When did your "golden age" of HiFi occur? I must have missed it.
Stuff, old or new, sounds good or not depending of how well it was designed and built in the first place and how well it interfaces with todays equipment. Speaker's have improved greatly since the late 70's - why would you want to hear old or new electronics using them?
What is, IMHO, interesting is that some of the old electronics when brought up to date parts wise can sound dammed good when coupled with quality modern speakers.
Thats true,and we cant really create the muscle car era anymore either,but I see people trying without the car.Somethings,especially nostalgia cant be bought,but can be thought,hey,its the weekend! Cheers men[and women] Bob
the golden age of loudspeaker design include many models which like lots more juice than the trendy vintage amp revival can muster. classic ar,advent,allison,dahlquist,apogee,fried,kef,epi,snell duntech,n.e.a.r.,and maybe the most underrated of all, hales and chapman, do like power ss or tubes. some classic jbl and klipsch models can marry pretty well with the mini watt sets, but the majority of models that still sound good to my ears are best served by more powerful stuff. one of the reasons for the d.i.y. boom is that many current overpriced hi-end loudspeakers just are not designed to be.... 1.neutral and 2.tonally accurate. anyone with money can build an impressive speaker, but not a design for the ages. your local hi fi store would love nothing more than to have you buy a set of loudspeakers based on listening to a audiophile cd or lp of a female singer or other smooth jazz. vintage bill evans, the rolling stones, bill monroe, yes, or any other real-world music will 'out' a mediocre design no matter what the driver, wire and cabinet material are. this is a gruesome fact. there are a handful of companies that still are trying to build a music lover's speaker for the marketplace, shahinian, castle, pmc, totem, gradient.....even the maligned 901 is tonally more accurate than most exotic european and asian imports and the highest priced domestic brands which cost more than a new car.
Newbee, So your saying that regardless of the quality & design of older speakers, they can not 'compete' with modern speakers? Assuming the foam surrounds on older speakers are addressed (i.e. updating any mechanical or age flaws in older speakers) what is it that makes them outdated? (crossovers?, crossover design?, parts used? wiring? the drivers themselves?)
Naturally there is a cost consideration too...with older costing less & new can cost quite a bit more.
We often hear that older speaker XYZ couldn't be matched with new speakers "costing less than 3, 4, 5000 dollars". Is this waxing nostalgic or can it be true in some cases?
I don't know the answers to these questions, but I'm as interested in them as much as Mechans is.
Usblues...you're right. I had a real muscle car (442). The cars today are a weak attempt of days gone by. Slap a buzz-bomb muffler on a 2 liter engine and you have...well...a loud 2 liter engine. :-)
Been using vintage speakers/drivers for the past 3 years.
Other than the two pairs listed with my system I own/have owned the following vintage drivers...
-R&A (Reproducer & Amplifier, UK) 12" full-range drivers
-Foster (early Fostex, Japan) full-range drivers
-Stephens Tru-sonic, USA 15" coaxials/8 cell horn tweeters
-Herald (UK) 8" full range drivers
-various other rebadged Foster/Coral full range drivers
My favorite is the Stephens Tru-sonic 80FR.
Also familiar with vintage Lowther and Klipsch front/back horn speakers, though it's been 20+ years since I've listened to any (with the exception of Chorus II's I borrowed 3-4 years ago).
I prefer modern line/phono sections, but don't have a problem listening to some of the vintage/older stuff.
I sometimes use a vintage Pilot 232 push/pull EL84 tube power amplifier from the late 1950's.
Aside from the popular Altec, tannoy and JBL.
Love the vintage Jensens from the 50s and 60s.
Many also love the EV coaxial speakers from that era.
Fishboat, When/if you or Mechans define what is a vintage speaker, or when the golden age of audio occurred, I would be better able to comment.
When I think of vintage, I think of products from the 50's and 60's. Being a lot younger than I (if you are) you may think of 'vintage' as being from the 80's or 90's.
