2003   MAY 19   #139

Bolivar Blues Band - Testing 1...2...3... (Side A)

Bolivar seems to be a side-company of JBL. It's not existing anymore, but I found some discussion-forums where the people had questions about some old Bolivar Speaker Works speakers with answers like "It was a great company with highly respected speakers". The record is from 1977 and I found it on a flea market a few years ago. The mp3-file is the a-side of the record. On the b-side you find some more test-tracks (and empty space to test skating) plus a blues recording.

I searched for the record on the web and found one link:

The above mentioned website writes :

"This quirky piece is a test record for putting your phonograph and speakers to the test. It does so though some funkalicious blues playing all on side A with narration by the Bolivar Speaker Works people. Grade A stuff. But the A+ sh*t is on the flip, a song called "Sleep Walking" which is a synthesizer-based instrumental that's basically all funky breakbeat with some cheezoid synth sh*t over it. No open breaks, but still pretty dope for a test record."

- Marcus Maack aka Der Vinylizer, BTTB, Back To The Basics, http://www.vinylizer.net

TT-8:30 / 7.8MB / 128kbps 44.1khz

Text from the album:

Hello and welcome to Bolivar Speaker Works. We make much music at Bolivar - fact is that nearly everyone who works here is able to play an instrument. And we have a school where you can learn anything from reading notes, harmonies to blues. Nobody here earns his living from making music, but we all live from music. Therefore I think I can say that music is a some kind of fun, that we take really serious. This mirrors in the way we build our speakers. We are happy that you've chosen a product of our work. That's why we keep a special eye on how the speakers sound. And we want to help you to realize this with your hi-fi system. We know that nearly all hi-fi systems can sound much better, when you change only a few and simple options on your system. Until now the producers gave you a manual to tell you how their product works. Nobody had the idea to help you with the whole system. That's why we called one of our factory bands: The Bolivar Blues Band. We found a way to tell you how to setup your hi-fi system with a test record and recorded this manual for you. When you finished this record, please forward the record to your friends - it will help them too, even if they don't have a Bolivar speaker. Now, this side of the record reports about the speakers, their plugs and their positions. The other side is about the turntable system. Let's start with the channel identification. If you don't have the left speaker on the left channel, it is the same as viewing a slide from the wrong side: Everything looks familiar, but something is wrong. Here is the left channel. If the music comes from the right speaker, turn off the system and change the speaker plugs before continuing with the next test.

Now we will check the phases. If the phase is wrong, the bass will suffer and the sound will become undefined. The position of the instruments can't be guessed. Here are the bass and the bass drum. You should here them between the speakers and shall sound dry and exact. Turn off the system, change the cable-wires of one speaker and listen again. Choose the combination with the best sound and the best localization of the instruments.

The acoustic of the room has a huge influence on how the speaker sounds - especially when you listen to the bass. Every position of the speakers in the room changes the sound. Take the time to experiment - we will play the bass and bass drum again. Try the speakers in the shelves - the bass sounds dry and thin. Now place them on the floor, but not in the corners, and you'll hear that the bass sounds more powerful. When you put them into the corners, they will sound more powerful. Choose the place you prefer.

After you found the best position for your speakers, let's setup the EQ. Turn up both faders to maximum. We will play hi-hats and harmonica for you. The hi-hats are nearly exclusively reproduced by the high-channel, and the harmonica from the mid-channel. Reduce the faders until the hi-hats sound clear but not hard. Now balance the harmonica - this takes some experimentation with a selection of your favourite records, but here is a good starting point for the beginning.

Thank you for listening. We at Bolivar had fun playing our music for you, and we hope that this record helps you getting more fun out of listening to music.

(Images courtesy of
Marcus Maack)

Tom Dailey writes:
Long ago and far away, I was the Service Manager for the DENVER division of the old Burstein-Applebee Company. At one time, somebody decided to get into bed with Bolivar (so to speak). The story I got was that a group of former JBL folks got together and produced the company and line of products. They marketed the hell out of 'em, but only one problem... B-A insisted on selling them as a package with Marantz amps... now, nothing against Marantz, but we called 'em "Clip Boxes", because they'd go into clipping faster than a Vietnamese barber. To add to this, Bolivar stuff was 4 ohms, vs the standard 8 ohms. Now put 4 ohm speakers on an amplifier that will clip already, and you're pulling TWICE THE CURRENT out of the output transistors... joila! They'd blow the final amp transistors AND... tear the cones right out of the speakers. We got real tired of sending them back to Bolivar, and the big "B" never seemed to be able to supply enough replacement elements, so that was the end of our Bolivar adventure. Only one more story... The local Bolivar sales-puke was in the shop, talking with us all, and my wife (assistant to the District Manager at the time) came back and put him on the spot for our replacement parts... he shuffled and made some lame excuse and when she walked out, he flipped her off - (you can see the picture developing here). I grasped him gently but firmly and "suggested" that that whole box of jackets, belt-buckles, and other goodies (intended for the salespeople) was NOW THE PROPERTY OF THE SERVICE DEPARTMENT... when he balked, I informed him as to my relationship with the lady in question - he turned whiter than he was, and we kept the jackets. I still wear the buckle.

Mark Cerasuolo writes:
I was Director, Marketing Services for JBL International in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and went back pretty far with their product line (to 1974 when I started in audio retailing). Bolivar was a market extension project at Harman International, who made JBL (and later bought Infinity Systems). The slogan "Great for the price of good" pretty much sums up their positioning-- JBL quality and technology without the brand. Unfortunately, with the potential for "creeping" engineering/elegance built-into such a venture, the product ended up becoming priced almost equal to JBL but without the benefit of the badge-- kind of like the Bentley/Rolls thing. It died at retail. The creator of the record, Larry Phillips, worked in JBL marketing and was behind the famous JBL ""Sessions" demo record double disc that featured Hoyt Axton and others before they were really famous. Larry narrated "Sessions" as well. He also narrated a video "Sessions" home theater compilation that I put together for JBL International in late 1990 as a "blast from the past," and was a great guy to work with.

Max Swanson writes:
And here the blurb didn't even mention that the speaker demo was in German. My favorite moment was the left/right channel test. The narrator basically said that, "If you have the sound in the wrong channel, it's like driving on the wrong side of the street against the traffic."