Will my old speakers work with a new receiver?
July 6, 2008 8:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in buying a stereo receiver, but I want to make sure it will work with the 17 year old speakers I have.

I've been given a pair of unpowered speakers. I've been led to believe that at one point they were relatively nice (I believe that in 1991 they were about $2200 total). But, I'm far from an audiophile, so I'd like some advice.

As far as I can tell, the speakers are from a company called Soundwave and the specific model is "Silhouette". I've been unable to find any information about the company or speakers, but my google-fu may be weak. Luckily, the previous owner saved a copy of the spec sheet, an image of which you can find here. You can find a picture of the speakers here.

Are these any good? Are they going to work with any receiver that I can buy these days? I'm reading about features like "50 watts x 2 (stereo) into 8 ohms (20-20,000 Hz) at 0.08% THD", but the spec sheet says the speakers are 4 ohms nominal (whatever that means) and that they're rated for 30-200 watts. Does that mean I should be looking for receivers with higher a wattage? What about the ohm difference?

I'm looking for something in the $100-$200 price range, I think, and right now I'm considering the Onkyo TX-8222. Is that reasonable, or am I way off base here?

Anything else I should be aware of
posted by paulus andronicus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have the Onkyo TX-8222! I bought it to replace my 20+ year old Onkyo TX-26. It's great!

As I understand it, you don't want the wattage rating of the amplifier to be greater than that of your speakers (not a problem in your case). But I'll let the audiophiles go into details.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:07 PM on July 6, 2008

Seconding the Onkyo TX-8222. It's driving my Sansui speakers from 1989. Only problem I had with it was inadvertently hitting the tape 2 (I think) button, which killed all sound coming out of the thing till my wife, hitting every button at random, figured it out.
posted by roue at 9:12 PM on July 6, 2008

At simplest, any receiver will be fine.

Some receivers, driving these speakers at full power for a long time, might overheat. This is because they are designed for 8 ohm loads not 4 ohm. This is not likely to be a problem for you.
and anyway, running a receiver at full power for a long time is going to cause overheat with most speakers, so in a lot of ways it is a moot point..

For way too much information on impedance and speakers and such, check the archives, for example: OHMS?. Here's my answer from a couple of years ago in the question Speaker Ohmage.

To get best performance out of these speakers (sorry, I'm not familiar with them either), you will want to at least think about the source (CD player, PC, turntable, whatever). Speakers and source make the most difference in a sound system. For example, I use a stand alone DAC with an ASIO capable sound card, playing everything through a PC. It works great.
well, it isn't set up right now, but when it is it works great :P

Finally, I'd look for a quality used integrated amplifier or receiver. NAD and Adcom come to mind, but you really need specific model recommendations to get it right. I think people used to talk about the NAD 3020e as a great entry level receiver.. From your local craigslist, this Harmon Kardon receiver looks like a great deal, but probably not available anymore.
posted by Chuckles at 9:24 PM on July 6, 2008

By "4 ohms nominal" they mean that the speakers' impedance varies by frequency but that for the purpose of hooking 'em up to the amplifier you can call them 4 ohms.

Most modern amplifiers can drive 4 ohm speakers with no problem, since these fairly common. Either they will have a switch for it, or you can just hook 'em up. An amp that can drive 100 watts into 8 ohms can drive 200 watts into 4 ohms, so you should be looking at no more than 100-watt amps (amp power is typically rated driving 8-ohm loads).

In short, the Onkyo you're looking at will certainly do the trick.
posted by kindall at 9:27 PM on July 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Forgot to mention.. Speaker placement is easily as important as any other factor in your sound system - here's an old AskMe on speaker placement. Depending on your ascetic, that might make an ugly room :P
posted by Chuckles at 9:27 PM on July 6, 2008

You can safely ignore the wattage rating. It is completely safe to power speakers with an amplifier that exceeds the maximum wattage rating. In fact, it's preferable to power speakers with an amp that has watts to spare. Remember that you never have to use all the watts. (That's why you have a volume knob.) Whether an an amplifier is rated at 50 watts or 1000 watts, both will use about the same amount of power to bring your speakers to the same loudness level.

The spec that matters for selecting a receiver/amplifier in this case if the nominal Ohm rating. (Nominal means average, in this case. Any speaker's Ohm rating varies greatly depending on the frequency of the sound it is reproducing at a given moment.) A 4-Ohm speaker will draw more current from an amplifier than an 8-Ohm speaker (8-Ohm being the most common speaker rating). All mass market amplifiers can drive (i.e. supply adequate power for loud listening levels) 8-Ohm speakers without any trouble. 4-Ohm speakers are more difficult to drive as they require more current than their 8-Ohm counterparts to reach the same level of loudness.

If you don't listen at very loud levels, then the Onkyo TX-8222 will probably work just fine. It does say it has a 4-Ohm mode, but that mode is likely just a current-limiting switch that protects the amp from overloading. Again, this is fine if you don't plan on listening to your speakers at very high levels. If you do like your music loud, I'd suggest looking into an amplifier that includes 4-Ohm ratings on its spec sheet.
posted by pmbuko at 9:36 PM on July 6, 2008

For your needs the Onkyo is more than fine. If you wanted to save some cash though there is no reason you can't drive these speakers with any older mid-range quality receiver. I'd cruise through you local pawn shops. You might find a nice old Harmon Kardon for cheap.

Then again, if you have an untrained eye when it comes to looking at used equipment then the Onkyo is a sure bet.
posted by wfrgms at 12:15 AM on July 7, 2008

Also, looking at the image and the spec sheet of those speakers, it looks like they're rear speakers, or rear side speakers. In fact, it looks like they're two-way rear/rear sides. While it's entirely possible it'll be fine, you may not be happy with the audio from them if you're planning on using them as L & R. Just something to be aware of.
posted by frwagon at 5:33 AM on July 7, 2008

I'm using a 2 year old reciever ("supposedly high-wattage" Harmon Kardon) with 30 year old Sansui speakers. They aren't as full as they used to be with their original 30 year old receiver - but I got tired of having to repair it every 8-12 months.
posted by jkaczor at 8:51 AM on July 7, 2008

Agreed- unpowered speakers are, for the most part, just wire, magnets and paper.

I have one of these, and LOVE it. I'm sure the audiophile snobs have plenty of bad to say about it, but when I hooked it up, there was an instant sound difference. It uses a digital power amplifier and has an extremely flat frequency response from 20hz to 80khz. Meaning that the actual sound I can hear is well within the limits of the unit. It's a pure digital path from your source to your speakers. All that stands in the way is a filter right before the output.

Although looking at the website, I'm not seeing that they are available anymore.
posted by gjc at 7:13 AM on July 8, 2008

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