The American Speaker Project, now and then...

Hello everybody, This is Early at HiFiTown.
New to the forum, but not to audio. I probably already know some of you guys and gals! No doubt some may remember my father Walt Bender as well. We ran Audiomart, a membership only classifieds magazine back in the 70s, 80s and 90s -- aka the good 'ol days before the internet supplanted paper. As some know, Walt's passion was the old stuff, as well as anything that came...even remotely close to the sound of Western Electric 755A which he wrote about allot….built cabs for and never stopped loving.
In the early thru mid 1990's us and a few friends, namely Scott in PA (the fella standing, who shared golden-ears with Walt) co-discovered lightweight German ellipticals and rounds, like the Telefunken Opus 8", Siemens, Grundig and Isophon. We found everything we could …. pulled them from their ineffective radio housings and listened to hundreds of them like crazed Audiophiles do. So many great sounding ones, the list would be too long.

Generalizing on that category, of fast cones, small magnets and high efficiency — we then amassed a just-as-large lot of our best 1940s-1970s era US made, pre and postwar speakers by Jensen, ROLA, CTS, Oxford, Zenith, Magnavox and pretty much every other lightweight speaker mfr.

Many were not exciting. To get through the hundreds if thousands of types, we rated the speakers on a "1 to 5" star scale. “5.0” was reserved for a WE755A type of sound, and almost nothing was that good… Anything 4.0 to 4.5 installed on… say one of Tsingtao_1903’s designs will continuously blow your socks of until you do hear a 755A, thats for sure.

Yes, the original WE 755A still towers above in absolute detail (not the C or E, bummer). The 755A strangely is not the king of efficiency — it tries too hard on everything else to be that.

Thousands of lower $ units got marked & boxed and eventually everything was sold to the big dealer in Japan. The Japanese market was very particular, and their DiY interests, back then were very narrow….it was not much of a big hit — but did cement a cult DiY trade over there too. They never forgot, but prices sank sickly low for good German and American full range and tweeters.

Fast forward — many are using our ears as the lab-instruments they are. I am so happy to see those Zenith 49CZ852 paper’s on the Glow in the Dark Blog, and happier those units sell at least once for the price they deserve (not mine) at around $200++/pr — (OK now I am seeing $300 400 range whoa …nelly — they may not be that good!) — this price was based solely on “how they sound” I know because I have heard them many times — and have heard many speakers just as good. Believe me, your main competition here will be Mr. Dumpster as they have been so unappreciated…for so long. My recollection is this Zenith is indeed “killer” but just a 4 or 4.5, not a 5.0!

I am not trying to toot my own horn or profit on some great big stash of inventory. Yes, I am a dealer. I sell speakers from $40 - 4000 sometimes (when I have time to clean, test and list them). I only deal in antique / vintage, it’s a passion like we all have. I field questions on the WE755A all the time. And I first try to steer buyers towards the type of stuff Glow in the Dark is rehashing so brilliantly -- thanks to all working on this.

My main goal here in this role is to educate and advocate, if I can, mostly based on experience. Maybe sometimes I can post here with a modest opinion or two! I would like to see these old all-paper drivers be the first choice to try — rather than the Part Express specials and TangBand’s that so many DiY’ers cut their teeth on.

And, maybe this thread can serve as a place to post .. questions or finds in regards to specifically, vintage all paper cone, US sourced speakers — from the 1930s (the beginning of dynamic cone) through the 1980s really (when the last vestige of Waldom cones faded away as utility speakers)….
 

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je2a3

Senior Member
Hi Early,

Welcome to HFH!

We've met many years ago at the Audiomartfest. That link has a couple of grainy pictures of you showing silver WE755As.

How's Scott? I've been looking for him since I moved to Bucks County, PA. I lost Scott's contact info when I left for Manila in '08. I hope he's doing well. My one and only experience with a WE15A was at his shop.

JE
 
Hi Early,

Welcome to HFH!

We've met many years ago at the Audiomartfest. That link has a couple of grainy pictures of you showing silver WE755As.

How's Scott? I've been looking for him since I moved to Bucks County, PA. I lost Scott's contact info when I left for Manila in '08. I hope he's doing well. My one and only experience with a WE15A was at his shop.

JE
Dear JE, thank you. I saw those grainy photos on your site and wow -- I remember you taking these pictures -- that's all... those Audiofest swap-meet shows were a whirlwind. Someday it would be nice to do another in NJ.

I talked to Scott today to ask his permission for posting that old photo...he is well and working on classic Porsche cars at his trans shop (west of Philly) . If you need his info ever, just email or PM.

When I saw all of these interesting posts, I could not stay away :)

I have beeen meaning for some time to thank you. For all the work and writing done showing the use of FR drivers, low power tube audio, WE/Altec setups, and especially the small JE Labs baffles -- countless customers I have emailed -- are using those or variations thereof -- and it's so great they have experienced the world of OB. So much different now than even a decade ago, when square boxes still ruled.

