Older Altec horn speakers

Anyone familar with the Altec Lansing 890C Bolero speakers?
Is this speaker still considered a great speaker or has time march away for these? I would be using tubes,with em.
Im looking for a GOOD horn speaker.
Altec 19 ... when I heard them I was a teenager, they were fantastic in a very large space... circa mid 70's.
Altec 19 was home version of VOT without the front horn loading of woofer.
I don't know the model you refer to. You should dig around in the archives (i.e. do a search) on the High Efficiency Speakers board at AudioAsylum.com or better yet at the Lansing forum at audioheritage.org (for all thingsLansing, Altec, and JBL).

FWIW, I have a pair of the Altec 19s Xiekitchen mentions. They are great with tubes, and probably much better in a big space than a small one. My feeling is that they could be better with a bit more emphasis in the top octave (supertweeter territory) but they great as is.
I'm familiar with them. They were a 1971 model, an "oversized bookshelf" of approx. 25"x14"x12"d. The 890C consists of a 10" woofer and matching 10" passive radiator (Altec called it a free suspension phase inverter) and a small rectangular (about 2"x6") aluminum horn packing a compression driver. Crossover is 2000 Hz.

Picture here and specs from catalog here.

My first stereo was an Altec 911A compact. I bought from an Altec dealer and listened to several Altec speakers. I had a pair of 874A Segovias for a couple weeks followed by a pair of 887A Capris, which I kept for a few years.

The Segovia was their top-of-the-line oversized bookshelf speaker. It was a great-sounding speaker for its time, all direct radiators and also very sensitive. The 890C was in a similar-sized enclosure and was a notch down in the model lineup, but was largely ignored. I remember auditioning the 890C and thought it sounded awful. It is really a 10" 2-way with a crossover at 2000Hz, a configuration no one would ever do today, as the high crossover frequency causes the 10" to lose all dispersion above 1K, imparting a thin, nasal, honky sound. The Segovia was a much better speaker, but it's 4 ohms. Actually, although the little 887A wasn't as sensitive and didn't go as low, it had a much more accurate tonal balance and consistent dispersion pattern than the 890A. Still, it sounded best with a high current SS amp.

I find it telling that the 890A was introduced in the 1971 catalog and didn't even make it to the 1974 catalog, while the much more expensive Segovia (about $560/pr in 1972 dollars) was still in the lineup.

For anyone interested in vintage Altec or JBL speakers, I've found this web page invaluable.

There are far better speakers from that era than the 890C.
"There are far better speakers from that era than the 890C."

Please tell!
Altec's claim to fame was their VOT speaker systems, aimed at auditorium use. We had several such units in our psychoacoutics lab, and I had one at home for a time. IIRC, the HF sectorial horn came in 2 sizes with 2 different drivers, one for 500 Hz and a smaller unit for 800 Hz crossover. For home use, if you want vintage horn I'd look to JBL or Klipsh. You should definitely listen first, because horns are not kind to all sounds, especially voices, but they do project like crazy and will do a fantastic job with the horns in Aida.

06-08-09: Mcgarick
"There are far better speakers from that era than the 890C."

Please tell!
--Altec Segovia 874A--not horn loaded, but very efficient. Same size and basic configuration as JBL L100, but more neutral. Sealed enclosure as opposed to JBL's ported one. Woofer crossover at a sensible 500Hz; L100 crossover was at 1500, which is ridiculously high for a 12" driver. Altec smartly used a near full-range 4" midrange in this speaker, covering the entire midrange.
--Altec Voice of the Theater variants, particularly the ones with 500 Hz crossover (800 is too high)
--Advent Loudspeaker
--Smaller Advent Loudspeaker
--Several models from Infinity
--Several models from ESS (and most were fairly efficient)
--JBL L100 (very efficient; voiced for rock and pop; work well also on country and jazz; not so good on classical)
--JBL L65 Jubal I think this is more what you're looking for.
--Dynaco A-25--ahead of its time with Scandinavian drivers and neutral tonal balance
--Klipsch Heresy, La Scala, etc.
--EPI 100, 200, and up (all the way to an omnidirectional tower, the EPI 1000). Good tweeter for its day. Woofers would no doubt need re-foaming
--Braun/ADS--introduced a new level of speed, clarity, and linearity at sacrifice of sensitivity. Excellent build quality with butyl rubber surrounds. No re-foaming needed.
--Dahlquist DQ-10. Very inefficient, so not a good match for low powered tubes, but raised the bar in linearity and phase coherency at the time, and still quite listenable.
--Electro-Voice: Their Century 3 monitors were great, and flatter than the ones coming out of JBL and Altec. They also had a nice little bookshelf speaker with an 8" plus matching passive radiator and tweeter between them. I can't remember the name or model number, though.

