Top 10 Best Vintage Speakers for that Incredible Music Experience

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Introduction

Vintage speakers are nowadays more popular than ever. They’ve withstood the test of time and proven to be superior to any digital sound system. Regardless of whether you’re an audiophile or someone who simply likes the way vintage speakers look, we’ve picked a couple of models that are among the finest currently.

Top 10 vintage speakers – a comparison chart

Model name

Notable features

Sound quality

Price

KLH Kendall 3-way floorstanding speaker

Hardwood veneer cabinet, woven-kevlar drivers, solid MDF base

Tremendous

KLH Ames 2-way Bookshelf Speakers

Wood-veneer cabinet, anodized-aluminium tweeters, dynamic soundstage

Very high

Klipsch Synergy Black Label B-100 bookshelf Speakers

Dynamic 0.75 inch tweeter, 4-inch woofers, highly durable

Very high

Marshall Stockwell Portable Speaker

Total playtime 25 hours, Bluetooth 4.0, USB port

High

NHT Super One 2.1 2-way Bookshelf Speaker

Sealed enclosure, 6.5inch cone woofer, silk-dome tweeter, laminate cabinet build

Very high

Klipsch R-15M bookshelf Speaker

Two 5.25 inch copper-spun IMG woofers, brushed polymer veneer construction, rear-firing port, Bass Reflex

Very high

Fluance SX6W High Definition Two-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers

MDF-wood build, neodymium tweeter drivers, pre-tuned bass

Very high

Yamaha NS 6490 3-way Bookshelf Speakers

Three drivers, dome tweeter, eight woofers in total, magnetically-shielded enclosure

High

Edifier P12 Passive Bookshelf Speakers  

Silk-dome tweeters, 4-inch bass drivers, built-in wall-mount bracket

High

Kaya Retro speaker

Handmade wooden frame, decently balanced soundstage, Bluetooth connectivity

Decently high

1. KLH Kendall 3-Way Floorstanding Speaker

Our first pick is KLH’s Kendall, a powerful floor speaker outfitted with premium quality features, such as the hardwood veneer construction, a solid MDF base, and incredibly powerful drivers.

The first thing you’ll notice about this speaker is that it’s massive. Its dimensions measure 13 inches by 19 inches by 45 inches, and it’s pretty heavy weighing 50 pounds.

The Kendall rocks a pair of bass-driven 6.5 inches Kevlar drivers and a single 5.25 inches treble driver which in combination with the anodized-aluminium tweeter and low-resonance construction yield a well balanced soundstage.

Additionally, the KLH’s Kendall packs a black oak finish, making it a wonderful addition to basically any room.

The only drawback is that it costs quite a bit, but on the plus side, it offers a strong sonic performance and a durable build, so it’s well worth the buck.

Pros

  • Sturdy solid wood build
  • Looks amazing
  • Well-rounded soundstage
  • Kevlar drivers

Cons

  • Quite pricey

2. KLH Ames 2-Way Bookshelf Speakers

If you’ve liked the Kendall, you’re probably going to love the Ames 2-way speakers as well. They’re made from similar materials, feature almost identical drivers, and they’re just about as durable as the Kendall floor speaker.

First of all, the main difference between Ames and Kendall is that this model rocks a single 4-inch Kevlar treble driver. Its sonic performance isn’t as rich as Kendall’s, but there’s plenty of bass to go around. The low-resonance cabinet ensures minimal harmonic distortion while their smaller sizes make them a bit more convenient in terms of storage.

Speaking of which, these speakers measure 5.98 inches by 4.72 inches by 7.48 inches and weigh 5 pounds each. They’re very portable and could fit basically anywhere – on the floor, on bookshelves, your desktop, you name it.

Additionally, they’re far more affordable than the Kendall floor speaker, so they’re a bit more suitable for people who are looking for a bit less pricey vintage speaker configuration.

Pros

  • Low resonance cabinet
  • Compact and lightweight design
  • Very durable construction
  • Deep bass

Cons

  • Only one driver, the soundstage isn’t as rich and full

3. Klipsch Synergy Black Label B-100 Bookshelf Speakers

Klipsch is a huge brand in the vintage speaker industry, and their Black Label B-100 bookshelf speakers are true representatives of their quality.

