Worst Speakers Ever??

So, we’re in the (part time) business running a service operation with the purpose of keeping decent, aging audio gear from ending up in the dumpster. Got a call from a guy a few weeks ago requesting service on some items. He dropped the names of some well known brands -- Sansui, Onkyo, Garrard -- so, he seemed like a legit customer and I agreed to take them in.

When he arrived, the items totaled NINE pieces altogether and included the not-so-glamorous Sanyo, Realistic, etc. I have to mention, however, that the LAB500 was a pleasant surprise and a great example of a high quality "consumer" direct drive, fully automatic turntable.

Then, there were these speaker boxes with the SRL badge on them. Never heard of this brand. Not sure if it was an AARP thing, or a boutique brand that I was not familiar with. I yanked off the grilles and immediately noticed severe foam disintegration around the woofer cones. But, then it become obvious these were no "boutique" speaker. Cheap drivers. A not-so-dense cabinet. Very basic screw input terminals. These were designed to hit a price point. A "promotional" speaker.

A quick Google search lead me to the full name of the speakers -- Sound Research Laboratories -- a "house brand" for University Stereo in SoCal back in the day. This is making sense now. Removing a woofer gave a clear view of the "crossover." Yes, 3 capacitors to provide a high pass so that lower frequencies didn’t blow things up. A later RTA of the refoamed woofer revealed a bandwidth well past 5k. So? With a tweeter crossover at 5k, this would mean that ALL 4 drivers were operating in the same range in at least part of the audio spectrum. Not the best solution for linear, detailed sound. Not being one who likes to copy the Titanic with the hole already in it and head out to sea, I did some "complementary" mods to the speakers to eliminate part of the tug of war between drivers. They didn’t sound quite as awful as they did when they came in.

It got me thinking about my past experiences with "house brands" and "promotional" speakers.

Ah... Ultralinear.

We sold these back in the day. The cabinets were made of some fragmented materials squeezed together to resemble some type of organic substance , with a wood-grained pattern, literally, screen printed onto the box. Some joked that the cabinets were made of GLIT -- half glue, have sh...! Others mentioned that if you took these out of their cardboard cartons and sit them next to them, if a big gust of wind came up the speakers would blow away and the cardboard cartons would still be standing there.

I did have one real example of their build quality and structural integrity. In the "speaker room" we had the big floor standers (Pioneer HPM 200s, for example) on the floor and everything else on the shelves above. The Ultralinear 12" 3-ways were placed on the top shelf. One day I was doing some maintenance in the room and needed to rearrange and rewire some things to the speaker switcher. Then, there was this darned cable that was just a couple of inches too short. I gave it a gentle tug. Nothing happened. So, I put my body into it and gave it an aggressive pull. Right about then I noticed something moving in the corner of my eye. Followed shorty by the horror of watching the Ultralinears plummet from the top shelf and crash onto the HPM200s. The Ultralinears disintegrated on impact. My first thought is that I just ruined a pair of our most expensive speakers -- the Pioneers. I’m going to get fired!! Then, came the dreaded approach to the Pioneers to determine the extent of the damage. Not a scratch!! Not even the walnut veneer was damaged!! And there lay the totaled Ultralinear right next to them.

The Ultralinear speaker days came and went. And, so did I.




The speaker i cannot improve myself 😁...

I will never buy costly speakers which i would be afraid to modify because perhaps they dont need it so much really and because i could not resold them after modifications anyway ...😊

Some low cost speakers can be and must be improved and then are able to reach a very high quality spot anyway... I proved it for myself with the M-Audio AV 40...

I hated them for 12 years... Now they are almost the best i had.... After heavy modifications ...

Then for me there exists bad speakers for sure.But some bad one can really be improved a lot ... I am interested by those. Costlier perfect speakers cost too much for me  and many will not beat my actual modified low cost one ... 😋

The worst speaker I have ever tried/owned was the Carver Line Source. I had at the time the Carver Raven amps, which I liked, so when these speakers came out, I thought they would be a perfect match.


These speakers had the brightest mid/hi I have ever experienced. Even after extensive break in!

