Are vintage speakers really that good?

I was browsing the forums here in Audiogon and I happened to stumble across an Audiogon members' systems and I was so intrigued when I see that this guy is using a vintage speakers that cost a mere $350 with some very expensive electronics. Pls. click this link and tell me your opinions. Are these speakers really better than today's improved technology compared to before?
My experience is that even real crappy speakers can sound pretty good with decent amplification.

I have a set of old radioshack speakers that im running with a Denon POA-2800, granted, i would love some better speakers, had to sell my last ones, but these sound suprisingly good when giving them decent amplification.

Im sure his speakers outperform my radioshackers in every aspect, i wouldnt doubt that the system sounds pretty good.

There are plenty of vintage speakers out there, check out the old-school, klipsch speakers, there are people on this site that swear by these things.

newer is not always better ya know. There will always be "Classics"
You can get some excellent deals on some older speakers, it depends on what they are. The price of many current speakers are , frankly , a joke. But when you go back beyond the early 70s you will be in an era where the treble on most are not competitive with to days standards. I have had the opposite experience, a good speaker will sound good with only moderate electronics.But both are probably true, I use to use Spendor SP 2s , which then cost $650 or so to demo Krell electronics which were much more expensive. But I also used Hafler and Apt Homan on B&W 801s. The bottom line is you have to know what you are buying. In almost every line in almost every time period some are good and some are not. Stan
The mains and surrounds in my HT system were designed and sold in 1979. The mains cost me $250 for the pair and weighed appr 140 lbs apiece from the factory, not including the box. The surrounds are slightly smaller versions and weigh just a bit less, but they set me back just a tad more i.e. $300. Both have been upgraded quite a bit by me, but the basic design is currently being emulated by many, many manufacturers today. If i had to buy these speakers today, they would probably cost somewhere around $15,000 - $20,000 for all four. These were all 100% functional when i purchased them and the surrounds even came with multiple spare drivers.

The speakers in my office system were first released in 1972. Like the others, i've performed quite a few mods to them. When they stopped production on them in 1984, they sold for $4000 a pair. I paid $200 for one set and my spare set ran $175 if i remember correctly. Both were in need of repair when i purchased them.

The speakers in my "vintage" tube based system were first released back in 1963 and are still in production today. Current value on a new pair is appr $3000. I traded $150 worth of radio communications gear to one of my customers for them. These were fully functional, but they were just too big for him to take with him when they moved. While these are not even remotely close to being production models anymore, they look very much the same with a few alterations.

In other words, yes, some older speakers are definitely worth having and tinkering with. Having said that, there have been many advances in driver technology, crossover design and the quality of passive parts used. As a general rule though, applying current levels of technology and upgrading the passive parts to current standards can produce pretty astounding results for pennies on the dollar. This is especially true if one takes the time to properly brace and damp the cabinet, etc... Sean

PS... Many speakers are built by manufacturers / independent folks that know very little about speaker design, acoustics or electronics. This is evidenced by the poor performance that we see in current day multi-thousand dollar designs. Believe me, i've pulled apart some highly regarded, highly reviewed speakers only to laugh my ass off once i saw the insides. When one spends THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of dollars for a speaker and it can't even do 40 or 50 Hz cleanly, there isn't much of a comparison that one can make to an original 1970's "Large" Advent that you can buy for $100 - $150 a pair. Granted, the newer speaker may do some things measurably better, but you might be surprised at how close that $150 investment in some "antiques" can come, especially with another hundred or two and some elbow grease thrown in. This is not to mention what you can end up with when you're starting off with some "old boat anchors" like Quad's, Beveridge's, Plasmatronic's, etc... Most of the companies "way back when" got into speaker manufacturing because they knew what they were doing and it was a challenge to build the best that they could offer. Nowadays, anybody can shove drivers into a box and push them out the door at a high profit margin. Modern day speaker "designers" are the folks that are using computers to do all of their thinking for them. Take their computer away and they would be lost. Sure, they might be able to build something decent, but my guess is that none of you would want to own it. Yes, there are a few exceptions to this generalization, but you get the point. All the great speakers of today are based on the groundwork and models of the past.
I could not agree more with Sean.It amazing some of the so called "audiphile speakers" that are available today for big dollars than can be outirgihtly be beat by some older "vintage"speakers that cost minimal amounts.I even have a pair of Sotas That were designed way before a maunufacturer,who shall remain nameless,claims it is his design when in fact it is nothing but a inexpensive copy,made in China,doesn't even come close to performance and
and probably does not cost more than 500.00 to procuce,but demands 4k forto 6k list.
Royy, apart from the fact that Sean speaks for me too -- better than I would have done -- the speakers listed are the Tannoy GRF & the JBL 4311!

