Wow, this takes me back....If I recall correctly, Down firing woofer, these holes are an addition to a slot load or port.
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Thanks for your response. If I read the information I have found correctly, it should take you back to 1967 or maybe 1968. You are correct as they do have a 12" downward firing woofer and a midrange/tweeter plate that is shared with the Empire 9000, 9000M, 8000 and 8200. I removed the lower plate to clean out 50 years of spider webs and dust bunnies and to look at the surrounds on the woofers. They look good for 50 years of hanging upside down. I also removed the top (mine have the standard wood top as opposed to the marble upgrade) and neither on the top nor bottom do I see any other slot, opening or port. Just the ones on the back of which one system has four of the ports plugged and two open and one with 5 of the ports plugged and one open. If they are the ports used as a slot load, it sounds like they should all be open. One thought I had was that maybe these plugs were installed only for storage and/or shipping (maybe to keep out critters) and were meant to be removed upon unpacking and set up. The older gentleman I bought them from said he had never hooked them up or played them from the day he bought them. Maybe removing the plugs was called out in the owners manual as part of the setup, but since he never used them, he never took the plugs out. They are in unbelievably good physical condition for being 50 years old. The cabinets are nearly flawless. The wood is just dry and needs to be treated to bring it back to new luster. Maybe I'll try taking all the plugs out and running a few tests. Thanks again!
I did give them a preliminary listen to check to see if all the drivers worked. I had heard from some other folks that it was very common to find the tweeters and/or midranges nonfunctional due to an electrolytic corrosion problem between what they said were aluminum voice coils and the external interconnect. I don't know if that is true, but all drivers seem to work. My first test was a quick hook-up to a Pioneer SX-1250 I am restoring that I bought at the local pawn shop for $29.99! It was cosmetically beautiful and complete, but had a nasty 60 Hz hum on just the AM and FM inputs that was quickly diagnosed and repaired. They have a very 1960's sort of sound to them similar to the Harman Kardon HK-50 from 1969, but with more punch and power handling capability. I also want to check the crossover components as they are 50 years old now. After I complete the cleanup and spider web/dust bunny removal, the plan is to hook them up to the equipment I'll be using them with and give them a thorough listening too! So far I have been very pleased with what I hear. In addition, I really like the cabinet work and styling of the fluted column. I'm hoping that I might find the optional marble tops somewhere in the future as I think they would make these systems look even better!
I did give it a thought to get new ones made. I'll have to check into the pricing and selection. A friend of mine suggested I get synthetic marble and then drill and inset a series of individual LED's around the forward edge making a digital power meter of sorts on the top of each cabinet, built right into the top! I'm not so sure about that idea, but it does sound interesting! :-)
I just looked these up and looked at images... I saw these in more like the early to mid 1980's... working on speakers for a long time.... Now that I go to images, I'm not sure if what I had been in was an 8000 or a 9000, but the woofer mounted on a plate firing down, below that plate was a slot with a screen mesh all the way around, the bass was fired out of that slot.
I don't know how long Empire continued to make these particular models of speaker as the amount of information on the web seems incomplete and sketchy at best. The 1964 Empire catalog listed the Empire Royal Grenadier 9000 with a 15" downward firing woofer in what appears to be an acoustic suspension design and the iconic external gold colored midrange and tweeter. It also showed the Empire Grenadier 8000 with a 12" downward firing woofer in what appears to be a vented design enclosure with the same iconic external gold colored midrange and tweeter. You are right in that they both had a screen mesh around the bottom of the cabinet for the woofer. In an ad from 1966 and what I think is an excerpt from the 1967 Empire catalog I see the Empire Royal Grenadier 9000M and the Empire Grenadier 8000P. The 9000M appears to be basically unchanged cosmetically from the 9000, but the 8000P now has a fluted column design as opposed to the smooth column of the 8000 from 1964.
There seem to have been other models like the 7500, 7000, 6500, etc. including the very unique Neptune speaker that came later and at a lower price point. They all continued with the downward firing woofer configuration and front mounted midrange and tweeter, but looked entirely different. There doesn't seem to be a lot of information regarding a clear timeline with all the models from Empire's beginning to the end of their run.
When I was a kid in the 1960's, I only knew one person (my next door neighbor, who was a lawyer) who had a pair of Empire Royal Grenadier 9000's, with the marble top. Looking at the original price and adjusting for inflation a rough calculation would put the cost of a pair of Empire Royal Grenadier 9000's from 1964 at approximately $2400.00 in today's money.
I did find something about those ports on the Empire 8000P's. I'm now changing my mind and believe they were for more than packing and shipping. I found an old ad for them from 1966. It was on a French audio collectors website (of course it was all in French, but I understood the pictures), but the ad was in English. It made the following statement.
"Its exclusive dynamic reflex stop system allows you to adjust the bass and treble response to suit your individual room acoustics"
The crossover adjustment on the bottom is marked only for "High Frequency Control". Low, medium and high. So it looks like the only way to adjust the bass, would be to change the woofer load by removing some or all of the vent plugs or leaving them all in. There are six ports on each cabinet and right now I have four of the six ports plugged on each. Mainly because I only have 9 plugs total as the remaining 3 were missing.
I also made at least one mistake in one of my ramblings above. The other Empire speaker I was trying to think of was the Jupiter, not the Neptune. I knew it was one of those planets! ;-) The cabinet looked like the head of "Robert" the robot from the old Gerry Anderson kids show Fireball XL5! Very unique!
I really like so much of the old equipment from the "golden era of audio" and before.