I have bought and sold all kinds of speakers over the years since I was in the DJ business and know a lot about sound. I noticed that vintage Cerwin Vega is a brand that rarely receives positive reviews.
What is it regarding that brand? Is it their West Coast Sound heritage? Is it poor execution of good quality drivers or merely poor quality drivers? Are there any really good vintage 2 or 3-way Cerwin Vegas?
Well, the drivers are well made and similar to many other well-regarded brands. And, the CV always had its own special character.
Cerwin Vega is hard to beat for its price if you like large speakers and playing loud. But if you like a true-to-life, airy, pure sound where even the tiniest details stand out, some companies did make better speakers.
Some folks complain about the treble in CV speakers, and of course, there are speakers with better treble sound, but considering Cerwin Vega’s price, it surpasses expectations! They really aren’t bad.
In this article, you can read about the best vintage Cerwin Vega speakers and how I ranked them according to my listening experience.
Qualities of Cerwin Vega Vintage Speakers
Cerwin Vega manufactures and distributes high-performance loudspeaker systems for professional, home, and mobile audio solutions. It has supplied audio solutions for many major dealers, including Fender, Vox, and Sunn.
Cerwin Vega is occasionally a bit underestimated by some people who think of them as completely unmusical and nothing more than bass force.
This is true to some extent because a pair of speakers in upper price ranges or maybe even in the same price range prioritize other things than having good dynamics with heavy bass.
CV doesn’t have a clean and detailed sound, as, for example, old JBL speakers, which I reviewed in one of the previous articles about the best vintage JBL speakers.
However, when it comes to playing in stereo with a powerful and heavy sound, they are very good at this if you have a sufficiently powerful amplifier.
With Cerwin Vega, you get relatively clear sound and heavy bass, which is quite cool to listen to, especially when you play pop/r&b and similar music, even with movies.
It’s a different experience to get strong bass from the front part because it gives a different base that presses in the chest during explosions.
You don’t get this from a subwoofer made to rumble like thunder.
1. Cerwin Vega 380SE
These Cerwin Vega’s are really a work of art! Large, solid, and very pleasing to the eye, not to mention the incredible soundstage.
The lows are excellent; the highs are crisp. The mids just exist, which is what they should be.
I listened to CV 380 SEs many times as my uncle bought them when he was in HS from the local audio store, back around ’91 or so.
He was pushing them with an old Pioneer 125RMS 8ohm receiver he bought in ’94 for $400.
This was far from ideal for these babies, but they still sound pretty fair, and that bass bumped pretty well. Since they are 4OHM speakers, I figure he was really pushing about 250W through them.
These were some of the first speakers that were digital-ready with the introduction of CD players.
They look very modern w/ the MTM Design (Mid-Tweeter-Mid), the black felt on the front baffle(nice touch), the poly-treated mid’s, black cabinets, grill covers with the red stripe, and level adjustments.
The 15.25″ woofer has a pleated rubber surround (not the normal rolled foam) that never needs replacing.
This is a serious woofer with an incredibly tight, detailed slab-cracking bass.
Also, the woofer cone is pleated and rigid. It was only used on two models – the 380SE and the PD-9.
7.5″ midranges deliver plenty of midranges; they sound extremely dynamic and smooth. The tweeter horn delivers a ton of clear, pure, airy highs.
I would almost bet my life that you cannot touch the dynamics of this speaker without getting in the $10k plus range.
I honestly have never witnessed better speakers that weren’t professional DJ equipment and cost orders of extent more money.
Modern alternative: NONE
2. Cerwin Vega VS 150
I got these from my stepdad, who bought them on eBay for around $800.
They have insane bass and beautiful crisp mids and highs. They are protected with slow-blow fuses in the back, which I have blown several times, yet they sound fantastic.
They’re really big and heavy and weigh over 90 pounds each.
You must feed them at least 150 watts to obtain the best sound. They’ll play very well with a smaller amplifier, but the more power, the better.
I’m using a Kenwood KR-9600 (eBay link), which puts out 160 watts per channel, and they sound great even at low volumes.
You need a good amplifier rated 10-100,000 Hz, 4 ohms stable, 20-20,000 Hz evenly across the spectrum. Don’t put these on an amp rated 40-20k Hz.
I hear all the folks who love Klipsch speak about the tweeters not being very clear and that these are rubbish party speakers.
I couldn’t disagree more, and I have a pair of Klipsch Heresy and Klipsch KG 4’S. (by the way, here’s the review of the best vintage Klipsch speakers I tested).
The Cerwin Vega VS 150’s stack up to these and create a fantastic sound. The bass is awesome, and no subwoofer is needed.
The only weak point, especially if you can see the related picture of the speakers, is maintenance. The orange liner surrounding the bottom base speaker needs to be monitored periodically (once a year if you do not notice a change in clarity) since the distance the bass travels will wear out the orange speaker foam.
If you have the chance to get some of these, which they don’t make anymore, don’t even think if you have a chance to grab them. They will not disappoint you.
3. Cerwin Vega D-9
These are a good value if you are into funk or rock and have a good, powerful amp. The principal features are bass, durability, and low price.
The speaker comprises a 15″ driver, 2 4″ mids, and a horn tweeter. The size is around 42″ in height and 18″ deep, and the weight is about 90lbs.
When connected to a good amp, the bass is amazing. Out of curiosity, I hooked up a Cerwin Vega 15″ powered subwoofer, but there was no apparent effect.
