Today, the ranks of audiophiles are divided into two categories – the first appreciate ultra-modern Hi-Fi / High End developments (narrow speakers with composite enclosures, diamond, beryllium and ceramic as speaker cones) and claim that only this approach provides a minimum of distortion, a luxurious stage and stunning detail. The latter choose speakers of the “golden era of audio”, bedside tables and compact bookshelves, which, perhaps, do not guarantee the surgical accuracy of the presentation of any material, but captivate with naturalness and coherence of performance.
We’ve analyzed a retrospective of loudspeaker manufacturing and selected fifty iconic loudspeakers for you to hunt for in the auctions. These examples can not only compete with the speakers of the “new century”, but even surpass them in some way. The editors put the price / quality ratio at the forefront – so, the list includes speakers for both $50 and $50,000, the main thing here is that they still show decent results in their price segments.
50 Naim SBL
In 1986, these compact floorstanders became the epitome of how English sound should be. Well, to this day, Naim SBLs are an example of excellent performance rhythm, and the low price, for which they often pop up at auctions, makes the model a very “delicious” purchase. 8” paper woofer, 75W power input, 6 ohm impedance and 88dB sensitivity – when connected to a stable amplifier, these 24kg babies can surprise music lovers.
49. Magnepan SMG
An all-time classic, the Magnepan SMG speakers, released in 1980, were a breakthrough for planar drivers, proving that loudspeakers of this type could compete with speakers on traditional dynamic drivers on an equal footing. Two bands easily reproduced the band from 50 to 16,000 Hz, allowed a power input of 100 W and had an impedance of 4 ohms at 85 dB of sensitivity. Be careful – if you power the Magnepan SMG from an amplifier that is not able to work with low-impedance acoustics, nothing good will come of it. However, when choosing a muscular partner, the speakers will demonstrate an absolutely live performance.
48 Wharfedale W-90
Scene! In the middle of the 20th century, few speaker manufacturers cared about building a spatially accurate soundscape, but the ice broke with the advent of the Wharfedale W-90. These strange-looking “tables” with a bunch of drivers still impress with their presentation today, and in the sixties they received the well-deserved titles of the official speakers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York Metropolitan Orchestra.
47 B&W Matrix 801
Pedantry and precision – for 1980, the first release of the B&W Matrix 801 was a revelation. A three-way speaker, in which each speaker received its own independent volume, a solid 12 ”Kevlar woofer, an incredible frequency response from 20 to 20,000 Hz with an error of only 2 dB … The speakers were extremely demanding on amplification (up to 600 W of power and a sensitivity of 87 dB dictated a furious load on the amplifier) - but, in the case of choosing the necessary partners, they were forced to believe in the impossible.
46. JBL C34
For 1956, it was quite normal to use a backhorn – miniaturization had not yet reached the industry. JBL C34 used, again. cobalt speakers – including the famous D-130A “15” – weighed 60 kg and had 100 dB of sensitivity. The dynamic characteristics of the JBL C34 were reference.
45. Mission 70 MKII
A classic of the genre, the energetic and collected sound of the Mission 70 MKII is now an example for many modern shelf speakers – what can we say about the release date of the speakers (1983). The 18cm paper woofers work great, and the “top support” from Vifa’s 19mm dome tweeters adds “salt and pepper”. As a result, it’s hard to find a better investment for a music lover $50 in 2022.
44 Altec 6041 Monitor
The chic Altec 6041 Monitor is the apotheosis of the company’s approach to high fidelity sound. Large speakers are equipped with 15″ woofers, midrange drivers of the same size and a super tweeter. The frequency band is in the range from 30 to 20,000 Hz., The input power is 65 W, the sensitivity is 96 dB, and one speaker weighs 93 kg. The sound of the Altec 6041 Monitor is truly luxurious.
43. KEF R105
The component construction of the KEF R105 became the talk of the town in 1977 – but the speaker’s luxurious sound still impresses today. Due to the extreme complexity of manufacturing, the speakers lasted only two years in the series – a three-band, designed according to the closed box principle, weighed 36 kg, allowed 200 W of power to be supplied, had a resistance of 8 ohms and worked in the band from 38 to 22,000 Hz. Sound pressure reached 107 dB.
42 Leak Sandwich 600
The 1961 bestseller, the Leak Sandwich 600, sported a three-band design, allowed 75 volts, had an impedance of 8 ohms, weighed 30 kg, and played in the band… from 20 to 21,000 Hz. How so? Why are not so overall speakers received such an extended frequency response? It was in the Leak Sandwich 600 that sandwich diaphragm cones were first used – light, fast, providing excellent returns.
