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 Post subject: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Wed 14, 2011 1:41 am 
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Location: Florida
I recieved some interest in the last test I did, so I thought I would do another; hope you enjoy.

Specs and features; The 280 SE was a relatively large floorstander built back in the early-mid 90's. It uses a 12" woofer with rear-firing port, a 5" midrange, and a horn tweeter (appears to be around 2"). Frequency response is 32-20,000 Hz, and sensitivity is around 90 dB. These incorporate level controls for both midrange and tweeter, which is a welcome touch. Price as new; $800.

I just dragged these home today from my storage unit; I am the original owner, and I bought them new in 1994. I bought these to play heavy metal, and used them exclusively with high powered SS amps. Cerwin Vega speakers have always been aimed at the rock crowd, and they served my intended purpose very well. But how would they do when pressed into service for the more discriminating listener? Let's find out.

I made it a point to play anything BUT heavy metal for this test. One thing became readily apparent; these speakers are not well-suited for lower powered tube amplification. My Fisher amp outputs 17 watts per channel from it's 7189's, and the volume had to be turned up to at least 6, and sometimes 7 to achieve a lively volume output. The Fisher was NOT happy with this arrangement, and there were several times during my test that I detected soft clipping. I cannot fault the speakers for this, as I am using them in a manner they were not intended for.

First, the 12" woofer. Depending upon the music being played, bass could come off as a tad boomy, however it never reached truly objectionable limits. One thing I will praise this woofer for was it's linear performance; it was musical throughout the bass range without favoring certain frequencies.

The mids; I felt that they did a decent job of presentation, but I found them to be slightly veiled. A midrange driver's job is to reproduce the "emotion" of the music, and while they did that to a certain degree, I would have preferred a more "close-miked" performance.

The tweeters; being as these are rock speakers, they were surprisingly smooth; they never sounded shrill like I would have expected. But just like the midrange, there was an obvious lack of detail when compared to better speakers....neither the mids or tweeters will "put you in the same room", so to speak.

So, were they worth $800? For someone that desired a true rock speaker, absolutely. These speakers will reproduce astonishing volume levels with relatively low distortion when used with a SS amp. But are they worth $800 to the discerning listener? No. While these speakers are good enough that they will never embarrass themselves, they lack the detail and warmth necessary for critical listening. And that's as it should be; they were never intended for that purpose.

Overall grade; C

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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Wed 14, 2011 4:21 am 
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Location: Minnesota
William,
I can't add anything to what you have said. I agree 100%. Even though I sold plenty of CV's back in the day, I never really warmed up to them personally. You are right, they can really rock the joint with the right amount of power but I preferred the JBL L series.


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Wed 14, 2011 4:32 am 
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Joined: Dec Fri 02, 2011 4:28 pm
Posts: 53
When they sent me a brochure for the SE series I wanted
to get the 380SE. Only problem was none of the dealers
in this area even had them for sale. They were a bit different
in the sense that they weren't running a foam surround
on the woofer.

Image


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Wed 14, 2011 4:59 am 
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Joined: Aug Tue 24, 2010 8:56 pm
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Location: Florida
glen, you bring up an interesting point; when researching the specs for my model, all of the sources claimed that they had foam surrounds; mine did not, they have the orange butyl rubber surrounds like the ones in the pic. They are still every bit as good now as the day I bought them. How do you like the 380 SE?

ggregg, no doubt, the JBL L series IS a better speaker.

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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Wed 14, 2011 2:23 pm 
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tubes4life, I wonder something. If the crossovers in the CV speakers you have use non polar electrolytic capacitors could the sound be improved by replacing them with film capacitors?


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Wed 14, 2011 6:47 pm 
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Tube Radio wrote:
tubes4life, I wonder something. If the crossovers in the CV speakers you have use non polar electrolytic capacitors could the sound be improved by replacing them with film capacitors?



Good question...I am not sure. Is this something that people do to improve the sound?

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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Wed 14, 2011 7:51 pm 
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Joined: Dec Fri 02, 2011 4:28 pm
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tubes4life wrote:
glen, you bring up an interesting point; when researching the specs for my model, all of the sources claimed that they had foam surrounds; mine did not, they have the orange butyl rubber surrounds like the ones in the pic.

According to the brochure, only the 380 had the rubber surround the rest were foam.
If your 280s use rubber then I guess the manufacturer must have decided to change them.
You know the line, "Specifications due to change without notice".

