The final (Altec) frontier?

Hey folks - I’m a long time creeper, but new to posting here at the Haven.

I’m interested to hear from some of you folks who have lived with this Altec affliction for longer than I have (or hell, shorter - maybe you’ve got a *really* bad case). I wanna hear about the best Altec setup you’ve personally heard or owned.

Here’s why I’m asking: I’ve been through several Altec setups over the past few years - 9844, 604e, 604g, Vals, single 414s, Model 19s, Model 17. Currently running the Model 19s as well as 604s in 620 cabs.

I did a ton of work or crossover tinkering on almost all of them and loved them all for the reasons we all love the Altec sound.

I resto-modded my first pair of Altecs - 9844s, and played around a lot with various crossover topologies - crossed up high ala JE labs and others down low. Anyway, I’ve been coming to the realization for a while that, a) I prefer horns crossed over low, and b) like many others before me, I don’t love the 811b sound.

Anyway, I finally got around to hearing a 511b the other night, driven by an 802-8d and paired with 416-8as in later production Val cabs. Bone stock Heathkit AS-101 networks (which are very close to the Altec N800f as I understand it).

Now I know few of y’all love the 511b, but having never heard, say, the Emiliar EH500, I was floored. The 2k harshness of the 811b was not there - and there’s not even a mid attenuation circuit on the AS-101! It was all smooth, eminently listenable, gorgeous. Driven by my mx-110z into mc225. Everything I love about the Alltec sound, little of what I don’t.

I was *shocked* at how much better it sounded than the 811b in any implementation I’ve ever heard. So shocked, I left that night and swore an oath I’d quit dicking around and get SERIOUS about getting to the endgame Altec sound.

i’d already been thinking for months about going the Onken route and taking my time trying out various horns/drivers, but after my 511b experience, I have to restrain myself from buying the first good pair of 288gs I can find and going for the moonshot.... probably something not dissimilar from @marantzfan ’s endgame Onkens.

So here’s the place I’m at: I finally know where I want to get to - or at least really close. If it means selling off my other gear to get there, so be it. Hopefully it won’t take that. But would it be so crazy if it did?

So for those of you who’ve reached the “end” (I mean, c’mon, there is no real end here - you guys know these things are relative!), what did it consist of? And what did you love about it? And I get that it may not be Altec... that’s cool too.

I’d love to hear from @ICTWoody about his Onken experiece. And REALLY looking forward to hearing @marantzfan’s thoughts when he fires up those MK1005 horns. They look gorgeous.
 

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Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
To be fair, I haven't heard my 604E's in properly sized cabinets (going to try the Big Red cabinet since I've got the Mastering Lab crossovers and I'm using a sub), but right now my JELabs Altec 753c setup sounds pretty brilliant.
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
Welcome to the Haven. Great Altec collection, never thought I’d say “those 604’s look small” but here we are (great room too!).
I am very happy with my 604E’s (yet building iconics) but still curious as to what @marantzfan ’s large format horn/onken project might produce.
 
To be fair, I haven't heard my 604E's in properly sized cabinets (going to try the Big Red cabinet since I've got the Mastering Lab crossovers and I'm using a sub), but right now my JELabs Altec 753c setup sounds pretty brilliant.
I was in the same boat for a while with my 604s. The only spare cabs I had on hand were “little” 614s, so that’s where they went. No LF obviously, but they still sounded stellar.

I eventually got a pair of totally brutalized 620 cabinets. Someone had enlarged the dividing network cutout in order to fit a small squawker horn and ran them upside down with a Peavey 15” doing LF duties. I patched them them like drywall, except with BB ply, wood glue and Bondo lol.

I think you’ll be delighted with the Big Reds. Much of the 604 magic is in the supremely musical quality of the LF band, and 604s in big cabs sound technicolor wild after your ears have gotten used to the attenuated LF response of smaller, or rather, not enormous cabs.

I thought my Es had a more pleasing tonal presentation in the MF than the G. I’ve come to believe that’s partly due to the tangerine phase plug sounding inferior to the older circumferential plug, at least to my ears. This is not pure speculation on my part.

When I got the 604g, one had the Tangerine phase plug and other had the older style with annular slits. So I played them like that for a while... the older phase plug model sounded smoother, less aggressive in the mids - not dissimilar to the E. I stupidly didn’t trust my ears, thinking what I was hearing was perhaps due to diaphragm imbalance, or a tired magnet. I had Bill at GPA replace the annular plug with a Tangerine while they were being regaussed. Oh well...Live and learn man!

