I'm not sure exactly what the definition of "vintage" is, but none of my loudspeakers are of very recent vintage. My loudspeakers include Apogee Calipers, New Large Advents, Spendor 9/1, EPI 202 and Monitor Audio Studio 20s.
I have only used the Calipers with one amp, a JRDG 112. I really don't whether it's a great match, but I think it sounds very good. If I ever get the Calipers refurbed I'll look for an amp with more power. The Calipers are by far the best $500 I ever spent in audio.
The Advents and the EPIs aren't set up for critical listening, but I have found them to be relatively uncritical of amplification. They work well with vintage Sansui integrated, Fisher 400, classic Luxman receivers and even Panasonic digital amps.
I use the Spendors with Roksan M series amplification. I've also tried them with a Sony V-fet power amp. Both sound very good, but I've read were the 9/1 respond really well to tube power.
My experiences with non-recent loudspeakers has been very, very positive. Even after the price of refurbing the Calipers will cost less than $3,000. Can their sound quality be matched by current loudspeakers at that price? The Spendors rarely come up for sale, but I paid $2,500 for mine 5 years ago. You might not like their sound, but their value and quality are undeniable. You also don't see many Monitor Audio Studio series on the market either. Simple two way designs with outstanding soundstage/imaging, good detail and a smooth sound. The only piece of equipment I sold that I regret is a pair of Studio 50s. Shouda' kept 'em.
But having had HiFi systems since the mid 70's and hearing a lot of loudspeakers, I would say any of the "L" series of speakers by ADS. These would be the "L"'s with the butyl rubber surrounds and bronze mesh grills. IMO these were the best I heard back in the day. In fact, while waiting for a new replacement driver for one of my Viennas, I used a near mint pair of ADS L-520's for awhile in my system recently and was still amazed at how they sound.
Sansui SP-2500 SP-2700 are quite good sounding. besides that, they look cool in a vintage system. Both 98 dB so easy to drive with tubes. The 2500's frequently show on Craigslist for $100-$150, but the 2700's are kind of rare.
My current speakers are vintage Infinity RS 1.5 (large bookshelf) and I really enjoy them. I have them paired with an Arcam Alpha 10 amp and the combnation is stellar, especially for the price I paid within the last year. The speakers were $265 and the amp was $250. The sound is well worth multiples of those prices.
I would love to have a pair of the big Infinity IRS or the RS 2.5s, but I don'thave enough room tosupport them.
I have two pairs of AR-3s that I have rebuilt with the help of Vintage AR . I first heard these speakers when they first came out and was blown away. This was in the fifties I think. Ten years ago I paid $35 for one pair and several months later $40 for the second pair. The grills and cabinets were in great shape. They may not be equal to today's speakers in detail but they sure do sound musical.
I run late 70's Yamaha NS690's in my man-loft system with a museum grade Yamaha CR1020. In my family room I have Ohm Walsh 3's circa mid 80's and frankly couldn't be happier. They are both fullrange speakers that sound good with music or movies, however I've got my eye on Mark and Daniel mini monitors, I like what they do for their size.
Certain would like to still have my Acoustat Model III's and the huge listening room they were in, back in the early 80's. I'm still using the transmission line woofer system, that I built to go with them(updated the active x-over, drivers and amp, since then).
TO ALL WHO HAVE ASK FOR CLARIFICATION. By vintage, I am generally referring to speakers from roughly 1965 to 1989. I did not want to use the word "Old" so as not to flush out any speaker. I should have added the word "venerable" to identify for us old timers in the membership, names like Bozak, Advent, AR, KLH, EPI, Rectilinear, JBL, DCM IMF, (Bud) Fried, ESS (pre-AMT tweeter and Dr. Heil). There are probably several more, and some I noted that were only around for a few years, but had a great impact on the market.
So far, in just quickly eye-balling the responses, some of the names I stated are offered, and several I missed. Nevertheless, for the record. My choices would be
Double "Large Advents" Stack (at the time driven by Phase Linear 400 amp)
Sunnyjim---To be aware of the "pre-AMT tweeter and Dr. Heil" era ESS, you are either as old as I or a Hi-Fi historian (or both)! I happen to have such a pair of loudspeakers, the ESS Trans-Static I's. I found them in L.A.'s The Recycler paper in the mid-80's for $400 ($1200/pr retail when new), in good working order except for one woofer being a cheap imitation of the original Kef B139. I called ESS and was told they had one remaining B139 in stock!
The Trans-Static was a pretty advanced loudspeaker when it was introduced (1970, I believe), having three RTR ESL tweeters operated open baffle/dipole, a Kef B110 5" midrange driver loaded into a short (15", the depth of the enclosure) transmission line, and the B139 woofer (which Dave Wilson used in pairs in his WAMM loudspeaker later in the decade) with a long folded-transmission line behind it. X/O frequencies were 275Hz and 1500Hz (designed by a young John Ulrick, cofounder of Infinity Systems, and now owner/designer of Spectron Audio), and each speaker weighed a substantial 139 lbs. They still sound pretty good!
SunnyJim.....I heard the Infinity Servo Static 1A (not the original), and I must say they were overwhelming!!!! I think only 3 set's were sold (only joking) but the one's I heard were owned by the late great Jim Foley. Unfortunately they were unreliable and the "3" sold that I said above was not that far off. Truly a great speaker (with the correct equipment to back them up).
11-19-15: Sunnyjim By vintage, I am generally referring to speakers from roughly 1965 to 1989. I did not want to use the word "Old" so as not to flush out any speaker. I should have added the word "venerable" to identify for us old timers in the membership, names like Bozak, Advent, AR, KLH, EPI, Rectilinear, JBL, DCM IMF, (Bud) Fried, ESS (pre-AMT tweeter and Dr. Heil).
