Altec 755C: The world’s best high efficiency single driver antique bookshelf speaker?

godofwealth

Active Member
Feb 8, 2022
121
185
43
62
Just received my first Altec 755-C based single-driver high-efficiency bookshelf speaker. Cost me a relatively paltry $1200. This pair, beautifully finished in original bamboo wood, was owned originally by Gordon Rankin, founder of Wavelength. God bless your heart, Gordon, if you’re reading this.

Initial impressions: holy smokes, this little speaker, if made today, could easily cost 10 grand. Can any manufacturer really make a single high efficiency driver with the quality of the Altec 755-C? I see why the original Western Electric sourced 755A cones sells for close to 10 grand. Scuttlebutt says the 755-Cs are better.

First, my 300B 10 watt Cary SET monoblocks drives them effortlessly. I’m guessing efficiency is around 96dB. There’s no crossover, so the sound is pure and the clarity approaches my Quad 57s (shown in the background pic below). The Cary struggles a bit to drive the 57s. No such issue with the 755-C. This little speaker has drive! Transients are effortless. Rimshots on drums are fast and quick. Imaging is superlative. Detail is natural. Voices in a chorus are revealed with startling clarity. You can count the number of singers.

I haven’t measured them yet, but I would guesstimate response is fairly flat from 50-60 Hz to around 14 KHZ. There’s a little rise in frequency around 2-3 kHZ. You young whippersnappers can look for speakers that play at 120 dB up to 60 kHZ scaring all the bats in your neighborhood. As a grizzled 60 something audiophile, who’d like to keep his hearing intact, I’m happy if a speaker can play at 90-100 dB from 50 Hz up to 15 kHZ. I have a pair of gigantic REL G1 Mk2 subs, which I haven’t hooked up yet. Plenty of time later for tweaks. I need a better stand. These “bookshelf” speakers are quite deep. But for now I want to enjoy them for what they are, warts and all. No, they’re not for organ fanatics.

Comparisons: I’ve owned far too many bookshelf speakers over the past 30 years to count. Most recent was a pair of Kef LS 50 Meta. Sorry, Kef, you’re going to have to up your game if you want to better the Altec 755-C. The LS 50 sounds so slooow and lethargic compared to the 755-C. The LS 50 is also like 10 dB less efficient, so forget using it with SETs. Next up, Harbeth Monitor 30.1s and 30.2s. Both sound grainy compared to the magical Altec 755-C. I’m guessing the complex crossover in the Harbeth messes the sound. While Alan Shaw’s RADIAL midrange is fabulous, his crossover design and tweeters are not at the same exalted level. Hey, Alan? How about a single driver highly efficient Harbeth? The 30.x models are too inefficient for SETs. Who’s left? Ah, I have the little Spendor S3/5, lovely little unit that Herb Reichert raved about in Listener 20 years ago (Herb writes for Stereophile now). The S3/5 is everything Herb raved about. But it’s not as pure sounding as its tweeter has this resonance peak that gives it a glare. Also, it’s dynamically not in the same class. Efficiency? Forget about it. Like low 80s.

Ok, now let’s compare against far more expensive speakers. Yes, my Harbeth Monitor 40.1s sounds better on voices, but their bass is so sluggish that they put you to sleep on any music with bounce to it. Mendelssohn string symphonies sound fabulous on the 40.1s. Wes Montgomery’s fabulous live jazz recording at the Tsubo club in nearby Berkeley in the early 60s sounds way too sluggish on the big Harbeth. How about the Quad 57s? Ah, now things start to get tough for the little Altec 755-C. But the 57s are not quite as easy to drive with my Cary 300Bs, as they have a weird impedance. They have an even lovelier midrange, but don’t have quite the same boogie factor. The bigger 2805s and 2905s that I have owned for many years are clearly far more sophisticated, but resemble the point source nature of the single driver 755-C. Now it’s a bit unfair to the little 755-C, but the 2805s snd 2005s cannot be driven by SETs. Also, the complex delay lines that Peter Walker used on the 63 designs has a bit of midrange grain.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the little gem of a speaker, the Altec 755-C, a contender for the world’s best single driver high efficiency antique bookshelf speaker. What’s that, you ask? Am I selling my just acquired pair? No. Eh, you say you’re offering 10 grand. No dice. Ask Gordon to make you another pair.
 

