Size matters - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 9 Old 02-16-13, 04:24 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Shelby Township, MI
Posts: 19
Size matters

In your opinion, does size really matter when it comes to speakers ?

This is (part) of my old system, so I guess you can figure out my stance on that question.

For years I've heard people say they want their stereo systems to sound as real as possible.
Since most pro equipment is rebuildable, I decided at an early age that I would try to learn as
much as I could about professional sound systems and what makes them work so well.

In my mind, most home stereo speakers have their limitations. The low end never seems to be quite right
or snappy enough, and many times there is only 1 single "sweet spot" in the entire listening room. That's why over the years I fell in love with the sound of horns. A long time ago I bought the entire PA
system out of the George Burns Theater in south-eastern Michigan. There were four Altec A4's - or two
Altec A2's (depending on how you bolt them together) - with wings. Those 430 pound 7' tall exponential bass horns have a sensitivity of 108db @ 1 watt from 500hz down. With the wings bolted on and in A2 configuration with the big horns on top, they were about 9' tall and 9' wide. Each.....

The 15 cell Altec 1505 horns with y-throats and multiple Altec 288 compression drivers were unbelievably huge, but even more efficient. If you've ever looked at spherical balloon graphs of a speaker, you'll understand why the holes or "hot spots" in the multi-cell horns made me look elsewhere. Then I found six JBL 2360 horns with 2445 compression drivers. The high end was so crisp and clean, but I was just plain
running out of room. My wife would come out there and just shake her head.... These are the midranges:

And then we bought a new house, and long story short.... it was time to downsize. After having the big Altec Voice of the Theater system for almost 30 years, I finally sold all of it.

2 of the 15 cell horns went to a guy in South Korea for 1500 bucks and he paid 1800 more for shipping.
AND THAT WAS JUST 2 HORNS AND 2 THROATS -- NO BOXES OR COMPRESSION DRIVERS !!! A blown up pair of the 15" Altec 515 woofers - made in 1953 - sold for 500 bucks on Ebay.

After selling every speaker I owned, I went out and bought a pair of JBL SRX 725 cabinets with dual 15" differential drive woofers and a titanium horn. About 8 months old, made in 2012..... with the nice
JBL covers - for $2200.00

You can find them new for around $3800 / pr. While they are nowhere near the massive size of the Altec
VOTT stuff, the sound that comes out of them is just incredible. Each cabinet weighs 100 pounds and they can handle 2400 watts continuous and 4800 watts peak.

I'm still getting used to them, but they are just awesome speakers. At the moment, I'm running them off of a 100 watt / ch. Sony receiver.......and 1/2 throttle is just insane.
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post #2 of 9 Old 02-16-13, 05:22 PM
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Location: Siesta Key, Florida
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Re: Size matters

I do personally believe in the adage that there is no replacement for displacement. Until my current speaker array, I have definitely favored using large floorstanding speakers for both mains and surrounds. Even my current Martin Logans array uses pretty large sized mains and surrounds, but being electrostatics they are not quite as dynamic as the dual Paradigm Studio 100's that were used in my prior setup or the PSB Stratus Gold's that proceeded the Paradigms.

I have great respect for large horn loaded designs like the Altecs and K-Horns and the like. They do present a challenge in terms of space for many. Myself included. I also really do struggle recommending speakers that are not capable of output down to at least 70hz. However, tiny satellite speakers are quite popular and often the combination of WAF and budget give folks no other route and are certainly better than soundbars.

Speakers: Martin Logan Vantage (Mains), Martin Logan Stage (Center), Martin Logan Vista (Surrounds), Martin Logan Montages (Surrounds) Hsu Research VTF-15h MK2, Martin Logan Descent i (Subwoofer)
Amplification: Aragon 8008bb, Parasound HCA-3500, Parasound HCA-2205 AT, Parasound HCA-1000a
AVR/SSP: Denon AVR-4520CI
Electronics: OPPO BDP-93
Gaming Consoles: Sony PS4, Xbox 360 S (250 gb)
Display: Panasonic TC-P65ZT60, Sony KDL-55EX500, Sony KD-34XBR910
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post #3 of 9 Old 02-16-13, 06:13 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Shelby Township, MI
Posts: 19
Re: Size matters

You know..... it's funny, but after you've spent as much time with those Altec V.O.T.T. cabinets
as I have, they are more of a "mid-bass" cabinet than anything else. Even tho they are 7 feet tall.......