Each speaker comes outfitted with a 4-inch woofer and a 0.75-inch tweeter.  The Black Label’s drivers are pretty strong and balanced. Their dimensions measure 7.5 inches by 5.88 inches by 9.75 inches with 7.13 pounds of weight (each).

What makes these speakers so innovative is Klipsch’s patented Tractrix Horn which makes the sound evenly disperse across the room.

Pros

  • Highly durable wood construction
  • Tractrix Horn technology
  • Lightweight and portable

Cons

  • Single driver design

4. Marshall Stockwell Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Marshall’s Stockwell speaker is designed similarly to the way their amps are built. It’s incredibly small and light with its dimensions measuring 10.3 inches by 1.7 inches by 5.6 inches and only 2.56 pounds of weight.

It rocks a highly convenient flip cover which serves several purposes. It can be a protective case when you’re not using the Stockwell, but it can also fold to provide a support to the speaker, allowing you to tilt it for a bit more immersive sonic performance.

The Stockwell rocks 4.0 version of Bluetooth, two 1-inch dome tweeters, two 5.25-inch woofers, and two Class D 20w amps. Moreover, it boasts of a 25-hour battery lifespan and a convenient USB port which you can use to charge it whenever you want.

Pros

  • Very powerful drivers
  • USB port for easy recharge
  • 25-hour battery lifespan
  • Compact and lightweight

Cons

  • Moderately durable

5. NHT SuperOne 2.1 2-Way Bookshelf Speaker

Next up is NHT’s SuperOne version 2.1. This is basically a 2-way bookshelf speaker which boasts of an audiophile-grade sound quality provided with a 6.5-inch cone woofer and a set of robust drivers. It also rocks a fully enclosed design complemented with a vinyl-laminate exterior that provide a superb level of durability.

The dimensions of the SuperOne measure 8.5 inches by 7.3 inches by 11.6 inches and it’s somewhat heavier, but still pretty light, weighing 9.1 pounds.

Some of the most notable benefits this vintage speaker provides include a very deep bass, huge presence in the middle section, and very bright higher end. As far as the soundstage goes, the NHT SuperOne is well-rounded and performs wonderfully for the buck.

Pros

  • Audiophile grade sound quality
  • Robust build
  • Compact and light
  • Sealed enclosure for minimal harmonic distortion

Cons

  • Non-ported design, older version was a bit better in terms of connectivity

6. Klipsch R-15M Bookshelf Speaker

Klipsch’s R-15M bookshelf speaker comes supplied with a plethora of premium-quality features, such as the two 5.25-inch IMG woofers, the brushed polymer-veneer cabinet, and the Bass Reflex boost.

In a nutshell, this is a classic speaker that is equipped with features that  help deliver full-spectrum sound. It does not lack in any aspect of the soundstage, though its middle section could’ve been made a bit better.

Its brushed polymer-veneer construction ensures its longevity while the Bass Reflex keeps the lowest vibes at bay. The dimensions of this speaker measure 8.2 inches by 7 inches by 12.5 inches, and it’s somewhat heavier than most of our picks with 10.3 pounds of weight.

Pros

  • Decently affordable
  • Well-balanced soundstage
  • Great sonic performance
  • Durable cabinet

Cons

  • Slightly heavier than average

7. Fluance SX6W High Definition Two-Way Bookshelf Loudspeakers

The SX6W speakers pack 100 watts of power, a 5-inch polymer woofer, and 1-inch dome ferrofluid-cooled tweeter which greatly complement each other. This is a beautiful, robust vintage speaker that excels in pretty much every field of performance.

The dimensions of SX6W measure 13.5 inches by 8.3 inches by 9.1 inches and it weighs 11.6 pounds. The reason why we recommend it is because it offers premium sonic performance at a very approachable price.

Pros

  • Professional-grade MDF construction
  • Superb sound quality
  • Decently affordable

Cons

  • Non-ported design

8. Yamaha NS-6490 3-Way Bookshelf Speakers

The Yamaha’s NS 6490 vintage speakers are outfitted with three drivers and eight woofers which is, suffice to say, more than enough for the bass to smash your windows clean with its sheer power.

