Hey stfoth - it does seem like our ears and enjoyment of the music benefit from an occasional equipment change up. Works for me, anyway.
I don't know those B&Ws at all but I'm curious if room placement might have been markedly different than in the past and whether this contributed to the much improved sound.
Glad you have something like audio to share with your dad.
When I was a kid back in the late 70s and 80s I used to drool over Bang and Olufsen systems that were designed by Jacob Jensen. Jump forward a few decades and I started collecting (hoarding) some of their iconic systems merely as a hobby.
Studying service manuals, replacing electronic components myself and even re-foaming speaker surrounds, I'm down to a couple of pristine systems that I'm proud of.
And while they don't sound as good as my main system (B&W speakers), they perform far better than they did when new and are so much fun to use with all the touch sensors, displays, two way remotes, etc. so I still enjoy them very much.
As for the Bowers and Wilkins (I've owned so many in their lineup over the years), I can completely relate to your experience as I have been been very impressed with a few garage sale finds hooked up to killer amps and front ends - particularly the Nautilus 704s and DM604s considering what I paid for them. And like you, I turned my dad on to great music and gear and he's been hooked ever since.
Nice of you to pass them along to your dad!
A good modern high quailty amp and front end can easily make older speakers that sounded meh back then sing. What you feed speakers makes all the difference in the world.
I had a similar experience. While waiting on my current speakers that back ordered, I dug out a old pair of sealed box black B&W bookshelf speakers. I had purchased them (used) over 2.5 decades ago for use in my office. They were sitting in my attic for many years, so I dusted them off, placed them on a pair of backless stools and hooked them up. I was truly amazed by the results. They were incredibly smooth and relaxing with excellent imaging. No they were not the most detailed or extended set up that I have ever heard, but they were wonderfully musical and totally enjoyable. I have since moved them to a little bedroom system and they just might be one the best "hi fi" ?) investment I have ever made,,,
Another reason for these unexpected "surprises" is we sometime get the itch to "upgrade" just for the sake of getting something new and the new gear is not necessarily better than what we already had but might sound better initially.
Your audiophile reputation is not on the line when playing with "old" equipment. This stuff is bought-and-paid for and you can just relax and enjoy! My main rig was packed away, prior to a move, and I hooked up some KEF monitors to an old Sony AV receiver and dang if I wasn't hearing good music!
I think I agree with all of you. Or, I could just be like a kid who "finds" a previously forgotten toy at the bottom of the box or under the bed. :)
Part of the reason the older gear is sounding better now could be the improvements that have been made with interconnects, speaker wire, power cords, & even power conditioners. Most of my gear (with the exception of the phono cart & what was previously mentioned) is in the 20plus year old category. It never ceases to amaze me what a difference wire (& vibration control) makes.
has happened a bunch of times to me, but a week later not so much...
Always seems to happen that when you are getting rid of that piece of gear and listening to it for one last time, that is sounds amazing and better than you remembered, especially if you haven't listened to it for a while.......
Yes, just happened to me a few weeks ago. I bought a vintage 70's Sansui AU-666 integrated on a lark off ebay at a decent price, mostly for its looks. It was a total dog in the first system I hooked it up to, muddy and veiled. Anyway, I was getting ready to put it on craigslist and for the heck of it I hooked it up to my main rig. Sounded completely different than in my bedroom rig and I just sold my First Watt amps as a result. I felt crazy doing it but I brought my one audiophile buddy over to listen. When I got a "wow" out of him I knew I had done the right thing. The lesson is that synergy is huge, especially between amp and speaker.
I'm in the "club" x 2. I used a pair of B&W 685's (purchased in 2009) as the front main channels of a 3.1 AV system for a while and as a stand-alone main stereo speakers with some marginal receivers. Never sounded very involving. Fast forward to a few months ago after a long distance move. Decided to design a listening room with mostly all new gear including speakers. While waiting for the new speakers to arrive I plunked the old 685's down with my new electronics. Yikes was I pleasantly surprised. They were really alive, great imaging and sounded like a pair of $3K speakers. Just shows you what electronics can do for a speaker.
