Koss - I remember the days in the early 1970s, driving my ESP-9 electrostatic headphones with a Crown DC-300 amp. I don't know if I've ever heard sound quite like that since. Certainly not from the current offerings of Koss.
Also I remember wandering the city streets playing cassettes on a (large!) Nakamichi 550 portable cassette deck. Before Walkmans existed, it was a surreal and novel sensation.
Heh, I'm going to throw out a brand from left field. Emotiva. Even though their preamp/dac have been pretty steady (okay but nothing special), their amplifier design has slowly taken a nose dive over the years due to compromises in design. The latest Gen 3 stuff is the worst because of that damn switching power supply and, based on the bias resistors, they are running with a lower Class A bias, making their amps close to a Class AB/B type. Nothing as good as their Gen 1 XPA or XPR series.
What’s wrong with today’s marantz products? Has any one even had a listen? I understand of course the legendary status of their 60’s amps etc....but some of what they produce today is pretty darn good, especially their reference series components, ie the pm14s1 and the associated sa14 cd player....I own the pm14s1 integrated as well as the sa8005 sacd player and i think they sound terrific. The ruby series of components are pretty nice as well...
Not necessarily for product quality, but lack of innovation and introduction of new products.
As a huge fan of the old Casanova I was really looking to see the replacement, the Supernova come out, but it never made it out of the prototype stage.
This is a brand that has been relegated to back-burner stuff for a while. They promised HDMI compatibility for what, 2 years, then they introduced I think 2 new versions of the casablanca, some new Class D amps, and now are back to barely operating publicly. The last press release of theirs was in June of 2017:
Threshold, Marantz, Mark Levinson, Martin Logan, Pass Labs, Revel, B&W, lots of others. The problem with the question is relativity. Rega was once the 2nd best turntable, for example, now they don't make the list at all.
The other problem is that many people don't get the distinction between sound reinforcement, pro audio gear and that designed to reproduce music. JBL and Klipsh for example have never made good speakers for music reproduction. DJ turntables sound aweful compared to a Pro-ject or Clearaudio.
How about the question in reverse... what brand is better today than it used to be? I'd pick JVC. Known years ago for their crappy VCRs and stereos, today they manufacture some of the best home theater projectors ever made under 40k.
What brand was better than it is today?
All and every brand sounded better 40 years ago. It was a new and exciting time with hi-end stereo and quadraphonic equipment easy to purchase. Expensive yes, but, available. As most of us will agree on, it was speakers that made the system, 2 or 4 channel. The specifications of the pre-amp and amp meant little with bad or low-end speakers at the end of the setup. Total amplifier distortion cannot be heard with bad speakers. Total amplifier distortion cannot be heard with good speakers. Low distortion amplifier with good speakers can be heard. HiFi. I expect this is my first and last response to a question that I have heard mostly my entire life. I expect anger concerning my simplification of a great question with little support of my view. Speakers can make a bad amp sound good. Speakers can make a good amp awesome. What is better and what has lost favor? It is a subjective question at best. Me? McIntosh tube pre and power amps are better than 40 years ago. I am running a Sansui QRX-9001 rebuilt by Jim at QRX Restore and Bose 901's front and 301's rear. A classic setup because it is classic. Back to the question "
What brand was better than it is today?" Sansui and Bose.
It might be easier to answer which companies are better today than they were in the past (much shorter list)..
Many of these great companies have been bought and sold many times over. The corporate model is to maximize profit not necessarily sound quality first. The bean counter accountants run these companies and the values that made the brand great, fade away in many cases.
Uh oh, I'm gonna piss offf some vintage audio collectors. I used to sell the classic silver faced Marantz equipment in the mid to late 70's. I liked that they were relatively compact and very well built. I didn't like what I thought was their muddy sound with a slight mid-bass bump to sound "warm". I was auditioning some speakers, a few years ago, and heard them through a modern Marantz integrated in the then $500 price range. I thought it sounded much more un-colored than their "classic" 1970's offerings. Of course the build and finish was many degrees inferior to the 70's products. I know that Marantz "reference" level products, built in Japan, are of much higher build quality.
"I did think of the inverse question-what brands are better today than before? " Should Woulda Coulda
I will keep this to the first component (speakers) mentioned and ones owned and still have .
Mission and Celestion Speakers. Still made and no longer relevant from what I see out there.
I believe Sonus Faber and Klipsch Speakers are still great companies but have been producing less than stellar products for the mass merchandiser . The ones I have are old ( 20 and 38YO ) and I still enjoy them immensely. Still good companies.
“KLH, the 9's were pretty nice. Those were the first fancy speakers I ever heard. What do they make today?”
Oddly enough, I just saw a new pair of KLH speakers at Decibel Audio in Chicago, and I was quite surprised. I owned a pair of KLH One’s from 1977 to who knows when, and loved them in their time. I asked the salesperson if he knew anything about who was making them now, and didn’t have much info except that it wasn’t a corporate conglomerate. I think the model was the Kensington or something like that. I got to a/b them with a pair of mid-range Harbeths, and they kind of held their own, at less than half the price of the Harbeths. They looked very nice also, looked like high quality construction at least on the outside. I think the KLH pair was$1300, the Harbeth pair was $4000. I was very nicely surprised considering how low KLH went quality-wise in the 90’s. I still have the One’s cabinets in the basement. Seeing the new model was like bumping into an old friend.