Buying used vs new speakers from a technology perspective

Do you believe a speaker's components like drivers and crossovers can become "outdated" for lack of a better word? For instance say someone is selling a pair of speakers that cost $10k in 2008 for $5k now. Comparing that speaker to a modern day $5k new speaker only looking at driver design/drivers, cabinet construction, crossover components/layout and other materials what kind of technology gap are we looking at? 

Have there been technologies or designs that have come out in the past few years that you couldn't live without after hearing? 




My Quad 57's are still in the top category of speaker sound despite being designed back in the Eisenhower Administration!

The vast majority of traditional box speaker components are decades old. Woofers are usually paper or some type of composite and tweeters are often silk or aluminum dome. In recent years, diamond and beryllium tweeters have come in the scene, as well as ceramic-come woofers, but there is no consensus that these modern materials sound better than the paper woofers or silk tweeter.  Truth be told, it seems that the older materials are often preferred from a sonic perspective. I believe the $600k Wilson speaker uses a silk-dome tweeter. Speaker materials are but one part of speaker design, and from what I can see, a relatively small part, assuming quality drivers are used.  So the short answer to your question is - yes there are some new materials being employed and no, there is nothing being made that audiophiles can’t live without. 

Really depends, but paying 50% for a used speaker even 2 years old seems too much to me, let alone 14 years old.

In terms of parts, electrolytic caps wear but are cheap to replace.  In the 21st century finding top end drivers with amazing extension and smoothness is straight forward, and simulation tools make really poor crossovers like old Genesis/Infinity speakers inexcusable today.  Thinking of a couple of modern brands here ...  🤣

I think there's certainly some improvements in speaker design associated with electronics, material science and modeling/simulation tools that has resulted in improved performance.

When it comes to comparing 10-15 year old speakers to new speakers then there's certainly opportunities for time to degrade materials beyond regular wear and tear from usage.

I think there's certainly some improvements in speaker design associated with electronics, material science and modeling/simulation tools that has resulted in improved performance.

Plus one. 

A lot of folks like older drivers in fact very old drivers can be quite expensive on the 2ndhand market. Some materials have improved but some older materials Alnico magnets are one example are considered by many to be better. So no don't be afraid of older speaker the answer as always is better is better not necessarily newer or older.

Yes and no.  There are fantastic older speakers.  I think what has changed is how many new, inexpensive, great sounding speakers are out today. In addition to those, there are incredible deals to be had on pre owned speakers.  15 year old speakers that were originally $5k are on the used market for $1k-$1.5k.



Computer aided design might give you a flatter frequency response and better dispersion, as opposed to merely listening by ear, but in reality very little has changed.

If things had greatly improved then no one would be listening to old speakers any more than anyone is still using first gen cordless brick phones.


What was the last major across-the-board technical improvement?

I can’t think of any. Boxes are still boxes, cones are still cones, aren’t they?

Look at Harbeth for example, renowned speakers, but still only refinements of the ones that Dudley Hardwood was building 40 years ago. Same for Spendor, Tannoy, Bowers and Wilkins, JBL etc.

Maybe the Kef Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT) as used in the LS50 Metas, or maybe not?

We shall see.

In any case, because of inflation, a top $10k speaker from 2008 would still beat most $5k speakers from today, though it would be surprising if they could fetch $5k.

Revel Salon 2 came out in 08 and still being sold as far as I know. 

I would put my Pioneer S-1ex up against any 10k new speaker today. 

Yep, I agree with @cd318. There hasn’t been much done to speaker design recently; same as pre-amp, in my opinion. Some improvement here and there but nothing dramatic. 

Vandersteen updates it's speaker components as new tech becomes available.

Most of the time, it doesn't mean a series upgrade, but just an evolution in design.


So, I say 'yes' to the belief that tech has improved with time.



I would not say older stuff is “outdated”. There are many classic speakers 20, 30 years old that would make me happy. 

But also true that technology marches on. Coils, resistors, and, especially, capacitors are better than ever. Drivers are somewhat of a mixed bag. The coax driver in my Thiel CS2.4 is superb and holds up well against most of today’s drivers. But there are also breakthrough products like Vandersteen carbon driver that really set a new standard. Of course, those are $$$$$.


There has been continual improvement of speaker technology over time. If I think if the stuff of ever 2000, or 1990… in dynamic speakers… there is no comparison. Typically, I would say buying 10 years old at half the price is a screaming deal. But after that, beware.


I have owned a half dozen sets of speakers in the last 40 years. But I have auditioned dozens more. While some planar speakers of old are spectacular, they excel at a few attributes, not all. Planar, have strengths an weaknesses. After ten years regularly attending the symphony I switched back to dynamic and realized why they are the mainstay of the industry. They can do everything well. And the are moves forward year after year improving.

