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Thread: Would like buying advice for L220

  1. #1
    Senior Member Steve K's Avatar
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    Would like buying advice for L220

    Hello, all! This is my first posting here after accidentally stumbling upon this website when searching for a pair of L220's in Japan. Let me say, first of all, that I am truly impressed with just about everything here, especially you forum participants. I immediately registered to become a member just because I wanted to read all of your expert opinions and comments on JBL speakers. At present, I only have 1 pair of the compact 4312M (don't know if these were available in the US), but in the past I used to own the L26 and the S2600. However, my main speakers today are a pair of B&W 805's, but hopefully that should change in the next few weeks. Why? Because, like I mentioned in the beginning, I am in the market for a pair of a good working condition L220's.

    A good friend of mine here in Tokyo happens to own a pair of L220's which he's had for at least 15 years now (given to him by his brother). I fell in love with its sound from the very first time I heard him play some jazz vocal CDs. The sound was rich and full even when the volume was turned way down, and his amp isn't an 'audiophile' grade product, but let's just say a pretty decent system. But the point is, after all these years, and after having heard a lot of newer quality speakers in vendor listening rooms, I think his L220's sound was just much better to my ears.

    So, to make a long story short (if it isn't long enough already!) I've located two vendors in Japan who's got the L220's in stock. One is in a different city, about 150 miles away, and what he's got is one whose woofers have been repaired by its original owner, but instead of the 'usual' (?) foam edge, had it reinforced with a rubber edge. I have to admit that I'm not really sure what that means, but can only surmise that the unit maybe won't sound as a true L220 should. The other vendor located in an adjoining city has told me that they've taken the better parts from two pairs of L220's they had, and have been rebuilt to be as good as possible. The price is about 15% lower witht the first vendor, but I cannot realistically go there to have a listen. With the second higher priced vendor, I plan to go there in the next couple of days to see what they have.
    Any advice on what to look for when buying a pair of these 'old' JBL speakers would be truly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Administrator Mr. Widget's Avatar
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    Welcome aboard!

    First point of advice... take a careful listen. I used to believe that speakers either worked or they didn't... not true. Depending on the type they can degrade with age. Certainly foam surrounds rot with age, but other moving parts like the woofer spiders and compression driver surrounds can also change with use. Capacitors used in crossover networks also tend to change with time. The point being, listen carefully, if you like the sound grab 'em.

    As far as rubberized surrounds...I would not accept a JBL woofer with an incorrect surround. They still may be able to be restored to an original surround or you might recone the driver.

    Good luck! Let us know what you discover.

    Widget

  3. #3
    Senior Member Steve K's Avatar
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    Thank you, Mr. Widget.
    I'm thinking of paying the vendor that's near to me a visit over the weekend, and see if they can let me listen to their pair. As for the other vendor, I suppose I'll let that one pass - too far away to resolve any issues after I've got them delivered to me and, besides, the 'rubber' surround (so that's the word, 'surround') material has been a sticking point in my mind. At least, I think the vendor's been honest about it and that's a plus for them. Actually, both have been pretty helpful over the phone up till now.

    Anyway, as a point of information, I've learned through reading Japanese speakers enthusiasts' sites that re-surrounding with some sort of leather material, called 'seimu' is popular here, and there seems to be a couple of audio shops that specializes in repairs with such materials.

    I'll be back with follow-up on my visit to the vendor here. It should be interesting because they specialize in vintage equipment - Altec, Tannoy and, of course JBL.

  4. #4
    Steve Gonzales
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    I'll help you

    Hi Steve K, Steve G here, we seem to have the same taste in speakers and I would gladly help you get some rebuild parts over to Japan if need be. I have shipped JBL drivers to Japan to a few satisfied customers from eBay. My recone/refoam guy here in So Cal has what you need as far as spiders and foams go. I wouldn't trust the rubber type surround either. If you need LE14a's, I happen to know where a pair is from an L220 pair that had destroyed cabinets but clean drivers. As with any model or brand, there are people that either love em' or hate em' and I'm glad to see more and more members that share my love for these beautiful towers. There is a great step by step how-to thread on refoaming. Maybe you could try your hand at it?. In any case, welcome aboard and let me know if I can be of any assistance to you.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Steve K's Avatar
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    Decided

    So today, which was a warm, beautiful Spring Sunday with cherry blossoms in full bloom everywhere, I took a leisurely drive to the neighboring prefecture (county) where this vintage audio shop was located. When I arrived there they had just finished setting up the pair with the grills off. The first thing I noticed was that the JBL's red emblem label that's supposed to be on the upper left corner was missing on both cabinets. On closer inspection it looked like the entire front panel had been painted over, but the job sucked. Then I saw that the low frequency woofer cone on one unit was discolored (probably from humidity). The aluminum finish on the bracket plates needed sanding, plus the brackets were not one-piece rings but uneven arcs pieced together, like they were measured and cut from different sets. The paint on the mid-range fins were chipped. The passive radiator's surround was redone with a gathered cloth material. Well, the sound that was coming out of them was just fine, so I suppose the driver units behind all the cosmetics were basically in good condition, although one woofer might have needed some fine adjustment because it buzzed a little when I put a CD with some really deep bass notes. But I made up my mind right there that I wasn't going to buy this pair. It was easy to tell that they hadn't been stored well - dirt accumulation in all the nooks and crannies. And the guy there, well that's another story.
    Instead, I decided to go for the other pair. At least I've seen close-up pictures of those, and they look pretty good, and the guy from this store's been really helpful in giving me the details of the shape the speakers are in. I figured that if I don't like the rubber surrounds, I could try to do the re-foam job myself by following the do-it-yourself thread I saw here, but only after I have had some little practice with junk speaker units.
    So, let me end here by thanking both Mr. Widget and Steve Gonzales for their kind posts. I know now where to go when I'll need good advice for restoring those loveable units.

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