All the 604s are amazing music makers and while they definitely have the Altec sound, I think of the 604 sound as a whole different thing from the big(ger) horn approach. Particularly for super critical listening - I occasionally get asked to help friends who are full time recording or touring artists by auditioning mix downs or premastered records - I always use the 604s for that kinda thing. To me, they’re different enough from the big horn systems to warrant having both. So if I have to sell something off to finance an “all the way” project, it’ll be the Model 19s before the 604s.

Do you like the Mastering Labs crossover for your Es? I’ve got the schematics for the Urei 813 time aligned networks I’d like to hear on the gs.
 
Welcome to the Haven. Great Altec collection, never thought I’d say “those 604’s look small” but here we are (great room too!).
I am very happy with my 604E’s (yet building iconics) but still curious as to what @marantzfan ’s large format horn/onken project might produce.
Thanks man! Do you have the 808s for your Iconics for your project yet? Always wanted to hear those.

I’ve been wanting to try Onkens for a while now... in fact, my Model 19s were supposed to be Onkens. I had all the components and drove from Tennessee to Tampa to pick up a pair of Onkens only to find they wouldn’t fit in my Land Cruiser! An empty pair of 19 cabs came available nearby a few days later, and Bob’s your uncle.

Have you ever been able to compare 416a/b drivers in Onkens vs other large cabs? My experience with Altec thus far has mainly been: if you wanna hear it, you gotta build it.
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
Thanks man! Do you have the 808s for your Iconics for your project yet? Always wanted to hear those.

I’ve been wanting to try Onkens for a while now... in fact, my Model 19s were supposed to be Onkens. I had all the components and drove from Tennessee to Tampa to pick up a pair of Onkens only to find they wouldn’t fit in my Land Cruiser! An empty pair of 19 cabs came available nearby a few days later, and Bob’s your uncle.

Have you ever been able to compare 416a/b drivers in Onkens vs other large cabs? My experience with Altec thus far has mainly been: if you wanna hear it, you gotta build it.
I have 3D print H808’s (Will build wood versions of course and may one day hunt down tar filled originals), 802D’s for the HF and GPA fresh 416Z’s. Just need to finish building the cabinets.
Have not A/B‘d the 416 but 416A’s are supposed to be the special sauce for the onken cabs.
 

marantzfan

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks man! Do you have the 808s for your Iconics for your project yet? Always wanted to hear those.

I’ve been wanting to try Onkens for a while now... in fact, my Model 19s were supposed to be Onkens. I had all the components and drove from Tennessee to Tampa to pick up a pair of Onkens only to find they wouldn’t fit in my Land Cruiser! An empty pair of 19 cabs came available nearby a few days later, and Bob’s your uncle.

Have you ever been able to compare 416a/b drivers in Onkens vs other large cabs? My experience with Altec thus far has mainly been: if you wanna hear it, you gotta build it.

I started my Altec journey with model 19’s as well. A well worn set I found locally and was able to pickup pretty affordably, but needed a lot of work.

Once I got them together they were my main speakers for several years. I really liked the sound of them but unless I could get a good distance away from them they always sounded a little disconnected. It was apparent you were listening to two distinct drivers in each speaker. My living room (which wasn’t small) wasn’t big enough to get far enough away from them for the drivers to gel.

I’d read a lot about the Duplex drivers and at one point I remember reading a post from @billfort where he explained how he departed from the 19’s for the exact thing I was hearing. His take was that the 604’s did most everything the 19’s did, but you didn’t need to sit 15’ away from them to get a cohesive soundstage.

So, I took the leap and have been really enjoying my 604-8G (first 605B) drivers in 620a cabinets ever since. The secret sauce for these was the @markwart crossovers. They REALLY elevate them from the stick crossover.

Years went by and I had no desire to try or buy any other speakers. The 604’s “did it” for me and to be fair they still do.

But I read a blog post from @je2a3 about a project he was working on with the smaller 414 woofer, 32 series bent horns and 802 drivers. The way he described what he was hearing, I just had to give them a shot. I’d been looking for an excuse to put together some items into a second system and this was a good one.

When I got those built and setup, I was shocked at just how good they sound. Not like a “little brother” to the 604 as I expected, these were their equal. Like fraternal twins, they have a lot in common with each other but also the small distinct differences makes them both unique. Pretty sure I’ll never sell either pair.

The problem is my curiously grew further. I picked up a set of 890b Boleros with the 3000 series tweeter and 406z woofers. These are a considerable smaller cabinet so they aren’t as extended as the my other Altecs. With that said, they sound much bigger then a speaker this size has a right to. I’d opine that these are the best “bookshelf” speaker I’ve ever heard, again with a personality all it’s own. Those 3000 tweeters are so smooth!