No bass, terrible soundstage, etc. Even Bob Carver came to my home to hear them. Which impressed me. Somewhere, somehow, they greatly cheapened his original design.

Soon after Bob's visit they removed the speakers from their website.


JBL anything. And that's going back to the 70's, couldn't stand them. Just my ears I guess.


I built a speaker based on a speaker designed by a YouTuber. Had such high hopes for this full range speaker/enclosure.

Worst sounding speaker I’ve ever heard/built.

Should have known better, but was willing to see if this approach worked.

It didn’t…

There wasn’t a single redeeming thing about this design.

Wasted hours of my time, and a bunch of wood.






I worked for a large, but now defunct regional appliance retailer back in the mid to late 1970's. They carried the usual lines of consumer level audio products (Pioneer, Sansui, JBL and etc.) as well as some high-ish end stuff from SAE, Philips and TEAC. But their proprietary line of Utah speakers transcended the term crap. I understand that the electronics buyer specified the speakers to have the largest woofers, the highest number of drivers and the glitziest looking baffles possible to sell for under $100 ea. with at least a 60% markup. Chipboard cabinets with the durability of compressed cornflakes, speaker cones made out of what looked like recycled cardboard and vinyl cladding with a thickness that could only be measured in microns. They sounded horrid and had a 75% failure rate. We sold the crap out of them due to the commission. I still feel a little guilty.

@waytoomuchstuff  +1 for the post. Thought I had owned/heard the worst of the worst, but this thread proves I got off easy. OMG, JBL. Never bit on those myself, but knew people who did. Ouch. 

B & W 802d definitely the worst speaker for the price, way to bright.

JBL speakers are probably what most classic rock songs of the 70 and 80s were recorded on. They are not up for criticism only you are if you don't appreciate them.


I sold crappy speakers back in the 1970's on the east coast near NYC. I can't remember all the brands, but the BSR speakers come to mind, and then BOSE came out with a low end line (not to say that their main line 301, 501, 601, 901's sounded any good....) they were built cheap and sounded the same. We had a private brand that actually sounded OK even if they were cheaply built, but the mark up was amazing and so were the commisions, so we sold a lot fo them.

I thought the Cerwin Vega's sounded OK, with the right rock music. They were built pretty well also.

In the mid 70s I worked for a Philadelphia area chain called Wall to Wall Sound. I could tell you stories about them but I'll stick to one speaker sale. I was selling a decent receiver with a set of speakers. We had 2 levels of house brand speakers, so so and really bad. I sold the customer a set of 2 cubic foot 3 way speakers with 12 " woofers. We would tell the customers that they were well known speakers on the west coast. The woofers had no surround, just a roll in the driver paper. I went in the back room for a new, sealed set of speakers and picked one up. I panicked. It was so light it almost flew out of my hands. I wasn't even sure there was a speaker in the card board box. There was. I still feel a bit of guilt when I think of the sale. Thanks for reminding me.

I used a KLH system (model 20 maybe...the one without the FM tuner) in the 70s as the speakers sounded simply better than anything else I could afford. Most of my budget went to guitars and guitar amps etc. as I was a working musician so I hung with the KLH rig for years. I noticed over those years that Japanese speakers just sucked...Pioneer, Sansui...bleah...JBL was all very well designed and built (the best pro stuff around, especially bass guitar 15s) and had a frequency graph like a big smile. Also dragged a pair of Altec A7s around for PA...put some recorded music through those and man...beautiful.


7,206 posts


The worst speaker I have ever tried/owned was the Carver Line Source. I had at the time the Carver Raven amps, which I liked, so when these speakers came out, I thought they would be a perfect match.


These speakers had the brightest mid/hi I have ever experienced. Even after extensive break in!

No bass, terrible soundstage, etc. Even Bob Carver came to my home to hear them. Which impressed me. Somewhere, somehow, they greatly cheapened his original design.

Soon after Bob's visit they removed the speakers from their website.



