Vintage Hi-Fi Info
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|*See our NEW Hi-Fi Blog page
lots of New Sections since Jan 2017 that add a wide range of Hi-Fi & Tech related subjects plus opinion on Hi-Fi News 1970-1980 as we read through.
Includes New Articles on this page's subject. This page has been updated & read through with 2017 ideas & with an Index to navigate.
A Fresh Look at Hifi Loudspeakers & Matching
Includes a selected listing of Loudspeakers from the 1956-81 Hifi Yearbooks.
We've never read a page like this one we've written, you might find details hidden in dry theory books, but here is the deal on Speakers so it finally makes just a little bit more sense. This page was written at different times over a few years, the Index will help.
• PAGE INDEX with section links ↑ TOP
Do We Know Much about Speakers?
Read on & find out. Please don't ask if we know any other speakers than mentioned on this page. We don't & don't have much interest in the thousands of mostly mediocre speakers made. It's a minefield & we don't particularly care much about other speakers than the 1968-74 Tannoy Golds. When you know the best, you're not interested in the rest. No, we don't know if your Speakers match your Amp, but we can tell you how to tell if they are below. Read on...
The more amps we try on our Tannoy Golds, the wider our opinion can be. The fact is there really is no way to tell beyond actually trying the Amp with the Speaker. We've not got bigger speakers of the post 1975 design, if we use some small ones to test, they hardly give a full picture of the sound. See at the bottom of this page for how All Amplifiers We've Tried sound on the 1969 Tannoy Golds.
Buying a Speaker is the most hard of all hifi items to buy due to the huge tonal differences and how they interact with the room you use as well as the amplifier. Think you need a tweeter, a midrange squawker & the woofer? Phase errors will create a poor sound as well as the minute volume differences. The Human Ear cannot supposedly hear these differences, yet some state we need Amplifiers delivering "sound" beyond 20 kHz to have music sounding right. You can read that most instruments don't go much over 10kHz & what you do hear is mainly artifacts, harmonics & hiss making sound seem brighter than it really is. With Headphones you hear one driver with the full frequency range & it's close to your ear with nothing beyond your ear & head resonances to affect it. A speaker in a room sounds less upfront than having two small desktop speakers on the Computer inches away. The room speakers have reflections & resonances to deal with & generally sound less detailed as they can be 6 feet or more away. You hear of multi amping, there are microseconds of delay between a simple circuit path & a more complex one so how can bi-amping be good? There are even triple amps for 3 driver systems, all pointless. Only the room blurring the sound will hide their inaccuracies & phase errors. The best speaker is the Dual Concentric Tannoy speaker as both Bass Driver & Tweeter mounted inside the Bass driver are at the same point of origin & arrive together. You could be fussy & say the tweeter voicecoil is 3" behind the bass voicecoil & a tiny phase error exists too. Until full range speakers beyond Electrostatics exist, it's the best there is for full range Hifi. Matching the Age of the Speakers to the Age of the Amplifier is crucially important too, read on.
A Quick Loudspeakers Overview.
So much about speakers that we've read to us seems so wrong. So to not get too deep into the whys & wherefores here are our tried & tested opinions. Speakers are best set -- -- facing your listening area, the old ideas of / \ firing from corners misses any true sense of stereo as sounds overlap. We've had speakers set as -- -- for many years & stereo imaging from a defined point is certainly the best way. Bad design ideas that used to be popular in the early days are open baffle as no bass, omnidirectional loses any sense of imaging. Tweeters or speakers facing upwards is similarly too vague. Tweeter height should be at your listening level, not speakers put high up the wall or down too low, similarly flat screen TVs put high over fireplaces leaves you with neckache, instead ofg the image being midway in your seated position, old style TV stands were made that height for a purpose. Speaker cables, read our Cables page for more, but add Ferrites as they really do tighten the sound. The modern idea of tiny satellite speakers & an amplified sub are not hifi at all, having heard these, where is the midrange? Any amp or speakers needing a sub active or passive is just a compromise too, trying to add deep bass to an amplifier that is bass-limited just doesn't work as it sounds false. Our upgraded amps give full deep bass & with larger speakers, you'll have that THX type deep bass TV & Film uses even with a 15w amp, we know as we've tried enough amps. Tone Controls are needed for Speakers & to use them is no problem or diversion from hifi, to sit & listen to music lacking Bass or Treble for the ideals of "source direct" flat is just a way to miss the full enjoyment of audio & hifi. As with any sound source, you can get used to it then hear another with a different tonal balance & then fear your system is lacking. Below we rate how some amps play on the Tannoy Golds, the general idea is many amps sound great on these speakers if there are a few tricky ones that are best suited to later speakers.
If buying speakers, perhaps the best way is to get at least 2 pairs & use them for a while to decide which one you prefer. Ignore what others say are bad speakers if the speakers generaly have a good reputation, be sure the complainers are mismatching amp & speaker. For the Tannoy Golds, the best match are the 1965-67 amps plus most valve amps, the worst match was the Yamaha CR-700 but if we has the Yamaha NS-1000 speakers from a similar era be sure these would match the CR-700. After all, amp designers did use a reference speaker to design to, if in the case of the CR-700 they didn't try it on enough of a range of speakers. It is possible to tune, by subtle redesign, an amp to speakers & this we have done before.
PRE 1970 AMPS ARE BEST SUITED TO 8 OHM SPEAKERS.
The earlier Amps have Early Designs as you'd expect, the first Proper Transistor amp was the 1965 Sony TA-1120 & by 1967 the First Generation of Amplifiers was here. By 1969 the Second Generation was here with some designs being much tamer than the earlier ones, perhaps more accurate to say 1969 was 'Transitional'. We've given "Generations" to amplifiers but more research gets more known. Really only the Differential-Era amps that arrived 1969-73 are the Third Generation & will be fully compatible with 4 ohm & 8 ohm speakers. We upgrade & test on 8 ohm speakers, our upgrades bring out the best in the Amps & we can be sure thay 8 ohm speakers will work well. Some like the 1966 Akai AA7000 say "8 ohm speaker only" which is clear. Some say nothing. Some suggest 4-16 ohm speakers will suit but in 1969 they won't know what came later. IMPORTANT: CHECK THE SPEAKER IMPEDANCE. Some say Impedance 4-8 ohm which we've found is misleading as it's really only 4 ohm. We've found twice now that Celestion Dittons are a bad load for early amps. Ditton 44 (100w) & Ditton 33 (25w). HFE wrongly says "8 ohm" but look at the User Manuals to see 4-8 ohm. It can't be both resistances, it's 4 ohm. If you use these 4 ohm speakers on early amps, they will likely overheat as the load is half so the current is doubled. It may or may not damage the amp, but it's "User Error" which it does take these issues to realise. The Ditton 44 user we told to add 4 ohm resistors to the speaker cables & now the amp works fine. The Ditton 33 is told the same, but to use 25w speakers on a 50w+ amp is risky in itself. But we do know Celestion Ditton 66 work fine on the 1968 Sony STR-6120. It appears to depend on the amp & speaker match. Avoid 4 ohm speakers on pre Differential era seems to be the best advice.
Early Speakers pre 1974 & ones after.
This appears to be the turning point, as Tannoy went from the Golds based on the 1960s design to the HPD ported design in 1975. We're trying all amps on the Tannoy Golds & only very few don't match. See below for all we've tested. Over the years with vintage Hifi before getting our Fane 200w PA speakers, many amps were tried & found a bad match, usually too dull sounding, or in the case of a Sony TA-1120A on Tannoy 609s the midrange was recessed, bass too boomy & treble too scratchy. Considering the 1120 is basically the same as the STR-6120 it gives an idea that on earlier speakers an amp can sound balanced but on later ones it'll sound like this. This probably is the sound most consider is Hifi, we have heard Shop Demos of AV gear & asked "where's the midrange" to baffled shop staff. Modern speakers we useed to say are tailored to "sound exciting" in demos & if a shop that's one of multi-stores thinks that recessed sound is Hifi then that shows how far off Hifi ideals they are. We've heard satellites with overblown sub, again, where's the midrange? An awful sound is sadly what people are listening to, unaware that a voice such as on uncompressed Radio 2 should sound like a person in the room does.
The Difference in Design
The quick difference is the pre 1974 speakers are generally a Flat Response & the post 1974 ones are "More Exciting" sounding as Amplifier design got "Less Exciting" as costs were cut so speaker designs were altered. Looking at the specs of speakers will reveal what changed. There is no finite divide here, some Amps work on most speakers & some Amps can't drive the earlier ones adequately. Naturally there is also shades of matching which is why you read one speaker is rated highly by one person but thought of as loust by another. The one who loves the sound may be A Hifi Immature & love shrill treble & thudding bass as teenagers do, or they might have an amp that matches perfectly, you'd never know until you heard it. We've heard the most dry flat sounding systems that the owner thinks sounds wonderful. Hifi Immaturity as with anything immature needs nurturing to grow, be sure if you've never drawn a dog since you were eight years old, if you drew a dog today 'at your age' it'd still look like an eight year old's drawing as you never developed.
How To Know For Sure if Speakers & Amp Match?
The only way sadly is to actually Try Them. We've looked in vain for design patterns & values but there is always an exception to disprove any rule. The Max-Min Tone test below is the best guide, read on. The amount of Transistors in the Power Amp, the NFB values, Damping Factor, the Price when New or the Power Wattage are no guide at all to finding a Good Match or a Bad Match. There has to be a Factor involved as in Current Driving Ability & Impedance that is a bit beyond us to test further. You see Loudspeaker Impedance Curves shown in Hifi mags, but you never see the Current Driving capabilities of an amplifier over the Audio range. Perhaps it is not testable?
Does Your Room Match your Speakers?
Another variable in Hifi matching is Room Size. Speakers with 5" drivers won't have enough volume to fill a room unless you force 300w amp power into it, if they are rated that high. 15" speakers can be too loud for a small room. Regardless of power rating, some amps can be just too loud for a room. A certain size room can take a certain volume & then that's as loud as it can get. Some chance, you think & you'll probably be right as not many amps are designed to be that loud even over 100w. On designing our valve preamp years ago we tried certain things to see how loud it could go. PA amps use similar techniques. A good sized room could be filled with a huge wall of sound so loud it actually brought on mild shock from how huge it sounded. We've rattled brick walls with deep bass, as in touch the wall & you can feel it vibrate, but this isn't for doing at home in today's complaining world though you could years ago... Naturally that sound was great fun but way too loud for daily use. Most domestic Hifi even those 300w ones will only go so loud, as it's not a PA set up it is tamed. Similarly we remember at school music was needed to fill the assembly hall, a kid got out a portable radio & turned it up high hoping to fill a large hall. All it gave was low volume full distortion as it was likely only 0.75w as most portables then were. A realisation long ago. On testing amps, we've found on an early 1966 18w Coral amp, this was enough to fill a medium room on 95dB efficient speakers coping with Dr Who type bassy effects, if there was little headroom beyond that, but it behaved well & didn't clip out, it was upgraded with our high spec though, as 'raw' it'd have complained... The volume some amps & speaker combinations put out could be too loud & harsh, as the room can't take it, or too low volume & clip. High efficiency speakers 95dB+ plus a 18w-25w amp will fill a medium sized room. Low efficiency speakers of small size, say 88dB will need a 100w amp to fill the medium sized room. The risk with low efficiency speakers is they need driving hard to get the right volume & you can overdrive an amp & get problems. Best to get high efficiency speakers & be satisfied with a lower power amp. Put a 50w or more amp onto high efficiency speakers & you can risk it being too loud, but as with anything, test your room, speakers & amp wisely, having combinations to try & you'll end up with one that suits. Hifi is like dating, you have to try a few to find the right one. A review by anyone including us may be great for us, but a total mismatch for you. Only trying a few will reveal.
Speaker Size Matters More
From speakers we've had and tried with amplifiers, the basic idea is you need a 10" bass driver to get the rich full sound from music, with 12" & 15" the ideal. Looking at Modern Speakers, even ones costing up to £1000, they are not ones we'd care to bother with knowing the bigger speakers. The 6" bass driver is the typical bookshelf size and be sure it doesn't give much bass, though calibrated Sound Pressure Level readings will imply it does. We tried some B+W CDM-1T speakers this size with our then-15" PA drivers. The sound when played louder than normal use was comparable if bass light, but it needed a good two-notches more volume & the quieter you played it, the lower midrange & bass dropped off quite heavily. This is why amps have 'Loudness' to fill in for feeble speakers, but usually just sound awful. You'll find floorstanding versions of bookshelf speakers with an added Passive Bass Radiator, just a waste of money as you won't hear the Bass. Speakers with cunningly created Bass Ports are great for blowing away the cobwebs but until you get at least 10" bass drivers, you really won't hear much Real Bass. With smaller speakers, the IB Infinite Baffle type sealed cabinet speaker will give better bass, but that's not what the Hifi mags have been saying since the 1980s. If music is for background with no care in listening to it, go buy a cheap micro system with bag-of-sugar size speakers, it will do. But when Sound is for Listening To, you need Big Speakers. Once you've heard Big Speakers, those feeble tiny things will offer you no pleasure as all you can hear is the thin bright sound. Buying speakers is so hard, give up & just buy some proper 10"-15" ones & realise what you've been missing is our advice, it's what we did.
TYPES OF LOUDSPEAKER.
There are basically two types of Cone Loudspeaker: the Heavily Damped type as the Tannoy Golds are as are most modern high power PA speakers, eg Fane ones. These have paper cone or thick impregnated cloth edges. The cones barely move even with loud bass & gently pressing the cone with four fingers like this :o: & not on the centre cap will not get much movement. The other sort is the Lightly Damped type with a soft foam or rubber edge & cheaper versions will pump on the bass quite obviously, the typical response from a speaker most will know from cheap stack systems etc & pressing the cone shows it moves very easily. Due to how designs are made there will be a variance between these types, especially on cheaper ones, but we are only considering the more expensive speaker of 50w or more.