Quote:
They are still every bit as good now as the day I bought them. How do you like the 380 SE?


Those aren't mine, I just pulled a pic off the net for an example.
I was interested in a set at the time but none of the dealers in the area
stocked them. I wanted to compare them to the other models at the
time to see if the different woofer had any noticeable effect on bass
response. I eventually ended up with the DX-9. Those were an updated
version of the D9. The woofer is a bit heavier and tweeter is longer.
Plus they did away with the crossover knobs and located the
crossover at the rear of the speaker. I still have them and they
are in good condition. However I really dont have a large enough room
in this residence to run them. So I may get rid of them.

As for the sound, I will simply say if I didn't like them they would
have been history long ago. Something I discovered is that
CV speakers (despite of their high efficiency rating) dont do as well
with low power amplifiers. I discovered this after my 100 watt JVC
receiver was hit by lightning. I replaced it with an Pioneer SX-1250
at 160 watts. To me the difference was complete night an day.
I later confirmed this after testing other peoples equipment such
as receivers and high power amplifiers. They dont seem to hit full
potential until amplifier power reaches 150 watts or more, at least
in the solid state realm, not sure if that would hold true with tubes.

Earlier It was asked if working on the crossover would make
any improvement. The answer is maybe. I dont have the details.
However I've seen people who claim to have successfully modified them.
However if one is not impressed with the sound the first thing I would
recommend to do is to at least double the amplifier size. You dont need
to jump and buy one. Just find somebody who has one and try it.


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Thu 15, 2011 12:20 pm 
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tubes4life wrote:
Tube Radio wrote:
tubes4life, I wonder something. If the crossovers in the CV speakers you have use non polar electrolytic capacitors could the sound be improved by replacing them with film capacitors?



Good question...I am not sure. Is this something that people do to improve the sound?


Yes electrolytic capacitors are not the best for passing an audio signal. I've done it with a couple pairs of Fisher speakers with excellent results.


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Thu 15, 2011 3:53 pm 
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tubes4life wrote:
Tube Radio wrote:
tubes4life, I wonder something. If the crossovers in the CV speakers you have use non polar electrolytic capacitors could the sound be improved by replacing them with film capacitors?



Good question...I am not sure. Is this something that people do to improve the sound?


They do it to "improve" the sound, but in fact they are "changing" the sound without necessarily improving it. There are substantial differences in ESR between an electrolytic and a film cap. This often ends up making the driver sound louder and it alters the filter action of the crossover. In a good speaker, the ESR or the caps is calculated into the crossover design. Changing the caps changes the sound, but it doesn't necessarily improve it.

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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Thu 15, 2011 5:03 pm 
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Joined: Aug Tue 24, 2010 8:56 pm
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Location: Florida
jmsent wrote:
tubes4life wrote:
Tube Radio wrote:
tubes4life, I wonder something. If the crossovers in the CV speakers you have use non polar electrolytic capacitors could the sound be improved by replacing them with film capacitors?



Good question...I am not sure. Is this something that people do to improve the sound?


They do it to "improve" the sound, but in fact they are "changing" the sound without necessarily improving it. There are substantial differences in ESR between an electrolytic and a film cap. This often ends up making the driver sound louder and it alters the filter action of the crossover. In a good speaker, the ESR or the caps is calculated into the crossover design. Changing the caps changes the sound, but it doesn't necessarily improve it.


Very interesting, thanks for that. I"ve always wanted to make my own crossovers, but where would I find out the necessary info? Obviously there are calculations and considerations to take into account.

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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Fri 16, 2011 4:36 pm 
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jmsent wrote:
tubes4life wrote:
Tube Radio wrote:
tubes4life, I wonder something. If the crossovers in the CV speakers you have use non polar electrolytic capacitors could the sound be improved by replacing them with film capacitors?



Good question...I am not sure. Is this something that people do to improve the sound?


They do it to "improve" the sound, but in fact they are "changing" the sound without necessarily improving it. There are substantial differences in ESR between an electrolytic and a film cap. This often ends up making the driver sound louder and it alters the filter action of the crossover. In a good speaker, the ESR or the caps is calculated into the crossover design. Changing the caps changes the sound, but it doesn't necessarily improve it.


That may be true, but the fact still remains that the sound will not be best using electrolytic capacitors given they are not best at passing an audio signal.