I must say that, while they always sound great, their performance increases substantially when they are connected to quality, powerful amplifiers (120w+).
Also, the dual 6-inch midranges and the horn tweeter are very clear and powerful. In many 15″ speakers, the high end is covered up by the sub.
The D-9s do a very good job of not doing that. The tweeter is very overpowering at some points, which is great.
They have a fuse for the woofer and a reset control for the tweeter. With this protection, chances are they can’t be too damaged if you ever find an old set for sale.
These may not be the first option for low-volume, classical music listening, but for funk and rock, they’re hard to beat.
There is no better rock speaker available for the money. I have heard many speakers in my audio venture and purchased at least ten different brands and styles, towers, monkey coffins like the D-9s, and mega array small driver towers.
They sound much better at loud volumes. For metal/rock, they shine, and blues, they sound quite perfect with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar, sounding right in the room with you.
I have recently acquired another pair and plan to improve them and get many more years from both pairs.
4. Cerwin Vega VS 120
The Cerwin VS 120 has enough going on to put many audio rivals to shame.
VS 120s were manufactured in 1990, and my friend still has its original coils that have never been broken down.
Their construction is very good, and the components are good. Their shortcomings, as every specialist knows or senses, are that they suffer in the mids.
The sound is outstanding without using an equalizer, just pure tone. The bass is where it should be – at the back, with the periodic rippling to the floor but not over-enhancing.
The tweeters flutter around your head like a butterfly without annoying you.
The mids enhance all of this by putting the vocalist or mid-band instruments to the front of the music, making quite a delectable sound as if the vocalist is sitting on your lap whispering in your ear, making for quite an enticing sound all around, cd album (think Norah Jones).
Despite being fairly well balanced in terms of the distribution of the horns, they usually present deficiencies mainly from 700Hz to 3.7Khz, which is where the cut between the midrange and the treble unit is.
I compensated for this deficiency by building a balanced crossover in its frequency cut and adding to the pre-existing ones some neodymium drivers that are originally for broadcasting with carbon fiber covers similar to the original ones.
After these modifications, I tested them in the spectrum, getting an almost flat response that is very easily compensable with a slight modification of no more than 4Db+/-.
What I got with these adjustments is also possible with EQ correction, with the only problem of being active in the power algorithm.
5. Cerwin Vega E-715
This speaker embodies the best of Cerwin Vega. You need this speaker if you want a genuine party speaker that will rock the house for hours while remaining adaptable enough to sound excellent without being played at loud volumes.
Given that these specifications rival some “professional” setups, the 400 watts RMS power rating, 26Hz–20kHz frequency response, and 102 dB @ 2.83V sensitivity, these speakers are excellent for a “home” speaker.
This speaker’s outstanding low-frequency bass response, which is superior to that of every other speaker in its class, is its greatest strength. The most accurate way to describe it is articulate deep, and punchy.
The midrange, which is missing in-depth and loudness almost to the point of sounding muffled, is slightly less outstanding.
However, the tweeter isn’t too awful, coming through with strong power and a crisp, clear response. It sometimes sounds screechy and lacks depth (especially with electric guitar).
The fact that these speakers require a lot of power to be fully appreciated is another item to take into account.
It is acceptable to drive them at average volume levels with a 150W stereo/surround sound receiver. Still, I advise purchasing a dedicated power amplifier with a separate pre-amp if you want to open them up to see their full potential.
They overload these lower power receivers at high volume levels, causing them to distort and potentially causing serious harm to the speakers.
Underpowering these speakers is more detrimental than overpowering them. These speakers are hardly what I would call “audiophile” speakers regarding finesse and sound staging.
Look elsewhere if you want speakers that can play classical music and music with a strong vocal component without “coloring” the sound.
These speakers are a fantastic option if you’re looking for a high-end, multipurpose speaker with a potent low-end.
What Does Cerwin Vega Offer in 2022?
Cerwin Vega offers a wide variety of professional audio solutions, including its folding Horn-Series loudspeaker systems.
Cerwin Vega’s Horn-Series folding subwoofer systems offer powerful bass, stable frequency response, built-in casters, and Die Cast aluminum housing to prevent overheating, according to Cerwin Vega‘s website.
The folded horn speaker system is ideal for professional DJs, performers, and artists looking for a compact speaker system capable of handling large volumes of bass with high performance and minimal distortion.
Cerwin Vega’s other professional audio solutions include its Active Series loudspeaker system, designed to accommodate live performances with high throughput, integrated amplification, and low-frequency response.
Cerwin Vega offers home audio solutions for home theater applications, music, and multimedia entertainment systems.
The CLS-Series speaker system offers high sensitivity, dynamic response, and a three-way design that enables a mix of midrange and high-frequency output ranges with minimal distortion.
The CLS-Series loudspeaker system’s output panel allows Bi-Wire or Bi-Amp connections, making it a versatile system compatible with a wide variety of home audio applications.
Other Cerwin Vega home audio solutions, such as the CMX-Series and CVHD and CMX-Series speaker systems, are specifically designed and intended primarily for home theater applications.
Cerwin Vega Mobile’s VMAX component system features the company’s best car speakers.
The VMAX component system features a 6.5-inch loudspeaker with low-resonance cast aluminum frames, a high-power 1-inch tweeter, and an outboard crossover motor.
The VMAX component system can drive 75 watts with a frequency response of 65 Hz to 20 kHz.