Regarding speakers and their design, before the advent of high power SS amps, most speakers were driven by low powered tube amps and had to be designed accordingly. No sealed boxes (an optimum design on paper) or low effiency ported multiple driver speakers existed. With the advent of the perfect sound forever, SS amps, came sealed boxes and large multidriver ported, vented, or having passive radiators, designs requiring mucho watts, current, or both. So the 70's were a transitional period for amp and speaker design. My golden age for speaker design really began in the late 70's and ended in the early 90's. Most improvements since then have been incremental IMHO.
For example I can't, offhand, think of any dynamic speaker from times earlier than the mid/late 70's that can compare with todays high resolution speakers IF your criterion in judging speakers is resolution, linearity, and maximizing of imaging (those are my issues). Depth of imaging, air etc were not things that were even discussed much until the early 80's.
If you have other priorities then you might well find some "vintage speakers" that will float your boat. You can go back to the Quads from the late 50's - a lot of folks still love them, for what they bring to the table. I'm sure as much can be said for a lot of older horn speakers as well, such as Klip's and Altec's, DIY speakers using various highly regarded drivers, etc. And, for folks who like dynamic speakers but aren't all bound up in imaging and resolution, speakers with a wide baffle can work quite well.
Now if you want to talk about vintage speakers in terms of the 80's and 90's compared to today's that is an intirely different issue and the changes are not all that clear, to me at least.
Of passing interest is the completion of the circle - the renewed interest in horn's and small tube amps. 50's technology with upgraded parts.
Defining 'vintage' or 'golden age' is essential to this discussion. :-)
I have a nice pair of Rectilinear III speakers from 1970.
They have a nice, natural sound, go plenty low without boom and are non fatiguing in the upper registers and this is when driven with late model Parasound products. I have a pair of JBL D35s from the early '60s that are DYNAMIC, but I guess I'm not a horn guy because they can get harsh, even when driven by my MC240.
I have a Jensen G610 that sounds great driven by a Harmon Kardon 15 watt mono amp.
I think there are plenty of decent vintage speakers around depending on what the individual likes to hear.
I believe that some vintage amp designs are 'classic', like the McIntosh Unity Coupled circuit. The latest incarnation of the MC275 shows what can be done with "old" topology combined with up to date components. Of course, some vintage products were junk....just like some are junk today!!
While I wouldn't call my 1994 Klipsch Epic CF3's vintage, they provide something my magnepans and audio physic tempos and most other speakers that I have had and heard can't touch, impact at all volumes. They play beautifully at low volumes with full and detailed bass and play like a concert monitor when cranked up. 100dB at 1 watt. Clear, uncompressed, undistorted and effortless slam. They are a lot of fun and I only paid $700 for the pair.
Another cool aspect of the older Klipsch speakers is that there value actually goes up over time. Not to many speakers do that.
I have a pair of Klipsch Cornwalls from 1979. I wouldn't trade them for anything. They are dynamic, musical, and present a wide soundstage with good imaging. The 15" woofer has a visceral impact a lot of modern stuff with 6, 7 or 8 inch woofers can't match.
I don't want to hijack Mechan's thread, but I guess I've wondered the same thing as he has though never actually formed the question in my head. For me, vintage would be from about the mid 70's up to, maybe the mid 90's. A 20-25 year old speaker is old enough to have some age issues (foam surrounds..., components of questionable quality or getting weak) and yet 'young' enough to have benefited from some very good designers that were around back then.
I do have an active interest here as I just picked up a puuurfect pair of Snell Model A's (foams were updated) for a good price...a steal compared to the prices of some speakers today. Everything I've read says the A's can be a real delight & I just wanted to find out what that meant. I haven't got them powered right yet, but I'm looking for the right pre & amp combo.
If the 70's to 90's 'vintage' speakers have some component/design warts...what would the warts be? Are there cures for the warts or has recent designs sort of made them obsolete in some respects?
Larry, I had those same Cornwalls back in '87...I could knock the pictures off the walls playing the 1812 Overture with my 40W Yamaha integrated! I wish I had the proper amplification with them at the time however..
My Dad has a pair of the JansZen 130 E-stats/KLH Model 1 bass driver hybrid speakers from the late 50's. They still sound very good to this day. They were a design that were definately ahead of their time!