So after ten years, the improvements obsolete the older models.

To me there are two types of speakers, technical and musical. For those who are looking for the latest in technology upgrades, speaker material, capacitors, Crossovers, etc. There is always a need to find a speaker that has the latest technology. As speakers, it is in the ear of the beholder; yes they are not go above 20 HZ or below 40 HZ, but because of their overall design they sound amazing. That is why Altec speakers, Harbeth, etc. are still bringing top dollar today. For money, a great musical speaker 5 years old at half the price it was is well worth the money. And with that don't forget the quality and craftsmanship that went into designing them.

Absolutely buy used. A ten year old TOTL speaker is better than a new middle of the roader.

Having been into upgrades or mods for over 20 years by far the biggest offense 

in speakers is 90% of all loudspeaker makers use Average to low quality Xovers 

and I am referring to speakers over $10 k . Using electrolytic capacitors in the bass has been used a lot because of cost and sizes ,they are Garbage

and most use $1resistors  and No a resistor is not a resistor sonically.

i use the Excellent $30 retail Path audio , and the New Mundorf Ultra  resistors are excellent ,even inductors many use cheap $6 sledge hammer iron inductors.many great capacitors.out there depending on budget.

i buy a older speaker,a quality speaker under 10 years old , using quality brand name drivers ,and well built cabinet . I just finished a excellent dynaudio tower for 1/4 of the new price .i put in  $1500 in parts and it sounds far better then the current new model. the Xover is the ♥️ and the 🧠of the speaker  and can totally transform a speaker ,the connectors for example most use gold over brass ,vs copper which is not good sonicly vs Copper WBT, or Furutech , also quality of wire give better detail and clarity,Everything  counts.

I remember going to someone's house who demonstrated an Electrovoice 12 TRX speaker installed in his home built bass reflex box.......great sound.

I would really like a pair of AMT 1’s from 1974, sealed box woofer. ESS used cheap woofers in well-designed heavy boxes. The woofers were of the rolled pleated edge surround system, unlike todays cheesy foam surrounds. Rolled edge speaker surrounds do not rot or turn to dust.  I currently have a pair of Electro Voice EV7 in the garage.  I would bring them in, except the vinyl clad exterior is peeling in a crappy way leaving a speaker covered in aluminum foil that is glued to the plywood.  1960s technology that delaminates. 

Someone looking to buy the new KEF Reference META or Blade META is asking themselves the OP's question.

Well, I’m still enjoying my Apogee di-pole ribbon planar Divas from 1994. It takes a significant dollar sum in today’s field to equal them

Of course, there are new speaker models every year that have new materials, new crossovers, and new cabinetry. Rel has its newest S/ series or B&W has a new diamond series. We often equate "new" with "improved." In the audiophile world, however, "new" is probably just "different." You might like the difference; you might not. Manufacturers will describe how the latest model is an improvement over the last one--the sub has a stronger amp, a stronger cabinet, a new material for the speaker cone that doesn't lose its shape. And as much as I am interested in the latest and greatest, I try to remember that it's the sound that matters, not the version number. 

i use proac tablette 2 that has been upcycled over the years. the last refresh was putting in pathaudio resistors

Depends on how far back you go.  Example: speaker surrounds before the early-mid nineties were made from perishable materials.  Not anymore.  However, electronics always age but in my experience fail only occasionally.  A ten year old speaker should be fine unless it was really abused - which is rare

How can someone upgrade an old speaker with new technology and then say see how good my old speaker sounds? 

There has probably been a bigger improvement in more affordable speakers over the decades as improved materials and techniques from higher end speakers trickles down. The Kef LS50 is a good case in point where the driver technology is much better now than it was than when the Uni-Q was introduced several decades ago. Also, as a simple fact, offshoring manufacturing has improved price/performance ratios. Note that I am making no comment on whether this is a good or bad thing, or any shade thereof.

As a final comment, when you look across various manufacturers, you sometime come across u turns and blind alleys where through a change of designer or strategy one generation of product may be worse than the one that preceded it.

A company like Wilson Audio (for example)  has avoided this by having a very coherent set of design principles and then continually refining what it does based on those principles. As a result, there has been quite audible improvement in the speakers across generations.

However, the older Wilsons are still great buys used as they were fundamentally right to start with. The same applies to the various BBC based designs, and the Quad ESL 57.

Not being one who frequented shops, shows or other audiophiles' homes, I continued to greatly enjoy my 3 decade old Von Schweikert VR4.5 silver, as I gradually upgraded other components in my system.  Recently  I gave them away and purchased a new pair of REVEL Salon 2.  Honestly, the new ones improve on the old in many ways, but I still could have been happy continuing to live with the old....I guess the point is what one wishes....good sound or the feeling that they own what they have felt to be the best "value" for them......some need SOTA, some need best bang for the buck, some need a certain "sound" each there own, there is no right answer, of course....