Apart from being exceptionally powerful for a budget vintage speaker system, this model also rocks a magnetically-shielded design which preserves the sound clarity even at higher volume settings. It packs 70 watts of power, measures 13 inches by 13 inches by 25 inches, and it’s quite heavy with 29.32 pounds.

Pros

  • Strongest bass in the budget price point category
  • Magnetically shielded design
  • Eight woofers and three drivers

Cons

  • Heavy

9. Edifier P12 Passive Bookshelf Speakers

The P12 is one of Edifier’s best inventions, even today. This speaker system rocks 4” bass drivers with an additional Bass Reflex tech which further enhances it. It also comes equipped with a silk-dome 0.75-inch tweeter that complements the lower end.

This speaker system also features an integrated wall-mount bracket so you can easily hang them on a wall (or integrate them with your surround sound speakers). The only bad part is that you’ll need an amp to boost their initial low power output.

Pros

  • Integrated wall-mount bracket
  • 4-inch bass driver with Bass reflex boost
  • Durable construction

Cons

  • Require an amplification device for proper use

10. Kaya Retro Speaker

Kaya’s retro-style speaker features a compact, straightforward design. It was handcrafted from walnut wood and packs a decently balanced soundstage. One of its most important benefits is affordability, although it doesn’t really lag behind in any other aspect of performance in comparison to similarly priced models.

The Kaya vintage speaker operates on a 3.7 volt battery, rocks two full-range drivers packed with a built-in radiator, and weighs less than a pound.

Pros

  • Powerful full-range drivers
  • Compact and basically weightless
  • Beautiful design

Cons

  • A bit flimsier than most vintage speakers

Buyer’s guide

1. Types of vintage speakers

Some of the first vintage speakers were just as straightforward as majority of newer ones. They were basically comprised of a plinth, a cartridge with a stylus, and instead of having built-in speakers they had a horn. The most famous early 90’s speakers were Eglephone and Magnavox models, but it should be noted that all speakers during that era were ‘mono speakers’.

During the period between 20’s and 50’s, horn-speakers were replaced with Direct-Radiator speakers. Besides, one of the first stereo speakers was actually launched by Walt Disney, and the first model was called Fantasound. This idea gave birth to bookshelf speakers and gramophones.

2. Material

Vintage speakers are traditionally built with a wooden exterior while the hardware of the speakers packs various copper, aluminium, and bronze materials.

The type of wood used in the construction process defines the durability of the speakers. For instance, more affordable models are made from MDF while premium quality ones are built from mahogany, for example.

3. Sound quality

The sound quality of a record player is affected by all of its core components. The sound coming from a speaker is basically comprised of compressed air particles, and the dynamics of this ‘compression’ process changes the frequencies in the sound.

In essence, the better the components, the better the end result is. The type of the speaker, as well as the material from which it’s made from also play a vital role in determining the sound quality of a vintage speaker.

Budget speakers have flimsy dust caps which wear off quite quickly, losing their capability to keep dust away from the speaker’s interior. Every grain of dust takes off a portion of the speaker’s sound quality.

Additionally, the volume of the speaker is affected by the driver which provides it with power. Smaller and weaker driver units are often supplied to low-end speakers, and vice versa.

4. Mix and match

Some people have old vintage speakers and don’t want them catching dust. You can basically make a new speaker if you know how to properly fit the pieces.

It doesn’t matter which type of vintage speaker you have. Whether it’s a loudspeaker, a standing (floor) speaker, bookshelf speaker, or a speaker system – you can easily morph your speaker to another type if you want to reap its benefits.

Basically, portable speakers are the easiest for the ‘mix and match’ procedure as they have only a limited number of upgrades you can install. You can change their driver, woofer, and reinforce their exterior for added durability.

On the opposite end, Tower speakers are pretty hard to tweak as they often come supplied with a variety of magnets and built-in speakers. If you are looking to upgrade the sound quality of a tower speaker, you will need to get matching cones, drivers, and voice coils for a balanced soundstage.