Newbee hit it. I have an updated HK 730 that i'm running an LP12 through into Tannoy R3's. Smokes the Parasound separates I was using.
Don't know if they classify as from the "Golden age of HiFi (vintage), but I have a pair of Yamaha NS1000m speakers (driven with a Quad 44/606). Now 25 years old. They still look and sound fantastic to me. My other speakers are B&W N801s (driven by a Krell HTS-1 and KSA-250). Both systems are equally satisfying to me in their own way.
When I was in my teens ( a long time ago, about 1960 ) my father and I bulit two Karlson enclosures and used a pair of EV 15trx coaxial speakers driven by two Knight Kit 20 watt mono amps. I wish I had them today.
I still have a pair of 1985 JSE Model 1.0's that miraculously survived dozens of moves throughout shooling, and after, and still are in my bedroom. They certainly show the wear of all the moves.. even though I still have the original boxes and packing, but sound great! To date they have not needed to be reconed, the binding posts did need to be replaced, but I have no plans on selling them.
I guess by most people's criteria these aren't 'vintage' as the LOVE power.. currently they are fed by a Proceed HPA 2 and they could handle some more if I had it to give.
I think of Vintage as mainly 50's and 60's Speakers what you would associate with "vintage" electronics.
Fishboat, I think that the quality of the drivers (especially tweeters) used in speakers has improved quite a bit since the 70's and 80's. Properly implemented these drivers can provide resolution and transparency in dynamic speakers that was only available in panels and electrostats. And, if you wanted point source imaging, was only available in Quad 63's (which even by todays standards is a fine speaker). But, if a person is not too anal about this fine resolution issue there are many excellent speakers from the 80's and 90's that will serve you quite well. Actually, this pursuit of fine resolution can be a trap for the ambitious audiophile with limited means who is unaware that fine resolution will mean that they hear all of the warts in their electronics and sources, and it ain't all pretty! Hope your Snell's work out for you. :-)
In one of my two systems I currently rotate in and out two vintage pairs of speakers: 1. B&W DM2s are from 1972 and were John Bowers' attempt (largely successful) of redesigning the universally applauded Spendor BC1s so that they would produce lower and better controlled bass, and an overall more rugged and dynamic design. They use what are essentially the same drivers as the BC1s but in a quarter wavelength transmission line cabinet that weighs nearly twice as much as the Spendors (56 lbs. vs. 30 lbs.) 2. Musical Fidelity MC-4s from 1986 were a Martin Colloms design (hence the "MC"), a two-way bass reflex utilizing a "see through" TPX 8" driver and a metal dome tweeter, flared port, highly tweaked crossover. Colloms used Quad ESLs as his reference and got pretty close to their clarity and "snap," with the added advantages of higher efficiency and more robust construction.
I listen to these guys pretty much daily, using either of two 30 watt tube integrateds, and I'm getting as much satisfaction listening to them as I do listening to my Tyler Acoustics Linbrook Signature Monitors, insofar as "musciality" is concerned. And, yes, I do hear all the warts! I think what's critical is that you start with well thought out design and then make sure it is in top condition, even if it is more than 30 years old.
As a sidebar, next month I will be adding a pair of Tannoys which have their Dual Concentric drivers, vintage early '70s. Yep, I like (some) vintage speakers.
Funny, I was calling my JSE 1.0's vintage, then after responding to this thread, bought a near mint pair of JSE 1.8's.... So they are new to me, but 20 years old, and sound great. FWIW They are in far better shape than the pair I moved at least a dozen time, and survived college...
I agree with Mechans. Vintage is pre 1970. I don't think anything made in those days come close to today's fare.
Being extremely biased, I believe speaker evolution reached a ceiling in the mid 1980's, with the advent of the Apogee, and that ceiling has yet to be breached. I know of several speaker makers who have used Apogees to voice their new creations.
Yeah, I have to add to Muralman1's comments that the App Stages were in class by themselves. They had there faults (a bit boomy bass, not too much depth), but these seemed to be part of their character that just made them brilliant overall. It's hard to believe that these sold for around $3000! I think they were just too good to be true.
