The development of speakers 1970-2005 [Archive] - Audio & Video Forums


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01-28-2005, 12:29 PM
Is there a big difference in speaker quality an performence since the 70-ties ? For example the woofer, how much can you improve on the technology, and is a mass produced modern woofer better than a hand build old JBL woofer from the 70īties - like the D123A-3 ?

Most modern speakers use one or two 8" woofers, are they better than the 12" woofers used in the 70 and 80īties ?

Anybody have some comments ?

01-28-2005, 01:10 PM
Without question there has been a huge improvement in the accuracy of sound reproduction. Today's speaker materials are able to incorporate exotic materials such as carbon fiber, kevlar, diamond, and beryllium (sp?) which technically offer better capability while still being cost effective (most of the time). Cabinet resonance has been addressed which is something they didn't even bother with back in the day. Time & phase alignment as well as diffraction are now factors in design as well. I'm only talking about dynamic designs too, so let's not forget the advancements made by planars, 'stats, and line arrays.

I believe the reason most modern speakers are utilizing multiple drivers of smaller diameter is for a couple of reasons (and I could be talking out of my a$$ on a few of these, an engineer I'm not):
1) You can get more surface area to push with two 8's than one 12 thereby actually increasing spl's even though they are smaller
2) Smaller drivers are less susceptible to variances while in motion in comparison to a larger driver of the same construction and thus more accurate
3) Smaller drivers allow slimmer cabinets which improves imaging and diffraction effects while also allowing a more market friendly (read WAF) design.
4) New "long throw" designs push considerably more air than older, conventional speakers.

This is not to say that there aren't great speakers from that era. Old AR's, Klipsch's, and yes, JBL's too can easily hold their own. The difference is you don't have to mortgage your house like you did with the K-horns to get excellent sound quality. In fact, the greatest advacements may have come in the ability to bring exceptional quality to the masses at affordable price points.

01-28-2005, 02:03 PM
Is there a big difference in speaker quality an performence since the 70-ties ? For example the woofer, how much can you improve on the technology, and is a mass produced modern woofer better than a hand build old JBL woofer from the 70?ties - like the D123A-3 ?

Most modern speakers use one or two 8" woofers, are they better than the 12" woofers used in the 70 and 80?ties ?

Anybody have some comments ?

The answer depends on the specific things you're looking for in sound reproduction - how much advertising hype runs the science. people of course claim newer is better - and in MANY ways that is true - many ways it is untrue - Single Ended Tube amplification done well sounds to me better than SS done well and Tubes were around before SS. Speakers in the lower price spectrum have fixed up a lot of the bloated sound from the old days - getting rid of those 3 inch paper tweeters was arguably a good thing. Many companies believe that multiple small woofers are better for imaging and soundstaging than big speakers using 12 inch and bigger woofers - or even 8 inches for that matter. In some ways they're probably generally correct - but music is more than imaging and soundstaging - I would take the speaker that does those things well and everything else well than JUST those two things REALLY well but everything else really poorly.

To answer your question means little unless we talk about specific speakers - the Klipschhorn has problems no question about it - but it also has strengths the few current speakers have even from Klipsch. Audio Note's speakers are based off of 1970s early 1980s designs incorporating drivers that are old school. It's not how great a woofer is or how great a tweeter is - it is how great the two interract together via the crossover is. Paper woofers are still coveted in many quarters and Alnico - hell for some makers this is a coveted optional extra. They opf course have used newer technology to fix up the reliability issues that faced Alnico of yesteryear. Sugden amps were able to utilixe new technologuy to enable their boards to take more heat so they were able to increase their all class a map to 25 watts from 10 watts. Thetopology of the design is the same as it was in 1968 and I and most people will put it up against any SS amp under 2k.

Plenty of current speakers like the B&W N801 use 15 inch woofers as well. And conversely some new speakers using just 5 inch woofers like the Audio Note AX Two sounds really good.

All you need to do is go listen - see what you think.

01-28-2005, 02:36 PM
Good points - just one thing, the surface of 2x8" has smaller surface than 1x12" 3.14x2x4x4=100.48 3.14x6x6 = 113.04 ( PIxRxR ).

The reson I ask is that I have some old JBL L100, and people tells me that the bass is muddy and colored, and that new generation of woofers is much better and more correct in the reproduction.

Most music today use a lot of bass, rap music on the stage consits of a bass guitar and drums, many modern tracks are modified by software like BassControl to modify the bass, or they are even made by PC generated bass, movies also emphacise on bass effects so so far my interest is in the woofer part.

Shall I pass the L100īs to my daughter and go for some moderne speakers ? Is the difference realy that big, or are we talking about emotions and minor differences in specs ? or simply space saving speakers ?

