Zero Distortion: Altec Assault and the Magic of Misho (Audio Antiquary)

http://zero-distortion.org/altec-assault-and-the-magic-of-misho/

Warning: This is a long article, so you can take breaks while reading it, as it covers different sections:
  1. Introduction to Misho (AudioAntiquary) and the Altecs, his background owning Altecs, Bionor, WE 16a, etc
  2. Compares of his electronics against Audio Note Neiro 2a3, Allnic Phono, and comments from users who own it with Kondo and CJ GAt II
  3. Tour of various other Altecs and VOTTs in EU
  4. My own decision to go with dual woofer FLHs
Altec Cover.jpg
 

Comments

jdza

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May 3, 2010
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#2
Fascinating as always Bonzo.

Not criticism but maybe to help you avoid mistakes: The various Altec 515s are not really about the Alnico or Ferrite but rather the cone. In general B,C,E are more geared towards LF extension with G lighter and possibly faster. If you start playing with T/S parameters you'll find that driver l can go either lower in freq or higher but not both. You therefore have to think carefully what you want to achieve. B,C etc would be more suitable for combined horn/box designs i.e A5/7 . For pure horn the real Altec guys (i.e. those who were employed by Altec) recommended G to me. I have sacrificed bass extension for purity and speed. Truth is ,I had no idea at that stage what to do with mid bass so for safety wanted to be able to reach 600-700Hz or even higher with no distortion. I then went for a 200Hz xo so in retrospect doing what Rogerro did by going with B way have given me 3 or 4 more Hz downwards but the horn and rear chamber would have needed re design.Of course his horn and rear chamber management is totally different.

Broadly speaking 515G is comparable to the JBL 2220,i.e more a mid bass driver with B,C,E more similar to JBL 2205 ,i.e. the former more suitable for our horn use and the latter suitable for wider use more of a compromise elsewhere. Sort of Mercedes G vs GLE if you want.

The TAD 160X is truly remarkable. I have recently completed a Kinoshita RM 7 type speaker( not a true clone) and blow me down the 1601s cross cleanly at 650Hz yet are totally flat to 18 Hz. Truth be told I cheated slightly as I ended up with one 1601B and one 1603 per cabinet. Their T/S measurements are very close but it is said that 01 (Alnico) is tonally better and 03(Ferrite) has more slam. I thought so too. So have I ended up with the best of both or the worst of both? I don't know but as I think you mentioned they are not ideal for horn use but in a box-WOW!
 

bonzo75

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#3
Hi Jdza,

I am well aware of the recommendations of G for the pure horn, but those are not accurate, as there are also differences between allnico and ferrite of the originals, and between allnico and ferrite of GPA. I agree with sacrificing LF for purity and speed. 416 has lower extension than 515 for example

As you know I have been to Rogerro's room. I prefer Misho's much more.

I am well aware of the JBL 2220, and will feature them in my future write-up, but there the difference of allnico and ferrite with 2220 from what I understand is different from Altec

I am not interested in TAD woofers as they are not made for horn loading like the 515 and 2220. A friend owns the rare 1601c here in London

I do own the TAD 4003 though...new...with consecutive serial numbers
 
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bonzo75

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Regarding the 200 Hz XO, that's what the silvercore I heard (and reported on) does, And which is also a dual woofer FLH, and that could fit with vitavox S2 or AER
 

Ron Resnick

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#5
Thank you for taking us on this journey of Altecs and front-loaded horns and drivers exploration! You clearly have dug down to the bottom of the garden to make sure that you understand the advantages and disadvantages of each component and of the various combinations thereof.

I am glad you are well on your way to assembling your own speaker system. On that topic, what is your current thinking as to who will make the cabinet for you and who will make the cross-over and who will assemble the drivers and cross-over into a finished loudspeaker?

Do you also subscribe to the view that only a 15 inch woofer is worthwhile? I find that a little hard to understand, because it seems very possible that a number of smaller, theoretically faster drivers could provide the same "oomph" and low frequency output of a single 15 " woofer, but with greater speed and, perhaps, delicacy?

Why isn't there a concern that original vintage Altec paper woofer drivers get dried out and brittle over time?

I, too, like the "bottom up" tonal balance and heft where the bass and mid-bass provide a solid and rich-sounding foundation which supports the entire orchestra. I heard that from the Tannoy Westminster, and I really liked it. ("The center of gravity of the frequency balance of the speakers is in the lower frequencies.") I want to achieve that effect with planars.

