Soviet HI-FI and its creators: 35АС-1, S-90, Kerno and the first Soviet HI-FI

    So, perhaps the most legendary and most controversial product of the Soviet HI-FI industry is the 35AC-1 speaker system (more known to the masses as S-90). It was the first Soviet speakers, which reached the HI-FI bar and became a kind of symbol of high-quality Soviet audio equipment. Moreover, it was the first in the USSR serial audio component that conforms to the DIN 45500 standard, the Brig amplifier became the next.

    Another interesting fact is that the real patriarch of the Soviet and Latvian acoustics Roland Kerno, who had gained valuable experience at Telefunken enterprises during the war years, became the creator of this “cult” system.

    Among other things, the story of the creation of the S-90 is connected with modern myths that are spread by one of the supposedly former employees of the plant "Radiotehnika". I will dwell on this myth separately, because by the efforts of this person, the sex of the RuNet takes him for the creator.

    Wartime Legacy

    As is known from the history of the company “VEF Radiotehnika RRR” in 1941, it became part of a large German production association “Telefunken”. At that time, Radio Engineering was engaged exclusively in military orders, repairing radio transmitters, radio receivers, optical equipment and loudspeakers.

    At that difficult time for Latvia and the world, a young engineer Roland Kerno worked at the enterprise, who in consequence will create the first HI-FI class speaker system in the USSR. It is believed that valuable experience in one of the best technical companies in Europe in wartime had a significant impact on the thinking of a young engineer.

    According to the recollections of Likhnitsky, who in one of the publications mentioned the conversation with Kerno, it is known that he was involved in the creation of 300-mm loudspeakers and acoustic systems for radio receivers. Among other things, Likhnitsky mentioned that Roland Paulovich managed to learn a few technological secrets related to German speaker diffusers (I would not be in a hurry to take the information from his article into making the truth in the first instance, given Lychnitsky's love for hoaxes).

    Some biographical data

    After receiving a certificate of secondary education, Roland entered the technical faculty of the Latvian State University. During the years of occupation, as I already wrote, a graduate of the Riga University works at the company “Telefunken Geratewerk Riga”, which then acquires the now known name “Radiotehnika”.

    After the completion of the occupation, Roland Paulovich continues to work at the same enterprise as a Soviet engineer. At that time, the future creator of the S-90 can be called without exaggeration the person of his time. His engineering and design electro-acoustic solutions often anticipated the inventions of Western engineers. Unlike many Soviet developers, Kerno did not repeat already created samples, but developed either a fundamentally new technique, or just an original one and not inferior to foreign analogues.

    In the early 60s, Roland proposes using a multi-band frequency-division design using a passive filter to achieve high fidelity. Such systems were practically not produced in the USSR, and in the West mainly broadband were used. This is one of the many innovative solutions that will find its application in both Soviet and Western mass products as early as the 1970s and 1980s.

    With fundamental knowledge and bold technical solutions, Kerno deserved the unofficial title of the patriarch of the Soviet electroacoustics. He quickly became one of the leading developers of audio equipment at Orbita Design Bureau, which was part of the RRR Radiotehnika VEF software.

    Background to the emergence of S-90

    As in the case of the first Hi-Fi amplifier, this loudspeaker system could not appear on the bare enthusiasm. Needed the will of the leadership and so-called. planned need. Such a need arose in 1975. At the exhibition “Svyaz 1975” was presented the radio “Victoria 003” and the “Allegro 002” flashlight.

    Presented samples were prepared for release over the next 2 years. There was a problem with the serial release: there was no decent speaker system for the radio receivers and the player, which could reveal their possibilities. The main criterion for the new speaker system was to be power. In the technical specifications for developers, the nominal value of 35 W was listed for each channel (ie, about 100 W RMS).

