Some speakers remain in the memory of several generations and sometimes are firmly embedded in history and become symbols of their era.
It is such speakers I described in my series “Best Vintage Speakers.”
In this article, I’ll talk about the Technics vintage speakers, which were compared to bestsellers like JBL, Klipsch, Pioneer, and others.
Technics speakers are recognized as one of the world’s best by representatives of subjective-audiophile and engineering, scientific-psychoacoustic approach, which in itself is a great rarity.
1. Technics SB-6000
I purchased a pair of these for $250, knowing I could effortlessly get $450 off them on eBay or Craigslist.
First off, these speakers are undeniably heavy. I believe this is within good reason, though. A heavy speaker supports direct sound more sufficiently as it is in better contact with the ground.
The parts are very light, so the most weight comes from the wide cabinetry.
After checking what’s inside the cabinet, I have concluded that this speaker has exceptional build quality.
It is packed with quality insulation, which seemed to be folded and placed precisely rather than just being thrown in.
The crossover appeared more purposeful than most I have listened to as well. Other elements like the tweeter “stage” and the metal poles on the side are also well designed.
Technics even put a great amount of thought into the grilles. When I first noticed the screw on the top face, it seemed like two of them were out of place because they had bigger, rounder heads than the other.
Those bolt heads are really what the top part of the grille holds onto. The other grille relaxes lightly between the metal poles.
The grille cloth feels like it isn’t inexpensive but acoustically tuned.
The only issue with the build quality is the vinyl, as it doesn’t have the striped veneer look (personal taste), and it skins quite smoothly. Otherwise, I think Technics did an outstanding job with their build quality.
Regarding how they sound… well, SB-6000s sound like they look.
The tweeters are the showcase on the body, and they are the showcase of the sound setting. They are unbelievably precise and love a challenge.
If you throw any complicated, multi-tone pattern at them, they will handle it easily.
For this reason, they also make any poor sound recording evident, as well as poor stereo equipment.
The strange part, though, is that they are mild and warm. If you position yourself 3-4 feet away from them, as you should, they don’t show a bright personality yet manage to distinguish every note. Needless to say, the tweeter is desperately pleasing.
Although not as capable, the woofer is nothing to whine about. It is extremely crisp, and since it is vented, it can go pretty low.
I attribute the bass tightness to the portion of acoustic deadening, which might also be why it isn’t quite as loud as some of the woofers on the speakers I own.
Second to the tweeter’s sound is just how amazingly, for lack of a more suitable word, they make a stereo room appear.
They draw immediate attention and always have folks asking questions. I also appreciate how you can catch the tweeter and woofer ever so slightly through the grilles when turned on.
Altogether, it’s a hard package to beat for $400. If you find them for under $500, give SB-6000 a listen (with the tweeter control at 10, because that’s where they open up) and determine for yourself if it’s worth the money.
2. Technics SB-M500
I listened to many speakers in the last few weeks (you can check out my reviews of the best vintage speakers like JBL, Klipsch, Cerwin Vega, and others), and in the meantime, my friend called me telling me that he bought these speakers and wants me to listen to them.
The first impression was that the SB-M500 looked astonishing, tall, sleek, profound, and heavy. They have a big passive radiator in the rear and a black velvet layer around the tweeter and midrange speakers.
Anyway, I brought them home, and I was amazed. They outperformed some of my old speakers, and the bass was something I had never heard from medium-sized floor speakers.
They performed with a Sony TA-FA3ES amplifier, giving about 85 watts a channel into 6 ohms. I recommend at least 5O watts per channel and Dali Viper Speaker cables.
Inside the box have a 2x14cm cone-type bass driver and drive 2x planar passive radiator 18cm in a square. The passive radiator has been put at the base of the enclosure and has realized the low-frequency reproduction compared to equal 25cm woofers.
Mid-range sounds nice; the material is a mica composite cone that blended the mica and pulp, powerful but light in weight.
The high region is equipped with a 2.5cm dome tweeter diaphragm of the pure mica with a big modulus and high internal loss and has the high region perform much better.
Also, a mid-high range baffle reduces the disturbance of the area’s characteristics by minimizing it and nice flocked finish.