At the audio shows of yesteryear, we all remember anything low power, high efficiency , WECO inspired, or open baffle was unheard of or extremely rare. Now it feels like its in nearly every room.... just one thought...COOL TIMES!
 

je2a3

Senior Member
I talked to Scott today to ask his permission for posting that old photo...he is well and working on classic Porsche cars at his trans shop (west of Philly) . If you need his info ever, just email or PM.

Thanks for your kind words! Will send you a PM now.
 
Hi Early and a hearty welcome to Hfi Haven! You should feel very at home here. This is your kind of place.

You may recall the pair of WE 32A horns you sold me last year. We met in Fredericksburg for the swap. The horns still sound great! There is a picture of them somewhere on this forum.
 
Hi Early and a hearty welcome to Hfi Haven! You should feel very at home here. This is your kind of place.

You may recall the pair of WE 32A horns you sold me last year. We met in Fredericksburg for the swap. The horns still sound great! There is a picture of them somewhere on this forum.
Oh yes -- Great to hear that and and thank you for the welcome... Now I know this is hip forum !! -- I could not resist!! So may cool ideas and great discussions...outstanding!
Those old WECO horns are so nicely made.
I should so expose' on the 1st gen Altec 811/811B vs the later models which are many lbs lighter.. has anyone covered that topic, I will search?
I hope to do a few posts, but lack of time these days gets me...
Take care guys -- great time to say home and work on audio...
 

je2a3

Senior Member
Oh yes -- Great to hear that and and thank you for the welcome... Now I know this is hip forum !! -- I could not resist!! So may cool ideas and great discussions...outstanding!
Those old WECO horns are so nicely made.
I should so expose' on the 1st gen Altec 811/811B vs the later models which are many lbs lighter.. has anyone covered that topic, I will search?
I hope to do a few posts, but lack of time these days gets me...
Take care guys -- great time to say home and work on audio...

You'll probably find not so flattering remarks from Joe Roberts (J-Rob) about the 811/511 when he used to hang out here.

For more than 10 years, I tried to like my pair of early sand cast 811s which I acquired from Scott in the late 90s. I almost gave up on my Altec 2-way project until I managed to rescue a pair of 32C horns from a discarded model 15 in Manila in '09. Little did I know, Joe was already preaching about the virtues of the 32 horn half-way across the globe and @Salectric was already listening to the same horn + Jensen 15" woofers.

But I always try to maintain an open mind to learn new things.
 
Hey guys -- sounds like a well covered topic, better stick to some FR speakers first..
My thoughts on this as a late commenter:
I yield to all who suffered these "ringy-dingy job-giter doners"....
Mainly wanted to document Sandcast construction method the old, old, really(!) ancient --that Altec horns featured. I only have (3) of these 1940s specials left, and don't expect to see any more.... they were usually found with the early Altec 802 "gold label 16 ~20ohm, which is a gem these days)
Really, I guess you could argue this is one of the first horns that was cooked up by green-horns during Altec's Hollywood expansion (they just inhereted the better 808 from the Lansing boys and the WE/KS types from WECO of course (incl thatodd duck 31 & ever useful 32)
I was thinking so few cast horns avoid the ringing problem. The early, super heavy Sandcast 811 rings very little, and the first version with Vanes has the structure and a few extra pounds of metal. There are few systems that use the 811 well -- for most rooms it's either too much or too little and if you have the cheap version on top with no solid mount, it's just too nasty....

Walt taught me, that lower-end horns, to be balanced in reasonable space, need a couple of good woofers (and/or need to be "detuned" using the smaller 806 driver) ... I can think of systems that made good use of the 511 (namely the Altec Laguna using the twin 803B's) One factory speaker that used the ubiquitous, ring happy 811 well: That would be the lowly Altec 9844 Studio Monitor, which also uses the "2 woofer" trick and smaller 806A. If memory serves it's quite a decent birch-ply, all alnico speaker system from the 70s that's still sometimes dirt cheap! It's a nicely sized system, that uses twin 414Z's and probably ripe for tweaks.... Sure this system is likely muddier than the Altec A8 setup, but it's smaller too... The horn can be attenuated well in this compact setup, and the 511 ringing is probably near eliminated by flush mounting in that super tough 3/4 they used back then. They are so poorly viewed, we broke every one down we ever had...
Yep, it was rather the big daddy flop -- the really good cast metal horn is the 329A from the 70s. It has huge with braces, they lost money on those the old guys tell me, so few were made....they have gone through the roof in value. All out of those too (but do have a lonely throat if anybody needs)!