@ozzy some years back there was a plausible reason suggested for why those ALS’s did not perform well (too bright) - allegedly, Carver or his company may have implemented knockoffs of the original HiVi tweeter design (below per diyAudio cut-and-pasted from Carver website ~2015/16):

"Mr. Carver, I admire your achievements in Audio but pelase do not disinform your clients and public. The RT-2 ribbon tweeter for your Cinema line was developed by me when I worked at HI-Vi Research at that time in Toronto. It was developed in the beginning of 1997 and around the end of 1997 we started advertising it in Voice Coil and Speakerbuilder magazines. You asked for Rt-2 samples around that time and then showed the Cinema system prototype at 1999 CES I believe with a great sucess. In about a year, in 1999 we at Hi-Vi inclduing its president Mr.Hongbo Yao were very much amazed with the number of RT-2 tweeter copies that another chinese company started showing in China. We learned that they indeed copied HI-Vi’s RT-2 by request of your supplier who was supposed to make Cinema system for you. At that time it was not Homni. If you went back to HI-Vi tweeters since then, good for you, becase I have almost all RT-2 copies from about 3-4 Chinese vendros and none of them performs like RT-2 tweeter.

As far as your claims about line array performance properties they are, mildly put, somewhat illusory. I suggest you read more about line arrays. I have been building ribbon line arrays for residnetial and professional market for 12 years using desgins like your new ALS and many different other ones that are used in sound reinformcent and commercial market.
I suggest you to “refine” your story about your line array product so that it does not look embarassing to readers who know something about line arrays.“

Full webpage link:


Ouch indeed...
Worst speakers? Likely my earliest DIYs’ in my SoCA daze....some would agree that the 901/2s’ owned later was a ’step up’ even if they Hate Bose Anything. *L*...

...there is the HF driver in a pair of Phillips bookshelf speakers that has a decent mid/bass driver that’s saddled with a miserable leaf tweeter that hasn’t aged well.

Due for dR.Dawg to surgically Xplant a pair of dinky ribbons....;)


Bose 901, definitely. But JBL, Klipsch, and Cerwin Vega are good runner-ups. So suffering from what JGH named "vowel" colorations, they all make voices sound comically unnatural. I saw a lot of that horrid JBL L100 back in the 70’s, which would drive me out of the room every time.

The band I was in in 1971-2 had an Altec Voice-Of-The-Theater PA, set up in the band house living room between gigs. I connected my little system (AR turntable/Shure M91e cartridge, Dynaco PAS-2 pre and ST-70 power amp) to them and blasted records while everyone else drank and smoked. Good times. 😊

Then I heard the Infinity Servo-Static 1 (ESL panels, an 18" servo-feedback sub) and ESS Transtatic I loudspeakers (RTR ESL tweeters, a KEF B110 midrange driver and B139 woofer in a transmission-line enclosure). At $2000 and $1200/pr respectively out of reach (in 1971 dollars), but a boy can dream.


I found a pair of 15" 4 way AAL speakers in someone's garbage. Took them home and checked them out. Worst speakers I ever heard. And by the way 901's were some of the BEST speakers from the 70's. Omar Bose had it going on then.


"Chipboard cabinets with the durability of compressed cornflakes,"

Good one.  Must have been a distant cousin of Ultralinear?


"It was so light it almost flew out of my hands."

This reminds me of the time I actually injured myself with a similar product -- most likely my first encounter with Ultralinear.  Someone else had unpacked them, and it was my job to get them up on the shelf.  So, I squatted down, rocked the speaker a bit to get my fingers underneath, took a deep breath and put everything I had into getting them off the floor and moving in a vertical direction.  Imagine the surprise when these speakers weighed almost zero grams/ounces and they were moving at a very high velocity towards my chest.  The speed of this encounter was unexpected and I found myself with the corner of said speaker embedded in my chest.  Not the worst accident that ever happened in my 40+ year career but I did ruin a good shirt.

Oh yeah, I forgot to add another nickname for Ultralinear -- ULTRASLOPPY!!


"Worst speakers? Likely my earliest DIYs’ in my SoCA daze"

Yes, the absolute worst EVER had to be my first DIY project.  Long story.  Let's just say I gave them to my college roommate because I never wanted to see, or HEAR, them again.