41 Altec 604 Duplex
Frequency response from 60 to 16,000 Hz, 25 W of input power – what’s so special about it? And the fact that the first Altec 604s appeared in 1944 (the last ones, 604-8G, left the slipway in the late seventies of the twentieth century). The acoustics were constantly improved, but even the first copies of it demonstrated a sound that made you exclaim, “alas, they don’t do this anymore!”
40. Technics SB-95000
No, this is not a joke or photoshop. So in 1977, the largest speakers of the Japanese corporation Technics looked like. The principle of phase linearity was put at the forefront, an array of 4 x 350 mm woofers with cones made of polymer-reinforced Kevlar was responsible for the bass, the remaining four bands were horn. The amplifier, of course, will need a powerful one (resistance 4 ohms); but a sensitivity of 97 dB and a sound pressure of 122 dB will make even skeptics click their tongues.
39. Infinity IRS V
A grand array of traditional drivers (including fiberglass and graphite woofer cones) and EMIT tweeters, 2,000 watts of amplification – this ultimate speaker system cost like a whole house in its day. Sound to match – the unprecedented scale and panorama of Infinity IRS V is hard to forget.
38. Tannoy Monitor Gold 15 JBL
A cult for all time – the “golden” Tannoy. Introduced in 1968, the Monitor Gold 15 delivers the warm, natural, exceptionally well-balanced sound that has made the company loved the world over. The Dual Concentric 15” speaker showed itself in all its glory and power, providing a frequency response from 23 to 20,000 Hz, a sensitivity of 92 dB and an impedance of 8 ohms.
37. Linn Kan
Linn Kan were produced from 1979 to 1992 – these kids weighing 5 kg each, designed in closed cases and equipped with a 19 mm soft dome tweeter and a 110 mm polypropylene mid/bass driver, largely determined the style of the entire “British sound”. Exceptionally rhythmic and groovy speakers had an impedance of 6.8 ohms and a sensitivity of 86 dB. Don’t look at 50W of power, give them a stronger partner and Linn Kan will show what they can do.
36 Quad ESL-57
What else is there to say? In 1957, the Quad ESL-57 set the standard for electrostatic speakers, essentially creating an industry direction. Then it seemed that the speakers came straight from the XXI – and the sound of the model (when an exceptionally stable amplifier was connected to it) was as amazing as the design of these speakers.
35. JVC Zero-5
High End sample 1981 – closed wooden cases, composite frame, Dyna-Flat ribbon super tweeters with frequency response up to 100,000 Hz, Fine-Ceramics speaker set; in short, there was enough innovation for generations to come. It is gratifying that the presentation of the JVC Zero-5 was a success – the legs themselves strive to start dancing.
34. Spendor BC1
A frequency response from 60 to 14,000 Hz will not surprise anyone today, especially since the speaker sensitivity is 84 dB at a resistance of 8 ohms – but the Spendor BC1, which appeared on store shelves in 1969, proved to the whole world that high fidelity sound is not hyperbole and not a joke. Transparent middle, warm enveloping sound (provided you work with a stable gain) – it’s worth a lot. Spendor BC1s used their own designed woofers, Celestion 1300 and ITT 4001 G speakers worked on other bands.
33. Yamaha NS-2000
The Yamaha NS-2000 speakers, which appeared on the market in 1982, used aluminum and carbon in the cone diaphragms, allowed 250 W of power to be supplied and operated in a frequency response from 28 to 20,000 Hz. 6 ohm resistance ensured easy mating with amplification, and the 47-kilogram cases perfectly damped resonances. Now these loudspeakers are well-deservedly popular for their dense and rich sound.
32. Cabasse Sampan 310
The Cabasse Sampan 310 came out in 1971 – luxuriously equipped (12” woofer 30BZ1S, midrange and tweeters 12K16 and TWM3) speakers operated in the band from 60 to 20,000 Hz, had a sensitivity of 94 dB and an impedance of 8 ohms. The confident and genre-wise “omnivorous” performance of the speakers pleases music lovers even today.
31. Cerwin Vega D-9
Bass? Bass. Bass! We meet Cerwin Vega D-9 – for the seventies of the twentieth century it was a revolution in the industry in terms of “support from below”, as much as 359 W of input power, frequency response from 29 to 20,000 Hz, three bands (15”, 2×6”, 1”), sensitivity of 101 dB at 8 ohms, oh, Cerwin Vega D-9 clearly show that such realism of performance.
