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Steve F

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  1. VR40 vs vr 950

    That set-up should sound great. The VR40's and VR12 were made for each other. BTW, the VR12 was the industry's very first 3-way center, with the tweeter above the midrange for optimum horizontal dispersion. It's a phenomenal speaker. What I'd recommend is that you angle the VR950's slightly towards the rear of the listening room, so the surround information is not radiated directly at the listeners. Indirect, more diffuse surround channels do a far better job of presenting spacious, convincing surround sound. Avoid the temptation of 'aiming' the surround speakers right at you and turning them up too loud. Steve F.
  2. C. Victor Campos

    I met Victor on several occasions during my multi-decade stint in the electronics/speaker biz. I had an e-mail exchange about Victor's death yesterday with a good friend who worked closely with him at KLH in the mid-60's. Victor had been quite compromised from a stroke last year and when my friend told me he'd died, I said this: "Much too dynamic an individual to live in a compromised, graceless state. Wherever he is now, he's driving them nuts boasting about his past accomplishments, making wild predictions of success to come and hitting on all the women. That pretty much sums it up, doesn't it?" To which my friend replied, "Yup, I don't think you missed a thing." The amount of "tribal" undocumented knowledge and stories about the hi-fi biz from the 1950's thru the 1970's that will vanish forever as us 'old guard' dies off is truly staggering. Steve F.
  3. AR 5 woofer question

    It's difficult to keep all these things straight and there are only a few of us AR OCDs left to chime in. That High Fidelity 2ax test report is of the "new" 2ax and was originally published in Noveber 1970. The AR-5 was a '68-69 intro, so the info regarding this 2ax vis-a-vis the AR-5 is correct. The 1966 date was HF's review of the "old" 2ax, which did not, of course, share the foam surround woofer or 3/4" hard paper dome tweeter of the 5. I don't know what source you're reading for that 2ax review, but if they combine a 1966 date with a review of the "new" 2ax, that is clearly not a reliable, historically-accurate source. Tom T, Roy C and myself are probably your best bets as to 'when' this model or variant or driver or change in x-o frequency occured. ('Old' 2ax to 'new' 2ax? 'Old 2x to 'new' 2x? When 3a x-o change from 575 to 525Hz? 5 x-o change from 650 to 550Hz? 3a change from Alnico/cloth to ferrite/foam woofer? Did the LST, LST-2 or 5 ever have a cloth surround woofer? Did the factory ever offer an upgrade from AR-3 to 3a? Ask us.) Steve F.
  4. KLH 5 fatal design flaw

    They do sound pretty good. But as detailed, technically-aware speaker aficionados, with an eye on history as well as engineering, and an understanding of when/how this all happened, we find a discussion of this type interesting nonetheless. At least, I certainly do. The 3a is similarly poor when measured/listened to too close. The 'first arrival' contingent of the speaker universe maintains that the instantaneous anechoic response of the speaker is what first impresses upon your hearing, from which you form your impression of tonal quality, clarity, etc. This happens--according to them--regardless of listening distance, because 'first arrival' is always the shortest distance to your ears, so you'll hear 'first' whether you're 4 feet or 12 feet away from the speaker. By that belief system, some of any speaker's sonic signature for tonal balance, clarity (which includes phase interference and overlapping drivers), distortion, etc. will come from their first arrival sound. Roy Allison did not believe in first arrival. He felt that far-field power response swamped all the first arrival sound and what people reacted to was far-field power response. Toole et al. believe the opposite. Andy Kostatos/Henry Kloss didn't put it into those explicit verbal terms, but they were first arrival/on-axis guys. The KLH 5's on-axis response was ok. The side-by-side mids would really become uncontrolled off-axis, because the distance to the listener's ears would be different for the two drivers, and that's where the time/phase problems would arise. Directly on-axis (like if the pair was toed in as was a not uncommon use case in a 1960's stereo system), the dual mids in a single speaker were the same distance from the listener's ears--regardless of how far away the listener sat. The KLH 5 did indeed sound very good. But it didn't sound fabulously great and crystal clear, completely revealing of the smallest inner musical details. The "good not great' aspect of its sound was at least partially due to the side-by-side mids. And other things as well, for sure. Steve F.
  5. KLH 5 fatal design flaw

