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Affordable Vintage Loudspeakers: The Budget Audiophiler

Affordable vintage loudspeakers come in many shapes and sizes. Not all of them are worth the hunt but these hidden gems are worth the effort.

Vintag Audio Speaker System

As much as I enjoy hunting for vintage amplifiers, the search for affordable vintage loudspeakers is a lot easier for the simple reason that there are thousands of models to choose from if we take a look at the products that were released between 1960 – 1990. Not all of them were good, but if you do some homework, you can come up with a rather substantial list of good loudspeakers that were manufactured in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia during this time period. The problem is that the best vintage loudspeakers have a following; and those who covet them are willing to pay a substantial price. Quad ESLs for $500? Good luck finding that kind of bargain. But what about affordable vintage loudspeakers? 

Are there any hidden gems worth checking out at the right price? If you know where to look and you don’t mind getting your hands dirty – there are quite a few worth searching for.

We’re going to cover 5 specific affordable vintage loudspeakers this week that you should be able to find in the $200 range (or slightly below if you’re aggressive) and the best part is that all of them sound quite good.

Restor-a-finish

The best part of affordable vintage loudspeakers (aside from the price) is that most of the speakers on this list are easily restored or repaired with rudimentary wood refinishing skills, or by swapping out a replacement tweeter or woofer. Refoaming woofer surrounds is not as difficult as it sounds, and you can learn how to do it online by watching some excellent videos on YouTube, and practicing on a $25 pair of speakers you find at a local thrift store. It’s a skill that comes in handy when dealing with vintage loudspeakers.

So now that we’ve established that we’re not looking for Quad ESLs, MartinLogan CLS, or Rogers LS3/5As at a bargain basement price, let’s dig a little deeper into some surprising vintage loudspeakers that might really surprise you sonically. 

Large Advent Loudspeakers

Advent Large Loudspeakers

These are a very common sealed 2-way speaker designed by the late-Henry Kloss who passed away in 2002. Kloss was a very active engineer for decades starting numerous companies including Acoustic Research, Kloss, Cambridge Soundworks, KLH, and Advent. He was also the inventor of the high fidelity cassette deck. The Advent Large stand 26” tall and come in veneer and vinyl versions. They feature a 10” woofer, decent volume size, and 100-watt power rating.

The tweeters balance well with the sealed design which is not bass heavy. These are the most flexible speakers on the list; meaning that you can pair with a low powered tube amplifier (20 – 30 watts) or an 80 watt solid-state receiver just as well. Parts can be found readily online and the woofers are easily refoamed or swapped out. A pair with the vinyl finish will run about $150 — but even less if they need to be cleaned up or repaired.

Ohm speaker

Ohm Acoustics E’s

Ohm Acoustics have been around since 1972, manufacturing their products in Brooklyn, New York; Ohm, joins DeVore Fidelity, and Grado Labs who have kept the high-end audio torch alight across the East River.

Ohm Acoustics was founded to develop and market loudspeakers based on Lincoln Walsh’s patented design. The first model, the Ohm A, is still considered to be a classic loudspeaker design. The unusual shape and design of the Ohm Walsh A, Ohm Walsh E, and Ohm Walsh F loudspeakers have made them collector’s items and they show up quite frequently in movies and on television; including on the current Amazon Prime series, Bosch.

Ohm E’s are the smallest of the bunch standing about 20” tall with a shallow wood veneer cabinet. They were produced in the late 1970’s featuring a sealed cabinet, and are a 2-way design. The recommended wattage is 10 – 60 watts, making them ideal for a tube or solid-state receiver in that range. They can certainly take the power, but don’t overdrive them with anything more.

For their size they have decent bass, but don’t expect to listen to AC/DC on these at anything but average volume levels. The Ohm factory still supports these loudspeakers; you can order a woofer or tweeter replacement, or a 3-way kit to upgrade the speakers with the 1” tweeters from the Ohm C3. It includes two tweeters, crossovers and the wiring harness. You have to cut a hole in the front panel to add the additional tweeter.

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You will need 18″-21″ stands or risers to get the tweeters up to the proper listening level. Depending on the condition, expect to pay between $75-150 for a pair.