In older speakers such a Tannoy & others, there are Corner Speakers. Are these any good? The cabinets will be a different design & the internal volume won't be as big as a typical Tannoy Gold Lancaster cabinet. There were no Corner Speakers made in the 1970s by Tannoy showing it's an old idea from the Mono era where just one speaker being used, to put in the corner would be often done. The old fashioned Hugh Brittain idea of "Stereo Seat" to us is useless, so we'd advise with bigger speakers put them flat to the wall with no toe-in & have them firing down the room. this gives far better Stereo than the awful idea of a "sweet spot" where the Stereo image would get closer to a point & then be apparently incorrect beyond that. A Stereo mess & why this idea still continues is because nobody thinks how poor an idea it is. Personally we've never toed-in speakers since the 1980s on realising it was pointless & looked messy. For smaller speakers that can't really fill the room with sound, to site them on stands to be the right height in a seated position with the treble driver height a little lower than in-line with your ear height. To have the speaker actually pointing at you, rather than just put somewhere that's easiest. Bad ideas like fitting speakers in the ceiling or mounting high up on speaker brackets not even tilted down like PA systems in a Disco etc would do show how little thought goes into speaker placing.
AVOID MUTI-DRIVER SPEAKERS.
The ideal speaker is either a dual-concentric like Tannoy use, this is a tweeter inside behind the bass driver, or one with a small Treble Tweeter & a big Bass Woofer. Avoid any with more than two active drivers, as the overdesigned circuitry to use a Midrange Squawker kills the sound. Plenty of speakers have more than the 2 regular drivers, but in comparing these multi driver ones to the 2 driver ones, the sound will be hollow & lacking in presence. The difference is very noticeable as instead of having better midrange, midrange is more limited so you hear bass & treble louder & the treble can sound a bit grainy. There are some highly rated brands that use the multi driver system & you'll find many fans of them, unaware of better. You do find Bass Resonator Passive drivers that are a pretty pointless way of supposedly adding bass, but as these are not connected they can be ignored. Having 2 tweeters or 2 bass drivers isn't so good either as be sure one of the two will be slightly different & one crisp note can become a blurry sound, not that it'll be so obvious in a room, but it adds to weaken the sound. Bi-wiring is equally pointless yet was a fashion for a while, in use the only differences were imaginary, we tried all the daft ideas that were around in the late 80s-early 90s, except the Green Pen CD one as it was too silly. Bi-amping or tri-amping is not recommended as again phase time delays will blur the sound. Omni-directional speakers are lousy too, the sense of stereo will vaniosh as L+R blurs together with no pin pointing. My, we've rubbished a lot in this paragraph. It helps narrow down your options & saves you money. Go read our Cables page too.
USING MORE THAN ONE SPEAKER PAIR
Many amplifiers let you use two pairs of Speakers on one amplifier, to use in another room or give a more surrounding Stereo sound. Some let you use Three pairs, but not all at once. Why is that? An 8 ohm speaker is nominally 5 to 6 ohm if you read it with a multimeter, so in reality your amp will see varying Speaker loads over the frequency range as you'll read elsewhere. Take an 8 ohm speaker pair, use one pair, no problem. Two pairs parallels them as a load on the power amp & instead of being the same or higher resistance you may expect, it actually puts a heavier load, the maths for 2x 8ohm speakers is 4 ohms. Most amps can take 4 ohm speakers easily enough, but not all. The actual 6 ohm x2 is a 3ohm load, again most amps should cope. But if you try to use 3 or 4 speakers without realising you will probably trash the amp, we saw a Sony amp used like this, it still worked but the power transformer had seriously overheated, lesser quality amps would be unrepairable. 3x 8ohm speakers is 2.66ohm, 3x 6ohm speakers is 2ohm, 3x 4ohm speakers is 1.33ohm, 4x 8ohm speakers is 2ohm, 4x 6ohm speakers is 1.5ohm, and 4x 4ohm speakers is 1 ohm. Some of the fool-bwoy car amps can take 1 ohm to give 3000w power but your hifi amp will not like more than 2x 8ohm speakers on it, that is speakers rated as 8ohm in the specs, not what they read on the multimeter. Do not use 2x 4ohm or 1x 8ohm plus 1x 4ohm, unless the amp specifically gives you ratings in 2 ohm or 1 ohm like some post 1980 amps do.
TYPES OF AMPLIFIER
This is where the trouble starts. As with Speakers, there are two basic types: the Early design with No Differentials & usually Capacitor Coupled as well as based on valve amp designs. We know two 1967 amps that are Semi Complimentary. It makes no difference how the preamp is designed to how the power amp sounds though some amps may have a 400mV output from the preamp & others can have 2v meaning the power amp will have a different gain. The odds are one of these pre 1970 Amps will be a perfect match for the 1969 Tannoy Golds. These amps may be too Bassy for Modern Speakers
Then the later Semi Complimentary or Fully Complimentary design that started in 1971 in Japanese & USA designs, though UK amps still used the early Cap Coupled design. The fact that several of these post 1971 amps can drive the Tannoy Golds again gets us to rewite the page. The fact of the Yamaha CR-700 being a Bad Match & the CR-800 from the same range being a Great Match is just confusing. In fact the more amps we've tested, the more it seems there are actually very few amps that Do Not Match the Tannoy Golds, see the list a little lower down.
HIGH POWER AMPS DRIVING LOW SENSITIVITY SPEAKERS
This is a strange 'craze' at one time when it was thought to be a good idea that a 300w was needed to drive 'difficult load' bookshelf speakers with dB/W sensitivity of 84dB or even less. Utter rubbish says we. A 300w amp will be pushing the tiny 5-6" Drivers really hard, pushing the amp really hard & using a lot of current, be sure you'll be near clipping even at 300w into these useless low sensitivity speakers if you want to party. A 300w amp may not put out much more volume than a 100w amp but it'll have far greater current capabilities & cost a lot to run. It's a poor idea as far too much energy needed & be sure the insensitive speaker won't sound as fresh as more sensible matchings. You'd be surprised how loud some of the 18w amps we've had recently, the Duette, Coral & 10w Trio W41 valves using 95dB easy to drive speakers gave enough volume to play Dr Who's THX style soundtrack to a good volume, if not much more without flattening off. You can find chart-converters to show how much gain a 20w or 20w amp has & past 100w you get very few more dBs gain. So the 20w amp playing an easy load speaker can get good volume. In buying speakers, if you want them for more than background, look for at least 88db if not 90-95db. Some PA ones can be 105dB which will bring up the natural background hiss as 88dB to 105dB means it'll be 17dB louder.
THE TEST TO SEE IF THE AMP IS MATCHED TO THE SPEAKER...
Use the Tone Controls from Max to Min: do they make much difference to the overall sound? They should make a typical ±10db gain based on the amplifier spec, so a full 20db difference should be very clear on both Bass & Treble. On the very best Hifi, only found by design based upgrading, you can reveal a sound that makes TV background noises sound so realistic you need to Mute or Pause the TV to see it's not actually inside or outside. This is what very wide dynamics in Hifi can bring & we have only ever heard one Transistor Amp capable of this, guess which one, though we know this sound from Valve Amps. Beware Modern amps may give ±10db gain on Tone but only at the extremes so +10db at 10kHz on a modern amp won't sound anything like ±10db at 2kHz on an amp like the Pioneer SA-9500. If you don't have an Amp with Tone Controls, go get one as you need Tone Controls to easily test if speakers match well, there seems to be no other way than listening. Find another amp that matches well with the Tone tests & then compare them set Flat on Tone. If the non-Tone one is duller or much brighter, then it's not a good match.
MATCHING SPEAKER EFFICIENCY & SOUND LEVELS
We only really know the Tannoy 15" Golds & have no interest to try other speakes, as other sections on the page show. They are 50w RMS rated though you never read of Peak Music Power like you do smaller speakers. They are rated 95dB efficiency, more on efficiency found via Google. We can tell you more beyond numbers & maximum clean sine output as per clean music handling ability of Amplifiers, as on the Power Ratings page. Take the 1968-70 Sony STR-6120, an amplifier likely designed using the Tannoy Golds or Silvers as these were the Best Domestic Loudspeakers for a long time until the early 1970s where progress was finally made by others. We've played the Golds in various sized rooms & the 50w Sony on the 95db Golds can always fill the room with power to spare. Some amplifiers play louder than others for the wattage so we have got good sound levels from the 1966 Coral 18w amplifier that could cope well with Dr. who type Cinema type sound. We tried the 10w Trio WX-400U valve amp & it couldn't quite drive the Golds with undistorted volume just not going loud enough. But there are many Loudspeakers with lower efficiency, many are 85dB to 88dB. This means 7dB to 10dB less volume than the Golds, so naturally the Volume Control needs to be turned up further & on smaller speakers the level of the frequencies below Midrange are quite obviously less, leaving a thinner sound. A while ago we had the B&W CDM-1 NT speakers to use on the computer, 88db rating with 50-120w suggested power & on the amp we used the volume needed a good 'two notches' higher to play the similar volume, accepting the less bassy sound. This is where trouble can start. If the Sony STR-6120 was happy playing a good volume with it's volume control at 11 o'clock position as per the tapering of the control, it would need to go past the 1 o'clock position to give comparable volume on the B&W ones. Having tested the amp to find out it's clipping point as per the Power Ratings page tests, it is just about at it's maximum power to give a good volume. Beyond that, the sound will flatten out & loud peaks will be clipped. We soon tired of the B&W sound if played loud they sounded better, at low volume it just didn't sound anything like the 15" Tannoys, 6" bass drivers never will & getting some cheap Tannoy 605 speakers was preferred, to then get some Tannoy 609 but never used them much.
As an example: Voltage or Wattage vs dB gain calculators show the 18w Coral Amp puts out a clean 14v (peak to peak, not RMS), the STR-6120 puts out 31v & a 110w Yamaha CR-2020 puts out 43v. Calculating simply voltage to dB shows the Coral has 23dB gain, Sony has 30dB gain & the Yamaha has 33dB gain. So 18w to 50w gives you 7dB extra gain but 50w to 110w only gives 3dB extra. With your smaller speaker losing 7dB to 10dB compared to a bigger one, the extra sound volume is easy to explain. Not so much the amplifier watts but the Loudspeaker dB gain. For PA amps in gigs & stadiums they use 95dB to 110dB speakers. The big Marshall stacks are 110db so using the 18w Coral amp you could realistically fill out a huge hall. So if you want more volume, get higher dB sensitivity speakers. You don't really need more than 50w. If you are using 84dB to 88dB speakers you really need about 80w to be sure the amp doesn't clip at medium room filling volume levels, but it'll still not be as loud as you'd expect. If your room is large, you can only be satisfied with speakers of 95dB or higher.
Another spec that speakers often put is the Minimum & Maximum Amplifier power recommended for the speaker. One modern speaker states 50w to 150w. This means a 50w amp will play the speaker but it's not going to be very loud as be sure the efficiency will be quite low & soon you'll clip out the 50w amp. A 30w amp won't be powerful enough therefore & would be very distorted by the time it gets to a good volume which is dangerous as clipping means DC voltage & this can trash a speaker. For a 50-150w speaker, aim for the middle, ie a 100w amp will play it to a good volume. But to us these low efficiency speakers are Not Worth Having as the sound from a Vintage amp through high efficiency speakers will easily outdo a modern 100+w through low efficiency speakers. This adds to how boring modern Hifi sounds & why so many are searching to better their overhyped modern amps by trying Quality Vintage & buying more efficient speakers.
WHAT DOES A PERFECTLY MATCHED AMP & SPEAKERS SOUND LIKE?
It sounds like it should sound is the easy but unhelpful answer. It should play a good volume well before halfway on the volume control & often by the 9 o'clock position it will be loud enough, depending on design. Play some TV sound, though we've found the TiVo box sound needs Bass & Treble tone to bring the sound out in comparision to other sources, it could be an impedance mismatch again to older equipment. Ignoring that, what you will hear are both male & female voices sounding like a person talks when they are in the room with you. The Midrange will make outdoor scenes sound very real & give much detail to them, including room acoustics. Treble will be crisp & well defined without being harsh or edgy, again depending on the quality of the amplifier. Bass will sound full but not bloated or thick & when you get a TV trailer with deep sub bass it'll hit you like it's designed to, not be slow & blurry. Most amps are limited on the deepest bass & bass below 40Hz is usually heavily limited. Our upgrades deal with this to bring the sound out more.
You go about your day hearing sounds that are wanted or annoying, male & female voices, over-revved cars, alarms beeping, screaming sirens, pins dropping, dogs howling & babies wailing. These are your Blueprints to help you decide if your Hifi is matched or if you've got it all wrong. The trouble is which source to use as your reference. FM Stereo via an Analog Tuner using an uncompressed station as Radio 2 is works best. You'll hear a good mix of male & female voices many of which are known TV faces. Be aware a Radio Studio is a small enclosed room with no residual noise & a Microphone placed close to the presenter often has a Treble peak on the highest Treble making a voice a little crisper. The Producer will add EQ & Balance to the broadcast to suit what their idea of Audio is, so some can be varying too. TV itself depending if you get it from a TiVo or from TV Line Outs we've found can vary hugely in sound balance as noted above. So can CD players, we hear a CD on the radio & then play the exact same CD & the Radio version is of a different tonal balance. An FM Tuner made for the UK market with the correct treble de-emphasis aka time constant is your guide. Forget the music played, instead concentrate on the voices & luckily Radio 2 do like to talk a lot.
GOOD SPEAKER-AMP MATCH
Heavy Damped Speakers + Light Damped Amplifier -or- Light Damped Speakers + Heavy Damped Amplifier. The sounds you should hear as noted above.
NOT THE BEST MATCH, ONLY SORT OF MATCHES?