The 4311 is a 3-way control speaker used in professional applications. The other pair is a legendary model from Tannoy. Not just *any* vintage product of the discount variety...!
My a/d/s 810s and 710s can sound fantastic and beat lots of speakers in the proper set up. The newer high end speakers from Aerial or ProAc for example that I have are much better but at a super notch up in price.
The vintage drivers can be good sounding. The only problem with the vintage speakers are the cabinets. Many folks bought these drivers and build them with good cabinets and they can be as good sounding as a $5K to $10K speakers.
My Thiel CS3.6's are currently in for some repairs (still trying to figure out the culprit on that one), so I moved my recently acquired vintage AR-2ax's and Large Advents upstairs to fill in while the Thiels were down. Just for kicks, I stacked the AR-2ax's on top of the Advents, and let me tell you this setup does not sound bad at all, especially once you dial in the mid's and hi's on the AR-2ax. Granted, they don't compare to my CS3.6's, but considering their age and the price that they sold for new, they are quite impressive. Both are Henry Kloss designs, and I prefer the more natural mids of the AR-2ax (which is a 3-way design) versus the two-way Large Advents, but the Advents have a slight advantage in the low end.

If you want to hear more from people who love their vintage speakers, check out the Classic Speaker Pages at

I used the 4311's in the studio when they were new. They are probable the last good JBL's made. But still, there are even older , better speakers.
My JBL L150A were manufactured around 1982 and I think they retailed for around 2,500.
Not sure about the blue book price now, guess it's around 600, but I wouldn't change them, they are in mint condition and the sound is great.

One question, how can I cheaply mod them to make them even better ?

Speaker drivers have improved dramatically in just the past 5 years. I have heard some older drivers that aren't bad, but they are nowhere near the latest designs.

Just the facts, ma'am.
"Improved Technology" often means producability. They are more easily made, and therefore cheaper. "Improved" does not always refer to audio quality.

Fashons change with regard to how a speaker should perform. Nowadays, imaging is king. Older speakers excell in reproducing large sounds, like a symphony orchestra, at realistic volume. Maybe that is more important than imaging. Doing both with the same speaker is the challange. My solution, by the way, and a lot cheaper, is to use different speakers for different kinds of music.
My Snell type B from 1990 is still there with the best of the new crop.Nothing beats them at under $10000=00 price.the rest of my equipment is post 2000.
Certainly productability falls into place with the mass produced garbage, I was however, speaking of higher end speaker drivers than you. If you've heard some of the better hand-built/hand-made speakers, such as the ATD drivers from Italy, you would not be making such statements. I listen to everything from Blue-Grass to Country, Jazz to Classical, and Folk. I don't need different speakers to give me the large orchestra sound at high volume. These are the same speakers that will play a simple solo guitar/folk vocalist perfectly.

This is my point: Many are not aware of the better drivers out there, so they have no idea of what is being missed.

My definition of improved DOES refer to sound quality. ...I don't consider Dynaudio or Seas to be garbage. Perhaps you do. I am sure there is someone who likes drivers that are hand made by saffron-robed monks using pressed llama wool cones, laminated with yak milk , and thinks that the stuff slapped together by happy-go-lucky Italians is junk.
I might as well chime in to piss and moan over selling my JBL L200 studiomasters years ago. I at one point had the 4311's and really enjoyed them. I then went totally whole hog into the "quad" revolution and bought 4 JBL L200's. Wish to God I had kept a pair of them. Used to love to listen to classic rock on the speakers that a majority of the albums were mastered and mixed on.