They definitely have better low end if they are laying on their side and stacked, rather than standing up. But, they don't project as well (outdoors). They have their good points and bad, but because of the lightweight 515 cones and the big exponential horn, the mid-bass is actually quite nice. A guy named Jim Dickenson wrote a paper on what to do to the big Altec 210 cabinets to make them a little stiffer and sound better. I played around with port volume, different drivers, and some extra insulation and it definitely made a difference.
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post #4 of 9 Old 02-17-13, 06:10 AM
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Wayne Myers
Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Lincoln, NE
Posts: 4,609
Re: Size matters

This is a terribly overused word these days, but here it really fits: AWESOME!
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post #5 of 9 Old 02-17-13, 07:20 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Shelby Township, MI
Posts: 19
Re: Size matters

One funny thing about the vintage Altec Voice of the Theater stuff : Some people are willing to pay
insane amounts of $$ for it. Over the years, I bet I had 20 of the 15" Altec 515B woofers and 20
(or more....) of the Altec 288 compression drivers. The 288's had aluminum diaphragms in them, and I
even tried an aftermarket company that made them out of titanium. Those sounded pretty good, but
didn't seem to last long when driven hard. The original Altec ones were probably the best, but the 288's just
didn't have the crisp high end that some of the newer JBL stuff had. Think they only went up to 16kHz, and I crossed them over at 500Hz.

Years ago you could find 515B's for 30 or 35 bucks each. Maybe 40 or 50 bucks apiece for a working 288 without a horn. But now ???

...... prices are unbelievable. I've shipped Altec woofers, compression drivers and horns to Vietnam, London, South Korea, Singapore and Japan. The rare stuff like the 3 x 5 fifteen cell horns (with "Y" throats so you can use multiple 288's) are very, very desirable to many audiophiles overseas. One of my buddy's in
California had a couple of the quad-manifold throats so you could hook up FOUR 288's on a horn, and I forget what they went for.......... but I think it was 3 or 4 grand for a set of them. That's just the horns and the throats - no compression drivers, crossovers, woofers or boxes. Just horns....

The main thing I've learned over the years, is that vintage Altec VOTT stuff in this day and age seems to bring more interest and more $$ than vintage JBL stuff. There are exceptions of course......
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post #6 of 9 Old 02-17-13, 09:22 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Shelby Township, MI
Posts: 19
Re: Size matters

Out of all the horns I've had over the past 30 years, these large format 2" throat JBL's sounded the best.
Six of them in a 20 x 40 foot garage was a little overkill, but it took a lot to keep up with 22 fifteen inch
woofers running at the same time.

That's a 61" TV for perspective.... This photo was shot right after I drove to Chicago to pick up the
2360 JBL horns. They are not mounted in the throat of the Altec 210 cabinets like a huge co-axial speaker, but just sitting there till I figured out where to put them. I paid 270 bucks for the six horns + six 2445
16 ohm compression drivers. The guy thought they were all blown up, but I got them home and took them
apart and cleaned them so they were spotless and only 1 comp. driver needed a new diaphragm. Best 270 bucks I ever spent. List price on those horns and drivers was something like 5 or 6 grand.

It's hard to find space for 7 foot tall speakers, so I just put them under my slotcar track.

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post #7 of 9 Old 02-17-13, 09:31 AM
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Location: Edmonton, Alberta, Can
Posts: 14,818
My System
Re: Size matters

I think there becomes a point where the larger speakers become unsightly, But I do agree that there is no replacement for displacement.
I much prefer a line array setup over one super large speaker.

Home theater:
Onkyo 805, Yamaha YDP2006EQ, Samson Servo 600 amp
3 EV Sentry 500 monitors across the front, 4 Mission 762i's Surrounds, SVS PB13U sub, Panasonic BDT220, Harmony 1100, Nintendo WiiU
Panasonic PT-AE8000 on a 120" 2,35:1 fixed screen

Living room system:
Sherwood/Newcastle R972, Mission 765's, SVS SBS02's, A/D/S MS3u sub, Yamaha YDG2030EQ
Yamaha KX-393 Tape deck, CDC 805 CD changer, Panasonic BD60, Sony turntable PS-T20
Panasonic TC-P50ST60, HD-PVR & WDTV Live, Harmony 900

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post #8 of 9 Old 02-17-13, 09:54 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Shelby Township, MI
Posts: 19
Re: Size matters

Unsightly ? I see your point, but I was always intrigued by the sheer size and efficiency of those cabinets. And remember, this was in a 20 x 40 foot garage - not inside the house.

I used those Altecs not only for my "home stereo", but to DJ some big weddings and for a few fairly large
outdoor rock concerts. Like a 100 kegs of beer with 7 bands that my buddy and I threw in the mid 1980's.
2 semi's pulled up with all the beer and we used two 40' flatbeds for the stage.... Ended up going through 78 half barrels.

Police estimate was 6000 people. ( I think it was closer to 4500.. maybe 5000. ) We donated all the proceeds from beer to the Childrens Leukemia Fund - so that really shifted the liability issues.

So I guess beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I had so much fun with those cabinets over the years.... And during that time they made a lot of people smile, dance and have a great time.

Not bad for some speakers that were designed in 1946 by a guy whose initials were J.B.L.
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post #9 of 9 Old 02-17-13, 09:58 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Shelby Township, MI
Posts: 19
Re: Size matters

And you're right about the line arrays. That's the only way to do it.....

My sister is married to a rock star.

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