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Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414

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Posted on October 14, 2012 at 10:07:25
waj4all
Audiophile

Posts: 95
Joined: October 26, 2010
Hi,

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I once owned some Altec 417s (musical-instrument spkrs, really). Wasn't too impressed with them in a pro-sound/hifi application. I'm now thinking of acquiring some 414s.

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Can anyone describe the similarities or differences in sound between the 417 and 414, especially regarding lower-mids and bass reproduction for hifi?

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Thanks

waj4all.

 

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RE: Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414, posted on October 15, 2012 at 20:57:04
Alpha Al
Industry Professional

Posts: 2430
Location: N. Carolina
Joined: February 16, 2004
Contributor
  Since:
December 3, 2015
Drastically different animals.

417 is a guitar speaker. It has a lightweight Aluminum voice coil and dust cap, which gives extended highs. It can be run full range, or crossed over to a tweeter. Mids can be peaky at some frequencies.

414 is a bass speaker with a heavier Copper voice coil and paper dust cap. Won't go as high, but has very smooth mids up to the crossover point.

My home system uses 414's crossed at 800hZ to 802's on 811's. For me, it's the ultimate. Never tried a 417 as a Hi-Fi bass speaker.

 

RE: Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414, posted on October 15, 2012 at 21:52:10
amandarae
Audiophile

Posts: 2231
Location: So.Cal
Joined: November 30, 2004
I to had a very good set up with 414's using 802's on Azura horns cross at 850 hz. The 414's were installed on 612C BR cabs. Simple set up but very enjoyable!

I kept my mint 414's after all these years as I truly love the midrange it can reproduce but my setup evolved to a much bigger horns and thus a bigger bass driver(416). Bass is also good on the 414's for a 12" vintage driver but bettered easily by a 416 or a 515 IMO.





 

which 414?, posted on October 16, 2012 at 12:13:05
lokie
Audiophile

Posts: 1208
Location: Georgia, USA
Joined: January 28, 2003
Is there a particular vintage or model number that is superior? 8B,16C,A ??

 

RE: Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414, posted on October 16, 2012 at 13:16:05
waj4all
Audiophile

Posts: 95
Joined: October 26, 2010
Thanks for the responses, so far.

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Alpha Al; very interesting. Amandarae; very nice system - awesome, in fact. Are those tt-plinths (at the top) versions of Nantais' 'Classic'? (I'm guessing the tt on the right is a Lenco).

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To me the 417s, used as mid-woofers in a purely hifi application, would be less than exemplary - based on my experience with them. I was hoping the 414 would be much much better, especially at lower-mids. I'm inclined to accept Alpha Al's assertion that they're 'drastically different animals' as I cannot imagine anything with sonics anywhere near the 417 being as highly-acclaimed as the 414 is.

 

RE: Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414, posted on October 16, 2012 at 16:28:41
amandarae
Audiophile

Posts: 2231
Location: So.Cal
Joined: November 30, 2004
Thank you! No, no Jean Nantais table here, just all DIY. The table on the right is a Thorens 124 MKII with SME 3012 arm.

 

RE: Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414, posted on October 16, 2012 at 18:34:30
waj4all
Audiophile

Posts: 95
Joined: October 26, 2010
Say no more, Amandarae. Thorens 124, 12" SME, etc, etc, with Altecs, of course - obviously, you know your stuff. I'd bet the system sounds 'very-extremely' outstanding too. Enjoy the music!

 

RE: Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414, posted on October 20, 2012 at 12:57:56
waj4all
Audiophile

Posts: 95
Joined: October 26, 2010
O.K., so now I've finally gotten myself a decent demo of the (doubled) 414. Perhaps I should share my findings:

.

First I should also disclose that I believe the midrange is THE most important region of the audio-spectrum and that, for lifelike sound, it is extremely imperative that a speaker-system reproduce ALL of the mids in the most natural and realistic manner possible - most of the popular modern small-coned examples do not (i.e. lacking the lower-mids, and overall dynamism). I also believe that Altec 416s & 515s (especially the latter) are amongst the best at reproducing ALL the mids, among the drivers readily available TODAY. [In a modified DIY application, my own current doubled-12" drivers *(linked below, for the curious) seem to depict instrumental and vocal tonality in a manner I prefer to that of the excellent 515 (dynamism may be slightly better with the latter, tho I can't be sure unless compared in my own system).]

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After this, my most recent encounter with doubled 414s, it seems the the same scenario applies as to that of the 515 (based on my memory of the latter). I must admit that, in my previous encounters with the 414 countless years ago, I didn't look for the features I look for today. Nevertheless, I saw no reason not to accept others' opinion that its mids were perhaps as good as those of the 515, with which I'm somewhat more familiar. (Some have even hinted that the 414 is better, in this regard - perhaps others may want to comment on this). However, months ago, I was unfortunate enough to encounter a pair which reminded me of the 'unpleasant' sound of the 417. (In retrospect that system, driven by a 'cheap' vintage ss amp known to me to be 'atrocious', was the most likely cause of the sub-par performance of the speakers). Nevertheless, doubts crept in, to the extent that I now questioned the efficacy of my intent to, one day, seek to A/B-compare doubled 414s to the doubled 12"ers I currently use.