Articulated in terms of the Tannoy Westminster Royal Gold, the merits of which I now understand thanks to Jimford, what does the FLH with Altec 515Bs get you above and beyond what I heard from the backloaded Westminster? Do you hear greater transparency from the multicell horn than from the coaxial tweeter in the Tannoy?

What driver are you planning to use for the middle frequencies and high frequencies? The Markus Klug wood replica of the metal Altec multicell horn?

Why don't these vintage dual woofer designs (or modern iterations thereof) place the midrange and treble driver in the middle of the cabinet, instead of on top of the cabinet?

In the course of your travels did you come across anybody who uses a plasma super tweeter on top of his FLH speakers?

How would you rate and compare Altec multicell horn + Altec woofers on vocals and "girl with guitar" versus Apogee Full Range or Grand, and versus Analysis Audio Omega?

Have you had occasion to listen to planers at one or more points during this FLH inquiry and Altec search process? Do you not miss at all the open-ness and sonic spaciousness of planars?

Where does YG driven by your favorite Audionet amplifier rank in your current loudspeaker pantheon?
 
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bonzo75

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#6
Answers to Ron's queries:

what is your current thinking as to who will make the cabinet for you and who will make the cross-over and who will assemble the drivers and cross-over into a finished loudspeaker? Cabinet plans are available, you can get any local carpenter to make it for you. For crossovers there are two possibilities - I have not written yet about the second one.

Do you also subscribe to the view that only a 15 inch woofer is worthwhile? I find that a little hard to understand, because it seems very possible that a number of smaller, theoretically faster drivers could provide the same "oomph" and low frequency output of a single 15 " woofer, but with greater speed and, perhaps, delicacy? Horn guys will tell you there is something called QTS in the parameters used to measure drivers, which shows how much the driver needs to move to produce bass. Drivers like Altec 515, made for horn loading, are require to move much less than a driver used in a cone which has higher QTS. In closed cones, smaller drivers moving slowly will produce more bass. Because the cone is closed, they can afford to be smaller. The more towards open baffle you go, you will need to have bigger and greater number of drivers to produce the same bass, but here they will need to be faster. Altec drivers are as fast as they come, and their strength is the midbass - for tone, oomph, speed, delicacy. That's why I fixed Altec for midbass and am quite willing to rotate higher mids and tweeter. The only driver I will consider here over the Altec is an 18 inch which Silvercore used, which he and his friends had made, and there are similar alternatives from JBL. Otherwise you cannot get this level of bass at 110 db, 8 ohm impedance, drivable by under 5 watts

Why isn't there a concern that original vintage Altec paper woofer drivers get dried out and brittle over time? For their mids drivers, replacing the diaphragm is recommended. For their woofers, Allnico magnet loss is more of a concern but if in doubt GPA can remag it for you.

I, too, like the "bottom up" tonal balance and heft where the bass and mid-bass provide a solid and rich-sounding foundation which supports the entire orchestra. I heard that from the Tannoy Westminster, and I really liked it. ("The center of gravity of the frequency balance of the speakers is in the lower frequencies.") I want to achieve that effect with planars. With planars Apogees do that. I lost my interest in Apogees when I saw the the Silvercore dual woofer FLH made Henk's Grands sound relatively puny in the midbass. And they did with the most linearity and flow and tone. Later, I saw that at a much lower price and size and fit for any living room, Tannoys gave me a similar satisfaction with their midbass oomph and midrange. The Tannoys are good, and easier. The Altecs if done right are superlative. Tannoys to me is the most practical solution for an audiophile, it makes everyone happy for all music, good WAF, good resale, fit and play. If you want to exceed, and play audiophilia like a competitive sport with Mike, Tang, G, DIY extremists like Leif, without having to spend that time and money, and without DIYing yourself, assemble yourself a dual woofer FLH. Otherwise stay with Tannoy. The dual woofer FLH will have much more detail and extension and transparency than Tannoy, can be more tuned, and can run on lower wattage SETs. On audiophile rating scale, much better. On satisfaction scale, very similar


What driver are you planning to use for the middle frequencies and high frequencies? The Markus Klug wood replica of the metal Altec multicell horn? You are confusing drivers and horns. Drivers like I mentioned in my write-up, choice between Altec, Beryllium drivers like TAD and Radian, and if one wanted a lower crossover point, Vitavox S2 or AER. This will also depend a bit on music tastes and preference. Horns - Markus Glug's Altec multicell replica for Altecs, other choice is Autotech JMLC (circular horn). There are also radial horns but I haven't heard one I have liked yet, and smaller circular horns called tractrix which are only required if you are crossing over muc lower. For multicells one needs space from sidewalls. All these can be rotated pretty easily once the speaker is ready very much like a cartridge, just easier and cheaper.