I bought the Wharfedale W90's new in 1963 for $250 pr. and still have them. The odd thing about the 12 1/2" woofers is that the face of them are flat and appear to be some kind of black styrofoam. They have very solid cabinets that are sand filled and heavy. The bass response is awful. Paste this on google for pictures.
The Stage's were my very first real hi end speaker. I purchased the demo pair with bases, on Long Island back in 1990. Kept them for about 6 years and sent them to my Dad..who kept them 4 years before he sold them. Although, I "upgraded" to the Majors and they were more dynamic with tighter bass....I did missed the midrange of the Stages overall.
I wasn't as much into the high end in the late 60's and early 70's as I am now. As a student, I just couldn't afford it.
I didn't become interested in the high end until the mid 80's, well past the golden age. I was mainly intrigued by Maggies and Quads, and I still couldn't afford it. So my "vintage speaker" associations are mainly with JBLs (L88s and 100s), KLHs (17s), ARs (2 and 2As) and various Advents that belonged to friends.
The main difference I hear bewteen speakers 35-40 years ago and speakers in the last 10-15 years is the quality of resolution - "modern" high end speakers, for good or ill, are much more highly resolving than the vintage speakers whether monitors or floorstanders, stats or planars.
(The solid state revolution changed everything.)
I still have some older electronic gear around (Heathkit, Scott, Yamaha, Luxman), much of it loaned to music loving, cash-strapped friends, one of whom I've also loaned my last vintage speakers to. I still enjoy many of older speakers, but I'm not looking to put any vintage speakers in my main system.
In fact, the only "vintage" piece in my main system is a Luxman tuner.
I am surprised, nay *shocked* that anyone considers Apogees vintage. No longer manufactured but of the modern era, surely.
I don't know what Apogees sound like, but they appear to have qualities associated with current high end and would not make "vintage sound".
The sound is hard to describe and KLHs differ from Advents (not by much) which differ from ARs etc. The real older speakers that were golden age do not resolve or have the ability to sound stage that modern speakers do with very rare exceptions. I think of Electrovoice Patricians, big Alects, JBL Hartfields as prime examples. When used with the old electronics there is a certain sweetness and listen-ability. Tannoys are also on my wish list and unfortunately every other vintage collectors list, Check out the price that a good pair of vintage Tannoy command on ebay.
I myself inherited some basic 1959 JBLs which use a driver that remained in oem use as the F-131 as the primary driver in the Greatful Dead's "Wall Of Sound". They sold the set up to Dave Mathews who used it well into the 90s. That speaker was designed in 1948, the same year Paul Wilbur Klipsch produced the Klipschorn which many still use and remain in production today although vastly modified,Thanks for all the responses.
Rackon reminds me that my very first pair of speakers were JBL L99s, the "large bookshelf" ones which had 14" woofers and wood fretwork grills. When I bought those what I really wanted were the B&W DM2s (see my post above) but I could not afford them at just over 3 X the cost of the JBLs. A few months ago I saw the DM2s on eBay and couldn't resist making a 30+ year old dream come true. I expected them to suck but---surprise!---they sound darn good. I consider them second best of the five pairs I currently have on hand by a very small margin.
Ahh' the speakers of yester`year, being a big notch above average or current "Circuit Pity" types go unrecognized by the consumer masses & thereby diminished their availability at affordable prices. The market and ((**consumers )) literally turned a deaf ear. A deaf ear to even caring that
their next stereo system was no longer coming from a specialty audio source , but hypnotized by the appliance stores which were ultimately becoming audio outlets `as well. (**opposite `the minor populaton of audio advocates
who knew & appreciated the difference.)
Typically, these guys knew more about washers & dryers and refrigerators, so the buying public was presented with only needing to know "what's the cheapest you've got & does it sound o.k.?" Then having this mentality compounded by the rise of the locally hyped, soon to be national sales commercials that screamed at you `during dinner,...