Attachments

  • FD1FF4E3-13B5-4C7B-9C52-1F01FF657D5F.jpeg
    FD1FF4E3-13B5-4C7B-9C52-1F01FF657D5F.jpeg
    679.5 KB · Views: 54
  • 81FA8466-3FBA-4D74-92FC-DB9897064EB1.jpeg
    81FA8466-3FBA-4D74-92FC-DB9897064EB1.jpeg
    663.5 KB · Views: 52

bonzo75

Member Sponsor
Feb 26, 2014
18,697
8,743
1,515
London
Thanks - nice write-up. Why does it have a little towel on its head?

Wet towel. Taking damping too seriously
 
  • Haha
Reactions: Fred Crane

godofwealth

Active Member
Feb 8, 2022
121
185
43
62
Ah, the towels. I used them to clean the bamboo cabinets, but forgot to remove them from the speaker tops. They do add a homely touch to what is clearly a DYI speaker, although it’s more beautiful in person. The speaker is actually far larger than modern bookshelf speakers. This is no LS 3/5A. Think more like Spendor SP 2/x series. It’s a bit bigger in size than Harbeth 30.x series, but not quite as heavy.

One of the last albums I heard on the Altec 755-C yesterday before retiring was Gerry Mulligan’s fabulous sounding gig with Brazilian singer Jane Duboc, called Paraiso, beautifully engineered on Telarc. Take the lovely track “Etude for Franca”. If you have not heard this album or this track, do your soul a favor this weekend and stream this track. If Mulligan’s opening solo on this track and breathy baritone sax sound , or Jane Duboc‘s beautiful voice, don’t leave you in tears at the end, you need a better Hi-Fi (I won‘t pass judgement on your soul!).

To me, a great speaker lives or dies by what I hear on this track. Many a famous speaker has met its death in my listening room unable to do justice to Mulligan’s beautifully rendered baritone or Ms Duboc’s ah so lovely and sultry voice. Forget Ana Caram’s toneless singing on Chesky Records. Or even the famous fake English vocalization of the original Portuguese lyrics in the Girl from Ipanema, the torch bearer of Brazilian jazz samba. To my ears, Ms. Duboc’s singing in Etude for Franca trumps both of them by a country mile. She’s the real article.

No, the little Altec won’t plumb the depths like many a modern hippopotamus of moving coil loudspeakers do, with their innumerable drivers. But unlike these Humpty Dumpty behemoths who speak in multiple voices, whose drivers are fighting with each other to make themselves heard over the others, what emerges from the 755-C is not a veritable cacophony of sound disguised by a complex crossover to try to blend together into one, but rather the purity that comes from hearing a crossover less single driver. The Altec 755-C won’t make you swoon by how loud it gets, or how deep it goes, but by the insight it gives you on recordings you have heard thousands of times.
 

je2a3

Member
Apr 25, 2020
4
10
10
north of philly
jelabs.blogspot.com
Ah, the towels. I used them to clean the bamboo cabinets, but forgot to remove them from the speaker tops. They do add a homely touch to what is clearly a DYI speaker, although it’s more beautiful in person. The speaker is actually far larger than modern bookshelf speakers. This is no LS 3/5A. Think more like Spendor SP 2/x series. It’s a bit bigger in size than Harbeth 30.x series, but not quite as heavy.

One of the last albums I heard on the Altec 755-C yesterday before retiring was Gerry Mulligan’s fabulous sounding gig with Brazilian singer Jane Duboc, called Paraiso, beautifully engineered on Telarc. Take the lovely track “Etude for Franca”. If you have not heard this album or this track, do your soul a favor this weekend and stream this track. If Mulligan’s opening solo on this track and breathy baritone sax sound , or Jane Duboc‘s beautiful voice, don’t leave you in tears at the end, you need a better Hi-Fi (I won‘t pass judgement on your soul!).

