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20 year old flagship speaker vs today's best $2500 or under?

H-713

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Older speakers tended to have less bass so will sound quite lean relative to modern designs, I guess besides Dynaudio speakers which have always had chonky bass. But blended with subs I doubt you will be able to tell the difference assuming you aren't sitting nearfield.
That is heavily dependent upon the speaker and I would not necessarily make that generalization.
 

Doodski

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Older speakers tended to have less bass so will sound quite lean relative to modern designs, I guess besides Dynaudio speakers which have always had chonky bass. But blended with subs I doubt you will be able to tell the difference assuming you aren't sitting nearfield.
I'm guessing that you've never heard a pair of Cerwin Vega D9 thumping the house or a older KEF Reference Series. There are speakers of yesterday that blow lots of the stuff we get today right out of the water.
34804b822043c527f1e26836bc7d832e.jpg
 

dlaloum

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Older speakers tended to have less bass so will sound quite lean relative to modern designs, I guess besides Dynaudio speakers which have always had chonky bass. But blended with subs I doubt you will be able to tell the difference assuming you aren't sitting nearfield.
The Larger ESL panels (ML CLS, Quad 2912) are not lacking in bass, and the bass is very "tight".

Matching subs with ESL's can be well nigh impossible, mostly because most subs simply cannot keep up with the speed of an ESL ...

I tried to match subs with my ESL63's for a number of years... never managed to get it to sound right - the bass sounded disconnected from the rest....

I ended up getting the 2912's ....

An alternative would be a sub array based on small very fast woofers... a bunch of 5" Subs maybe....

I sacrificed my ESL's for something smaller and less overwhelming in a standard home (WAF!!) - the Gallo Reference 3.2's I run sound very very ESL like.... and yet they have a 10" woofer that takes response down to 24Hz (with the right amp)..... doesn't sound lazy/slow at all... so it is possible.
 
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paulgyro

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Older speakers tended to have less bass so will sound quite lean relative to modern designs, I guess besides Dynaudio speakers which have always had chonky bass. But blended with subs I doubt you will be able to tell the difference assuming you aren't sitting nearfield.
Based on the measurements that old Revels and KEFs have bass, Revel more then the KEF. Regardless I'd cross over at 80 hz so the need for bass is low.
 

jhaider

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Hi everyone I'm currently in the market for a new pair of speakers to replace my Forte IIIs, budget is $2500.

I keep debating with myself and thought I'd let you guys join in too.

Get a 20 year old high-end flagship or the best $2500 or under pair you can get bookshelf or tower.
<...>
KEF Reference 201/2 with stands for about $2k
- 201/2 measure great on Sound Stage Network https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/measurements/speakers/kef_201-2/
I would pick KEF Reference 201/2 over anything I know of in current production at $2500. However, I think you'll be really lucky to find a good condition pair, with our without stands, for $2k.
 
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paulgyro

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I would pick KEF Reference 201/2 over anything I know of in current production at $2500. However, I think you'll be really lucky to find a good condition pair, with our without stands, for $2k.
What do you like so much about the KEF? Why it over say a KEF R3? Oh and I have no problem finding a pair of these. Buddy has a pair for sale with stands in good condition for $2k.
 

jhaider

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What do you like so much about the KEF? Why it over say a KEF R3? Oh and I have no problem finding a pair of these. Buddy has a pair for sale with stands in good condition for $2k.
The performance and looks. R3 is a good speaker, and has some notable drive unit design advancements, but 201/2 has the advantage of better verticals due to steeper MF/LF crossover.

If you can get them for $2k, jump on it. If you're not interested, DM me and depending on finish, condition, and packaging I might be...
 

jonfitch

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That is heavily dependent upon the speaker and I would not necessarily make that generalization.

I'm talking apples to apples. Sure anyone can find a chungus speaker that had a lot of bass back then and say it has more bass than a bookshelf speaker made today does. A 2-way with a 5" woofer today of any specific volume has way more bass than the designs that came out of the 2000s or 90s. Most of them were designed for home theater to be crossed over with subs. Not the point I was making--the context of this thread about looking at modern versions of models in certain price/size ranges compared to their predecessors, due to changing trends in target curves as well as less of a focus on strictly pairing speakers with subs.
 

alitomr1979

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I’ve always wonder about the same issue as OP. With the limitations of technology back 20-25 years ago it is hard to believe speakers designed then had the resolution they NEED to have today. I mean, how much did you have to pay then for DAC performing at the level of a today’s 500usd DAC? I have always assume they were designing pushing the limits of what they had then, and think of vinyl, for example. I’ve heard very expensive systems integrating very expensive vinyl players and they are clearly inferior to today’s digital hi res music.