    The creation of such a system was commissioned by the Orbita design bureau. Kerno took advantage of the situation and laid down the new requirements of the HI-FI standard in the terms of reference for acoustics. Received by that time several patents for electroacoustic inventions, Kerno decided to use his work to create speakers with high (by Soviet standards) fidelity.

    First steps - 35АС-1

    As a result of an intense creative process, thanks to the intensive and well-coordinated work of the Orbita team under the leadership of Kerno, 35AC-1 was created in 1977. In fact, it is the same S-90, only with a slightly different design. This speaker was the first system to meet the Hi-FI standard. The authors of the project are Kerno Roland Paulovich and Lacis Dzintars Arturovich.

    To ensure sufficient sound pressure, the bass-reflex acoustic design of the case was chosen, while to suppress the parasitic resonances from the mid-range and tweeters, they were placed in separate closed volumes.

    The introduction of the phase inverter hole to the front panel of the case was quite modern, which allowed to save space when placing speakers. Loudspeakers were installed in the system: 30GD-1-25, MF: 15GD-11-120 and HF: 10GD-35-3000.

    One of the interesting and characteristic features of the acoustics are the step-level reproduction level controls for mid and high frequencies. Regulators allowed to change the sound pressure and timbral features in the range from 500 to 5000 Hz and from 5 000 to 20 000 Hz. Each control block had three fixed positions: 0dB, -3dB, and -6dB. So, in the “0 dB” position, the signal from the filter was immediately applied to the dynamic head, and in the remaining positions passed through the corresponding resistor, which weakened it, thus determining the frequency and timbral features of the sound.

    The best speaker in the USSR 70s

    The system characteristics were better than all household samples produced by the USSR at that moment. Many authors who are well acquainted with Western speakers of that period say that this Soviet development exceeded some samples of similar equipment from the USA and Europe, unequivocally second only to Japanese developments.

    • Passport power - 90 watts.
    • Rated power - 35 watts.
    • The nominal electrical resistance is 4 ohms (8 ohms).
    • The range of reproducible frequencies is 31.5 ... 20000 Hz (+ -4 dB).
    • Nominal sound pressure - 1.2 Pa.
    • Speaker harmonic distortion at a sound pressure level of 90 dB at frequencies:
      250–1000 Hz: 2%
      1000–2000 Hz: 1.5%
      2000–6300 Hz: 1%
    • Overall dimensions of speakers - 360x710x285 mm.
    • AU weight - 30 kg.

    This frighteningly hunchbacked frequency response graph for Soviet equipment of the 70s was an unattainable benchmark.

    After two years, the 35AS-1 with a redesigned design began to be produced by Radiotekhnika as an independent product called S-90. There were no significant changes in the acoustic characteristics of the S-90 - it was almost the same speaker with a new name. Later versions of the S-90B and S-90D speakers were distinguished by an increase in the frequency range, an indication of electrical loudspeaker overload, and a new updated case design.

    Joy and curse of the Soviet music lover

    Like any other system 35AC-1 was not without flaws. Picky audiophiles often complain about the boomy character of the low, unnatural sound transmission and the uselessness of timbre filters with low coherence of the amplifier system.

    Experts note the imperfection of the filter design.

    Meanwhile, the high power of the AU (which attracted many in this system) and the inherent simplicity of the Soviet technique left the opportunity for experienced radio amateurs to make improvements and improvements.

    Unexpected “creator”

    Decades passed, the release of the legendary system ceased in the early nineties, everyone thoroughly forgot about those who created it. In Latvia, of course, they remembered, Roland
    Kerno continued his career as an engineer almost until his death, became a member of the Latvian Acoustical Society. The engineer died in the year 2003. But in Russia, where the lion's share of the S-90 was delivered before the collapse of the USSR, it was forgotten.

    So in 2014, a video made by Expert TV TV company appeared on the channel of Alex Audio company, in which Alexander Yan-Belyaevsky, a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (founder of Alex Audio), is called the author of the S-90 speaker system. They say that the AU was developed in the 80s when Jan-Belyaevsky allegedly worked at the Radio Engineering plant.

