Buying used speakers is obviously an attractive route for getting great speakers for modest monies. And many hifi enthusiasts — not all unfortunately… — look after their gear very well so that reasonably old speakers often present what appears to be a very good condition.
But what escapes the eyes? Or, in other words, when do speakers start deteriorating? Presumably, buying a pair 5-year-old speakers is not an issue at all, but what about 10-year-old speakers for instance? How much life is left before speakers loose their mojo?
My speakers are 33 years old(own them from new)and they are fine in every respect.
I bought a pair of 19 year old SBL’s last year and they are singing sweetly every night. Also have a pair of Credo’s from 1999 and a pair or Kef Q15’s which are even older( both from new) and they all look and work just fine.
My SBL’s were fettled professionally last month and given a clean bill of health, but I believe the foam inside some Naim speakers starts to crumble and the edges of cones can tear. There has been a recent thread on DBL’s which need some tlc.
In the family we have various pairs of Tannoys, AEs, Missions, Celestions and Piegas. None are newer than 10 years old and, though some may have the odd mark, they all perform (to my ears at least) as their makers intended. There is general talk around used speakers of critical components needing replacing, especially in the crossover but, short of measuring any of the speaker pairs we posses against an ‘as new’ original, I’m not sure I would know when this needed doing. As with anything, condition, the backstory and the seller themselves are critical.
Most good quality speakers happily last decades. And when there is a problem you know, because it affects the sound. They are not like car engines with increasing wear then sudden failure: normally failure is caused by overload, such as when someone unplugs a source without muting the amp, and that could happen day 1 or day 100001.
My experience with speakers long term :
Occasionally drive unit surrounds can give problems, particularly of the foam variety which can be prone to perishing, I suspect as a function of atmospheric conditions in the listening room. I had a pair of IMF TLS50ii speakers, in which the surrounds of the mid drivers - made by Peerless - did just that, though still working happily. I replaced the surrounds (replacements were readily available, apparently being a common problem, and very little change in sound. I guess the lightness of the cone meant the rear suspension kept in place and in control. The replacements have lasted 30 years and still fine. The speakers still sound good today at 45 years of age, though if they were mine I’d be tempted to recap them - its not difficult, nor very expensive.
That said, the IMF RSPMs I had after them I recapped at about 40 years old thinking they must be due for it, and it made very little difference. One of the supertweeters in those failed at about that time (audible because cymbals started to sound tizzy on that side, so I replaced the pair. (Celestion HF2000, known to be a delicate driver). Some years previously a bass driver blew when my preamp MC stage went into oscillation while playing at high level - but I was able to buy a used replacement from eBay (actually a pair so I had a spare).
My PMC EB1i speakers I bought at about 15 years old were absolutely perfect - until I erred and caused a violent pop that damaged a mid driver, but a new replacement was readily available and easily changed.
There are many great speakers out there, youthfulness not necessarily meaning anything better about the design or sound quality, and given that failure is rarely the result of age I commend secondhand as a great way of increasing buying power. My TLS50s were bought new, the others secondhand, and I haven’t the slightest qualm about buying secondhand, subject to hearing and seeing (or a guaranteed refund if not satisfied).
I’m still using a pair of Audiomaster Image 2. I bought about 1978. A Robin Marshall design, all original and sound great. I can’t see me ever moving them on, they sound superb. Not bad for more than 40 years!
Many thanks for all the responses. I guess the bottom line is that I wouldn’t need to worry too much. Specifically, I wondering about PMC’s Fact 8 (the older non-Signature version) as an upgrade for my trusted Twenty5.23. The Fact 8 wouldn’t be older than 10 years – that’s about when they were introduced.
Yes - had this with AE1s, sadly. First set replaced after about 15 years and now 15 more years later need doing again - but I was told it isn’t worth trying as not possible to get done properly
It isn’t hard to replace driver unit surrounds and parts are available on line. Sometimes you might have to use surrounds not specific to your diver but if you measure carefully a solution can usually be found. I replaced some foam surrounds with rubber and they worked well. Look at Youtube clips for tutorials and enjoy a real hands on approach to your hi fi.
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