We've found this on only a few amps now, this is why you need to try a few pairs of speakers, it is a confusing situation, read on. This is why some people rate a better quality speaker highly & others think it's awful, the speaker to get a high rating will actually be a good speaker, but not on all amplifiers. To each his own & many things to many people are generalisations, there are rarely perfect matches in Hifi. On playing them partly-matched amps louder they sound acceptable on the Tannoy Golds but at lower volume they sound dull which is not good for late night TV watching etc.. Using the Tone controls doesn't appear to add or remove much, with the full range of the control making not too obvious a difference, but a difference can be heard. On headphones the Tone controls are fine.
WHAT DOES A BADLY MATCHED AMP & SPEAKERS SOUND LIKE?
A good amount of Hifi will not be matched properly & for the lack of any other info, the owner just live with it & get used to it until they visit someone who has theirs set up better & find out theirs is lacking & be totally confused why. This is why people think open backed speakers sound good, or amps with Tone set to Max or even one we hear a PA midrange was about 30dB louder than the bass driver yet if this is all you know, you'll get used to it. These are the variants as comparing with being aware with the Good Match as well as knowing what Amps via Headphones sound like.
BAD SPEAKER-AMP MATCH #1
This is what we found using the 1969 Tannoy Golds & Yamaha CR-700.
Highly Damped Speaker + Highly Damped Amp. See section two below. This affects the sound so you only have a hard midrange. Treble is dull even with Tone set to full. Bass is blurry & with Bass Tone to full it's a messy blur as only the upper Bass has gain. There is no way to overcome this & is why people buy Graphic Equalisers to try to 'improve' the sound but end up making it worse with poor circuitry giving distortion. Here the Speaker is heavily damped & so is the Amplifier in effect taking note of out comment above, making the sound 'double-damped' & having a very poor response curve. From our findings, only a few early Yamaha are like this if even a valve amp with a poor design can not match well, sounding far too "up" on the midrange. It sounds like the Tone controls are set fully to minus & sounds awful. A bad match we heard using 1968 Tannoy Golds on the 1971 Yamaha CR-700. This sound we actually heard over 20 years ago with one system using some odd flat driver early 1970s speakers with a modern amp with no tone controls. It was a thin cardboardy sound that the owner liked, but later we found he preferred his headphones more, it's not the lack of Tone Controls, it's the mismatch.
BAD SPEAKER-AMP MATCH #2
We heard this with the 1968 Sony TA-1120A on Tannoy 609 speakers from 1992.
Loosely Damped Speaker + Loosely Damped Amp. See section one below. A less common one, but we know of it. It sounds like the Tone controls or Loudness are on full even with Tone set Flat, it may appeal to under-25s but Hifi it ain't. We heard this ourselves with a 1968 Sony TA-1120A amp & 1993 Tannoy 609s. We used to think before our deeper research that the later speakers were false bass & false treble with a low midrange, but it's just the effect of mismatching. All the Tannoy 605 had was a pretty basic crossover & it made no sense. We hear our Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 favourite is not a good match with Tannoy HPDs as bass is excessive. But having heard another opinion, it seems to take notice of other's opinions as with any 'unqualified source' opinion is not to be taken as fact. We write the site on our opinions based on our very wide experience. only that matters to us. This mix of low damped speaker & amplifier may be 'fun' if you are young, but it'll tire out the rest of us as it's not bringing a Hifi sound out of either item. The treble was harsh, the bass was stupidly loud & the midrange was therefore recessed.
HOW TO TELL IF SPEAKERS MATCH? Only Way Is To Try Them.
Ideally one should be Loosely Damped & the other Highly Damped to give a balance. "Damped" doesn't relate to Damping Factor, but it's a perceived idea, Speakers with Flappy Cones on Bass are Loosely Damped, Speaker Cones that barely move even with Bassy Music are highly damped. As for Amplifiers, this is harder to quantify or generalise, another day perthaps. The truth on speaker matching is some of a brand may match fine, others in the same series from the same year might sound very different as the Tannoy Golds 12" & 15" compare on this page shows. But there the cabinets on the 12" were the weak point. The only way to know if a speaker matches an amp is to try it. We're not going to ever try that many speakers as we'd only consider the sound of 12" or 15" ones which are usually the most expensive. The Tannoy 605s are a simpler design to the 609s, the more honest 605 sound compared to the tailored 609 one. One particular speaker used with a particular amp in one home's larger Lounge made of bricks with wooden flooring will sound very different if you move to a flat with concrete floors & 9mm Plasterboard walls in a smaller Lounge. What could sound a bit soft in the large wood floor room could sound too harsh in the small concrete floor room.
ALL AMPLIFIERS & RECEIVERS WE'VE TRIED ON 1969 TANNOY GOLDS.
This page gets updated with new arrivals & revisited amps. For further details on these amps can be found on the Top Amps page. The best match is "Great Match" as there are actually shades of difference, so to leave "Great Match" as the highest rating. "Good Match" is worth a try if not the best as back as Tone test variation on Tone isn't so noticeable. Anything less than "Good Match" really is Not A Good Match. Halfway Match means the sound is still detailed enough on Treble, but the Tone ± doesn't give a wide difference compared to the sound on Headphones. These Halfway Match & Not Compatible ones are best used on Post 1975-Modern Loudspeakers, based on what others have told us. Two receivers we've noted have a wider range on the Bass giving a Big Sound, this means they are perhaps the most Perfect Match to the Tannoy Gold, the Trio-Kenwood TK-140X & Sansui 3000A, if the TK has ±10db & the Sansui ±12db.
As you can see, the Age of The Amp actually isn't important with a 1978 Luxman & 2007 Marantz matching the 1969 Tannoy Golds well. Sort of throws all theories in the bin... The perfect match we hear as using full Tone it is excessive, Good Match means Full Tone is right & anything less is incorrect sounding. Rooms need Tone controls to correct the sound based on what the user likes, we crave the detail, others don't & we've heard one person playing the dullest flattest sounding speakers & he loved the sound. It's all about what you know & what you like.
Tannoy Golds match great to the majority of pre-differential era amps perfectly & many later amps at least match Good to Great, with just a few that are a poor match. Later Tannoy HPDs will match to the later Differential era better & may be too bright-too bassy for the earlier amps as stated above.
Again, a unique listing of amps & how they match to just one popular high quality loudspeaker. It is possible to upgrade any amp to get it to match the loudspeaker, as an example the Harman-Kardon 930 was a bad match as much too bright & peaky on midrange but we upgraded it to sound exceptional, though having tried this on a few later amps this is not usually the outcome. Differential amps generally don't match earlier speakers as well unless the designer is aware of this issue & gets it nearly right, note none are a Perfect Match as the pre-Diff era. This gives a good enough idea which match the 15" Tannoy Monitor golds in Lancaster cabinets & we'll only note ones that don't match & recently none early or later are bad matches.
These Match Ratings are based on Serviced & Recapped amps ONLY tested on 1969 Tannoy Monitor 15" Golds.
Anything unserviced or past it's best is unlikely to match similarly. We have tried a few amps that we trusted once serviced, if not upgraded & generally the match scores are pretty much the same. Upgrading as you'd expect improves the quality, better bass response & cleaner treble are the main improvements. Better speaker control, smoother sounding & even less hum & hiss are why we upgrade amps. The more amps we try, the ratings change. For 1969 Tannoys, later amps rarely match 'Great', many are 'Good'. It really depends on your listening taste & if the room needs treble & bass gain. Other Speakers will match the ones we call less than Good Match, ie the 1974 Tannoy HPD or Yamaha NS-1000 will suit these amps better. SUMMARY... Tannoy Golds match amps of their era well on nearly all. Only once the Differential Era with different design specs do some amps not match well, if we've found several that Match "great". Some are a Good Match which means it'll sound listenable but not hearing the amp at it's best. Fair Match is not one you'll be too happy with if maybe using Tone stages more could suit & Poor means it sounds much too dull, all midrange & no treble. IN THEORY it is possible to design an amp to match any speaker, if to actually offer that as a Service by us is not happening & may just be too wild to consider, if we have had success trying this on a Heathkit AR1500 & Yamaha CR-2020.
1957 Quad II pre & power amps = great match (2002 opinion)
1963 Trio WX-400U = great match if needs so much rebuilt
1963 Trio W41 = great match, if not upgraded as much so volume lower
1979 Luxman LX33 = great match if 30w valves can be very loud
1993 Tube Technology Genesis Monoblocks + Pre = good match
2004 Prima Luna Prologue 2 = fair match as amp peaky midrange
TRANSISTOR AMPS pre Differential era...
*these are Direct Coupled designs
1965 Sony TA-1120 (not A) = great match
1966 Akai AA-7000 = great match
1966 Coral A-550 = great match with 18w enough for good volume
1966 Duette SA-500W = great match & good volume for 18w also
1966 Fisher 440-T = great match
1966 JVC Nivico MCA-104E = match is good if SEA not full range of tone
1967 KLH 27 receiver = great match
1967 HH Scott 334-C = great match
1967 JVC Nivico 5040U = great match if the EQ may not be everyone's taste
1967 National Panasonic SA-65* = great match
1967 Sansui 3000A* = great match
1967 Sony TA-1120A = great match
1967 Trio-Kenwood TK-66 = good match, upgrades to match great
1967-68 JVC Nivico 5010U = great match once upgraded
1968 Dokorder Model 8060 = great match if a loud amp
1968 Sony STR-6120 (Tape Head or Aux 3 versions) = great match
1969 Sony STR-6050 = great match
1969 JVC Nivico 5003 = great match
1969 Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 = great match
1969 Trio-Kenwood TK-140X = great match
1970 Akai AA-8500 = good match
1970 Nikko TRM 1200 = good match, expected a better match for design
1970 KLH Model Fifty Two 52 = great match
1970 Pioneer SX-990 = good match, lower current & power limits it a little
1970 Sony STR-6850 (STR 6050 circuit) = great match
1971 Realistic STA-150 = great match, midrange control useful
1971 Realistic STA-220 = great match, midrange control useful
1971 Hitachi IA-1000 = great match
1972 B+O Beomaster 4000 = good match, would have expected a better result.
TRANSISTOR AMPS Differential era
1969 Teac AG-6000 = great match, expect the same on other 1969-71 Teac
1970 Sansui AU-666 = good match once upgraded if not much treble gain
1971 Sansui 5000X = good match
1971 Sony TA-1130 = good match
1971 Yamaha CR-700 = poor match, the worst match to the Golds
1972 Akai AA-8080 = good match, tone on bass gives ample gain if treble a little less
1972 Rotel RA-610 = great match
1972 Rotel RA-810 = great match
1972 Rotel RX-800 = great match
1972 Harman-Kardon 930 = upgraded to our spec great match
1972 Sony TA-2000F/TA-3200F pre power = great match
1973 Pioneer SX-828 = good match
1973 Pioneer SA-9100 Mk I = good match, bass tone doesn't do much
1973 Sanyo DCX-8000K = fair match, acceptable but not showing it well
1973 Yamaha CR-1000 = fair match to poor match, the design gets altered
1973 Yamaha CR-800 = good match
1974 Heathkit AR-1500 = good match
1974 Yamaha CR-400 = great match
1974 Pioneer SX-838 = good match
1975 Pioneer SA-9500 = good match
1976 Technics SU-8080 = good match if tone stage doesn't do much
1977 B+O Beomaster 4400 = good match
1977 Rotel RX-603 = good match, bass goes full treble just a little less
1977 Yamaha CR-1020 = good match, bass goes full treble just a little less
1977 Yamaha CR-2020 = good match, bass goes full treble just a little less
1978 Luxman R-1040 = good match, bass goes full treble just a little less
1978 Luxman R-1050 = good match, bass goes full treble just a little less
1979 Sansui G-8700DB = great match, unusual for a later amp
1982 Luxman L-410 = good match on mid & bass if treble holds it back
1984 Sansui AU-G90X = fair match flat but tone stage doesn't do much
2007 Marantz PM6002 = good match, bass goes full treble just a little less
BUT YOU STILL AREN'T SURE...?
Now the thing is most Humans have little grasp of what sound should be like as the Golden era 1967-77 is decades away & for the fact of tiny satellite speakers with subwoofers, most people don't know what Hifi should really sound like. Most never did, TV sound through puny speakers as one 1950s writer stated doesn't bring any quality to the sound. Not many people bought the best Hifi in the Golden Era, most bought a Music Centre or Radiogram. It's not a born talent to understand sound, it needs developing like wine tasting & art. If you've never done pencil drawings since you were eight, be sure you'll still draw a Cat like eight year old you did as you never developed the skill.
The Old Hifi books used to say go to Classical Concerts but the thing is instrumental music doesn't relate to real life like talking to people & then listening to Radio 2 voices in the home does. Do you hear Flutes & Oboes in your daily life or Cascading Violins or Kettle Drums? No you don't. Classical Music has it's place & can generate a huge volume of unelectrified sound but it won't relate to Home Audio as the Dymanic Range is too huge for Domestic Amps & the Recording is usually adjusted for Volume to fit a domestic setting. If it wasn't a full orchestra crescendo would create grooves untrackable in a record & then the quiet bits of which are many in classical would be below the surface noise of even an unplayed LP. So, the voice is the sound you hear most, or did perhaps with today's heads-down tech, and the voice is your true Blueprint. Those using speakers with 5" 'Bass' drivers will hear little bass anyway despite the hype so the sense of the Amp & Speaker sounding too Dull or too Bright is more the key to overcome small speakers limitations. Once you've heard a 15" speaker you'll not be able to be happy with one smaller, size does matter if the size brings quality. But even if you have no FM tuner or any other reference, try a few amps on one speaker or one amp with a few speakers & pick out the most neutral one. Bright & Bassy isn't neutral, it'll tire you out as we assume all readers of our pages are over 30 if not over 40. So to just look at our Top Amps & buy one of those with no idea if you'll understand it, only reading what Forum users say (yawn...) use the right speakers with it is why we've seen some of our amps getting resold. Forum users are usually newbies & be sure every crappy average amp will have someone praise it like it's the best they've heard: they are inexperienced. The owner of our amp who resells it had no comprehension of what they had, or how to get the best out of it. The unaware buyer-seller of one had been used to worn out Valve amps & a little foolishly considered one of our best Amps hard sounding, together with likely using mismatched mediocre speakers or preferring the soft aged wallowy sound to a fresh cleanly restored amp sound. They haven't got a clue have they thinks we. Why should they if they've not taken the time to learn & understand Hifi. Not all people understand & perhaps they've got in too deep as money talks but doesn't educate you. So perhaps best they sell it to one who'll appreciate it.