30. Dynaco A-25
In 1969, the Dynaco A-25 was a breakthrough for the bookshelf niche – offered for less than $159, the Dynaco A-25 sounded smooth and unfatiguing. But 8 ohm speakers with 15 watts of power not only laid the groundwork for the modern compact speaker industry – as long as the Dynaco A-25 is in good condition today, this vintage should keep you happy for years to come.
The expensive Yamaha GF-1 / GFD-1 came out in 1991 – active mastodons were equipped with four 125-watt stereo amplifiers. The midrange and tweeters had beryllium membranes, while the woofers were equipped with a YST system with active servo control. Each speaker weighed 175 kilograms – when such a miracle pops up on sale, a full-fledged massacre begins for it.
28. Rehdeko RK-145
The amazing oval drivers of the Rehdeko RK-145 are dizzying – but even more impressive is the velvety sound of these speakers. Ideal partners for tube amplifiers, they are able to turn the head of even seasoned audiophiles – only finding speakers at auctions is getting harder and harder.
27. KLH Model 6
Exclusively musical KLH Model 6 were produced from 1958 to 1972, today they can be found on sale for “mere pennies.” The sound demonstrated by these speakers does not fit with all this – very expressive and effective. The mids are especially good here – few even more expensive modern speakers can compete with this vintage.
26 Acoustic Research AR-3a
In 1969, Acoustic Research AR-3a were among the most impressive of the High End class. $499 price list (an exorbitant price for speakers in those years), 12” woofers, dome (!) midrange speakers and 3/4” tweeters, a closed box that structurally provides a dry and clear bass, it’s worth fighting for at auctions today.
25. Tannoy GRF Corner Mounting (Monitor Red)
The 380 mm Tannoy Dual Concentric LSU/HF/15.L coaxial speaker is worth its weight in gold today, even without cabinets. That’s because this assembly provides a sound that is more like an open window – once you listen to Monitor Red, it’s simply impossible not to fall in love with it.
24 Rogers/BBC LS3/5a
The Broadcasting Corporation of England, the BBC, in 1975 compiled an extremely strict list of requirements for loudspeakers – then developers such as Rogers, Swissstone, Audiomaster and others entered into action. Rogers LS3 / 5a speakers became the most common in the world – the little ones pumped the bass perfectly, the covered case guaranteed a clear and smooth presentation from 60 Hz. The resistance was equal to 8 ohms, the input power was from 25 watts. The Rogers/BBC LS3/5a speakers exemplify neutral sound.
23. Electro-Voice Georgian II
The “new-old” Electro-Voice – the Georgian II model was released only in 1987 and, according to many, became one of the few that could compete with the famous “blue” JBL series. 18” paper woofer, 12” midrange and horn tweeter, 96 dB sensitivity and 6 ohm impedance, 300 watts of power input – it’s even strange that it all fits in one case.
22. Kenwood LS-1000
The quintessence of Kenwood’s developments in the field of sound reproducing devices, the LS-1000 speakers, released in 1981. The speakers used a resonant-independent Linear Suspension System cabinet, they worked 28 cm woofer, 10 and 3.6 cm drivers for midrange and treble – both with progressive flat diaphragms. Frequency response from 32 to 25,000 Hz, impedance of 8 ohms, peak power of 180 W, 33.5 kg of weight – the sound of the Kenwood LS-1000 is very expressive even by the standards of 2022.
21. Wilson Audio WAMM
Wilson Audio literally broke into the market in the early eighties of the XX century – WAMM loudspeakers, huge, massive (170 kg), became an example of an uncompromising approach, laid down a modular design principle and clearly showed what surround sound is. An 18″ woofer, a pair of 7×9″ woofers, a pair of 4.5″ and two 1″ midrange drivers, plus a tweeter array of fifteen electrostatic panels could work wonders and play from 17 to 30,000 Hz with an error of 3 dB. The price of a modern reincarnation of a model is already approaching a million dollars – so it’s worth hunting for the original vintage.
20. JBL 4345
Massive speakers in 1981 were focused on recording studios, but later audiophiles saw through their talents in the field and home sound – punchy bass, a full-fledged “wall of sound” and real-size images caused goosebumps. All this splendor is provided by four bands with 18” woofers, frequency response is in the range of 32-20,000 Hz, sensitivity and impedance are 96 dB and 8 ohms. One column weighs 112 kg.