    I’ve wanted to talk about the KLH 5 for about 40+ years, but I’ve never gotten around to putting my thoughts down on (digital) paper. It’s an interesting speaker, pretty good-sounding, an excellent value in its day ($179.95 ea. vs. the 3a’s $250 ea. and the AR-5’s idiotic $175 ea.). I never thought its bass was as good as the 3a’s, but I’d have happily lived with a pair of KLH 5’s if AR hadn’t existed. But those dual midranges. Those dual midranges. The driver itself was a truly terrific driver. Wasn’t it essentially identical to the full-range driver in the various KLH table radios? It had amazing excursion for a small driver and could produce real bass on its own as used in the radio. One of audio history’s great drivers. But the KLH 5 was designed in the early 60’s, well before the time when driver placement and interaction was fully understood. I’m not criticizing the design decisions that were made at the time—the industry’s collective knowledge base and understanding simply wasn’t that advanced in 1964. However, in retrospect, those dual side-by-side midrange drivers are just so, so wrong. First of all, as any serious student of speaker design knows, when two drivers are reproducing the same frequency range, they behave as if they were an oval driver of their combined dimensions as far as directivity is concerned. So two 3 ½-inch drivers side-by-side perform the way a 3 ½ x 7-inch oval driver would perform, from a dispersion/directivity standpoint. For the KLH 5, the 7-in dimension is in the horizontal plane, so its horizontal midrange dispersion will be as narrow as a 7-inch driver’s dispersion would be. Do the math: 13560 (speed of sound in IPS) divided by 7 = 1930Hz. That’s where the mids become badly directional—well short of the crossover to the tweeter. These days, speaker designers use this knowledge intentionally, as in when they do an M-T-M “D’Appolito” design, vertically-arrayed. With the typical 4- or 5-inch mids being 12 inches apart (because there’s a tweeter in between them), the vertical dispersion is drastically limited after around 1100Hz, which is a good thing (to them): The design limits the vertical “scatter” and “splash” off of the ceiling and floor, while preserving wide horizontal dispersion (because the 4-in dimension governs the H dispersion). M-T-M proponents feel you get both good imaging (because the speaker’s output is more ‘focused’ at the listener’s ears) and good horizontal dispersion. This is precisely why early THX-certified speakers were M-T-M designs: to enhance dialog intelligibility by limiting unwanted, uncontrolled vertical “scatter,” while maximizing listener seating flexibility with wide horizontal dispersion. But there’s another demon lurking in the side-by-side driver arrangement: The drivers’ output will overlap and interfere with each other, producing a “picket-fence” output of hot-cancellation-hot-cancellation-hot, etc. The two drivers’ outputs will alternately reinforce and cancel each other, depending on the angle, time and phase of their output. If you take a horizontal polar graph of a side-by-side arrangement, it looks like “fingers” rather than a smooth semi-circle. If you’re sitting in line with a finger, you hear it. If you move your head into a null, you lose it. Very disconcerting, and it’s why good speaker designers these days never put two drivers in the midrange side-by-side. You can stack them vertically, because the vertical plane isn’t as critical to the listener as the horizontal plane. The KLH 5 is all “wrong” in the midrange. As a matter of fact, if you were listening in the near-to-critical field, you’d be better off with the KLH 5 placed on its side, so the two mids were vertical, not horizontal. That placement would throw all of the offending interference and narrow dispersion into the less-critical vertical plane and would optimize the horizontal plane. Note that only 12 short years later, when the AR9 was being designed, engineers had gained an order of magnitude’s greater understanding about directionality, driver interference, etc. The AR9 was a remarkably advanced speaker, literally light years ahead of the KLH-5-6, OLA, 3a/2ax/11/10 Pi, etc. Light years. Also, it’s important to note that the KLH 5’s midrange problems will be far less noticeable in the reverberant far field than when listening closer up. Nonetheless, those dual side-by-side mids are a fatal design flaw. I’m surprised that no reviewer, audio historian or critic has mentioned them before, at least to my knowledge. That stone is now officially overturned. Steve F.
  6. Why was the AR-12 a one-year (actually, it was two—1976-1977) product? This is a good question and deserving of its own thread. As good as AR’s engineering was throughout the Classic-ADD-Verticals time periods (roughly 1954-1979, the initial debut of the 9-90-91-92 models), their marketing savvy was reciprocally lousy. The one glaring mistake from a straight product standpoint that AR made over and over in this time frame was their foolish belief that their customers craved that smooth, neutral AR mid/high-end sound more than their customers wanted that deep, majestic, AR 12-inch bass. The AR-5 was based on the belief that customers wanted a 3a-style mid-high speaker with just a tad less bass, at a nice reduction in price, for smaller rooms. Likewise, with the AR-12, although it wasn’t quite an “ADD AR-5,” it certainly was a far more advanced and sophisticated speaker in its ADD lineup than the AR-2ax was in the Classic lineup. The dismal sales in their day of the 5 and 12 proved that the “sophisticated, expensive 10-in 3-way” approach was a marketing disaster. The speakers themselves were terrific-sounding and they make great restoration projects today, worthy of any collector’s vintage lineup. But from a mid-60’s or mid-70’s marketing/sales standpoint, they were failures. People didn’t want AR-mid-high smoothness at upper prices; they wanted AR 12-inch bass for a price less than the 3a/11-10 Pi. The AR-12 would have been better off being a 12-in 2-way speaker crossing over to the 1-in dome of the AR-14. In exchange for some admittedly rougher midrange response, the customer would have gotten 11-style bass (-3dB @ 35Hz) for around $180 ea. The AR-14 was $140 ea. The real AR-12 was $225 ea.—much, much too close to the AR-11’s 1975-7 price of $295 ea. Now, we’ll cue those AR retro-purists who “insist” that the AR 12-in woofer was incapable of going above 800 Hz. The AR-3’s woofer went to 1000Hz no sweat. AR could have coaxed the same out of the ferrite/foam woofer if they’d wanted to. I remember in 1976 I was in Harvard Square in Cambridge MA at a stereo store, AB’ing the OLA vs. the AR-14 and AR-12. I remember it like yesterday. Three things stuck out: 1. Both the AR-12 and AR-14 made the OLA sound like a honky, over-midrangy mess. 2. The OLA’s superiority in deep bass (under the -3dB point of 44Hz of both the 12 and 14) was READILY apparent on everything we played (jazz and well-recorded pop/rock). 3. The 12 and 14 sounded virtually identical to each other. Identical. As in identical. The 12 needed to have 3a/11-style bass, equal to the OLA in the deep bass with the better overall tonal balance that it would have had. Yes, even with a 12-in woofer struggling up to 1300Hz, it still would have had better tonal balance than the OLA, much more like the 14. Anyway, the answer as to why the 12 was so short-lived is that at $225 it was too expensive for 44Hz bass. The customer wanted 35Hz bass at that price. AR misread it, both with the 5 and the 12. Steve F.
  7. AR12's Restored-A few Pics