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However I'm pleased to report that my most recent encounter with the 414 (subsequent to the O.P of this thread) reaffirms my accord with the 'popular' notion that it fully deserves its reputation as a completely viable qualitative alternative to the 416 and, especially, the 515 - more so, when doubled. Driven with decent equipment, it bears no resemblance to the 417 whatsoever - thankfully - a 'drastically different animal', as Alpha Al would say. (The 417's only advantage is in loudness per watt). [Oh, and btw, I'm inclined to stick with my current drivers for their tonality, and for the moment, tho the 414 is indeed confirmed to be a worthy alternative (and dynamism does seem slightly enhanced with doubled examples). A direct A/B-comparo could some day sway me in its direction, however. Though I doubt this.... who knows? But aren't such things part of what makes hifi so interesting?]

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Many thanks to those who also shared their opinions, here.

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Cheers!

 

RE: Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414 & Low-Midrange, posted on October 21, 2012 at 04:11:28
Scott L
Audiophile

Posts: 247
Location: Knoxville
Joined: February 2, 2001
I must say I have to totally agree with your treatise on the matter. From what I have seen in a lot of 'philes systems is the lack of attending to the HUGE power requirements of the mid-range; particularly the mid-bass/upperbass/low midrange. My personal approach is to keep the deepest bass out of all this, and address the needs of the total mid-range.There are various ways to do this along with the never ending debate as to where
a crossover point is best placed. I think most would agree to keep a x-over point out of the "mid-range". I'd be all alone on a desert aisle if I suggest: below 60 for deep bass, 60-180 for mid-bass, 180-800 for low mid-range, 800 to either "all the way up" (OR) if you MUST add a tweeter in, keep it above 5K.

 

RE: Sonic Differences between Altec 417 & 414 & Low-Midrange, posted on October 21, 2012 at 11:10:12
waj4all
Audiophile

Posts: 95
Joined: October 26, 2010
Oh yes, you're absolutely right in your assertion; "There are various ways to do this along with the never ending debate as to where
a crossover point is best placed." And the logic behind the x-over points you suggested is easily recognizable. Yet, we also know that, in audio, nothing is cast in concrete, so to speak, and others will present good arguments for their own choices of such points, especially, depending on the drivers used and other variables.

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You also rightly alluded to; ".. the HUGE power requirements of the mid-range; particularly the mid-bass/upperbass/low midrange." We certainly agree on this, though I'd go further to suggest that this requirement is not confined to electrical power (highly efficient speakers do a lot with very little). I'd suggest that this power-requirement lies mostly in the realms of the acoustical. The very popular modern small-coned speakers can be outstanding in some areas, but their small cones are at too much of a disadvantage, in moving enough air at lower-midrange and below, to reproduce music with lifelike realism. Even those that employ large-coned sub-woofers below 200hz, or there-about, are still unable to replicate the lower-midrange tones of instruments with anything approaching lifelike realism. A simple comparison of such speakers against the lower-mids tones of real instruments (piano, acoustic-guitar, etc.) would confirm this - but then, most people (and manufacturers of such speakers - reviewers too) don't bother with such 'unimportant' trivialities. The measurements tell them that all frequencies are being reproduced, so that's that.

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But I'd suggest that the measurements don't tell all, especially what obtains in the real-world. In explaining this point I'll cite what I'd call 'The Headphone-Effect':

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A good headphone also measures virtually flat thru all frequencies of the audio-spectrum. And, when we clamp them to our ears, that's what we hear - all frequencies in proper proportion, relative to the music being played. However, if we place those 'phones on a table and listen from a distance this all changes. The 'phones now sound like tweeters as as the lower frequencies go absent - call this 'The Proximity-Effect'.

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Why is this so? Obviously the 'phones' tiny drivers are unable to energize sufficient air for their lower frequencies (i.e. mids, lower-mids, bass) to sound realistic from any distance. I'd suggest that the very same thing happens with the popular small-coned speakers (albeit, to a lesser degree, and manifested mostly at the lower-mids, due to the popular sattilite/sub configuration). And this is one of the main reason why they can never be anywhere near as realistic as the large-coned Altecs, Tannoys, Klipschorns, JBLs, and the like, of this world. They're 'woofing' up the wrong tree - Watt/Puppies, and all. (Oops, perhaps this topic deserves a new thread).

.

.But then, these are only my opinions.

 

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