Difference between today and yesterday.

What are the diferences in sound between speakers made today and those of yesteryear?
Are there some from the past that will still sound better than most speakers made today
Given that most of the electronics and especially turntable tonearms and cartridges have imporved so much that this may be the first time ever some of the old models have an opportunity to sound their best, no?
I would say - oh no - Paper vs Plastic. Most old speakers were exclusively paper cones, while most, but not all modern speakers use polymers.
Some say that speakers peaked in the late 60's to mid 70's and then went down hill after that.......
It depends on the music. For "big" music, symphonies, organ, loud rock, etc. the old JBL, Altec, and the like with 15" woofers are best. But you can't play such speakers at realistic volume in an apartment, and the speakers probably wouldn't fit anyway. For pinpoint imaging of a female vocalist with piano accompaniment, (which seems to be the official audiophile test signal these days) modern speakers excel.

I couldn't live in an apartment, or even in a development with houses close together.
A lot has been gained in the last 20 years in the area of materials used in the manufacture of speaker systems. From the use of gold/rhodium plated, oxygen free copper 5 way binding posts(for a better connection), higher quality (tin foil/teflon film, polypropylene, polystyrene) capacitors for improved signal transfer, stronger magnets( barium/strontium ferrite, neomidium) for higher flux density, stronger and lighter cone and dome materials(carbon fiber, titanium, diamond) for less flexure/distortion, faster response. Denser, stiffer cabinetry to reduce resonance/coloration. There are a vast array of modern speakers that can play at very high SPLs, and yet sound like real music, unlike the Junk But Loud of old. Yes- the professional speaker manufacturers built some systems for home use, but the quality of the drivers/x-overs in those systems never approached that of their sound reinforcement equipment. The horns that were designed for projecting sound far into an audience, when used in a home environment, could generate a headache faster than a jackhammer with their peaky responses, and metalic resonances. Much has been gained/learned with regard to horn systems as well, and the old can't even compare with current designs acoustically(Acapella/Avantgarde). Of course the way we test/design systems has changed drastically as well. The proof is always in the sound though, and naturally: There are those that can't hear the difference, and will claim there isn't any.
Thank you all.
Rodman I think you make some very good points, especially when you mentioned the change in materials used in cabinets. And of course the cone materials.
There are quite a few old speakers that have stood the test of time. In some ways, particularly in the lowest octaves, they were generally superior IMHO.

Infinity RS, Kappa, IRS series
it is a matter of preference:

personally, i prefer the apogee duetta signature, quad 57s, infinity servostatic, koss electrostatic, accoustats, and tympany 1 d, to any speaker in current production.
Mrtennis, we seem to share this preference for planar speakers, especially for stators and I would add the Quad 63 and the good old Beveridges to your list. I've owned most of the gear you've mentioned and to this day I (at least imagine to) hear the colorations of cones, which a good planar speaker, inspite of other drawbacks simply doesn't seem to have. I've held onto my Quads 63s with Gradient subs practically until now and in the years following their first appearance never really found something better, except for stacked 57s perhaps, but now having changed house, I've finally settled for the big Sound-Labs. I've listened to a lot of (cone) speakers of current production and although I found many of them impressive in certain aspects of reproduced music, I could not agree more with your final statement. Those speakers you refer to, held the secret of "musicality", a highly subjective term of course, but sometimes, if driven right, they came uncannily close to the real thing, whereas many modern designs fail to impress me in this respect. Perhaps there are less and less concert goers amongst the designers and within the buying public. I wouldn't know.
Some say that speakers peaked in the late 60's to mid 70's and then went down hill after that.......

If we stick to sound quality...

I'd agree with the above, as the audiophile market definitely went in the directiion of art deco furniture (tall and thin - expensive veneers instead of good drivers) and "boom boom tizz" for sound (little or no midrange and sloppy mushy ported bass with etched highs). I don't blame manufacturer's as they only make what people want (sells) and makes money (low cost) and the duplicitous reviewers simply sing Hallelujah for every aesthetic new model (pretty much all get praised for their sound and the issues boil down to "flavor"...like ice cream - just pick the flavor you like)

At the low end, I think that decent sounding speakers have become very cheap compared to the past (this to me is an improvement).