( "Buy Here! Buy Now!!, Folks -you can't beat the deals we've got for You!" ... and for a limited time ONLY, you get this free home entertainment center with with every purchase of our new line of vacuum cleaners! ) ----- sound familiar?
And considering that most of these 'ALL 'n ONE Appliance Stores' were backed by corporate franchises and their big lot-buying budgets, the local independent audio shops were burdened to meet overheads, quotas, & additionally, the ever increasing pressures applied by contracts which pushed the requirement to promote ONLY the very name-brands to which they were obligated. / EX: the sales rep comes into "Joe's Hi-End Audio and says, "you have to display our speaker line as your primary' & move your ADVENTS to the rear of the sound room, ...like they're doing for us over at (*Ward-Elkins, Tipton's, & SILO Appliances), or we will pull out",(*the stores which later became Circuit Pity, WORST- BUYS, etc.)
I guess the way to have summarized would've been to use the existence of the stereo receiver bohemuths of the late 70's, because they're a perfect example & result of (all of the above). You had such as the producers of the heavy receivers having to downsize in Quality in order to survive financially to maintain their share of the changing market.
Eventually, this would cause the price gap between mediocre and 'high-end equipment to be ever increasing. The higher level production & finesse of the good stuff became reserved for a new minority seeking specialty audio.
Hey, I've typed enough to rival a Dennis Miller rant ' ...
but that's just part of it! / so long for now'
Erm, Greg, audio specialty stores, at least when I was shopping in the 60's - 70's to around 1980, peddled tons of receivers, from modest little 20-50 watt jobbers to the behemoths you mention. Not just junk, but classics from Scott, Fisher, Marantz, Luxman, Yamaha, Harmon Kardon, Kenwood, Pioneer etc. Yeah, I agree there was a lot of high watt garbage starting in the late 70's but there were some perfectly decent sounding receivers as well, especially since so many speakers weren't as resolving as they are now.
I dunno if it was the appliance stores that killed audio...I seem to remember a lot of big ol' stereo consoles in appliance stores in the late 50's and 60's.
Beemerrider, I'm glad you've found bliss with those B&Ws. Nothing quite like achieving the dream. I bet they sound better than my old ARs do now.
Those JBLs could rock though!
Thanks, Rackon. When I bought the JBL Lancer S-99s I compared them with the ARs and thought the former were clearer and more open sounding. That was about the extent of my listening expertise back in c. 1972.
This weekend I'll be getting a pair of Tannoy Little Gold Monitors that utilize the 12" Monitor Gold Dual-Concentric drivers. These are early to mid '70s vintage. I'm having fun with this old stuff but think I will be keeping my Tyler Linbrook Monitors as my primaries.
That was about the extent of my expertise back then too.
Tannoy Golds - that sounds like fun!
I've got Alon Lil Rascals (Nola Minis) hooked upt to a Luxman receiver in the office, and when they go back into the HT set-up I may play with some vintage speakers.
Not contemplating replacing by big Alon Vs with vintage, of course.
Yes I sure do. Many cool interesting a good sounding designs if your in the know.
The vintage speakers from the so called Golden age (when they are of the brands known for top engineers)will go head to head with anything and everything in audio today. Altec, Western Electric, certain EV, certain JBL have the finest mids and highs ever reproduced. No voice or tenor sax is more accurate than from a hand tuned aluminum diaphragm Altec 288 on a tar filled 1005 or 805 horn. It is simply like having the artist standing in your room. An old AR, Advent, or Cornwall is not in this league by a wide margain. These lesser vintage offerings often taint the group as a whole.
I would respectfully disagree with you, Ampster. Vintage speakers were designed around the limitations of amplifiers of the period - when 10W was considered a powerful amplifier. Consequently, nearly every vintage speaker I have heard sounds coloured, has flabby bass, and limited in both frequency extremes.
