How old is too old ?....

Over the last year I've been updating my system,that was long over due.
Replaced a 16 year old cd player..mission DAD 7000
Hafler 110 pre..Blue Circle 3.1
Hafler DH 500...Bryston 4B ST( currently replacing again)
Various cables,too numerous to mention.
However I still have my old speakers Kef 104.2 and continue to like the sound.
These speakers are 16 years old.
My question...has technology marched on and left me and my Kefs behind?
I will replace at some time but for now I would like to keep these.
What improvement can I expect with newer speakers..a little ..alot....WOW...
Am I upgrading in the right order?
I've been told that all the upgrades ,to date,are wasted unless I replace the speakers ..VERY SOON.
Is a true statement?
Please replace the KEF speakers.
They are calling out to be replaced.
The Bryston and Blue Circle are demanding it.

You will thank yourself for the upgrade.

If you can find a way to easily replace the capacitors in the crossover network with newer models, you'll probably like your speakers even more. Not only should they sound more transparent, you'll have increased their power handling in the long run. Capacitors deteriorate with age, can shift value, etc..

Bare in mind that the sound will change quite a bit when you initially do this. It will continue to change a little bit more over time as the capacitors settle in. Depending on the specific types of capacitors used and the power levels that you normally generate listening to the system, it can take anywhere from a few listening sessions all the way up to several hundred hours to finally reach their "plateau".

I am currently working on a way that i can cycle capacitors to help them "form" before i install them in gear or speakers for this very reason. This should get me most of the way there but will still require a little bit of "actual use" to fully settle in.

If you are really interested in doing something like this, try checking out the forums at Madisound for further information. Sean

About a dozen years ago I compared, side-by-side, the then top of the line KEF107 to the B&W801. The KEF sounded vailed, lacking detail compared to the B&W. The current B&W's surpass the previous models in virtually all cases. If you follow my logic, you will come up with the following order of the speakers that I mention, best to worst:

B&W now
B&W then

I am not saying what speaker to buy, but YES you can make dramatic impovements with the right new speaker.

Have fun looking anmd listening,
I would ask you, did you hear an improvement when you added the front end changes? If so, then they are not "wasted". Are they? So much for the opinion given you by the speaker zealot. I have regularly had systems where the speaker was the least expensive item in the chain. My systems consistently outperform many of my friend's systems who have way more $$ in their speakers than I do. How can this be? We all know that speakers are the only "real" component in the system, and that everything else is just a "necessary evil" that takes up money that you could have spent on more expensive speakers, right? But, somehow those old KEF's let you hear the difference in your front end, didn't they? I wonder how that happened? Perhaps you live in the Bermuda Triangle like I do. Where the "assumed" rules of audio are changed, and speakers only reproduce most of what they are given by the amp, which reproduces only most of what is given it by the preamp, etc. But these rules don't apply in the rest of the world. In the rest of the world, speakers make the music. Just like all those mid-fi salesmen told everyone they did.(Because profit margin is higher on speakers than any other audio item). Shhhhh! You're not supposed to know this. I may be hunted down by the profit mavens for my disgressions.

Rant over. Since you have nicer front end gear now, you may go out and audition some speakers that could sound better on your gear. Just remember that it is a system that provides the music, not just the speakers.
Yes, there was an unbelieveable improvement.
One that I would not have believed if I didn't hear it with my own ears.
I am very satisfied with the sound now but since I have spent considerable (I think anyway)amt of $$$$ and time researching every piece of equipment and am now enjoying the fruits of my labour,should I stop here or reach for another apple.
So the profit margin is very high on speakers,eh!!!!!!!
Kinda makes used speakers look pretty good,doesn't it?
Thanks for the info......much appreciated!!!!
Sean, Sean, Sean, why did you not tell him to replace the coils with Alpha-Core and any resistors will Mills as well as the caps with AudioCap Thetas? The speakers will be FAR more transparent and things that were a little muddy before should be very clear after these mods. Do not lower the standards and use less expensive parts, even though some Theta's can be pretty expensive. If you want better, you would have to go to teflon capacitors at about 10 times the cost of the Thetas.....

Tom: "My systems consistently outperform many of my friend's systems who have way more $$ in their speakers than I do. How can this be?"

I'll take a stab at telling you. Are you talking about your homemade Voigt/Lowthers? If you bought something like that retail instead of building, designing and tweaking it yourself how much would they cost. Egads!!!

Just joking.

I remain,
Thefalls1117, glad to hear that you are enjoying your new system. My $.02, relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor (and expenditure). Is there better stuff out there? Absolutely! Swapping equipment is a hobby for many of us. I am curious, what replaced the Kef's?

Happy listening, Paul
First, if it ain't broke, you don't have to fix it. You like your system now? There's no need to change.