Good old Doctor Bose had in going alright, the heavily ridiculed snake oil of the day lol. Some of that grab a box stuff it with hundred’s of cheap speaker Technology exists today, still controversial, same entertainment value less ! 


In the 1970s I was friends with Gordon Holt and helped him with Stereophile. bdp24 reminded me that Gordon was throwing out a set of ESS Transtatic Ones. He was late reviewing them and ESS didn't want them back because they had gone onto the Heil speakers. A friend and I packed them into my hatchback Chevy Vega and took them to my apartment. We hooked them up and they had the most recessed midrange we ever heard. And then my friend noticed the wires, both hot and ground, from the crossover to the KEF B110 mids were both hooked up to the same terminal. There was no mid range. Both speakers had unbelievably been sent for review without any listening check at all. We fixed the connections and I played with them for a while eventually trading them even up for a set of Rogers LS3/5a speakers.

The Cerwin Vega CLS-215’s were actually very decent speakers with a rather effortless and relative natural overall sound/tone combined with good physicality, scale and fullness - very important core traits in sound reproduction at that - and at their price ($1,000/pair) even downright bargains. I guess no one really expected that from Cerwin Vega, but more importantly very few audiophiles would go on to credit them let alone cared to find out about the buzz on this particular CV model because - it’s was Cerwin Vega, right?

It’s easy to target speakers here and there for sounding like crap, but the real offense to my mind is not seeing things for what they are when they don’t comply with the expected package, brand or price, not to mention all the meh-sounding, all-looking-the-same, over priced and puny weaklings of speakers that don’t really come close (I mean, by a mile) to above mentioned traits. As some would say, this very large segment of speakers "don’t hurt anyone," but it sure as hell has become of low benchmark to go by. For Cerwin Vega to have been one of the eye-openers on this only makes it all the more telling. 


Thanks for that info. In addition to the problems I have already mentioned, they also were very inefficient. When playing music at average levels the needles on the Carver amps were pegging! (BTW the amps are rated for 350 watts per channel).

How a company could produce a product like that is sad. And I bought it!


not sure which one of the last two in the House, but both up there... Too soon?

LOL. Laughing and commiserating with all these comments. But the "worst" pair of speakers were those Radio Shack included with their "all-in-one" systems of the late 1970s. Made of 1/4" plywood (if it was that thick) with no bracing.

Later on I got some "house brand" 2-way speakers from Circuit City as that was all I could afford in my university days, especially after buying a Pioneer SX-780 to power them. In retrospect, they didn’t sound "too bad", and I played the heck out of them listening to a local "college radio" station in Raleigh. I can’t recall what that house brand was called.

Friends had Cerwin Vega with big woofers and better bass for parties...out of my price range. But a few in the dorms had decent Infinity speakers. I first heard some Bob Dylan albums there beyond what was ever played on the radio.

Well, we all had to start somewhere.  One of the local strip clubs we all went to had Bose 901 on each side of the stage. Maybe it was the girls, but I thought they sounded pretty good. 

So much hate for JBL! I still have my college L-166 and they sound great with the right kind of music - Bob Seger howling or David Lee Roth screeching sounds awesome!! 😂😂

like many others my vote goes to the Bose 901. I bought into all the hype and couldn’t wait to hear them. When I did, I was so disappointed. But I learned an important lesson at that point, don’t believe what others are saying, especially the marketers, make decisions with your own ears. 


I still have the Radio Shack Mach 1’s. But, I replaced all the interior wiring, changed the midrange and the tweeters along with a new crossover and 5-way speaker binding posts.

Re-braced and sealed the cabinet and now I use it in my pool table area. Actually, doesn’t sound bad.