To me, a great speaker lives or dies by what I hear on this track. Many a famous speaker has met its death in my listening room unable to do justice to Mulligan’s beautifully rendered baritone or Ms Duboc’s ah so lovely and sultry voice. Forget Ana Caram’s toneless singing on Chesky Records. Or even the famous fake English vocalization of the original Portuguese lyrics in the Girl from Ipanema, the torch bearer of Brazilian jazz samba. To my ears, Ms. Duboc’s singing in Etude for Franca trumps both of them by a country mile. She’s the real article.

No, the little Altec won’t plumb the depths like many a modern hippopotamus of moving coil loudspeakers do, with their innumerable drivers. But unlike these Humpty Dumpty behemoths who speak in multiple voices, whose drivers are fighting with each other to make themselves heard over the others, what emerges from the 755-C is not a veritable cacophony of sound disguised by a complex crossover to try to blend together into one, but rather the purity that comes from hearing a crossover less single driver. The Altec 755-C won’t make you swoon by how loud it gets, or how deep it goes, but by the insight it gives you on recordings you have heard thousands of times.

Nice to see another Altec 755C fan!

DSC04932.jpg

I'm listening to my 755Cs as I type. They're in Silbatone boxes courtesy of Joe Roberts. Although I have a more efficient pair of Altec 2-way speakers in my main system, I started my DIY SET amp/high efficiency journey with 755Cs in open baffles back in the 90s. Before prices sky rocketed, I also acquired Altec 755As (bottom pair in the picture above). They're even better!

Happy listening!

JE
 
  • Like
Reactions: bonzo75

Solypsa

Well-Known Member
Jun 7, 2017
1,289
932
225
Seattle
www.solypsa.com
I have an acquaintance in Japan that has 755-a, Jordan Watts, some Goodmans and iirc some Jensens in his room. ( plus a grip of Tannoys in another system ). We ran through them and I guess its cool to have them all ;). Agreed a mighty fine speaker.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Walter66 and je2a3

godofwealth

Active Member
Feb 8, 2022
121
185
43
62
Nice to see another Altec 755C fan!

View attachment 97227

I'm listening to my 755Cs as I type. They're in Silbatone boxes courtesy of Joe Roberts. Although I have a more efficient pair of Altec 2-way speakers in my main system, I started my DIY SET amp/high efficiency journey with 755Cs in open baffles back in the 90s. Before prices sky rocketed, I also acquired Altec 755As (bottom pair in the picture above). They're even better!

Happy listening!

JE
Thanks a lot for the links to open baffle speakers. I just bought a pair of Zenith 49CZ852 12" Woofers. These were given a rave review in Glow in the Dark Audio.


”The Zenith 49CZ852 full range speakers pictured below are without doubt the highest performing speaker per dollar value of anything I have had in my room”.

I look forward to trying these out in an open baffle design.
 

Attachments

  • 61F44CDB-D645-46FB-8764-94697A7D1E9B.jpeg
    61F44CDB-D645-46FB-8764-94697A7D1E9B.jpeg
    1.3 MB · Views: 3
  • Like
Reactions: je2a3

je2a3

Member
Apr 25, 2020
4
10
10
north of philly
jelabs.blogspot.com
Thanks a lot for the links to open baffle speakers. I just bought a pair of Zenith 49CZ852 12" Woofers. These were given a rave review in Glow in the Dark Audio.


”The Zenith 49CZ852 full range speakers pictured below are without doubt the highest performing speaker per dollar value of anything I have had in my room”.

I look forward to trying these out in an open baffle design.
No experience with that Zenith 12" but enjoy the experiment!
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. This is THE place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss vintage, contemporary and new audio products, music servers, music streamers, computer audio, digital-to-analog converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel-to-reel tape machines, speakers, headphones and tube and solid-state amplification. Founded in 2010 What’s Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals, we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people, and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing