new 91E will feature a moving coil or moving magnet phono stage and will be available for $9,995.00 MSRP.
Western Electric will also release a limited edition monoblock set of this amp topology called the 91C Metropolis. Only 500 of which will be available.
More details to follow.