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Are modern speakers actually better speakers?
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astrobal
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Joined: 02 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 7:56 am    Post subject: Are modern speakers actually better speakers? Reply with quote

I have two pairs of Concord III speakers. The first pair I bought new in 1978 along with a Luxman amplifier, tuner and tapedeck to drive it.

Then a few years ago, I decided to put a hifi system in my library as well as my living room, so I raided ebay and found another pair of Concord III speakers to go with another Luxman amp+tuner+tapedeck, but this time the Luxman suite was from the 80s. (It's interesting how much the electronics of the 80s had improved over the electronics of the 70s. The Luxman kit from the 80s is much poorer in build quality than the 70s kit, but the electronics inside them is definitely better across the board.) The rational for getting another set of Concord III speakers was that I did not want to be constantly asking myself which were the better speakers, the Concord III speakers I had had for thirty odd years or whatever-it-was that I had got as the second set of speakers.

Having found and won a pair of Cocord III speakers on ebay, it was not until I got them home that I discovered that there was nothing coming out of the tweeters. I took the material cover off and the tweeters were blown. And the capacitors in the cross-over unit were all blown. Very impressive, I thought to myself. I wonder how that happened? I generally (always) play 'classical' music and if the power level gets above 2 watts then it is too loud for me!

Anyway, I found some replacement tweeters in Denmark and replacement capacitors (at much higher voltage) from RS Components. Then there was the problem of checking the polarity of the speakers was correct so the phase was the same at the 6db cross-over point, as the red dot was painted exactly between the two terminals on both speakers! Well, I have signal generators and oscilloscopes so that was no big deal, and the speakers now sound exactly the same as my original 1978 purchased speakers.

But here is the question - how do these Concord III speakers stack up musically against modern offerings?

Speaker design is a triumph of compromise and whether you use cone speakers, horns or electrostatics, there are trade-offs which are fundamental in the physics of speaker design. That is no less true now than it was back in the 70s. But I remember that people used to go down to Comet in the 70s and come back with something you could have set up another home inside, whereas speakers from Comet these days seem to be made of plastic and might well fit inside a shoe-box!

There are quality speakers and custom speakers of course, and the trend these days seems to be for 'tower' speakers - make 'em long and thin so they don't get in the way of the vacuum cleaner!

But, what would a critical audiophile reviewer say when comparing the Concord III or other Kef offerings from the 70s, to today's equivalents such as (say) the C5 or the Q500 speakers?
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audiolabtower
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 12:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's a very good question, and one that is very confusing when magazines review stuff and almost every month there is a new giant beater that raises the bar, kicks the competition, miles better than last months fave etc etc, yet when you do a straight comparison with 20 year old gear (in good working order that is) the classics still stand up well and in some cases better.

The main trend since the 70s was the search for more efficiency and max output. This led to the demise of bextrene, rise of polypropylene and return of paper cones (which I could never understand). It is now pretty well accepted that polyprop just had a different colouration "signature" than bextrene. My personal opinion is the Harbeth radial is the best cone material now and is an advance since then. But generally speakers are flatter and can go louder and there really is less reason to spend huge amounts of money on esoteric gear now. Unfortunately such a lot is made in China now, and the materials used sometimes do not stack up to the quality levels of yesteryear. Your Concords have paper cones and are pretty efficient and can go loud compared to others of that era.

The simplest thing would be to find a dealer and go and listen and see what you think.
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astrobal
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 1:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

audiolabtower wrote:

The simplest thing would be to find a dealer and go and listen and see what you think.


Thanks for your comments on the advances in speaker cone material etc. Your thoughts that good speakers of yore were not so bad and would compare favourably with today's offerings confirms my suspicions.

The return to paper cones seems to be a recognition that paper is a pretty well damped material and so has less colouration than more modern materials. I think the super-strong neodymium magnets that are used these days enable louder speakers to be made - but I am not a masochist who subjects himself to audio torture, so swapping out my paper woofers would probably not be noticeable.

As for listening to speakers at a dealer, it is not as simple as all that. It is very difficult to compare speakers in my own house to speakers in a shop environment. The rooms where I have my speakers are nowhere near an approximation to an anechoic chamber and so will have their influence on the sound. My library, for example, is a wonderful room in which to listen to organ music as the room resonates at the frequencies of those 30 foot organ pipes, and so effectively extending the bass response of the speakers.
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SaSi
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't heard new speaker systems recently but I will convey a comment from a friend who auditioned my system a few weeks ago.

