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Technics SB-F1 Review (Vintage Speaker)

Rate this speaker:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 12 8.2%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 61 41.8%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 63 43.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 10 6.8%

  • Total voters
    146

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Technics SB-F1 mini vintage bookshelf speaker. It is on kind loan from a member:
Technics SB-F1 Review mini bookshelf vintage speaker.jpg

SB-F1 was produced in Japan around 1978. It has a stout, diecast aluminum frame. I understand it was quite expensive for its time despite its diminutive size. I got a kick out of the circuit breaker in the back. Had forgotten about these back in the day:

Technics SB-F1 Review back panel mini bookshelf vintage speaker.jpg


Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.


Reference axis was the center of the tweeter (aligned by eye). Measurement room was at 15 degrees C.

Technics SB-F1 Measurements
Acoustic measurements can be grouped in a way that can be perceptually analyzed to determine how good a speaker is and how it can be used in a room. This so called spinorama shows us just about everything we need to know about the speaker with respect to tonality and some flaws:
Technics SB-F1 Measurements Frequency Response bookshelf vintage speaker.png


I don't know why but I expected a very poor frequency response but that was not the case. Response is quite flat and would be at home with many small speakers (and better than many). It does have a tilt up toward the higher frequencies though. And there are a lot of jagged peaks indicating resonances.

Early window is similar to on-axis:
Technics SB-F1 Measurements Early Window Frequency Response bookshelf vintage speaker.png

Predicted in-room response as a result is decent:

Technics SB-F1 Measurements Predicted in-room Frequency Response bookshelf vintage speaker.png


Power handling was surprisingly good at 86 dBSPL but understandably, falls apart at 96:

Technics SB-F1 Measurements Relative Distortion THD bookshelf vintage speaker.png


Technics SB-F1 Measurements Distortion THD bookshelf vintage speaker.png


Horizontal directivity and beamwidth is good:

Technics SB-F1 Measurements Horizontal Beamwidth bookshelf vintage speaker.png



Technics SB-F1 Measurements Horizontal Directivity bookshelf vintage speaker.png


Vertically it is messy like a lot of 2-way speakers are. Make sure you are at or slightly above tweeter axis when listening:
Technics SB-F1 Measurements Vertical Directivity bookshelf vintage speaker.png


Impedance is around 5 ohm which is good for this day and age:
Technics SB-F1 Measurements Impedance and phase bookshelf vintage speaker.png


Sorry, forgot to run the CSD/Waterfall test.

Technics SB-F1 Speaker Listening Tests
First impression with female vocals was very positive. Sound was clean with just a hint of brightness. Switching to tracks with more bass though degraded performance fair bit. At very low volumes, it was still very good. But turn up the volume and there is a nasty resonance that is quite audible. Turn it up more and the sound gets very muddy with distorted bass. You could argue this is to be expected but I could not get past the resonance.

FYI I could clearly hear the resonance in the frequency response sweep during testing at 96 dBSPL.

Conclusions
I am impressed with level of engineering that went into the design of SB-F1. If it didn't have that nasty resonance, it would be highly competitive even today. But with it and the limited power capability, I can't see a good reason to recommend it.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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SegaCD

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Very cool to see these measured and to see them have relatively high performance. These small "mini hi-fi" speakers and complementary "mini component" audio stacks were quite popular for a while in the 80's and 90's and some big Japanese names (like Technics, Sony, Aiwa, Toshiba/Aurex, JVC Victor, etc) put out some genuinely fantastic equipment in tabletop form-factors. The Toshiba/Aurex Micro System 15, for example, is such a prime example of miniaturization and precision engineering:
Aurex Toshiba System 15 (01).jpg


On the speaker end, I think the "standard" that most of us in the US was familiar with was the Radio Shack Minimus series and it's derivatives:
6a00d83452989a69e2014e895edbcc970d.jpg



I'd like to see the Optimus PRO LX5 measured some day with the unusual Linaeum tweeters. Could send mine in if I ever get around to refoaming them.
 
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ROOSKIE

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Very cool little speaker.
Appreciate the vintage review.
Surprised at the engineering which for the era seems quite nice.
 

voodooless

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SB-F1 was produced in Japan around 1978.
Looks like they were made right upto 1991! That is a really long stretch! Any idea when this specific pair was made?

Also, this thing is really tiny! Only 10cm woofer and 13mm tweeter :oops: It doesn’t look that small on the photos.
 
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Doodski

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These where great little bench speakers. The tweeter was easily replaced when it blew which was fairly often. They sounded OK when close to the ears and where tough as nails cabinet wise. Parts availability was good and economical.
 

thewas

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Am really impressed by its measurements (especially directivity) for its time and being a small entry model back then and regret selling a pair some years ago. Glad to still own though the TOTL Technics SB-10 from the same period though for which are actually even flatter than the famous Yamaha NS-1000 and there is even an AES paper about them (!! - mainly about the modal drive which later also KEF used) :


Technics SB-10 vs Yamaha NS-1000.jpg
 

thewas

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jhaider

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Interesting - and in a way sad that so many speakers made today perform worse than models that debuted about the same time I did and don’t even seem to be their maker’s TOTL. I looked these up and they have cone drivers rather than the flat piston stuff. It would be cool if someone had a similar one with their flat drivers to send in. (Audio-nerd trivia: Geddes used the flat Technics tweeter when developing his WG designs.)

Edit: looks like per @thewas the Mk 2 version used flat drivers.
 
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thewas

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Rja4000

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Nice review
Thanks

I still think we would benefit from a systematic dynamic range/instantaneous compression measurement, to objectify those dynamic limitations.
Any plan to add this measurement?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Nice review
Thanks

I still think we would benefit from a systematic dynamic range/instantaneous compression measurement, to objectify those dynamic limitations.
Any plan to add this measurement?
No. Compression is not a problem. Distortion is.
 
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