View Full Version : Hmmm...the cobalt thing sparked a question

J Tiers
02-27-2005, 09:30 PM
I work in the audio biz, specifically music instrument amps.

The cool thing is of course, alnico magnet speakers, because they are "like the original ones", and because they sound like them, too. Retro stuff.

But, alnico is horrible expensive, due to the cobalt, which is available "only on alternate wednesdays for 30 seconds", at high prices.

The re-issue Vox AC-30 is $300 more with 2 alnico magnet speakers than it is with ordinary ones.


So why is cobalt "cheap" in specially alloyed inserts, and ridiculous when in a specially alloyed speaker magnet?

C. Tate
02-27-2005, 09:52 PM
Because the tool mfg companies know machinists are cheap. I my also be the fact that there is more perceived value in the musical trade.

Paul Alciatore
02-28-2005, 03:19 PM
Could it be the volume? If inserts sell by the thousands or millions worldwide, and the speakers are a special, limited run then it makes sense that there would be a bigger markup on the speakers. But a lot of it is probably just price gouging.

Or a carefully maped out sales strategy. Many of the audio-nuts I have met would gladly pay mucho dollars for an improvement that offers a totally undetectable improvement in performance (gold speaker wire, etc., etc.), just for the bragging rites. Go figure. They may actually sell more speakers at the higher price because it is a "rare", "hard to fine", and "limited edition" thing. If they were priced just a few dollars above the regular speakers, the bargain hunting genes would kick in and the cheaper ones would be choosen. At rip off prices, these nuts figure they just have to have them. GO FIGURE!

Paul A.

02-28-2005, 04:17 PM
It is the limited production that is keeping the prices high if they are using US source magnets. Currently there are only three US producers of Alnico Magnets meaning they have a foundry to cast the magnets. The other sources of alnico magnets buy from the 3 US producers or overseas suppliers and resell them at a mark-up. Do you know what grade of alnico is being used in the speakers? Alnico magnets contain from 13-38% cobalt depending on the grade.

J Tiers
02-28-2005, 04:30 PM
In the case of the Vox, the speakers are Celestion, which is British.

But they are almost certainly made in china, since Celestion closed all their UK factories as far as I recall.

Still, $300 premium is quite a lot....it suggests a significant per speaker premium for alnico, as a part sold to the amplifier manufacturer.

02-28-2005, 09:26 PM
Most likely it's the percentage of cobalt used.Seems like it's a very small percentage in tooling as compared to magnets.

02-28-2005, 09:30 PM
Yep,Machinery's has it as being between 8 and 13%.

J Tiers
02-28-2005, 09:52 PM
Maybe, but that "meets" the range of magnet percents, as stated a couple of posts up.

And, it STILL makes no sense that an item with 13% cobalt is a "throwaway", that hardly anyone wants to recycle.....

While at the same time, an item which apparently may have as little as 13% cobalt is a "precious item" with a very high premium put on it.

Come on, the stuff is either rare and valuable, or a common throwaway.

For sure, it can't be both.

02-28-2005, 10:20 PM
Audiophiles are well known believers in crackpot science and to have little resistance to high prices. Most likely explanation is priced as to what the market will bear and then throw in the 'magic of
cobalt' to justify a higher price. The magnets in hard drives are made of significantly more expensive materials and
are throwaway as well. Speakers in general have been downsized greatly and the multipound magnets of yesteryear are less
common. It is somewhat amazing what can be
gotten out of 6" 'woofers' these days. Just
recalled you work in music instrument amps which as you say are retro and may well have
those multipound magnets that audiophile speakers don't anymore.

[This message has been edited by sch (edited 02-28-2005).]

03-01-2005, 12:26 AM
In the late '70 I was buying Haynes alloy 188 was cobalt with a 2% max iron. Back then I was paying $35 a pound for it. Don't know what it would sell for now.


03-01-2005, 09:25 PM
"And, it STILL makes no sense that an item with 13% cobalt is a "throwaway", that hardly anyone wants to recycle....."

Yabut,there are companies that deal in scrap HSS and cobalt.Plus it explains why machinists toolboxes are full of little nibs of toolbits smoked down to the butt http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//biggrin.gif

[This message has been edited by wierdscience (edited 03-01-2005).]

03-01-2005, 09:26 PM

[This message has been edited by wierdscience (edited 03-01-2005).]

J Tiers
03-01-2005, 11:04 PM
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by wierdscience:

Yabut,there are companies that deal in scrap HSS and cobalt.Plus it explains why machinists toolboxes are full of little nibs of toolbits smoked down to the butt (edited 03-01-2005).]</font>

Maybe, but when I asked if there was any special consideration for recycling scrap HSS tooling, I was told "nope, toss it in with everything else". I think it was here, maybe on PM.

Over on the PM site, there was a discussion about recycling carbide, and finally, one place came up.

They were very interested in recycling carbide....... if you had a few barrels of it. Twenty pounds? "only" a hundred pounds? Forget it.

[This message has been edited by J Tiers (edited 03-01-2005).]

03-01-2005, 11:11 PM
Yup,it's all about quanity.We sell grinding sludge at work,it's a mixture of carbide,diamond,nickel and of course coolant.

We sell when we get a 50 gallon drum of it saved up,which in our case is about every six or seven years.Usually fetches
$600-800,not much compared to all the $$$$$$ in carbide and diamond wheels,but it beats the disposal problem.