Most tower speakers are supplied with a set of several identical speakers, each being complemented with a single driver, so if one breaks down to the point that it becomes irreparable, you’re most likely going to need to replace the entire set.

5. Upgrades

Upgrading your vintage speakers requires a bit of mechanical skill, as most parts are pretty tiny. Even the slightest accidental bump in the wrong direction might damage the hardware, so if you’re unsure, you should ask a professional to install your chosen upgrades.

The parts of a speaker you can improve are:

a) The Base

The base of a speaker affects its stability which is absolutely crucial. An ‘unstable’ speaker won’t perform to its fullest potential, and in worst-case scenarios it can even tip over and fall, causing damage to the construction. One of the best ways to improve the base is to simply add a layer of the same material for added weight. Alternatively, you can install rubber leg supports which will make the speaker completely stationary.

b) The Cabinet

Most vintage speakers are built from durable wooden materials. However, certain models sport unrefined wood construction which has corroded over time. In a nutshell, you can remove all the hardware from your speakers and simply put it in a different, new cabinet. Isn’t this interesting?

You can build the new cabinet yourself with the exact same dimensions, you can make it bigger or smaller, it doesn’t matter for as long as the hardware can fit inside without the wires getting tangled up.

The main thing you should consider is a different type of material for the new cabinet. MDF, mahogany, and ebony are some of the best choices in terms of wood material. This can make up for a really cool DIY project.

c) The Dust Cap

The dust cap is a small elliptical component which sits right in the middle of the cone. It serves a rather self-explanatory function – keeping the dust away from the speaker cabinet.

If you notice that dust is building up in your speakers, the cause can be easily located. Whether it’s the dust cap malfunctioning or the cabinet isn’t properly enclosed. In some cases the dust caps are poorly attached to the cone, in other cases they’re just flimsy and have degraded over time.

Most brands don’t sell separate caps, so if you can’t make your own, you will probably need to upgrade the entire speaker cone.

d) The Cone

The cone is one of the most vital speaker components, as well as one of the most frequently upgraded parts of a speaker. Certain speaker cones are generally replaced due to their low durability (paper cones, for example), in other cases people just don’t seem to like how they reflect the sound.

There are plenty of individual speaker cones for you to choose from on the market, but since this component is rather delicate you should ask a professional to install it.

e) The Drivers

The drivers are ‘responsible’ for the speaker’s soundstage and power. Bigger driver units provide bigger volume levels usually. However, top-tier brands offer versatile drivers that pack advanced technology, offering a substantial boost to the entire soundstage, not just the volume.

f) The Plates

While the speaker’s base affects the stability of the construction, the plates can be described as ‘woofer’s stabilizers’. If your speaker’s cone is moving too much at higher volumes, it can move out of the plate. Plates are available in bulks and are among the cheapest upgrades.

6. Dimensions

Each speaker features a different set of dimensions, and the only reason why the size of a speaker is important is for the reasons of storage space. Bigger models require you to designate a spot for them specifically while portable vintage speakers can be put basically anywhere – on top of a counter, on a table, even on bare floor.

7. Playback speeds

In your search for the best vintage speakers for vinyl you will often see recurring tags such as ’33 1/3, 45, and 78 RPM’. These numbers refer to the playback speeds your record player supports.

Basically, slower rotations yield the worse sonic performance, and vice versa. Some of the best speakers from the 70’s, including the old crank-operated record players supported the format of that age – 33 1/3 speed records. As time passed by, 45 rotations-per-minute (RPM) and 78 RPM records were invented, as well as turntables that support them.

8. Turntable parts and features

A turntable is comprised of several core and optional parts:

a) Plinth (optional) –the plinth is the base of a record player, usually made of wood or aluminium.

b) Platter (core) – the platter is basically the ‘turntable’, the core part where the record is supposed to be inserted.

c) Stylus (core) – the stylus, or the ‘record player needle’ is a cone-shaped contraption which ‘tracks’ the records.

d) Cartridge (core) – the cartridge generates small amounts of electric current which provide power to the record player.

e) Pre-amp (core) – the signals from the cartridge are small and weak, so a pre-amp is needed to boost them to usable levels.

f) CD and Cassette deck (optional) – some record players can also reproduce sound from CDs and cassettes.

g) FM radio (optional) – a radio feature is a common one with all-in-one record players.