Beyond that, the only appropriate advice is, go out and listen. Only you can decide if there's something better for you out there.
Why replace the KEF ? The speakers (drivers) technology did not change much in the last decade ! Not like CD player and DAC. Unless you want the Bose's direct & refecting technology ? :-)


Like they said "If it ain't broke, why fix it"
Mr. Bomarc, once again, makes very good sense. How many axes are there to grind in these pages? The "source" school of thought, the "change passive components" school of thought, the "change passive components with specific premiere brand name" school of thought, mix in the "conspiracy against the paying public, they make more money on speakers so upgrade anything else" school of thought, and throw in the "history as I know it" school of thought. I suggest the following:
if it makes music to your ears, be happy enjoy the tunes;
if you have spare cash, go out and listen to what is available within your budget;
if you do find, try, if at all possible, to hear the speakers with the rest of your components, preferably in your own listening room;
if in doubt, spend your cash on recordings.

Good day.
You wouldn't by chance be looking for an excuse to change, would you? The "all my audio pals are making fun of my speakers" as an excuse syndrome? All jokes aside though,
if you have the disposable income, why not? Can you buy better sound? Absolutely. Do you need better sound? Positively not. But its what you wnat. I have to commend you for changing the front end 1st, as most would do it the other way around. Next thing I would be doing is deciding what I wanted to spend on new speakers. Then I would go listen, perhaps even buy if used, and A/B against my current speakers. One thing that gets mentioned up above that I would like to stress is that they will sound different upon 1st hooking them up, and I am afraid that a lot of people get "burned in" to a sound, just like a piece of gear. Do that, and if you like the new(er) speakers, regulate the old ones to whatever purpose you might have for them, or send them to the likes of me. If you like the KEF's better, you now have the option of taking back the NEW speakers(I assume the dealer where you are buying your gear would allow such) or if they are used, you should be able to sell them at very little loss considering the education you would receive by having them.
My point being, if you can change, don't live wondering what if, go ahead and do it.
I too loved the KEF104.2 as they were my first real high end speaker, but I agree with many others that you will allow the quality of your front end and amps shine with a newer model. The tweeters in the 104.2 were as clear as mud and the bass was never that compelling. There are many great used speakers for sale on audiogon. Try Wilson Watt/Puppy 5.1's (selling for a song now that the 7's are out) or B&W Nautilus 802's or ....Too many to list. Good luck.
Craig, you're giving away all my secrets! By the way, you really need to build a set of these. They are awesome. And that "comb filter" thing is way, way overstated. Walking bass lines are no problem, amigo. I have no urge to make other cabinets at this time.
I have had also a recent expereince as this, although at a different level. The speakers I had were the items that everyone believed were the "weak point", and I would refuse to get new ones because I believed I would have to spend a lot to equal them. As it turns out, I picked up some vandies really cheap, and while they sound initailly better, I don't hear differences nearly as well to the front of my system.
Point that I see here, you don't need to upgrade your speakers to get better. You can definitely get better with better speakers, of coarse, but just because a speaker is old, does not mean it is inherently going to be bettered by a new one.
There is a lot of wisdom to sean's suggestion, being that it would seem to be an improvement without changing anything. Especially if you really like your speakers. Instead of getting different, or different and better, or different and worse and better, you just get better. It's just a step up, period, no matter how much or little.
There is no reason why there should'nt be better speakers out there (there are always better speakers, amps, etc.) There is no reason you should'nt look if you want to. For me thats what this hobby is all about. I'm not a "speaker buff", but I appreciate that some people put more into thier speakers than I do. It seems to me that there are a lot of audiophiles that put a lot more attention into their speakers and amplification, and less into their front end, and make claims that the front end makes little difference compared to the gains in the speakers. From what I can see, these are the ones that usually spend the most money. I condider that audiophiles from these two different "camps" listen for different things.
Ya know, I'm gettin' on in age too; when should the listener be replaced? may not be tooooo far from the true.
I just maybe looking for a excuse to update.
I still have and I am listening to the kefs,as I type this reply.
The reason I have itchy fingers and am looking to update ,is the improvement in sound was SOOOOO unbelieveable with all the other updates ..why stop here!!
My biggest problem is I am very isolated and it is impossible to listen to other speakers.
I know trust your ears but it isn't possible for me.
So all advice I get helps me make that decision.
All my updates ,to pun intended,have been made with
info supplied to me ,from forums such as this.
Mr Falls;
You could use this also as an excuse to go on a vacation. I am thinking I might go home to L.A. for my birthday, because you can get anything you want there, and I don't know what I want yet.
If you want good sound for the money, check out the Meadowlark line. The new Swifts are running hot competition for the highly regarded Kestrel Hot Rods that many Audiogoners have liked. The Swifts are only $995 a pair. They are alot like a Voigt Pipe with a tweeter added. You may be able to get a pair shipped to you with a money back auditioning guarantee. This is not the "ultimate" speaker, but it is a very good musical value for the money. A lot of folks have used the Meadowlark Kestrel Hot Rods in some pretty expensive systems, and the Swift is very close to them. Some even like the Swift better. It uses their latest design that will eventually be used in the other speakers in their lineup. Also, they are all wood, and have a nice look to them. Check out their website.
Lots of good replies here. Last year I bought a set of Infinity IRS Betas. Originally introduced in 1988. Mine are late production, though I could care less. I've wanted these since new, only pricing kept me away. I'm fortunate in that here in Mass good high-end stores are not far. In fact, just the other day I had the pleasure of listening to M-L Statements on an all-Boulder front end in a proper room. Did I like 'em, sure! My system with the Betas is just as satisfying to me. I remember when I had to have that next "bump". Now I've been satisfied for quite some time.

