Altec Lansing 301 loudspeaker Manufacturer's Comment

Manufacturer's Comment

Editor: I have just read [Ken Nelson's] May 22 letter urging us to consider advertising in Stereophile. I understand that your business is to try to encourage potential advertisers to consider this publication, and I also confirm that you continue to write me in this regard.

I think it is only fair to remind you that we have decided as a policy matter that we do not consider Stereophile a publication to be included among those in which our company advertises. We and our agency are experienced [enough] to know and respect the separation between advertising and editorial. We are, however, completely flabbergasted at what we have always considered to be unfair and incredibly insensitive attitudes among everyone connected with the publication toward Altec-Lansing.

I am sure you know there are many places for us to spend our advertising dollars. Among the criteria we use to decide upon which magazines will be favored with those advertising dollars are included such conditions as respect for the publication, cooperation between the publication and our company, and mutually responsible attitudes toward cooperation between the advertiser and the publication. As everyone connected with Stereophile has clearly demonstrated, this book fails among the listed criteria.

Fortunately for us, as badly as we have been treated by Stereophile, virtually every other publication seems to like our products, enjoys dealing with our company, and seems willing to support our efforts to continue to be a leader in the industry.—Edward Anchel, President, Altec Lansing

As the initial paragraph of this letter from Mr. Anchel implies, he was replying to a solicitation for advertising by Ken Nelson of our advertising representation firm, Nelson & Associates. It is published here because Mr. Anchel so perfectly illustrates the policy that Stereophile does not—and never will—have with respect to advertisers.

First, a correction of fact. The only person at Stereophile with "incredibly unfair and insensitive attitudes" must be me; of our other writers, only J. Gordon Holt has reviewed Altec product. The most recent review, in Vol.9 No.7, concerned one of Altec's inexpensive speakers, the 301, and his value judgment was favorable enough to merit their requesting a reprint. JGH also commented in print on the Altec Bias 550 that I eventually found less than satisfactory; reporting on its press presentation in admittedly unfamiliar surroundings, JGH stated that he liked what he heard.

Primarily, though, Stereophile does not believe in "cooperation between the publication and the company," nor "mutually responsible cooperation between the advertiser and the publication," except as it concerns correct printing of, and billing for, advertising. Many manufacturers desire a relationship which is more cozy than ours (footnote 1) but they must seek reviews in other magazines in order to find it.

Stereophile gladly accepts the advertising of manufacturers who wish their messages to reach our readers, and we seek out products for review—from advertisers and non-advertisers alike. All such products are reviewed ON THEIR MERITS, with neither advertisers nor non-advertisers receiving treatment prejudiced in one direction or the other. Our standard in reviewing products concerns only what's best for you, the reader, not "cooperation" with any manufacturer.—Larry Archibald

Footnote 1: For an excellent description of the kind of "cooperation" that I think Mr. Anchel is implying, see Robert Harley's "Industry Update" report in July (Vol.13 No.7, p.49) from the recent AES Conference in Washington, DC, where he quotes at length Larry Klein, former Technical Editor of Stereo Review, talking in public about this very subject.—John Atkinson
Altec Lansing Technologies, Inc.
(800) 258-3288

Ross's picture

Funny story.  I own both the Altec 301s and Spica TC-50s.  Some years ago I went to Sound by Singer and got into an argument with then salesman Steve Guttenberg.  Mr. G insisted that the Spica had a greater midrange clarity than the 301s.  Now look at the picture of the 301s.  You'll see a dedicated titanium vapor deposited dome that covers the range between 550 and 3500 Hz.  (The Spica has an Audex paper cone woofer and a fabric tweeter.)  I live in a loft and I literally ran them side by side for many years.  No way in hell the Spicas could touch the Altecs in terms of inner detail as JGH affirms in his dead on accurate review.  No convincing Mr. G however.

The Altec 301s were among some of the greatest speakers ever manufactured.  I still use them and they continue to amaze.  Kudos to Stereophile for republishing Holt's review.

acuvox's picture

I was raised on the Cambridge sound, which of course included Boston's Symphony Hall.  The "West Coast Sound" also included a midrange suckout which extended to their 3 way models because they did not account for the inductance of the woofer and the phase perturbations in the crossover region.  Altec-Lansing and JBL compensated for this with a bass bump and a treble tizz that create the aggressive forward presentation described above.

Machines do not yet measure what we hear, and likewise ears can not discriminate things that machines measure easily.  Holt highlights one of these discrepancies: narrow band resonances.  Because horns have high-Q peaks and dips caused by the impedance mismatch at the mouth, they can measure more or less flat in 1/3 octave band tests while most often presenting unlistenable music reproduction as he states.

What escaped his ears was the resonances of metal domes.  In this he speaks to his audience, for I have detected a clear divide in the nurture of aural perception.  People who listen to music through loudspeakers from childhood prefer metal tweeters while those who are raised acoustically side with soft domes in the Villchur & Kloss and Bowers & Wilkins historical tradition.  

I have enjoyed metal drivers from only two designers: Jim Thiel, who scrupulously notches out the resonance including the ultra-sonic tweeter frequency; and Richard Modafferi for Joseph Audio, who uses the steepest slopes.  Note that they excel in math, measurement and listening.  Without math and measurement, you can't tell which direction to head; but without regular audition of live acoustic music, you can't tell if you have arrived.

DougM's picture

I find it interesting that JGH heard what I have always felt- That companies with a background in pro audio (PA, Musical instrument, and Studio monitors) produce speakers that have a dynamic liveliness, or expressiveness, as DS at Soundstage calls it in a recent review of a Tannoy design, unmatched by speakers from more traditional hi-fi companies. I also agree with JGH that such designs sound especially good with rock music.

I also find it interesting that the best designs of the past from such companies (Altec, JBL, Cerwin-Vega, Klipsch, ESS, and Tannoy) sound more like today's best than the East Coast designs from the past do.