It's just the way they sound, their sheer speed and openness and most importantly their effortless ability of making music sound like music and not hifi.
The important and relevant point here, is that they are not an exotic speaker, far from it, they can be picked up for a tenner, if the foam surrounds need replacing... in the right system and the correct room acoustic, they can sound truly 'High-End', capable of embarrassing speakers that cost many thousands of pounds.
So, this blog is going to have a look at other similar designs of the 70's and 80's that also have a bit of magic about them, another fave of mine is the AR range, most notably the 8 and the 18 but also including the 4Xa and the 7. As you might know, the designer of the early AR's founded KLH, which produced many fine designs, but for the purpose of this piece, we will pick the 317.
So, in a nutshell we are focusing on speakers that share the following features:
1) 2 way ported or sealed
2) 8" paper cone bookshelf/standmount speakers
3) Wide front baffle (wider than they are deep)
4) Foam surrounds
5) Simple cross-overs
Any one or combination of theses features could explain why this form of simple design works so well.
It's not going to be a technical piece (apart from Richard Verney's bit) as I am by no stretch of the imagination, a Techy! It's Just a real world look at how these simple 'old school' designs may be just what you after if low to mid level listening in a smallish room is your chosen path.*
*(It should be noted, that these are small speakers and are not designed for Parties or for high-level listening, they excel in fluid midrange, imaging and focus, being at home with vocal and acoustic music)
Other notable candidates are the Heybrook HB1, Mission 700 MK.1 and of course, the wonderful smaller Peter Snell design, such as the K an the J.
All of these speakers have quite high Sensitivity and use large paper cones and quite low budget tweeters, paper ones in the ARs and 19mm vifa soft domes in the Snells, Mission 700 and JPWs (1 inch in the HB1) so there seems to be a blueprint here, probably back to the earlier Acoustic Suspension designs from AR, such as the 7, 4 and 3 (thought the AR3 is quite large and 3-way and not really in the same group) I guess they just worked, and other companies (mainly from the UK) mainly ran with that ethos, thus shaping the look of budget to mid priced British designs of the late 70's and 80's.
The new amplifiers were still mainly based on the old trusted Mallard, Williamson and other designs, but were of course made with new components and valves and were not tired out and 30 years old! noted valve amp brands of that period were, Audio Innovations, Audio Note, EAR, Edison & the Velleman Kits.
I have feeling that if I cover the specs and merits of the speakers mentioned, this blog will go on for pages, so instead, I urge you to pick up one of these design, probably for next to nothing from a famous on-line auction site or from a event such as the Audio Jumble and have a listen for yourself.
Next time I have a 5 minutes, I may do a bit on say, the JPWs or there ARs, but for now, i'll let good friend and audio engineer Richard Verney tell you about his pair of KLH 317 speakers he picked up from me for a mere £70, they even had their original boxes!! All i had to do was fit a set of new 10" foams and they were ready..