Other Amps

15” speaker recommendation (and buying used advice)

1

I've been looking for an excuse to build a cabinet with a 15" speaker (probably in misguided hopes of achieving anything close to the descriptions I read about the Executive) and that excuse has arrived in a deal I couldn't pass up on a Lab Series L11 head with no cab. But I don't think I'd dare to plug the 200W head into any of the combos I have as they are basically 15W or less and I'm sure the speaker couldn't handle it.

I'm not that well versed in the classic amps, so it's hard to say I want a sound like insert amp here. But to best describe what I'm going for is:

  • I mostly play clean

  • I like an amp to be articulate with good note definition

  • I think the property that I'm trying to describe is I want a "quick" speaker. When I play muted strings, I want an immediate percussive woody thud, not a stretched out thwooomp.

I was looking at the Eminence Legend 1518 as I've read lots of praise and it's not too expensive. One popped up in my local classifieds, but only about $20 less than new so maybe no worth the risk since it's not mounted and don't think I'd be able to try it out before I bought it.

But then I also saw someone selling a pair of Altec Lansing 418B, claiming they are legendary. Anyone familiar with these? Are they as good as claimed? Are they a collectible speaker (e.g. would I be paying for the rarity as opposed to the sound)?

But both the used options raised some questions (especially the vintage ones):

  • What to look for in used speakers, especially if can't try them out?

  • With vintage speakers, any way to tell if they've been reconed, or had dust caps replaced, voice coils rewound, etc?

  • I'd assume any rework on a vintage speaker would greatly reduce it's collectability/price, is that a fair assumption?

  • I read about remagnetizing old alnico speakers which I didn't know was a thing till now. Would a speaker of this vintage most likely be weak and demagnetized just from age?

Thanks for any advice.

2

Are you building your own cabinet?

What kind of cabinet are you thinking of?

3

Pretty satisfied with the eminence Legend in my Fender excelsior. Added a lot of clean headroom and volume. But weight also compared to the stock 15" speaker

4

The Altec 418B is/was used in the Altec Voice of the Theater A-7 cabinets. I have a pair of A-7-500's if anyone's interested. I'd not run more than 50 watts into them, tho even that might be pushing it unless they've been reconed including new voice coils with a higher wattage rating. Even the similar Altec D130 and D140 speakers are in the same range---all originally spec'ed at 25 watts. These are some of the best LF drivers ever made. As efficient as these units are, your amp's 200 watts would be dangerous for man and beast.

5

That's a 200W head isn't it?

You'll most likely need multiple speakers...and 15" makes for a big enclosure.

I know there are lots of 200W+ speakers out, most for Bass and PA.

6

Squeaky clean? JBL/ Weber California series.

A little hair when you step on the gas? Vintage Jensen C15N.

7

I am planning to build my own cabinet. I still need to read up on proper dimensions/air space for whichever speaker I wind up with.

I was planning open back as pretty much every amp I've ever played was open back, but may try something like the Traynor Dark Horse cabs and have a large removable panel to switch from open to closed back.

I was going to make it out of 3/4" plywood as I have that on hand, but may consider other materials, such as pine. I even have some nice maple kicking around, but not sure I want to use that much hardwood both from a cost and a weight perspective.

8

It is a 200W head but there is no way I'll ever get it past 2 on the dial, so not worried about building a cab that can handle the full power, but also don't want to be foolish and plug it into a 35W cab. I thought a single Eminence 1518, rated at 150W would be plenty safe.

I read online that the Altec Lansing 418B was rated at 100W, but not sure how reputable that info is, and don't know if vintage speakers become a bit more frail with age and should be down-rated. [EDIT: this seems like legit info, rating at 100W, but still don't know about down-rating with age. http://greatplainsaudio.com...]

9

I've had all the 15" speakers mentioned, in some cases, many times over.

Given the possible power that could hit the speaker, I would start with the Emi 151. That turns out to be the most likely choice to be best, in my experience. Has excellent power handling, which is reassuring. Tonally, it seems to me to be a better, more of everything take on the old Jensen C15N ceramic speaker. I have one of these now in a 1x15 pine Mather cab Lil Dawg Dlux setup. Sounds so good there, I won't even bother trying others. Big, even tone. Loud.

Whether that is the right choice your your as yet unbuilt cab and Lab Series amp ... no way to tell. You won't know til you try. The Emi Big Ben is another high power ceramic choice. Not as balanced or even sounding as the Legend 151, but can be perfect in the right situation.

Same goes for the Weber Cali ceramic. I like the ones with paper dome, but the one I had with aluminum (used in a brown pro) was just as good in its own way.

The L11 is supposedly 8 ohms, so you do have a fair amount of options. The Altec Lansing 218 is indeed a wonderful sounding speaker. Alnico, smooth, more pleasing to my ear than the JBL D130. However, at 100 watts power handling, not sure I'd risk it. (Same goes for the 80 watt Weber Cali ...)

10

Okay, I like that advice. I can get sucked into the whole "peak mojo happened in '57 and it's been downhill ever since" sort of talk. But the thought of just buying a modern production speaker and not having to deal with the quirks of vintage gear is appealing.

Now the follow-up: If I'm going for the Emi 1518, is it worth saving a few bucks and picking up used? Or can too much go wrong that I wouldn't be able to tell from just visual inspection?

I thought I read that you can gently press the cone in and out and listen for voice coil rubbing.

Thanks again for the advice!

11

I was able to pick up a Weber California with aluminum cap used at a decent price. Very happy with it. Big warm sound and very articulate for cleans.

12

The legend Emi 151 is quite reasonable even new. Reverb has several at 99.99 plus shipping. You may be able to find it in local repair shows also. No need to wait around for a perfect deal. Little risk in buying new.

There are not many used around (a good sign). If you do find one, look for prices that are significantly lower than new. The exception being a local deal. I've saved 20 bucks on the new price and that much again on shipping. Very rare to actually find one with issues or abused. Can't always see that even in person. Most of the used ones I find are little used, if at all. Basically new anyway.

Three observations:

  1. I've never heard or used a bad sounding example of this speaker. Very consistent.

  2. Break-in is real, but not always a big deal with this speaker. I've had some just right, new out of the box, others took a little more time.

  3. Very often, buying used but just barely speakers, I suspect the seller gave up before break in. So it's wise to expect the sound could change even with used speakers. (General comment, not specific to the Legend 151).

13

It's heresy, but I prefer the Weber California to my JBL D130F. The JBL has to much high end for my taste. I may be wrong, though; mine is the only one I've had the chance to compare.

14

Also consider the Weber NeoMag 15" sonically in the realm of a D130, but about half the weight.

15

In my Acetone Amp, I chose Weber Alnico California 15


Register Sign in to join the conversation