Vintage Electrohome SC 490 Speakers – A Closer Listen

In my previous article, I introduced you to my Desktop HiFi system. The speakers that are being used now are a set of vintage Electrohome speakers. In case, you didn’t yet check out my last article, please do so now. Otherwise, enjoy reading about these speakers. These Electrohomes are one of my favorite finds.

Where did I come across the Electrohomes?

I was on one of my regular visits to my local Goodwill keeping an eye out for anything good. In the electronics section, there wasn’t too much. I was however looking behind stuff as sometimes, people tend to hide stuff that they want. As I was doing this, one of the employees had asked if I was finding everything OK. I’d told her that I’m always on the hunt for audio gear. Specifically high end and vintage speakers, receivers, etc. She basically said ‘Follow me, you’ll want to see these”. I was thinking to myself “This is unusual” as she leads me to the front of the store for a piece of audio gear. She said ‘have a look”. There lie a vintage set of Electrohome speakers. They were in such good shape, I thought to myself “I better look these things up”. Upon searching online, I couldn’t find anything at all. Not a single lead. This was both good and bad. The good part was that I ran into a very rare set of speakers. The bad thing was that I didn’t know what to expect out of them. Neither were there going to be in parts or repair guides if they needed anything. But judging by the build quality and style, these Electromes had to have been at least from the 1960s. Due to them being so old yet in such good shape, I took the plunge. I payed $10 for them and took them home. If anything I thought, they’d make a good rebuild with fresh drivers if anything wasn’t right.

Hooking Them Up – The First Listen

This is always the most exciting part of buying any piece of vintage gear. Especially if you couldn’t find any information on them. I was anxious to hear these speakers. I hooked them straight up to my 1981 JCPenny stereo receiver. The first song I played on them was “One Love / People Get Ready (Medley)” by Bob Marley. The first thing I noticed was the imaging. These speakers imaged better than any bookshelf speakers I’ve heard. Right then, I also noticed the warm mid range. The mid range was very warm. I decided to play ‘Waiting In Vain” which was also by Bob Marley. The warm mid range made me fall in love with this set. These Electrohome speakers where easily one of the oldest additions to my collection. The only thing I could tell that was off was the treble. The tweeters lacked the sensitivity of the woofers. Even with the treble cranked, I couldn’t hear much. The crossover network had to have been long done by now. After all, capacitors don’t like to live for 35 years, let alone 50+ years.

Opening Them Up – The Ways Of The 60s Engineering

Unlike speakers from the 70s to present, these Electrohomes had removable back plates. These removable plates were held on by 8 Flathead screws. The drivers were mounted from inside the cabinets. They were mounted via small nuts on screw that were fixed to the cabinets. I needed to figure out the type of crossover these speakers used. They had used a simple inline capacitor for the tweeter as with most two-way speakers. This was good. I could easily replace these. I had found a matching set of capacitors online. I also did some cleaning of the drivers. They were Grey instead of black. This was due to the thick layer of dust built up. Upon installing the drivers, I decided to add some dampening foam to help tame the warm mid range. Although I’m sure it was good with 60s music, modern music would not sound right.

Post Crossover Replacement – The Results

I was even more excited to hear these Electrohome speakers sing. They had already surprised me. This was the final moment of truth. I immediately noticed the tweeters had woken up. It almost shocked me. They sound like a completely different set of speakers. The tweeters still however sounded different. They didn’t sound bad, just different. Being used to dome tweeters, these electrohome speakers sported cone tweeters. In fact, most speakers from this era used cone tweeters. The thing with cone tweeters is however, they are less sensitive. I kept the treble up as it was perfect. The tweeters never sounded fatiguing like modern tweeters usually do. Instead, they sounded laid back yet still very well present. They stayed present up until 23k. What caught me off guard however was how the tweeters and woofers blended together. The woofers had produced some of the mid treble. This was unusual. I’ve never heard two-way speakers like this. The tweeters strictly handled the upper treble. I could only describe this ‘blending” as if Electrohome was trying to create the sound of one driver instead of two. This would be to blame on the Electrohome’s usually good imaging.

Dampening The Cabinets – The Results

After dampening the cabinets, the Electrohomes no longer sounded excessively warm. Instead, they produced a more flat, clear sound with a slight bump in the lower mid range. This was what I was expecting. Although, not as warm sounding, the Electromes still had that 60s warmth. They also gained more detail and became very clear. Modern music would come through much better.

Conclusion

In the end, finding these Electrohome speakers was a score. I wonder if there is another pair still out there just waiting to turn up. Having a rare piece of gear is an experience. Especially if it ends up being an audio gem. These speakers served me a good three years since then. They will continue to serve me for a long time. I’ll probably have to replace the capacitors again before the drivers give up. For now though, feel free to have a listen yourself. I had played multiple tracks out of my quality test playlist on Tidal. I hope the video turned out well. It was recorded with an iPhone 11 Pro Max which has stereo microphones.

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