Dynaco A25

Dynaco A25

These were the biggest surprise of the lot. The Dynaco A25’s were designed and manufactured in Denmark, and are a true bookshelf loudspeaker. The Dynaco A25 are a two-way loudspeaker with a single 10″ woofer and a 2.25″ mid-tweeter. The crossover is quite simple, just a 5 uF capacitor in series with a variable resistor arrangement that feeds the tweeter.

Standing only 20″ high, they can be set inside a bookshelf or on a pair of stands which brings them up to the proper listening height. What makes them so surprising is the overall presentation and bass response coming out of this ported 2-way loudspeaker. The A25 have developed a bit of a cult following so I’m not letting my pair go anytime soon.

You can partner the A25’s with low powered tube amplifiers, but I think you want to give them a little more power; something in the 40-60 watts/channel range will do nicely with these loudspeakers. They do require stands to put them at the proper listening height. The A25 can be found for around $200, but people are now attempting to sell for a lot more.

Marantz Imperial 6g

Marantz Imperial 6g

Marantz built loudspeakers? Yes — they did. And the Imperial 6g’s were one of the best models from that series of loudspeakers. The only issue is they are not particularly easy to find, and even harder to source with their funky foam grilles in excellent condition. These were designed to compete with the Advent Large loudspeakers; both were boxy 2-way designs, but Marantz did something really smart with them. The addition of a port on the front baffle allowed listeners to place them really close to the wall if that was required. There is also a switch on the rear panel above the binding posts to boost or reduce the treble depending on the rest of your set-up.

The Imperial 6 used a paper-cone 10″ “blue glow” woofer with a phenolic ring (edge) cone tweeter. The woofer had a cloth surround and all of the cabinet parts were 3/4″ veneered particleboard. The design of the surround is a definite plus as the material might not have degraded very much over the years. The sad truth is the Imperial 6 didn’t sell very well. It was made redundant by the Imperial 7, but it’s a rather interesting loudspeaker if you can find one. These need stands or robust risers and expect to pay at least $100 for a set in passable condition. I’ve seen replacement tweeters selling for around $25/each online.

Magnepan SMG
Magnepan SMG’s next to Ohm F’s

Magnepan SMG

The Magnepan SMG are a departure from the rest of the lot. Magnepan are one of the most respected high-end audio loudspeaker manufacturers in the world, and their factory in Minnesota continues to produce world-class products that are sold in dozens of countries. Our Editor-in-Chief uses the Magnepan LRS ($650/pair) in his reference system at home, and considers them to be one of the best loudspeakers below $2,000 from any manufacturer. Magnepan has been in business for almost 50 years and there is a global cult of users who swear by them. Most of their loudspeakers are only 2-3″ deep, but the wall of sound created by these planar magnetic loudspeakers is something you have to experience for yourself.

The SMG are on the smaller side for this type of loudspeaker (48″ tall), but driven with the right amplifier can sound significantly larger. Bass monsters they are not. They also have volume limitations depending on the size of your listening space. There are two crucial issues in regard to getting great sound of them; power and set-up.

Planar loudspeakers require a lot of current. So what is the best amplifier? The short answer is direct-coupled, Class A/B design with high current capability. NAD amplifiers that can double their output into 4 ohms work well — but not something smaller like the otherwise excellent NAD C 316BEE V2 integrated amplifier. Tube amplifiers can sound great with the SMG but not the older tube receivers that I’ve been writing about in recent columns. Vintage Audio Research tube amplifiers that can deliver 60 watts (8 ohms) and 120 watts (4 ohms) sound amazing with current Magnepan products but we’re no longer in the budget range here.

Emotiva, Carver, Aragon, and NAD are a good start with this type of loudspeaker.

Set-up is super critical with these loudspeakers. They need to be at least 3′ from the wall behind them, and the inside edge needs to be further from your ears than the outside edge.

The ribbons on this type of loudspeaker degrade over time and you can hear a buzz from the panel if there is a problem.

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So why consider them? A level of transparency, coherency, and resolution that none of these other loudspeakers can touch when everything is set-up properly. Current models are world-class loudspeakers used in systems in the $50,000-$100,000 range by some users.