The Klipsch Forte is not from that era (it was introduced in 1985), but it's more like what you're looking for--easy load for tubes, sensitive to low power, and much better top-to-bottom coherence than the 890C.

By today's standards, many of the speakers back then sounded awful. For example JBL came out with the L65 Jubal, a 25" tall floorstander with a 14" woofer, 2" cone tweeter (about 15" below ear height) with a crossover at 2KHz. We had a pair of these in the high end room along with Ohm F's, Dahlquist DQ-10's, and ESS AMT 1b's, and except for retail price, the JBLs simply didn't belong there.
Altec model 19 are the best horn speakers for home use I have had. Better then Klipsch and JBL(unless you want to go for 4344 and multi amp...)With good tube amps the Altec 19 is un-beatable...
Johnnyb53, The L65 Jubal link shows that sensitivity is 78dB. Is that really so inefficient? Given higher impedance, it might work with tube amps, but it would certainly be a stretch for a lot of tube amps I know...
06-08-09: Prcinka
Altec model 19 are the best horn speakers for home use I have had. Better than Klipsch and JBL(unless you want to go for 4344 and multi amp...)With good tube amps the Altec 19 is un-beatable...
Now *that* is a good horn-based speaker. The isolation of the horn from the woofer cabinet may have helped some. Scan of brochure (pics & specs) here. I prefer a lower crossover point from a 15" speaker, but if it works, it works.

Altec made a sealed woofer version of the VOTT for home use called the 878B Santiago. They also made an unfinished birch version of this speaker (or similar) at a lower cost.

The VOTT-based home speakers were generally good to excellent. The 890C is not in that category, in design, components, or performance.
Model 15 over looked and affordable, to me better in smaller space than 19.
06-08-09: T_bone
Johnnyb53, The L65 Jubal link shows that sensitivity is 78dB. Is that really so inefficient? Given higher impedance, it might work with tube amps, but it would certainly be a stretch for a lot of tube amps I know...
Sensitivity ratings weren't standardized in the least back then. Altec used wide band pink noise measured at 4 feet. The resulting figure is not at all comparable to what you get today with a 1KHz test tone measured at 1M. The Jubal is pretty efficient, but I still think there are better-sounding Altecs from that era.

The Model 15 is sort of a Model 19 Jr.--a home VOTT sensibility, but with 12" woofer and smaller horn in smaller cabinet. Pics and specs here.
The JBL L-65 Jubal is probably around 93 db per watt at 1 M... the 78 db figure is from 15 feet away.
listening to wrti fm on a pair of recapped 890c's now via an upgraded ee preamp, triode strapped st-70 (hovland caps, magnaquest power transformer) sourced to an lt 110 scott tuner. i've attached a hsu clone sub. if there's a sweeter-sounding set up, you'd have to enpanel a jury to prove it to me.
I once owned a pair of Altec Model 15s and eventually parted them out when I got a pair of UREI 813As (using the Altec 604). The folded 32B horn on the Model 15 were grainy sounding and the woofer was not even Altec sourced - apparently they used something from RCA.

In the past I've also heard some pretty trick VOTT systems with cement horns and triode amplifiers - though everything sounded BIG and golden with amazing dynamics, the overall sound was quite colored - every record started to sound like it was mixed and mastered at the same studio. Of course that could have been the front end, preamps or amps...
I always had positive oppinions about altec speakers, i owned different models of them and they are awesome.
Check here:
If you have the space Altec Model 19's are hard to beat. I enjoy my 19's with 16wt 6V6 tube amp and tube pre amp. Very enjoyable.
Johnnyb53 wrote: "I prefer a lower crossover point from a 15" speaker, but if it works, it works."

He's referring to the 1200 Hz crossover point between the Altec Model 19's 15" woofer and 1" horn-loaded compression driver.

At first glance, Johnnyb's objection makes sense... and if this were just about any other speaker I'd agree. But there's a reason behind that 1200 Hz crossover point. It's rather interesting in my opinion, so here goes:

The predecessor of the Model 19 was, if memory serves me, the Valencia. The Valencia had essentially the same driver complement I believe (15" woofer, 1" compression driver on a 90-by-40 degree horn), with a crossover point around 600 Hz. This was a very good speaker, but someone at Altec had a highly unorthodox idea for a way to improve on it: match up the output of the woofer and horn off-axis as well as on-axis at the crossover point.

To do this, it was necessary to raise the crossover high enough so that the woofer's radiation pattern matched that of the horn. Actually the woofer's pattern at the crossover point is in between the 90 degree horizonal and 40 degree vertical pattern of the horn, but the net effect is a very good match.

While intuitively 1200 Hz seems way too high for a 15" woofer, the Model 19 is considered by many to be the finest speaker Altec ever made. So obviously the Altec engineers knew what they were doing.