The world of online selling in busier times was with those fool buyers who paid huge money for an esoteric overpriced modern amp & said "5 hours use" proudly revealing their stupidity as they never even ran the thing in or used it for long enough to understand it which is insane. Be sure their system was mismatched & they bought it based on what someone wrote about it saying it was good, but not noting what else was used it failed.
Test the Amplifier Output...
We've run test tones to see the output on some amps to check they are not at fault. The Sony TA-1130 tested a while ago gave a perfectly flat response 20Hz to 20kHz. The Sony STR-6120 had a tiny variation of about 0.5% which is negligible. The Pioneer SX-828 was even tighter. On Headphones they sounded pretty much similar once upgraded with similar ideas. But on the Tannoy Gold speakers the responses were different to the point it's possible to prefer one over another as other sections on this page show.
Comparing a 1970 amp on Early & Late Loudspeakers
We just remembered this from just before starting any Hifi pages. The Hacker GAR-550 which is an FM receiver with a Turntable, call it as you wish, is one we had years ago & wanted to see what we thought of it later. We've had several Hacker GARs over the years, they are transistor amps with 10w on the GAR500 & 14w on the GAR550. The latest one we had came with the matching early type speakers from 1971 as the receipts showed so it's how it was sold. Later ones came with a corrugated foam front that will have turned to dust by now. The Hacker speakers were the higher spec LS1500s with a round Goodmans bass driver, a paper midrange & a paper tweeter. On the Hacker, which we rated in our Top Amps list, has a nice sound as a simple design & we did upgrade it to sound even better. On these original speakers it had a pleasing neutral sound, neither too bassy or too trebly but neither thin or too dense on the midrange. At that time we had Tannoy 609s as desktop speakers with a modern amp before going more Vintage & they were as we tried the Sony TA-1120A elsewhere on this page. So try them with the Hacker. A much brighter bassier sound but the midrange was disappointing even with Tone set flat. The livelier sound may fool some into thinking the 609s were 'better' but after tiring of that awkward tonal balance, returning to the LS1500s revealed the finer qualities of sound again and was preferred. Inside the LS1500 there was a decent crossover with capacitors, resistors & inductors, unlike some we've seen having just a single capacitor for the tweeter. A good amount of foam & wadding kept resonances acceptable. These were no Tannoys but certainly good midrange gear. We sold them quickly for £70 at the time which was priced at what we paid for the lot including a cabinet. You as the music listener may be happily unaware of an overbright boomy sound as you use Tone up too high, but to one with a Trained Ear for Hifi quality, it takes a lot of years & a lot of amps & by Headphones is the best way to learn it. If watching TV late at night, a bit more treble does help, but remember to turn it back for daytime volume or it'll be unbalanced & you can fool yourself so easily with sound as stated elsewhere by us. We can tell pitch of a record is a tiny bit slow or fast even on tracks we know, again showing the mind of the typist is tuned in, a misspent youth playing Records & Hifi ends you up dealing in the same as you can see.
Hiss and Hum
A modern hifi item can boast -100 to -120db noise levels so you hear absolutely nothing via speakers of 92db or less, as the maths would suggest & even loud PA speakers with 105db can have a silent background if items are chosen. But such a low noise floor means there is a lot of NFB & the design is not running to the top specifications, all to please today's buyer. Looking at Vintage Amps, plug one into 92db speakers & unless you get right up to the speaker you'll hear nothing except in the total dead of night with no outside traffic etc noise. Play headphones & you will hear a trace of noise, our Audio Technica ATH-M50 headphones are 99db sensitivity. All amplifiers will give the Noise Floor db rating, aka Signal to Noise Ratio, it varies as a -db or just a db rating but means the same. To see ratings on some of our favourite amps follows, so a 1968 Sony STR-6120 rates as -90db on Aux but only -70db on Phono so you will hear some background noise. The 1971 Sony TA-1130 is similar. The Sansui 3000A is noisier as it's a 1967 with -75db on Aux & -70db on Phono, though upgraded the noise level is nearer to -85db at an estimate. The 1977 Yamaha CR-2020 is now -100db on Aux and -95db on Phono. A 1986 Yamaha A-720 is -106db on Aux & -92db on MM Phono. We can't find db ratings on valve amps though 1961 Trio KW-60 one states it in mv with Aux as 10mv noise & Phono-Tape Head as 80mv noise. The thing with vintage valve amps is they can be run on 'cool' spec to give very little noise, but to optimal spec the background noise can be quite high to perhaps -60db, but when music plays you'd never hear the noise but for music with lots of 'quiet' the noise will be obtrusive. Valve Phono stages can be designed to give very low noise levels though for a MC Phono the level a MC cartridge puts out can be a problem, though we've never heard of any hair-shirt wearers using a MC cartridge to try one. On Headphones, the background noise can be noticeable, but on Loudspeakers you'll not hear it. This is due to the Speakers being a distance away unlike Headphones right on your ears & also Headphone circuits differ with some louder than others.
Loudspeakers don't sound like Headphones
Your Speaker is at least 6 feet (2m) away from you & is subject to room reflections & resonances of things in the room with it. A headphone is right up to your ears has no softening of the sound as a room does & also the headphone silences the outside world to a degree. With Headphones, we've found much finer Fidelity in amps only to plug them into speakers & not hear such fine detail. The Stereo width & fine crisp treble is blurred by the room, though sit up very close to the speakers & it sounds different. Take "The Simpsons" soundtrack: on speakers the voices sound acceptable & we've never noticed what the problem with them is until trying headphones once. The voices are recorded in small sound booths as shown on TV occasionally so when you hear a character talking outside in a grassy area you hear a small room acoustic that is totally against what you see. We might be one of the few who can visualise the acoustic into the size of the room used, we can hear on 1960s Ska how small the studio is & these tracks are not the highest of fidelity & in mono. But on speakers The Simpsons & the Ska just sound different though on less busy tracks we can pick out the studio size acoustic & have mentioned it to others as we listened who had no idea. Probably a kooky lost-sense thing like those who can see colours to music or see auras around people.
The Headphone output socket runs from the Speaker output stages but via a resistor. This stops Headphones interacting with the amplifier design as with the Valve amp transformer & is why amps can sound very different on Speakers but very similar on Headphones. On headphones the Trio WX-400U and Yamaha CR-1000, both much upgraded, sounded very similar. But on speakers the NFB & Damping Factor means they sound very different. If you heard these in a Demo you'd be thinking the Yamaha was a bad amp. But match the Yamaha with a later era speaker, even a 1990s Tannoy 609 & it'll come to life.
The Headphone Circuit values are critical to the volume the amp puts out. In terms of a Volume, it should be "loud enough" on headphones and big 15" speakers at the same Volume Control setting. The thing with Vintage Amps is they may have been designed for the Manufacturer's own Headphones that might not have been standard & on modern headphones may play too soft or too loud. The Audio Technica ATH-M50s we use are 40 ohm resistance which gives a flat response, see the Headphones page for more. Some get it right, others are nearly right, some are too high so the volume is too low which hides the sound playing on speakers reveals & others too low so it's too loud sounding too harsh. To get the idea, on Headphones it should be loud enough but not too "scary" loud to become tiring, but neither too soft to not sound as lively as it does on speakers. With a correct Headphone circuit, it should be Loud enough at around 4.
Valve Amplifiers are Different.
A valve amp will behave differently to a Transistor Amp in matching to speakers of quality. Before getting the Tannoys we used a home made cabinet with modern 15" Fane 200w speakers with varied Tweeters, from Bullet to Horn & then ones from a Tannoy HPD. These suited the Valve amps well though the Tannoys with a better crossover were far more refined. We bought some modern B+W CDM-1NT years back & played them via the Valve amps & bought them on the basis of our Home Demo. On reflection we played them only quite loud to hear how well they compared & at volume they were very good in comparision with a good midrange, if ignoring the lower bass roll off. But later at lower levels they were found to be uninvolving on any amp & a cheap pair of Tannoy 605s were preferred on using them as the Computer transistor amp system which varied from a modern one to two 1970s Sonys. But on the valve amps they had sounded much better causing us to pay the £££ for them brand new. We've never played our valve amps through any other speaker beyond that B+W pair and our own home made ones. The idea here is that Valve Amps with their Transformer coupling that isolates them from the amp stages to not affect the character like Transistor amps get, a bit like a Buffer stage or non-return valve in a water pipe. Also their low NFB & low Damping Factor suit a wider range of speaker ages than transistor amps do. Only by comparing a good range of quality speakers over the decades would confirm this further, though that's not really our interest. The Valve amps sounded good on 1968 Tannoys, 1992 Fane PA drivers & 2002 B+Ws. You may struggle to find a speaker that does not sound good with a valve amp even. But as you've read, Transistor amps are far more difficult. Valve amps meaning 'modern' push-pull type ones, not one valve Class A or the Single Ended Triode type with are based on very old designs that sound musical but are, dare we say, not really true Hifi as their audio range is limited at both ends. Sweet sounding, but incomplete.
A SPEAKER COMPARISON: Tannoy Monitor Gold 15" Lancaster vs 12" Chatsworth
We got these to service & recap the crossovers, so to compare the two will be interesting. Lancaster is a larger cabinet, 33 x 21 x 12", Chatsworth is 33 x 15.5 x 10". Both are sealed cabinets with no port, if the 12" in the Lancaster is ported, as the blocking panel inside shows. Lancaster first out in Jan 1965 available in Oiled Teak or Sapele Mahogany giving a choice of light or dark woods, most seen are Teak which with the golden colour is still very contemporary-retro looking, the darker mahogany maybe not so. The Lancaster is a classier looking cabinet as it is shaped if the Chatsworth is narrower better for modern shoebox living & still looks very smart. The 15" one is dated 1969 underneath & the 12" one is 1974, one of the last made before the HPD series. The Lancaster is heavily lined inside with 'slag wool' which is waste wool from manufacture but makes a good dense wadding when contained with the linen cover. The Chatsworth is just nylon wadding if fairly densely laid on in places & is original. On door-knocking the cabinet, the fairly lightweight Chatsworth makes a loose boxy sound, if the heavy Lancaster makes a much tighter sound & this will influence how the speakers sound. Connectors on the Tannoys vary, the earlier style ones were just a hole drilled towards the base of the rear panel with the cable poking through into a small grey screw block. The later ones had a spring loaded connector in the adjustment controls box, if a shorter cable to those controls but widely spaced & high up that is less useful. The crossover on both is the same if the later one adds 4 screws to hold the chokes in place. The speaker grille hole always leaves a darkened ring as the air movement over decades brings tiny dust particles, to take the driver out & gently wash, if much care needed on the protruding bolts when replacing. Visually the smaller 12" Chatsworth looks very smart if it was ourts we'd put about 10kg of weight inside as it's a bit light & this does help with the sound. On carpet the metal feet are fine & should not be altered for spikes, although the previous owner must have used Blu-tac with laminate or wood floors which is a good idea for coupling to the floor & steadiness. So to the sound... We used the 1966 Akai AA-7000 that is a remarkable amp, we are keeping one ourselves as the sound is so fresh & open as well as a very dynamic bass. On trying the 12" on the left & the 15" on the right, as in putting the 12" in the same place the 15" usually is, there are similarities & noticeable differences. The similarity is the smoothness of the sound which was always the Tannoy signature. The 15" has a more open wider sound dealing with male voices better & deep bass really does reveal itself. The 12" sounds more compressed, a bit closed in & couldn't really hear the deep sub bass the 15" just excels at. The 12" sounded like we were hearing a speaker, if the 15" pair are just there & not noticed if we're very used to their sound. Putting the 15" back in it's usual corner to see if there is any room difference, there was just a little more upper bass on the left one, so this makes the 12" a little less rich again, deep bass & treble were comparable L to R. As for the worthiness of recapping, bearing in mind the caps are 40+ years old we found recapping did bring extra finesse to the sound if not hugely, to recap is worthwhile, if finding the right caps beyond the ridiculous 630v ones when the originals are 10-100v is the challenge. The opinion so far is the smaller driver & smaller cabinet do make a noticeable difference to the size of the soundstage & realism, as well as the deep THX-type sub bass is really only found with the 15" in the bigger Lancaster. This is why we have loved this speaker for so long & have never strayed from it. If you buy a 12" be sure you will love it too for the quality is certainly here, but after reading this, maybe you'll wish you went for the 15" Lancasters instead? Looking at the 12" Monitor Gold drivers, these have a rubber surround that doesn't perish. Interesting to see dust gets in the back of the cone over the years & the bolts were not very tight which will lose a tiny bit of 'control' to the sound. The 4 pin plug is the same, 4 screws take off the plastic magnet cover revealing the tweeter assembly at the back, oddly with a leather pressed vinyl pattern on it. The 15" is a huge speaker that is much more heavily built in all ways & it has a doped cloth surround, allowing the deeper bass, the 12" MG cone moves quite easily, the 15" doesn't appear to do anything even with bass notes, the 15" is much heavier damped. The 12" was used for ported versions of the Lancaster which may aid deep bass for the less-damped MG 12" driver. The speaker plug will horrify those who believe a lick of Gold Plating is needed, these are just basic steel with a thin plating & not even glossy. Other Reviews of Sound the new owner of the 12"s found shows one writer isn't aware of speaker & amp matching, for them to say they weren't detailed or dynamic is the sort of Bad Match noted on this page. This is the trouble with amateur opinions, they rubbish something universally accepted as great because of their unawareness & lack of comparison. The fool doesn’t even say what amps he uses, these can sound way too midrangey on some valve & transistor amps just because they are a bad match. From that video, they sound good to me which is unusual for video sound, but he doesn’t understand them at all to rate them like that. It takes learning to understand good sound. His ratings are revealing he’s used more to bright harsh later speakers, to score less than 10/10 on their ratings reveals this. We remember how the 15”s sounded on first try & it took a few weeks to get used to the beautiful neutral sound, it usually needs Bass & Treble gain, but there is no better. The worst match Tannoy 15" is the Yamaha CR-1000, see the Match Chart about 1/4 the way down this page. Detail on these with the Akai & several others is exceptional, sweet, deep clean dynamics & the sub bass. You aren’t hearing speakers, you just hear the sound with no colouration or limit.