@dynamiclinerarity: In the mid-80’s I saw a pair of the ESS Transtatic I’s for sale in The Recycler (a weekly For Sale newspaper in SoCal), $400 for the pair. One of the B139 woofers had been replaced with an imitation (the oval frame and flat-faced cone), but other than that were fine. I bought ’em and called ESS to get another B139; they had one and only one left! I still have the speakers, a remnant of my youth. 😊

By the way, fans of hi-fi history: The Reason ESS ended up making the Heil Air-Motion Transformer loudspeakers in the 1970’s was precisely because of the Transtatic I. Oscar Heil had a working prototype of his tweeter, and wanted to mate it with the KEF B139 woofer, considered State-Of-The-Art at the time (David Wilson used it as the mid-woofer in his original WAMM). Heil went into the ESS dealer in San Jose---TV-Audio Center on West San Carlos Blvd. (my hi-fi shop at the time), as he had seen the B139 in a pair of Transtatics. They hooked him up with ESS, and the rest is history.

Too bad ESS didn’t go with Heil’s idea of using the B139; the woofer (and it’s enclosure) used in the AMT-1 was not up to the task. But I’m sure the B139 would have driven the price of the AMT-1 above their target retail price, $299/ea iirc. ESS sold a lot of them anyway.


Boy this thread kindled some old memories.

Back in the 70's I worked as an tech in the service department for a small chain of stereo stores. One of the speaker lines that the carried was Ultralinear. As mentioned, these speaker were cheap but there were HUGE profit margins in selling them.

However, in an effort to come up with a "better, cheaper" product, the sales manager and a few of his half wit sales people came up to service department toward the end of the day and requisitioned a variety of cross over capacitors and a couple sets of alligator clips. Curious to see what they were doing,  another tech and I went to check on them when we finished our day.

We found them in a basement stock room with an assortment of woofers, mids and tweeters, an empty Ultralinear speaker cabinet. They were trying various combinations of drivers and crossover caps in the cabinet. They would screw them in, hook it up to a receiver, play it for a bit, and then try something else. To say they were clueless is a total understatement.

They had no idea of crossover frequency/ capacitor value, they just knew there were some of those in the speaker they opened up and figured they needed some in their design. 

The other tech and I stood by and watched the circus for probably about 30 minutes when we had seen enough and left. We got a pretty good laugh out of it.

I don't think their "speaker designing" ever came to fruition because not much was said after their session, and the caps and alligator clips were returned to the service department the next day.

Building speakers back in the day was pretty common place. Does anyone remember a mail order place, I think it was Speaker Works. They sold raw drivers, crossover and plans for cabinets for 2-way to 5 way speaker systems.

Klipsch speakers are consistently so awful, except for a couple of relatively recent models (one went active) that got redeemed or whatever.

Overall, the Klipsclowns seem to have no idea about speaker design. But, they infest every house through bestbuy with their cheap sht and train the young listener’s ears on their crappy sound. Thereafter, he is zombified, he will no longer be able to recognize anything good and will keep looking for that crappy sound.

The worst "high end" speakers I've ever personally heard are:

Every McIntosh Speaker I've ever heard - the ones with the multi tweeters.  Just bland, awful sound and a lot of it.

Some big expensive NEAT speakers a local dealer demoed for me.  He'd given up the Kudos brand for NEAT.  I didn't have the heart to tell him just what. mistake he'd made. 

Some long ago Talon Khorus stand mounted speakers.  So bad I thought they were broken.


Thanks for the history lesson on the ESS/Heil relationship. The very first "real" high fidelity system I ever heard was a Mac/AMT1 system. Literally rocked my world!!

Lots of good references here on ’hits and misses" by brands/models that genuinely thought they had something special to offer at the time, but failed to deliver sonically. Some had good (or even great) commercial success and are still highly desirable today by those who align themselves to the brand/model sonically, emotionally -- or both. Then, as @phusis pointed out, there were hidden gems that were underappreciated at the time, yet still have a loyal following today.

Great posts!!

I suspect part of any speakers possible right acoustic design could be a complex and tuned porthole inside the speakers or outside.

Most design of speakers had only a simple porthole, a hole...Period.

I suspect that it is a question of cost and profit...


There is no comparison at all between any speaker with a simplistic porthole and a complex tuned porthole...

I know because i made one ... 😊

Then for me all speakers with a simple porthole , nevermind their price, lack behind their true potential.... For cost and profit reason...

Designing a complex porthole inside as a labyrinth for sure may cost more ...But could be way better ...

