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1987 - 2017: Thirtieth Anniversary!
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Frequently Asked Questions

Most frequently asked questions:

The rest of the questions

General Issues

Services Available

Product Information

Grills


Quality and Value

Core Charges


Personal

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Most Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are these speakers worth?

Three groups of people want to know the answer to this question: buyers, sellers, and insurance companies. This first paragraph is mostly written for the fourth group - owners.

There are two ways to place a "value" on a material object like your old speakers. One is to sell them. They are "worth" whatever you get paid. This determines their extrinsic market value, which is probably very low. The other "value" is what they are worth to you, playing music for you at home - their intrinsic value. To me, that is the most important value, and is easy for you to assess based on your direct experience of the pleasure they bring. This, of course, is not quantifiable.

Used audio equipment changes hands on the market at wildly varying prices. Many good quality items can be had for close to nothing, while it is often easy to find owners who wouldn't part with their gear at any price.

For buyers and sellers, supply, demand, and condition are the key factors. The supply of used speakers is best described as glutted. Literally millions of people are cleaning out their attics and finally getting rid of ditching the old stereo equipment they stored when they "upgraded" to a new television and a smartphone. One can often find wonderful speakers on the side of the road for free. Demand for most models of vintage speakers is very thin, at best. This changes, of course, when one person has something for sale that another person has always wanted to own. Condition varies wildly, as do people's descriptions of it, but nobody should buy any used speakers that aren't close to flawless in appearance and perfect (or readily repairable) in performance.

For insurance purposes we encounter two sets of data that matter - the original purchase price, perhaps adjusted for inflation, and replacement cost. The latter depends on you being able to find a similar new or used product on the market. Either way it can be tricky to get your insurance company to agree.

Although auction sites and classified ads would seem to help with this question, it's not as simple as it may at first look. First, it is easy for people to offer things for sale at "dream on" prices, which have no real meaning. It is also rare to see larger models pass through the market. This is because of two reasons - one is just that most companies built and sold far more of their smaller, less expensive products than the large ones, and the other is the simple logistical nightmare of shipping big, heavy, easily damaged items. It can cost hundreds of dollars to have a pair of sixty pound speakers properly packed and shipped halfway across the United States. (Also see my answers to questions regarding quality and value, below.)

I bought these speaker for ten dollars. Are they worth repairing?

This is probably the most common question in the world of "hi-fi" today. It is a new question - almost nobody was asking this in the 1990s, and it was still relatively uncommon into the 2000s. Back then, people were asking if the speakers they had owned for twenty to thirty years were worth repairing, and the answer was easy for them to answer, since they had decades of experience with them when they worked properly.

Now, people are looking at models they have never even heard of, that at the very least usually need some work done on the woofers. They have no idea if they were even worth the ten dollars they paid and the effort to load them into the car to bring home.

There are two distinct categories to my answer to this question. The first relates specifically to speakers made by Genesis Physics in the 1970s and 1980s and the EPI/Epicure "module" designs (generally speakers with 6" or 8" woofers and "airspring" concave - a/k/a inverted - dome tweeters). The second addresses old speakers which you picked up for cheap in general.

The short and simple answer to whether it is worth buying new parts to rebuild/restore the Genesis and EPI/Epicure models mentioned above is "yes". Not only are they very good speakers - phenomenally good, really - but they are also completely repairable because of the parts I make and sell.

Just as many people are happy to spend several hundred dollars bringing old pairs of AR or JBL speakers back to life, I have people regularly specnding similar sums to completely rebuild their classic EPI or Genesis speakers with new, improved parts. It's really a no-brainer for the long-time owners who love them. It's a trickier question for the person who has small money invested in a pair of boxes with questionable old parts in them.

So I will try describe what to expect from restoring a pair of, say EPI 100s, so you can decide if they would be speakers well worth fixing up properly to you. Above all, they are neutral. Properly designed dynamic drivers are linear devices in their passband, and the woofers and tweeters in these speakers were properly designed - and designed to work with each other.

