What if I told you could get a $2500 or $3500 speaker system for under $500, maybe for even $100?
You'd say I was lying and you'd be right but not as "right" as you think. Because all you need besides the $100 to $500 is a pair of broken down, junked speakers from the golden age of loudspeakers. And if you don't already happen to have a set in your garage or storage facility, you can probably find some for next to nothing at Goodwill, a swap meet, or on Craig's List or eBay.
In case you don't know, the golden age of speakers was the mid-'60s through the early '80s. High-end speakers designed and manufactured during those years between the invention of acoustic suspension technology and the ascension of pseudo hi-fi mid-range/tweeter/sub-woofer combinations were, generally (pardon the pun) speaking, the best sounding loudspeakers ever made, before or since.
There are exceptions. Some of today's $4,000 and up systems are really killer. And at least one company, Aperion Audio of which we'll be writing more in the next several weeks offers fantastic speakers at audiophile people's prices. By and large though, units that sold for $750 or $1200 a pair 30 years ago sound substantially better than current-generation speaks costing $2500 or $3000. (As well they should, given that one thousand 1970 dollars is equivalent to three or four thousand 2006 dollars.)
So, you've somehow obtained a pair of non- or barely working classic Advent, Acoustic Research, JBL, Altec Lansing, Dahlquist, Infinity, Boston Acoustic, ADS, Allison or whatever speakers. How do you make them sound like mega-buck music makers for next to nothing?
First, try to figure out what's wrong (but don't worry if it isn't immediately apparent). Second, log on to Simply Speakers.com.
Figuring out what's wrong is generally simple. Pull off the speaker grill cover and look to see if the surrounds the strips of flexible material holding the speaker's rigid cone to the metal frame are torn, holed or just plain rotted away. This is by far the most common problem with elderly drivers (as the actual loudspeakers inside speaker system cabinets are called) and can be fixed for about $15 using one of Simply Speakers' Edge-It re-foam kits. (Or they will do the re-foaming in-house at a nominal cost.)
At under $30 a kit, which includes make/model-specific replacement foam for two speakers, Edge-It allows you to swap your old rotten surround for a perfect new one in about 20 minutes (plus two hours drying time) and requires zero technical knowledge. (There are other surround kits on the market, but most require that you slice off your speaker's dust cover, navigate around the delicate connection wires, and precisely position shims. Edge-It kits eliminate all that hassle and also come with the best professional-grade glue in the business.)
Let's say the problem isn't the surrounds. The next most common speaker disease is a burned-out voice coil from being over-driven. If that's your problem, Simply Speakers still has you covered with complete reconing kits for many brands and sizes of classic speakers. These kits contain new voice coils (American-made to original factory specs), cones, spiders, dust caps, and gaskets. At roughly $25 to $80 depending on speaker, they are perhaps the best value in the audio world. Installing the kits does require a bit more finesse than refoaming, so you might want to send your drivers to Simply Speakers and let them do the work. (Their prices are so reasonable the biggest extra cost over the kits will probably be the freight.) For true dilettantes, SS also offers reconing with OEM parts on many models, though the cost is considerably higher.
And if a driver is totally beyond repair or missing, the chances are good Simply Speakers can supply you with a brand-new OEM unit at bargain-basement prices and third-party replacements at even less cost. (Remember, with expensive speakers, it's usually the cabinet and crossover network that's responsible for the superb sound quality quality drivers of any given type, with some exceptions, tend to have similar output regardless of who made them.)
Did someone mention "crossover networks?" Yes, Simply Speakers also has a substantial stash of new, OEM and aftermarket crossovers as well as speaker terminals, grill cloth, cabinet handles and corners and other sundry parts. And they do all kinds of other speaker repairs even internal rewiring.
Hey, they may even be able to help update the look of your speaks while retaining every note of their glorious sound. The AR9 pictured here contains two side-firing 12-inch woofers (both real woofers, not one woofer and one passive radiator) in a sealed compartment in the cabinet base, one eight-inch lower mid-range, one 5 1/4-inch upper midrange and one 1 1/2 -inch liquid-cooled tweeter -- all surrounded by an acoustical blanket and mounted in a low-resonance solid-wood cabinet. (Where you gonna get something like that for under $5,000 a pair these days?)
Good as the ARs sound, many years, many moves and much cat urine had taken their toll on the '60's styled, wedgie-shaped woofer grills. I could have recovered the old wooden frames with new grill cloth, but decided I'd like a more metallic look. No