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A story that charts the development of Clair Brothers speaker systems.
2010-02-03


For over forty years now Roy Clair has been designing and manufacturing loudspeaker systems, now you can own one of his systems for your venue. Roy Clair and his team are driving Clair Brothers into markets that require high performance installed sound and mobile products for venues such as theater and convention spaces where compromise is not an option. 


The story of Clair Brothers starts in 1954, when a grocer decided to purchase a PA system as a Christmas gift for his two sons, Gene and Roy Clair. “He had no knowledge of electronics or anything!” exclaimed Roy Clair of the extremely unusual present. “I like to think my father was ‘Clair’-voyent in choosing this as a gift.” The two brothers enjoyed using their PA to provide sound reinforcement for local dances, Easter egg hunts, etc. “The PA bug had bitten us!”

In 1963, Gene and Roy had purchased a loudspeaker re-coning business from a local music store. This allowed them to acquire loudspeakers at the dealer level, granting the opportunity to build them for a local music store in Lancaster. When musicians would visit from out of town to purchase loudspeakers, such as Baltimore’s Billy Joel Royal, it allowed Roy and Gene to go hear their products in use at local clubs.

F&M, a local liberal arts college in Lancaster, PA soon requested the brothers’ services to support headlining acts. Now working in a 4,000-seat facility, one of the largest in the area, the duo would see their first brush with fame in 1966 when Dionne Warwick performed at the college. “At the time, we had a Bogen MX-60, a few Shure microphones, and two column loudspeakers containing six 8-inch full-range loudspeakers each,” Roy stated. “The concert went well, but looking back, we were lucky to start with an easy listening performer or things may have gone entirely different! Timing and luck is something that has stayed with us our entire careers.”

Not long after working with Warwick, the brothers’ path would cross with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons at the F&M venue. (At left we see Roy and Gene with their 1967 Four

Seasons system.) Valli showed a vested interest in the duo’s (Altec Lansing) Voice of the Theater A7-500 loudspeakers, particularly since the group had just performed in Miami and were denied the use of another artists’ sound reinforcement system.

“They were second on the bill to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass at the Fontainebleau Hotel. Alpert was not only a musician, but also a sound fanatic. It was no surprise that they were carrying their own sound system.

Roy continued, “Unfortunately only Alpert was allowed to use his system, while opening acts would have to settle for using the house PA system – even the Four Seasons’ wives and girlfriends noticed how much better Alpert sounded. Timing and luck would strike again as our A7’s helped to make their F&M show incredible. “Valli felt they needed their own system if they were going to be successful on the road, and these two young lads were available – and cheap too!”

The brothers were working for $100 per show, including transportation, per-diem and hotels. They obviously weren’t doing it to make money at that point. “If I remember correctly, after our first tour, in Ohio, we ended up with approximately $40 profit,” he said. Hardly a profitable tour, even for those days. The brothers weren’t aware of other sound companies touring like they were, but they assumed that they were one of the first to do so. Touring with the Four Seasons and their continuing work at F&M necessitated a second sound system.

“In the beginning, I think we did a lot of begging and borrowing to do both accounts. Eventually we saved up enough and bought more A7’s,” explained Roy. “However, with musical tastes changing as bands got progressively louder, we realized that our A7’s weren’t adequate enough anymore.


“We used some of our A7-825 cabinets, and added more power by inserting two loudspeakers in the same-sized box. That seems pretty straightforward by today’s standards, but back then, it was innovation.

”We had a slight advantage because we had a double-woofer, horn-loaded cabinet which was portable. We added power with the first 300 watts per channel Crown DC300 direct coupled amplifier, purchased at the AES Show in 1968 from (Crown founder) Clive Moore. It made us unique at the time.” (An A7-825 loudspeaker and DC300 amplifier are pictured to the left.)


In 1968, a Cream concert at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, PA, was the now named Clair Brothers’ first large concert with 18,000 people in attendance. “Cream was big luck for us!” stated Roy. “Luck and timing rides again! Bob Kirnan, a sound and lighting technician from New York City who we met while touring with the Four Seasons, was contracted to do the show but was too busy. He recommended Clair Brothers to the show’s promoter.”

With their new Crown amplifiers, Altec Lansing cells with 288-C drivers, paired with Clair Brothers’ bass bottoms containing dual Altec woofers, they seemed to be the perfect fit for the in-the-round performance.

