Last week I posted about repairing some vintage Decca London ribbon tweeters. I was confident that I had done a good job but was unable to do listening tests in context as I only had the tweeters to play with. These are now back with Andy, their owner, who kindly sent in his impressions and some photos. Overall I think we have done a good job and it’s a nice feeling to have helped get these back up and running.
Decca Volt speaker with ribbon tweeter
“The [new] ribbon sounds smooth, crisp and clear with no tizz or distortion. I ran it for a while at different volumes and with different music and it sounds excellent with everything I gave it. It is very close in sound to the original in the other speaker with the soundstage being in the middle and correct. I had to try hard to notice a difference, Bob Marley’s Is This Love has some high frequency cow bell drum noises and you could hear they were slightly crisper and louder from the new ribbon. The crossover point in the Volt’s is about 1200hz so any imbalance between the two tweeters is easily heard as the singer tends to move off centre.
New ribbon installation at Xaudia
“I think the differences could be classed as being between an old and new ribbon the sound from them is so close. I assume as the new ribbon breaks in it will soften in sound a bit. I am tempted to switch the other new ribbon in as well.
Andy’s impressive hi-fi setup.
“Considering the lack of info on the ribbons I thought getting a close match sonically was not good but it’s turned out to be very close indeed. It is a huge relief to know that if a ribbon gets damaged again I can get help.
“I am not sure but you might get a lot of interest, when I was trying to find someone to repair my ribbons I came across a huge amount of forum posts on the same issue dating back about 5 years. Nobody had managed to find anyone so in theory there are a lot of ribbons to repair out there.”
As well as microphones, Grampian made amplifiers and other PA equipment. Here’s an old Grampian amplifier and speaker set.
I found the amp a few years ago in Dave Dee’s junk shop in York. The circuit is actually very similar to a Mullard Twenty, with the addition of a transformer balanced mic input, and several taps on the output transformer for 8 ohm loudspeaker or 100V connection. I have even used this in the past as a mic preamp for recording, for some warm and slightly dirty vocal tracks.
The speaker is a recent purchase found on GroupDIY.com. It has a rather nice and unusual tapered shape, with (no longer very) white vinyl covering. The whole set has a really cool vintage look to it – very different from today’s ubiquitous square black boxes.
I am now using this as a guitar rig – it has a great vintage valve tone with just the right amount of breakup coming from the speakers. There is plenty of volume for recording, but I would hesitate to use it for rehearsals with a modern loud drum kit!
I am unsure of the age of these but I would guess 1950s or early 60s – they don’t appear in Grampian’s 1968 product line, and presumably pre-date that. If anybody knows more, please get in touch.
I didn’t have space for a Melodium sculpture, but here is something that I do have space for! I was delighted to find a pair of Kolster Brandes KS651 speakers at our local car boot sale this Easter weekend.
Kolster Brandes speakers
Kolster Brandes KS651 speakers
They were made sometime around 1970, and have an unusual but very chic cylindrical design, with mahogan-ish veneer and aluminium and gold trim. The bottom acts a bass chamber, and a horn mounted on the top projects the higher frequencies upwards, giving an omnidirectional behaviour in the horizontal plane.
Inside, there is just a single six inch driver, rated at 15 watts, and a lot of foam padding.
It is always a risk buying used speakers, but they both work perfectly and I am rather charmed by the sound. They rather soften and round the edges of the program material, but maintain a good stereo image. Perfect for relaxing in the evening, and an antidote to a day of precise listening on headphones and studio monitors. Although only rated for 15 watts they are plenty loud enough for home use, and well worth the £40 paid.
Gramophone magazine reviewed these in 1970, and they retailed at £31 when new. They recommend placing them on a shelf, but I really can’t agree with that. They seem perfectly suited to sitting on the floor of an elegant room and filling it with music – because of their omnidirectional behaviour they have a wide ‘sweet spot’, and are very easy to position.