01-28-2005, 03:09 PM
I am one of the few I suppose who has not heard the old JBLs so I can't say - but I can use my own speakers - they are based off of the original Snell Loudsepakers of which may be more known to you as a name speaker.

The AN J is an improved version of the original which uses one 8 inch woofer and one 1inch tweeter and they are standmount speakers - bass is not all about the woofer - AN coaxes significantly deep bass responses out of the speaker by actively using the resonance frequencies to aid the bass response - they LOOK old school. They have incredibly low bass distortion - and through the entire frequency range distortion does not rice above 0.7%. Bass response is speced at 25hz -6db but independant measurements show 20hz -3db at 90db. There are speakers - my Wharfedales with 10 inchwoofers and roughly 3-4 times the internal volume that can't do that and neither can igantic heavy speakers like the Current crop of B&W 700 or Nautilus series etc that can do it.

The endless literature and advertising claims lots of things and when those same people choose the measuring criteria then it all look s great on paper - and a lot of it does sound better than old speakers - then again the classics like the Snell E and the Snell A are still considered some of the best speakers ever made - take the good desaigns and make them better and better - math was math in 1940 just as it is today - the materials are getting better - the new designs are geared to look better IMO. Take the Audio Note J or E - these cabinets were designed in the 1940s. They use Paper woofers(good ones but not State of the Art) and silk dome tweeters (Good ones but not Diamond or fancy Fostex) and yes the company has a lot of good work in the crossover and uses a computer conrolled pair matching system. But at the end of the day. It is simple when you strip away all the hype of design and you sit down at Soundhounds(or some such dealer) to listen to what apears to be an antique design in action versus the B&W N801(Filled with State of the art drivers, massive kevlar woofers and just a gorgeous cabinet --- you tell me which is better.

Old is not necessarily better - but it sure as hell isn't necessarily beaten by new stuff.

01-28-2005, 06:48 PM
I think topspeed got it right when he said that today's speakers are by and large more accurate than before,. This also means that the differences between them have narrowed considerably. In the 70s, you could easily group speakers based on their distinct characteristics -- i.e. the West Coast sound, the New England sound, the British sound, etc. But, for the most part, the speakers were also built with a lot more design compromises. And at the entry level price points, you had a lot of pretty bad speakers to mull through.

Nowadays, I think the sounds are less distinct, and you don't have the kinds of signature sounds that instantly tell you who made a particular speaker. Sifting through the wide variety that you had before was fun, but it also meant listening to a lot of designs that were not well conceived at all. I think the biggest change now from the 70s is in the entry level price points. By and large, you won't find too many entry level speakers that sound truly awful today. In general, you can get much better sound quality for the money than before.

The move to smaller drivers is a tradeoff, but one that was made possible by the wider range of materials now available to use in speaker drivers. Every design has its advantages and disadvantages. If there was a magic bullet solution that solved every issue with speaker designs, then everyone would have adopted it by now. Given the variety of approaches out there, obviously that has not happened yet.

Another major change is that most speakers today are ported, and I think that stems from designers having access to computerized design tools that allow them to scenario test specific design parameters without actually having to build a prototype. Ported speakers are very easy to mess up because they require a fairly precise match between the size of the port opening, the driver characteristics, and the interior volume of the speaker. Very tricky to balance out the different design parameters using hand calculations and trial and error. When Adire Audio designed their 12" Shiva driver, they specified a series of design goals, and simulated 500,000 different design combinations on a computer before they built a prototype. Without a computer, forget about trying that. This really illustrates how different things are now.

As far as the JBL L100s go, they are very popular speakers still for listening to the classic rock of that era. In general, they have held their resale value very well. The L100s were the best selling speakers of its day, and the professional version of that speaker, was the most widely used studio monitor of its day. So, you had a lot of music that was optimized for the characteristics of the L100. I grew up with a set of JBL L65s that used the same alnico woofer as the L100, but its sound is far from accurate. The JBLs of old were built very well, but they were definitely voiced with certain distinct variances from a flat resonse. Whether or not you keep those speakers depends on how wedded you are to the vintage JBL sound, which does have a lot of diehard fans.

01-29-2005, 01:58 AM
A better question would be---Do I like the way the JBL L100's sound? If you do like them then you probably don't need new speakers. If you don't find them satisfying then you need to start listening to contemporary speakers and find a set you do like. While differences do exist between vintage speakers like the L100's and current models, this doesn't mean that one or the other is better to you. In that respect you have to trust yourself and keep or buy what you, yourself, actually like the most. We're constantly saying on this (and other) site to trust your own ears. That is what is most important--to satisfy yourself. There are a lot of folks who actually prefer vintage sound so it is not absolutely necessary to get new speakers just for the sake of being up to date. Incidentally I'm not trying to discourage you from getting new speakers, just to suggest that it's most important to please yourself in this matter. If you do decide to go with a new set then I think you're daughter would be getting a great starter set in the JBL's! Good luck in your decision.

