Saba Greencone Wideband Driver

Saba Greencone wideband drivers are one of the most iconic vintage speakers in the DIY full range speaker world. Experimenter’s delights, these old green paper drivers have fascinated many builders, and over the years they have been put into home-made cabinets of all sizes and descriptions, often as a first speaker building project. The crisply detailed sound is eye opening and leads an unsuspecting audiofool right down the path to the dark side. I’ve had my eyes on these drivers for a long time but only recently picked up a pair to play around with in my Telefunken open cabinets.

Saba, a clock maker, began building table top and console radios in West Germany in 1927. Their distinct green-coned speakers feature small DEW alnico magnets and very lightweight paper cones. The build quality of these drivers, especially being mass produced for radios, is remarkably good. These are well made to a high standard and feel like quality. And they reportedly have a lot of fidelity and are very pleasing to listen to.

After weeks running the Saba Greencone in my Telefunken cabinets I’ve found them to excel at simple straightforward acoustic music like Luiz Bonfa or Mississippi John Hurt. They have a papery palpability that is exceptionally nice for this type of sound, present and detailed. In fact, its tempting to use them for only this type of music as they are actually very good at this sound. On more complex, heavy hitting music, once the volume climbs things can easily fall apart and get a bit congested feeling.

But its the emotional component where the Sabas fall short for me, a trait that is tough for many drivers to fulfill. Although they are very open and clear sounding speakers with a clean treble, they are thinner sounding and simply less emotionally engaging than some other choices. The greencones can certainly render a live performance well, but it just never feels quite natural to me. Its almost like a plexiglass sculpture of the sound, rather than the sound itself. Let me reference once more Distant Green Valley from the Silk Road Ensemble. Other than vocals, this piece has every audiophile sound you could want and dynamics that rise and fall instantaneously. Its both complex and simple and highlights so many textural perceptions in the music. You feel like you can hear the rosin on the bow kind of recording. It’s become a real benchmark for me, and it sounds crisply clean and tight with the Sabas (with PLENTY of rosiny details). But faithfully rendered or not, the emotional context is not quite coming off of the experience in the way that the Holey Baskets do. Or the Zeniths.

With my pair of greencone wide band drivers, I also purchased a matching pair of 9 inch bass drivers which are rumored to be quite good, and added a greencone tweeter pair. At some point I will build a three way with these mean green drivers and see what they can do working as a team. Based on the widebander’s performance, I suspect that the result will be a very articulate and thrilling speaker to listen to, and I’m hopeful that with the bass and tweeter added in (as was originally intended by Saba) the emotional component that is missing will be found. Saba certainly made some high quality speaker drivers for their radios, and this pair has been a pleasure to experience. These came to me a little late in my hifi journey, and on the heels of so many higher pedigree drivers, but they were definitely still worth my time.

Very well made drivers, with light paper cones and diminutive alnico magnets.

Speakers like these are almost time capsules. July, 9 1955 was a long time ago and these appear to have just rolled off the factory floor. They really did make things better long ago.

The green cones really are beautiful and iconic.

Very classic and German looking in the big Telefunken cabinets.