In pro audio, active designs have certainly improved the sound enormously since the mid 70's. I was just in the local music store yesterday and listened to a pair of active Genelec 8050A - extremely impressive - they beat Focal, KRK, Dynaudio, Adams and Mackie's and NOT by a small margin...(by the way these were ALL active speakers, as musicians/pros rarely bother with passive anymore...of course they were also ALL ugly looking speakers - but, for some, the sound is actually relevant).
Total disagree with the past having as hi a performance as modern. Only loudspeakers I can think of that would compete with modern in home are quads and some vintage horns maybe a reel to reel the vintage TT stock and modified for me has also been proven wrong.I think many feel what they grew up with is the best, this is very commen in hobbies people look to the past with rose colored glasses. What we had or wanted but couldnt have in our youth is highly coveted today.I have collected many things beside audio and this has always effected values of said items. You should of seen how many british motorcycles we sold in the late 80s early 90s to boomers who where too young or broke to buy the BSA or Norton back in the 60s many would say these old motorcycles where much better than modern again while I love vintage motorcycles this also is not true. Same happens with vintage audio today. The guys that grew up when this kit was about are mostly the sameones proclaiming how damn good it is today. I tried much of it, all sounded dated to me, fun but dated....I still collect vintage audio kit my collection starts at 1890. Neat stuff great to know hear our history but compared to modern why not compare performance of a 1940s ford to a 2008 ford.
i have wondered with great interest the reviews that the older B&W matrix speakers have received, especially during the time when digital audio was still in its early stages of developement. these speakers were designed as studio monitors, and their treble response was often criticized. i also would hear them driven by earlier levinson solid state amplifiers which were a bit too "honest" in revealing poor cd-recordings as well as the sound of "jittery" cd players. later on however, i had chance to hear the 801's with pass aleph electronics and a levinson #39 cdp, with far better-recordings to boot. i could hardly recognize the "signature B&W sound"- forward and overly revealing- all that had vanished, and was replaced by a sweet/smooth musical presentation, far more like analog- not colored, but simply no longer "in your face" brashiness. in fact these were the same speakers i traded away for a pair of eggleston andras, because of the superb soft-dome tweeters they had, plus admittedly better integration of the drivers. but i also gave up some of the superb subterranean bass the 801's could produce.
so when you re-read some of the reviews during that critical period when digititis was rampant and every 6 months a slew of newer/better dacs were introduced into the market (at ever-higher prices), the "sound" of everything else also took a beating, especially speaker systems.
if i didn't hear proof of this myself i wouldn't have believed that the supposedly inferior transducers (B&W themselves trashed their crossover and tweeter for the "anniversary or series-3 model", which was not all that superior to the series-2, just a little different) weren't all that inferior- they just told you (the truth of) what was going on further up the chain of command. of course stereophile and the absolute sound never dusted off some older speaker models and listened to them again, with "better everything" feeding them a "tastier meal". now it was more in vogue to talk about speakers that cost, instead of $4-5k, speakers that delivered the goods for $8k, $12K, and $20k. and before you knew it along came speakers for over $30k, and finally 40. they were "so amazing" that the time when the B&W 802 -$4000, or the 801-$5000 (RETAIL!) were assumed to be technically challenged-designs. well go back and read what the abs.sound and stereophile had to say about them not that many years ago- that you could pinpoint musicians in an ensemble or an orchestra, that you could tell what make of bassoon a musician was playing, that you could hear a truck idling outside the recording studio, crazy stuff like that. sure, speakers have gotten better in a lot of ways, but i swallowed HARD when i upgraded to the andra's- $15,000 at the time. i just never got to hear all the things my previous speakers were capable of until after they were gone.
This always strikes me as a weird argument - that somehow older technology is supposed to be better. In nearly every area of edeavor/advancement technology is welcomed as improving results/performance. Yet somehow older audio equipment is supposed to be an exception. No way. I'd never trade the new gear with such fabulous sound for older equipment. And that's coming from someone who enjoys vintage gear; right now I have several pieces including amps and speakers which are considered past their time. They don't come close to the level of performance of the new equipment. There may be a few exceptions, extremely few. But to pursue older equipment unless on a tight budget. Never. There's an awful lot of subjective/nostalgic evaluation in the opinion that older/vintage equipment sounds as good or better than current offerings.
LOL: Well spoken Eldartford!
Especially those ss powered ones. Much better highs.......
I had those same Sansui speakers and they are what got me into hifi when I was a teen in the 70's and inherited them from my older bro -- who got the big pyramidal Ohm speakers.