Gold-plated speaker terminals support a bi-wiring connection; 4mm thick cord or plug.
I feel the treble is a tiny bit too low, but that’s likely my preference. And turning the treble on my Sony amplifier up a bit makes the sound just ideal, so no actual complaint there.
These are carefully crafted speakers, a delight for the eye, and selective ears.
Though they are flawless with most types of music, it’s in jazz and classical that they display their unique sensibility.
Please note that SB-M500 gets easily saturated, and I guess the 80 watts Technics claims are slightly exaggerated.
They have an incredible bass sound considering their size. And one of the most pleasing things about this speaker: placement isn’t that important.
Some speakers only sound right in perfect surroundings, in perfect spots. But these speakers give a whopping base wherever you put it (and they’re in a crummy, reverbing room right now, so I know what I’m talking about).
3. Technics SB-1000
In 1974, the SB-1000 was a product that embodied years of development and innovation in a single speaker.
For the system, new dynamic pickups that were unique for the time were created.
In addition, fundamentally new approaches to cabinet design and construction were tried for the first time, and vibrations were significantly reduced.
Sound engineers significantly improved the signal-to-noise ratio in the woofer range.
As the main driver in the woofer spectrum, Technics used a 30 cm conical woofer EAS-30L100S. The diaphragm of this speaker was made of a three-layer composite, which has a high Young’s modulus.
The diaphragm is durable and has low-frequency distortion.
Improved suspension allows a partial reduction in non-linear distortion. A cone aperture in the magnet allows the unimpeded passage of the diaphragm and ensures optimum coil cooling.
To reduce cone drag, the magnet has a large opening that dissipates heat well.
A powerful magnet system provides the dynamic capabilities of the speaker with a magnet diameter of 220mm (magnet size 220x120x23mm), while the speaker has a diameter of 300mm.
The 4.5cm EAS-18KM100S driver provides the midrange sound with a dome with a diaphragm made of a three-layer cellulose-carbon composite.
The manufacturer also reported that to reduce losses in the midrange drivers, cores made of electrical sheet steel, which has an impressive magnetic induction, were used. The midrange driver coil travel was increased by 7mm.
An interesting feature is that the speaker’s connection can be made through a crossover or directly to each speaker individually.
The speakers’ enclosure comprises three layers: the surface and the inner layer of plywood – 9 mm thick, and the intermediate layer of chipboard with a thickness of 18 mm (total of 36 mm).
Technics SB-1000 became a kind of benchmark for high-fidelity home speaker systems until the early 90s, although its production ended already in 1975.
Even today, it still occupies a place of honor among the landmark products of Panasonic (Matsushita Electric).
In many audio forums, it is still remembered and, as a rule, is referred to as monitors. Considering its characteristics, it is not surprising.
Today, you can purchase these legendary and rare vintage speakers at auctions. The cost of such a speaker in perfect condition is not lower than in 1974.
This Classic model was unleashed in Japan in 1975 and named Technics7. Afterward, when it was added to their export program, it was renamed SB-7000.
I acquired these a few weeks ago and have done some little makeup refinishing them.
It dawned on me that I hadn’t even given them a listen since I got them home, so I brought them to the living room, connected them to my Sony STRDH590 receiver (Amazon link), and GOD, do these speakers sing!
They are precise, vibrant, punchy, and very involving.
To get a linear phase response, the travel period of the sound from the speaker to the listener needs to be identical for each driver.
The Technics SB-7000, thus, is built with its drivers weaved in such a manner that their acoustic centers are equally distant from the listener’s position.
Technics produced three drivers of the very broad frequency range to be employed in the SB-7000 so that only the linear phase portion of each driver’s range could be incorporated in a 3-way system of quite linear overall phase response.
The woofer is an extra-big 35cm triple-layer TC cone with blended aramid fibers to decrease doppler effect distortion.
The 12cm midrange driver utilizes the exact TC/aramid fiber-blended cone structure.
The 32mm dome tweeter is a striking high efficiency, low distortion dome driver utilizing a rectangular-shaped magnet and a unique dome-shaped diaphragm of heat-molded extended polyurethane on a silk cloth base.