The sound on the 12" Chatsworth now recapped & serviced is actually far more together & smooth than before. After more listening, the sound is better with 25kg weights on top which damps the cabinet & holds it down better. There is still a midrange peak from the cabinets, they are too small & not well enough damped for the big driver, you see 8” & 10” drivers in cabinets that size. Bass is there if certainly not as deep as the 15” Lancasters which on known tracks leaves it a little incomplete, though you’d not miss it if you didn’t know. Verdict is top speaker & crossover, if the cabinets are mediocre & don’t compliment the quality of the rest as the big Lancaster cabinet does. Still a smooth listen, but one we tired of on TV speech.
Going back to the 15” Lancasters, the midrange is noticeably less as in it's balanced, those used to non-neutral speakers as one reviewer reveals, will think it lacks detail. Not so to the trained ear... But instantly noticeable was Stereo detail & a fuller soundstage. The TMG 15” in Lancaster are just so neutral, we’ve used ours for 13 years after all & playing them louder they are just all you want from a speaker. Using the Akai AA-7000 upgraded & recapped in a medium sized UK room that is fairly packed, we know the sound of them well & they are equally good in a bigger room.
The 1975 Tannoy HPDs vs 1968 Golds
The HPDs are the mid 1970s Tannoy speaker that appears to have sold better than the Golds or earlier Silver or Reds. They come in Berkeley or Arden cabinets & are as nicely retro as the 1960s cabinets, see more Tannoy info below. But the HPDs have a design fault as they used foam surrounds that perish with age, we see some amps with foam strips behind the fascia & the foam turns to gooey dust. These can be repaired or reconed by Wembley Speakers & others and kits are found on ebay, but for the price & skill of a Speaker company much better to have it done properly as a DIY job will rarely be good enough as you need tools & spacers etc. The Golds have a lacquered cloth edge & the cone does not move much if gently pressed & in use loud Bass barely sees any movement. They are fitted in Infinite Baffle cabinets meaning the case is fully sealed & the Bass works on the trapped air inside. If you look inside a Lancaster Cabinet, the typical Golds one, you'll see there is a blanked off port in the front that feels through the front cloth. What went in there we have never found out. The HPD as well as being far more compliant with their foam surrounds have bracing on the back of the cone to add rigidness. The HPD cabinets have two holes in the front for Bass Reflex loading, or using the air ports to deliver the 'breeze' the pumping bass drivers produce in order to enhance the bass. Whether the bracing affects the sound through the ports or creates any odd effects we're not aware of though there probably is a tiny difference. We've heard the HPDs before driven by a huge 1970s Pioneer receiver & they matched well.
For Transistor Amps...
Watts are a unit describing the amount of Current multiplied by Voltage. Watts are used to describe an electric Fire or Kettle usage. See more on the Power Ratings page. So you have a 50w amp. What Watt speakers should you buy? To decide, think how loud you will use it. If you only play TV at speaking volume & use Music at a similar volume or less then you are likely only using a few watts. Your 50w amp barely gets a workout. But if you Party Hard & push that 50w amp you are the one heading for trouble. If you use a 100w amp with 50w speakers & don't play it at very loud Party levels in a big room, the speakers will do fine. If your 50w amp is driven hard into 50w (or less) the chances are you'll trash the speakers & usually the tweeter gives up first. An amp clips as it goes beyond it's suited level and it's to do with Waveforms that are usually ~ shaped. Drive it too hard & they go |__| shaped & the __ bit means it's now DC not AC. Drive bass or treble too hard & there will be too many __ clipping waveforms & the DC from the __ will overheat the speaker voicecoil & trash it. But to drive a 50w amp hard into a 50w or 100w speaker will have the same effect as the amplifier is clipping & putting DC on the voicecoils. With a 50w amp, based on our Power Ratings page, drive it too hard & you'll get the equivalent of 30v of DC on your speakers which will overheat within a few seconds on a tweeter & longer on a bass driver. The DC heat builds up but it might only clip for half the time. DC offset on amplifiers is monitored by a Protection Relay on most post 1973 amps & it will trip the relay if it goes over 1v, so your 50w overdriven amp has little chance.
For Valve Amps
it's a bit different as Valves are known to 'soft clip' as they saturate & together with the Transformer will protect a speaker better, though a 30v sinewave at clipping will still produce the DC. Our 100w valve amps we've read clean AC at 95v & not just at 1kHz so they'll never clip. But valves ratings are different as the Valves page explains. Digital clipping it the worst of all as once it goes over 0db, read elsewhere. The Classic Guitar sounds of the 1950s & 1960s are based on Clipping & Distortion, you'll not read of many Guitar-heads preferring a transistor effects pedal though they do like Germaniums as they have unusual limits especially as they age, eg the AD140 germanium transistor only works up to 4kHz.
SO WHAT TO CHOOSE?
Play it only at speaking volume, choose most any amp & a speaker combination that may even seem mismatched, 50w amp into 25w speakers is OK but a 50w amp into 15w speakers is getting risky. But if you want to drive it hard to Party with or your room is a large one, much more care is needed. 50w amp & 50w speaker isn't enough. Go to a higher power (in transistors) to cope with your demands, if you use a 100w amp at high volume, choose 200w speakers to allow for peaks. The 1977 range Yamaha amps have power meters that read the power peaks being used. They are not fast acting so we couldn't see how a loud treble peak coped, but a loud deep bass 'boop' could register 80w when the general music was under 20w. Played at a high volume with tone controls used the power peaks will increase. You can see from our Power Ratings the Max Clean AC Voltage an amp will put out before clipping. The size of speaker you prefer will be based on room size or if you've had big speakers before, you'll not want little ones. Our ideas of Hifi are pre 1980 & satellite speakers with subs are junk to us & we've heard several in one Hifi shop as buying DVD players they were happy to demo things if it was set up. Get the biggest size bass driver you can, try to avoid speakers with more than one non-bass driver like the tweeter-midrange-bass ones. Speakers with resonators that look like a bass driver were popular & it works quite well. Speakers with Ports are the low damping type speaker, we remember the hefty wind the Sony APMs threw out of the front port, all hopeless when the heavier damped earlier or PA speaker puts out a far more refined bass with a fully sealed cabinet. You can't use a sealed cabinet on low damped speakers as bass will be too limited. Choosing speakers is as varied as choosing dinner or a spouse.
It appears the price of vintage speakers in nice condition cabinets is the "easy" way to decide. The better ones in any era, non Tannoy, 1960s to 1980s make £500-600, anything that looks impressive like the Yamaha NS makes £300-400 meaning they maybe aren't as good. Plenty of others make £100-200 that may seem a bargain, but as with anything, trust the prices meaning better quality. Then you'll have read already about the speakers vs amp age match. You can't do speakers on the cheap if you've got a good amp, to buy good speakers is the deal.
You may think this means you are protected from amp failure & overdriving if you can't hear the distortion, but like today's 'Protected' world, it's usually far from the truth. A 100w amp might put out 37v-43v & a 50w amp might do 25v-31v. But we've not liked to push amps too far to destruction as that's not a wise idea but for the hell of it did try one 110w NAD 300 amp (not using speakers) that puts out 44v clean but rose to 54v into distortion before the relay clicked in & seeing the waveform it was heavily clipped after 44v but still rose in voltage as the volume control was turned up & would likely have half-fried your speakers before the relay cut it off from them. We don't suggest you try that experiment, we did because we could, as you can see protection circuits usually come in too late. We've had some amps that the Protection stage needed repairing as it failed too. Some amps have Protection Circuits that do nothing more than turn the Preamp stage power off. It may hint to you the amp is in trouble by cutting the music out. Once the music is cut off the AC ~ level will have dropped, but if the Output Transistors get destroyed from overheating in about 2 seconds the speakers are at risk too as pure DC of 35v-60v depending on the power rating & design could still fry your speakers. We know 2 seconds is the time as one amp went bad but with the lids off we caught it in time seeing signs of trouble & were surprised it didn't need new output transistors. With lids on: no chance. The only protection circuits that really do totally disconnect the Speakers from a dying amp are ones with very fast acting fuses (the ones with springs inside) or more advanced relays. We know the Pioneer SX-950 has an oversensitive protection circuit that is annoying & today's AV amps do similar by the amount of non-workers for sale, though today it'll be a small computer chip monitoring things so it'll react fast. On upgrading Yamaha amps as we've done several, we need to change the turn-on time to cope with our upgrades needing longer to settle. The Yamaha amps have a good protection circuit that cuts the speaker off fully. The lousiest protection was the Leak 2000 that added a hopeless one shortly after making the first batch. The B+O 4400 has an awful one too, you know an amp is a bit crap when you have to repair the protection circuit after it got use.
How To Know A Speaker Sounds GOOD
Using the Tone Testing ideas above: Treble is clean, fresh sounding & extended. Bass goes deep but doesn't give bass if there is no bass there. Midrange is smooth, realistic & even. The idea we get listening to our Tannoy 15"s is there are no speakers, just the sound delivered accurately & smoothly, no artifacts, no boxy sound, no complaints. Never heard anything unnatural in over a decade using them. Playing TV soaps where Phones, Door Buzzers & Police Sirens go off you are confused if the sound is in your environment, not just the TV, so hit Pause or Mute to be sure. Other random noises like someone yelling off screen or mic bumps has us replaying a section to hear the noise is on the TV. Speaker sound like that removes the illusion of speakers & confuses your reality. Do you really want that? If you do, your Music will sound as deep & detailed too. The weight of a Speaker tells much too, as with any item, pick it up & for the size it should be heavy to show good construction, or if light leave it alone. The B+W speakers we had were very heavily built, but the bass driver was too small. A Bass driver to give a realistic "voice" must be of a good size. At minimum an 8" bass driver is the start into better sound, any speaker less will be a compromise & you'll tire of it. We have our Speakers either side of the TV with the sofa facing the TV. To have TV/Speakers on the narrower wall & the length of the room to give some distance is the idea. TV ideally should be with the middle of the screen at eye height when sitting down, if you want eye strain & neck ache, fit it high over a mantelpiece as the unthinking do until it hurts. Siting speakers is important too, backs to a wall or corner will firm up the bass or overdo it. The tweeters should be just under your ear height when sitting down so as not to get an ear full of treble. Speakers mounted high up the wall or angled away from the listener will just lose detail. Just because a Speaker sounds Good with one amplifier doesn't mean it is Good overall: reviewers loving & hating Speakers prove that Speakers often do not match as many amps as you'd like.
How To Know A Speaker Sounds BAD
Using the Tone Testing ideas above: Treble Detail is poor, Stereo imaging is poor. A Male voice will sound over-resonant, thick sounding with little criospness & working out what is being said is not too clear, though some actors & radio interviewees can mumble, the Host wouldn't be a host with poor Diction. A one-note resonant honky bass is on most items sounding the same even if you'd not expect it to be there. Treble can sound rough even though Headphones or better speakers deal with the same sound well. Odds are the Treble is suffering from the Mid Range Dip-Boosted Bass cheap moron designs of what we've heard in Speakers & Headphones where that fake sound is for cheap items, not better Hifi. See our Headphones pages as we had problems there too. The weight of a Speaker tells much too, as with any item, pick it up & for the size it should be heavy to show good construction, or if light leave it alone. Any speaker with a driver under 8" we've found is inadequate. The current awful idea of sugar-bag size satellites & a sub bass is a joke, where is the midrange & voice clarity to come from? It doesn't. Even some heavily built speaker with 5"-6" cones is going to lack the bass at the correct volume which is why people buy subs. Bad idea. The boxy sound is the enemy of any speaker with bass drivers under 10" as the buyer sadly has to buy small speakers & the inside reflections & inadequate construction just add that awful boxy sound. But as you'll have read above, even expensive speakers & amps can sound dull if mismatched. Having heard hifi shop sytems with tiny satellite speakers & thick whoompy sub woofers, yet no midrange voice creating a cavernous scratchy thick sound. Where's the midrange says we. "Never been asked for midrange before, only bass & treble" says the surprised salesman. Just because a Speaker sounds Bad with one amplifier doesn't mean it is Bad overall: reviewers loving & hating Speakers prove that Speakers often do not match as many amps as you'd like.
The vast majority of Speakers are generally awful
This is more about Quality Of The Speaker. Anything Cheap or that comes as part of a System usually means the Speakers are the cheapest made item & to upgrade them to "something better" will even make a 1980s Stack system sound better. Even buying expensive speakers like the B+W the small bass drivers will cause a 'boxy' sound. We knew it only by knowing big speakers don't have that & odds are people accept the boxy sound unaware. Beyond the wood construction the speakers often are not padded out properly inside & add to the colouration of the sound. Assuming you matched the Amp & Speaker age well, the quality of the speaker cases can affect the sound hugely. Overcomplex crossovers will affect how one amp sounds to another even of a similar age. Crossovers that are just a single capacitor for the Treble may sound more lively, but they are far from sophisticated as the response is uneven. A proper crossover like Tannoy 15" Golds use has chokes, capacitors, resistors & adjust switches to suit the driver & allow the user to adjust to suit their taste. One buyer has tried Celestion Ditton 44s & has found the sound to be weak on the treble & midrange. Having looked at the crossover, it heavily limites the sound to the bass driver to use a smaller midrange. We used to hear these 3 way speakers years ago & thought they weren't very good & this is why.
Improve Your Loudspeakers?
