Western Electric made some of the best
headphones in the teens and twenties. They were rugged, sensitive,
and not too hard on the ears, comfort
wise. The 509-W's were among the favorite
of the early radiotelegraphers and were used extensively in
military applications. The internal construction of the 194W, 509,
509W, CW-66, CW-834, CW-49003, and P11 all look very similar and
the performance is quite similar. All are excellent for DX
reception on crystal radio and in my opinion are the gold standard
of the old magnetic style headphones. They are surpassed only by
the Navy soundpowered headphones with the balanced reed armature
mechanism and impedance matching transformer.
I believe the P11 headphones and the 194-W were used in WW I followed by the 509-W, which was patented in 1918, but continued in production several years after that. They cost about $12 in 1921 which was a week's wages of the average worker, and were at least triple the price of the cheap consumer headphones. Brandes were about $8 at that time and Baldwins were $14-16. Cheapie brands such as Tower and Scientific were about $3. No wonder most of the old Western Electrics I find nowadays are in working condition and rarely do you find a pair of Scientific Navy Types or Little Spitfires that work.
The 509-W and similar types are among my favorites for crystal set use and rival Baldwins for sensitivity on weak stations.
The impedance is given in AC ohms at 22,700 ohms as well as DC resistance at 2,200 ohms for the CW-834 and the CW-66 headsets, same specs as the 509-W and 194-W.
A friend just supplied me with some new information. The Western Electric items with a D specification, such as the D-1607 headphones below, were developmental products made in very small numbers, and in many cases were made by or under the direction of Bell Labs for the motion picture sound production purposes. Hence, they are fairly rare. Items with the W designation, eg 509-W, were made for purposes outside of the Bell System, ie not telephone system related.
W.E. 516W W.E. 716-B W.E. Signal Corps P11
W.E. CW-834 W.E. Type CW 66 2200 ohms DC
W.E. CW 49003 W.E.552-W low impedance, very heavy duty, with metal and bakelite earcaps, these weigh about twice that of the 509-W, very interesting set.
WE 509-W, this set was marked with the model information on the rim of the housing rather than on the back of the housing. This is the only one I have seen marked in this way, and the housing looks like cast aluminum rather than nickel plated brass.
Western Electric D 1607
This is the only pair of these headphones I have ever seen. Must have been around 1918, since that is the year the patent was granted. These are identical to the 509-W headphones and must have only had a small number made as I have never seen another pair or a reference to them.
Western Electric 400, very early 800 ohm radio model
Probably circa 1916
Western Electric 147-W, very early 140 ohm radio headset
Probably circa 1914 has the early style ball and socket joint
194-W: I believe this model was the immediate predecessor of the
509-W, and probably dates to 1918 or 1919,
516-W This was a 1920's WE headset with an aluminum housing not the milspec type like some of the others.
509 This was later than the 509-W but very similar construction.
716-B: This is a later 1950's headset for either telephone of medium to low impedance communications gear
P-II: These were the WW-I military signal corps headphones 2200 ohms like the 509-W
CW-834, CW-66: both of these look and have same electrical specs as the 509-W
CW-49003: This is a military version similar to the 509-W.
552-W: This pair was marked as laboratory calibrated and are super heavy duty, and I think were calibrated for an audiometer or hearing test machine.
509-W: These were made in several different styles circa 1920 to 1925, one with the print in straight lines across the back, and a less common one with the type in arcs across the backs. I have one example of the aluminum housing 509-W, which is very rare, maybe even a prototype. The box these were sold in was marked 1002-C, though it contained 509-W headphones. Some scanned literature is shown below.
400: These are early WE headphones of 800 ohm resistance, 400 ohms per side.
147-W: This model number was stamped on the edge of the earcap, and the impedance, 70 ohms was marked by a 70 on the upper back of the housing. These are very early circa 1912 to 1916.
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Here are some scanned images of Western Electric literature showing the various headphones and the package insert for the 1002-C headphones indicating that the units are the 509-W earphone units.