Were they better? Was I less fussy? Perhaps the fact that I was usually listening after smoking whatever pot my older siblings (college age) could spare made the experience so good that the speakers live in some sort of elevated pantheon. Maybe I had lower expectations. Whatever the reason, I fell in love with music and stereos back then.

I do know that the Sansui speakers kicked my friends JBL Jubals in the butt in a side by side test.

But I'll stick with my current Aerial 9's.

I also heard a set of Sansui speakers recently, and they still sound good....but not up to current standards anymore than my old Dual automatic tt sounds like my decked out LP-12 or my Sansui 5000A sounds like my Cary SLP05/MB500 setup....or my 30 feet of zip cord sounds like Kubala Emotion.

BUT -- I'm still listening to the same vinyl I bought then.

My first album, purchased when I was 12, was Steely Dan's Can't Buy a Thrill. I still play the same album with pride on my new gear as on my 1973 system, but I don't know that I experience quite the ecstasy that I did when I was newer to the game.

Old speakers DO NOT sound as good as new stuff, but old (and jaded and critical) ears don't hear as well either....


Eldarford- How many current violin manufactures spend two to three years on one instrument, or use wood from the Little Ice Age (Maunder Minimum ~1645-1750), or perhaps Northern Croatia(another theory) that possess the density that give Stratavari's violins their tone? Of course no one really knows why they sound the way they do, and the secret died with him. I much prefer Harleys from 1936 thru 1965, but don't consider them better than what is built today. I like them for nostalgic reasons, and they are much easier to work on(unless you need parts). The new stuff is much more powerful, uses much less oil, is more durable(better alloys, etc), gets better mileage, I could go on. Do I want one: No! I used a Dahlquist DQ-LP1 active filter to bi-amp my system for over 25 years. No one had designed anything that was as transparent, and created less phase shift in all those years(lastly with a Placette Passive Linestage). That wasn't nostalgia, but simple fact. Now I'm using a TacT RCS 2.2X. Virtually as transparent as that last combo, but with the added benefit of it's time aligning my woofer/main interface and getting rid of the Sabine Reverb generated peaks in the room. I figured if The Absolute Sound gave it a Golden Ear Award: It probably sounded enough like live music to satisfy me. I haven't looked back. I'm still using the transmission line woofers that I built in 1980 to go with my Acoustat Model IIIs. I've updated my amps several times since then, but the Nestorovic woofers(polypropylene) haven't needed any updating except for the butyl surrounds(newer material) I treated them to. They were already fast and accurate enough to keep up with 'stats, they do a fine job now. Not nostalgia- they just sound like the real thing between 20 and 250hz. If I hadn't found newer systems that sound more like live music than the Model IIIs, I'd still have them too. As much as I've disliked horns in home systems for their lack of musicality/imaging/sound staging, if I could afford them- I'd love to own an Avantgarde system complete with Bass Horn. Newer, better materials/technology/design has brought a better illusion of live music in a real venue into a lot of homes. As someone on this thread stated: It's a matter of preference. I'd venture a guess that less than 10% of the people reading this listen to live music in a real venue once a week(at least). What is their reference, if not simply their preference/taste/opinion? Those that do listen to live music(whether acoustic or amplified): please check in, and note your preferences just for fun(new technology or over 20 years). I suppose this constitutes an honor system.
One of the big differences between today and yesterday is that speakers of yesterday were designed around analog sound and equipment. Whereas today, they're designed around digital sound and equipment which is a more cold sterile sound. That is why it would be hard to compare, even given the newer technology.
Any of the old Bozak speakers have stood the test of time.
Rudy Bozak was way ahead of his time!
Well Rodman, I do and that is why I stuck with my Quad 57 and later the 63s for such a long time and when I was younger and wilder, to get a bit more SPL I stacked and even quadrupled the 63s and combined them with Maggie Bass panels. It was a weird setup but it worked quite nicely. I almost liked the a-Capella horn speakers, but I could not get the livelyless, the P.R A.T. I was used to, so I only took the plasma-tweeters and integrated them with the 63s, suddenly getting much more tranparency. I've now settled with the big Sound-Labs after a life time of Quads. I am happy, but I've decided to keep the plasma tweeters. so I've gone from conservative old to new, but it took me practically half a lifetime, not counting my being unfaithful to the stacked 57s.
Detlof- Was that the IONOFANE Plasma Tweeter? The technology on that piece goes back all the way to 1951!! Of course- improvements have been made since then. How I wish my present listening room could justify some large (new technology)stats like the Majestics. The longevity of the Quad units(and modding) in your systems speaks to your taste for reality in your listening, your update- to your striving for musical truth. KUDOS!!
Eldartford, the error in your logic is that you compare a musical instrument to a technological product; apples and oranges. The only common denominator is music, but their purpose and operations are absolutely foreign to each other, so foreign that in the one case the item cannot play music aside from a system of contributing electronics.