Were they really making speakers so much ahead of what was possible in the rest of the audio chain? I have always doubted this.

I
 

dlaloum

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I’ve always wonder about the same issue as OP. With the limitations of technology back 20-25 years ago it is hard to believe speakers designed then had the resolution they NEED to have today. I mean, how much did you have to pay then for DAC performing at the level of a today’s 500usd DAC? I have always assume they were designing pushing the limits of what they had then, and think of vinyl, for example. I’ve heard very expensive systems integrating very expensive vinyl players and they are clearly inferior to today’s digital hi res music.

Were they really making speakers so much ahead of what was possible in the rest of the audio chain? I have always doubted this.

I
Go have a listen to a 50 year old set of quad esl63's... not many modern speakers can match them anywhere except the bass.

The current quad electrostatic, is almost identical... no need for change when the original got it so right !
 
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paulgyro

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Go have a listen to a 50 year old set of quad esl63's... not many modern speakers can match them anywhere except the bass.

The current quad electrostatic, is almost identical... no need for change when the original got it so right !
So I assume you are trying to make the point once an amazing speaker always an amazing speaker?
 

001

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I'm guessing that you've never heard a pair of Cerwin Vega D9 thumping the house or a older KEF Reference Series. There are speakers of yesterday that blow lots of the stuff we get today right out of the water.
34804b822043c527f1e26836bc7d832e.jpg
iu
Quite so Doodski, I've just had an absolute blast listening to 'our story a 15 year history of Tomorrowland' with these Tannoy Arden antiquarians. Waaay older than 20 years. There was bass 'aplenty. Here's a youtube link.
 

dlaloum

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So I assume you are trying to make the point once an amazing speaker always an amazing speaker?

The current version, which is will nigh identical to the original one... get's it right, as did the original.

Like any speaker it has limitations - max SPL is one of them - it won't go thunderously loud. But within that limitation it is extremely dynamic...
Another limitation is deep bass.... it has precise bass... but you won't get it down to 20Hz (and matching a Sub to it is extremely difficult - most ESL's with "dynamic" subs sound slightly disconnected.... top from bottom.... never really liked most of the Martin Logan speakers... - and this was the main flaw -except for the pure ESL CSL ...)

Yes - you can better performance today at lower price points than in the past... and that is progress! - But the high end speakers, those of 50 years ago are competitive today - demonstrably so with some classics like the Klipschorn and the Quad ESL's - they are still being sold, and still competing successfully in the marketplace ( and in auditions!). - And the two of them Klipsch and Quad are about as far appart in character as you can get!
 
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paulgyro

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Paul, I understand what you are going through. I have a pair of 7' VMPS SuperTower III speakers from 1993 that can offer tons of sound. They have 13 drivers in each tower and REW shows they're easily flat below 20Hz. But these are old and I'm reforming the 15" woofers. I also may modify them with newer silky tweeters. Most 20 year old speakers don't offer the wonderful sound of BE or RAAL tweeters.

I upgraded to the Revel F328Be for my new fronts and they sound fantastic. I find any speaker shorter than 55" doesn't have the crazy presence of a 7' tower. Now the VMPS towers are my hobby platform for trying speaker modifications and the F328Be are my main stereo. I have kept the SuperTower III speakers in good shape but the foam inserts rot over time and need care. I have spent some time reforming woofers. It's a fun hobby rebuilding them. But its not for everyone.

If I was you I would put a few more $$$ toward your new front speakers. I would suggest the Revel F208 or the BMR Tower. Revel 208 can usually be purchased with a negotiated discount. My guess is I could probably get a new pair of F208 for about $3600 from a good reseller. The BMR Towers would be $3700 plus shipping. BMR's are in high demand and I would not expect a discount.