The urge to better Hifi is addictive, but all you can really do beyond smartening the cosmetics is to recap the Crossover. The old resistors & chokes will still be good but old electrolytics & old foil or similar ones with 3.3µf can easily be upgraded with decent polyprop ones for not much outlay. Ignore those who insist on 630v ones, those are for big valve amps, your 100w speaker will only see 50v max so to use the 160v or more commonly 250v ones will be fine. Don't bother rewiring with 'better' wiring, utterly pointless for 2ft or less. Don't fiddle with the resistors or chokes as you'll upset the sound balance. But often the Crossovers are overdesigned especially on the three or more drivers ones & lose too much of the sound which means you could need to alter things, which you'll probably never get sounding right as in the Sound Balance unless you use sound meters & the like. If the wood case 'honks' with the bass, forget thinking you can add extra bracing inside as you'll upset the internal volume & it'll alter the sound. All you can really do is add wadding or rubber panels to deaden the cabinet, or just sell them & buy a better pair.
Tannoy Golds & HPD Speakers are the Best
For the majority of Amps we've tested with them, these are the Best Speakers There Is. That's why the prices are forever rising. 15" Gold in 2002 was £950, today you see they are £2500. 12" Golds exist too. The HPDs are 10", 12" & 15" hitting the money now too going for £800-1200 in the Berkeley or Arden cabinets with the front cloth intact. If your Hifi is pre 1977 choose the HPDs which are ported, if it's pre 1971 choose the Golds or the Silvers which are sealed cabinets, infinite baffle. If you use Valves your choice of speaker is much wider as Valve amps interact with a Speaker differently through a transformer, with Transistors the speaker is directly in the amplifier circuit, even if capacitor coupled. We first tasted Tannoy in about 2001 in buying Records from a Reggae guy who liked his Hifi too. We got a McIntosh Amp from him & then tried other McIntosh, but never upgraded these amps. He had a huge Pioneer receiver, the biggest one & used various preamps with it. He had Tannoy HPDs & we got the damaged bass drivers as the foam was bad & in those days never knew you could get them repaired. He'd found some replacement HPD drivers & used them in his cabinets & the smooth open midrange heard through these even with an odd mix of hifi was very obviously different to anything heard before. Our homemade speakers were of a very basic crossover & the Tannoys were so much better if very different. Using the HPD treble on our speakers added a new quality, of course knowing now the crossovers would have made it way better. We got the 15" Golds within a year & initially they sounded quite mellow, with the correct crossover the sound was very different to what we knew. The cabinets were a bit rough so thought to take out the old wadding & put wood bracing inside would better it, wrong. Realise this was bad so bought another pair that we still have & wisely left them alone beyond recapping & adding binding posts. They've served us well in the years since. A case of learning the sound of these after all the uneven rough speakers & our ones with only a basic crossover were very lacking in the Tannoy sweetness. To know they were right & to get used to them gradually realising they were The King of Speakers. And with good reason.
Tannoy 15" Golds are the Best Ever Speakers...?
Yes. Perfect for pre 1970 & valve amps. They suit many if not all 1971-modern amps.
These 1968-72 era Tannoy 15" Monitor Gold 'Fifteen' are 50w £43 each in 1972, 12" Monitor Gold 'Twelve' are 35w £36 each & the 10" Monitor Gold III LZ are 25w £31 each. Earlier Silver ones are lower rated. The typical Lancaster cabinet was £63-69 each with 12" or 15" drivers. The Lancaster was introduced in Jan 1965 as the Hifi News 'New Products' page shows. The big GRF Autograph was £390 for a pair & one shop advertised it had the only pair on Demo in 1971. We got the Tannoys when buying records from a guy who sold us the McIntosh amp & he had some Tannoy HPD 10" that were probably the Cheviot ones. He'd got new drivers in these as the foam perished & the smooth tidy sound from them was quite stunning: in this world of OTT words this one is true. He had the old drivers with bad foam & as pre internet days were unaware you could red them, so, ahem, used the tweeters in our homemade speakers & just found the treble so pleasingly smooth. Most speakers are flawed is the sad opinion based on those we've heard & knowing the Tannoy 15" Golds from the late 1960s, anything else is a compromise. These Tannoys will reveal weaknesses in the rest of your system & as they are a flat natural design, not the tailored bass & treble boost at the expense of midrange that is the speaker sound of today, you may buy the 15" Golds & not understand right away. Be aware you've bought the best speakers there are, to pay £££ for a pair in the original cabinets. You'll only have to fit better cable connectors & put new capacitors inside the crossovers. They are 50w RMS rated, so 630v capacitors are a bit optimistic. Change nothing & only use the switches on the back to alter it. Then learn the sound they give is how it should be done. It will sound less bass & treble boost than modern speakers & the midrange is achingly accurate. You need a good sized room with solid walls to get the best sound from them. The 1990s Tannoy Sixes we bought the 609s & even without any crossover, you can hear the bass driver is "tuned" to a particular sound, ie no midrange but bass & treble are prominent. This is why fools say you don't need tone controls. Using the Tannoy Golds you will, as was the way at the time they were new. You may not have the space for big floorstanders & that's when buying speakers turns into an ordeal. Know what you want, know the price you want to spend & if you buy new ones, buy Online & take advantage of the ability to return goods within 7 days, buying direct from that biggest 'a-z' goods site is the best for this, though don't waste their time or yours, research first.
Tannoys with Dual Concentrics are The Best Speaker. They better any 2-way speaker as the tweeter is inside the Bass Cone area. The 3 way drivers just lose too much to try to add a midrange unaware they lose more midrange than add. The crossovers are too complex. No Studio would use 3 way speakers. The Golds with the treble disconnected actually play most of the frequencies through the 15” driver explaining why it has a good ‘voice’ & the tweeter just adds the highest frequencies, surprising how little the tweeter does really.
The only big speakers that are any good in our experience are the classic Tannoy dual concentrics of 12"-15". Note 'In Our Experience' as having used Valve amps for over a decade, never felt the need to try anything else. Leave them in the old teak cabinets, just redo the capacitors, shorten the inner wire that's stapled to the back panel, fit binding posts through new holes & hear the best sound there is. As we've said, these Tannoys are best for pre 1970 transistor, but any age of Valve amp will be suited to their characterists. To play them with a 1990s amp will leave you disappointed as they are very mismatched. Both Speaker & Amp heavily damped is why, see more above.
To give you an idea, watching TV using the 15” Golds & the 1967 Sansui 3000A which is very similar in sound to the 1968-70 Sony STR-6120, if a little fresher on the treble as it got more upgrades, TV sound like watching Antiques Roadshow, the voices are realistic, the tone of the intro music is crisp & clear. With other shows about How Things Work as on Discovery, the heavy bassy Rock music they use comes through clear & bass is only there when the music has it, no boominess, thickness or edgyness to the treble. Smooth & accurate. The Tannoys do need Tone control to suit a fully furnished room as is why Tone is necessary, though full Tone is too much for our use, but using it to bring a resolution suited to the sound we know & prefer. You don’t find yourself noticing any limits to the sound to notice they are there though they aren’t perfect as the response curves show & no speaker ever will be ruler flat to 0.5db, they are very well designed to amps of the era,
We are going through the Hifi Yearbooks to try to pick out the better speakers. We've heard of many of the good brands over the years if never having had ones beyond going right into the best with the Tannoys, but they are less suited to Transistor amps after 1970 to the point of very mismatched as stated already.
A lot of Tannoy 15" Golds buyers fit them in new custom built cabinets. Think on it: Tannoy built a speaker that is near perfection, so they got the Cabinets designed right with resonaces etc matching, the Lancaster design was the one most were sold in. See a pair in a 1981 episode of 'Minder' with Richard Griffiths. The original cabinets may be a little coloured in terms of a richness compared to solid concrete or other very rigid cabinets. The Lancasters sound great. Laugh at those who think they can better the original cabinets, in high grade they look retro for their age too. Because buyers still think the old cabinets are inferior, you could pick a pair up for £200 once. The Lancasters are a perfect match for the 15" Golds.
The first Tannoy 15" Golds we had were with high grade drivers but less nice cabinets. To take out the old wadding & brace the insides with wood & put modern wadding was another wasted effort as it just upset the smooth sound. The wadding inside these is a thick scrap wool type with an outer cloth to hold it in place. The arrogance to think you could better the Tannoy design is the issue. All we did to our current ones is fit proper binding posts & recap the crossovers which is worthwhile. Other ideas that never worked out is to fiddle with the crossovers. Some are too complex and to just put a single capacitor sounds awful. Leave the Tannoys exactly as it was beyond recapping & shortening the strange looped around long wire inside. Leave the crossover level adjust switches. The design is perfect for 1968 & sounds the best still 45 years later with the right era transistor amp or any valve amp. Those buying these big drivers to fit in their own cabinets are only fooling themselves that they sound better, odds are their own cabinets try to add a brightness to the sound to suit later amps. But your amp needs to be of the same era or a Valve amp. Later amps, as we found out above, do not suit these Tannoys as well, though there will be exceptions.
Looking at the Tannoy site, it appears they still make the 15" Dual Concentrics & a huge 138kg Westminster Royal SE, look for 'Tannoy Residential'. These 15" are rated 50w-225w so clearly are still being made, Tannoy know how popular the vintage ones are though how they'd compare Old vs New will likely be findable online.
What did we use in our early hifi listening years?
The first Hifi we played was the modest 12w Philco-Ford amp on the Top Amps page. It had matching speakers & Garrard SP25 Mk III turntable. On getting one recently, the amp had a fresh appealing sound if very limited as just 12w, Our first owned Hifi in the late 1980s was the Hacker GAR550, itself quite reasonable through headphones if with a ringing bass "step" as typical in this sort of item at the time. With cheap speakers that came with it that had thick corrugated foam fronts, long since disintegrated as we saw on other ones, it was dull, boxy & boomy in that typical limited way we are aware of now. But as a late teen, it sounded "cool" or whatever word was considered then. Playing a 1965 45 by Mary Wells "Me Without You" the intro was thick & boomy, hearing it today played correctly, the intro is much tamer, being reproduced correctly it sounds very different. We had a single rather heavy Wharfedale speaker around the time of the Hacker that always sounded much better than any others we had found, in those days it was used instead of the portable tape-radio player speakers, we fiddled with hifi & electronics even as a teenager.
After the Hacker player used in the family shop, we bought the Sony APM square driver ones for home use. They were seen as better quality & used with the Realistic STA-2280 receiver. On our ideas of hifi now they are pretty average & we recapped & upgraded the Realistic as their page shows. But then the Realistic had Bass, Loudness & that awful IMX expander & we are sad to say all on full giving a huge thick bass was what appealed at that age. Looking back many years, your younger ideals seem dumb know, but let the kids live their dumb ideas as it's their life. The sound we like now we'd have thought was Boring then, when you're young it's Boom & Tizz, quality & subtlety don't even figure. The Sony APM speakers we soon realised were false sounding & now know from the Tannoy 609s, even with no crossover network beyond a simple capacitor, they will never be "flat".
Later Speakers were whatever we could get, oddly shortly after burning the Sony's out & buying several Carboot speakers, we got some tall Rigonda piano lacquered speakers that must have been from about 1963 & we saw a pair with the matching radiogram on ebay. But they were pretty lousy & cheaply made despite the finish & on legs but with not much depth. So we built our own cases based on the sort of size these were, from chipboard & bought Fane Bass Drivers & Bullet Tweeters from Maplins, firstly 12" then later 15". These were not bad in retrospect, but we still being young in hifi, didn't do the crossovers right at all & liked it just with one capacitor to limit the tweeter. The sound we'd find very harsh now & even later experiments after getting that WWII Tannoy speaker were open baffle ones as we found ideas in old books. Not good ideas though as no bass but a good voice as the WWII Tannoy had. Later getting heavy chipboard from an old built in wardrobe we made the 15" driver version. These then got painted & veneered later with expensive Mahogany veneer. They're out there somewhere still as we sold them. But finding the HPD Tannoy tweeter sections we had on some bad cone 10" speakers were so much nicer than the ones we had on those home made cabinets. Then thought to buy the Tannoy Golds as the treble drivers were so smooth unlike the rough PA bullet or horn tweeters.
REALLY. Years ago we used to see random old Hifi including ancient PA gear and some we got for ourselves like the Rogers Cadet & others. To just plug it in & see what happened was sadly how the manager of the shop did it, safety was just the option to run. Now one day an amp with a single bare two-core wire came in & a 2 pin round mains plug, as is used for Stage Lights today, was connected to it, perhaps it was a rare early PA or Guitar amp or nothing special. It then got plugged into the mains via an adaptor block as did all items, no circuit breaker even. But that wire was a speaker cable actually & so a poor speaker of probably 20w maximum got connected to the full strength of the 240v mains. What happened? A very loud 50Hz sound blasted out, as loud as a car horn, a pure clean 50Hz tone. It got rapidly switched off and there was no smoke or fire as caught very fast. Whether the speaker still worked was never found out & it was sold in a bulk lot of other items to someone who appreciated them a bit better & looked a little closer. But some Maths here: assume the old speaker was 15 ohm. Mains was 240v so the current was 16 amps. The power therefore was 3840w for the second it was plugged in & probably survived as too quick to overheat as there was no smoke. Not one to try at home, folks... one Brainiac never tried.
Hifi Speakers 1956-1981
This is taken from the 1956 to 1981 Hifi Yearbooks that represent most of what was available in the UK. As our similar Receivers & amplifiers pages show, there are often models that are omitted by these books & the 1979 book especially misses out loads. It got boring & too many to wade through with knowledge of what there was after 1970 though we do cover the Tannoy ranges.