9. Adjustment features

Even though there are plenty of vintage speaker adjustment features, among the most useful ones is the ‘anti-skate’ feature.

Basically, ‘skating’ refers to the needle’s tendency to ‘skate’ inward, moving closer to the record’s centre. There are speakers that have such a feature built-in already. This particular feature goes a long way for vintage speakers that come supplied with old needles that have lost their accuracy over time.

The anti-skating feature can be easily installed on most vintage speakers’ right next to the stylus. Simply screw the hardware inappropriate place and consult the user manual for specifics related to the calibration.

Frequently asked questions

1. How to use vintage speakers?

Some of the oldest vintage speakers (gramophones) are the easiest to use. They usually came supplied with a modest set of features, such as the ‘power on/off’ and ‘select track’ functions. Certain models from the ‘60s and ‘70s have a AM/FM radio in which case you’ll need to adjust the antenna to catch the signal properly.

2. What is the best vintage stereo receiver?

One of the best stereo receivers from the 60’s is without any doubt the Marantz 2285. It comes supplied with both FM and AM tuners, a very stable pre-amp with minimal harmonic distortion, and a pair of direct amps mounted on a chassis.

It’s very bulky and weighs a ton, but its performance is so high that it’s still capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the more recent receivers.

3. What is the best cone speaker?

Even though the market for cone speakers is vast, Pioneer’s 4-inch 150-watt speakers seem to be a cut above the rest.

Not only are they very affordable, but they pack 150 watts of power (at peak), a balanced soundstage, and offer a huge frequency range which spans from 45 hertz to 14 kilohertz. They’re bassy, but the vocals sound very clear on them.

4. What is the best cone material for a speaker?

Cone speakers are usually made from one of the four materials – metal, wood, Kevlar, or paper. Metal speakers are durable, but they tend to ring and buzz more than the other types. Wooden cone speakers sound great, but they’re not as durable. Paper cone speakers deliver the clearest sounds, but they rip all too easily. Kevlar combines the benefits of all three types.

5. What is an IMG Woofer?

The IMG in IMG woofer stands for Injected Molded Graphite. Basically, IMG woofers have a horn-like shape and are generally superior in terms of durability to conventional woofers.

6. What materials are used in a speaker?

The front end of a speaker is usually made from wood, metal, Kevlar, or paper while its gasket is traditionally made from aluminium, steel, or plastic.

7. What’s the best Hi Fi speaker ever?

There are thousands of models that would qualify as the best Hi Fi speakers, but we’ve chosen Definitive Technology’s BP 9060. This towering contraption packs an array of 8 speakers, multiple drivers, tweeters, two base radiators, and 10-inch subwoofers.

You can rest assured that the sound coming from this speaker is crystal clear, packed with everything you’d want to hear – the bass is deep and strong, the mid-section isn’t smothered by the other aspects of the soundstage while the highs are chirpy and clear.

8. Which is better – Onkyo or Yamaha?

There are fans of both brands that would say both are great, but from an objective standpoint, Yamaha speakers are generally outfitted with more powerful features while still being able to keep up with Onkyo in terms of affordability.

9. What are the best vintage bookshelf speakers?

We vote for Swans Speakers M3A. This bookshelf speaker pair features a 3-way acoustic design, sporting three premium-quality drivers, a huge frequency range, and remote control. These speakers have a balanced sonic performance, they’re very loud, stable, and durable, but they do cost quite a bit.

Closing Words

While each of these speakers have their share of advantages and disadvantages, our editor’s choice is KLH’s Kendall 3-way floor speaker. This vintage speaker comes supplied with ultra-powerful drivers, it looks absolutely amazing, and its construction is as robust as can be. With a Hardwood veneer cabinet, KLH’s Kendall 3-way floor speaker has tremendous sound quality. Even though it costs quite a bit, the value, sound performance, and durability of this speaker are unparalleled, surely worth the money.

However, the choice is yours to make. And, we hope our list of top 10 vintage speakers and buyers guide will help you narrow down some based on your preferences and requirements.

Happy Shopping !!

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