So...thinking will get you in trouble and I couldn’t help but think...

“What about the “big” Altecs.” Large format compression drivers, multicellular horns, large cabinets, etc. I’ve always loved the look of the Onkens and vowed that if I ever get a set of multicellular horns, they’d be of the Markus Klug wooden variety.

Which brings us to now. A pandemic was the nudge I needed to scratch this itch.

I hope to have these finished in the coming weeks and will certainly share my experiences with them.
 
Thanks @marantzfan! My impression of the Model 19s is same as yours, if not even a little more harsh.

My first Altec system was the 9844, with dual 414z per side. I LOVED them. Since they were a serious DIY effort and I had nothing around for comparison, I figured the magic I was hearing in the 9844s was pretty typical of the Altec sound. Come to find out it was more typical of the amazing 414.

So by the time I heard Model 19s, I was underwhelmed. I had already been running GPA 802-8gs and different crossover on the 9844s, so the biggest difference I heard was the loss of that remarkably colorful and dense midrange the 414s do so well.

I WAS blown away by the beauty and clarity and accuracy of the 604s though. And you’re right on about their similarities to the 414+32 sound! Love the Markwart crossovers too - amazing.

I got a hold of a pair of Iconic supercrossovers for the 604, which are massive and sound great, but still not as smooth as Markwarts.

Hearing the 511s the other night opened my eyes to what’s possible with larger horns.

I don’t remember on which forum I read it, but I’ve seen the 288 into multicellular horn sound described as being so smooth, you can put your ear up to them while playing and not wince in pain. The 511b had something of that. After hearing it, I wanted more.

Now I’m seeing the wisdom of not one, not two, but THREE setups: a duplex, a 414, and large format.

I knew you guys would steer me right!

Here’s a pic of the 9844s running “32ish” RCF H3709 horns and 604g in the tiny cabs.
 

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I have 3D print H808’s (Will build wood versions of course and may one day hunt down tar filled originals), 802D’s for the HF and GPA fresh 416Z’s. Just need to finish building the cabinets.
Have not A/B‘d the 416 but 416A’s are supposed to be the special sauce for the onken cabs.

Love to hear more about the 3d printed 808s!

Yeah - I’m gonna try to go with As if I go the Onken route.

I wasn’t able to compare them directly, but my M19s are running 416-8bs with GPA recone, and my buddy’s running original 416-8A in his modded Vals.

The As sounded killer even in the smaller cabs 846 Valencia cabs.
 

Audionut

Next Round Is On Me
Love to hear more about the 3d printed 808s!

Yeah - I’m gonna try to go with As if I go the Onken route.

I wasn’t able to compare them directly, but my M19s are running 416-8bs with GPA recone, and my buddy’s running original 416-8A in his modded Vals.

The As sounded killer even in the smaller cabs 846 Valencia cabs.
Well actually it was a fellow havenite that built or printed the 808’s for me. I believe he has since moved on to more ambitious projects. @Tsingtao_1903
Its interesting to hear the different variations in Altec drivers and what each does better than the other.
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
I was in the same boat for a while with my 604s. The only spare cabs I had on hand were “little” 614s, so that’s where they went. No LF obviously, but they still sounded stellar.

I eventually got a pair of totally brutalized 620 cabinets. Someone had enlarged the dividing network cutout in order to fit a small squawker horn and ran them upside down with a Peavey 15” doing LF duties. I patched them them like drywall, except with BB ply, wood glue and Bondo lol.

I think you’ll be delighted with the Big Reds. Much of the 604 magic is in the supremely musical quality of the LF band, and 604s in big cabs sound technicolor wild after your ears have gotten used to the attenuated LF response of smaller, or rather, not enormous cabs.

I thought my Es had a more pleasing tonal presentation in the MF than the G. I’ve come to believe that’s partly due to the tangerine phase plug sounding inferior to the older circumferential plug, at least to my ears. This is not pure speculation on my part.

When I got the 604g, one had the Tangerine phase plug and other had the older style with annular slits. So I played them like that for a while... the older phase plug model sounded smoother, less aggressive in the mids - not dissimilar to the E. I stupidly didn’t trust my ears, thinking what I was hearing was perhaps due to diaphragm imbalance, or a tired magnet. I had Bill at GPA replace the annular plug with a Tangerine while they were being regaussed. Oh well...Live and learn man!

