This page attempts to summarise the process I followed while refurbishing a pair Gale GS401C speakers.
They were in fairly good condition when I received them, apart from the bass and midrange drivers which were in dire need of ‘refoaming’ – replacing the foam surrounds that connect the cones to the chassis.
The cabinets are walnut veneer with a brown cloth grille. The grilles are in superb condition considering their age (30-odd years), and it is evident that the veneer has been well looked after too, although there are one or two marks I wanted to clean up, plus a few additional cosmetic touches I wanted to make. These include repainting the black fascia and replacing the old Imperial screws that hold the drivers in. It’s possible that the electronics need some work, but as everything seems to functional I am going to leave that until last, if indeed I undertake it at all.
I was lucky enough to obtain the original Gale stands for these speakers too, and these are in very good condition, with only the odd scratch visible here and there on close inspection. I may get these professionally resprayed if I ever have the room to deploy them with the speakers.
For the refoaming I opted to purchase a complete kit from speaker-repairs.co.uk and do it myself, relying on information supplied with the kit and the advice of the Google Gale Audio Group, who, as the name suggests, are a group of Ira Gale audio products enthusiasts.
Refoaming The Bass And Midrange Drivers
1. Remove drivers from chassis (approx. 1 hour)
- a. Remove screws
- b. Record position of wires
- c. Remove solder and free up drivers
- d. Optional paint cabinet fascias (see notes below)
- e . Optional – restore veneer (if appropriate – see notes below)
A word of caution at this point of the proceedings: these things are stuffed chock-full of fibreglass, which, while it is unlikely to kill you, will make you itch like crazy and wish you were dead! Handle with care if you’re pulling this stuff out.
2. Remove old foam surrounds from drivers (approx. 2 hours)
- a. Remove large pieces of foam
- b. Clean up chassis
- c. Clean up cones
- d. Optional – paint driver chassis (see notes below)
3. Attach new foam surrounds
- a. Attach foam surrounds to cones (approx. 2 hours + drying overnight)
- b. Attach foam surrounds to chassis (approx. 2 – 4 hours + drying overnight)
- c. Optional – shim voice coils
- d. Glue foam surrounds in place
- e. Test for rubbing etc.
4. Replace drivers in cabs (approx 1 -2 hours)
- a. Replace gaskets
- b. Solder wires back onto drivers
- c. Replace screws
- d. Optional – replace screws!
Optional Painting And Restoration Notes
In parts 1 & 2 I have included a couple of optional stages in the refoaming section because this represents a good time to perform this work. The overnight drying stages afford opportunities to carry out tasks, plus access to the areas you might want to paint or restore is about as good as it gets while the drivers are out of the cabs.
When you come to test the results in part 3d, I was advised it is okay to hook up each driver in isolation prior to reinstalling them. Obviously you need to ensure that you start out with zero volume and increase it carefully up to a very low level that allows you to ascertain that all of the bass divers sound the same as each other, and likewise the same with both of the midrange drivers, if you have refoamed them. You should also be able to gently bounce each cone within its housing and not feel or hear any evidence of rubbing.
In part 4 I mention replacing the screws; mine were looking a bit tired and in some cases covered in the gunk that someone had painted over the cones, surrounds and chassis. I was able to obtain some authentic 2BA screws that fit the t-nut that sits beneath all of the holes, at great expense from Ebay, but alas I could not get cross-heads and had to settle for black, slot-head 7/8″ screws. I kept the best of my original screws and the 6 or so spare replacements just in case.
Cleaning And Oiling The Walnut Veneer
This was undoubtedly the most effective cosmetic improvement I made. On the recommendation of Steve Ford from the Google Gale Audio Group (who restores furniture as part of his trade) I obtained the following:
- Danish Oil – apparently this comes in different shades so I picked the one visually most compatible with the veneer
- Grade 0 (or fine) wire wool
- Rags, for taking off the excess oil and polishing
The process was:
- Apply a little Danish oil to a small bundle of the wire wool and work in to the wood using small circling movements.
- Once an area has been oiled, removed the excess and the crud with a rag.
- Polish once complete with a soft, clean rag.
I read somewhere that I should work along the grain, which seemed sensible to me. However, Steve reassured that where there was no obvious flaking or cracking of the veneer I could safely work in a tight, circular motion, as described above. I gave this ago, as the veneer was mostly in great condition, and it was fine for me. I guess there is no harm in trying a spot on the underside of your cabs if the thought of this concerns you.
To start with I was a little disappointed I was unable to remove all of the marks, notably the BluTac that had become ingrained in the veneer over many years. But, returning to the speakers a couple of days later, it became evident that the application of oil had gone on working after the initial application, and that most of the flaws were now invisible – result!
Thanks to the following people:
- Greg Barnes of speaker-repairs.co.uk whose refoaming kit now sits in my Gale GS401S thanks to his excellent instructions, which in turn form the basis of this document with a few additions and minor amendments.
- Steve Ford from the Google Gale Audio Group who suggested the use of Danish Oil on the walnut veneer and who also kindly revealed the secrets of his trade when he supplied me with the instructions you see above, along with other useful bits f information, encouragement and kind words.
- The Google Gale Audio Group their collective advice and encouragement.