    Quick question for all you AR-12 midrange restorers--The AR-12's small cone midrange didn't use a spider--it was "centered" strictly by the action of the ferrofluid acting on the voice coil. See the attached excerpt from the AR-12 lit. How did you deal with this? Was the magnetic fluid still there and functional? Did you replace the fluid? Did you simply not notice one way or the other, just replaced the surround and voila! The driver sounds fine? Just curious. Steve F.
  8. T-1030 vs. VR 40

    Here's an ad for the AT-1, showing three different FR's from three different magazines. Steve F.
  9. T-1030 vs. VR 40

    I'd say the VR40 was no. 4. IMO, the top speaker I conceived, championed and voiced was the BA VR-M90, a dual 6 1/2-inch 3-way floorstander. It had an amazing 3 1/2-inch midrange and the unmatched BA aluminum VR tweeter. I always liked the AR ADD/Vertical voicing and the BA project engineer on the 90 was a far-field power response guy a la Roy Allison, so the voicing was similar to the AR11 and 91. Great speaker. We never did a color spec sheet on it, but here is a scale line drawing of the VR-M80 and 90. I can probably dig up more info if you're interested. Nos. 2 and 3 were Atlantic Technology speakers. The IWTS-30LCR was unquestionably the best in-wall speaker I've ever heard, by a country mile. I pretty much copied the VR-M90's mid for the 30LCR and we used two, so PH was unlimited and distortion was nil. It received THX's highest cert, Ultra 2. FR was ruler flat from 55-20. The tweet/mid module rotated 90 degrees, so you could maintain a correct vertical MTM whether the speaker itself was H or V. The AT-1 with its remarkable H-PAS bass alignment rounds out my top 3. If H-PAS had been invented and introduced in 1975 instead of 2010, it would have revolutionized the entire industry. The AT-1 with dual 5 1/4-in woofers went legitimately to 29 Hz. No BS. They flapped your pant legs. Its low-rez 1 1/8-in silk dome was about the smoothest tweeter I've ever heard and it could cross over at 2kHz and not break a sweat. Stereophile put the AT-1 on their Recommended Components list--category B, up to $20,000/pr--for 3 years running. The AT-1's were $2500/pr in a very expensive cabinet finish. We could have stripped down the cab and the extras and come in at $1500 for the same performance. But in 2010, from a small company with very little visibility, the industry yawned. (PS--the 'e' dropped off of "cliche" when I converted the AT-1 lit from pdf to jpg. Who knows.) I've attached some pics. They were great speakers, all.
  10. AR 9 Mid and HF Cap suggestions

