Vintage speaker repair, Contax cameras

Week of April 10, 2005

Q: In preparing our living room for the new additions I was moving some 1978 vintage Advent Bookshelf speakers. To show my 5 year-old son what a speaker looked like, I removed the front grill and found that much of the “foam” that surrounded the woofer had disintegrated. Because of its age I assumed that was normal but is it? I then thought of a second question. Can it be fixed and if so should it be fixed?
-Carl Tabacjar, Allison Park, PA

A: It’s normal for the foam to rot out, especially after 25+ years. It is no reflection on the quality of the speakers.

Though your speakers are older, quality classic audio equipment such as your Advent speakers can still sound very good. I myself own and enjoy some classic audio equipment and could not imagine being without it. It has a quality that much of today’s mass-produced, cookie-cutter electronics and speakers seems to lack somehow. Call it soul, if you will.

As a classic audio enthusiast, this is an easy one for me to call. If you enjoy the speakers, they are worth fixing. It’s just a matter of removing the old foam and attaching new surrounds.

If you have some mechanical aptitude, you can buy a refoaming kit and refoam them yourself. You can find refoaming kits at www.simplyspeakers.com. They cost around $30 and include all need to re-foam a pair of speakers.

If you want to have someone do the work for you, I recommend The Speaker Exchange, located in Tampa, Florida. You can visit them online at www.speakerex.com.

The Speaker Exchange has an incredible reputation among audiophiles restoring classic gear. I’ve corresponded with people who have sent older exotic, costly speakers and the Speaker Exchange has been able to restore them as good as new, even when the manufacturer said it could not be done.

According to their website, it would cost around $65 to have the Speaker Exchange refoam your Advents for you. You can’t get new speakers that good for that much money. I’d refoam them, sit back and enjoy them for another 25 years.

Q: I have a Contax 35mm interchangeable-lens SLR camera and a number of expensive lenses. I would like to get a digital body that will accept the lenses, but I have not had any luck. The only suggestion was a Contax N for around $7,000. That is more than I am willing to spend, and I understand that Contax is getting out of the camera business. (Is this true?)

Do you know of any manufacturers who make a body or an adapter that would allow me to make use of these lenses on another brand of digital camera?

Mark Frey
Eagan, MN

A: If you want to go digital, your best bet is to change systems as an appropriate adapter is not available.

Brand-to-brand lens adapters are a great idea in theory, but in practice almost impossible to do, especially with all the electronics you now find in lenses and digital cameras. The chips in the camera and the lens talk to each other to get the best possible performance, and older lenses such as yours don’t have these electronics.

What you heard is correct. Kyocera, maker of the famous Yashica camera line and premium-quality Contax cameras, is leaving the camera business.

The Contax N was Kyocera’s first digital SLR and is probably one of the reasons Kyocera is getting out of the camera business. The Contax N was extremely expensive and plagued with image quality problems. It was a dismal failure technically and commercially, and Kyocera did not respond fast enough to the changing market. As a result, sadly they will soon be gone.

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