There is no single, simple answer to these questions.  Some new drivers and technologies are quite good, though not necessarily better than all that preceded it,, and a lot of older gear/technology has stood the test of time.  My all time favorite midrange driver is a horn compression driver made around 1939.  I can also think of a number of older woofers that are pretty hard to beat in certain respects.  There are some vintage parts for crossovers that are still sought after for making modern speakers.  

The only thing I’d be worried about is the foam surrouds on the drivers....they will rot out after 20 years. Other than that, speakers have not changed all that much really. Old Tannoy, Altec Lansing, and Electro Voice Interface were some of the best speakers ever made and are still desirable even today.

Magico, Tidal, Von Schweikert, and Rockport (etc.) all utilize advanced enclosure technology. Tidal and Magico especially use very advanced speaker cone technology. Crossover components are also improved vs 20 years ago.

How they sound in comparison? I am a relative noob and don't have the experience many on this forum have, but the technology aspect is one of my draws to this hobby. 

You will definitely pay a premium for the most advanced technology, doesn't necessary mean you will like it better though.

I love the audio folks who buy lots of new speakers, and regularly. I'd have to have millions to be in that league, but buying their used stuff is great.

Yes, the original Raidho D2 by Michael Borresen is not his latest creation, and by reports they are better, but how much?  For a third of the burl list, I got a lovely used pair in 2016. I'm keeping them; I never thought I could own such a speaker.

Yes there are probably some minor new features on Borresen designs (and well publicized by Lars, of course).  Are they worth $30k add'l to have a new Borresen B02s instead of older Raidho D2s? No, probably not for me.

No. I feel that good speakers are like wine! Vintage is good. I have Tannoy Churchill’s which get better with age….timeless. 

I am with the yes and no camp, yes on my newer model Monitor Audio Platinum PL300ii design,  but no with my older 2000 Klipsch LaScala's, of which, I'd rather have these than the newer Klipsch LaScala II design. 

Yes, they can become outdated, both in the sense that they no longer perform to their original specifications, and that they can be surpassed by newer technology.  And yes, they will eventually require repair or go past that point.  14 years is probably not a problem, but if you keep them long enough, it could be.

No, in the "can't live without" sense.

Speaker makers vary wildly in their development process.  Some build the same speaker for years or even decades.  New models may share little with their predecessors, as years of advancements are incorporated.

OTOH, KEF introduced the Uni-Q concept in 1988, and are on the 13th generation.  Changing driver materials, geometry alterations, dampers, radial reinforcements, waveguides, MAT, and lots and lots of computer modelling have led to a long series of refinements.

That doesn't mean you need to get a new pair of KEFs every couple of years.  It does keep them competitive in a fast-changing world.

@yoyoyaya ,

"There has probably been a bigger improvement in more affordable speakers over the decades as improved materials and techniques from higher end speakers trickles down. The Kef LS50 is a good case in point where the driver technology is much better now than it was than when the Uni-Q was introduced several decades ago."


I'd say so too. There's some excellent designs out there for under $2k.

Let's not also forget that $2k might well have been nearer to $1k back in 2008. I can't remember anything as good as speakers like the Q Acoustics Concept 50 back then going for £1k.

On the other hand, speakers like the Harbeth M40 seem to be frozen in price terms. I'm not sure what they cost new back in 2008, but you're unlikely to find one used for under £5k today.

Perhaps we need a depreciation chart for used Hi-Fi like they do with used cars?

No body laughs at you with a vintage or older speaker.  But for a new speaker the question  is "What was the price of your speakers"? 

People might laugh at the sound of your system if you are using vintage speakers. Unless of course they are properly refurbished Quads. I think that more advances have been made in speakers than with any other component type. 





Just thinking of woofers… whole cow… the 12” woofers which produced flabby blotted bass decades ago, have gotten smaller and smaller, longer throw more articulate… fast… talked a thud and differentiated it into individual sounds with refined starts, and detailed decay. The difference is astonishing.

I’d like to share my viewpoint on this as I recently made a speaker switch, moving from vintage Thiel 3.5 CS speakers to a new set of KEF Blade Two’s. My impetus for moving on from the Thiels didn’t have anything to do with feeling that their performance wasn’t “up to snuff”; they still sounded very, very good in my system. Rather, my main motivation for replacing them was the fact that, while they were still in very good condition (I even had their Electronic Bass Module re-built to better than factory condition), there were no new OEM drivers available for replacements/repairs should I need them.