"Listener fatigue" is a phrase coined by people listening to speakers other than these. You will never tire of these playing music in your life. The only time they will ever sound harsh, grating, or unmusical is if you are playing music that has those qualities.

The second category is much harder to address. Vintage speakers range from "junk when new" to various kinds of "good stuff". Many were good in their day but don't hold up as well today. Many, many of them are "good at one thing" - like overly polite, low power handling models that aren't much good for anything but background classical or jazz, or very loud, highly colored speakers that excel at playing classic hard rock very loud, but are awful for anything else. Those models introduce the matter of taste. If your listening habits - at least, say, on one system - run to playing hard rock very loud, it would probably be well worth repairing those old Cerwin Vegas. So you have to figure out if the speakers are specialized in this manner, or if they are really a good overall speaker - or if they really are just "junk".

That means scouring the internet for opinions, and deciding whether or not you can trust them. There are a lot of experts in the field out there, and a rather small percentage of them actually know what they are talking about. Most don't. On the face of it, that level of effort is not worth it to make a decision about one pair of orphaned speakers that followed you home, but the reality here is that for many of you, this is a serious hobby now. That means the hours spent browsing the forums count as "pleasure", not work.

Q: What receiver or amplifier should I buy?

This is a difficult question to answer, as there are hundreds, or even tens of thousands of options, if one includes used or "vintage" equipment.

Some basic considerations apply, like input selection. Do you need video switching? If so, you'll almost certainly want HDMI capability. Do you want to use a turntable? If so, you'll either need a phono input or an outboard phono preamplifier and a spare auxiliary input (note that wanting both of those - HDMI and phono - limits your choices very rapidly). How about tape decks? USB and/or LAN/Wifi connectivity? Front connections for portable devices? Do you plan on assembling a "stereo" system only, or do you expect to set up a home theater with multiple surround channels? Do you want to buy a new product, that will work out of the box and come with several levels of warranty? Do you prefer something used, that can be a lot less expensive, but might require repairs in order to perform reliably?

Answering all these questions will reduce the array of options.

You will almost certainly want at least one "tape loop" (if you need more an outboard tape switching box can be used). A tape loop consists of a line level output (full signal, no volume or tone controls affect it) and a line level input, which can be switched via the "input" or "source" selector, but also can be heard by turning on the "tape monitor" function. This allows the selected source to be output to the tape deck while listening to the result from the tape machine. Units with the capability for two (or more) tape machines will usually also have a dubbing, or copy direction (A to B, B to A), control, and the ability to monitor either deck. Tape loops are also where various effects, like equalisers, compressors, dynamic expanders, or reverberation devices, are connected.

"Pre out" and "main in" connections are also nice to have. They let you use the preamplifier or amplifier in the unit independently. They also make it easy to run fully controlled line level signals to other amplifiers running speakers in other parts of the house (in this case you may need to install "ground loop isolators" if there is hum in the remote location). They are usually connected to each other with jumpers from jack to jack when not in use. Most integrated amplifiers (preamp and power amp in one unit) will have them, as will some more expensive receivers.

With all that said, what a lot of people are really owndering is how much power their amplifier should have.

It is far better to have too much power than too little. Having more power than you will ever use means that the amplifier will never be overdriven, which is a principal cause of speaker damage. A lower-powered amplifier may be called upon to generate more output than it is capable of long before good speakers show any kind of strain or distortion on their own. Of course, how much is "more than enough" will depend on your taste in music and desired listening levels.

Despite the FTC regulations regarding power output specifications, there can be a lot of confusion with these ratings. The rules basically require the device to produce the stated power "continuously" without blowing up (at a stated distortion level, into a stated resistive load). Music is anything but a continuous signal, with many peak signals lasting tenths, hundredths, or just thousandths of a second. An amplifier with the ability to respond to these transient peaks, above and beyond its power "rating", can often play as loudly as one with a much higher rating but little or no "overhead" capability.

