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Steve F

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  1. T-1030 vs. VR 40

    Here's an ad for the AT-1, showing three different FR's from three different magazines. Steve F.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Should the AR-5 have been a 12" Speaker?

    In the “choose to believe it or not” category, Andy Kotsatos told me that there was no drop off in annual unit sales of the original Large Advent leading up to the introduction of the New Advent in 1977-ish. Sales of the original Large Advent did not peak in ‘73-74 and begin to wane thereafter, just to set that part of the record straight. I am the only person on the Forum who worked in the US loudspeaker industry and had first-hand, day-to-day contact for 11 years with someone who fought those battles in that exact time period. My info isn’t hearsay; my info is say. “Chose to believe it or not.” Again, Advent’s overall corporate fortunes or lack thereof are not this discussion; the success/failure/should they (AR) have even fought that fight is this discussion. This discussion is also not what AR marketing/product planning strategy in 1968-72 would have led to the best collectors’ fortunes and spare parts availability some 40+ years later. That has nothing to do with anything I’ve been interested in discussing. There is a wise old philosophy of life that rests on the notion of “necessity vs. choice.” When an entity (be it a person, a company, a musician, an athlete, whatever), is unable to pursue a particular course of action (due to procrastination, lack of ability, lack of foresight, etc.), it’s remarkable how many times that entity will claim their course of action was their “choice” all along. In AR’s case, the lack of dealer profitability, the difficulty AR speakers faced in a retail A-B demonstration (because they were on the neutral, accurate side of the sound spectrum with their wide dispersion that hindered their high-frequency presentation even more in the dull wasteland of the typical dealer sound room), their over-distribution that hurt the loyalty of the independent audio retailer, and so on, etc. all led to AR not doing well at Tech Hi Fi and Tweeter Etc, even though their mail-order sales through discounters was strong and they sold a lot through military exchanges, Lafayette Radio, overseas, and the like. So AR and defenders of their strategy could say that AR “chose” not to engage with Advent at Atlantis Sound in 1973, and who are we to get into their minds 45 years later and second-guess what they were thinking at the time? AR’s overall corporate sales and profits were strong from the mid ‘60’s through the mid ‘70’s. It just made me mad as a stereo-obsessed college student at Boston University in the early-mid ‘70’s to see AR getting the stuffing beat out of them at all the stereo stores I went into so often and to have to argue with throngs of unconvinced college kids that AR speakers were really better than the Advents they owned, when they felt so differently. I’ve always felt that it didn’t need to be an ‘either-or’ choice and that with better marketing and sharper product development choices, AR could have been even more successful in the 1969-1977 period. Steve F.
  10. Should the AR-5 have been a 12" Speaker?

    Wow. On this thread, my opinions have been characterized as ‘hogwash,’ ‘lunacy,’ ‘ludicrous,’ among other things. I consider everyone on the Forum to have an interesting, well-considered, worthwhile view, and I enjoy reading them and respect everyone’s position. I may or may not agree with everything that is said here, but I don’t think I’d characterize anyone else’s view as “lunacy.” That’s just me. To each, his own. Re “dimensionally-affected,” that is an accurate statement. Bass frequencies have wavelengths that are affected by their dimensional relationship to nearby room boundaries. As the frequency increases from low bass to mid bass to upper bass to lower midrange—and the wavelengths get shorter—the front baffle of the speaker cabinet itself (not the room boundaries) provides a 2π environment for the speaker at those frequencies. You know, the “dimensionally-affected” ones. As for Advent’s speaker sales, yes, Andy’s memory of the LST at a recent meeting I had with him was strangely lacking. But you tend to remember what your own kids did in vivid detail, even after you’ve long forgotten that your neighbor’s kid broke your basement window with an errand throw while playing ball in the street. I also remember an Advent magazine ad from that period (mid ‘70’s) that said something to the effect of “...we’ve sold a million Large Advents....”. Andy’s recollection of his own sales and my remembering an ad that said the same thing gives me confidence in the million Large Advent number. This is not a court of law. Absent an authentic s/n label that says 1,000,000, there is no “proof.” People are free to accept or reject the Advent sales number as they want, according to what serves their personal purposes better. When definitive “proof” is not there, people usually reconstruct and reinterpret history to fit their own preferred narrative. Fine with me. Again—to each, his own. Advent’s fortunes as a corporation are not the subject of this discussion. Advent’s Large Advent speaker sales in the competitive 1970-1976 retail environment is the topic, and whether AR could/should have done something different to combat those Advent sales. I don’t care if Advent lost money on their projection TV or not, nor do I care that Kloss gave birth to the Advent speakers as a way to provide cash flow to fund the TV development effort. Immaterial to this discussion. This discussion is about the AR-5 and whether it was a market-worthy speaker for AR in the retail time period that was dominated on the showroom floor by the Large Advent, or whether AR could have done something more effective than the AR-5 as it was actually conceived and built. The reality is that the Large Advent dominated the retail showroom floor speaker sales during this time, and the 2ax-5-3a were not very successful in head-to-head A-B’s against the Large Advent. Market success or failure is equal parts marketing/sales/distribution policy and equal parts actual product performance. From both a marketing and a purely product standpoint, the 2ax-5-3a were not effective against the Large Advent at retail in a showroom A-B. Of course, if being successful against Advent in a showroom A-B at Tech Hi Fi or Atlantic Sound or Tweeter Etc. in the 1970-1976 time period was not AR’s goal, then the basis for my having brought up the entire AR-5 12-inch thread in the first place was pointless. I realize that my opinions are often thought of as lunacy, hogwash and ludicrous, but I hope someone will deem them worth reading nonetheless. Steve F.
  11. AR 2 speakers

    The square AR badge was definitely the "old" 2ax. They also had a brass "a" in the opposite corner when new. Your "a's" are missing, apparently. The red-embossed "2ax" badge was only on the newer (post-1970) 2ax with the foam woofer and the AR-5's 3/4" black tweeter. The s/n's for 'new' 2ax's was around 125,000, according to the High Fidelity magazine test report on the 'new' 2ax (Nov 1970, IIRC). Both old and new 2ax's are excellent speakers, but I do prefer the newer ones slightly. Steve F.
  12. Should the AR-5 have been a 12" Speaker?