If I were to trace back over time the basic concept behind my own designs, I think the Altec Model 19 would be the point of origin. Applying the concepts of the Model 19, JBL made the landmark Model 4430 studio monitor. Earl Geddes' Summa is conceptually an update of the Model 4430, and my stuff is an offshoot of Geddes' work.

So while I've never owned a pair, I have a soft spot for the Model 19, and great respect for whoever first came up with the idea to take a 15" woofer up to 1.2 kHz against all conventional wisdom, and thereby matching up the directivity of woofer and horn in the crossover region.

So Johnnyb I don't blame you one bit for raising an eyebrow over that 1200 Hz crossover point... but there was a method behind the madness!

Thank you Duke, for an insightful/informative post regarding 19s. All I know is I like'em. I got mine for about $1200 about 15mos ago and I consider that the best bargain in speakers I am ever likely to get.
I am using an Altec 604 based speaker from Serious Stereo. This is by far a better speaker than the others I have used of which several are highly acclaimed. I feel that some of this older technology can be as good as the best of what is made today as long as the implementation is done right.
I am using Altec 19's which are fully upgaded,woofers,crossovers,etc.The set up I use is a highly modded moscode 600,AR LS7 Theta DAC,Theta transport. This system is in a room with Acoustat 2+1's powered by a modded Sumo Gold.The Altec's far better sounding speaker.The biggest thing about the 19's is they speak the truth about recordings.Also the truth about the gear used. I agree some of this older technology can be as good as the best of what is made today as long as the upgrades are done right.I also have JBL 4412's.Energy Veritas 2.8's,Klipsch Chorus II's,Vandersteen's etc.What the 19's do is MAGIC.Look at Magico's flagship speaker at $350,000 it's a horn.
I have now got out of tubes and back to Solid State, and I'm using real inefficient speakers! lol

But hey, it all about what sounds good to you, huh?
I would still like to try SET amps one day...
Tube are great and more musical than most SS
BUT not more musical than my P-300, IMO

Thanks for all the tasty info, perhaps when I do get to try SET, I go for one of the better Altec.

Thanks for sharing your thought everyone!
FWIW, I bought a pr of (absolutely mint, one-owner) 1977 Model 19s and am very impressed. Especially on a fairly tight budget, these things are very impressive. Only downsize is the weight & size, if you consider those things negatives.

You can find pairs in good shape in the $1200-$1500 range.
Great Paul, Now if you get the upgrade itch do not sell them. They can be improved.
"Looking for a good horn speaker" - That said, if you can find a pair of 16-ohm Altec Valencias, that would be a gorgeous combination with proper tube amplification. And if you do get them, you likely will have sniped me in the process! ;-> Ah, Valencias - One of my holy grail (read:daily) searches . . . but well worth the effort.

Good luck!
No upgrades imminent as my audio budget is now much smaller than before. And I'm discovering the trade-offs need be few.

I believe the 19s are generally considered superior to the Valencias.
Paulfolbrecht stated:

"I believe the 19s are generally considered superior to the Valencias."

I have heard and compared these two side by side years (decades, actually) ago, and again much more recently. I would agree that the 19s are the better choice for some large-scale types of music, but my take on the Valencias is that they do a far better job in terms of sonic finesse and soundstaging, and as such, I definitely prefer them over the 19s for small ensemble, solo instrumental, and most vocal music. The Valencias can provide a very intimate musical experience for the aforementioned types of music that is quite intoxicating.

Bottom line, both are superb speakers!
You gonna love this one!....