If you purchase either one of those speakers it will meet your needs for years, fill your room and you won't be experiencing the upgrade bug each year like you may with a smaller speaker. Both of these speakers are a great value in my book.


Happy hunting!
Hey thanks so much for this! I'm seriously considering your recommendations.
 

Roland68

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How about a DIY speaker?
For many kits there are now also ready-made housings, so that the effort is largely limited to screwing them together.
After more than 30 years of experience, the developments and the know-how from https://heissmann-acoustics.de have amazed me very much, but of course there are many other and also outstanding kits.
 

JJB70

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20-25 years isn't exactly going back to the technological dark ages. Amplification was a solved problem and audio DACs were already technologically mature. Manufacturers were using CAD/CAM and if anything much of hi-fi had reached a peak in engineering depth and build quality we may not see again.
 
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paulgyro

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How about a DIY speaker?
For many kits there are now also ready-made housings, so that the effort is largely limited to screwing them together.
After more than 30 years of experience, the developments and the know-how from https://heissmann-acoustics.de have amazed me very much, but of course there are many other and also outstanding kits.
Wow these guys have some interesting products that seem to be very high value as well as measure great.
 

jsrtheta

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Hi everyone I'm currently in the market for a new pair of speakers to replace my Forte IIIs, budget is $2500.

I keep debating with myself and thought I'd let you guys join in too.

Get a 20 year old high-end flagship or the best $2500 or under pair you can get bookshelf or tower.

Examples of old high-end flagship type I'm debating about.


Note: Assume I can get parts for repair if need be.

Revel Ultima Gem with stands for about $2k
-I've not heard these but have heard the Ultima Studio (same line), amazing. Studios measure good on Sound Stage Network https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/measurements/revel_ultima_studio/
-Stereophile's Products of 1998 Joint Loudspeakers of 1998 https://www.stereophile.com/content/stereophiles-products-1998-joint-loudspeakers-1998
-Stereophile's measurements looks good but for a dip at about 4k. https://www.stereophile.com/content...r-ultima-sub-15-subwoofer-measurements-page-3


KEF Reference 201/2 with stands for about $2k
- 201/2 measure great on Sound Stage Network https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/measurements/speakers/kef_201-2/
-Stereophile's measurements and review look great https://www.stereophile.com/content/kef-reference-2012-loudspeaker-measurements
-Stereophile's recommended A (Restricted Extreme LF)-list until about 2013

Current example speakers up to the $2.5k price point.

Arendal 1723 Monitor S or 1723 Monitor for $2 to $2.4k
Focal Aria 906 for about $2k
JBL HDI 1600 for about $1.9k
Revel Concerta2 F36 for about $1.75k
Legacy Studio HDs for about $2k
Ascend Sierra Tower or Sierra-2EX $2.5k or $1.5k
KEF R3
KEF LS50 Meta (most likely way too small)
Other Revel book shelf
Other Focal Chora lines.
Others?

Let me know your thoughts!

I'm going crazy thinking about this.... :)

Other info you might want, my room is 320 sq ft, 3000 cubic feet, 8-9 ft listening distance. 80-85 db average listening levels.

Current amp is VTV Stereo Amplifier based on Hypex NCore NC252MP (VTV Stereo Amplifier based on Hypex NCore NC252MP | VTV Amplifier)

I already own 4 subs, all aligned with miniDSP HD 2x4 and MSO. Amazing bass.

Paul

I would give a listen to Monitor Audio.
 

dlaloum

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Hi everyone I'm currently in the market for a new pair of speakers to replace my Forte IIIs, budget is $2500.

I keep debating with myself and thought I'd let you guys join in too.

Get a 20 year old high-end flagship or the best $2500 or under pair you can get bookshelf or tower.

Examples of old high-end flagship type I'm debating about.


Note: Assume I can get parts for repair if need be.

