Altec Lansing A8 – Voice of the Theatre: First Impressions
After lugging the Altec Lansing A8’s (late 1970’s) home from El Cajon, California, I gave them a quick once-over. Opening the 42x30x12 cabinets – which involves about 15 wood screws being removed from the large back panel – I found the inside to be really clean. The low frequency drivers (416-16C/Ferrite), 32b horns and N800F crossovers are in excellent shape. I had ordered new 909-16b high frequency drivers from Great Plains Audio, knowing that the existing 902’s were shot.
I didn’t know how bad they were until I opened them up. I’m thinking these speakers were used in one too many beach parties…
Many of you may be thinking on the physical size and appearance of the A8’s. I don’t blame you – they aren’t pretty, by most standards. And, they are 30″ wide, so do not easily vanish into most modern decor. No worry, as these are going into my listening space, which is not a shared living space. In this space, we celebrate sound quality over image. Not that I don’t like pretty things. I do.
Anyway, I’ve the luxury of a dedicated listening room/office, as well as a brilliant and tolerant wife who helped me lug the beasts back in to the room from the garage. I am grateful for both, as they support my deep dive into large format horns. Also, I dig the industrial look, and, their sound makes me love them. All of them.
A small part of me expected the crossovers to either fail or sound less than, but that part was wrong. They sounded good (for 40 year old XO’s) from the first beat. I’ve mentioned before that I am having a 45 amp built by Matt at ToolShed Amps. In the meantime I’m using a recent acquisition – a modded Dynaco ST70 (DIYtube mod) with some Russian 6L6 variants.
The A8’s have only been setup for a few days, and I want to give those new 909’s some time to settle before making any critical remarks, and, begin planning the eventual crossover build. That said, I thought I might post an update on their progress.
Before I attempt to describe what I’m hearing – a note on the Altec 32b horn (mine is the plastic version). Unlike it’s more popular siblings (A5/A7), the A8 doesn’t get much attention in the online forums. At least based on my searches, anyway. It’s been tough to find much detail about them, outside of the fragmented information spread throughout potentially thousands of posts in the Altec forums. What I have found, is that the 32b is apparently a descendent of the Western Electric 32a bent horn. There are a few out there who prefer the 32b in comparison to other classic Altec horns like the 511 and 811.
Here’s what I’ve found in my first week:
They need very little juice to get up and go. Of course. The immediacy is one of the reasons why they are here. The ST70 isn’t an ideal pairing but it’ll do until the new amp arrives. The 32b horn and 416 low frequency drivers blend very well. The sound is quite cohesive and even with the stock crossovers their tone is convincing. Bass extension falls off at 40hz according to the Altec literature, and that feels right, but the quality of low mids and bass are better than anything I’ve heard at home. I’m happy to make that trade. I did have to pad the horn down to 4.5 on the dial. The 909-16b are rated at 108db, so require taming. I’m sure I’ll need to tweak more as things settle in. And again when the new amp arrives.
Once that happens I’ll follow up with another post. Thanks for listening.