He was kinda joking that I would play vinyl, but was impressed with the performance of the KEF 105s - a speaker that was designed 35 years ago and a pair that needed hefty restoration and use of unmatched drivers (i.e. not up to original KEF performance standards).

He has paid about 4.500 euros for a pair of loudspeakers recently - can't remember the brand - and he couldn't see any benefit to them. In fact he admitted the 105s gave out better, deeper and more controlled low frequencies than his vented design.
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SaSi
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I haven't heard new speaker systems recently but I will convey a comment from a friend who auditioned my system a few weeks ago.

He was kinda joking that I would play vinyl, but was impressed with the performance of the KEF 105s - a speaker that was designed 35 years ago and a pair that needed hefty restoration and use of unmatched drivers (i.e. not up to original KEF performance standards).

He has paid about 4.500 euros for a pair of loudspeakers recently - can't remember the brand - and he couldn't see any benefit to them. In fact he admitted the 105s gave out better, deeper and more controlled low frequencies than his vented design.
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SaSi
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 06, 2014 4:15 am    Post subject: a comparison Reply with quote

I haven't heard new speaker systems recently but I will convey a comment from a friend who auditioned my system a few weeks ago.

He was kinda joking that I would play vinyl, but was impressed with the performance of the KEF 105s - a speaker that was designed 35 years ago and a pair that needed hefty restoration and use of unmatched drivers (i.e. not up to original KEF performance standards).

He has paid about 4.500 euros for a pair of loudspeakers recently - can't remember the brand - and he couldn't see any benefit to them. In fact he admitted the 105s gave out better, deeper and more controlled low frequencies than his vented design.
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Gary
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the answer is yes and no. You would have to pay a lot of money and wade through a lot of speaker listening to get speakers that compare with vintage KEFs.
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Gary
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Joined: 07 Nov 2004
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Location: Toronto, Canada

PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2014 7:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the answer is yes and no. You would have to pay a lot of money and wade through a lot of speaker listening to get speakers that compare with vintage KEFs.
_________________
Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?" Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night."
-- Charles M. Schulz (as Charlie Brown)
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terry
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Joined: 22 Apr 2003
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Location: UK

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:25 pm    Post subject: A vintage ramble Reply with quote

After a few faltering starts I was convinced many years ago of the need to attend to the front end of my HiFI system first. My opinion remains unchanged on that. I was also convinced many many years ago of the 'listenability' and so the quality (subjective) of certainly some of speaker systems in the KEF vintage range and in some third party designs which used vintage KEF drive units. My opinion remains also unchanged on that.

If I had the space at home I would love to revisit my age of experimentation with larger vintage KEF speakers (and others) but alas space is not available now. My loft is full of vintage KEF stuff. Will these speakers ever again be given the opportunity to amaze?

I eventually (just a few years ago) had to make a hard decision and I purchased what appears to be recognised as the best in-wall speakers available. It is a compromise all round (cost, space and sound quality) but the result is surprisingly good. My front end gives the speakers every chance to show what they are made of.

I am sure that a better outcome could have been achieved less expensively with new stand-alone speakers but space was the constraining factor.

To get back to the question. Are new speakers better than vintage KEF?

Having installed my in-wall speakers but before lugging my old and rather large and heavy vintage KEFs to the garage I did some comparisons/testing. Perhaps it was a mistake because the familiar along with the undoubted quality left me doubting. Yes the new speakers do a good job. Yes they do a different job. Yes they sound different. Yes they can be praised. I am sure most that people would be impressed with what is now presented to listeners. BUT are they better than my vintage KEFs. The answer is probably no, even given that I know the KEFs can be tweaked and improved. The new speakers are sonically quite different but perhaps not better (subjective).

Without saying anything more about the new speakers or the KEF speakers which were being used it is worth noting that around 150-200 would now buy my KEFs on eBay. The B&W speakers are no longer made but there was not a lot of change out of 4k for them. Perhaps that says a great deal in answer to the question.

This is, however, all very subjective and I am sure someone else would disagree strongly with my conclusions to my listening tests.

I am also very biased in that I have been a lover of vintage KEF speakers since the early 1970s.

Thanks for reading this ramble.

I haven't posted anything for years.
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terry
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 3:35 pm    Post subject: Colin remembered Reply with quote

Having just completed the post above I immediately thought about Colin Royle who I am sure you all remember. So often I got an flea in my ear by email after posting on this forum. All the inaccuracies of my post would have been pointed out in great detail.

I am sure there are many members here who miss Colin's presence on the forum and also behind the scenes. I know that he was as active externally by email as he was in the public area of the site.

