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  • System nostalgia - ever think about recreating a former set up?

    Apologies for the long post. Just feeling my age and needing a little bit of a distraction this morning...

    Okay - I know references to old speakers pop up from time to time on the forum. I'm curious if others daydream about putting together one of your former systems to see how the sound compares to your current standards? This period of self-isolation has prodded me to think a lot about my own quirky history and era of audio equipment. In my case, it's bound up with being a teenager and college student with few $ resources (common!), exposure to family friends with high end systems from the '70's and early '80's, and the stuff found in early '90's dorm rooms.

    My uncle, a mechanical engineer, was a committed bachelor in the '70's and lived in a modest apartment. He spent his money on cars and electronics. I remember visiting to hear his new quadraphonic Marantz system when he got everything set up. I have no idea what speakers he was using, other than they were big monkey coffins set up near each corner of his small living room. The sound was "cool", but I spent an hour staring at the silver receiver and the big horizontal FM tuning dial, blue lights, and all the analog meters on the Marantz. My parent's social circle included a much wealthier knob with all Mac gear and huge Klipsch LaScala's(?) that he always bragged about. I wouldn't go near any of that stuff, as it was one of those houses where only dad was allowed to touch the toys.

    Flash forward to college. My close friends I spent hours cruising local hifi and big electronics (Tweeter, Circuit City, Lechmere, etc.) shops, just drooling and not really knowing what we were looking at. I spent hours at the school library reading Audio and Stereo Review. I saved up summer job cash and splurged on a little H/K integrated amp (45 wpc) and a pair of Klipsch KG 3.1s that were way too big for the tiny dorm rooms at my school. My roommate (a close high school and current friend) brought his own system; his much older brother's old Pioneer SX 780 and his recently purchased Infinity SM-80s. He eventually added his brother's ESS bookshelfs. I don't know the model, but they were 2 ways with the Heil tweeter. They sounded miles better than either of our purchases, but were relegated to the dorm room floor due to our belief that they were "too old". We had a lot of equipment crammed into a 10 by 14 foot room. That was pretty common at our school. We were the odd balls among the "big stereo" dorks for not running Advent Legacy's or Cerwin Vega's. Those were everywhere.

    I eventually satisfied my nostalgia itch for an old Marantz. I love my 2240b - even though it needs a tuner alignment, new bulbs, new speaker relays, and probably new caps. Lately I've been thinking about putting together a hybrid "university" system of the H/K or a contemporary Carver TFM-55 and a pair of ESS speakers. I've reacquired some of my old music on vinyl and am very curious how I would react to the sound.

    Anyone else daydreaming about "putting the old band back together"? What system from your past do you pine for, regardless of its fidelity? Do you remember struggling to make your equipment choices when you put it together? Do you smile/laugh at yourself in the rear view mirror? I do. Those Klipsch's were far from the best options I auditioned. I turned down KEF Q80's, Q90's (demo models), A/D/S bookshelfs, and JBL LX-55's. There's a good chance any of those would still be with me.

    Thanks,
    Squib

  • #2
    Not for my first 'system', which had a 10w per/ch Rotel amp and "twin cone" speakers. It would run out of puff when playing just about anything with decent dynamic range.

    However, the turntable was a British Connoisseur BD2a with a Supex cartridge, a lovely looking thing which also sounded great. I sold it after many years as its Achilles Heel, the motor suspension system, always gave trouble and the repair kits were no longer in production.

    Fast forward about 15 years, and new kits which fixed the problem became available, b -g - r!

    A store near us sells old stereo gear from the 70s and 80s and will happily spin you some music to remind you of how things used to sound. Speakers with first order XOs on everything, made of 1/4" chipboard, etc, um, no thanks.

    That said, our main system has a 25-year old Yamaha RX596 receiver, a 35 year old Technics direct drive turntable and a 20 year old Yamaha six CD player, so in a sense we still have our 'nostalgia' set up! Only the speakers are new - DIY, of course.

    I honestly don't miss the sound of the old(er) gear, but this is a nice idea for a thread.

