Dare I admit? Low end speaker confusion - help

In my eternal quest for music as good as, as uh - well, perfection - I've listened to many, many speakers and am having a ridiculously hard time improving upon my old ones.

Everytime I've searched for speakers I gave up and bought something else, an amp, tape deck, new cartridge.

I've grown up in the NAD, Sony, Polk, Realistic price range.
I matured to Aragon, California Audio Lab, & Audio Physic.

I don't want to be chastised from this group but -
Why is it so difficult to find a speaker under 3 grand that sounds better than my 25 year old Radio Shack Optimus-5's??
Come over - I need to vindicate myself.

They have an 8" Woofer, 2 3" midranges (I removed one and it acts as a tuned port, somehow) and a 20 dollar Radio Shack Super tweeter.
I get what you would expect from a speaker with a driver for Bass, Midrange and Highs - Clear, distinct Bass, Midrange (incredible guitar picks) and amazing highs.

Side by side, my friends are really surprised.

Am I insane?
Were these speakers really something?
Does the fact that I have independent drivers for Bass, Midrange and Highs make all the difference as opposed to a high end two way floor speaker?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated!
I have often been impressed by the grace, the relaxed sound of older speakres, especially 3-way speakers that have large woofers (like my old Gale 401c's!). It might be that the goals of speaker designers have changed over the years and what I call grace is now a lower priority of speaker designers.

Modern speakers seem to be built with different goals: precision of reproduction, detail, neutrality, speed, transients, etc. They are also less forgiving, often FAR less forgiving, of harsh sounding electronics.

I use Thiel 04a's (circa 1983) in my home office. I've owned many modern speakers, including newer Thiels, in my main system, and once in a while I'll put the 04a's into my main system for comparison.

The modern Thiels are far more accurate, offer far deeper and tighter bass, even from similar size drivers (1.2, 1.5, 1.6), far faster, far more detailed, far more extended in treble, far more transparent, better leading edge and far better at soundstaging. The modern Thiels are much more finicky with regard to associated equipment, but when you get the setup right, WOW, what a treat!

However the 04a has that relaxed beauty that modern speakers seem to lack. Maybe that's why I keep them around, for the occasional change of pace. And there are times when I think we've "thrown out the baby with the bath-water".


ps: Some folks will probably tell you that you are simply used to the sound of your speakers and that modern "correct" speakers sound wrong to you because of what you are used to. I don't accept this view, it's not consistent with my experience, particularly since I have had the same experience you have had even that I don't own such speakers.
The problem is that all loudspeakers, regardless of price, are in some way flawed.
You've grown used to the flaws in the sound of your speakers, and you like it.
Why do you want to spend money to replace something you like?

BTW, from the language in your post, you do not sound like an "Aragon, California Audio Lab, & Audio Physic" type of listener.
Klipsch speakers would seem better suited to your preference for an immediate, punchy and lively presentation.
What speakers have you heard?
Well, it could be that the old speakers just work well in your room via some coincidence of acoustic synergy. I wonder if the magic would be lost if you took them into a different room or location?

Then again, it just might be that the speakers have a very natural balance or some particular quirk of frequency response that sounds great to you. Who knows?

Recently, I bought a set of old Altec bookshelf speakers from the 70's at a garage sale. Each contains a 10" woofer, a 10" passive radiator, and a conventional dome tweeter -- seemingly nothing special. But when I hooked them up and cranked them, they really sang. Great bass, dynamics, a natural frequency balance, and really good vocal and midrange performance. It made me take a step back and scratch my head. I had to ask myself, "where's all the progress of the last 30 years?"

I've owned a lot of highly respected speakers over those years, and my current Virgo II's and Stax 4040 headphone system are both great at what they do. Still, I can appreciate the fundamental rightness of those old Altecs and I can't say that my other speakers are enough better to justify their cost. But I can say that I enjoy all of them for their particular character traits and the musical experience they provide.

So I can see where you might have trouble justifying the costs to improve upon your speakers. That said, you could still be crazy. :)
if you like and are really happy with your speakers, then you're a lot better off than a good deal of posters around here.

i wouldn't mess with it, if i were you.

read: run, RUN from this site and never look back!

Kudos to you for admitting what many here would be afraid to say. Others are still so far in denial that they DO think you're crazy.

Listen, with all of the advances that have taken place during the past 20-30 years, the fundamentals remain the same. I find it ironic that there are a few "classics" that even TRUE audiophiles would be proud, or at least unashamed, to own (Quad 57s, McIntosh MC-60, Marantz 8B, etc.). How could it be that these pieces are so great, yet virtually everything else from that era are crap? It's snobbery, pure and simple.

I was in a similar situation about 5 years ago. I had a pair of Boston Acoustics T-1020s that I set out to replace. I loved the speakers, but "knew" that I could do better. I listened to everything that I could find under $3K. I found a LOT of speakers that I didn't like at all...several that I liked as much as my BAs...and only a couple that I liked better. My struggle was whether I liked them $2.5-3K better. I did eventually replace them, but I'm not afraid to admit that even though those speakers are now 15 years old, I know that they'd still sound great today and could easily embarass many expensive modern speakers.