He was a much valued member.
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TL 200
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Joined: 27 Jul 2009
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Location: Emmer-Compascuum The Netherlands

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:49 pm    Post subject: Re: Colin remembered Reply with quote

terry wrote:
Having just completed the post above I immediately thought about Colin Royle who I am sure you all remember. So often I got an flea in my ear by email after posting on this forum. All the inaccuracies of my post would have been pointed out in great detail.

I am sure there are many members here who miss Colin's presence on the forum and also behind the scenes. I know that he was as active externally by email as he was in the public area of the site.

He was a much valued member.


You are right Terry, going through the forum lately i realised i missed his answers and reactions to so many questions and posts.
God have his soul.
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Without music, life would be a mistake.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche,
The Twilight of the Idols, 1889
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TL 200
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Joined: 27 Jul 2009
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Location: Emmer-Compascuum The Netherlands

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:50 pm    Post subject: Re: Colin remembered Reply with quote

terry wrote:
Having just completed the post above I immediately thought about Colin Royle who I am sure you all remember. So often I got an flea in my ear by email after posting on this forum. All the inaccuracies of my post would have been pointed out in great detail.

I am sure there are many members here who miss Colin's presence on the forum and also behind the scenes. I know that he was as active externally by email as he was in the public area of the site.

He was a much valued member.


You are right Terry, going through the forum lately i realised i missed his answers and reactions to so many questions and posts.
God have his soul.
_________________
Without music, life would be a mistake.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche,
The Twilight of the Idols, 1889
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TL 200
Senior Contributor 100+


Joined: 27 Jul 2009
Posts: 141
Location: Emmer-Compascuum The Netherlands

PostPosted: Sun Feb 09, 2014 5:51 pm    Post subject: Re: Colin remembered Reply with quote

terry wrote:
Having just completed the post above I immediately thought about Colin Royle who I am sure you all remember. So often I got an flea in my ear by email after posting on this forum. All the inaccuracies of my post would have been pointed out in great detail.

I am sure there are many members here who miss Colin's presence on the forum and also behind the scenes. I know that he was as active externally by email as he was in the public area of the site.

He was a much valued member.


You are right Terry, going through the forum lately i realised i missed his answers and reactions to so many questions and posts.
May he rest in peace, surrounded by beautifull music.
_________________
Without music, life would be a mistake.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche,
The Twilight of the Idols, 1889
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jagster
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Joined: 11 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:17 pm    Post subject: Speakers-New versus Old Reply with quote

It has been established that everyone hears differently, and that causes many people to be mislead. That business of the sound being absolutely 'flat' across the entire sound spectrum seems to always disappoint. First-hand experience in my two audio shops from back in the day proved that point to me. I deliberately had a listening area for just such a comparison. Most people 'could not stand' a perfectly flat speaker. Loudness above 90db, set most people off, yet others wanted to 'crank it'.
Listening material: Those vinyl discs were cut and mastered for the technology of their time, and that meant limited low frequencies and cut offs on the highs. Later LP's did get enhanced treatment, and those became 'reference cuts'. Most of us nuts have some of those. Since most of us do not carry as spectrum analyzer in out pockets when we travel to our favorite high-end shop, we try to depend upon our poor ears, and what the salesmen tell us. He spends most of his time sizing up the size and thickness of your wallet! Choose what sounds pleasant to you. Listen for at least a half an hour. Only buy if you have a satisfaction guarantee from them if they do not sound 'good' in your listening space.
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jagster
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2014 7:18 pm    Post subject: Speakers-New versus Old Reply with quote

It has been established that everyone hears differently, and that causes many people to be mislead. That business of the sound being absolutely 'flat' across the entire sound spectrum seems to always disappoint. First-hand experience in my two audio shops from back in the day proved that point to me. I deliberately had a listening area for just such a comparison. Most people 'could not stand' a perfectly flat speaker. Loudness above 90db, set most people off, yet others wanted to 'crank it'.
Listening material: Those vinyl discs were cut and mastered for the technology of their time, and that meant limited low frequencies and cut offs on the highs. Later LP's did get enhanced treatment, and those became 'reference cuts'. Most of us nuts have some of those. Since most of us do not carry as spectrum analyzer in out pockets when we travel to our favorite high-end shop, we try to depend upon our poor ears, and what the salesmen tell us. He spends most of his time sizing up the size and thickness of your wallet! Choose what sounds pleasant to you. Listen for at least a half an hour. Only buy if you have a satisfaction guarantee from them if they do not sound 'good' in your listening space.
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