01-29-2005, 04:40 AM
Wooch and Topspeed have really summed it up well...Today's lower priced speakers would compete well against yesterdays higher priced speakers. IMO, this is where the greatest advancements have been made...this has had a "trickle up" effect too, though. We just know more about cabinets, crossovers, driver interactions, and quality drivers can be made much cheaper. Furthermore, as RGA alluded to, classic designs have been revisited, with a better understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and many ideas have been put forth that have enhanced their performance where previously it was thought improbable.
Who knows, maybe there'll be a day soon where the transmission line speaker is the norm at the $200-$600 price points...
I imagine like everything else, we'll have fast paced booms, and slumps in speaker advancements. I'm really impressed at how well even $200 speakers sound today compared to how they sounded to me 12 years ago...

On the flipside, I find too many companies concentrate on producing product lines or families that fall in a specific price-range. To me, this inevitably leads to compromises being made in at least some of these models. I tend to think that a speaker should be made one design at a time, using the best components within budget to create synergy. Adding or subtracting to this might not always be the best approach, but it might be a necessary evil for mass production to offer lower prices...I typically find that I prefer the smaller bookshelf models in most speaker lines compared to their larger floorstanding cousins that use the same crossover (or crossover platform and just add to it,never a good idea as cabinet size changes IMO) and same drivers. Just my .02 cents

01-29-2005, 04:46 AM
I kinda thing they have changed the least of all the A/V stuff. For the most part except for material as already somebody pointed out,they are round and they move and in a box. They are the one thing you dont need to upgrade as much as anything else. I wonder why THEY havent figured out something else so all the speakers wont work because of a new format and oh! Time for all 25 million speaker owners to get new ones. Bite my lip.

JoeE SP9
01-29-2005, 03:25 PM
I have been using electrostatics of one kind or another since I sold my Magnepan MG1's in 1985. I am currently building a folded tubular transmission line sub. I gave one of my buddies the basic idea and he has built one to go with his Magnepan MG3R's. Other than being very large (6 1/2' tall x 28" dia.) It is the best sub I've ever heard. Loud deep and clean. Flat to 18Hz and very efficient.

01-30-2005, 06:36 AM
Hi console,

I suppose it really boils down to what a few others have you like the sound? They do have quite a following. Which may come in handy if you would choose to sell them. You can check out some sites for more information, such as Lansing Audio Heritage ( and AudioKarma ( to name two.
Personally, I prefer some of the other JBL, Altec and TAD woofers used in some vintage systems. They have amazingly low distortion with accurate detailed response. But many of these woofers aren't designed for subwoofer type bass response...many of them would better be considered mid-woofers. Another "unattractive" thing about these woofers is the box they require. If your going sealed, ported or some type of horn loaded your going to end up with the same thing...which is one dang big box! But I also wouldn't judge the merit of a driver based on any particular vintage speaker. You can take the drivers out of some colored vintage speaker and put it in an appropriate well built box and use either less colored crossover components or an active crossover, and you can end up with some excellent results that don't even resemble the speaker you took them out of. Many of these woofers designs are still being made with some modifications from companies such as jblpro and tad-pioneer.

First off...ya gotta figure out what YOU want to do

good luck :)

01-30-2005, 04:32 PM
Thanks for all the good and informative replies !

Did some thinking and research too. My conclusion at present is that if I want to listen to music at good specs and good quality , I could go down to the nearest hi-fi shop and buy the speakers they have on sale, and they will get the job done. Paying 2-3.000 USD is really not an option to get a audiophile pair with perfect specs, and the JBL K2 series is only a theoretical option, unless you want to steel a pair.

This is more like a hobby and it really feels good to be the owner a classic rather to own some speakers which will drop 50% in value the second I leave the shop, and in 5-10 years time will be forgotten. And I really like the good old JBL sound, they probably are not scientifically perfect but they are sure fun.

I did visit the forum and found that there is a world for this kind of hobby. Take a look at the group picture below - I am thinking to add a member to my L100A rather than changing, the L150A looks just right to make a surround system with my L100A. ( thanks "thoots" for the picture ). If my L100A have bass - my good how will the L150A sound - I will get unpopular with my neighbors.

Finally today I saw a music program with the group "Laid Back" , you know "White Horse" and "Sunshine Reggae". Wow - they had my L100A with the red JBL labels in their studio - I have the record, and it sounds perfect - it should since it was mixed with my speakers.

Thanks all again for the comments - I others have inputs keep

01-30-2005, 05:36 PM
:) very cool!


01-30-2005, 06:11 PM
Inspireing isnt it - but too early to congrat, they are not mine but a photo I got from the JBL forum. Only so far have the L100A, number two from the sides.

Your home brew looks cool too.