This is not a complete list of affordable vintage loudspeakers. KLH, Klipsch, EPI, Jensen and others made some very good options as well so don’t limit yourself. When purchasing vintage loudspeakers make the time to listen to them, ask the owners how they sound, and which amplification they have had success with.

Related reading: Best Vintage Audio Speakers for the Modern Audiophile

 

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. Dave Watson

    February 24, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    You forgot DCM Loudspeakers. The TimeWindow is a classic and every bit the quality performer. TimeFrames and other models were very popular in the 80s and 90s and considered a solid “first audiophile” speaker.

    • Ian White

      February 24, 2021 at 3:25 pm

      It is a classic design but can you find them in decent shape for $200 or less? We did some research and most sellers wanted a lot more than that.

  2. Miguel G Fernandez

    February 24, 2021 at 8:36 pm

    Also to consider the EPI m100. Beautiful sounding speakers.

    • Jeremy Sikora

      March 1, 2021 at 1:32 pm

      I would recommend the EPI M100’s as well!

    • Richard

      May 21, 2021 at 4:03 pm

      Ditto on the EPI’s. They were affordable and they gave the Advent a run for the money. My best buddy had the Advent’s and I ran two pair of EPI 100’s. Sold my last pair a few years ago to a youngster who was blown away what they’d do. And you can still get the whole story and parts:
      https://www.humanspeakers.com/e/epistory.htm

  3. Rick

    March 8, 2021 at 5:38 am

    Don’t hear much about Bozaks, but back in the day they were quite the audiophile speaker, especially the Concert Grands and the Symphony.

  4. Mike Cornell

    May 21, 2021 at 2:03 pm

    No getting rid of my A25’s either. Needed to replace the caps a few years back but they still sound amazing and well-balanced. As you said, they are ported (technically) but they are more of an aperiodic design. Running them off an Apt-Holman preamp and a Quad 405 amp. Great bang for the buck.

  5. Todd

    May 21, 2021 at 4:21 pm

    What about the “classic” early Polk Monitor 7’s/10’s?

  6. L

    May 21, 2021 at 11:36 pm

    Edgar Villchur invented the acoustic suspension speaker. Not Henry Kloss.

  7. vineyridge

    June 18, 2021 at 2:35 am

    What about Spicas for a very good low end vintage speaker? They weren’t manufactured for very long, but matched with NAD they put out what seemed to me to be very accurate and satisfying classical music from my preferred Baroque and Classical eras.

    • Ian White

      June 18, 2021 at 3:33 am

      Spica Angelus were fantastic speakers but are very hard to find. I’ve had one person offer to sell me a pair over the past 20 years and my hesitation involved not being able to find replacement drivers.

      Ian White

  8. Adina Hirschmann

    June 18, 2021 at 9:51 am

    Electro Voice Regal III and Boston Acoustics T-830.

    • Ian White

      June 18, 2021 at 1:32 pm

      The Regal III is amazing with jazz. Really strong presence and great swing.

      Ian White

  9. RICHARD SKEAT

    July 12, 2021 at 1:27 pm

    I picked up a pair of Bozak LS250’s at a local goodwill for $16 a couple of months go and they are just the most beautiful sounding speakers.

    • Frank

      December 28, 2021 at 8:48 pm

      The LS-250s sound awesome. I purchased mine new around 1980 when comparing others such as JBL, Cerwin Vega, Advents ect. Nothing could touch these for sound quality. Still have them.

  10. jeff henning

    August 8, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    Hey, man, I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but, unless you are buying the speakers for a period drama, let these and all “vintage” speakers go.

    I’ve owned a couple of these and heard most of them. In their day, for their price, they were very good speakers. Unfortunately, buying a 30 year old speaker is not getting you greater accuracy. It’s getting you less. Those passive crossovers do age and eventually fail.

    Affordable speakers have never sounded better than today… and tomorrow… and the day after that. That trend will not be changing.

    Personally, I’m running KEF LS50’s in a 5.2 surround system with 4 Rythmik, 12 inch servo subs. It does not sound bad at all and it outperforms any system I’ve ever owned as well as about everyone I’ve heard.

    I still want to swap out my current L/C/R amps for Purifi’s and exchange the front/center speakers with active DIY’s using Raven line source ribbons and Purifi mid-bass drivers.