Anyway i will buy my next speaker low cost one with one porthole i will redesign as the one i own...

The difference is staggering ...before and after ....

I say it for people who know that acoustics matter more in audio than price tag... Even for speakers...



The same is true for the headphone shell. I know because i modified one with internal tuned resonators. All other headphone are like trash compared to it ...

Speakers, (headphone, pipes organ in a church also ), they are all Helmholtz resonators... But many company sell them as drivers with crossover in a box for cost management reason or esthetic(my porthole external design is not esthetic 😊)

Acoustics rules audio ... 😊



Hi again bdp24. It turns out one of the speakers we also had at Wall to Wall Sound was the original ESS Heil speakers. They were ok(small letters). And we had one set of vinyl Dynaco A25 speakers on sale for $52/pair(They were just there for bait and switch. we weren't supposed to sell them). The A25s were a way better speaker than the ESS Heils and also the original LBL 100s we also sold. 

You have to spend serious money to get a really bad speaker. The worst speakers are the ones that cost a fortune and sound terrible. My two favorites are the Hill Plasmatronics and the Nearfield Pipe Dreams. 

@garebear They are junk when brand new!

@prof 1+ on every Mac speaker. Nicely made Tektons. 

Way back in the early 70’s for a few months I was a Radio Shack Manager (my age was 18)

I remember we had a speaker that was called the MC 500. It sold for $50 bucks. The store paid about $12 bucks for them from Tandy Corp.

Frequently we would have a Midnight Madness Sale. The speakers were marketed as 50% off selling for about $25 bucks. But the store still made a 100% profit!

I wonder if speaker mark ups are the same today?


."JBL speakers are probably what most classic rock songs of the 70 and 80s were recorded on. They are not up for criticism only you are if you don't appreciate them"

Because the recording engineers of the 70's and 80's had such golden ears. Right...

Oh man you brought back some memories…..

My first “real” stereo system I ever got, was for my Christmas present back in December of 1978.

My father bought me (from Tech Hi-Fi) a Marantz SR 2000 receiver, a BIC belt drive turntable, and a pair of “12”, 3 way Ultralinear speakers”. The woofers looked light blue in color (teal?) with paper midrange and paper tweeter. I thought they were the “crap” back in the day. But I was only 15 years old at the time. lol

The first time I heard stereo reasonably positioned was in my loft through the bands Altec A7’s. A friend loaned his Fisher receiver and Benjamin Miracord / Shure for a few days before a party. That was the hook!

I replaced the A7’s with much smaller Cerwin-Vega’s PA speakers an A-1800 SS amp and a B36 horn. Beat the hell out of that stuff for years without a problem. Even though It hasn’t been out of the house in decades I found a proper kit and had the Vega 187 driver in my acoustic 361 reconed.

I can’t speak to Gene Czerwinski's home speakers but I know why I’ve got a bit of tinnitus today.

Not long after that party I lost the loft and except for gigs the A7’s lived in the Econo Line. In hindsight all of the speakers I selected until the mid nineties were crap. Along with my Stereo Review subscription I didn’t really know what I was doing anyway.

i bought a pair of the largest Acoustiphase speakers as a jr in HS back in 1975! Remember them? They made the world's largest speaker!!!!! They were JBL100 knockoffs and there sound was similiar but not as dynamic or good. i got rid of them for a pair of JBLs!!!

Traded Sonus Faber anything for Moab? I’m guessing you wanted to get some $$ in your pocket or you didn’t have a quality system that would make the Sonus Faber sing. 
As for the worst for the money: magnepan 30.7, heard them 2x when they were on tour, terrible sound. Any bose, cerwin Vega, klh, any newer Klipsch, and others. 
I also owned the ESS speakers with the heil air motion tweeter/midrange in the late 70’s. I thought this tweeter/midrange where the best at the time and the newer versions/copies of the heil amt are very good.

Hey man do you want to buy some big speakers for $200?

The ones you buy from two guys in a van that stopped me in the parking lot? I live in a large metro area ,and these guys stopped me 3 or 4 times. I wonder if it was a national marketing scam.

Thankfully I didn't fall for this.