Most of the change results from replacing bad non-polar electrolytics with film capacitors and also replacing the out of tolerance resistors in the crossover. You would more than likely get the same change if you replaced the old non-polar electrolytics with new non-polar electrolytics. I do know with the four Fisher speakers I did that to there were a few resistors out of tolerance which upon replacement brought the levels of the midranges and tweeters up to be more balanced with the woofers.

You could always get three amps an external active crossover an eq and a preamp then proceed to make a three way active system with your CV spoeakers. Would give you more control over the sound.


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Fri 16, 2011 9:44 pm 
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Tube Radio wrote:
That may be true, but the fact still remains that the sound will not be best using electrolytic capacitors given they are not best at passing an audio signal.


Generally speaking, bipolar electrolytics designed for crossover usage work just fine in the applications where they are best suited:
bass sections of crossover networks where the values can get very high, and in shunt positions (across the driver, from series inductor to ground, etc.) Many very high quality loudspeakers used them and continue to do so. I doubt the designers of these products would have chosen them if they are so bad. Their characteristics can be included in the crossover design, and most computer design programs have this capability. You can also bypass large value electrolytics with smaller value films and get nearly the same results as a large film cap. Usually, you will see a combination of electrolytic and film caps in most commercial speakers. It's not unusual for a speaker with a low crossover point in the bass to require capacitors in the hundreds of microfarads.
Try finding that value in a film cap that isn't huge and doesn't cost a fortune.

Tube Radio wrote:
Most of the change results from replacing bad non-polar electrolytics with film capacitors and also replacing the out of tolerance resistors in the crossover. You would more than likely get the same change if you replaced the old non-polar electrolytics with new non-polar electrolytics. I do know with the four Fisher speakers I did that to there were a few resistors out of tolerance which upon replacement brought the levels of the midranges and tweeters up to be more balanced with the woofers.

Replacing bad non polar electrolytics with good ones of the same value should bring the speaker back to sounding closest to what it sounded like when new. Putting in any other type will result in deviation from the original design which may or may not sound better, and can sound worse. It's a crap shoot. Simply putting in theoretically "better" parts doesn't always result in better sound. As for resistors, my experience is that the bulk of these are wirewound types in crossover networks and that they either work or they've been fried. YMMV.

Tube Radio wrote:
You could always get three amps an external active crossover an eq and a preamp then proceed to make a three way active system with your CV spoeakers. Would give you more control over the sound.


Which would require the ability to thoroughly measure the system and the knowledge of how to set the proper crossover points, levels, slopes, etc. Not a job for beginners.

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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Fri 16, 2011 10:33 pm 
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Joined: May Sat 14, 2011 5:42 am
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Location: Ft Worth TX
There was a C-V store in Whittier where I was sound consultant for a band (1972). I'd call their performance "stylized". Not comfortable playing recordings, but more for sound reinforcement, like expensive Peaveys. DBs, if at the expense of linearity. Fatiguing.

That was 1972, unknown how their design philosophy may have changed.


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Sat 17, 2011 12:18 am 
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jmsent wrote:

Which would require the ability to thoroughly measure the system and the knowledge of how to set the proper crossover points, levels, slopes, etc. Not a job for beginners.


Not necessarily true. I am by no means a pro nor do I have the proper equipment. I just adjusted my crossovers to what sounds good to my ears.

One place to start is to find out what frequencies the crossover crosses over at then set the active crossovers to approximately those frequencies. Then adjust levels to what sounds good to your ears.


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Sat 17, 2011 1:35 am 
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Your points have lead me to another question; on a pair of speakers from '94, is it likely that crossover components (caps and resistors) may have deteriorated? I would think they are rather newish for that, but maybe I'm wrong?

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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Sat 17, 2011 4:40 am 
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In less time than that the crossover Cs in both my KLHs became completely inoperative.


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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Sun 18, 2011 6:27 am 
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arbilab wrote:
In less time than that the crossover Cs in both my KLHs became completely inoperative.


Thanks. I guess it's time I pulled those out and gave them a good going over.

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 Post subject: Re: Speaker review #2; the Cerwin Vega 280 SE
PostPosted: Dec Sun 18, 2011 6:48 pm 
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tubes4life wrote:
Your points have lead me to another question; on a pair of speakers from '94, is it likely that crossover components (caps and resistors) may have deteriorated? I would think they are rather newish for that, but maybe I'm wrong?


All depends on the quality of the parts used.


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