You allude to the quality of the Strad - which is generally lauded for its craftsmanship/construction techniques. Whereas, development of technology is independent of that variable (there are good manufacturers and poor manufacturers). The violin is a technologically limited device, more a kin to a push reel mower. The components of today are an entirely different class, like the emergence of lawn tractors. The violin has seen virtually no radical departure in design, whereas components have undergone a sea change...

So, if someone makes a less impressive violin today their technique is not impressive. However, the move from push reel mowers to riding tractors is technologically driven (pardon pun). Maybe if someone had developed a better violin in the shape of a boomerang with the strings hung across the gap of the instrument that could be considered technological advancement. But let's not confuse the quality of violins years apart with the development of, say, tube amplification from the sixties to today's class D amps. In the one case, virtually nothing has changed, and in the other radical changes have occurred. etc.

Of course, one is entitled to their opinion of whether the changes are preferable. I see very few places in life where technological advancement is not to be preferred.
hi doug:

this hobby is based upon subjective perception and preference.

one judges the sound of a stereo system without regard to the application of technology.

thus, in a darkened room, one may prefer stereo system a to stereo system b, and, hypothetically, stereo system a could have its components produced iduring 1970 and stereo system b, could have its components manufacturered during 2008.

preference is unpredictable. thus there is no evidence to support your statement "i see very few places in life where technological advancement is not to be preferred", other than your own opinion, of which you are entitled.

i happen to prefer the sound of stereo systems whose components were available during the 70's and 80's.

of course, our basis for assessing "sound quality" may be diametrically opposed to each other.

i have a favorite stereo system from the 70's that i would prefer over any stsereo system comprising current-production components.
Rodman99999...You enjoy your old Harley, although a new Honda is probably more practical as a means of travel. I am a pilot. I enjoy flying a Piper J3 Cub, although a new Cirus is more practical as a means of travel. Each has its place.
Douglas_schroeder...Old volin vs new violin, Apple to apple. Old speaker to new speaker. Orange to orange. Sometimes all the technology is without benefit (except for marketing). I would take a KLH 9 electrostatic speaker over anything made today, probably including Quads.

By the way, I am a retired engineer and I love technology...my amps are digital. But I know its limitations.
I absolutely agree with your comments concerning aircraft. I'm a skydiver, and the Cessna 182 is probably the most common/popular/money-making(read- "best") aircraft a drop-zone can own, but turbine aircraft get more divers to altitude faster. As far as the Honda: The value drops 20% the moment you leave the lot, and never stops. You have to practically destroy a Harley to lose money on it(I speak that from experience, having bought and sold many over the last 40 years). Again- The J3 is a classic, and you don't see many for under $30 grand now days. That's pretty good considering they sold for under a grand in 1938. How many speakers actually appreciate in value over the years(the true sign of a "classic" like the Stradivarius, or say a Mercedes 300SL)? If you saw an Infinity Reference Standard system for sale, would you pay $65,000(original cost) for it? It was acknowledged as the best of the best in it's day. It's still good, but can be out-performed for less money because of the advances in technology. Most of the EMITs and EMIMs would probably be shot by now anyway because the materials used in their manufacture fatigued easily. Try and find replacements to keep that system original. How much have you invested in (new technology)avionics for your J3, or are you still using the better instruments of the 30's and 40's? Did it come with the 40HP engine(if it was the earliest model)? Is it still in there, or have you updated? I'm using using newer, better caps and resistors in my power amps than they came with. BUT- I'm constantly searching for vacuum tubes from the 40's (TungSol 6SN7GT round plates/Sylvania 6SN7Ws) because they sound so very much better than anything manufactured today. You are absolutely correct- Everything has it's place. PS: If you're ever flying around Indy- You can throw me out of your Cub anytime!!
Like I said most who say vintage is the best performing are guys who grewup with it;) Great to try to relive the past.But to ignor such major progress in transducers, cabinets ,crossovers, cables, design tools etc all are far more advanced than the 40s-70s. Sure some interesting and fun kit was produced then and its great you guys love it. But you do have to admite theres some truth to what Iam saying. You love it because you grew up using, reading or wanting it. Not because its the best performance availible. It just brings back pleasent memorys of your past and nothing wrong at all with that.But proclaiming vintage to be the best in performance just might lead others to try what you suggest. And if they didnt have the same past they just might hear it for what it is old stuff. Seems when we reach a certain age we tend to romaticise the past. Please excuse my spelling errors. And happy listening
There is some serious Nostalgitis happening here.

