The Altec Lansing Model 14 is an almost forgotten classic speaker system. It’s rare to find a pair, and highly improbable that they’re still functional. Considering the continuing popularity of their bigger sibling, the Model 19, it’s difficult to comprehend why the Model 14 is so neglected by audiophiles. The Model 14 is of a more practical size for most homes, and its Mantaray horn should fix the beaming problems associated with larger horn systems. In theory it’s the perfect Altec Lansing horn system for audiophiles. So we thought it was time to put our theory to the test.
After searching around and finding a pair of Model 14s we were ready to begin… um… not really. The photo to the left illustrates the condition in which they arrived. We felt lucky to find a pair still structurally sound with all their components and grills, but getting them back in operational condition would require expertise in speaker restoration. For this we relied on the services of Pax Innovation, a company known for the excellent quality of their work. Before shipping them off for restoration we decided to give them a quick audition. We turned the L-pads to Altec’s recommended settings, and after several ear piercing crackles from the Mantarays (which seemed to have a love-hate relationship with the L-pads) sound came forth. At first we thought the woofers were dead, but that proved incorrect. The 14s sounded like an old PA system with terrible low frequency response. Where was the booming bass from those large woofers? Why were the horns so shrill? After just a few minutes we were forced to shut them down. Our first experience with the Altec Model 14s might help explain their lack of popularity in the audiophile community, but we were not ready to give up on them.
Pax Innovation sent us a list of recommendations for the restoration of our Model 14s.
- Disassemble and refinish cabinets
- Build new bases (old ones are rotten from water damage)
- New fiberglass damping material
- Move speaker terminals to rear of cabinet
- Install 5-way binding posts
- Rebuild crossover (new capacitors and resistors)
- Disassemble and clean L-pads
- Bypass Altec protection circuit
- Inspect and replace foam surrounds, if necessary
- Disassemble and inspect horns, repair if necessary
- Reinforce cabinet connecting bolts
- Repair grill frames
- Install new grill cloth
- Build custom stands
Photos from the restoration
Initial Listening Test
When the Model 14s returned from Pax Innovation we were amazed. They looked like new speakers, but had their sound improved? We hooked them up to a Bryston 4B-ST and once again turned the L-pads to the recommended position. This time all was silent, and the old L-pads turned smoothly. Diana Krall’s East of the Sun (And West of the Moon) from her album When I Look in Your Eyes began playing softly and warmly in the background. As we raised the listening level, the Model 14s responded like precision instruments bringing Ms. Krall to life effortlessly. The sound-stage, tonality, and dynamics were far better than we could ever have hoped based on our earlier experience with the 14s.
In Part 3 of this series we’ll be covering setup, placement, and detailed listening tests. Continue on to Part III.