    Since I’m not Jeff Bezos, those upgrades will have to wait until my COVID-related poorness abates. Thankfully, that’s beginning to happen.

    Cheers, baby!

    • Ian White

      August 8, 2021 at 9:58 pm

      Jeff,

      I don’t think anyone disagrees with you that speakers made today are better. They just sound different — more accurate to use your terminology.

      That being said, I prefer the sound of 1990s Martinlogan to the models they are making today; which have become so expensive, there’s no way to afford them.

      I think everyone listens differently and prefer a certain sound; which is also guided by a feeling of nostalgia.

      Ian White

  11. Bob Kerwin

    August 15, 2021 at 7:36 pm

    I have a pair of ADS L-810 Series II speakers I have owned since 1979. They were miles above anything else in their price range then and still sound great today. At 6 ohms they were a little tough on electronics that seemed to want 8 ohm speakers. Running an amp into clipping blew the 1 amp tweeter fuse, so you had to have “enough horsepower” to run them up.

  12. Robert Diffin

    August 30, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    I see the Ohms in your picture with the Maggie’s aren’t on your budget list. 🤣

    • Ian White

      August 31, 2021 at 10:57 am

      Robert,

      Jeremy has 4 of 5 other pairs of Ohm speakers that would make the list.

      Ian White

  13. Robert J Doyle

    October 1, 2021 at 3:13 am

    I just picked up a pair of 2 way Dahlquist M905 speakers for 200.00. Jon Dahlquist called the enclosure the un-box. His thin wall design may be similar to Harbeth’s and other english speaker designers. Anyway, the speaker uses Vifa Danish drivers and sounds wonderful.

  14. Ron

    December 9, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    When looking for used vintage speakers to bring into my home, I prefer sealed enclosures because insects or rodents may have crawled into the enclosure through the speaker port. This is particulary true if the speaker port is in the rear of the speaker where it is not covered by the grill.

    • Ian White

      December 9, 2021 at 2:37 pm

      Ron,

      That is a very interesting and disgusting observation. I never would have thought of that. I might add that to the article.

      Ian White

  15. BK.

    December 21, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    I picked up a pair of b&w 2.5 way towers for 250.00. -3db @ 40 hz. Almost don’t need a subwoofer. Best speakers I’ve owned.

  16. David W

    December 22, 2021 at 4:13 pm

    I’ve procured many vintage speakers over the years from the neighborhood trash day, the ones I still have and like the best are Ohm Model Ls. I like them more than the EPI 100s.

  17. Donald C

    December 28, 2021 at 10:00 pm

    My high school graduation present was a Dynaco pre-amp, a Dynaco 40w Amp kit and a pair of the A-25s. Had those components for years until I “upgraded” to MacIntosh 6100 integrated Amp and a pair of ML1Cs. I still have the 6100.

  18. David W

    January 1, 2022 at 12:00 am

    I am agreeing with Ian’s comment to Jeff that today’s speakers are better than vintage stuff. My perspective is that I admired 70s speakers, receivers, turntables, etc. when they were new in the market but I could not afford spending $2000 on a system, fast forward to today where I still cannot justify spending $2000+ for a good system but I do get alot of enjoyment out of putting together a vintage system for a few hundred dollars – the definition of the vintage budget audiophiler? I have Ohm Model L speakers ,Marantz SR8100DC receiver, Technics SL10 turntable, Sony CDP-291 CD player, all acquired on neighborhood garbage day and spent about $250 for refurbishing.

  19. Mike Cornell

    May 4, 2022 at 12:45 pm

    In addition to my A25’s, I have a pair of Avant 5AX’s. About the size of JBL L100’s with huge Alnico magnets on their 12” woofers, with midrange and soft dome tweeters by Polydax. 2 db cut switches on the mods and highs, but unlike the JBL’s, they are a sealed acoustic suspension design like KLH. Crossovers designed by Derek Hanson of Hanson Monitor fame( a late 80’s Canadian speaker). I’m in the process of restoring these but as is, they sound excellent.

  20. Rachel

    May 9, 2022 at 12:03 pm

    Jeremy, is there a way to reach you directly with a question about a vintage cabinet speaker?

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