Has anybody listened to the Boston Acoustics T830 speakers? - diyAudio
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Old 30th January 2004, 02:47 PM   #1
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Default Has anybody listened to the Boston Acoustics T830 speakers?

I've had a pair of these since I got them off the showroom floor of a stereo shop that I later worked at.

Anyway... I really like these speakers, and I just wanted to see who else has heard them so I could "compare notes" so to speak. I wanted to see if what I hear is the same as what others hear. It'll help me recognize what I'm hearing, and allow me to build a new pair that can hopefully improve upon what I've already got.

So anyway... this is what I hear when I listen to my T830s.

The overall sound is very smooth and laid back. The soft dome tweeter is much smoother than that horrendous aluminum tweeter that they put into the VR series (which replaced the T series around 1995). The midrange is a bit *too* laid back, and sometimes vocals seems a bit muffled. Bass is clean and smooth, but rolls off at a fairly high frequency, so it doesn't have the presence that I'd like. It certainly doesn't fill out the lower octaves of the classical music that I listen to, nor does it it provide the punch I like in jazz and rock/country. Of course a subwoofer would fix this, but that's another story.

Imaging is pretty stable. The soundstage is decent, but not as wide as I'd like. I'm unable to detect any "depth" of the soundstage... it all sounds like it's coming from the same distance to me... but that just may be how I hear it, I don't think I've really ever heard a pair of speakers that presented a truely 3-dimensional soundstage.

Has anybody else heard these and care to share their opinions?
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Old 6th July 2004, 08:30 PM   #2
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Default my opinion on Boston Acoustics T830

It's July 2004, and I just ordered replacement woofers for the Boston T830 speakers that I bought new in 1989. The speakers were a steal in 1989 at $325/pair. It annoyed me at the time that the woofers had foam surrounds, because I knew that those surrounds would eventually fail. One of them finally did fail, this week. I just spent $100/pair for the replacement woofers, including shipping, from Boston Acoustics.

I say all that because my opinion about these speakers has always been mixed, but in the end I enjoy them enough to feel that it is a better bet to sink $100 into them than to try to find something that sounds better. Most times that I have thought that I found something better, when I got around to a direct comparison, I still prefer the T830's.

Likes:
*Construction is VERY solid. (exept for those surrounds on the woofers). Nice base, with threaded holes for adding feet to angle the speaker. (I used to do that.) Banana jack hidden underneath is nifty, keeps the cord at ground level. Small footprint, easy to place in the room.

*Very smooth midrange-to-tweeter crossover. I'm a violinist, and can't stand the hole that so many speakers have at the crossover point in the upper midrange.

*Generally very well-balanced sound. Midrange sounded slightly recessed at a first listen, but I soon realized that the sound was very natural and there was nothing missing.

Dislikes:
*Little posts broke off the grille. Foam surrounds on the woofers went bad (after 15 years).

*Resonance in the tweeter. Reviews of the speaker in 1989 described this as a mild peak in the tweeter range. Well, a peak comes from a resonance, and to my ears, those always add a bit of dirt to the sound. But, this one never bugged me enough to want to get rid of the speakers. By itself, it is not a problem. The real problem comes when one listens to a recording that also has a high frequency emphasis of its own. (Many vocals in pop recordings, for example.)

*Tubby sound in the bass. Male vocal can sound artificially fat. Bass can sound more "thumpy" and less colorful.

Interesting installation:
*Reviews of the speaker in 1989 commented on the flat bass response, free of peaks, and low in distortion. My comment that the bass can sound tubby would indicate a resonance in the bass, and with it, some distortion. I'm not sure who is right. However, I sometimes use this speaker in an installation that has given some of the best sounding bass that I've ever heard.

In that installation, which is biamplified, I use a large transmission-line subwoofer. The active crossover point is at 45Hz (This is the frequency at which the Boston T830 specs say that they roll off on their own, but I've found that they do make enough sound below that to interfere with the subwoofer. For that reason, I use an active hi-pass to cut them off.)

In this installation, the tubby sound of the Boston speakers completely disappears. The bass guitar line in pop music always sounds more tuneful, more distinct. Different bass drums have different sounding thumps. Male vocal sounds right. I suspect that the increased clarity is because of the fact that the Boston woofers are not having to deal with the lowest frequencies, so that they will distort less. But it could also be that with a subwoofer providing the missing octave, the sound is just more "correct", and so sounds better.