All the 604s are amazing music makers and while they definitely have the Altec sound, I think of the 604 sound as a whole different thing from the big(ger) horn approach. Particularly for super critical listening - I occasionally get asked to help friends who are full time recording or touring artists by auditioning mix downs or premastered records - I always use the 604s for that kinda thing. To me, they’re different enough from the big horn systems to warrant having both. So if I have to sell something off to finance an “all the way” project, it’ll be the Model 19s before the 604s.

Do you like the Mastering Labs crossover for your Es? I’ve got the schematics for the Urei 813 time aligned networks I’d like to hear on the gs.
Sorry - maybe I meant 'Little Reds' - the ported cabs, not the dual-woofer ones. Like these (except with the drivers oriented the right way):

8d0e.jpg
 
There is a thread actually - on AudioKarma I think. Let me see if I can find it.

I don’t think I documented the entire build - only the initial ‘how the hell should I do this“ part.
 
Here it is: Altec 414z enclosure guidance

What I wound up doing was stripping, sanding, bracing, refurbing and staining the cabs, removing the front baffles and orienting the cab vertically making new baffles (without recalculating the port size), adding legs and putting the horn on top. I eventually moved to GPA 802-8gs and started experimenting with crossovers and the RCFs.

I learned a ton, but the two main lessons I learned were: 1) Altec projects always take some exponentially raised number of weeks relative to the number you think they will, and 2) I should never, ever, ever have a job where I work from home.
 
Happy to answer any questions.

I tried them crossed like stock at 800hz, ran them full range, JE Labs crossovers and variations, Model 19s, and ran the bottom 414z as a helper woofer rolled off at around 100, to avoid phase issues with two 414s arranged vertically.

I still think it would be cool to do a more purpose built dual 414 project project with bigger cabs and horizontal arrangement one day.

Having heard both single and dual 414 arrangements, I preferred the fuller sound of the dual, even though it didn’t look impressive on an RTA, to say the least. Need a pair of Malibus!
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
I was in the same boat for a while with my 604s. The only spare cabs I had on hand were “little” 614s, so that’s where they went. No LF obviously, but they still sounded stellar.

I eventually got a pair of totally brutalized 620 cabinets. Someone had enlarged the dividing network cutout in order to fit a small squawker horn and ran them upside down with a Peavey 15” doing LF duties. I patched them them like drywall, except with BB ply, wood glue and Bondo lol.

I think you’ll be delighted with the Big Reds. Much of the 604 magic is in the supremely musical quality of the LF band, and 604s in big cabs sound technicolor wild after your ears have gotten used to the attenuated LF response of smaller, or rather, not enormous cabs.

I thought my Es had a more pleasing tonal presentation in the MF than the G. I’ve come to believe that’s partly due to the tangerine phase plug sounding inferior to the older circumferential plug, at least to my ears. This is not pure speculation on my part.

When I got the 604g, one had the Tangerine phase plug and other had the older style with annular slits. So I played them like that for a while... the older phase plug model sounded smoother, less aggressive in the mids - not dissimilar to the E. I stupidly didn’t trust my ears, thinking what I was hearing was perhaps due to diaphragm imbalance, or a tired magnet. I had Bill at GPA replace the annular plug with a Tangerine while they were being regaussed. Oh well...Live and learn man!

All the 604s are amazing music makers and while they definitely have the Altec sound, I think of the 604 sound as a whole different thing from the big(ger) horn approach. Particularly for super critical listening - I occasionally get asked to help friends who are full time recording or touring artists by auditioning mix downs or premastered records - I always use the 604s for that kinda thing. To me, they’re different enough from the big horn systems to warrant having both. So if I have to sell something off to finance an “all the way” project, it’ll be the Model 19s before the 604s.

Do you like the Mastering Labs crossover for your Es? I’ve got the schematics for the Urei 813 time aligned networks I’d like to hear on the gs.
So far I'm liking the Mastering Lab crossovers a lot - nowhere near as aggressive in the mid-treble (when compared to the N-1500a networks). Mine were a bit of a special case when I got them and needed some fettling before they were back to original spec (wrong cement resistors, some not-quite-kosher film caps, etc.). I've got a separate thread on bringing them back to more-or-less stock.

Interesting about the phase plugs. I think in the case of the 808-8b/32c combo I'm using upstairs, the Tangerines add a bit of extension, but without any aggressiveness in the mids, but then again, I'm running the 414z up to somewhere between 3k-4k before the compression driver comes in, so I may just be bypassing the problematic region in this case.
 
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Ha. Me too! I think you’re right on the money about dodging the problem area by running your 414s that high. In my experience, it’s usually right around 1.5-2.3k where I get “issues.”
 
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