AFAIC, if you have the desire for new, please attempt to listen before you buy, even if it is difficult. I've got a feeling you'll have to spend way more than you would like to better what you have now. I think it's great that your frontend improvements have been immediately apparent to you with your Kefs. I would upgrade the crossover caps as another poster suggested.

Some people in this group might tell you I think an insecure few(very few) look to often to others for help with what I think is pretty obvious, but hey, it takes all types. Having wrote that, where do you live that things are so hard to get to to hear? For what its worth, I keep notes on everything that has come through my house(and its a lot) feel free to write and ask mine, and I am sure everyone elses, thoughts on a particular speakers and/or anything else audio wise. Also, what do you want in a speaker, sizewise etc? What music, roomsize etc.? Oh yeah, the hard part, did I mention budget? Give these folks something to work with, opinions here are mostly free and you will get a lot of answers.
Good luck
I've owned and loved several pairs of British monitors and understand your pain. Check out the ATC monitors for around $1100/pr. They are surprising.
Location reality..buried deep in Northern Ontario..Canada.
Closes high-end shop 450 miles away....not a twinned highway....goat trail at best......
As mentioned before ,the info I get from posts such as this, helps me tremendously........
Keep it coming please...........
If you have the cash for new speakers.....go crazy! Speaker shopping, to me, is the funnest kind there is in this game. Are there better speakers out there?...Sure there've got a nice stereo so go get some new speakers and have a ball doing it. If at all possible, demo them at home on your electronics in your room...Trust your ears and enjoy.
Keep the kef

Interesting to see KEFs compared with B&Ws, which have, to my ears, a completely different sound. Of course, comparing KEFs to Lowthers is equally weird. That's not to say that both aren't good, only that they are terribly different.

If you like the KEF "sound", that classically understated and reflective BBC-like quality but think you aren't getting it in full measure, you might consider replacing the drivers as well as the crossover components. Twenty years is about the maximum life expectancy for even high quality drivers. Surrounds get soft...or hard...cone properties change, etc. Just be sure you get OEM replacements from KEF.

I suspect that the only really good piece of advice is to ignore all of us and buy what sounds good to you.

Since you are up here in the Great White North, I would wholeheartedly recommend Canadian made speakers. There is a variety at different price points. A good number of which leave nothing to be desired. Energy Veritas 2.3s, Paradigm Studio 100 v2s (or are they up to v3 yet), Gersham, PSBs, Mirage, Verity.

You will be amazed at how much performance you can get for the dollar these days, especially if you compare older foreign designs to newer Canadian designs. Keep Canada green, buy Canadian products. Listen globally, buy locally,

Good day.
Will, just for clarification, I was suggesting that Clueless build the Lowther Voigt Pipes, since we had talked about that at one time. I was not drawing any sonic parallels between the KEFs and the Lowthers. I guess I got a little off topic.
Upgrading speakers will add detail and linearity, but...

You still may prefer the 104's. British speakers of that era captured a beauty offered by music that modern speakers with all their speed and "accuracy" have difficult reproducing.

Upgrade as an experiment but don't be too quick to sell the 104's.

