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  1. #1
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    Question are vintage Altecs still good?

    I purchased Altec "Voice of the Theater" A7 speakers in the mid 70's and drive them with a 100+ watt per channel GAS Ampzilla power amp for my home stereo.

    I'm looking to upgrade to tube technology amps and wonder what I should do with the Altecs. They still sound great, but I've been out of touch with audiophile stuff for many years so I need help.

    How do these compare to modern speakers?
    What would be a logical step up?
    What would the step up prices be?

    Jack

  2. #2
    RGA
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    First of all I cannot speak to your specific speakers because I can't remember hearing anything from Altec except a sub and some computer speakers.

    The fact that a speaker is old means nothing to whether it won't sound good compared to what is knew. Audio Note, Spendor,Magnepan,Quad have speakers with roots up to 60+ years old and are still making variants of those designs today - and some i like more than anything tha has come out over the last 15+ years which has a lot more style concerns than sound concerns - that said there was junk then as there is now and good stuff then as there is now.

    Easy way to tell is go listen to something in a store and see what you think.

    As for the tube idea - it can be good depending on how easy your speakers are to drive and the power of the tube amp. Calling it an upgrade will only be true if you like the results. Some tubes are a lot better than others and not all tubes are better than solid state.

    The best is to listen to gear at your local higher end dealerships because they often have proper rooms for you to get a better audition - and their prices while they can be high do have lower priced gear at what you would pay at a Best-Buy. The advantage is these higher end shops have both so you know what is available.

  3. #3
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack6428
    I purchased Altec "Voice of the Theater" A7 speakers in the mid 70's and drive them with a 100+ watt per channel GAS Ampzilla power amp for my home stereo.

    I'm looking to upgrade to tube technology amps and wonder what I should do with the Altecs. They still sound great, but I've been out of touch with audiophile stuff for many years so I need help.

    How do these compare to modern speakers?
    What would be a logical step up?
    What would the step up prices be?

    Jack
    Actually, Altec has resumed production on the A7 Voice of the Theater speakers. Those Altecs were originally designed before solid state amps became the standard, and the movie theater systems that originally installed the early A7s used tube amps. That's why Altec went with the horn design with the A7 VOT systems. If you're looking to switch out to tube amps, those A7s should actually work very well because of their high efficiency.

    I don't think you can really compare any modern speaker with the A7 VOT because that series was built for an entirely different purpose than most home audio speakers. The A7 was designed to project a large sound for large auditoriums. A lot of people use vintage A7s for their home systems, but it's not especially practical and I've read posts on other boards that make note of their performance flaws for most home installations. If you're looking for the next "logical" step up, why not look into some JBL Pro screen speakers? Those are the models that wound up replacing a lot of the A7 installations whenever older theaters modernized their sound equipment.

    If you're looking to try out stuff in the audiophile market, the sound will be very different than what you're getting right now from the A7. It might be more accurate, it might have more precise imaging, and it might sound more realistic, but it won't sound nearly as big as what the A7 can deliver.

    http://archive.audioreview.com/07/0EF9D13E.php
    http://www.alteclansing.com/prod_cat...region=northam


  4. #4
    Forum Regular Woochifer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RGA
    First of all I cannot speak to your specific speakers because I can't remember hearing anything from Altec except a sub and some computer speakers.

    The fact that a speaker is old means nothing to whether it won't sound good compared to what is knew. Audio Note, Spendor,Magnepan,Quad have speakers with roots up to 60+ years old and are still making variants of those designs today - and some i like more than anything tha has come out over the last 15+ years which has a lot more style concerns than sound concerns - that said there was junk then as there is now and good stuff then as there is now.

    Easy way to tell is go listen to something in a store and see what you think.

    As for the tube idea - it can be good depending on how easy your speakers are to drive and the power of the tube amp. Calling it an upgrade will only be true if you like the results. Some tubes are a lot better than others and not all tubes are better than solid state.

