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ADS 1290 - have drivers updated? Driving me insane!

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Hi All, this is my first post here! 

I've inherited my Dad's old L1290s (which I loved back in the day). They still sound pretty great, but I'm questioning the high frequencies. They seem a little "harsher" than I remember them being, from 30 years ago! I do remember they were quite bright when they were new, though.

What I'm noticing, is that on recordings with any kind of hyped, exaggerated highs, the tweeter can almost sound distorted...not quite distorted, but it's like I can hear it ringing out, on its own, as if is not integrated with other drivers, or is too loud or something.

On smooth recordings, for example the new Radiohead record "A Moon Shaped Pool," they sound fantastic.

I've been scanning the forums for any kind of consensus on when/whether the Richard So rebuilds are worth it. For a lot of folks who report a big difference, it seems like they are reporting that the old driver sounded muffled, or obviously distorted. Others who had drivers rebuilt that were just old, report a modest improvement, if any (not a "night and day difference" is often the term used).

The reason I don't take that as strong confirmation is because placebo effects are rampant in audio, especially without a comparison close in time. (Even those are highly suspect, IMO, do the vicissitudes of critical listening.)

As I am somewhat obsessive, I'm having a hard time deciding what to do...as I listen, if I hear something that sounds harsh, it starts to bug me, almost prevents me from enjoying my listening.

One interesting aspect of these speakers: I'm a music producer/recording engineer. One of the hardest things to get right is the high frequency response. Often, my mixes that sound perfect in my studio, will not be bright enough compared to commercial recordings. However, on the L1290s, my mixes sound as I expect.

The brightening done in mastering is often pretty drastic, and can easily introduce distortions. So I wonder if part of what I am hearing is the 1290s simply revealing the distortion that is truly present in the recording. Such high frequency distortion is a very challenging signal for a speaker to reproduce in a flattering way. Some speakers are more "forgiving."

Anyway, I know it's been talked to death. I just wish I could figure out a way to really test with the tweeters and mids on these 1290s were actually in need of any repair.

Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear any other comments on this subject...

Brian

 

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I have also perceived occasional "harshness" from my ADS speakers.  I attribute this more to the recording than the speaker.  I have a pair of L1290/2 and L880/2 (which use the same tweeter) as well as a pair of L1590/2.  All of these exhibit similar behavior.  I've removed the drivers from the L1290 & L880 and tested them for consistency.  I've also ran the same tests on my matching "spare" tweeters.  All of them were fairly consistent.  I've also experimented with various ferrofluid replacement with the same tweeters.  I was able to make subtle changes to the driver's performance.  I doubt that "I" would have been able to tell the difference if I wasn't able to A/B the changes as I was making them.

Where I usually notice the harshness is with relatively modern alternative rock where distortion is (intentionally) incorporated as part of the music.  One band that come to mind is Bleachers.  This music sounds horrible on the ADS's.  It is much easier to listen to on other speakers that I own.

I can't really comment on the sonic performance for the Richard So rebuilds.  I'm really curious if anyone has ever tested their drivers before and after sending them to Richard.  I've asked this in the past but never got any replies.  One thing that I have noticed about the rebuilds is that they sometimes come back looking like they have cataracts.  I don't know if this is how they really look in person or is an anomaly from flash photography.  That said, I don't recall ever reading about anyone being unhappy with a Richard So rebuild.

I would expect that the failure mode for these tweeters would be from the ferrofluid degrading.  My experience with ferrofluid (from non ADS speakers) is that it becomes more viscous and the driver starts to sound dull.  I suppose that if it dried up completely, the driver would be underdamped and this could cause harshness. 

You could check the ferrofluid by removing the top plate from the tweeter.  The downside to this is you would need to realign the voice coil when you put it back together.  Also, you would likely leave witness marks in the paint by the mounting screws.  I guess how you proceed depends on how much the "distortion" bugs you.

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This speaker line was a pretty common studio reference in its' day.  First thing to check to my mind is the crossover, there is a tweeter pad switch.  Many many recordings can sound pretty harsh if the tweets are not padded.

My experience with this vintage ADS tweets is they either turn to mud or blow (thankfully rare).  Of my many sets I've only had two driver problems, a woofer that I "hurt" and a tweeter that came in DOA.  I sent that tweeter to Richard So and was not impressed with the result.  It left here as a sticky dome in an ADS original tweeter cover, came back as the black rubber dome in a different cover.  It does not sound right, not criminal for my use (this set is rear surrounds) but the difference vs its' mate in a room correction white noise test is substantial.

Frankly if I'd known my original tweeter cover wouldn't come back, I would not have sent the part - it was from the only set I'd bought new and otherwise still have complete packing and docs etc.

Cheers,

- Jeff

 

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11 hours ago, batchman said:

This speaker line was a pretty common studio reference in its' day.  First thing to check to my mind is the crossover, there is a tweeter pad switch.  Many many recordings can sound pretty harsh if the tweets are not padded.

My experience with this vintage ADS tweets is they either turn to mud or blow (thankfully rare).  Of my many sets I've only had two driver problems, a woofer that I "hurt" and a tweeter that came in DOA.  I sent that tweeter to Richard So and was not impressed with the result.  It left here as a sticky dome in an ADS original tweeter cover, came back as the black rubber dome in a different cover.  It does not sound right, not criminal for my use (this set is rear surrounds) but the difference vs its' mate in a room correction white noise test is substantial.

Frankly if I'd known my original tweeter cover wouldn't come back, I would not have sent the part - it was from the only set I'd bought new and otherwise still have complete packing and docs etc.

Cheers,

- Jeff

 

I'm quite surprise Richard would repair a tweeter this way. Did you ask him why the different dome?

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On 2/26/2018 at 7:50 AM, GD70 said:

I'm quite surprise Richard would repair a tweeter this way. Did you ask him why the different dome?

It was some time ago (as was your question, sorry!) but I think the sticky vs "rubber" was simply availability.  I do see that as the style in the newer 3/4" tweeter boxes.  I presume when he does what he does the original can't be re-used.  Guess I should not be surprised if it changes the sound.

As to the shipping cover, I'm still pissed at that too.  Of course, it should not matter as I'm the only one who would care and that set of 980s will be mine in the next life too, if I can help it...

Had I known either of these things would/could happen,  I would have not sent it and just kept shopping for correct used replacement.  I am patient, at least on that sort of thing.  In fact, I still watch for spares...

 

Cheers,

- Jeff

 

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