For today's transistor amp user a speaker of at least 40w is needed. Many on a budget will use lower powered items which may sound nice, really aren't the best in Hifi & if you care enough about music as well as have money to spare then to try the better amps & speakers will make you happy as you revisit your Old Tunes with a fresh ear to how they sound & remind you how old you are & have forgotten how essential music is once played on good Hifi. In transistors we don't really consider amps under 40w of being Hifi quality, they can sound nice as we have some on our Top Amps listing, but for playing them louder, 15w-25w starts running out of power too soon. There are literally hundreds of 5w to 25w speakers that may look worth trying, but the power ratings are too low. From ones we've heard over the years, ones under 40w are usually not very good quality & as the buyer today can cherry-pick the best from any era, we'll only list ones 40w or higher. In the earlier books there are pages of Speaker Drivers for DIY builders to fit in as they choose as was the usual way until the late 1960s, but as you rarely see the drivers by themselves, you only see those put in the 'Speaker Enclosures' section that came complete with the recommended bass & treble drivers. So these Speaker in Cabinet ones are all we'll cover. Earlier Dual-Concentric Tannoys like Tannoy Black, Tannoy Red & Tannoy Silver are ones collectors seek out but the power ratings are too low for Transistor amps & these are best suited to Valve Amp buyers who choose these 12" or 15" drivers & despite plenty being made by other good makers, they don't appear very wanted & so is beyond the scope of what we are doing here which is helping buyers match the age of their amp to a suitable age of speaker.
But the thing is after looking at the 1964 book, there really is very little at 40w+ before the Transistor era. Some 10" and 12" drivers by known names but the magnets are too small and are only 5w, 8w & 10w. Amp makers like Lowther made 20w ones to suit their amps, but only really Tannoy with the 1964 Monitor 15" at 50w (aka Tannoy 15" Silver) is the only hope for higher power. The Silver 12" is only 25w, but for Valve amps it will be a wonderful speaker, but for Transistor amps past 1970 it'll sound too dull for the Matching noted above so from people reading our page, they'll know now what to look for if they use Transistor amps. So a digest of year by year is best, to type what we see as interesting & split it up later.
There are Tweeters & Midrange drivers & some like the Decca Kelly Ribbon tweeter are famous, but we're only covering the main drivers as the midrange are unnecessary & tweeters are usually not that good apart from aluminium dome ones like Tannoy used in it's D-C range with a huge 2" voicecoil. Anything else is very much the lesser in general.
Apart from a very few better Tweeters, and naturally the Tannoys, speakers & Hifi are generally still too early for most to bother with untilk the late 1960s, though valve amp users can still be pleased with the general sound of the more midprice type ones. The odds many still exist outside of cabinets where they were treated as furniture is only going to be very low. Speakers we saw in junk shops were always either cheapo ones or good high power ones in bad condition if not fried voicecoils with solid cones. The Domestic user had no real need to buy better quality Hifi than a Gram or Table Top Radio until the Transistor era, the cool pre-transistor era stuff was only bought by Enthusiasts or Classical buyers
1956 brings the first HFYB & there are only a few brands included this early: B.K., Decca, Expert, Lowther, Pamphonic, Pye, Rogers, Sound Sales, Tannoy, Vitavox & Wharfedale. Only the Drive Units section gives wattage with 6-15w on the selected ones they list though there will have been more cheaper ones they don't include until later books. Goodmans Axiom 150 MkII is 20w, Plessey do a 12" & 15" Dual Concentric but no ratings. Tannoy has the 15" Dual Concentric 25w if 15 ohms, the 12" is 15w if 18 ohms, these appear to be Tannoy Reds. Very little here for even Valve amp users really, though the book editorial is more the fault as the 1956 book only lists a very small amount of what was available, the best ones it seems, but a truer picture of the best Hifi items you could buy is revealed in the 1957 book.
1957 improves as the book takes a wider approach than the 1956 book and has 20 pages on drivers & enclosures. It introduces the Quad ESL electrostatic, an odd looking speaker that is popular for it's smooth sound, but it's only for the 15w Quad IIs & the bass response is limited to 45Hz & volume isn't too high as USA buyers trashed them by trying to fill a big room via them. Of speaker drivers 20w or more only Goodmans Audiom 70 12" 20w and 80 15" 25w; Philips 9762(M) 12" 20w; Plessey Single-fifteen 12 15" 20w 15 15" 25w, Dual Fifteen with treble mounted over the bass 15" 25w; Tannoy have the D-C but also non D-C versions selling a tweeter separately; Technical Suppliers LP.312-2 12" 25w; Vitavox K12/20 12" 20w, K15/40 15" probably but 40w is a new high rating; Wharfedale have a good range but only to 15w; Westrex 20/80 15" 30w low freq unit + a horn tweeter 30w. Cabinets in the book are pictured & Lowther has folded horn TP1 & corner horn PW2; Rogers has RD Junior Corner Horn; Tannoy has Canterbury, GRF, Lansdown Relex, York & GRF Autograph for a hefty £150 complete. Vitavox has the Klipschorn for £145 & Westrex the Acoustilens 20/80 for £169. Some classic early cabinets here though some are not so good for Stereo as they are spreading sound too wide.
1958 and onwards probably only has more or less the same as 1957 until Stereo becomes more popular, introduced in 1955 on Tape & 1958 on Vinyl Record. For our Record Selling, generally Stereo vinyl LPs beyond classical are still considered the Rarer Item until 1967 really. The Drive units add a few minor brands that you'll never find, but now there are more 15w-20w speakers than before. Speaker Cabinets have a few oddities with Burne-Jones Top C horn loasded omnidirectional tweeter & CQ Audio with a bizarre triangular block with 2 tweeters & on those thin atom type legs, both hopeless for Stereo though. Some nice looking cabinets in this era if you can properly match in later drivers.
1959 brings Stereo & Tape to the fore and 30 pages of Speakers & Cabinets. Drivers are still not too different with enough 15w-20w to please valve amp buyers today. Tannoy introduces the Tannoy Silver range with Monitor Twelve 12" 30w and Fifteen 15" 50w. It needs no explanation to see why Tannoy are "The" speaker to buy & it generally stayed this way for a long time, these Tannoys have been talked about in retro Hifi ways for decades together with Garrard 301s as being "The" ones to have. Studios used them to record & master music with so to play vintage music through a Tannoy Silver or Gold is the way to hear it. The bass goes very deep responses are quoted as 25Hz-20kHz on the 12 & 23Hz to 20kHz on the 15. The First True Hifi Speaker is the Tannoy Silver though they are rare to find & the Gold is the improved version later in the 60s. Sadly Wharfedale the only real competition to Tannoy in terms of sound quality are still with 15w or less. Burne-Jones has another oddity in the Treble-Twin omnidirectional tweeter. Goodmans Stereophonic Bowl is an odd 300Hz-15kHz 6" unit, what use is it as Stereo has 2 drivers? Rola-Celestion arrive with the Colaudio 1550 15" 25w, a brand often seen in the midprice Radios & Grams of the era together with Goodmans. Quality yes but not the best.
1960 shows Stereo has fully arrived after how rushed some early items were as books of the era reveal. AEI Sound Eqt go bigger than anyone with 18" drivers having four versions BTH 18A 40w cloth edge, BTH18B 40w felt edge, BTH18C 30w & BTHK10A 25w a D-C of sorts; Goodmans has a Trebax horn tweeter. Still nothing to touch the Tannoys though, but still enough decent 15w-25w to be worth finding old home-made cabinets & finding speakers with big magnets inside.
1961 starts with RL West saying nothing is new, though why does there need to be you could fairly argue. 15-25w was a high powered amplifier & speakers to match with valves for Domestic use don't need to be the 30w or 50w the Tannoys are as these are for Pro use & the HFYB doesn't generally cover pro or PA gear apart from high powered amps on the Amps page like Westrex which are only 30w until one in 1962 goes to 60w, so progress is to come. On reading so far, Wharfedale are still no higher than 15w but likely selling them well, they weren't in the league of what we expected, maybe Gilbert spent too much time writing his books than doing R&D once a good item had been made.
1962 again RL West says same old nothing new, but looking through the pictures of the better speakers, what is now available for the year do look like serious kit for the range of amps available. One thing that makes these speakers less useable today is the vast majority are still 15 ohms & by the mid 1960s as things went transistor most amps only offered 8 ohm or 4 ohm, so 15 ohm are still fine for old valve amps, their use is very limited as running an 8 ohm amp into 15 ohm speakers loses wattage as well as the fidelity. The wattage being low will mean many of these big speakers were mistaken for later high power ones as they look well made with big magnets resulting in the solid-cone burnt out drivers we used to see years ago. You'll probably only find these in installations or cabinets left in houses now being cleared.
1963 has John Crabbe with Stereo Speaker Problems, which will be about using mono speakers that are less directional as well as the issues getting another of the same old one, just doesn't work unless you find a used one. The Stereo image was the issue & the fact tweeters were still quite a new item meant Mr Hifi Buyer had to contend with keeping the Distaff side of the Household happy as well as duplicating a big box & getting away with it. The way of putting speakers across a corner so the sound meets is archaic, we've always used them facing flat to the wall & stereo is much better as it comes from a fixed place not merging in the middle as they suggest. Again average of 15w-25w with 15 ohms on the best with only the Tannoy standing out.
1964 with Rex Baldock with Selecting a Speaker going on about how difficult it is now to select the right speaker & room acoustics. Progress brings problems. Distortion in speakers is still a problem, we've never known of these early Hifi speakers to know what this means, but perhaps it 'sounding crap' is the best we've encountered with poor cabinets & limited fidelity on cheaper Radiograms. Better quality old radiograms are stuffed with big Goodmans or Rola-Celestion and these were the ones with the better sound. Not enough known by us to say more. In the listings brands come & go with Fane & Goodmans having the largest ranges included. 1964 brands are Richard Allan, Bakers Selhurst, Bang & Olufsen, Duode, Eagle, Elac, EMI Sound, Fane, Goodmans, Grampian, Isophon, Jordan-Watts, KEF, Kelly, Lowther, Mordaunt, Philips, Rola-Celestion, Tannoy, Technical Suppliers (TSL), Vitavox, Wharfedale, Whiteley-Stentorian & LG Woollett. Tannoy's range is the 12" direct radiator 15w, III LZ 12" dual concentric 10w, Monitor Twelve 12" 30w & Monitor Fifteen 15" 50w (last two aka Tannoy Silver) & a 15" direct radiator 40w. Direct radiator appears to be a guitar amp type speaker with no treble driver.
1965-66 is still 2 years before Transistor amps started dominating. Rex Baldock's article on speaker positioning is always a problem as best place for use & best place for sound aren't always the same especially with the Stereo use that was growing year by year. In 1965 a Pop Stereo LP was available but way outsold by the Mono, Stereo EPs had just about ended, Singles were strictly Mono though Classical & Light Music was selling more on Stereo versions as these were the buyers of the best Hifi. Amps playing boring music though. The range was much the same with a few experimental speakers like KEF B1814 an 18" x 14" rounded square 25w speaker of little depth, ideal for fitting into walls if a bit ahead of it's time.
1966-67 is the last year of Valve domination as more Transistor amps arrive. Things will have to change as there are three 45w receivers out in 1967: Sansui 3000A, Pioneer SX-1500TF & Trio-Kenwood TK-140E, all we've had to try now. Only the 50w Tannoy Monitor Fifteen from earlier years could be used, there is nothing else in the Domestic Hifi, though what was used in PA work beyond a bank of 50w speakers is unknown, the Reggae Sound Systems appeared to use big KT88 valve amps capable of 50w with a bank of big speakers that were probably the higher range ones beyond Tannoy linked in series to not overload.
As this year should start to change the specs towards transistor amps, we'll note any 30w or higher as well as ohms ratings. Flux & Maxwells are quoted too but that's too technical & we've never looked into it anyway though it will relate to damping, a stronger magnet & construction will mean differing values. There are still a lot of 12" drivers with 10w-15w that we'll not bother covering, only the higher power ones. There are tweeters listed too, but we'll only cover bass drivers here. The list only really shows PA guitar amp speakers optimised for guitar use with resonances. Not really for Hifi use which is otherwise still in 10w-25w.
Richard Allen has 27 speakers listed but only CG15 HD 15" 30w 8 or 15 ohm £17; Baker Reproducers Bass Auditorium 15 15" 35w 15 ohm £18, Group 35 12" 35w 15 ohm £9, Group 50 15" 50w 15 ohm £18: both heavy duty for guitar amp etc; Decca Kelly LF driver Mk VII/VIIG 15" 50w 15 ohm £20; Fane 152/17 15" 30w 15 ohm £16, 153 15" 40w 15 ohm £19, 183 18" 60w 15 ohm £25: these suited for heavy duty PA work; Goodmans Audium 91 bass 50w 15-16 ohm £28 again guitar amp speakers.
As this is just guitar-PA speakers not worth listing more though JBL-James B Lansing LE14A 30w, LE15A 60w, Lowther 20w max, Pioneer 50w speaker kit, Tannoy of course with the Silvers, Vitavox K15/40 40w Wharfedale still only 15w.
The enclosures section is mostly what would still be around with the odd 40w Braun & Tannoy have the Lancaster cabinet first in the 1965/66 book, else the rest are just 5w-20w mostly
1967-68 This hasn't been anywhere as interesting as expected, all there is over 25w are guitar-PA amp speakers. Most of what there is will be long lost & you rarely see old speakers beyond the high end ones or mainstream junk. There is a good enough idea above of what there is & to list only ones that stand out as for quality Hifi use is worthwhile as we're bored. Ignoring the drivers section now & going for the Enclosures as this is what a Hifi buyer today would look for, a speaker in the cabinet complete with crossover & domestic appeal. There will be higher powered PA speakers as the years go on for big Who concerts though a PA amp works on a different principle to a domestic hifi as you'll have found your Hifi only goes so far loud. To make it go PA volume is quite simple, but we're not publishing how. It'd be noise anarchy. Here are a listing of selected higher power speaker cabinet combos, the prices make the best ones stand out amid the average rated ones
Braun LS75 75w with 4 bass drivers & 4 tweeters £105, a few more 40w ones; Empire Scientific some £115-£173 divergent lens enclosure furturistic pillar speakers; Fane Ionofane range 20w only; Grundig Box 80 40w; Jordan-Watts DPS100 50w phased delayed novelty & another Stereola stereo from one box idea; KEF Carlton stylish £85 but only 25w; Leak Sandwich 13" bass 15 ohm but no rating shown £39, Mini sandwich 12" elliptical £27; Lowther expensive cabinets TP1 as A,D & B versions; Pioneer CS-A50 40w to suit their 45w-50w receiver, huh?; Radford multi driver cabinets Monitor, Auditorium & Studio; Sansui has 3 to match the receivers: SP100 25w 8 ohm, SP200 40w 8 ohm & SP300 50w are perhaps the first decent speakers beyond the Tannoys, the SP300 is a Bass Reflex ported type interestingly as are some Tannoy. The SP200 is on ebay as of typing, a huge port, bg bass, 2 midrange & 2 tweeters suggest the Amps were ahead of the speakers. Wharfedale are still low powered but Linton 8" 10w, Dalesman 12" 15w, Dovedale 12" 15w, Teesdale 15" 20w & Airedale 15" 20w.