Why don't these vintage dual woofer designs (or modern iterations thereof) place the midrange and treble driver in the middle of the cabinet, instead of on top of the cabinet? The Rey audio designs of TAD speakers are MTM though closed box. I haven't heard one, can be done

How would you rate and compare Altec multicell horn + Altec woofers on vocals and "girl with guitar" versus Apogee Full Range or Grand, and versus Analysis Audio Omega? Already compared it to Grands and electrostats. Beryllium drivers are more like electrostats, on the higher mids. Altec is also very good but this is where preferences of transparency to recordings and see through transparency will come into play.

Have you had occasion to listen to planers at one or more points during this FLH inquiry and Altec search process? Do you not miss at all the open-ness and sonic spaciousness of planars? I have heard Apogees and Logans since I heard the silvercore and the Berlin JBL, not since the Altecs. No I don't miss that as these are very open and spacious. In fact horns Universum is extremely electrostatlike, better, where it loses out to dual woofer FLH and to Apogees is the midbass below.

In the course of your travels did you come across anybody who uses a plasma super tweeter on top of his FLH speakers? No. That said I prefer the mids and highs of TADs and Radians much more to the Acapella (similar high frequency transparent sound) as well as AER. Tweeter should be selected upon what mids driver is selected, and sometimes can be a smaller compression driver of the same family

Where does YG driven by your favorite Audionet amplifier rank in your current loudspeaker pantheon? I think we have had this discussion 50 times or more, but my frustration shows because you will never accept the importance of digital, else you would have worded the question differently. To have a lower sensitivity system, I will set it around Lampi. Which means a Pacific 242 with the audionets (because I heard this and it was the best source I heard, better than all analog and orginals), with a speaker that is capable of being driven by the audionets. YG is a top choice for that. This could be better than the dual woofer FLH, for completely different reason, because the Lampi 242 properly tuned creates the best dynamics, dynamic range, nuance and grip that I have experienced in audio. It is not at all surprising that all those who own Lampi and stellar analog set ups are listening 80 to 90% to their digital. And this is not for convenience. The only issue with this is that I cannot afford the audionet, so I have to find a cheaper alternative that I do not have, or tune my Lampi 242 similarly with a SET amp on the FLH.
 
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christoph

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#7
Regarding the 200 Hz XO, that's what the silvercore I heard (and reported on) does, And which is also a dual woofer FLH, and that could fit with vitavox S2 or AER
I thought the Vitavox S2 can only be used down to around 350hz... :confused:
 

bonzo75

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#8

Kingrex

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I have a friend, Howard Swane who has these speakers. Or I should say a replica. He used EV drivers in rhe woofer. He uses the Chela multicell horn. Pretty amazing sound. He drives them with Altec 1570B to the woofers and Altex 1569 to the horn. Both amps modded. The 1570 by Transition and the 1569 by some other tech.

Maybe a little buzzed listenin one night with him. Simon and Garfunkel live in central park was like being on the stage. Literally. I felt like I was sitting on a chair on the stage. Dylans Blowing in the Wind brought tears to my eyes. Every nuance of his voice was displaying all the emotions. If I had a room to house them, I would take them off his hands.
 

bonzo75

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#12
Be careful, those measurements are done in a plane wave tube and I'd recommend the 350Hz as XO-point like Christoph wrote...
I am not planning to use vitavox, as I have heard 3 S2 set ups though before I started my driver based research (apart from the vox Olympian at Munich each year) and so far none of the speakers impressed me with their mids, but thought that was what people could use. Good to know. Romy put the driver on the map.
 
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Audiophile Bill

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Mar 23, 2015
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#13
Great article, Ked. Really enjoyed reading this.
 

Ron Resnick

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#14
Answers to Ron's queries:

what is your current thinking as to who will make the cabinet for you and who will make the cross-over and who will assemble the drivers and cross-over into a finished loudspeaker? Cabinet plans are available, you can get any local carpenter to make it for you. For crossovers there are two possibilities - I have not written yet about the second one.