    Geoff

    Comment


    • #3
      Well said, Geoff. It's a different type of pleasure from listening to some old equipment. Something sounds "just right" when playing early Rolling Stones cuts on Big Advents or Dynaco A-25/A-35s. It's NOT the fidelity. Emotional response is more important than frequency response in this little niche.

      I can't say the same for old Sansui speakers with their nutty multi-driver arrays and heavy lattice grills (blech!). The older JBLs (4312's, L100's) I've listened to more recently sounded surprisingly good as long as I stayed a respectable distance from them.

      My old SAAB was pitiful by modern performance standards, but I still smile and feel a pang of jealousy when I see one on the road. I have a similar response to seeing (not even hearing) gear I recognize from my formative audio years (adcom, carver, hafler, ESS, big Klipsch, proton, nakamichi, pre-1985 advent, JBL studio monitors). Putting a pure nostalgia system together is 99% certain to result in sonic disappointment. It's still tempting.

      Squib

      Comment


      • #4
        I'm trying to do so right now, with a twist. I'm trying to get hold of a pair of Pioneer CS-44 speakers, or just their cabinets, in good condition. These are 50-year old speakers that were my Dad's first set, and the ones that I "grew up" listening to. My plan is to measure and improve if possible.

        There's one set available in Baly City, California right now for a pretty decent price, but local pickup only. Damn. Sometimes it does suck to be stuck on a tropical island in the C'bean...!
        Brian Steele
        www.diysubwoofers.org

        Comment


        • #5
          Yes, but not the same limited setup I started with. It was a Pacific Stereo $99 special from mid/late 70s (call it '77).
          Consisted of a 10w Sherwood receiver, BIC plastic TT and EPI 2-way paper coned speakers...Worked fine for HS and College and then garage setup in first house.
          To scratch the inch I always had for a high-end stereo a few years ago, I picked up a recapped Sansui 9090 and and a refurbed Thorens 145 MII TT.
          For speakers, I couldn't consider anything old to compete with current designs (also not DIY), so built a set of Adire 641s for stand mounted almost full-range speakers.
          Love the setup.
          Andy.

          Comment


          • #6
            I just completed the rebuild of a Marantz 2252 (non b) receiver. It sounded “nice” before I started. It sounds INCREDIBLE now! So much so that I’m selling my Harmon Kardon Citation 16 amp, 17 pre, and 18 tuner. The Marantz will be my daily driver for a while.

            I just love vintage!

            Have Fun, Mark

            Comment


            • #7
              I occasionally have those pangs as well. The first real stereo setup I had was a set of Radio Shack Optimus 50 speakers with 12" woofers, 4" mids, and a 2.5" cone tweeter. It was vented, and the mid was open back. I took the woofers out once, and he woofer cone was very heavy and probably had an Fs of 15 Hz if that. Vented, it was basically a subwoofer output wise. I loved those 'Genuine Oiled Walnut' speakers... I got them on one of their 'half-price' sales they had once a year or so.

              These were my babies...

              Click image for larger version  Name:	Optimus 50 My Speakers.JPG Views:	0 Size:	34.5 KB ID:	1440469

              Just to show how honest Radio Shack was about the low end response of their speakers at the time... this set was listed as having a 50-something Hz low end... I know for a fact that 25-30 Hz was no problem for this speaker. That's honesty in advertising.

              The ones I really lusted after were the Optimus T-300's, I was crazy for them... loved the way they sounded and looked as well.
              10" woofer and 10" passive radiator.... probably started my love of PR's which carries on to this day.

              Here is what they looked like:

              Click image for larger version  Name:	image_84715.jpg Views:	3 Size:	42.7 KB ID:	1440470

              Just beautiful speakers in my mind, back then, and still now.

              They were marketed as of of their best speakers... I don't know if they ever did sell this set for half price like they did with so many others, but if they did, I missed it.

