Vintage Speaker Question

This question is for Paul Mcgowan and Ted Smith but any knowledgable readers can also give advice. A few days ago I bought a pair of KEF Reference 107 floorstanding speakers from a friend. These speakers are from the 90s and from what I understand they cost around $6,000 new back then. My research tells me that in todays money that is approximately $12,000. I payed $1,700. They are in mint condition and he told me that he restored them. However, I’m not sure what all he restored. I know that he replaced the foam around the woofers because he showed me pictures. But I don’t know if he restored the drivers or crossover electronics. I should probably ask him later tonight.

However, my question is, how long should I expect these speakers to last? Is it possible they will last my lifetime; I’m 40 years old. The reason why I’m so worked up over their longevity is because I would normally never buy an electronic item THAT old. But these are the greatest speakers I’ve ever heard in my life.

I upgraded from a brand new pair of Elac Uni Fi UF5 floorstanders that cost $1,000 a pair. I loved these speakers and thought they sounded amazing. Yet when I heard the KEFs, they made the Elacs sound like hot garbage. A drastic night and day difference in every aspect of sound. I am so madly in love with these KEF speakers I want them to work for the rest of my life but I’m so scared they might ware out because of their age. And I’m not technically skilled enough to repair them and the man who sold them to me is in his 70s and dying of cancer.

So what do you guys think, if I take care of them will the KEFs last me a lifetime? Or will the drivers eventually wear out in a few years? I heard that back in the 90s these were THE speakers to own. Everyone wanted them. I hear why. These speakers are so crazy good that they make my Mcintosh, Directstream and even my Audioquest cables sound a million times better than they did on the Elacs. I hear differences between these components so easily it was like they were totally obscured on the Elacs. The Elacs were clearly holding my system back and being a major bottleneck. These speakers have transformed my system more than I could ever dream. When I listen to them, it sounds like science fiction they are so detailed and holographic and the dynamics feel like I’m riding a rocket ship to the moon. They just never end. Instruments all sound totally different. Cymbals and drums especially sound amazing. The cymbals just shimmer in ways I’ve never heard before. And I can feel the texture of the drum head in my imagination. I mean it’s just SO real. These speakers have changed my life forever and I want them to be with me working for the rest of my life. But I’m just so worried about their age and I half wonder if I over payed considering they are so old.

Paul, Ted and others, let me know what you think.

The only thing that wears out over time in speakers are the foam surrounds that attach the cone to the basket, and capacitors in crossovers. Given the surrounds have been replaced, probably another 10 years until they might need to be done again. Leaking capacitors need to be replaced, and that is something readily fixed. However, if speakers are abused other parts like voice coils can get fried (obviously), and that is something requiring a deeper level repair.

As the original owner would have been in his 50’s when he bought the 107’s it is unlikely that they were overdriven or abused by him. I have several pair of speakers bought by me as far back as 1978 that still function as new so if taken care of yours will be good for a long time.

I just talked to the original owner and he also replaced the tweeters and redid all the wiring with silver wire. However, he did not do any work to the electronics. He did not replace the capacitors or anything like that. I hear that capacitors wear out in 20 years or so. That means mine are probably almost in need of replacement. That is assuming these speakers have capacitors. Do all speakers have capacitors? I have almost no technical knowledge whatsoever. On Ebay I saw that they sell a set of capacitors for the 107 specifically so maybe I could change them on my own if I had to. I have zero mechanical skill but at least I could try. How would I know if the capacitors are going bad? Would the speaker sound funny or something?

You’re over thinking it. If the speakers sound good then leave them alone. The capacitors are on the crossover board which is what the binding posts are attached to. Not a job for the un-skilled.

My 40+ year old KEF drive units still seem to be in excellent condition. The capacitors in the crossovers did degrade; manifested as a loss of treble which eventually became marked, I replaced the entire crossovers with ‘beefier’ ones specifically for that KEF model. If your crossovers have electrolytic capacitors then I would expect them to need replacement in the next 10 years. Let your ears be your guide. Replacement matched capacitor sets for the 107 are obtainable in the UK from Falcon for a surprisingly high $150. You need soldering skills to replace them.