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Noticed an unusual speaker at an antique market so I searched the make & model - Pickering 180L. Turns out there's a couple on Ebay for 10x the asking price - working or not, it's worth a shot.  Google searched and found a small amount of history on it and I was intrigued and happy to carry on with sprucing this one up. 

First thing, connect and see if it works. Ohm meter shows 7 ohms +- so that's good. Connect to amp and it's producing sound... not too bad with low-res satellite radio as a source. Time to open it up. Whole lotta wood screws holding in the rear panel (with variable bass port mechanism - type of folded horn enclosure with an adjustable port) and once it's off it reveals a properly old Electro Voice SP-8-B driver and what looks like untouched wiring, including the paint seals on the + & - terminals. Removing the speaker I find a production date on the front pads of the speaker showing Oct 24, 1950 - fairly early model, with a whizzer cone driver.  The back is also tagged with a 'Pickering' stencil so it looks like it's all original. 

At this point I decide it's probably worth cleaning up the cabinet which has the look of 60+ years of cigarette smoke tinting the colour. There's also a horrible stain on the front of the speaker cloth - most worrying thing to deal with since that cloth probably impossible to replace. Some patient work with a clean toothbrush and the most gentle cleaner I could find to start with - water. It worked like a charm, leading me to suspect it was probably a coffee stain. Sanded down the surfaces, carefully pulled the trim and then started to removed at least one very rough layer of random brush strokes (shellac?) to make it more difficult. There were also some dents, scratches and what looks like evidence of this being used a sawhorse at one time, on the top. All came together nicely when the mahogany stain was applied. Even the saw cut has been minimised to a point where it's not too noticeable. Just wanted to keep the look close to original. Satin varnish finished it off properly.

It's all together now and I'm merely waiting for the right moment to present it for admission to the living room. 

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Permission has been granted - the speaker is in the living room and it sounds fantastic. I have a fair bit of background and history to make this statement, even though my hearing is not what it once was. I enjoy the sound of this thing more than my JBL 4410s (yes, studio monitors - very flat) and the frequency range is quite wide with the help of the whizzer cone and the folded horn design - mellow and clear. Surprisingly efficient too - I substituted the Pickering for one of the Boston Acoustics A40s in the room and the sound of the 180L is at least 9db louder.  With it's small footprint and pleasing sound it may be in use for quite a while.

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  • 1 year later...

Martin, you are correct, way ahead of its time.  Having enjoyed this speaker for more than a year now, I can't say enough good about it.

I will say, the type of music we play though it certainly enhances some of the recordings. Modern, heavily compressed recordings sound predictably flat. Music that has a more open, natural sound like Diana Krall, Loreena McKennitt or Ludovico Einaudi are simply amazing, even with the signal summed to mono. Classic recordings like Stephane Grappelli also sound beautifully realistic and almost live.

The closest I'd ever heard to this were Magneplanar speakers but they lack the natural bottom end response of deep bass. Plus the small footprint of the 180L makes it more practical. I originally thought I'd need to find a match to make a pair but the sound is such a pleasure to listen to, the lack of stereo imaging does not distract from the enjoyment. I have thought of looking for a decent mono tube amp to connect to my CD player and possibly find a little more 'warmth'. That need is still very much in the background though and it's just fine with it's 40 watt RMS solid state utility amp. 

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Thanks for that frankmarsi. I searched US Ebay yesterday but they didn't show up.... typical Google.

So the rough one that has the matching EV speaker to mine is more than 3x the price of the later one with the Pickering branded driver. Oh well, interesting to see but shipping across the border would be pricey, if not impossible if the seller won't expedite.


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