Use Martin Logan's now and really enjoy them. But would love to have a pair of those old efficient JBL's to let Mick and the boys help me get my ya-ya's out.
No one has mentioned how fine older Klipschhorns and Lascalas sound when combined with good quality tube amps. I am running Lascalas with a Sophia SET, and am blown away by low brass and mid range clarity with 25 year old speakers. Not that I wouldn't like to have Avantgard Trios and their horn subwoofers, but I cannot justify the additional 60 thousand.
I bought a pair of Dynaco A-25's at the Salvation Army for $5/pair.
1.5" Seas,soft dome tweeter,10" Seas woofer with rubber surround that still looks new.
I removed the drivers to take a look and the sealant around the woofer is still sticky after 35 years!!I could not believe how well braced and stuffed they are!
There were >1,000,000 of these speakers sold.
They are 8ohm and only dip to 7ohm.
I found out through a Dynaco authority they are 'probably' 85-87 dB sensitivity.He said they never did properly measure the sensitivity but a compromised test showed 85-87dB.With no hesitation I can say they give my Thiel 3.5's($2850) a real fight.The A-25's are only rated at a low of 40 htz but sound MUCH deeper with very tight bass.
I've read somewhere they dont image well but in my system they image just fine and vanish once the music starts.
Speaking of Dynaco,their Dynaco and Dynakits ST-70 amp sold > 1,000,000 units also.

Anyone on a tight budget who wants to buy a real classic pair of speakers,check out eBay where they go from $50-$150 or so..check out thrift shops also..
A dear friend of mine who is one of the best speaker guys in the country, looked up to by the likes of Jeff Joseph and Carl Marchisotto, both of whom always praise him, can't tell me enough how special some of the early 1970's Japanese speakers(Sansui, Technics, Pioneer) are that you can find in the trash or at a garage sale.

The very lightweight paper cones, and surround/spider materials and design add up to a speed and clarity that simply astounds him, and he is quite smitten.

That being said, they don't do everything right, of course, and come with some of THE ugliest cabinets, finishes, grills ever. According to my friend, simply replacing their internal wiring and passive components makes one wonder how far we have really come in the past 30 years.
Just a few days ago I unknowingly purchased some JBL L200's for just £70, being only after some more speakers to mix through instead of my Wharfedales. Having now totally stripped one (and established it's model) I can only commend the superd build quality of all the components, esp. the LE85s which are running as if new. Though the cabinets are looking shabby, having been painted and abused by owners unaware of their background, and the LE15B's a bit tired, I am getting on with stripping + rebuilding them. Can anyone offer some advice as to where I may source parts (globally...!), or what power they should be running at or can handle. Advice dearly welcome, if anyone could drop me an e-mail it would be much obliged. Rich
I just picked up some JBL 4311 that I’m currently selling on audiogon. I have to say that I’m completely surprised at how good they sound. I’m not into vintage audio but would actually keep them if they weren’t in such decent shape – That might sound a little weird, but I have young kids that would destroy the paper-cone drivers of these classic speakers. Because the right and left speakers are mirrored design (Tweeter, Mid and Woofer in the same exact spot on each) I found it hard to place them in the room in order to get the perfect imaging – But finally got it. Also the 4311’s gobble up tons of power and reveal what’s driving them. They seem to be direct and focused – perfect for in-studio use. When you leave the sweet spot you loose the perfect balance – although they still sound very good while walking around. I wouldn’t put them up against “Watt Puppies” or Martin Logins but they easily hold their own against my recently tuned-up Snell EII’s.
I put some decent speaker cables on the them this weekend ( Not just zip cord) and they improve more and found that they had a wider soundstage -- Not as direct and MUCH better balance from side to side. By doing this they surpassed my Snell's in many ways.