    Far be it from me to open the Pandora’s Box of capacitor audibility and pluses and minuses of different cap types. You guys can fight over that. Much has been written and argued about and no doubt, more will be written and argued about. However….I’ll just toss in one experience that I witnessed and youse guys can make of it what you will. I worked at Boston Acoustics for 11 years. As Director of Home Audio Product Development, I drove the strategic planning, design, voicing and marketing of all BA’s home speakers during that time frame. There are lots and lots of great “inside” stories that I can tell you (speaker companies don’t always operate exactly the way “outsiders” think they do, that’s for sure!), but let me tell you this one Capacitor Tale. In 1992, BA came out with a really high-end family of speakers called the Lynnfield Series. There was a 500L and 300L (floorstanding and bookshelf) and they offered some very creative, off-the-beaten-track thinking. They sold well for expensive speakers, but after a few years, we wanted to come out with a slightly tweaked Series “II”. Just some crossover/voicing mods, nothing too radical. Our lead engineer did the mods and we all listened and agreed that they were an improvement. Then he said, “Give me a day to try one other thing and then you all can come back and listen again.” Nothing at BA was approved for production until our president Andy Kotsatos (who also was the main person behind the voicing of the original Large Advent and its successors) approved the final crossover. We gathered the next day to hear the next iteration and we all agreed that this one was even better than yesterday’s. Andy said, “What’s the difference? The frequency response curves are identical between yesterday and today. You can lay them over each other and hold them up to the light and there’s no difference.” The engineer said, “Bypass caps.” Andy went, “D*mn!! I absolutely hate it when these esoteric things that you can’t measure make a difference. I hate it.” But he approved the crossover and the Lynnfield Series II went into production with bypass caps. The lower-priced VR towers (VR-20, -30 and -40) also used bypass caps (same engineer). Take from that what you will. Steve F.
  11. What would you do?????

    I've always found Aerial Acoustics speakers to be supremely uncolored and natural-sounding. Every model. I was particularly enamored by the now-discontinued Model 9, which used four 7.1-inch woofers and played down strongly to the low-mid 30's Hz region. Not quite AR9 reach, but close. The Aerial 9's went for around $9k/pr, but you'll have to look in the used market now. I think it's a very recent discontinuation, within the year. I e-mailed Michael Kelly and told him I had AR9's, would his Aerial 9's be a good replacement, especially in the low bass? He said his 9's wouldn't go quite as deep as the ARs, but he thought I'd still be satisfied and he felt his 9's were far superior to the ARs in mid-HF clarity and naturalness. He had a few left in stock and he offered me an 'insider' deal, which I still question whether I should have jumped. Now, Aerial has no speaker between their expensive TOTL and the mid-line 7. Steve F.
  12. Questions: AR-3A or AR-5 or AR-2AX?

    It’s very rare indeed to have the option of buying 3a’s, 5’s and 2ax’s all at the same time. If it were me, I’d go for the 3a’s, and not simply because of their raw performance advantage. Although any vintage AR, properly restored, is a fine representative of the Classic AR period and evokes the memories and feel of that time period, the 3a, to my mind, is something truly special in audio history. It was an acknowledged industry-leading speaker, lauded by Julian Hirsch at Stereo Review, the editors at High Fidelity Magazine and Audio magazine. Reviews of that level of flat-out excellence are really extraordinary. So from a technical/engineering standpoint, the 3a was a breakout product. It is one of the very few consumer products in any industry to have become so famous and have such a high profile that the model number alone was all that was necessary to identify it. No company name needed, thank you. “What speakers do you have?” “3a’s.” Precious few products in any time period in any product category reach that level. Also, undeniably, AR was a controversial company during the 3a’s lifespan, from 1967-75. Regular retail stereo stores disliked AR because of the slim profit margins a dealer had to suffer through, so many dealers (who didn’t carry AR) took to displaying one or two pairs of AR speakers on their speaker wall and trying to make them look and sound bad in comparison to the brand they were pushing (Advent, EPI, JBL, whatever). It was an easy thing to do, since AR had that laid-back sound that didn’t sound particularly impressive anyway in the dead acoustic environment of the typical dealer soundroom and then many dealers would either leave the level controls at ‘Norm’ instead of ‘Max’ or they actually turned them down. The biggest object of these dealers’ scorn: The 3a, of course. If they could ‘kill the king,’ then they had accomplished their goal. So no matter how you look at it, from a purely performance or historical significance standpoint, the 3a stands alone. Get them. Steve F.
  13. AR's TSW line (1980s)