Mrtennis, you have already determined that your vintage rig would sound better than ANY current combination of gear,
"i have a favorite stereo system from the 70's that i would prefer over any stsereo system comprising current-production components."

Evidently, you don't even have to hear today's gear to know it's not as good as your old stuff! Your reference is fixed emotionally with 1970's gear. Severe case of Nostalgitis.
Eldartford(et al): I'd love to own a plane like that(it would probably be flat-black too)! The open door is good. Then again: If being in an airplane is flying, then riding in a boat is swimming. Get out of the vehicle sometime, and REALLY experience the element. That's my advice to the ones that are in love with their stuck-in-the-past sound systems: Get out of the house and listen to some of the real thing, especially something with a lot of vocals. Go home with the group's CD(hopefully well engineered) and see how your equipment's reproduction compares with the live experience. Of course: that's only IF you care.
There's a paradox going on here. Undoubtedly modern products offer a better performance/value ratio than what was available a generation ago and at the high end increased design and manufacturing knowledge coupled with better materials make it possible for real improvements to have taken place. Yet it's not all that clear that the best systems of 20 or 30 years ago are any less musically satisfying that the best systems of today. Modern systems may do more hi-fi tricks than older systems, but are they really more musically satisfying? It's not a case of nostalgia. There are valid reasons for people preferring vintage products to their modern equivalents. Ultimately, performance is not the end all and be all of what all people are looking for.
hi doug:

my preference is based upon hours and hours of listening at ces shows, stereophile shows, audio clubs, audio dealers and visits to friends' and acquaintance stereo systems.

if you are so convinced of the superiority of current production stereo systems, would you care to make a wager ?

you and i will select a stereo system. i will confine myself to components from the 70's and 80's , and you can assemble a stereo system of your choice.

place me in a room, blindfolded and i will listen to both stereo systems, according to some procedure.

i will indicate my preference, for either stereo system.
i will bet i prefer my stereo system at least 90 percent of the time.

what say you ?

the proof of the pudding is what someone does with one's money. those of us who purchase "vintage" components do so with the awareness that there are other choices. chances are, those who prefer vintage gear have also heard modern gear and prefer the vintage gear because it sounds more like the real thing than current production components.
Well Rodman, I did exactly as you suggest, I don't know how many times and any comparison done made me, often reluctantly, knowing of their drawbacks, go back to my good old Quads. This had nothing to do with nostalgia, rather with intimate acquaintance of live music and comparisons made not unlike those MrTennis talks about. Electronics and wires on the other hand are a different story. Here I have gone with the times and enjoyed the improvements, regarding reliability as well as the sound of more modern designs. However even here again, I hod to tube roll quite a bit with tubes from the 50 and the 60s to really get the best performance out of the gear.
Mrtennis, Bold proposition my friend! :) It's obvious you're quite confident in the quality of your vintage system. What are the components in it? What cables?
Detlof- Like I said: Owning those Quads speaks of your love for that reality. I've always liked the Quads for that reason, but- like so many other sweet electrostatics- they just can't get loud enough for certain music without arcing. The typical Brit has to live in a very cramped space and settles for lower volume levels than couldn't sate my thirst for reality. You'll notice most British speakers are on the small side, not too terribly efficient, or capable of high SPLs. Again- If I could only justify owning the Majestics........
I would dispute that there has been much technological advancement in speakers, and even amplification, in 30 years. Sure, some components like capacitors and diodes are much better but the basics haven't changed much. With the exception of the Manger driver, there is nothing really new. Stiffer cone materials from poly to graphite has been around for quite a while and basic circuit topologies haven't radically changed, only altered, not necessarily refined.