    The best is to listen to gear at your local higher end dealerships because they often have proper rooms for you to get a better audition - and their prices while they can be high do have lower priced gear at what you would pay at a Best-Buy. The advantage is these higher end shops have both so you know what is available.
    First off, the Altec A7 Voice of the Theater is about as different from their multimedia speakers as a clock radio is from a stadium concert setup. The A7 was the most popular movie theater speaker from the early-50s until about the late-70s. They were originally designed for tube amps since in the 1950s, you didn't have much in the way of solid state amps. You're saying that speakers nowadays are more for "style concerns than sound concerns"? (A contention that I don't buy for a second.) Well, this is a speaker that has no style concerns whatsoever, but there is also practicality to consider, and for most rooms, the A7 VOT is hardly a practical option. These are PA speakers, designed for large rooms, but enough people liked their sound that they wound up in home installations when theaters began dumping their A7s in droves about 30 years ago. I've heard them many times in movie theaters, and just about every one that switched them out wound up sounding better afterwards (part of it is also because those theaters I was familiar with also made changes to the acoustics, processors, and amplification).

  5. #5
    Forum Regular gonefishin's Avatar
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    While I am a bit partial to older JBL pro drivers, I certainly would say I would be happy to live with either JBL or Altec.

    Even tho stock they can have several desiring attributes, I still prefer Altec speakers that have had some modifications done to them. You can find alot of info on Altec speakers at AudioAsylum; High Efficiency Speakers Forum, Altec User Board and AudioHeritage.

    One of the nice things about some of the older Altec stuff (and JBL pro Stuff) is the quality of the drivers. Low distortion and high efficiency top quality drivers. Even tho some of the Altec speakers were designed for a large room. But you do have options. There are other horns that may be better suited for your room and driver combo. While some basshorns may be too large for a particular room...you may have other options here as well. But, even with other design considerations being looked at. If your after small speakers...your not going to find it with H.E. stuff. Personally, I think my speakers are actually one the small side...the bass cabinets are 6cuft. Like I said...there on the small side of medium

    I wouldn't go selling them (unless you sell to me ). First I'd do is try a tube amp if you like. But I'd also try damping the midrange horns a bit and perhaps replacing some of the old cross-over capacitors.


    How do these compare to modern speakers?

    Using the components or modifying them. In the right room they can sound much better than modern speakers. In perhaps smaller rooms (like my room) you may need to make a compromise like I did. No, this certainly isn't ideal...but I'd rather have these than B&W 801, NearField Acoustic PiPedreams, MartinLogan, Joseph Audio, Coincident, Reference 3A and on and on.



    What would be a logical step up?

    DIY, EdgarHorn TiTans or perhaps something else??? that's up to you.


    What would the step up prices be?

    DIY...that depends on the deals you get and how much work you can do yourself. If you a moron like me with some woodworking skills...you'll be lucky to surround yourself with more knowledge in speaker design than yourself (or myself).

    EdgarHorn TiTans...I think they're around $12,000 or so knowadays. Not sure.

    There are still other options out there...but you really need to find what suits you the best. Not only you and your tastes...but you, your tastes and your room. Take your time and listen.

    Where are ya located?


    enjoy...and have fun!
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  6. #6
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    The Altec A-7 Voice of the theater for those who don't know anything about it is a highly efficient two way 15 inch design with a large sectoral horn tweeter. A great deal of information about the details of its design and construction can be obtained from the Lansing Heritage web site. It was a landmark of audio history. Designed for movie theaters and used for sound reinforcement in large public areas, it found its way into homes of wealthy people. They had to be wealthy to have rooms large enough to accomodate these huge monsters. Altec made them available in utilitarian cabinets for theaters and in dressier styles for home use. When stereo was introduced into the home, they offered scaled down versions which were more practical but employed the same idea. Many of them probably still survive to this day and may still function pefrectly or at most need new woofer surrounds. They were exceptionally rugged and reliable. They were also very efficient requiring very little power to play loud.

    As theater speakers of a bygone era, they don't really challenge modern high quality high fidelity speakers for the accuracy and detail of sound many audiophiles today look for in loudspeaker performance. It's not that they aren't fun to listen to for people like me who still love the old equipment but they have been eclipsed by 50 years of research and development of countless new ideas for home sound reproduction from countless companies including Altec themselves. If you have them, enjoy them if you can. If they have become unsatisfactory because they are too large or not accurate enough, it's time to think about retiring them and buying something more modern.

  7. #7
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    Talking Altec VT


    You probably should trash them and get NEW stuff. Where do you live, and I will dispose of them for you

  8. #8
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    You can pass them along this way and move up to maybe the JBL 9800's. I personally would never get rid of the A7's. I'm a huge fan of horns. I own a pair of JBL 4430's and they are amazing sounding speakers. A lot of people don't understand the ablity of a good quality horn. Go with some Manley tube amps for them and it would be a great combo. I personally can't afford tube amps so I avoid thinking about them.

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