Maintaining old speakers

August 8, 2021
 by Paul McGowan

12 comments on “Maintaining old speakers”

  1. A great question, and once again Paul shares interesting insight into the Infinity lineage. Not only do older speakers require special care and attention their dedicated amplifier may also need special attention. Having a pair of Genesis V speakers that to this day sound wonderful and have been problem free my worry has been two fold. First unexpected failure f the dome midrange, as it is unavailable in any form. Second, failure of the low frequency amplifier as most of its sub-components are no longer available. It is probably over due for a capacitor replacement. I must say the Genesis V speakers in a small space driven by tube amplification can sound wonderful once dialed in.

  2. Speakers are basically mechanical motors and there is a break in period before they sound their best. Over time they can suffer from things like thermal damage and worn out surrounds, or the dreaded finger. Tweeters and center caps are not buttons to press…lol. One solution would be companies that are still around should continue to supply parts for as long as possible as car dealers do. Once the parts are no longer available you can have them rebuilt to their original specs by specialists or even by yourself, or hopefully there are after market parts that are dedicated to the original specifications. The same can be said for phono cartridges which are also mechanical devices, there are companies like Soundsmith that can return your cartridge to it’s original specifications or better. If you love your speakers or cartridges there should always be a way to keep them going. I believe this to be true of all high end gear that has a faithful following. CD players are mechanical devices that need to be serviced from time to time. Tubes need to be replaced, solid state needs new capacitors over time. Vintage audio and the used market are important parts of our hobby and important to audiophiles. Lets not forget that.

    1. Good morning Joe!
      What you said about SS amps needing to be recapped, the same thing is also true about old vacuum tube audio equipment.
      If the equipment is 40 years or older, it’s gonna need to be recapped so that it can preform at its best.
      I know this from working on old tube radios.
      The caps dry out after a long periapt of time.

  3. Paul,
    My brother had a set of IRS beta’s. Same big 4 pieces. They were in a dedicated big room ( maybe 20Wx 40L x H10? and trapezoidal side walls ( like for dormers) and as I recall had bespoke (read specially designed) amps for the low end. His other equipment was Audio Research Amps and a Linn Sondek (Ittok arm ?) TT. He had a very nice sofa situated in what I assume was the sweet spot. I am not sure but I believe he got the Betas thru the Deja Vu high end vintage store in the D.C. suburbs. My wife and I were visiting and he set us up to audition and then left to do something else. We were astounded. After about 30 seconds we were astounded at how BAD it sounded. How can that be? ( I find that if I have to strain to decide whether I like it or not, I will rarely change my mind from my first impression. My wife too (and she has magic female ears.) I should say that years ago I had Dahlquist DQ10s and could never find a speaker better until the Quad ESL 63s I bought used ( for a while I had them doubled). (Somewhere in there I had Genesis speakers and sub) I now have the successor to the ESL 63s medium (not large size) that came out, not the really big latest ones (9 something?). The big ones did not sound as good to me. Never auditioned the newer ones. Just so you know my taste, I had a rave-worthy SONY disk player, and when I “A-B”ed against the PS Audio Transport and DAC, after 30 secs I put the SONY up for sale. (I got a good price from someone in Japan.), I cannot speak for why my brother’s IRS betas sounded so bad. Earlier in our lives we both loved the DQ 10s. My brother down sized his house, and sold the Betas. He has now refoamed and re-capped his DQ10s and listens to those ( I still love those guys!). This is a weird and very subjective hobby we have. I am lucky to have woman who shares my passion (and my taste). No WAF required! My local Audiophile Society members are often amazed that she inspects the hardware along with the sound. But I ramble. Enjoy your emails and youtubes.
    Regards,
    Carl (Northcentral New Jersey, near VPI. You never talk about TT)

  4. I’ve just about got my hands on a very nice pare of vintage Pioneer Titan IVPW30-C speakers.
    The good news is, the guy that has them, restored them long before I made a down payment on them.
    These speakers are 12 years older then I am.
    But sense I have mostly vintage tube audio equipment anyway, I don’t have to worry about over powering them, in less I hook them up to my Jolida JD-1000P KT88 tube amp.
    Most likely, I won’t do that either.
    But what I’m trying to tell you all, is Paul is correct.
    If you’re gonna buy a pare of vintage speakers, be prepared to give them a lot of TLC.
    Because, most likely, that’s what they’re gonna need before you employ them.
    But in my case, that work has already been done.
    So when I get them, all I have to do, is hook them up and get them in a proper persition.
    And I’m all sat after that!