I had an amp with no global feedback in the early 80's. Granted, the average consumer gear was made for average consumers, which was still better sound quality than the MP3s of today. The "hi-end" is much more diverse now than it ever was but, likely, if it weren't for the Asian market, most of the specialty brands would have disappeared by now.

What has changed is the normal size and shape of speakers. Consumers wanted less obtrusive, narrower designs and/or exotic decor. The 12 and 15 inch drivers of the 70's were replaced with 8" drivers in the 80's and 6" would probably be the norm today. Acoustic suspension is, for the most part, a remnant of the past.

Comparing old to new, you would have to account for relative cost to income and inflation. What you could afford in your 20's as compared to what you can afford in your 40's is irrelevant. Scarily similar though.

Inflation 7%
Initial $1000
+10 years $2000
+20 years $4000
+25 years $5500

Inflation 10%
Initial $1000
+10 years $2400
+20 years $6100
+25 years $9900

It's been my experience that approximate sound quality has the higher inflation rate, maybe higher. This doesn't mean that I'm going to start buying old stuff. That's just silly.
To the casual observer there are not many differences in bicycles either. Both are technological devices, and bicycles still look rather the same (save recumbent types), still use gears, handle bars, etc. But they perform vastly differently.
I would assert that to the casual observer speakers have not changed much, but indeed they have, and they perform quite differently as well. Changes have occurred in cabinet materials and design (including isolation of individual drivers), driver materials, surround materials, magnet sizes and types, etc. - speaking only of dynamic speakers here.

Ngjockey, You are absolutely right that drivers have shrunk in size. This is one of the biggest tragedies of modern speakers. There is NO replacing cone surface area when it comes to performance. Make the magnet as big as you want; No way on earth these puny 6" drivers will ever compare to an authentic 12" driver when it comes to reproducing bass. There is a discernable difference in the quality of the low end between smaller woofers and the ease of a larger driver. The push to crowd the HT market with skinny speakers has wreaked havoc on hi-fi sound. Sadly, it seems most audiophiles do not even realize how bad the situation is. It's authentically hard to find a true full range speaker that's affordable.

Shrinkage of the midrange is another travesty. Again, there is a HUGE amount of difference in quality between a 3-4" mid and a 7" midrange. The larger driver sounds vastly different. Smaller midranges may be tonally correct, but I have heard many which simply cannot convey the correct spatial clues of the voice because they are physically too small. It's similar to the performance of a 4 cylinder car's engine versus the 6 cylinder. Both can do 65mph, but HOW they do it is vastly different.

So, yes, I can certainly see how someone who hears modern speakers which can only go to 40Hz and the performers sound like they're miniature would prefer the good old speakers. But when speakers today are made to be actually full range, with sizable drivers which can actually reproduce the full spectrum of frequencies - only then is one hearing what the best of modern speaker design can do. Add to it quality 7" or larger mids and you have some superb speakers.

And, yes, my Legacy Audio Focus HD's have these features. I did the review on them and happily purchased them because they have these qualities which are missing in so many speakers today.

It is absolutely apalling the number of dinky speakers on the market. To obtain anything approaching a full range experience one has to try matching subwoofers, which introduces problems to the sound. Audiophiles wonder why the high end is not catching on with younger people as much as they'd like. So, this younger person goes to a specialty audio shop and hears a speaker with 6" drivers three feet tall? Their CAR audio system sounds better than that! Give 'em monstrous speakers which are truly full range, speakers which will shock them with the scale and power of audiophile sound and maybe they'll be impressed enough to want it. But they can't afford the $10k+ that's charged for most of those speakers; not many people can.

So many audiophiles are convinced that they have the greatest sound with speaker systems that don't even cover the entire frequency. At least the older speakers with 12" or 15" drivers brought some bass. That's likely one reason that they are still enjoyed, because they actually were full range.