My perception back in the day was that as a general rule of thumb (there were exceptions, of course), speakers from the 1980s tended to considerably outperform those from the earlier part of the period you cited, particularly in terms of definition, clarity, and imaging. In many cases, I suspect, due more to the cabinet design than to the design of the drivers and crossovers.
Since the original question was phrased as "what vintage speaker might **you** use today," I'll say therefore that the only speakers from prior to ca. 1980 that come to mind as some that I might want to use would be the Quad ESL-57 (of course), probably also the ESL-63, and if I wanted to invest a great deal of money and time, Tannoy or Western Electric drivers from earlier decades mounted in modern custom cabinets.
From the 1980s, though, there are a great many choices I would consider, many of them noted by the others earlier in the thread. Among those that I had occasion to hear extensively, Infinity RS-1B, Acoustat, KEF. And a lesser known one that I owned and which gave me a great deal of pleasure for a couple of decades, the Pentagram P-10 (in one of its later versions, having a different and larger dome midrange than the initial version; no relation, btw, between that speaker and the Bang & Olufsen Penta which was also from the 1980s).
My recommendation would be * Apogee - any model such as Stage, Diva, Scintilla (I own one at present), Caliper. * ESL 57, ESL 63 (as Almarg also recommended) * Tannoy - Gold series monitor, Little Red, Super Red, System DMT II (i.e. series 2. The series I was pretty forgettable sonically). I presently have a System 10 DMT II & it is really a very, very good speaker. It has practically zero WAF but the sonics are fantastic. A lot of the older/vintage Tannoy speakers used Alnico magnets & their sonics are much revered & sought after. Just FYI, the System II DMT was an early 1990s speaker.
The age of speakers doesn't hold much interest to me unless where it's followed by a shift in design - at least that to me is what truly signifies a "vintage" speaker, when they eschew in central areas what is typically seen with contemporary speakers and for the latest decades now. If age alone was the main factor defining vintage speakers - that is, counting no more than 30-40 years - I'd find their use mostly trivial and lacking compared to their newer siblings in light of the (lack of) development found in this period of time; age would simply begin to slowly work against them, with nothing really to "counter-balance" this decline inherent to the design. Going back 40 or more years, to me, is where vintage begins to truly establish itself via different, and physically larger designs - mostly horns. Really interesting is where these vintage designs are sought refined through re-builds with better materials and construction (cabinetry), better cross-overs, and the equivalent in or evolutionary advanced (pro-)drivers. Vintage designs by that nature hold advantages through sheer size, principle (i.e.: horns), sensitivity, and the type of drivers used. Where these are sought refined (or even replicated/used as is) I find them potentially much more interesting and authentic sounding than contemporary designs of the typical "acoustic suspension"/direct radiating design philosophy brought forth by Edgar Villchur in the early 50's. Hearing some of these vintage speakers is oftentimes a revelation, and makes me wonder the direction "hifi" has taken in the latest decades - for something that is essentially better? No, to the contrary.
All of the speakers I now own qualify as vintage. From oldest to newest these are:
1. Custom 2-way using 15" Jensen woofer and Altec compression driver in an Altec/Western Electric 32A horn. The cabinet is modern and so are the crossover parts, but the drivers and horns date back to the 1940s.
2. Dyna A25. I bought my first set of A25 speakers new in 1970. These came from EBay in the late 1990s. They still sound really nice.
3. Fulton FMI-80. A classic from late 1970s.
4. Spendor SP-100. I bought my pair in 2001 but the design dates back to the late 1980s.
The Jensen/Altecs and Spendors are my everyday speakers in the hifi system. The Dynas are used in the video room. The Fulton alas is the odd man out.
Except for the Spendors, each of these uses Alnico magnets which may have something to do with the enduring good sound, but that is just a guess. What I do know is that I continue to explore the latest and greatest but so far I haven't heard anything that makes me want to replace my vintage speakers.
In my current audio setup, though not strictly meeting the OP's definition of vintage, it would be fun to own a pair of Infinity IRS-Sigma's which were introduced in the mid-90's. That speaker would suit my room size & layout and give me the Magic the IRS speakers were known for. In a larger, dedicated room I'd love to own a good 2nd hand pair of IRS-Beta's or IRS-V's.
To Bdp24, I am not a hi-fi historian, but may become one if keep asking about the so called vintage stuff. You are right,I must be as old as you at 68.
I fondly remember hearing the ESS Translinear speaker and the Transtatic and was blow away to use an overworked 70's term. A small audio store in Redwood, California carried the line. I fell in love with the sound especially the deep tight bass. I did not have the dough (or room) for Transstatic, and should have gone the extra mile,and bought the Translinear, but settled for the ESS model 7 which was just below the other two, but still sounded outstanding.
One of the key components of the line was the use as you mentioned of the KEF B139 woofer/driver which produced the tight bass. I later found out the tweeters, at least in the ESS 7's were made by Philips; that may have been also true of the Translinears. In the model 7,the Philip drivers tended to sound bright, even in the days before CD's and digital glare.
It is good to know someone still has a pair of these amazing sounding speakers (at least for their time)
Right Jim, the transmission line loading of the woofers in the ESS "Trans" series speakers made for unusually deep and tight bass for the time. The dome tweeter in the lesser ESS' was okay, but those RTR ESL's in the Trans-Static were SOTA. Fulton used the RTR add-on tweeter assembly (which contained six of the tweeters) in his Model J loudspeaker in '74, another really good one.