Despite their faults – and there’s a lot of them – do paper coned hi-fi loudspeakers truly deserve the title as the best of its kind?
By: Ringo Bones
Maybe its just because I’m a loud electric guitar music kind of guy or was it the glut of entry-level hi-fi loudspeakers during the 1990s that got “best-buy” status - -i.e. the doped paper-coned Mission 731 LE back in 1995 - when they were equipped with paper-coned loudspeakers that fueled the prejudice in me and thousands of others in our first-hand auditions that the paper-coned hi-fi loudspeakers are the best of its kind. To avoid being accused of being economical with the truth, paper-coned loudspeakers have their own share of nasties – i.e. cone break-up at high listening levels can result in a tonal coloration which can jar the senses. But given that other alternatives – i.e. mineral-filled polypropylene, high-definition Aerogel, Kevlar, carbon fiber, aluminum and magnesium metal cones and even diamond coated ones – are not entirely free from coloration and are somewhat pricey, does this mean that paper-coned loudspeakers have a unassailable cost advantage from an engineering standpoint too?
Influential personalities in the field of hi-fi equipment design and the contemporary music industry all have their share of praises for the paper-coned loudspeaker. Back in 1994, Ken Ishiwata – chief engineer of Marantz – tells the hi-fi press at large that the best way to treat paper cones for use in hi-fidelity loudspeakers is to soak it in oil for 48 hours to give it a gorgeous tone and dark inter-transient silences. But the process of manufacturing Ken Ishiwata’s oil-impregnated low tonal coloration paper-coned hi-fi loudspeaker is definitely not a technique that lends itself well to contemporary mass production.
In the loud electric guitar playing world, guitar god Yngwie Malmsteen has a now-famous “tone testament” on the paper-coned Celestion G12T-75 electric guitar speaker saying that it compliments the violin-like tone and feel of his guitar playing. Malmsteen also says that he has used Celestions ever since the early days of his guitar playing career in Sweden.
And famed High End hi-fi equipment manufacturer - Yamamura Churchill - uses a rare paper sourced from select hand-made bamboo pulp from Japan on the cones of their top of the line loudspeakers. The “reign” of the paper-coned hi-fi loudspeaker could ultimately blamed on the seemingly immortal runaway popularity of loud electric guitar music of hard rock and heavy metal music, don’t you agree?