Met a guy at a local A/V retail store looking to buy a small LCD tv. His salesman didn't know squat and tried to pawn off on him a "20-something" inch "monitor-looking" tv that was 720P/60hz refresh rate/no name/etc... instead of a 32" 1080P/120hz refresh rate/brand name tv (not 10ft. away from them)for only $75-$100 more. I (as a good citizen and audiophile)rescued the newbie from the ignorant salesman and showed him what would be best for the money in that size. Remember, I don't work there! Just helping out a fellow man. Turns out the guy was actually appreciative for my effort in saving him from a poor purchasing decision. He said he worked at a semi-local storage facility and gave me his card. He then asked for my card. In conversation, we talked about home theater and speakers, etc... and I told him that I collect/use old school stereo equipment/speakers. Then, about 2 weeks later, and this is where it gets good, I get a phone call from the guy. He says that one of his clients left some "big ole' church speakers" and a 27" RCA rounded tube tv (480i, if that! LOL!!) in his unit and told this guy that his grandfather had built the speaker cabinets by hand and played classical music at lower volumes with a low powered amp (I'm assuming a tube amp). The guy asked me if I wanted them(free!)because he knew that I liked old school speakers and these fit the bill. He said that he needed the unit emptied and had a bad back, thus wasn't able to lift these 3'x 3'x 3' monsters and throw them in the dumpster... plus, he said that they were too nice to throw out anyways. Thinking they could be Klipschorns or similar, I agreed just on the basis of curiousity and drove down there at 90+ mph! When I arrived, I saw these beautiful cabinets, with lattice grilles, in near mint condition. I took them off and saw a huge 15" woofer with some kind of horn sticking out of it's middle area, where the dust cover on a 15" woofer should be. I had no idea what they were... no name or markings were easily visible, but they looked impressive because they had an aluminum frame. I loaded one up, drove it home 20 miles, came back immediately and loaded the other along with the tv in the front seat and left for home. Each speaker barely (and I mean BARELY!) fit in the back of the '96 Geo Tracker 2 door convertible I was using. After I got them both inside the house, I was so tired, that I just put them in the storage room with some other speakers and left them there for about 9 months! I then pulled them out to see what they were all about and I found an Altec N-1600A dividing network under one speaker and a wooden board with a bunch on crap strapped to it under the other (I guess I need another N-1600A!). There are about 50 screws holding the back panel on and I wasn't about to go through all that to see it, so I decided to Google Altec N-1600A to see what speaker it belonged to and find out finally what they were. There was a picture of a speaker on the dividing network that looked just like the speakers in the cabinet, but no model numbers were on it.) I scrolled through 5-10 pages of images before I finally found something that looked like these speakers. So I held my camera phone and a Streamlight LED flashlight in each hand and put them in the slot port below the speaker itself. Low and behold, I replay the short video of whatever my camera saw and BAM!! Altec Lansing 604C Duplex speakers in mint condition!!! Now that's what I call getting rewarded for doing a good deed!!! Now I need to find another N-1600A dividing network or at least get a new, supposedly highly-upgraded set from GPA (Great Plains Audio), but I don't know which would be better for original sound quality? Maybe it would be an improvement over the old style/old technology capacitors/resistors in the original crossover? What do you veteran 604C owners think? Plus, I now need a push-pull tube amplifier to run them properly, according to everyone on the net. Any suggestions? Anyone have some old tube gear for sale that might want to make this longshot story a true legend? I have a lot of old school equipment that I might actually part with or trade for a good push-pull tube amp & maybe tube preamp, if you have one? I have 2 old tube consoles I picked up recently, thinking they might work, but the one is a "The Fisher Philharmonic" with something like 37 watts per channel or so, but it only says 8 ohms on the speaker output, so I don't know about that... and the other is a beast! A Motorola SK116MZ Golden Voice with a ton of tubes all over in it! There is nothing saying that 16 ohm speakers will work fine on it either. I know that I could probably use them on either, but I want something that is designed "specifically" for 16 ohm speakers, so I know it will work and sound great, not just hope it does and pray it doesn't hurt them.

I'm exhausted just typing all of that! LOL!! I still get excited just thinking about how I obtained them and even more excited about how they will sound hooked up to a proper tube amp setup.

Thanks for taking the time to read this reponse. I hope I didn't go off the thread topic too much... this is my first post after all. Thanks for your future input, guys!! I hope someone here can help me see(or rather, hear) my now dream speakers properly come to life.
I owned a pair of Altec A7s for many years...used 'em for my band's live PA mostly, but for stereo playback they had a certain sound that was so "organic"....perhaps not accurate compared to things now but really sweet and effortless...due mostly I suppose to that horn, but the big wooden boxes also sounded "woody" or something...very cool.
I realize that this is an older thread, but I feel compelled to add my two cents.

The Valencia, the 19, et al, are the great Altec speakers. The only problem is that we don't all have the space (and/or the approving spouse) to plant a pair of junior refrigerators in our living rooms. The beauty of the Bolero--and particularly the 890c culmination, where they perfected the driver--is that it very closely approximates the trademark 3D technicolor Altec VOTT sound in a manageable @25" x 15" package that doesn't require a forklift to move around.

Sound quality, of course, is highly subjective; there are so many factors that will influence one's decision as to which speaker sounds better than another on any given day. I have auditioned the Segovia quite a few times over the years through different systems with varying degrees of satisfaction. The Segovia is a fine speaker, but to me it doesn't sound like an "Altec" in the way that the horn-equipped Bolero does.

To delve into geeky minutiae for a moment, the 890a & 890b have the amazing 3000g horn tweeter, but the high crossover asks too much from the driver in those model variations. The 406-8Y in the 890c has a larger VC than its predecessors, and while the outsourced Heppner horn in the 890c (made in Chicago; not in Japan as is commonly cited) may not by just a shade be quite as sensitive as the earlier 3000g, the glorious midrange of the 406-8Y trounces the earlier 406a/406z and makes for a better listening experience with the 890c by comparison.

I have owned all variety of hi-fi gear and nearly all of the high-end Altec speaker models at one point or another, and at this stage of my life with a moderately-sized house and a wife & two young daughters (read: no more man cave lifestyle), the Altec 890c is perfect.