Good memories sweeten with time.
My first experience with a pair of exceptional loudspeakers was in the home of radio station engineer Jim Mussel in 1973. He and I worked for the same FM rock and roll radio station, KXFM in Santa Maria, California. We were both interested in good sound but he was farther along the path of achieving it than I was. Instead of my Kenwood integrated amplifier driving a pair of Phased Array loudspeakers, Jim’s system was high-end: JBL Corner Horns powered by Audio Research electronics.
The music played through Jim’s system was unlike anything I had ever heard: dynamic, involving, true to the instruments played. Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein took on a whole new meaning when first Winter’s soaring synth riffs cut through the air with a verve I had never experienced. But the icing on the cake was Chuck Ruff’s drum solo. On my system, both had sounded dull and mashed together like potatoes through a grinder. On Jim’s system, they were as clear as a bell.
If I were to listen to that same system today, 40 something years later, it would still bring pleasure but only if it had been maintained.
What can go wrong with vintage electro-mechanical devices like loudspeakers? Aging of the elastic elements and degradation of capacitors. Like people, components age. Woofer surrounds crumble, capacitors dry out.
There are plenty of services for reconing loudspeaker drivers. A quick Google search brought up at least a dozen reputable vendors. Replacing capacitors in aging crossovers is a bit more of a challenge requiring a soldering iron to install and shoe leather to source, but there’s a silver lining to it—a chance to upgrade with better components. Head to the Parts Express or my personal favorite, the Parts Connection where you can upgrade to your heart’s content. Just be careful not to change the original values found in the crossover, and you’ll be fine.
If you’d like to learn more about my thoughts on upgrading vintage speakers, you can watch this video.