During my audition process, I listened to a fair number of speakers from Bowers Wilkins, Sonus Faber, GoldenEar, Klipsch, KEF and Totem. What struck me most between the Thiels and several of the speakers I auditioned, especially the Blades that I eventually bought, were the advancements in structural design and the cabinet materials used in modern speakers. I was completely floored at how much of a difference enclosure design made when I was comparing the KEF Reference 3 to the Blade Two…the performance was so noticeable and flat out better that I completely blew past my intended budget and ended up with the more expensive Blades.

As others have said, for most of today’s speakers, cone materials and driver design are quite similar to speakers from 20, even 30 years ago. Sure, there are exotic materials being used in drivers today that weren’t being used back then, but the majority of speakers continue to use the traditional materials of paper/pulp, silk, aluminum, etc. that speakers back then used. Driver designs are also quite similar, just more refined and measured today…my KEF’s Uni-Q driver array is a perfect example, it being a highly evolved version of a concentric driver array that’s been around for decades.

But modern day cabinet design and materials are leaps ahead…the composite materials in my Blades, as well as those used by Wilson, Magico, etc. are so inert when compared to the Thiel’s traditional wood and concrete “box”. Additionally, the composite and metal cabinets of today’s speakers allow designers and manufacturers to shape the speaker into a form that exceeds the performance of yesterday’s typical box designs. Finally, the computer-aided design and testing insure these designs measure every bit as good as how they sound.

For me, modern speaker cabinet design and construction are what really sets today’s speakers apart from “vintage” ones. A really good silk dome tweeter, aluminum woofer and paper cone midrange will perform well no matter what. But, take those same drivers and move them from that traditional, vintage wood box to a sculpted, inert, mass-focused enclosure that you can find in today’s top models…that’s where those drivers go from good sounding to great sounding.

My $0.02 worth…Good Listening to you!



Those blades sure look nice too! I was just wondering if you listened to Rockport in your auditioning as well. 




I think you have to listen to the speaker, whether it is old or new, and let your individual ears (not others) decide what sounds good to YOU! Who cares about the technology? my two cents



+1 Very true on structures… big deal, and improvements over the last thirty years have been phenomenal.

I own a set of vintage Dahlquist DQ10s.  From the serial # around 1980.  I know what my musician ears tell me, they sound incredible.  Just depends on the recording though.  I'd put them up against just about any of todays 5k models.  And they cost me $375.  A f'n bargain....

Everyone is talking parts......

You are missing a larger part.

Take for example PSB and how they had access to incredible spaces to design a speaker and craft its sound.

Parts are sometimes questionable some high end use paper still for drivers while others scoff.  I am more in the space available to build.

My $.02: its price to performance.  Generally better with used speakers but there may be something you can only get with the new model but you'll pay -- the ratio will be higher.

However, I do like that many of y'all just HAVE TO have the newest thing, because I'll take your old newest thing at 40%!

Changes in speaker technologies  are far more incremental than monumental, KEF Meta being a perfect case in point. Foam surrounds definitely have a 'use by' date, especially if exposed to sunlight (UV), and caps do age, although their lifespan is generally decades. But basic design and execution are far more timeless. Witness vintage Altec, JBL, and even the humble Large Advent.


Thanks for the kind comment!  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to audition any Rockport speakers.  I did something unusual for me in terms of the way I usually shop for my hifi gear in that I decided to buy my latest speakers new from a dealer.  My main motivation was to support my local hifi specialty shops, so I was limited to the brands and models listed in my previous post.  Rest assured if I had Rockport models local, I definitely would’ve given them a long listen!


Short Answer:  

Yes, speaker technology has advanced.  But, it would resemble something like a "smiley face" if you put it on a graph. The greatest gains would be at the low end and extreme high end of the spectrum.


Long(er) Answer:

Speakers commit errors of omission AND commission. They cover up, vail, compress, and remove things that were included in the original material (omission).  They also create sounds that they shouldn't via resonances, microphonics, etc. (commission)  The entry level has benefited the most from manufacturing efficiencies, upgraded material quality, as well as more attention to reducing resonance, early reflection, and vibration.  "High end thinking" has migrated into lower price points and has produced surprisingly musical "budget-priced" speakers.  On the extreme high end, the level of precision is off the charts compared to decades past, and prodigious attention to enclosure integrity has produced products that come closer to mimicking the sonic characteristics of a live performance than any time in audio history.

That being said, speakers in the target range of $3k-$10k (per pair) have been "getting it right" for quite some time.  They used good parts and knew how, and where, to use them.  Cabinets were robust. And they paid attention to magnitude of "little things", that when aggregated, produced something truly remarkable.  But, modern speakers in this range are, indeed, incrementally better.

It is my view that unless you have form factor or esthetic requirements that can't be satisfied by earlier designs, you'll be happy owning a used speaker worthy of representing the performance in it's class -- and, keep the change.

I bought used Martin Logan’s. The speakers are like new. I saved $7k. And that’s all you need to know about new vs used.