Vintage vs New


My children growing older and leaving home has allowed me to get back into our common interest. I find myself wanting a new pair of speakers and I’m torn between some vintage models that interested me in easier times, but were not obtainable due to budgetary limitations, and current models with their state of the art drivers.  Case in point: B&W 801 Matrix Anniversary vs. anything in the 702/703.
I would like to hear people’s thoughts.  
mjjw
There have been great strides in modern production film capacitors, resistors, inductors. Check out brands like Jupiter, Duelund, Jantzen, Audyn, Miflex, Mundorf. Could go on and on. You can 'tune' speakers to individual preference with judicious choice of components. My present Klipschorns most definitely don't sound like any stock Klipschorn. The necessity of replacing certain crossover parts, and perhaps speaker surrounds as mentioned above, are an advantage of purchasing vintage, IMO. You've already opened up speaker, perfect chance to upgrade, no warranty issues.

Not willing to open up and mod or replace, stick to modern.
The comment that 70s speakers were voiced for the music that was most popular at the time was spot-on. That music was rock (the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Grand Funk RR, etc). The speakers were built with full-range capability being the most important factor (no subs back then), while accuracy was mostly an afterthought. JBL was considered the best for rock, while brands like Advent, AR, and KLH went for a more balanced presentation. Mated with good electronics from that era that have been kept in good shape, those combos still provide a sound that has a lot of meat on its bones IMO. My little Pioneer SA-7100 is a delight, driving either a pair of large Advents or a pair of ADS L-810s from the 80s, and I don't feel the need for a subwoofer. A Musical Fidelity A-308 and B&W CDM 9NTs satisfy my cravings for a more refined sound when I'm in that kind of mood. In my book, it's all good and we should just enjoy the ride.
Actually, I meant to say Pioneer SA-9100, although I also have the 7100.
Interesting discussion. There may never be a consensus of what constitutes the best loudspeaker due to psychoacoustics, HRTF and confirmation biases. That said, here’s what we know has and has not changed over time:

What has:
  • materials (drivers, circuits, components, enclosures, damping)
  • design technology (CAD -- construction and measurements)
  • digital recording and playback (bits)
  • room acoustical design and implementation (studio and home)
What has not:
  • anatomical design of the ear (biology)
  • vibrational excitement of a medium (how sound is produced)
  • wavelengths of audible signals
  • unique emotional responses to sound from listeners
I’m sure the above list is not comprehensive, but it represents some of the obvious variables which affect why we might like, or not like, what we hear from a loudspeaker. On the bright side, it’s such a subjective topic that there will always be something to talk about. :-)

While Class-D amplification is the new thing- there really hasn't been very much improvement in basic component design over the years.  Improvements -have- come from better quality parts.  Capacitors are much better now than 40-50-60yrs ago, same with resistors and wiring.  A good basic design can be made to sound better and very competitive with new equipment just from a careful restoration using new high quality parts.  Several have mentioned the MAC 240, certainly.  And there are many other examples.  A restored HK CIT II is about $3500-$4000.   Are there any new 60wpc tube amps available for the same price that sound better ?   Many say the new Mac 275 mk (whatever version) sounds inferior....    Audio Research D76,   At the other end- a carefully restored ST-70 is about $800.   You would have to spend -alot- more to meaningfully better it.  A VanAlstine Super Pas3 is an outstanding preamp that can be found for $600-$800.  And so on.

Speakers however have seen considerable improvement through design and implementation.   Use of CAD and modeling have led to very audible advancements in what is possible at any given price point.  The proliferation of ribbon tweeters at modest cost has led to great speakers that outperform their price points.

IMHO older speakers (there are exceptions) just do not sound as good as newer speakers.  Transient response is not as precise, treble not as clean, a few more cabinet resinances and so on.   May people gloss over these flaws out of a sense of nostalgia.   Someone lusted after JBL monitors 45yrs ago, and can now afford to build a system around them.  JBL understands and introduced a new L100, but is it a good $4k speaker......

My system is a combo of old and new- older amps, preamps, and TT, with newer speakers.   Works for me.