    Yes, those were surrounds from the HD series of bookshelf speakers, I believe. The CR (Compact Reference series) of bookshelf speakers that came out in 1994 to replace the HDs used butyl rubber surrounds, as did all BA speakers from that point on (except for a few subwoofers here and there). The name "filleted foam" was not a BA name; it's a name that has been given to these surrounds for ID purposes by aftermarket suppliers and hobbyists/restorers. Internally at BA, it just had a part number. Steve F.
  14. AR's TSW line (1980s)

    I worked at BA with two engineers who were at AR at the time of the TSW's. Both were great engineers and great guys. One of them became BA's head transducer guy, developing all sorts of terrific drivers during the time I was there. A great curmudgeon, never really happy with anything, but he pursued driver design with a relentless desire to make great-sounding units that could be easily manufactured at reasonable costs. We had some astonishing drivers that didn't cost an arm and a leg, and could zip off our production line in high volume with under a 1% reject rate to +/- 1dB tolerances. That's what world-class engineering is all about. The other went on to become BA's lead system engineer, and did/oversaw the majority of finished products engineering. He was a major player in the TSW's. Apparently right after the Connoisseurs in the 84-85 timeframe, AR was toying around with pulling out all the stops and doing a line of self-powered/EQ'd speakers of incredibly high performance (and no doubt, pretty high pricing as well). But they chickened out, played it safe, and did the TSW's instead. I almost bought TSW810's, but I bought Connoisseur 50t's instead. I ended up giving the 50's to my dad, who got rid of them in favor of some nice BA VR40 towers. I have since gotten 9's, which I like about a light year or two more than the Connoisseur 50t's. Steve F.
  15. AR's TSW line (1980s)

    I posted this back in Nov 2013. You may find it interesting. I owned TSW105's and 110's, which I used as extension speakers around the house. They were ok, but nothing special. Posted December 11, 2013 · Report post The TSW ("Titanium Solid Wood" series, although AR insiders referred to them as the "This Sh*t Works" series) speakers were intro'd around 1987 and was a line that went from the 6" 2-way TSW100 all the way up to the double-12" TSW910. Other models were dropped in after the original family was introduced--a powered and passive TSW105, a double-8" TSW710 and then an upgraded series that featured a 15 numerical suffix, instead of the 10 (215, 315, 415, etc.) They were ok 'conventional' speakers--not groudbreaking, but not offensive. The 810 was a double 10" model, sort of the "90" to the 910's "9," if you will. I do not remember if the 810 is bi-ampable, but I know the TSW lit is in the CSP Library. Here's what I just recently said about the 910: Posted 10 November 2013 - 10:23 PM I have written extensively about the 910 and their place/reason for being in AR's history. Do a search. The TSW series from 1987-ish was an ok line of product, but it broke no new ground, nor did it try to. A "play it safe" line of speakers. The 910 was a pure formulaic product: you could almost hear the Head of Marketing saying, "OK we need a big floorstander, with two 12's and a model number with a '9', so people remember the original AR-9.Oh, and let's bring back that Blanket thing, too. We got some good credit for that." That was the 910. In a June 1987 review, Julian Hirsch--the biggest AR booster there ever was--struggled vainly to find good things to say about it, closing his review with a damn-with-faint-praise line of "Few would tire of its easy smooth sound." Really, Julian? "Few would tire"? That's the best you could muster? "Few would tire"? For the 3, 3a, LST and 9, it was the "best I have ever measured or heard." For the 910, it's "Few would tire." Don't break the bank getting the 910's. Steve F.