|In August of this year another Audiogon member posted an article in this forum titled ‘Aerial 10T Beware’ that cautioned other members about purchasing used 10Ts that he felt were being misrepresented by the sellers. In a nutshell he described the differences between older and newer pairs of 10Ts and criticized those who were listing their older 10Ts with MSRPs that reflected late production 10Ts. At the end of the post he states “I can’t believe how many older version 10Ts I see up for sale that are being advertised and sold as a $8300 list price new version model 10T when in fact they are a $5000 list price old version.” Obviously this member is concerned that this type of advertising will undercut his late model 10Ts value, and in fact, he has just listed his pair for sale. Well, there is no doubt that the MSRPs listed by members on this site are often incorrect and may be construed by some as misleading. However, I personally found this member’s post to be somewhat misinformed regarding the evolution of the 10T and it struck me as a bit self-serving, especially considering his are currently for sale. While this may not be the case (and I apologize if I have offended) I felt that further discussion of the evolution of the 10T would be of interest to those who either currently own 10Ts or are considering a purchase.|
The first generation 10Ts began shipping in the fall of 1991. I became aware of them a couple of years later after they received a rave review by Anthony Chiarella and Michael Fremer in The Absolute Sound in the fall of 1993(Vol.18 Issue 90). The serial number of the pair under review was 010111 / 010112. A friend of mine was the first dealer for these in Colorado so I was able to hear the first generation and was mightily impressed. At this time the retail price was $4500; stands added another $500. This was an exceptional product for the price and I suspect the pricing reflected the fact that Aerial was a new company trying to get its foot in the door of a very competitive industry.
A year later in the late summer of 1994 the second generation (MKII if you like) of the 10T came out with a price increase of $500. You had a choice of black or rosewood stained walnut. For another $500 blond tiger maple was an option. I purchased one of the first pairs of this second generation with the serial numbers 010351 / 010352 in black without stands. A couple of years later I added the stands, which I felt, was a worthwhile improvement. For ten years now these have remained in my dedicated 2channel system, which says a whole lot about my opinion of the 10T given all the speakers I’ve gone through in the last 30 years.
The differences between the first and second generation are in the drivers. Noticeable improvements to the original design were realized with a new woofer and tweeter. The tweeter is made in Germany, and according to Michael Kelly, this new tweeter’s frequency response plot was the same as the original, but with superior transient response. This allows for better resolution and an improvement in soundstaging. The new woofer is made by Vifa and is mechanically more rigid and has an enlarged magnet structure. As good as the original woofer was, this one is even better allowing deep clean bass at even higher volumes. The midrange driver is a twin cone Kevlar design made for Aerial by Focal. It comes in half manufactured and is completed in house by Aerial. The midrange driver is the heart of any speaker and this one was retained in the second generation. However, it benefits from the improvements in the other drivers in that there is an even smoother transition between the drivers than in the earlier version.
There are a couple of ways to tell the difference between the first and second generations. The obvious is to give Aerial a call and have them check the serial numbers. Another way is to look at the tweeter. Both versions look a lot alike, both with a set of four outer hex mounting screws. There is also a set of four screws that are around the dome itself and it is here that you will find a difference. On the first generation these are Philips head screws and they are in the same location relative to the outer screws (11, 1, 5, and 7 o’clock) dividing the tweeter face into four equal parts. The original review in The Absolute Sound clearly shows this pattern. Aerial began advertising in the October 1993 (Vol. 16 #10) issue of Stereophile and periodically throughout 1994. In all of these issues it is easy to see these are first generation 10Ts. On the second generation the outer hex screws are the same, but the inner screws are Torx head screws (similar to a hex head) and they are located at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions. The inner and outer screws create four small triangle patterns. Beginning with the January 1996 (Vol. 19 #1) issue of Stereophile Aerial began new full-page ads that clearly show second generation tweeters. The second generation 10T got its first rave review from Wayne Donnelly in the premier issue of Fi Magazine (serial # 100735 / 100736, which Wayne purchased). The 10T made the cover of Stereophile in the April 1996 (Vol. 19 #4) issue with an outstanding review by Wes Philips and John Atkinson, both of whom were very impressed with the 10T (serial # 100739 / 100740). That same year Stereophile awarded the 10T Joint Loudspeaker of the year, along with the Dunlavy Signature SC-VI, reflecting the opinion of the entire Stereophile staff.