Do you also subscribe to the view that only a 15 inch woofer is worthwhile? I find that a little hard to understand, because it seems very possible that a number of smaller, theoretically faster drivers could provide the same "oomph" and low frequency output of a single 15 " woofer, but with greater speed and, perhaps, delicacy? Horn guys will tell you there is something called QTS in the parameters used to measure drivers, which shows how much the driver needs to move to produce bass. Drivers like Altec 515, made for horn loading, are require to move much less than a driver used in a cone which has higher QTS. In closed cones, smaller drivers moving slowly will produce more bass. Because the cone is closed, they can afford to be smaller. The more towards open baffle you go, you will need to have bigger and greater number of drivers to produce the same bass, but here they will need to be faster. Altec drivers are as fast as they come, and their strength is the midbass - for tone, oomph, speed, delicacy. That's why I fixed Altec for midbass and am quite willing to rotate higher mids and tweeter. The only driver I will consider here over the Altec is an 18 inch which Silvercore used, which he and his friends had made, and there are similar alternatives from JBL. Otherwise you cannot get this level of bass at 110 db, 8 ohm impedance, drivable by under 5 watts

Why isn't there a concern that original vintage Altec paper woofer drivers get dried out and brittle over time? For their mids drivers, replacing the diaphragm is recommended. For their woofers, Allnico magnet loss is more of a concern but if in doubt GPA can remag it for you.

I, too, like the "bottom up" tonal balance and heft where the bass and mid-bass provide a solid and rich-sounding foundation which supports the entire orchestra. I heard that from the Tannoy Westminster, and I really liked it. ("The center of gravity of the frequency balance of the speakers is in the lower frequencies.") I want to achieve that effect with planars. With planars Apogees do that. I lost my interest in Apogees when I saw the the Silvercore dual woofer FLH made Henk's Grands sound relatively puny in the midbass. And they did with the most linearity and flow and tone. Later, I saw that at a much lower price and size and fit for any living room, Tannoys gave me a similar satisfaction with their midbass oomph and midrange. The Tannoys are good, and easier. The Altecs if done right are superlative. Tannoys to me is the most practical solution for an audiophile, it makes everyone happy for all music, good WAF, good resale, fit and play. If you want to exceed, and play audiophilia like a competitive sport with Mike, Tang, G, DIY extremists like Leif, without having to spend that time and money, and without DIYing yourself, assemble yourself a dual woofer FLH. Otherwise stay with Tannoy. The dual woofer FLH will have much more detail and extension and transparency than Tannoy, can be more tuned, and can run on lower wattage SETs. On audiophile rating scale, much better. On satisfaction scale, very similar


What driver are you planning to use for the middle frequencies and high frequencies? The Markus Klug wood replica of the metal Altec multicell horn? You are confusing drivers and horns. Drivers like I mentioned in my write-up, choice between Altec, Beryllium drivers like TAD and Radian, and if one wanted a lower crossover point, Vitavox S2 or AER. This will also depend a bit on music tastes and preference. Horns - Markus Glug's Altec multicell replica for Altecs, other choice is Autotech JMLC (circular horn). There are also radial horns but I haven't heard one I have liked yet, and smaller circular horns called tractrix which are only required if you are crossing over muc lower. For multicells one needs space from sidewalls. All these can be rotated pretty easily once the speaker is ready very much like a cartridge, just easier and cheaper.

Why don't these vintage dual woofer designs (or modern iterations thereof) place the midrange and treble driver in the middle of the cabinet, instead of on top of the cabinet? The Rey audio designs of TAD speakers are MTM though closed box. I haven't heard one, can be done

How would you rate and compare Altec multicell horn + Altec woofers on vocals and "girl with guitar" versus Apogee Full Range or Grand, and versus Analysis Audio Omega? Already compared it to Grands and electrostats. Beryllium drivers are more like electrostats, on the higher mids. Altec is also very good but this is where preferences of transparency to recordings and see through transparency will come into play.

Have you had occasion to listen to planers at one or more points during this FLH inquiry and Altec search process? Do you not miss at all the open-ness and sonic spaciousness of planars? I have heard Apogees and Logans since I heard the silvercore and the Berlin JBL, not since the Altecs. No I don't miss that as these are very open and spacious. In fact horns Universum is extremely electrostatlike, better, where it loses out to dual woofer FLH and to Apogees is the midbass below.

. . .

Thank you for all of these comprehensive and thoughtful replies! The fact is I think you are onto some significant truths, especially for classical and jazz. (I still have not heard horns exactly equal in transparency and in-the-room presence what I hear from ribbons on vocals, except very possibly from the General's AER BD5.)

Everything you write about big and lightweight vintage drivers in an open baffle moving fast versus smaller drivers in sealed boxes makes sense to me. (I don't know if all of your points are correct, but they all seem logical and correct.) The collateral benefit of high sensitivity is a big plus, I agree.

I seriously liked what the Altec multicell horn did on even the Branko loudspeakers. I thought I heard some magic there. (For the record, I liked the Branko more than any other WBF member who heard them with me did.) I also now totally understand where and how the Tannoy Westminster fits into your hierarchy, and I agree there too.