Revel Ultima Gem with stands for about $2k
-I've not heard these but have heard the Ultima Studio (same line), amazing. Studios measure good on Sound Stage Network https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/measurements/revel_ultima_studio/
-Stereophile's Products of 1998 Joint Loudspeakers of 1998 https://www.stereophile.com/content/stereophiles-products-1998-joint-loudspeakers-1998
-Stereophile's measurements looks good but for a dip at about 4k. https://www.stereophile.com/content...r-ultima-sub-15-subwoofer-measurements-page-3


KEF Reference 201/2 with stands for about $2k
- 201/2 measure great on Sound Stage Network https://www.soundstagenetwork.com/measurements/speakers/kef_201-2/
-Stereophile's measurements and review look great https://www.stereophile.com/content/kef-reference-2012-loudspeaker-measurements
-Stereophile's recommended A (Restricted Extreme LF)-list until about 2013

Current example speakers up to the $2.5k price point.

Arendal 1723 Monitor S or 1723 Monitor for $2 to $2.4k
Focal Aria 906 for about $2k
JBL HDI 1600 for about $1.9k
Revel Concerta2 F36 for about $1.75k
Legacy Studio HDs for about $2k
Ascend Sierra Tower or Sierra-2EX $2.5k or $1.5k
KEF R3
KEF LS50 Meta (most likely way too small)
Other Revel book shelf
Other Focal Chora lines.
Others?

Let me know your thoughts!

I'm going crazy thinking about this.... :)

Other info you might want, my room is 320 sq ft, 3000 cubic feet, 8-9 ft listening distance. 80-85 db average listening levels.

Current amp is VTV Stereo Amplifier based on Hypex NCore NC252MP (VTV Stereo Amplifier based on Hypex NCore NC252MP | VTV Amplifier)

I already own 4 subs, all aligned with miniDSP HD 2x4 and MSO. Amazing bass.

Paul
Speakers I would want to seek out and have a listen to (if I were in your shoes):

Quad ESL63 - 50 years old - find a pair that has been looked after, some of the panels may have been replaced or need replacing. Around 1997 I bought a set for under US$1000.... don't know what they go for now, but with a budget of US$2k you should be able to find a set. If you can live with their limitations, the even older ESL57's can be absolutely magical - but they are delicate, easily damaged, and constrained at both the high end and the low end. - Exotic Electrostatic construction means that if they have been looked after, without any ARC-ing - they will be fine, even 50 or 60 years after their manufacturing date! - Quad still provides parts, and you can find a specialist to refurbish these in most countries.

Another electrostatic alternative, still supported to this day by its manufacturer... is the Martin Logan CLS - and of course the whole family of Martin Logan electrostatics - which have been around for many many years - again, used bargains can be found, they are still supported by the maker, and their sound is up there with the best. (Personally, I loved the CLS, but never quite took to the Hybrid standard woofer with Electrostatic mid and high designs... but that's just me - lots and lots of people swear by them)

Gallo Reference 3 / 3.1 / 3.2 / 3.5 or possibly Reference AV...

A remarkable family of speakers - I have a set of 3.2's as my main speakers now - have been discontinued for a few years - with no real equivalent replacement from Gallo (Anthony Gallo sold the company some years back).
The current Strada are excellent - but the older 3 series of floor standers are I think superior - and you can frequently get a set for well under US$2500.
The Reference AV series are designed for Wall mounting and provide a different set of options that may or may not suit your home / listening room.

Other golden oldies:

Boston Acoustics mid 80's models... A400, A200, A150....

These are truly wonderful speakers - but given their age, and construction, the woofer and possibly midranges may need to have their surrounds replaced (or have had them replaced).
A set of A400's in good nick can give many high end speakers a real run for their money! - When new, I recall a set of these filling a hotel ballrooom with sound .... (they were cranked up, late at night, after the audio show had closed for the night....), they played as well soft as lound, great imaging and soundstage, and solid really tight bass.... on the right track, with the right amp, a kick drum could really give you that "thump in the chest" feeling through these.

Keep in mind that standard speakers that are 20+ years old may well need "refettling" typically woofer surrounds/suspension need replacing.... sometimes easier to replace the drivers.... which may no longer be available, and new equivalents may not sound the same as the originals... (which is where "exotics" like the electrostatics can be quite the bargain)

You can do some searches for these families of speakers.... google is your friend!
 

Descartes

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I agree. Speakers do unfortunately deteriorate rapidly after 10-15 years or so and you are often stuck with beautiful cabinets, almost a full set of functional drivers and no spare parts. Ask me how I know that- or better still, have in look in my storeroom. :facepalm:
Yes that’s why I sell mine after 7-10 years!
 
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