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CAS 4 – Most Improved Sound – Burwell & Sons Custom Altec Speakers

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Burwell & Sons Custom Altec Speakers at CAS4

Last year was the first audio show for Gordon Burwell and his sons to bring their custom built speakers to the audiophile world. While the cabinets were exceptional and many of us would drool over the vintage Altec drivers, the speakers still seemed to be a work in progress to me. Both Gordon Sr. and Gordon Jr. are a delight to visit and listen to tunes with. I spent some time last year talking about how I would like to see the speaker improve and suggesting some speakers they should listen to. Although they live just down the road in San Mateo I never heard from them again and to be honest, I hadn’t thought about their speakers since then.

So, it was a big surprise to me when I saw they were coming to the show again, and an even bigger surprise when Gordon ask me to come in and hear the difference in the sound of the speakers. When I walked in the first thing I noticed was that everything looked just like last year and their was still no power conditioning or room treatment. I handed him the XRCD of Rob Wasserman’s “Duets” and asked him to play “Angel Eyes.. My jaw dropped; these speakers handled this cut in a way that jumped its position from a work in progress to one of the very best speakers at the show.

Burwell & Sons Custom Altec Speakers at CAS4 - Handmade wood horn

The speakers are the Burwell family’s interpretation of Altec’s Voice of the Theater speakers from days gone by. (As I have shared before one of the first real high fidelity systems I ever heard was a pair of Altec Voice of the Theater speakers driven by Marantz tubes and a Garrard 301 turntable.) All the Burwell drivers are vintage Altecs that they reconditioned and restore. The beautiful handmade wooden horns replace the old metal horn Altec used, but their wooden horn is built to match to the size and flare of the Altec 811. The bass cabinet is also a beautiful piece of woodworking art. It is surely a much more room friendly and more beautiful cabinet than the bass cabinet of the Voice of the Theater speakers.

One of the differences from last year is that the bass cabinets are now tuned to 30hz. This results in a much tighter bass then I remember from last year. The have also worked on bass cabinet horn to allow you to sit much closer than before. Yes, they still sound like Altecs but that’s the idea. The rest of the system consisted of an Esoteric digital front end playing through Pass amplification on Friday. When I came back by on Saturday morning they were using Dave Thompson’s Raven Audio’s Shadow preamplifier and Spirit 300b Reference amplifier. I thought this improved the midrange and the scale, but to really tell you how they sound I need to get them in my room with my Wavac EC300B, and this I hope to do soon!

Let me close by reminding you that these are custom made speakers and can be made to match your needs. I should also mention that I kept going back to the room to hear more. When my thirty year old son and I were driving home Sunday evening he commented that he enjoyed the Burwell & Sons room best of all. I wouldn’t go quite that far but I would put the room in the top five and I can’t wait to get my hands on a pair.

Burwell & Sons Custom Altec Speakers at CAS4- Full Speaker

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2 Responses to CAS 4 – Most Improved Sound – Burwell & Sons Custom Altec Speakers


  1. old school says:

    I was NOT impressed with these. The sound was simply NOT alive as live music is alive. Smooth and relaxed, but no goosebumps.

  2. erich raumann says:

    Best sounding and most beautiful ever heard and seen. But most importantly, the Burwells do not pretend that they have been excused from the laws of physics, when dealing with sound reproduction.

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