I've always been of the opinion that a good two-way sounds better than a less expensive, "compromised" three-way. But thinking back to those Boston Acoustics, they were a three-way with two 8 inch woofers, a 6.5 inch midrange and a 1 inch soft dome tweeter. It was also a sealed enclosure which I'm sure contributed to the tight tuneful bass response. Maybe there's something to your theory about multiple drivers, at least as it relates to vintage speakers.

Oh well. Sorry for rambling. I would suggest that there's some truth to the theory that you've grown accustomed to the compromised sound of your speakers. That said, the fact that you're unafraid to say that your Optimus 5s sound quite good is evidence that you trust your ears and know what you're listening for.

It's always best to audition components in your own environment, but I'd like to suggest something different in this case. Since you're having a hard time even finding anything that you'd like to bring home for an audition, may I suggest that you find a dealer who would be willing to let you bring your Radio Shack speakers to his store? This way, you can do a direct comparison (eliminating all variables) and get your speakers out of their "comfort zone" (your living room). Maybe you'll hear something that you've never heard before. If you do find that you like something better, then bring them home for a final audition.

Good luck to you and please keep us posted.
Give the Gallo Reference 3 a listen {list:$3000}.If you like them,I may be able to help on pricing.They use the CDT tweeter that offers 300 degree dispersion,{2} 4" kevlar mids and a 10' woofer.You might be surprised how good they are and no need to string the whole mess together to establish phase coherency.
Why does everyone forget the "Biggest Issue":
We all "hear" very differently from each over.

I am constantly told "you should hear these great speakers" only to find I hate them. I don't think it's because of anything more than Rule #1 above.

I once had a friend who "heard" like me and felt blessed that I could always believe his exacting discriptions. I miss him.
older designs rule.
JBL L200's-early 70's to early 80's

Infinity Reference Standard 4.5's-early 80's to late 90's

Martin Logan ReQuest - current.

Really enjoy the Logans and "graduated" so to speak from horns/cones to ribbons to electrostatics.

This was a fairly natural progression based upon the amount of time I spent listening to music and having the above models make a hard impact when I first heard them. BUT, I still miss the JBL's. They were incredibly efficient and had a forward dynamic presentation that was especially well suited to rock music. After seeing Tull, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Stones, and other groups in concert and then listening at home I still think JBL is the most "accurate" representation in a home setting. Although the Logans can do rock, they can't do it like the JBL's did.
I also still have the Infinity's in the shed as I could not bear to sell them in 92 (never listed just when a purchaser of some of my sealed UHQR's wanted them) as I didn't hear anything nearly as good for anywhere near the money to my ears. It wasn't until I heard Logans in the late 90's that I decided to go for that electrostatic speed and transparency.

To me the cost of the hobby make the older designs very appealing. If you like your radio shack gear, great, keep it and enjoy it. Remember, Have FUN!!!!!
Wow - thanks! Appreciate all the thoughts.
I feel as a group this was a good "session".

I was thinking of having the finish redone so I could "have" my new speakers after all.
As much as I love the sound of the Realistic antiques, I do recall the midrange at times of extended listening being a bit fatiguing - but lonly after long periods with certain music. That and the fact the speakers were so "low end" I figured I was ready for a move.

The guitar strumming in Dire Straits "The Man's Too Strong" is a good test for crisp and dynamic midrange and treble which the speakers seem to oddly excel in.

New test next week - bringing it all to the basement.
Larger room, no curtains nor carpets.
After that I hope to be released from the isylum by October?

PS, Snicklefritz -What does a Aragon, Cal Audio, Physic listener listen to? I like it all - mostly female vocals and acoustical guitars.
Perhaps it's the three way design with a small mid woofer (3 inch is my favorite) that is giving you satisfaction with their clarity. Listen to other 3 ways sith a 3 incher, and you might find a smoother version of Radio Shack that doesn't give you listener fatigue. You might want to experiment with thick speaker cables - even monster cable from goodguys or circuit city can sometimes help to get rid of listener fatigues. I love 3 incher myself as well, and looking to buy an old JBLs with 3 incher.
Triangle speakers may be bright but they are EXCELLENT in acoustic guitar. Try the $500 Titus, it may be the improvement that you are looking for.
I remember liking the Sonus Fiber Concertino's only I didn't want to part with the base. Ended up with Audio Physics - Liked the model under the Tempo III's but special ordered the Tempo's thinking that would cover me on the bass.

I am going to try to audition the Concertino's with a Rel Sub. I might get it yet! In the mean time moving the Tempo's to a larger room and bigger amp.
Fabers.. Sonus Fabers, Ooops!
True... I would like to think our appreciation of music deepens with years - especially the complex master pieces that require extended hearing.
I have a mint condition JBL-L96 that I bought from an audio store, after auditioning Traingle, PSB, Paradigm, and others that I cant remember,,,I have owned Mission, Wharfedale, Pinnacle and afraid to say Bose 901's long time ago...

I spend a lot of time in audio boutiques, but the JBL's have something that other speakers didnt have...I couldnt enjoy the sound unless I was always sitting in the sweetspot..The JBL's to my ears are the most accurate I have heard..I stopped worrying about the pinpoint imaging, and soundstaging, and focused on the music, because it sounds just so real...
Even though they love Rock, I had a solo classical guitar CD, and it was uncannily "there" and palpable...1" titanium tweeter, 5" midrange and 10" woofer..