16yrs is really way too old. Go buy new ones immediately. There, that's what you wanted to hear.
If I were you I'd listen to some new B&W and Kef reference (amongst others) and decide whether it's worth it.
I have this exact same dilemma. I have upgraded my electronics, and then wondered if the KEF 104.2s were worth upgrading. Luckily my friend had a pair of new B&W CMD7 NT. These are the same price as the 104's were back in the early '90s, so with inflation the B&W are actually cheaper today. The reason for using these speakers is that I thought they were in the "same league" as the 104.2 in their day. Anyway, we brought the speakers over, spent about an hour dialing in their location in my room with my electronics, and the results surprised me. The stage, the depth, the accuracy, and overall reality of the presentation was far better in the B&W’s. As a long time fan of these speakers, I didn’t want to believe it, but it was true. The technology has gotten better, no doubt. The high quality electronics that you own, you are not even hearing yet, trust me. Take you 104’s and may use them as a start to a surround sound system, and get a new pair of speakers, so you can finally hear your “system”.
I have the KEF 107s and just, not too long ago upgraded my front end (CD Player and Pre Amp.) After upgrading the front end I went out a picked up the Dynaudio 1.3SE and the difference is night and day, don’t get me wrong the KEF 107 do have the deeper bass, but that where it ends. To me the Dyns are just a better speaker . the highs are sweeter, the soundstage is wider and deeper, the bass also is still very good for a monitor speaker. Up grade your speakers you will feel go about it.
I have a pair of 104/2's and had them rewired and had the caps replaced in the crossovers. The foam baffles were a tough thing for my repair shop but they solved this too.

They now sound wonderful. I know that they are a bit "looser" than modern sets, but I am very pleased.
I have had two pairs of Kef 104/2's. I agree with alot above in regards to the"parts" of good sound. The bass may be better in newer speakers(you can add a Rel Sub) Te trebel may be sweeter and the soundstaging and imaging better.
But one thing the newer speakers can't do- and I've tried the following NHT 2.9, Audes Blues, Revel F30's, VonSweikhart Vr-4 JR Triangle CLeius, B&w 802/3,4. The one thing they can't beat is the soul of music which the Kefs do beautifully. And I think you know that.
I upgraded to Silverline Sonatas. They have the warm musical soul of the Kef, but the Dynaudio drivers are much more accurate. Bass is better, more defined, without he midbass bloat. Kef 104.2 was ahead of it's time, but computer aided design and new materials has greatly improved speakers. Used Sonata II's are 2k used, and a beautiful speaker. Please auditon the Sonata III, or sonatina III. You will be impressed.
“The Silverline Sonata is an outstanding bargain and one of the most musically satisfying speaker systems on the market … a compelling musical rightness from top to bottom … superbly finished … Buy these, just listen to the music, and forget about hi-fi forever.”

- Paul Bolin / the absolute sound
Issue 133 (Dec. 2001 / Jan. 2002)
Quoted with permission from the absolute sound

Old sonata II review. Originally $6500
I am in the same position as a few others here. Upgraded the front end a year ago and am now not sure I'm getting the best from my 104.2's. The opinion here, ever so slightly, seems to be in the "get rid of 'em" camp.
Am trying to find someting that has a similar character with more openness.
My favourites thus far, in no particular order:

Linn Ninka
Dynaudio Audience 72
Totem Forest

First two in the same price range, the Totems 1K more but I like them the best. The Dyn closest to the KEF sound.

Will also audition Monitor Audio Silver and Gold lines. Can get them for near cost so can afford to go higher up the range.
The same dealer will also give me highly discounted pricing on B&W. Have never been a B&W fan but he recommends the new 704?

Amy comments on Monitor Audio and/or the B&W 704?
hifinut- the Silverlines use all Dynaudio drivers except for a german domed midrange, and like the Dyn, comes "closest to the KEF sound." I listened to Monitor Audio, new KEF, and B&W before I fell in love with the Silverlines (which I'd never heard of- thank God for Paul Bolin of the Absolute Sound ...It prompted me to audition them). Monitor and KEF did not have a seemless integration of the music, as if there were a phase issue with the cabinet or crossover. The B&W was wonderful. I just didn't like that metal hissy tweeter. It's personal taste. It's much smoother than the old metal tweeters, but for my tastes there is too much sibilance (on cymbals for example) in a metal tweeter. Just to let you know, the Silverline was $1000 more than the 805, but was worth it. If you can get it for less than a 705, it's a steal. I don't expect you guys to order it on my sayso, I just ask you to try to audition it. There must be a dealer or a 'gon member who'll let you listen. Come to my house...CA near Berzerkeley.
Was not familiar with the Silverlines either. Have looked at their website and reviews via eCoustic. Certainly seem appealing but, alas, well beyond my price range.
I'm in Vancouver, otherwise I'd come have a listen.
Some Hifi-reviewer (sorry, don't remember his/her name) once wrote: "There is no system that can't be improved by a hefty dose of music". If you're happy with the new sound, but still want to burn some cash, why not buy more music? Lp's, cd's dvd's, whatever. And if you really want to change your speakers: go out there, listen and compare, and find out if you think it's worth the money.
Hifinut- used Sonata II', are now 2500, about the original cost of the 104.2, and a spectacular buy. The original Sonata is probably cheaper, and is a spectacular speaker, with less bass (although it doesn't roll off until mid 30's). Sonatina or Panatella are cheaper still....If you see one on the 'gon and it's near Vancouver, take the time to go for a listen!
Check out the Angstrom Obligatos.Made in Canada.