Stereophile's Art Dudley has been criticized for raving audio components that don't measure up in the lab. But as we have seen, it's not just the (new) items in Art's world that are controversial, he's also listening to - and liking - audio components from the mid 20th-century.
Art may like the sound of (new) equipment that measures poorly - he certainly wouldn't be the first. What I take issue with is Art's love of *vintage* audio's sound. In a recent piece, he made it appear that old audio can rival - or even surpass - the performance of today's best gear.
If Art is tube-rolling and modifying old equipment (and it looks like he is) then he might be partially correct. But from what I've seen, today's equipment is across-the-board better than the past. Turntables, phono cartridges and tubed / solid-state gear never sounded better. A common understanding among audiophiles is that tubed equipment began improving after the advent of high-quality transistor gear in the 1970's. In the decades that followed, tube's thermionic noise would disappear, etc.
Where Art *could* be right is with loudspeakers. There's no doubt that horns of yesteryear had greater speed, inner-detail and dynamic range than their competition - even to this day. The problem is that these early horns were loaded with coloration - probably from reflections in the cavity and/or materials used in design.
Then, the compression-horn that Art mentioned (Western Electric's, from 1946) had a cone woofer. Mating a compression driver with a cone woofer is a challenge in today's world - but it must have been even *more* difficult in the 1940s. The speed of today's woofers (alone) justifies their mating with horns - even if they're still not a perfect match. Finally, if the horn only went down to 1200Hz, that means a cone was needed to cover the lower half of the midrange. If you're wondering what this sounded like - let's just say that cones did not sound good in 1946.
Nevertheless, Art is on to something if he investigates horns. They have come a *long way* since the 1940s - with much of the gains made in the past 10-15 years. But Art has spent much of the past decade listening to "full-range" drivers. You wonder what took him so long - I look forward to his comments........