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Hi-Fi Stereo - Loudspeakers
How to select the right speakers
Question:©I appreciate your candor about < vintage hi efficiency > speakers, I am not really sure what to look for locally...can you recommend a pair? Oh, and I guess I would need the speaker plugs too...
1) Let Your Ears be the judge
In regards to speakers here some general perspectives that will allow you to choose quality speakers: The ultimate and final judge for, if the speakers are for you, will be your ears. This illustrates the reason for buying locally as well - and such as: possibly even negotiate for a deal that allows to return the speakers within a couple of days form buying them, if you do not like them.
2) Match power ratings: amplifer to speakers The important consideration to match the speakers to the amplifier / receiver is to get speakers that are within the power range of what the amplifier provides. Speakers too weak will be easily damaged by too much power. Speakers too strong will never sound good, as speakers have a "sweet spot" where the ultimate sound starts to unfold. Too little power will never drive the speaker to get there. In general there are two power ratings: Music power and RMS power, which loosely describes peak power / maximum power and continuous power, meaning the power amount that could be fed as a continuous tone without distortion, overloading and in a non limited time frame: continuos. On amplifiers (receivers) the values are apart about double 50W RMS and 100W music / peak power. Speakers usually don't give much information (only one value), so match to the music power of the amplifier.
3) Sensitivity - SPL Another item in regards to quality: In general the higher the SPL value of a speaker is, or in other words how sensitive the speaker is (how much volume it outputs for the energy fed to it) determines how much detail you can expect form it. SPL values higher than 91 db start to get excellent. 86 db is fairly low. Generally speaking: Sensitive speakers are for detailed listening. Others for loud listening. I personally prefer high efficiency speakers combines with a low powered tube amplifier - but again I am listening to a lot of not very popular music form the 50's.
4) The amount, quality and type of speaker drivers Another consideration: At least 2 or better 3 way speakers (woofer, mid range and tweeter). When woofers are fortified so that the cone cannot deform while in motion the better it is considered. Kevlar, Carbon or other materials over paper cones. Rubber surrounds are the best. For mid range and tweeter: fabric over paper cones. I personally do not like metal or metal containing cones - sound too harsh, but let your ears be the judge.
5) The manufacturer of Seakers Possibly choose speakers that were made by a manufacturer that explicitly makes speakers and nothing else - these tend to sound better. US speakers over China made. European speakers are often top. Japanese good. Taiwan, Korea, China not as good.
6) Considerations for vintage speakers One thing about any vintage or used speakers: speakers made after 1965 use "surrounds" rather than a folded paper cone as surround. If not high quality rubber was used (foam has been used since the 70's throughout time until today) inspect the speaker surround material carefully for each of the drivers (woofer, mid range, tweeter), as this stuff chemically de-composes. It should not be soft (really bad if you touch it and it leaves a dent!), brittle, have cracks or tears. Look carefully - Very important, as otherwise you will have to spend about $90-$275 per speaker channel in re-coning. If you observe these things you should be able to hunt down a quality pair of speakers without spending a lot of money.
7) Speaker Cables The thicker the better and ideally a separator so that there is a little bit of room between the two conductors of the cable. sometimes hardware stores these days offer okay speaker cable by the foot, which is usually less than buying it form a specialty dealer.
8) How to judge speakers by listening Possibly bring your amplifier / receiver (and music that you really know well! - CD?) to test the speakers right in the field before you buy. Yes on your amplifer, as differnt amplifers often sound considerably different on the same pair of speakers. Give the speakers a good amount of volume with bass in and hear if there is distortion, rattling etc. Always raise the volume control carefully while carefully listening to find the spot where a problem starts to occur. That will allow to judge the speaker without damaging it further, should there be a problem.
If the surrounds test good, and if the speakers sound alright on higher volume levels with a good amount of bass in, there is usually not too much else major that can be wrong with them. If speakers work there may be one item to address to improve them: If older than 10-15 years: opening the speaker and replacing the capcitors in the frequency network can restore them to their original glory: by bringing the vitality back into sound. This is a secondary consideration though and has not much to do with: if they are working or not and not really a reson for rejecting them, other than that it may help as an argument to offer a lower price, if the seller is asking too much. Speakers are fairly simple devices! Craigslist potentially may be a good source, as local.
Now you have the knows to go for it. Ready to hunt? (applause in form of a donation, please! wows: please let me know)
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