Second revelation was with an old vintage tube preamplifier-Precision Fidelity C-4- that I recently had some serious competent work done. The power supply had been incorrectly modified and needed lots of TLC. Upon receiving it after repairs it sounded awful but after some discussion and exploring I realized that all of the 12 tubes were crap. Not wanting to spend a ton of $$ I decided to replace the 6 line stage tubes and have a listen. Wow it is something else altogether now.
I agree with "whoopycat" synergy is huge. Magic can be found in the strangest of places between amplifier and speaker. Enjoy the Sansui!
Yes, I agree system synergy is one of the most important things. My story to add is this:
While awaiting a minor repair to my beloved Music Reference RM5 mkII preamp's mute circuit, a dealer let me borrow what I thought was a lowly Dyna PAS2 preamp. The repair took a few months to do and I was amazed how good sounding the PAS was on my B&K ST140 amp. When I got the $1250 RM5 mkII back, I actually preferred the $89 PAS 2. I guess the PAS2 mated up better with the B&K. I was then a big believer in the PAS2 and PAS 3 preamps.
Eveything makes a difference with how speakers sound. The fundamental thing to get right first is not just find a "good sounding" amp can merely drive the speakers but a very good amp that can drive the speakers to their max. Need not cost a fortune these days. Otherwise you have untapped potential never achieved with any pair of just even decent speakers.
I have had very similar experiences with both speakers and, in one instance, a receiver (a Marantz 2270). At times it makes you wonder why you didn't have that "magic touch" years ago when you first acquired the equipment. Somewhat more aggravating is the query you put yourself through wondering how much money you could have saved over the years chasing what you have now just found you had all the time if you only knew and, secondly, how much enjoyment you potentially missed because of this mis-step. Things like this, I believe, are what makes this hobby as enthralling as it can be - from a line in a Warren Haynes album- "they keep moving the finish line". If you could easily and quickly get everything you wanted from a system without study, review, testing, etc. it probably wouldn't be one quarter of the fun that it is.
A lot of people make happiness a moving target. I'll be happy when I get this amp or that preamp, this speaker or that speaker, etc. Then they get it and that feeling wears off, sometime quickly. Then sometimes it doesn't sound great, for whatever reason, and then it's time to try something different. Whenever I try something different, I need to live with it for a while. I have found that sometimes the new sound from changing a component isn't always better at the on set, it's just different. My ear is used to the way the system previously sounded and needs to get used to the way it sounds after making a change. Sometimes the upgrade is readily apparent, sometimes it takes a little bit of time to adjust.....
Sometimes when I look around at all the used gear in the universe, the thought of acquiring a new piece of gear can be very enticing. I forget the website, Enjoy the Music or Audio Asylum has pictures of audio gear and they call it Tube Lust, Amp Lust or TT Lust - I guess the images pretty much can be like Stereo Porn......I admit it, my name is Lou and I'm addicted to Stereo Porn :)
I still have my pair of very old (circa early 80’s) Thiel O2 speakers. They were my girlfriend’s (now wife) and had been picked out for her stereo system by her more audiophile-inclined father and brother. Those speakers, powered by her modest Harmon Kardon receiver, were probably as responsible for re-kindling my interest in hi-fi than anything else. They were capable of startling clarity and liveness, and were my starter-kit for searching the hi-fi world.
Over the years I’ve had all manner of speakers, from Quad ESL 63s, to Von Schweikert, Hales, Audio Physic, Hales, MBL, Meadowlark, Spendor, Waveform, Harbeth, bigger Thiels and on and on. Yet every once in a while I put those little Thiel 02s in the system and re-experience amazement again.
They have a gorgeously organic timbral color combined with a liveness and snap that I realise they STILL set the standard for what I’ve been chasing.