19. Diatone DS-V9000
The top of the 1988 lineup from Diatone is the DS-V9000 speakers. Their neutral, ultra-detailed sound and exceptional tonal fidelity are highly regarded by audiophiles in 2022 as well. “Under the hood” is a whole car of innovations, from ADMC magnetic systems to plasma-sprayed midrange cones and tweeters. Four-way speakers weighed 125 kg each, allowed 180 watts of power, had an impedance of 6 ohms, a sensitivity of 92 dB and played from 18 to 80,000 Hz.
18. JBL L300
JBL L300 is a classic of the genre, speakers “for all times”, which can be the final point in the choice of speakers. The release of the model took place in 1978 – the classic three-way approach was offered (15 ”woofer 136A, horn midrange LE85 / HL92 and ring tweeter 077), 8 ohms of impedance and 93 dB of sensitivity. JBL L300 weighed 66 kg each, allowed for 150 watts of power and flaunted the brand’s “cozy” and dense sound.
17 Altec Model 19
Some audiophiles say there is no other speaker on the market with such a transparent and accurate midrange as on the Altec Model 19 – including even Ultra High End. Well, we admit that the sound of the Altec Model 19 is able to strike on the spot – a two-way speaker with branded 15 ”416-8B and 811B speakers plays from 30 to 20,000 Hz, has 101 dB of sensitivity at 8 ohms and allows for 65 watts of power.
16. Onkyo Scepter 500
In 1978, the Onkyo Scepter 500’s use of the 15″ W3801 11,000-gauss woofer was “shock and awe” with few competitors reaching 25Hz. However, the range “from above” was also expanded – the super tweeter worked in the range up to 35,000 Hz. 96 dB sensitivity and 120 W power input; a maximum sound pressure of 117 dB – this 97 kg of “live weight” has become the dream of many audiophiles, loudspeakers are still valued today.
15. Sony APM-8
Sony’s culminating square flat speaker model is, of course, the famous APM-8. Four bands, 102 kg weight, drivers with an area of 807, 122, 24 and 5.8 cm2, a frequency response from 25 to 30,000 Hz … And, of course, an ultra-transparent sound that is very different from traditional dynamic heads. Too bad they don’t make this anymore…
14. JBL 4350
One of the top speakers in JBL’s professional blue series, the 4350, was released in 1978. At first, acoustic systems took root in studios, and in the 21st century, music lovers began to use them at home – as it turned out, few people can compare with this speaker in terms of pressure and bass intelligibility. No wonder – a four-band system operates in the frequency response from 30 to 20,000 Hz, has a sensitivity of 95.5 dB and weighs 110 kg. Two 38 cm JBL 2231A woofers, up to 126 dB of sound pressure, frequency response from 30 Hz – everything is fine here.
13. Pioneer SF-1
In total, less than a hundred Pioneer SF-1 sets were produced between 1979 and 1982 – so the price of these speakers can now be sky-high. And there is a reason – such designs have long sunk into oblivion, moreover – solely for economic reasons (complexity and cost of production); flat square speakers guarantee much more realism of sound – and in the case of the Pioneer SF-1 they are still located in a coaxial “point source” sound scheme.
12. Technics SB-10000
The “ten thousandth” Technics series is the culmination of the developments of a great Japanese company. AC SB-10000 (1977) – a three-way phase-line loudspeaker with 18 ”paper woofers and horn design for midrange and treble. The model operates in a band from 30 to 22,000 Hz, has 95 dB of sensitivity and an impedance of 6 ohms and allows for 300 watts of musical power. 140-kilogram giants sound elegant and reverent.
11. Onkyo GS-1 Grand Scepter
A 1984 development from Hiroyuki Yoshi – a clean mouthpiece, 117 kg of weight, a sensitivity of 100 dB and all the audiophile gadgets, including a deep crossover unit. The sound of the Onkyo GS-1 Grand Scepter easily puts many competitors on the shoulder blades – again, demonstrating the liveliness and naturalness of the performance.
10. JBL Paragon D44000
From its release in 1957 to the end of production in 1980, the JBL Paragon D44000 was the most expensive home speaker system in the world. Well, 136 kg of “live weight” was worth it, as it is now: the prices for the Paragon D44000 in 2022 are cosmic. The game is worth the candle – the “bedside table” is able to recreate the atmosphere of a nightclub in your home, three bands play up to 15,000 Hz, and an 8 ohm impedance and 125 W input power are great for modern amplifiers. The JBL Paragon D44000 used a LE15A woofer, a 375 midrange driver with an H5038P horn, and a JBL 075 tweeter.