    There is no information that he actually worked on the network there. In addition to this story of Yan-Belyaevsky himself, I quote here where he mentions that he developed the filter for the S-90:

    “In the distant and cloudless 1975 in the USSR acoustics 35АС - 35 W were sold everywhere. (according to international standards 70 W.), which was produced by all the factories and the Riga Popov Plant was not an exception ...

    Acoustics can be done by ear. “How it really was!”, Says the author of S-90

    I was 14 years old at that time, I worked in the radio engineering circle in Kozhukhovo, Avtozavodskaya metro station, under the guidance of Pavel Ikonnikov. My parents were familiar with the Chief Engineer of the Riga Plant - Tsudechkis - “He was all wise”, “The Initiative person — he introduced everything new and new, the whole plant was kept on him!”.
    For myself, for the house, I made an acoustic system, based on the Riga speakers - “Tsudechkis saw it in my house!”, The first thing he said: “That's what I need - I have a whole KB ( The design office is subordinate, and all is useless! “
    Acoustics can be done by ear. “How it really was!”, Says the author of S-90

    “Around the world - I am considered the founder of the prototype column S-90, which was created in 1979, in 1980 it was launched into a series”.
    We went to Riga to the factory, went into all departments: engineers, designers, and technicians. Tsudechkis gave the order: “This is the guy who will say that and do it!”. And everything turned out, imagine - I was 14 years old, they were drawing, writing, counting, my filters were done ... The prototype was ready! Acoustics can be done by ear. “As it really was!”, Says the author of S-90 -

    At first, everything was collected from “baldy” - I collected the filters, not focusing on measurements, and now the long-awaited moment - S-90 was put into the sound chamber and Tsudechkis’s calculations were fully justified - Almost perfect schedule, “You all know it,” everyone was shocked! I realized one thing: “Acoustics can be done by ear!”. In addition to the S-90, I developed the S-30 speakers, and all new models immediately launched into the series. They gave me a pair of S-30s, and I went back to Moscow. ”
    (the author's typography has been saved; according to )

    Jan-Belyaevsky is also signed quite pathetically:

    Always yours - the inventor of the S-90.
    Sincerely, Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences
    , Director General of ALEKS Company,
    Jan-Belyaevsky Alexander Vladimirovich

    Interestingly, Jan-Belyaevsky himself was born in 1965. Those. 35AC-1, he allegedly developed in 11 years. By the way, in 1978 (01/15/1978) of the Orbita design bureau, patent No. 00588661 was received for the development of a 35AC-1 acoustic system (S-90). The authors mentioned in the patent are Kerno Roland Paulovich and Lacis Dzintars Arturovich, which completely excludes the possibility of any relation of Jan-Belyaevsky to this development in the 80s.


    To this day, many less sophisticated music lovers use the C-90 as their home acoustics. There are also collectors for whom these Soviet speakers of different series are of collection value. Russian manufacturers of speaker systems, including Aleks Audio and Arslab make nostalgic clones S-90. Enthusiasts with hands from the right place and knowledge of acoustics regularly posting options for reworking the famous legend of the Soviet column construction.

    The creator of this speaker, Roland Kerno, of all the engineers of the postwar period, made perhaps the most impressive contribution to the Soviet electroacoustics. He patented more than 10 inventions, developed almost all acoustic systems manufactured by the VEF Radiotehnika RRR plant since the 1940s, which is about 30% of all acoustic systems produced in the USSR after the 1940s.

    The engineer’s contemporaries said the following about him:

    This is a unique person, all the “acoustics” that Radiotekhnika has been producing since the late 40s, he developed. One of the first he came up with the principle itself: take several speakers responsible for a narrow frequency band and separate them with special filters. But Roland Paulovich believed that it was impossible to gather such comprehensive information as to make everything predictable on paper.
    Always some moment of creativity will remain in this work ...

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