Once you hear what a serious floor standing full range speaker can do, one that can get down to 20Hz and below, and has truly full midrange, you realize how the other contemporary designs are "cut off at the knees".
Not all loudspeaker manufacters offer just tragic cones and domes, slim WAF towers or chinless direct radiators some offer real loudspeaker systems with 12-31.5in woofers, powerful magnets, horn loaded drivers and large cabinets. The bass from most older designs sounds bloated to me. But I do feel we lost a bit of size to WAF and hi-profits. I see so many frustrated audiophiles but most will change all of the system and still keep the wee speakers and they wonder why they are left wanting more or better or any change at all.
Douglas schroeder,
Would like to hear what other speakers you recommend.
I remember learning this before that size matters(my girlfriend remin... never mind).
Also room must accomodate, no?
Pedrillo, the principle holds true generally for any speaker manufacturer. Take B&W for instance. I reviewed the CM7, which is lovely sounding but definitely a small floor standing speaker. B&W's largest speakers are an entirely different game. The pricing of the larger speakers is the killer for most potential customers.

Vandersteens are pretty good at enlarging the listening space with decent sized drivers. I think this is one reason they are so popular, because they're not handing the owner dinky drivers.

I have not heard the Silverline Grandeur II's, and they have only twin 9.5" woofers, but they spec out interestingly. Montana and ATC both have some larger speakers. Tyler has a pro line with some big drivers. I haven't heard any in this group.

I have heard some of the larger Usher models which fit the template I have laid out fairly well. Similarly, the VonSchweikert mid-level models use a 7" mid which is engaging. But again, there is typically bass with twin 8" woofers. One really needs subs to go with them.

Different technology: Magnepan 1.6's and Eminent Technology LFT-8B are both very good for the money. Both can use subs, moreso the 1.6's.

The planar 4" mid on the Legacy Focus HD is tremendously satisfying.
hi doug:

my vintage system would include stacked quad 57s. clearly a speaker preferred over any in production today. you could not come up with a stereo system i would prefer over the quads.

it's all about preference and not nostalgia.
Why aren't two smaller woofers similiar to one big one?
Aren't they moving the same amount of air, I know that the air moved doesn't come from one source but this is bass that doesn't exactly play as big a role as mids or trebles that distinguish placement.
Also can big driver speakers work in a smallish room?
Mine is 11' x 15' by 8'-6" height.
Pedrillo, Mathematically they may add up to the same pistonic area, but qualitatively they do not sound the same. Smaller woofers are subject to more of a "popping" sound as the excursion is more extreme when they attempt to move the air at lower frequencies. A larger driver has more surface area to do the same job and sounds more "at ease" doing it.

The best thing about your room is that it is not square, so you might be able to get away with a larger speaker in it.
I have been in the live music space for 30 years. I have worked with over 250 bands. I am constantly around old and new systems and actually like hearing music on old system configurations from time to time. I own seven systems myself, most low cost, and really appreciate a twenty year old system that includes a NAD 3020, Kef 104, and Garrard turntable. Yes, there are better speakers today, but I love listening to the music as I originally heard it in analogue. The speakers sound great--like a great wine--better with each passing year.

Hands down, the best speakers are pro gear by ATC. They are allowing these to be sold to end users for the first time this decade and they are in use at over 1,000 pro studios. A true "reference" product, one of the most overused and abused terms in audio. Most audiophile products claim this, yet never are used in professional playback environments. I would check them out--they play all genres better than any other speaker--but have a very limited distribution here due to their commercial rather than consumer roots. I also like the classic British sound of Spendor, Harbeth and Tannoy--very stunning midrange over most other speakers--easy on the ears and will add up to many wonderful listening sessions. Canada has the best performance to value--Paradigm and PSB are wonderful budget minded products.

There are really great "nearfield soundstage" products now around the digital music space, and I really like the iMod iPod from Red Wine ($250), the Pure Audio docking station by Logitec ($100), the Blue Sky EXO active monitoring system ($200 at Guitar Center and it blows away everything) and Audioengine speakers ($350). Many of the old systems can't handle the new compressed listening requirements of the MP3 format, and these products really shine around the new formats.
Mrt, what can I say? That IS an exceptional vintage speaker! So, what are you feeding the Quads with?
If you listen to companies like Wilson even last years model sounds like crap compared to the latest "upgrade"
quad 57s could be driven by a 35 watt maple tree el 34 amp, or vtl deluxe 120 in triode mode.