I love Jimford's system in his fantastic room (transparency concern notwithstanding). That system does so many things "right" to me.

Also, I think kudos must go to David Karmeli who has for years been advocating correctly many of these general vintage audio concepts and specific component recommendations.

Then if you put the Markus-improved wood Altec multicell horn on top of your preferred Altec woofer drivers (I still really would like these components re-imagined as an M-T-M in a much taller cabinet for (to me) more scale and grandeur!) I think you should have absolutely amazing sound. On a cost-adjusted basis the sound quality will be off-the-chart.

Congratulations on using your global stereo journey to arrive at definitive decisions and, I think, some very correct conclusions!
 
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bonzo75

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#15
The Altec, as I said, was better for rock than any speaker I have heard since the led zep at Mike's.

The scale and grandeur is all there
 

Ron Resnick

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#16
. . .

Where does YG driven by your favorite Audionet amplifier rank in your current loudspeaker pantheon? I think we have had this discussion 50 times or more, but my frustration shows because you will never accept the importance of digital, else you would have worded the question differently. To have a lower sensitivity system, I will set it around Lampi. Which means a Pacific 242 with the audionets (because I heard this and it was the best source I heard, better than all analog and orginals), with a speaker that is capable of being driven by the audionets. YG is a top choice for that. This could be better than the dual woofer FLH, for completely different reason, because the Lampi 242 properly tuned creates the best dynamics, dynamic range, nuance and grip that I have experienced in audio. It is not at all surprising that all those who own Lampi and stellar analog set ups are listening 80 to 90% to their digital. And this is not for convenience. The only issue with this is that I cannot afford the audionet, so I have to find a cheaper alternative that I do not have, or tune my Lampi 242 similarly with a SET amp on the FLH.
Respectfully I cannot accept the importance of digital because, on analog recordings (generally I prefer digital recordings to be played on digital front-ends), I still have not heard digital playback to equal the emotional satisfaction of analog playback. It is as simple as that.
Jimford played for me a vocal recording I had never heard before. It sounded good, but I correctly identified it as a digital recording. Even on Jim's warm, organic and rich-sounding system on a track I had never heard before I could discern the signature slight "dryness" of digital recording on vocals.

I understand what you are asserting about the alternate system built around low-sensitivity loudspeakers. I concede that I have not heard such a system fronted by Lampi with your favorite 242. However, I do not understand why switching the source from analog to Lampi necessitates a completely different audio system downstream.

It may not be surprising that "all those who own Lampi and stellar analog set ups are listening 80 to 90% to their digital" (MikeL reports almost this percentage, as well, but with MSB), but I do think it is "for convenience" (unless the track in question is a digital recording).
 
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bonzo75

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#17
No it's not, it sounds better if system is set up accordingly. I can have a better conversation with you if you decide to even try exploring digital. You have been to audioquattr's place multiple times, the first time you didn't even listen to the Lampi, nor did you try the MSB at Mike's. So it is impossible to attempt to even explain
 
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Ron Resnick

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#18
No it's not, it sounds better if system is set up accordingly. I can have a better conversation with you if you decide to even try exploring digital. You have been to audioquattr's place multiple times, the first time you didn't even listen to the Lampi, nor did you try the MSB at Mike's. So it is impossible to attempt to even explain
That is not unfair. I readily concede I have not taken the time to explore digital in a dedicated way.
 

Ron Resnick

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#19
B108277F-5296-4E64-9D5F-A7D8440DE1DC.jpeg



If someone designed and built a giant cabinet which could accommodate a vertically-oriented pair of woofers on the bottom and an identical box on top (just put a duplicate woofer driver section on top), with the Markus wood Altec multicell horn in the middle, I suspect the resulting loudspeaker would achieve near to or equal to state-of-the-art sound at a very modest price, and certainly so on classical and jazz.

Let's ask LL21 to explain what he and I mean about tall loudspeakers portraying "scale and grandeur." In loudspeakers I truly believe that height matters.

It was you, actually, who sensitized me to the concern of woofers in the bottom of the cabinet causing the sound to seem like low frequencies are coming from the bottom of the cabinet. I fully appreciate that you don't have that concern with these FLH open baffle dual woofer speakers. But a double-box, M-T-M design (like Rey) takes the issue completely off the table.
 
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christoph

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#20
The only issue with this is that I cannot afford the audionet, so I have to find a cheaper alternative that I do not have.
How about the Audionet Integrated Amp, the Humboldt?
 

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