Anyway, I think these are wonderful, wonderful speakers.
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Old 28th October 2004, 02:32 AM   #3
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Default Subwoofer & center speaker to match T-830s?

While we're on the subject of T-830s (my personal all-time favorite home stereo speakers for anywhere near their very reasonable price), does anyone know which Boston Acoustics subwoofer was normally matched up with T-830s (and what center channel speaker for that matter) to make a 5.1 system?

I have several pair of these things, and am thinking of using a couple of pair to make a movie room sound system. I'd likewise love to hear any opinions on what receiver to use in this application. I'm looking for something that is similarly reasonably priced, and comparable in terms of sound quality, that I can begin watching for on ebay and the used market in general.

Thanks in advance to all, for offering any opinions!
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Old 28th October 2004, 02:23 PM   #4
softy is offline softy  United States
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Default T-830 mods?

On a related note (and more in keeping with the DIY ethic), I have heard of some cases where people modified their T-830s with upgraded internal wiring, stuffed the enclosures with fiberglass insulation, etc. Has anyone here done anything like this?
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Old 28th October 2004, 02:25 PM   #5
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Default replacement woofers for Boston T830

This is not really a follow-up to the previous poster, who asked about subwoofers. (Although I will put in my two-cents worth and say that it might not be so critical to use a Boston Acoustics subwoofer, but rather just to get a subwoofer that really does go a lot lower in frequency than the T830's and to make sure that the T830's are cut off at the low end.)

I just wanted to follow up to my earlier post, in which I mentioned that I had ordered replacement woofers for my T830's. Since there are so many of these speakers still in use, I thought that perhaps some other users might want to hear about the results.

The cost of the replacement woofers was $50 each, including shipping. I ordered two woofers, even though only one of mine had failed.

The replacement woofers seem to be an exact match for the original. Everything about the construction looks precisely like the original woofer, except that the original woofer had "Boston Acoustics" stamped on the back of its motor structure, while the replacement is unbranded.

Oddly enough, the employee at Boston Acoustics who took my order over the phone warned me to not be surprised when the replacement woofers arrived, because the replacements would have noticeably smaller-looking magnets. He went on to say that the engineers had come up with a smaller-size motor that had performance identical to the original. I don't know who that guy was, but he definitely did not know what he was talking about. (He was not on the engineering staff.) The magnets & motors on the replacement woofers looked identical to those on the original woofers. I even weighed the originals and the replacements on a digital scale that displays to the 1/10 ounce, and the weights were identical.

It was definitely worth replacing both woofers, even though only one had failed. The one original woofer whose surround had not failed looked fine. However, when one thumped the cone with a finger, one heard a rattle from the voice coil even when not thumping very hard. In other words, the foam surround was not falling apart, but it was not doing a very good job of keeping the cone centered. The replacement woofer did not rattle when I thumped its cone.

This made me curious, and so I decided to compare the sound of the woofers when installed in the cabinets. I put a new woofer in one of the cabinets, and put the good old woofer - the one that had the good surround - back into the other cabinet.

I used both a test signal and actual music.

The test signal was a CD that had test tones of about 1 second duration, stepping up in frequency, beginning around 20Hz. I listened to only one speaker at a time.

What I heard was very interesting. From the cabinet with the new woofer, I heard almost nothing from the lowest frequencies. Only a slight "tic" at the frequency transitions - an artifact on the original CD - gave any indication that there was even a signal present. At some frequency, however, the pitch became audible, and sounded fairly uniform in level after that.

From the cabinet with the old woofer, I heard some faint fuzzy sounds while the subsonic tones were playing. The old cone assembly seemed to be buzzing a bit. The buzz was very faint, but then again, the signal was not strong, either. The signal pitch seemed to become audible at perhaps one frequency step lower than it had in the cabinet with the new woofer, but the sound did not reach what sounded like full volume until the same frequency as before.

So the old woofer seemed to be less controlled in the subsonic range, making both a little bit of buzz and a little bit of pitch, but pitch at a volume too low to be of much use.

When I tried to compare music playing through these single speakers, I began to feel a bit silly. One begins to hear whatever one wants to hear in this kind of test. When I imagined that I heard more or better bass from one of the speakers, another listen seemed to throw that back into question.

So, I stopped trying to be scientific, put the new woofers in both cabinets, and just listened to music. The bass was noticeably tighter than it had been before. I found myself going on a tour of some of my favorite recordings for a few hours, just enjoying how good they all sounded.