              I've always wanted to build a set like this, same setup, maybe a smidge deeper on the cabinet... I'd even like to match exactly the grill on these, so cool. I suspect it could be done using designer series woofers and passives, one extra on the back if needed. Wouldn't cost a ton, and talk about nostalgia!

              I think I would be able to duplicate this speaker and do it justice if I tried, and I'd love to do so, but I just have to stop with the speaker building, there is no more room in my house and we've given away many sets and subs. Before I die, I'd like to do this one last set, though. They were one of the speakers that I heard that really made me want to dig further into speaker building... one of the speakers that instilled in me the love of music that sounded great.

              Oh, and I'd finish them in 'Genuine Oiled Walnut Veneer' too.

              TomZ
              *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
              *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF *Cello's Speaker Project Page

              *Building the "Micro-B 2.1 Plate Amplifier -- Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * * Part 5 'Review' * -- Assembly Instructions PDF

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by tomzarbo View Post
                The ones I really lusted after were the Optimus T-300's, I was crazy for them... loved the way they sounded and looked as well.
                10" woofer and 10" passive radiator.... probably started my love of PR's which carries on to this day.
                Wow, those date from 1979. The ones that I'm looking for, the Pioneer CS-44s, date from 1970. Looks like that period (1970-1979) was back when loudspeakers were transitioning from being furniture with speakers installed (like the Pioneer CS 44) to speakers built to furniture quality. Unfortunately Pioneer went full kabuki with later CS speakers, then came the whole vinyl over particle board era (ugh)....
                Brian Steele
                www.diysubwoofers.org

                Comment


                • #9
                  I forgot all about the Pioneer CS line. I have a weird bias against speakers with lattice grills. I think it's from too much time in 70's Hugh Hefner-inspired homes. It's totally unfair to lump them together with the 8+ driver speakers manufacturers were hawking a few years later, but I still do. That lattice makes me think of Boogie Nights and Don Cheadle's stereo salesman line about having "...3 or 4 quads per channel".

                  The Optimus T-300's and then ubiquitous Realistic Mach 1's are a great reminder of Radio Shack's prime. I forgot how modern the T-300's looked compared to the Realistic branded speakers they were selling at the same time.

                  Doing a modern version of these vintage speakers is a cool idea. I toyed with the idea of a 2 way with an 8 inch mid-bass and heil tweeter, until I looked up the prices on any of heils. Kinda sucks overlapping with other people's fetishes and having to pay that kinda of tax. I don't have the skills to make that investment pay-off. It would also make my head hurt to use the heil and recreate the recessed front baffles that were so common in the original designs.

                  The 70's Marantz receivers and amps are getting pretty spendy, too. I'm glad I bought mine before the prices starting shooting up. The mid-level '80's era stuff (adcom/hafler) is still relatively cheap.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I haven´t left the 70ies high-school era, having sold off everything but the Citation 11/12 combo....

                    Nostalgic?? Not me!

                    Regards//lasse
                    Stockholm, Sweden
                    Perry Mason talking to his dentist:

                    "Do you swear to take the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth, so help you God?"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      You know... not to get this thread off-track, but wouldn't it be kind of cool to do a speaker meet-up where everyone brings a set of speakers modeled closely after a favorite speaker system from the 60's - 70's - 80's?

                      Bring your speakers, built with updated drivers and a nice big pic of the speaker you're modeling it after.

                      Heck, I'd have two entries... The Optimus T300 listed above, and a set of Design Acoustics Point Source 8 or 10's... I really liked those speakers too.

                      Click image for larger version

Name:	Point Source 10 Speaker Design Acoustics.JPG
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ID:	1440509

                      Not sure they sounded as good as some other offerings of the time, but I've often thought of doing one with modern drivers and maybe a built-in amp for the lower 8 or 10" driver. They had an 8" or 10" driver facing down. The low end on these was never great, but they could make the suspension only so compliant with the driver facing down and all. These were passive too by the way.