So what has changed since then? Not much really. Although there have been some subtle changes, the sort you would expect to see in any product that was in production for over a decade, nothing truly significant has occurred. Michael Fremer, in the original TAS review, had some criticism of the binding posts and the fact that they were difficult to tighten by hand. These are the binding posts I have on my 10Ts as well as my model 7s and model 5 that I use in a surround system. They have never bothered me and their quality is decent. But I do use pliers to tighten them. By the time Wayne Donnelly and Wes Philips reviewed them these had been upgraded. At this point in 1996 we also see another $500 price increase to $5500 ($6000 w/stands). In 1997 the price goes up to $6000; in 1998 another $500 to $6500; and again $500 to $7000 in 1999. At some time during this period Aerial had to address another regular complaint and that was the problem of hairline cracks developing in the Novalith heads. It should be very clear to anyone who owns or is considering the purchase of the 10Ts that this is a purely cosmetic issue and in no way effects the performance of the 10T. For the most part it really is not noticeable except on very close inspection and I wouldn’t be concerned with it. One of my 10T heads has a single hairline crack about an inch or so long that is hard to see, impossible to feel, and would be difficult to photograph. Keep in mind that the Novalith heads are a couple of inches thick and these are surface imperfections. It is my understanding that this was corrected by adjusting the Novalith formula, which was invented and trade marked by Aerial. The only other obvious change in the 10Ts is new stands ($700) that appeared in later production. I don’t know what Aerial’s thinking was here as the original Sound Anchor stands are excellent. To my eye the new stands are more visually appealing as they are a lower profile and my guess is this was more of a cosmetic change than anything else. One other change we see is Aerial started charging more for the rosewood stained models at some point, but I don’t recall exactly when. In the final production the black models with stands were $7700 and the rosewood stained models $8200, a $500 difference. Regarding the wiring mentioned in the original ‘Beware’ post, I am not familiar with this change, but you could certainly call Aerial if it concerns you. This will be at best a very subtle change if it’s noticeable at all. The original wiring was a special 99.997% pure copper wire and silver solder was used throughout.
The Aerial 10T (MKII) is a remarkable product not only in its design, but also it that it was in production virtually unchanged for a decade before being discontinued with the advent of the far more expensive model 20T. I know of no other product in the high end that lasted anywhere near this long, and that goes a long way in explaining just how good the 10T is. So far I have not yet had an opportunity to hear the 20T, but I have little doubt that as good as it may be it is probably not 3 times as good, just 3 times as expensive. It has, however, just been awarded, once again, Joint Loudspeaker of the Year by Stereophile and is getting rave reviews. Clearly Aerial has not lost its edge and its other models up through the model 9 are also excellent if not the level of the 10T (yes, the 10T will still outperform the model 9, but I’ll admit the 9 looks much nicer).
What should you have to pay for a used pair? The price increases listed above are very reasonable and reflect the success of Aerial, normal inflation, and manufacturing cost changes. In terms of the buying power of the dollar, there is not much difference between $5500 in 1996 and $7000 in 2003. Audiogon’s current Blue Book pricing shows a retail figure of $7000 and average used price of $3400. I’ve been watching the price of these used as long as they have been around and this sounds about right. Keep in mind this is an average price, which includes first generation models that generally fetch in the low-to-mid $2000 range (but there really are not too many of these). If they’re in good shape the first generation 10Ts have got to be one of the great used speaker bargains. I know of nothing that will come close in this price range. Most people will probably be looking for MKII models though and around $3500 plus or minus is what you might expect to spend excluding shipping cost. Naturally condition will effect the price and a nice pair from an original owner will always command the highest price, regardless of vintage as long as they are MKIIs. Regarding late production models, I have seen asking prices as low as $2900 and as high as $4500. Once again, condition, with or without stands, and the person selling them will account for the differences in price. You should be able to find a very nice pair for around $3500 plus shipping, perhaps less if your patient or can live with some cosmetic defects. Regarding shipping, do not buy these if they do not have the original packing. The quality of the boxes and packing of Aerial products has always been exceptional. Only Jeff Rowland’s flight cases are better! The 10Ts come in 3 boxes (5 with stands), two for the bass cabinets and one for the pair of heads. All 3 come banded to a wood pallet that should be reused to reduce the chances of damage. My model 7s also came on a wood pallet so this is not unique to the 10T.
Hopefully this history of the outstanding 10T will be of use to those seeking some of the finest loudspeakers ever made regardless of price. Properly set up in a well designed room (I’ve built two dedicated sound rooms, and believe me, a good room is the most important and most overlooked component in a high end system) the 10T continues to compete with the best out there, even a decade after the MKII came out. It does so much so well and compromises so little that you simply cannot go wrong at the price these are going for used. Even after 10 years I have not been able to part with mine and I’ve listened to a lot of the newer designs that have come out over the years. To improve on the 10T you have to spend huge sums and the law of diminishing returns becomes very real.
One final comment. Michael Kelly is one of the true gentlemen of the Audio industry and has always been fanatical about quality and detail. The build quality of Aerial products is exceptional, especially in their price range. If and when you should ever need service (I never have) you could not pick a better high-end company to deal with and I’ve no doubt Aerial is here to stay.
Enjoy The Music!