9 Jensen Imperial
1956, true American sound – Jensen Imperial is in the price of audiophiles around the world even in 2022. Huge speakers (83 x 135 x 62 cm) allow only 35 watts of power, have the lightest impedance of 16 ohms and weigh 99 kg. Their sound delivery is more like magic – 15” woofers and cobalt magnet systems guarantee a velvety sound that can be played for hours without a hint of fatigue.
8. Altec A7 Voice Of The Theater
The oversized Altec A7 Voice Of The Theater horn systems were not intended for home use, but in the 21st century High End fans. found that these speakers can easily cover all household needs. “Life-size sound”, uncompromising dynamics, from the frequency response of 30 to 15,000 Hz – it will be difficult to overpraise the speakers.
7 JBL Hartsfield
A fetish for many collectors, an exquisite and well-coordinated presentation – all this, of course, is JBL Hartsfield. The development of speakers began in 1955, and in 1957 the first models saw the light – equipped with 15 ”woofers 150-4C and unique JBL 375 coaxial assemblies for midrange and treble. It is this approach that has become the cornerstone for many proprietary developments for decades to come (the latest incarnation is the JBL M2), but it is Hartsfield that can literally make your hair move from musical realism.
6.Exclusive model 2401
Record prices for 1983 speakers, TAD (Technical Audio Devices) speakers – two 40 cm woofers with AlNiCo magnetic systems, beryllium horn driver, frequency response from 29 to 20,000 Hz, 300 watts of power, 4 ohm impedance and 98 dB sensitivity. 145-kilogram giants clearly demonstrated what a real bass is. And, at the same time, they stunned with their microdynamics.
5. Vitavox CN-191
Want to know what natural sound is? Listen to Vitavox CN-191! Today, audiophiles are swapping out newfangled High End designs for these speakers built in 1948 (see whatsbestforum). The real magic is an honest band of 30 – 16,000 Hz (on the bass, of course, “fifteen”), the lightest resistance of 15 ohms, 100 watts of input power and the weight of one speaker is 114 kg. By the way, Vitavox has recently revived the production of these speakers.
4. Kinoshita Monitor RM RIS-1C
The pinnacle of Kinoshita production – behind the modest name Monitor RM RIS-1C hides 9 (!) Hz of the lower cut-off frequency and 300 kg of weight. The firm’s favorite Vertical-Twin design, TSS (Total Sleeve Shield) technology, is a long list. The speakers were created for the best recording studios, over the years 350 companies have equipped them – but the Kinoshita Monitor RM RIS-1C received an equally ardent love from audiophiles.
3 Apogee Grand
Ultra High End for what it is. The Apogee Grand revolutionized the luxury industry at the end of the 20th century – and has become the dream of many sound lovers of solid fidelity. Four-way mastodons with active bass (12″ woofer in a closed box with 600 watts of amplification from Krell), separate amplification for high frequencies, remotely controlled crossover for other bands … Apogee Grand easily reproduced the band from 18 to 27,000 Hz and had an impedance of 3 ohms . The system, weighing more than half a ton, easily developed a sound pressure of 120 dB.
2. Klipsch Klipschorn
Many believe that the “golden age” of audio ended with the creation of Klipsch Klipschorn in 1946 – it was then that the end was put and the world saw the really ultimate speaker systems. Well, it won’t be so radical – only a few years ago, Klipschorn in the AK6 version with a closed case, finally, it became possible to fit into any hall without any problems. Up to this point, the operation of a 15” woofer with the formation of reflected bass from the walls of the hall required the installation of speakers strictly in the corners of the room. On the other hand, a sensitivity of 105 dB made it possible to drive the speakers even from a one-watt amplifier, and the lower frequency of 33 Hz was felt by the body.
1. Electro-Voice Patrician 800
What could be better than speakers with “15” or “8” bass? Only speakers with 30” (76.2 cm) woofers! But the Electro-Voice Patrician 800, introduced in 1963, set a record not only for this indicator – their sound turned out to be absolutely mesmerizing. The 143kg speakers featured an additional 12” driver for 100-800Hz, an 8HD & T25A 800-3500Hz horn assembly and an EV T35 textile diaphragm vertical horn tweeter.