The midrange unit works in a sealed and damped enclosure. Simultaneously, the woofer is packed by two resistively-coupled cavities occupying the volume of the central cabinet leading out to a slot port beneath.
The crossover unit is mounted at the back of the midrange unit. The initial SB-7000 came with black grilles, laminate exteriors, and simulated wood for the side.
If you sit dead center, you’ll notice the vocals don’t sound poor, and the bass isn’t messy, rolling, or soft.
Imaging is different on the mids and highs. I’ve been changing the mid and tweeter dial settings 1-3, which dropped the decibels from 0 to -4.
At least they still make proper sounds for being about 50 years old, as the gentleman who owned them told me he bought them in either 71 or 72.
In 1979, Technics introduced a range of compact loudspeakers, the most miniature of which, the 180x150x150mm SB-F1, was an ideal partner for the SL-10 turntable.
The most astonishing thing about the SB-F1 is its size – or lack thereof. After that, you notice the neat styling – which looks as fresh in 2022 as it did 35 years earlier.
Then, when you pick it up and hold it in your hand, you discover that it’s something different – like the Norwegian winter, it’s cold and heavy.
The SB-F1 is constructed of cast aluminum alloy and a lot of it.
The speaker utilizes a clever clamshell construction. The front and rear sections are drawn together, under tension, by a single main bolt.
The SB-F1 shows that the cabinet walls are thick (therefore the weight) and tough.
Inside is a small 100mm paper woofer, wired to a relatively complex crossover sporting high-quality passive elements, and a 25mm paper cone tweeter – both bolted precisely to the interior of the front clamshell.
Using lightweight paper drivers (Audionote AN-E owners know this) provides a surprisingly high 86dB/m sensitivity figure, which is incredibly high for a sealed, endless baffle design with next to no air inside the cabinet.
A 40W RMS maximum output power is determined, and there’s a crossover protection circuit reset button on the speakers’ rear for when the unavoidable comes – proof that these babies were developed for professional (near field monitoring) use too.
The sound is excellent – for the size. You’ll not be struck back by their physical presence in the room, but they’re a surprisingly controlling listen and musically express like few others.
Dazzlingly fast and engaging, they make the melody bounce like a few others.
These days, you’ll not encounter too many around; they weren’t exactly a runaway sales hit, but they’re well worth exploring for a second system.
A mint boxed pair should cost several hundred dollars, while dog-eared pieces would likely go for one-tenth of that.
How Technics Started
By the end of the 60s, requirements for the average audio product have increased markedly.
Consumers became picky, both in Europe and the US, and Japan.
People wanted more power with less distortion, which was the most logical way to develop audio technology.
Buying HI-FI and aiming for high-fidelity sound was becoming a fashionable trend. Even though there was no corresponding standard at the time, the notion of High fidelity went mainstream.
It began to excite not only limited audiophile groups but other social groups.
Technics, the Japanese corporation, had a good sense of the current trend and strove to create something conceptually new and striking both in sound quality and design.
The company of the great Konosuke Matsushita wanted to retain leadership in a rather tough competitive environment, which required appropriate measures.
So the engineers at Matsushita Electric had the idea of creating a model that surpassed its peers in the fidelity of reproduction, functionality, and compact overall size.
Ideally, the product was to be significantly ahead of its time and give impetus to developing fundamentally new loudspeaker systems.
An important requirement for the product was the ability to fit into complex interiors, severely limiting the developers’ options. Also, the high bars on the amount of distortion and frequency range seriously slowed down the development.
So the speaker prototype started in 1969 and appeared only by 1972. The project required a series of psychoacoustic studies, the results of which were repeatedly used by the company afterward.
By early 1973 the three-way speaker was completely ready for series production. By 1974, the system hit the exhibitions and, a little later, on the shelves of Japanese, European and American stores.
Most of those who shared their impressions of the new speakers noted the accentuated reproduction of bass, the greatest in the frequency range for that time, beyond the verge of human perception, and clean sound, devoid of apparent distortion, even on a complex symphonic music signal.
Due to the high price, the company decided not to launch the speaker in full-scale production.
Instead, the pragmatists from Technics limited themselves to a small-scale production for a small circle of music lovers.