Modern speaker designers have fewer such limitations - so they sound more neutral and more extended. I would submit that a modern Avantgarde or Tannoy sounds better than vintage Altec or JBL.
nearly every vintage speaker I have heard sounds coloured, has flabby bass, and limited in both frequency extremes
If that's all you've heard, then I submit you haven't heard a properly set up vintage system. The key element here is enclosure size. Many of the better drivers from Altec, E-V, JBL and other were designs to sound best in really large or even infinite baffle type enclosures. I'm talking about cabinets with 15 cu. ft. or greater volume. As a practical matter most manufacturers ended up making many models in smaller, less optimal cabinets and tailored the bass response to sound bassy as opposed to accurate. Examples of vintage speakers with truly great bass extension and performance are Bozak Concert Grands or E-V Georgians/Patricians.
Many of the better vintage manufacturers came out of the movie theater industry and made their names producing speakers that were very large, went very loud and could project their sound in a controlled manner throughout a large area. I know many people love their VOTTs, but I just don't think they sound right in normal size and styled listening rooms. What these speakers can do extremely well is midrange frequencies. Voices, arguably the toughest instrument to get right, can sound very real on these type of speakers.
IMO modern designs clearly have a more extended treble than vintage. It's a debatable point whether this is truly critical or not.
Classical Audio Reproduction, a fine Michigan company, manufactures loudspeakers based upon vintage design, but uses modern materials. I wouldn't say they are better than competing, more modern based designs, but they certainly are competitive with them.
New speakers today are compact, beautiful to look at (wife friendly) handle lots o power,built w/ close tolerances, ect,ect, blah,blah,blah.... It doesnt mean IMO that they are "better" than the vintage speakers. Oh yea, they handle more power, easy to bi-amp, tri- amp ect... but....I use JBL 4345's paired w/ modded Khorns, (alk xtreme slope xovers, alk trachorn, beyma tweeter, solid silver cardas wiring) 2 MC2000's driving Khorns, 1 MC 352 JBL's, and I would put this up to MOST ANY of new speakers out there! Of course Its NOT just ME sayin how great this sounds but others who spent mucho on the newest greatest.... It definetly is a BIG footprint but, I think it would cost alot more to get a "modern" design....
"If that's all you've heard, then I submit you haven't heard a properly set up vintage system."
I have heard more than a dozen vintage systems in a few countries, in a variety of rooms from small to large, and with a variety of amplifiers. They all seem to have the same colorations. Maybe you are submitting that none of them knew what they were doing - and you would be right. After all, if they had a clue, they would get rid of their horrible vintage systems and get something modern :)
I am using the Great Plains Altec 604 drivers in a large 11.5 cubic foot MLTL enclosure made by Serious Stereo. I agree with Onhwy61 that many of these speakers need a larger enclosure to sound their best. I am getting deep tight bass, very high resolution and an incredible wide open soundstage. There is a presence to the music that I find missing in most modern speakers. Overall I think vintage speakers can be as good or better than some of the best new technology speakers as long as they are implemented properly.
At the this summer's Capital Audio Fest in DC, I thought the two best sounding rooms were a modern and a vintage room---polar opposites really. One had Wilson Sashas driven by the D'Agostino solid state amps. The other had Western Electric/Jensen field coil speakers driven by electronics using Western Electric transformers and other vintage parts. Hearing Peter McGrath's uncompressed recordings in the Wilson room was a real treat; they had a spooky transparency and natural detail that seemed awfully close to "real" in my book. However, ordinary CDs in the vintage room also sounded "real" although lacking the frequency extremes and dynamics of the Wilson setup.
Overall, I would have chosen the vintage system for smaller scale acoustic music at medium volume levels. The midrange just sounded right to me. But with orchestral music at realistic volumes, I would choose the modern room. Fortunately, I didn't have to choose (I forgot to bring my checkbook.....)
In my own system, I have a similar choice between modern speakers (Spendor SP-100) and homemade speakers using vintage Jensens and Altecs. Each speaker favors a different amplifier. On most days, I prefer the sound of the Jensen/Altec speakers using my single-ended 46 amps, as opposed to the Spendors using Emotive Audio Vita tube amps. But who knows, tonight I may prefer the Spendor/Emotive combination. In any case, I would certainly not dismiss vintage speakers as a group for being too colored or for any other reason. Some vintage speakers are capable of excellent sound by any measure.