With older gear, and any modern gear that doen't use "Class D" amplification, simple weight can be a good indicator of quality. The difference between a 10 pound and a 30 pound amplifier is almost certainly all accounted for by transformer(s) and heat sinks, both of which are "better" when bigger. You'll never see the inclusion of "weight for weight's sake", since the extra weight costs more at every stage - materials cost first, obviously, but also in every step of the shipping and handling processes. So when it is present it is always there for a reason.

My priorities when buying an amplifier are:

  1. Sound quality
  2. More power than I will ever need
  3. High current capability
  4. Easy to use speaker connectors (real binding posts)
  5. Effective and accessible fusing
  6. Unobtrusive appearance

If you can narrow yours down, it will make the selection easier.

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General

Q: What is your privacy policy?

A: Simply put, I do not use any information for any purpose other than that for which it is provided. For more details, go here.

Q: How come your web site looks so boring?

A: I have been adding more and more information to this site over the years decades, in the form of text, photographs, and other illustrations. I trust and respect that you know how to read, and that any graphic presentations I provide will be interesting enough to warrant their inclusion. I think that content matters far more than gratuitous "flavor of the month" layouts. At first that may seem boring, but as you begin to realize how much good information is here at your fingertips, I think you will appreciate the way I have done it.

PS, I changed the unvisited link color to a rather bright purple in February of 2002 - I hope that jazzes things up for you!

PPS, in about 2012 I stopped putting images on separate pages from text, since it is likely that everyone has broadband of some sort now.

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Services Available

Q: Can you repair my speakers?

A: In all likelihood, yes. I can refoam or recone virtually any dynamic (magnet/voice coil/cone) driver that does not have a bizarre shape, both home speakers and PA/musical instrument types. I can troubleshoot and repair crossovers and other issues.

Q: Do you have parts to repair my EPI/Epicure speakers?

A: Yes! I build exact replacements for many of the "drivers" or speaker elements used in these wonderful speakers. Some parts which I cannot build from scratch I am capable of rebuilding on your chassis to perform just like new again. I can also repair and upgrade the input terminals, crossovers, and wiring. I do not, however, have grills for these products.

Q: How do I get them?

A: It's easy! If you know your speaker model you can go straight to the order form and either submit it on line or print and mail it. If you aren't sure of your model, go to the product list page and follow the various links until you find it. There will be a direct link from its page to a model-specific order form.

Q: Do you have parts to repair my Genesis speakers?

A: Yes! I build exact replacements for many of the "drivers" or speaker elements used in these wonderful speakers. Some parts which I cannot build from scratch I am capable of rebuilding on your chassis to perform just like new again. I can also repair and upgrade the input terminals, crossovers, and wiring. I do not, however, have grills for these products.

Q: How do I get them?

A: It's easy! If you know your speaker model you can go straight to the order form and either submit it on line or print it and mail it. If you aren't sure of your model, go to the product list page and follow the various links until you find it. There will be a direct link from its page to a model-specific order form.

Q: How long will delivery take?

A: Since delivery time varies with sales volume somewhat, and my backlog of orders ("things to build and ship") can also change from time to time, I refer you to the delivery time file, so I only have to change this information in one place.

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Product Information

Q: My original woofers rotted away around the edge - will the ones you make do the same?

A: In most cases, no. In as many of the parts I build as possible, I use butyl rubber surrounds that have a lifetime that vastly exceeds that of foam.

Q: Are these new parts? Refurbished? New old stock?

A: Most of the parts I ship out as replacements are brand new. Some are "remanufactured" on chassis you or other people have sent back to me. This is always indicated on the page describing the part in question.

Q: You seem to be very proud of your tweeter. Is it really an improvement?

Yes. While it maintains the original "feel" of the original Genesis and EPI/Epicure concave phenolic (and paper) domes, its extended frequency response and lower distortion make it a bit sweeter, and contribute to more of what they call "air" in the high end sound. If you want your speakers to be the best they can be, you want to use my tweeters.

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Grills

Q: The front covers on my speakers are damaged, can you help me?

A: There are a few things that you might mean by that, with different answers. If the frames of your grills are broken, this will be the hardest thing to fix. New frames would have to be made, or a careful repair effected, and this is best done locally by someone with good woodworking skills and ready access to the cabinets while they work. Trying to do it at a distance would create a lot of problems.