“Coming from Lititz, PA, we were extremely low-profile up to this point. That show in Philadelphia would soon change that…”

The Philadelphia promoter, the Electric Factory, soon started hiring Clair Brothers for shows, in addition to introducing them to many of the San Francisco bands that were successful at the time. (Roy is shown at left with an Electro-Voice microphone used by Elvis.)  They also worked for the Belkin Brothers in Cleveland, OH, doing one-off shows.

“Their particular sound was instrumental in our company’s next step. We started appearing on riders as one of the qualified sound companies for concerts, including Hanley from Boston, Kirnan from New York, McCune from San Francisco, and Swanson from Oakland. Needless to say, Clair Brothers from Lititz didn’t get a lot of attention,” Roy added.

As business started to increase, the brothers quit their day jobs and focused on building Clair Brothers full-time. They hired their first full-time employees. “We were lucky to have incredibly talented people from a rural area that wouldn’t normally be associated with the sound industry in larger cities,” said Roy, who pointed out a few of the early hires and their contributions.

The next four years, from 1968 to 1972, would see product development expand within the company. Many “firsts” were built by Clair Brothers, including slant monitors, four-way sound systems, electronic crossovers (built by SAE), and the Elvis aluminum hanging system.

“The four-way systems contained W boxes for low end, a double-12 cone for the mid-range – built by Clair Brothers, JBL radials for the high frequency, and JBL for the super-high frequencies.” Roy said. Somewhere in between 1969 and 1970, Clair Brothers switched from Altec Lansing to JBL.”

In 1974, a large leap forward was made by the company with the creation of its S4 single-box loudspeaker system (the first all-in-one four-way box), complete with hanging grid system. Previewed on Rod Stewart’s tour that year, the S4 created industry buzz, to the point that when Mick Jagger came to Stewart’s show, Clair Brothers was hired for the Rolling Stones 1975 tour after he heard the system.

The S4 included high-frequency drivers from JBL (2 x 18-inch, 4 x 10-inch, 2 x 2-inch, and 2 x 2405). Truck dimensions played an important role in the sizing of the S4, to allow them to fit two across in a standard trailer. (An S4 system in action is pictured to the left.)

The S4 has lasted over 36 years, with updates as needed, allowing it to continually serve the touring industry. The loudspeakers were even used in 2008 for the closing of the NY Mets stadium in New York City.

Roy and his team continue that development today in ways that only pioneers in the industry can do. Along the way Clair Brothers have also learned a substantial amount about loudspeaker hardware and components and that knowledge is applied to every loudspeaker system they build. Roy and the Clair Brother’s team developed and used the first “dead hung” pa system in the industry.

Clair Brothers’ patented i4 system along with its engineering of digital processing continued to drive the company to the forefront of the audio industry, led by the Lake I/O originally designed by Clair Brothers - a very important part of this next step in the history of innovation.

The dream that Roy started when Clair Brothers was formed is being kept alive with the ongoing research and development. Manheim, PA, is currently the site of a brand new facility that houses Clair Brothers.

Clair Brothers offer the exciting new i208 small format line array along with a companion iS118 subwoofer and the engineering that is found in this system has roots back to the early system Clair Brothers developed. These systems are part of the i-Series line arrays that have followed up the CAT (Curved Array Technology) line array system that have been installed in venues around the world to critical acclaim. The CAT system along with the i-Series have a foot in the historical past of Clair Brothers touring days as well as a link to the future with engineering techniques and development that will propel it into the future.

Clair Brothers also offer a unique blend of products for every venue including; stage monitors, front-fill cabinets, in-stair speakers, side-fill cabinets, full-range cabinets and a host of subwoofers. All of these products offer extremely high performance and a life expectancy far beyond the normal loudspeaker manufacture. The heritage of the company is the knowledge in the products.


Clair Brothers Manufacturing


 


“When a potential customer calls our clients and interviews them as references for future projects, the feedback is that we’re a company that comes in with no ego, no attitude, we’re there to get the job done, to do it right, and to make sure the customer’s happy. This goes all the way back to the original concept, and it’s alive and well here today.”

Roy Clair has developed some of the most famous products in touring history, from the 12AM to the S4, R2, R3 and R4. Roy has aligned himself with industry veterans that include well over 300 years of collective touring and installation experience. This history allows the team to target specific and unique needs in the industry and provide products that support those needs.

Team members include individuals that have;



  • mixed front-of-house

  • mixed monitors

  • stacked systems

  • flown systems

  • installed systems

  • maintained systems

  • designed systems

  • built speakers

  • re-cone speakers

  • built mixers

  • built crossovers

  • design speakers


You get the gist of it; we are the “work smarter, not harder” company that can help you do the same.


See attached bios of the important individuals that make up our team.

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