Tannoy 1967-68 range in full
using the Tannoy Silver range of drivers is (£ each): Audio Metric 15w, III LZC Mk II, Lancaster 12" reflex £50, Lancaster 15" infinite baffle variants £57, Rectangular York 15" reflex £75, York 12" or 15" reflex £66-£75, Rectangular GRF single folded horn 15" £105, GRF folded horn rear horn loaded 15" £122, GRF Autograph folded horn front & rear loaded horn forward facing for corner placing, it's big £165. These appear to be Tannoy Silvers last year. Lancaster is 33 x 21 x 12", Lancaster Corner is 33 x 25 x 17, Rect York is 42 x 23 x 17", York is 45 x 32 x 22", Rect GRF is 42 x 23 x 17, GRF folded horn is 48 x 38 x 29", GRF Auto is 58 x 43 x 26". also the Chatsworth is 33 x 15.5 x 10" was around in the early 1960s & was on the HPD range so this from the HFYB could be imcomplete.
1968-69 shows a new HFYB design to herald the Transistor era which is becoming dominant & valves sadly are abandoned until the odd revival by 1980 & into the 1990s, except by Guitar Amp users. No Speakers article this time though they do note the Second Generation of Hifi is upon us.
Tannoy 'Monitor Gold' series
introduced in the drivers section with the III LZ early version of the Monitor Gold III LZ 12" 10w 15 ohm £31, Monitor Gold Twelve 12" 30w £34 & Monitor Gold Fifteen 15" 50w £40. As the last two were always supplied with the custom crossovers as standard, there is no ohms rating, if the III LZ has Two Variants. The 12 has 25Hz-20kHz range & the 15 has 23Hz-20kHz range. Further you can read on dedicated Tannoy speaker sites.
III LZ later Updated: The 1973 HFYB now states "Monitor Gold III LZ 12" 25w 8 ohms" this time with the crossover supplied £31. It also states the 'Twelve' is now 35w if the 'Fifteen' is still 50w. It appears the early 15 ohm one was updated with an 8 ohm version... "LSU/HF/III LZG H or U" and the newer 8 ohm ones are "LSU/HF/IIILZ/8". Therefore the code on the Speaker is important to not get the 15 ohm 10w one when there is a 25w 8 ohm one. BUT... it's just proved by seeing a Tannoy card that came with the 8 ohm version that the Fifteen is 50w 8ohm, the Twelve is 30w 8ohm & the IIILZ is 15w 8ohm, it's a 10" driver. All IIILZ are 15w therefore.
CABINETS: there are various sizes, the 12" or 15" Lancaster was introduced in 1965. Without looking too deeply, the 1963 HFYB has the Chatsworth II for 12", Canterbury for 12", York for 12" or 15", GRF 15" folded horn, Guy R Fountain Autograph huge folded horn for 15" & the III LZC
PERFECT MATCH: For the early years of Transistor Amps, there will have been no other speakers to design the amps of 45w-50w on, This means Sansui 3000A, Sony STR-6120, National Panasonic SA-65, Trio-Kenwood KA-6000 & Trio-Kenwood TK-140X will have been perfected using the Tannoy Silvers and Golds. Similarly the Pioneer SX-1500TF & Trio-Kenwood TK-140E are in this power range if proved lesser designs.
The rest of the drivers page is just about the same. Even in 1968 the Quad ESL57 electrostatic looked very old fashioned. In the Speakers in Cabinets section Bang & Olufsen introduce the Beovox range if only Beovox 3000 at 25w & Beovox 5000 at 30w; Celestion (no Rola) introduce the Ditton range with Ditton 25 at 25w the highest one; Philips with RH480 40w £39; Vitavox Klipschorn from 1957 still for sale, unlikely many of these 210lb beasties sold size 51 x 30 x 27 a big item to have two of. Again tons of low powered speakers of no particular merit with wood grilles & thin cabinets & be sure nearly all were joyfully blown up with overpowered amps at parties or just skipped decades ago, only the best ones matter today.
1970 book (aka 1969/70) at last gets an article about Speaker enclosures design types which are familiar today with Multiple Drive Units, Tuned Enclosures (Infinite Baffle), Bass Reflex (Ported) Type, Pipes & Columns and Horn Speakers. Just about covers the lot except Electrostatics, the 1920s mechanical speaker & Piezo speakers. The Speaker Drive Units pages mostly the usual sub 20w though Altec-Lansing 604E 15" 35w inc crossover £110, 605B 15" 35w £99 very high prices compared to the superior Tannoy. Fane 183 is an 18" 60w heavy duty PA speaker £26, Ionofane 601 tweeter £29. Goodmans Audiom 91 bass 18" 50w shows the PA-pro market is still only 50-60w. From the Speaker Enclosures section Arena have two high power ones amid their budget usual product: HT25 & HT26 pressure chamber speakers 90w & 60w £157 & £78. Bang & Olufsen Beovox 2500 60w at 4 ohms £20, Beovox 5000 Mk II 50w £64; Braun L910 60w £191 & the huge L1000 with 3 bass, 4 mid & 2 treble 80w £475. B&W P2H Monitor £94 but no power rating shown. Dual CL18 50w 10" woofer nearly £52, CL20 similar £74. Duode-Jansen very obscure brand, their 6 is 85w 10 ohms £131. Fisher XP-66 60w £58, XP-7 60w £63, XP-9B 60w £95, XP-15B 60w £159, XP-18 60w huge 105lb cabinet 18" bass & multiple drivers £197. Grundig have a 'Box' range but ratings look like 50w peak on some. Hacker LS.1000/15 or LS.1000/8 15w 15 or 8 ohm speakers for their systems as we had £24. Jordan-Watts 12-25w only. KEF 15-25w only. Leak & Lowther as 1967-68. Mordaunt-Short MS100 to MS700 series 25-30w. Pioneer confusingly made 50w receivers but their speakers are 15w or 40w-50w but only music power not RMS. Radford Studio 50w £97. Rogers 12-15w only. Sansui SP200 40w £63, SP300 50w £97 12" drivers on both & at least match their amp powers unlike Pioneer. Sonics Corporation imports from unknown AS-440 60w if only music power £72. Tandberg 8-30w only, Tannoy as 1967-68 cabinets & 1968-69 drivers adds Corner GRF 15" Gold £124 & if usually found as Teak can be Mahogany or Walnut too. Wharfedale 15w, 20w 25w & Rosedale 45w 15" bass (ie guitar speaker) £55. Tannoy beaters said one seller in 2014, bids said otherwise.
1971-74 is where we start to lose interest & only really PA-Pro drivers of higher wattage were made & probably very few left after 40+ years anyway. As you can see with Speakers, you can probably tell the best speakers easily enough from the budget or midprice stuff from how they look. Just to be careful with power ratings. Also looking at the pages of Monochrome photos can't have inspired buyers, oh another box with a cloth grille is what most are like without much sense of size. The Enclosures section this year is much bigger & to be honest it's pretty boring finding just a 15w speaker as the majority are around that wattage. So no listings for this year as the best ones already noted, so we'll jump a few years until the Tannoy HPDs come out....
Tannoy HPD series
Beware These Age Badly...
The problem with these is in the 1970s Foam Rubber was still made from oil based products. Over time Foam or any Oil Based products like Vulcanised Rubber will lose the soft pliable qualities & either turn to dust or go solid & crack. Here the foam cone edge surrounds just crumble away if a repair with new synthetic foams will restore them. Companies like Wembley Speakers can do this for a modest cost. Not one to DIY as you need to be sure the voicecoil is correctly sited with spacers & as with anything tried first time, you will not do well usually. Many being sold will have been "refoamed" & to check this has been done neatly & professionally is possible as the Tannoy cabinets on these have removable front covers, unlike the earlier types, but they have cloth surrounds that are fine. If the cone when gently pressed 'scratches' then it's been done badly & must be redone.
1975 introduces these new Tannoys, if only as a full page advert. High Performance Dual. HPD 295 is 10" 50w, HPD 315 is 12" 60w & HPD 385 is 15" 85w. These have the ribbed cone suspension on the back of the 12" & 15" else quite similar to the Golds. But no HPD drivers in the 1975 or 1976 HFYB if the 1976 one has the new drivers in new cabinets. Mansfield for HPD 315 or HPD 385. Size 33 x 21 x 12.5in with 385 version £121 and 315 version £102 + VAT. Amesbury for HPD 385 42 x 23.5 x 15in & is ported £144 + VAT, Chevening for the smaller HPD 295 driver 15 x 23 x 10.25in £87 + VAT. Chatsworth for HPD 315 33 x 15.5 x 10.25in £96 + VAT. It appears Tannoy only sold the HPD range as a complete cabinet with crossover. Many users of the Golds like to make their own cabinets but why think you can do better than the original 1967-68 range? The 1977-81 books show the range from 1977 with Arden 85w £160, Berkeley 85w £140, Cheviot 60w £110, Devon 60w £104, Eaton 50w £94 all +VAT. These include the HPD drivers. 1978 the same, 1979 misses Tannoy & many other brands annoyingly.
1980 is all change to the "T" range: 10" is 60w, 12" is 100w & 125" is 200w. Ascot T145 10" 60w, Chester T165, Dorset T185, Mayfair T225, Windsor 100w, Buckingham, Oxford T125 as well as two HPD type ones Berkeley 85w, Arden 85w. 1981 adds more detail with prices for a Pair + VAT: Ascot T145 60w £300, Chester T165 bigger cabinet £300, Dorset T185 passive bass radiator £350, Mayfair T225 bigger cabinet £400, Windsor 100w £1395, Buckingham 200w £2130 & 2 smaller ones Oxford T125 50w £187, Cambridge T115 120w £156 is that a typo for 20w? Also the two earlier HPD ones: Berkley HPD 15" 85w £558, Arden similar to Berkeley but not how £604. These 'T' series Tannoy are still dual concentrics if some with bass radiators & front ports. How these compare to the classic Golds & HPDs you'll have to Google for. The design of these cones being plastic in some way look quite like the 1992 Tannoy Sixes series. Though the point of a passive bass radiator has never made any sense to us, a marketing gimmick at best, the Golds & HPDs didn't need it.
Also 1976-81 brings many more familiar brands & higher power ratings if the odd fashion of wanting tiny bass drivers with low sensitivity so you'd need a 300w amp to get any volume. A bit pointless. As you can gather, we've found this not very interesting at all & based on speakers we've had over the years. Some brands made speakers that will match their high powered receivers well, the Yamaha range are still popular. The 1977 HFYB has pages 339 to 402 just for Speaker Enclosures listing just about everything from Alba to obscure Bic Venturi to Bose to Cerwin Vega to Eagle to Hi-Ball to JBL, KEF, B&W, B&O, ITT & even LG. Just too much to wade through by one who's not interested enough in Speakers to bother or feel we are doing these years justice as we've seen them but can't really say what is good or not so without having heard any recently. So that's why we prefer the Tannoys as you know they are the Quality from the Silvers to Golds & HPDs.
CARE ON BUYING VINTAGE SPEAKERS
Buyers now ask silly money for the early Tannoys: Silvers, Reds & early Blacks. We saw one seller with two totally different Tannoy Silvers in cabinets asking silly money & trying to sell them as a pair. Another has an early 1960s big Fane bass driver & foolishly says it's about 200w, but the HFYBs reveal it'll be 15w-25w tops. Only really did Tannoy lead the way with high powered speakers before 1970 as shown above though there are some PA speakers the odds of them surviving are low. Buy wisely though. If the Tannoy or similar speakers have been reconed or the foams replaced, these are usually fine if done professionally & the glue will be done neatly on the edges & centre cap. To risk home-made ones is tough as you have to rely on the skill of the repairer with the correct spacers used & fitted correctly so the drive coils don't rub the magnets & buzz, leading to the wire enamel wearing out & dead speaker. Be aware of replaced tweeters or drivers that are not the ones as supplied by the manufacturer as the odds are the dB levels will not match. Also recapped crossovers can have got altered by someone's idea of them sounding brighter is better but will leave an unbalanced sound. A burnt out speaker coil will smell of burnt enamel & the cones will not move so will be noticeable unless stored years despite damaged. To test any unknown speaker found unused for years with your amplifier is risky too, to have a multimeter to test the speaker cone as within the 8 ohms or 15 ohms it should be will save ruining an amp with a shorted speaker. Usually if they burn out the wire breaks so is open circuit, but it's not worth the risk. Any speaker that's been in use is a safer bet but again the unknown can be there as well as old fiddling. Then after all that, they may not match your Amp. If you aren't sure, go buy a few pairs of speakers, keep the best sounding one & sell on the rest. It's the only way to be sure.
If you get a good speaker that is damaged, voice coil burnt, foam gone crumbly, speaker cone ripped, get it repaired. We've used Wembley Speakers before & they do a good job & the prices are keen. To try to DIY-fix new cones & surrounds isn't worth it as you'll get it wrong unless you've done many before, as in anything, pay someone to do precision work for you rather than end up binning the thing as you got annoyed with it!