If the cloth is simply torn or discolored, it can be replaced fairly easily, and while I can do this most people decide that they will do it themselves. I have described the process in the DIY section, and there are also pictures of me reclothing a grill.

If you do not want to do this yourself I can do it for you. Shipping is very risky, however, as they are rather fragile and awkward and if they are lost or damaged there is no easy way to replace them. Therefore I try to discourage people from asking me to do this via mail order.

Q: How do I remove my 70s EPI grills?

(I've tried prying a bit but can't seem to get anywhere without damaging the wood. Will I have to cut the material off and the replace it with something different than what is currently on the speaker?)

A: Tough one. A lot of the earliest EPI speakers were not built to be opened up easily. The 50 is even worse, since working the grill off the cabinet might crack the grill frame (not a catastrophe but inconvenient) because it is very thin in places.

The grills are held in place with several "globs" of old hot melt adhesive, which is not particularly strong, luckily. Some of the grills also have some small panelling nails holding them on (my 1000's had dozens per panel). These nails will usually stay embedded in the wood of the cabinet and the heads will pull harmlessly through the grille frame - just be sure to hammer the nail flush into the box before trying to reattach the grill.

So here is the trick: lay the speaker on its back. Then drive a coarse threaded screw into the grill just far enough that it does not also penetrate the cabinet. Choose a location where the grill is strongest - far from the cutout for the drivers, and an inch or two from a corner. Now grip the screw head firmly with a pair of pliers and pull as if you mean it. This usually breaks most of the glue patches and pulls out some of the nails (or leaves them behind). From here it is easy to finish removing the rest of the panel. Remove the nails that stayed in the grill, and hammer in the ones that stayed in the cabinet.

Once you get them off, luckily, the speaker parts will be competely visible and usually easy to work with.

Even in the worst case, that is, ruining the grills, you can always make new ones out of masonite, using the old ones as templates. Cover them with cloth you find attractive and attach them with Velcro this time.

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Quality and Value

Q: Are these twenty thirty forty year old speakers really worth repairing?

A: First, the decades since I first wrote this went by as quickly as a wink!

You can figure this out yourself, I think - your judgement is what really counts here anyway. You have had these speakers around for all these years, enjoying music, as your tastes have changed and the speakers still bring it home alive, and you have never tired of them. Finally something is wrong with them - and you are investigating repairing them. Maybe you just hate to throw anything away, but these speakers have been your faithful listening companions and never let you down. They are not obsolete (whatever an eager young sales clerk may try to tell you) and the cost of repairing them is quite a bit less than you paid for them. In fact, if you have been out shopping for speakers, you may have had trouble finding products that sound as good as the old EPI or Genesis speakers at any price.

Q: Is their sound quality really adequate to today's technical standards?

A: Actually, I would contend that the sound quality of just about all the older Genesis and EPI speakers that I build parts for set a standard of sound quality that most modern equipment fails to meet! So there.

They were designed and built to reproduce all the audible frequencies with a wide dynamic range from loud to soft (these two factors are what "digital ready" supposedly means), without emphasizing or distorting any of the tones in that range. So you hear whatever goes into them, unaltered, clean and pure. This will always be the technical standard to which audio gear must aspire.

Many other "vintage" speakers also perform very competitively with today's products, although sometimes some upgrading is a good idea. It certainly helps to go through them and make sure everything is still working properly.

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Core Charges

Q: What the heck is a "core charge"?

A: A "core charge" is a refundable deposit against the return of your old speaker part. This only applies to one or two remaining parts where it is worth the shipping and reclaiming process to re-use the old chassis.

Q: What if I never send the old parts back?

A: Then you never get the core charges back. I don't send a posse out to get the cores.

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Personal Questions

Q: What equipment do you listen to at home (and at work)?

A: Check this file out.

Q: What kind of music do you listen to? What's your favorite band? (etc.)

A: Now we are getting really personal - check here!

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