I once had a very similar experience when I ordered replacement woofers for a friend's pair of original Advent loudspeakers.

So if you own a pair of 10- or 15-year-old speakers that you like very much, and if their woofers have foam surrounds that are not as firm as they used to be, I recommend factory replacements.
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Old 28th October 2004, 04:51 PM   #6
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Default re-stuffing Boston T830's

When I first bought mine, I tried using more stuffing, hoping to get rid of some of the tubbiness in the bass. I used some material that looked similar to what was already in them from the factory. (I think I bought a pillow with polyester stuffing and ripped it open.) Adding more stuffing didn't help, and when I added enough, I started losing bass.

I tried less stuffing: it made the bass more tubby.

I think the woofer is slightly under-damped. It would be a lot of work, though, to find a woofer that fixed that problem without creating another one.

My under-damped hypothesis is partly based on my experiences in powering them. I have used them with NAD and Denon integrated amps, and with a SONY ES series power amp, and in each case they sounded pretty much the same. They sounded noticeably better (tighter bass) when my friend brought over his home-made class A amp, a Nelson Pass A-40 design with some ungodly amount of power supply capacitance (2x30,000 microF, I think). Very high damping factor in that amp.
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Old 28th October 2004, 05:36 PM   #7
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Default T-830 woofer replacements, etc.

Thanks for taking the time to reply about this. The first thing I'll do is check out all my (eight) T-830s, to select the best four (in terms of woofer health). If I need to, I'll order replacement woofers for all of them. I agree with you that $50 for 15 or more years, is quite a good bargain for decent speaker performance.

I'll quit thinking about upgrading them in any other way. That still leaves the question of what center channel speaker and subwoofer to combine with them, to make my 5.1 system. I fully realize that it is not essential to use Boston Acoustics subwoofers or center channel speakers with these T-830s, but I'd like to do so anyway, for "period retro fun" reasons. What I'd like to find out is what models Boston Acoustics would have deemed the best matches in these categories, as well as what dealers would match with the T-830s.

I have a few different music playback systems that I've put together as representative of their particular eras including a '60s system with a Fisher FM-100C tuner, HH Scott 299 amp, Teac reel-to-reel deck, period Dual turntable, etc., a '70s system with Kenwood KT-7500 tuner, Sansui AU-717 amp, belt-drive Garrard Zero 100 turntable, etc. I enjoy having these period systems in different rooms of my house. People always get a kick out of 'em. My more modern stuff for actual serious listening is a Music Hall MMF-7 turntable fed through a Hagerman preamp, several different reel-to-reel decks, digital tape machines, computer-based editing systems, and various other sources, into my pro audio gear.

I'd like to hear more about your friend's home-made class A amp. I might go that route for driving my 5.1 system, if it wouldn't be too labor-intensive (time consuming) to build.
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Old 28th October 2004, 05:54 PM   #8
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The Pass A-40 design is terrific. Find it at this link:

http://www.passdiy.com/legacy.htm

Unfortunately, the parts list includes transistors & diodes all of which are no longer available. As Pass mentions in his notes about the amp design, it is straightforward to make substitutions, but one must know a bit about transistor specs to do that.

There are some other good class-A amp designs on that same page.

Go to this link for great presentations of home-built amps:

http://www.passdiy.com/gallery.htm

From those people, you should be able to get lots of information on construction of amps including the A-40. And of course, check out the "amplifiers" section of the DIY site:

http://www.diyaudio.com/forums/forum...?s=&forumid=21
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Old 28th October 2004, 06:06 PM   #9
softy is offline softy  United States
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Default DIY amps

Thanks again! I'll look into that when I get a chance. Having been trained in the mystical arts of vacuum tube AND transistor technologies back in the '70s by the Navy, I am conversant enough on the subject of transistor specs to get by. I also have quite a substantial electronics design bench at my disposal. I will definitely consider doing something along these lines. Thanks for the idea!
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Old 29th October 2004, 01:22 PM   #10
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Default replacing woofers in T830

You mentioned that you have eight T830's. Since the replacement woofers are a flat $50 each, including shipping, there is no advantage to purchasing large numbers of them. If your old woofer surrounds are not disintegrating, but you suspect that they are not working so well at keeping the cones centered (see my earlier post), you might consider buying just two replacement woofers at first. Swap them into a pair of cabinets, and do a comparison of the new pair to one of your old pairs. If you hear a compelling improvement, then consider buying more replacements.
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