  5. Anyone have any direct experience with replacing old capacitors with higher end capacitors and also bypassing with smaller sized caps like 0.1uF caps?

    1. Good morning Algaudio!
      The answer to your question, is yes!
      I once took an old Mcintosh amp from 30HZ to 30KHZ from that to 20HZ to 50KHZ just by putting other caps in it, other then what Mcintosh put in that amp.
      Long story short, that old amp had some serious bass mid and high end by the time I got threw modifying it.

    2. TLDR: Replacing old tired caps helps, adding bypass caps can add “twinkle” to hi frequencies.

      AlGaudio, since John already responded about recapping amps and It sounds as though you’re asking about replacing caps in crossovers I’ll throw my 2 cents in. Too many speaker manufacturers cheap out when it comes to components you can’t see, even high end manufacturers are sometimes guilty of this. You can definitely expect a change when recapping crossovers, if it’s done right it’ll be a good change. Boutique caps usually do sound better than cheap caps or old electrolytics that tend to degrade over time but don’t expect wondrous results by replacing them with the cheapest caps you can find. Adding small value bypass caps to add “twinkle” at high frequencies gets you into debatable territory. Some say they help, some say they don’t, I usually include them as part of cap ladders described below. If you’re going to use small bypass caps use them where they’ll do the most good, in tweeter circuitry in the signal path, not parallel to the driver or in woofer/mid circuits. Personally I’m a fan of using capacitor “ladders” in the signal path, whatever value a circuit calls for I’ll use multiple smaller value caps. Usually 3 but sometimes 2 or 4 caps to make up the total, it depends on what’s available and the sensitivity of the drivers I’m working with. Yes, my crossovers boards can get a bit crowded! I etch my own circuit boards to accommodate but you can usually add the arrangement into an existing board. The reasoning behind cap ladders is it reduces ESR (effective series resistance) allowing more of your amps power to get thru to your drivers, charge time benefits too. Feel free to put all that in the subjective category if you like. I won’t get up on my soapbox and advocate any one brand of cap, opinions vary on which brand(s) sound best, it gets really subjective. It can be a bit expensive but the only real way to find what you like is to experiment with different brands/types to find what sounds best to your ears. Don’t be afraid to try things and you should expect to be disappointed with the results occasionally. Hopefully that helps and doesn’t just confuse you further.

  6. I have an expensive answer. Have a large house with a different vintage stereo system in say 3 or 4 rooms. I have two sets of IRS Betas, one set powered by Krell FPB solid state amps and another power by VTL tube amps. Yes, one has the KCT and the other has the HR pre. In a third room I run a pair of center Krells as L+R on their ends. Bottom line is that each room has its own pluses and minus’s, but give me the ability to compare how each system sounds. Only in California funny money state.

    Their are limits, it is the slow changing, racing to find the Ultimate sound for the room. And if I find something that like, I like to have at least two of them, so I can guarantee the removal of a single point of failure.

    Yes, their are limits. Only my main listening room and my master bedroom have SACD, but eventually I will put another Sony SACD player into another system, but right now, my McIntosh SACD doesn’t support blu-DVDs, so I get the ability to compare the two SACDs in one system.

    Getting back to the IRS Betas, the mid/tweeter panels hold the xover upside down and over time, no matter the small chance of failure, it will eventually happen, if not gradually.

    With the IRS Vs of PS Audio, they/Paul should build super high end subs, that can and should be sub’ed in into these speakers. Maybe when they rebuild the sub amps. But they already rebuilt them I thought….

    So, I am getting a 2nd M700 from PS Audio, to compare against my Carver Research 1 sub amp. Or to power my IRS Gamma/Deltas. Yes, I have my limits, but I am a slow mover from vintage stuff.

    Remember these audio systems are built with extra money that we don’t need to invest or pay mortgage or other expenses.

    Note: I love vintage … My Euro 99 M3,,, is still my main car,,, and yes, I am always chasing Gremlins and will fly more than drive long distances. I just can’t justify the cost of a new M3/4 or want a black interior of a M2…

  7. Paul.

    Good advise noted on purchasing High End Vintage speakers. You have to marvel at the fact that there are still some Genesis speakers still in the Evolution of Progress, at least to a new owner. Really enjoy your videos, and when I have question in my head, I will sometimes refer back to previous clips to look for answers. Thanks for what you do and enjoy the listening!!

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