                      I found a set of these pretty much wrecked by water damage in the trash by my church many years ago. I've been thinking about doing a modern-day version of them on and off ever since. Wonder what a tiny version with a TB1138 as the woofer, and a Dayton ND91 and ND20 tweeter would sound like? Probably get it into a small cabinet. Ooooohhh! I guess I'll know what I'll be doodling for the next few days or so.

                      This is really a dangerous line of thinking for me.... Thanks a LOT Squib!

                      TomZ

                      *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
                      *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF *Cello's Speaker Project Page

                      *Building the "Micro-B 2.1 Plate Amplifier -- Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * * Part 5 'Review' * -- Assembly Instructions PDF

                      Comment


                      • andykriech
                        andykriech commented
                        Editing a comment
                        "Wonder what a tiny version with a TB1138 as the woofer, and a Dayton ND91 and ND20 tweeter would sound like? Probably get it into a small cabinet. Ooooohhh!"

                        Hi Tom, this sounds like a version of Scottsehlin's Hafniums...
                        Andy

                    • #12
                      Originally posted by tomzarbo View Post
                      This is really a dangerous line of thinking for me.... Thanks a LOT Squib!

                      TomZ
                      So much cheaper than old cars - at least the way I would do it.

                      PS. I think its an awesome idea to do a homage meet-up. Bonus points if the participants can name the original inspiration without any prompting. It would be fun to see the different proportions of the retro cabinets.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Originally posted by squib View Post

                        So much cheaper than old cars - at least the way I would do it.

                        PS. I think its an awesome idea to do a homage meet-up. Bonus points if the participants can name the original inspiration without any prompting. It would be fun to see the different proportions of the retro cabinets.
                        I'm in early talks with the wife on hosting such an event. Initial indications from the significant other are positive, but it remains to be seen how many people would want to venture to the country of southern New Jersey for something like this. I don't have a ton of space, but I think 12-18 people would be doable. I've planted the seed at least. I'll check with her in a few months to see if it's still a 'considerable' option with her.

                        Anyway, it's been nice remembering some of the speakers that we loved early on... ones that got us started in the audio hobby.

                        TomZ
                        *Veneering curves, seams, using heat-lock iron on method *Trimming veneer & tips *Curved Sides glue-up video
                        *Part 2 *Gluing multiple curved laminations of HDF *Cello's Speaker Project Page

                        *Building the "Micro-B 2.1 Plate Amplifier -- Part 1 * Part 2 * Part 3 * Part 4 * * Part 5 'Review' * -- Assembly Instructions PDF

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          Originally posted by tomzarbo View Post
                          I've been thinking about doing a modern-day version of them on and off ever since. Wonder what a tiny version with a TB1138 as the woofer, and a Dayton ND91 and ND20 tweeter would sound like? Probably get it into a small cabinet. Ooooohhh! I guess I'll know what I'll be doodling for the next few days or so.
                          That's kind of my thinking with the CS-44 too. Unlike the kabuki-craziness that characterized the larger models, it's a simple two-way design (8" plus tweeter)

                          So, in increasing steps of craziness, and assuming that I can get my hands on a pair with the cabinets in decent condition, I'm considering:

                          1. Rebuild the x-over
                          2. Design new x-over (the original is a simple first order design
                          3. Replace one or both drivers, perform step 2
                          4. Change the box to a vented design, perform step 3
                          5. Build new deeper box (for higher Vb), re-use the old "lattice" grilles, perform step 4


                          BTW, I'm pretty sure that one of my friends here in Grenada has, or had, a pair of those PS10s. Maybe they survived Hurricane Ivan. I do remember them sounding pretty nice when I heard them, but that was years ago.
                          Brian Steele
                          www.diysubwoofers.org

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Y'know Tom, there are good repros of the Mach One and Two woofers available..............just sayin'

                            And for a modern looking version of an old-school speaker, go to Humanspeakers and check out Huw's replacement for his old EPI 250s. Pretty.

                            Comment


                            • squib
                              squib commented
                              Editing a comment
                              Thanks for that recommendation RE: Human Speakers. I travel close to Lee, NH and will be tempted to stop by their shop when circumstances allow.
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