The early version, that appears to have been well discussed, nuff said!
altec_early_811.jpg

Poor Altec must have royaly screwed up marketing on this one... seems like it should have been a really popular system, and they could not even settle on a model # -- first they were 844's then "9844" sheesh...
These should probably have more lovers, but they are always so beat up, and really are not that common either ...
(((and my memory is to vague to endorse, I just always kinda like them!!!)))
811 (the cheap one) + 806 and 2 woofers, it's a balanced system, but it's no WE757 !

Altec 844_9844.jpg
 

BillWojo

Junior Member
Welcome Early, sounds like your a treasure trove of great information. Now I'll be keeping an eye out for some of those old cheap speakers to play with.
Are you in the Philly area? I'm in Burlington, NJ, always looking to meet fellow Altec enthusiast in my neck of the woods.

BillWojo
 

Redboy

Knobophobe
Hey Early, I'm glad you've found the Haven! Nice to see you posting here.

We've "met" once, in a hifi sort of way, when you sold me a really interesting pair of mystery horns that I still haven't identified... heavy, cast suckers painted an odd green...
 
Hey Early, I'm glad you've found the Haven! Nice to see you posting here.

We've "met" once, in a hifi sort of way, when you sold me a really interesting pair of mystery horns that I still haven't identified... heavy, cast suckers painted an odd green...
I remember those! Nice heavy old sandcast horns. They seemed like RCA, but never figured it out -- as I recall, a mystery!
 
@hifitown Hi Early, would these be an example of the 50's Telefunken 8" FR speakers you alluded to above? Any impressions/notes you could share about them? Possibly in comparison to better known 755A, Lafayette Sk-98 et al. speakers.

EDIT: Added photos, to avoid the link disappearing.
 

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@hifitown Hi Early, would these be an example of the 50's Telefunken 8" FR speakers you alluded to above? Any impressions/notes you could share about them? Possibly in comparison to better known 755A, Lafayette Sk-98 et al. speakers.

EDIT: Added photos, to avoid the link disappearing.

Yes, they look to be. We have had many, and I still have maybe a few pairs. These are "killer" and do set a bar on what you can find for sure.

We used to refer to these as the Telefunken 8", and they later became referred to as the Telefunken Opus 8"and more rarely as the "Tigges" (sp?) magnet Tele -- "Opus" because the radio (in early form) sported a pair... as I recall. It's a darling, supremely polite 8" speaker that is also very detailed and quick. It's full range, with supple, lush low end - but nice mids too.
Extremely efficient. It's got the post-war signature creamy, rich sound, you get from German audio (not a bad thing, just be aware they may lie to you in a nice way on certain recordings). The radios do not sound realistic. Get the speakers out (sorry radio lovers, it's just the way it is) -- because beyond the speakers, the wise german's bumped the bass and highs get a fau "HiFi" presentation at the PX where the radios sold like hotcakes back in the 50s.

We liked them better than all but one particular version of Saba "green cone" (they get a bit too much fanfare, IMHO). These Tele 8's really do exemplify the German sound. They do not possess the edgy vocal presentation that dual cone / whizzer / free edge equipped US Jensens and a few euro speakers (like the Phillips / Norelco / AD series can provide).

If I had to choose, for open baffle I would pick the Tele 8"s. They knock your socks off and you'll fall in immediate love, but you may tire of the German lush-creamy-politeness in a year or two. They have the detail that will make them a perineal favorite to revisit -- even if they're not the absolute best. There are also, many, many, many similar and better sounding ellipticals 7", 10" and even larger by Tele, Grundig, Isophon and somewhat rare East German RFT (I like some of those very much).

The Pioneer bi-flex in various forms, really varies -- and I can't recall if the 6/7"" was a s good as the 8" and I can't recall if the Lafayette version was as good as the super fancy Pioneer --sorry. But I can tell you, it's one of the best 50's Japanese speakers of all time -- I have heard them all except a few. It does posses the "edgy presence " that keeps you engaged with various tunes and will always put a smile on your face (as long as it's not choked down in a bad box). Tonality is perhaps better than the Tele, but I think overall detail and rendering may not be quite as good that exact "Tele 8" (got to be the biggest, tallest Tigges mag, we learned not to generalize!)
The Phillips AD series is undersung and has a nice balance between the American and German sound -- and they come in large sizes, I believe up to the metric eqiv of 15"..

Money no object....The WE & KS & Altec 755A (not the B or C or E) is still better yet -- featuring a consolidation of every little good thing you could not put your finger on, that other lighter-weight speakers lacked. But you know, as mentioned already -- it's not as sensitive -- and sputters out in HF region where dual cone drivers can keep on a ways. The WE755 I have come to appreciate is sporting a surprisingly low cone resonance for it's size and it's era.

In a nutshell, all above, except the 755A are still undervalued.

Best of luck on your search, Early, HiFiTown / Kearnyshop
 
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Thanks for such a detailed response! - Really helpful. I'll keep a look out for any of those drivers that cross my path.
 
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