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Agreed. Age does not really have much of a bearing with a well-designed product. I have a pair of Snell A2's made in 1982 which are in excellent condition. I just factory refurbished them with new mids and reconed original woofers. The sound is clear and detailed, and the bass is tight and accurate. The technology really hasn't changed much, other than maybe different designs for home theater, and maybe new esoteric designs. Older speakers like these need maintenance usually due to the failure of foam surrounds on the drivers. Once repaired, they are good as new, and a real bargain at resale for knowledgeable buyers.
The only thing I notice with older speakers (and it is not the sound) is many more have lower power ranges for the amplifier. For example, many current B&W bookshelf speakers are rated for amps ranging 30 to 150 watts. A lot of their 80s vintage bookshelf products ranged from 10 to 90 watts.
In my experience there has been quite a bit of improvement with the silk dome tweeters that were not available until recently. I recently heard a pair of $200 Sound Dynamics speakers trounce a 10 year old top of the line Theil speaker (from the midrange up, with obviously less dynamic punch, after all we are comparing a 6 foot tall multi driver 300+ lb speaker to a cheap little budget monitor). I think those Theils originaly cost something like $9200 if I remember right. I strongly suspect that the superiority of the Sound dynamics can be linked to it's newer designed tweeter materials, which were not available when the Theil was designed.
Thanks for the response. It makes me feel better about owning older equipment. I love the sound and am stuck with them for the rest of my life. Unfortunately I don't get a chance to visit hi end shops enough to compare. Some think the more you spend, the better the sound. I tend to disagree with this approach somewhat. I'm driving my martins with an old Nikko Alpha VI ( electronic amp ) It was hand built and uses Mosfet technology. It puts out a good 300 per side of clean power. Plenty of punch for my buck. My preamp is a class A Hafler 915 series. The upgrade on the preamp made a big difference on my system. Any thoughts on upgrades without bankruptcy?
I picked up an old pair of Shahinian Elfs recently and have been very pleased with what they do, both in terms of sound stage, timber and freq.response. Given what has been said and what you have clearly understood about material degredation over time, the older designs are quite viable. I have not sen quantum leaps in speaker design; however some of the materials that have become avaliable in the last few years have allowed designers to realize the full potential of designs.