    Yes Tom, that’s clearly what I said: Changing the solid angle environment of the AR-5 (or any speaker, for that matter) will not change the shape of its intrinsic bass response relative to itself, in the bass range. Going from 4π to 2π to π will raise or lower the dimensionally-affected bass region relative to the rest of the spectrum, but the “number of dB down” a given speaker is at 30Hz relative to its 45Hz level will stay the same. If the 5 is down 15dB at 30 relative to its output at 45, that remains constant, even if the entire bass region goes up or down relative to the midrange/highs when you transition from 4π to 2π to π. Now, back to the AR vs. Advent sales issue in the real world of the ‘70’s and whether AR needed a 12-inch speaker to compete with the OLA. I have some factual sales information about Advent in that time period. (Remember, BA’s founder was Advent’s head Product and Marketing guy. I worked with him for 11 years at BA. This info is from him directly, confirmed again by me w/ him via e-mail two days ago.) In the 1970-1976 timeframe, Advent sold approximately 1.4 million speakers. Of that total, the Large Advent was “70-75% of that number.” (Direct quote.) That means that the Large Advent sold about 1 million units from 1970-76. A million. What was the 2ax lifetime total in the US? 350k? 450K? And those dated from 1964, whereas the Advents were from 1970 on. The 5 we know was about 50k. The 3a? What, 150k in the US? The 5 started in 1969, the 3a in Dec 1967. So apples to apples, 1970 on, AR was probably 250k (2ax), 40k (5), 120k (3a), So AR’s total sales of “2 cu. ft. bookshelf boxes” during the head-to-head Advent competitive period was 410,000 units vs. Advent’s 1,000,000 Large Advents. Want to add in the post-1970 AR2x and the short-lived 1973 AR-8? Those two combined probably don’t amount to a hill of beans. And, very impressively, every single Advent was sold at retail, after a competitive A-B in a sound room, where the customer said, “OK, I’ll take ‘em.” Advent didn’t sell to mail-order discounters, military exchanges, Lafayette Radio, etc. What do you think the actual “won-loss” record was of AR vs. Advent in head-to-head retail sound room competition in the 1970-1976 time period? How many times did a customer listen to a 2ax and then to a Large Advent at Sound Ideas or Tech Hi Fi or Atlantis Sound and say, “Ok, I’ll take the 2ax’s.” Out of those 410,000 units that AR sold in that time period, how many were direct “wins” vs. an Advent in an A-B face-off? I’d bet dollars to donuts that Advent won the retail war over AR 1,000,000 to 100,000. Ten to one. Exactly as I said before: Obliterated. There were a lot of marketing/sales/distribution policy decisions that turned out to be disasters for AR during this time period as well. It wasn’t simply that the Advent sounded far better to their target buyers in a retail A-B demo than the reticent/deep bass-deficient 2ax, the smooth/deep bass-deficient/overpriced 5 or the smooth but too-expensive 3a. Advent was also more profitable for the dealer to sell and had better dealer advertising policies. Advent (Henry Kloss) really knew how to hold the dealers’ hands and make them feel like Advent’s partners, whereas AR took a somewhat ‘hands-off” approach to their dealers, feeling that as long as they (AR) “made a better mousetrap,” everything else would just kind of fall into line and take care of itself. It didn’t, of course. AR had two huge factors that brought them down from 32% market share in the ‘60’s to single-digit % in the ‘70’s: The wrong product for a changing buyer demographic and a sales/marketing/distribution strategy that alienated their dealer base, while Advent was gaining dealers as allies who supported them with virtually religious zeal. AR’s meteoric rise through the 50’s-60’s followed by their epic fall from grace through the ‘70’s and’80’s should be a standard graduate-level marketing study. AR did everything right, then did everything wrong. It’s fascinating. Steve F.
  13. Should the AR-5 have been a 12" Speaker?

    Changing the solid angle environment of the AR-5 (or any speaker, for that matter) will not change the shape of its intrinsic bass response relative to itself, in the deep bass range. Going from 4π to 2π to π will raise or lower the dimensionally-affected bass region relative to the rest of the spectrum, but the “number of dB down” a given speaker is at 30Hz relative to its 45Hz level will stay the same. If the AR-5 is down 15dB at 30 relative to its output at 45, that remains constant, even if the entire bass region goes up or down relative to the midrange/highs when you transition from 4π to 2π to π. The 3a will always have a stronger 30Hz output compared to its 45Hz output than the AR-5. Moving one 5 into a corner (reducing the environment from a 2π wall mount to a π corner-mount ) will change the spectral balance—“more bass” relative to the mids and highs, but it doesn’t change the 30Hz level relative to the 45Hz level. The Allison Electronic Subwoofer will correct the AR-5, but it puts a huge demand on the speaker’s excursion and places huge power demands on the accompanying amplifier. It’s really only useful at very moderate volume levels. Rather than EQ’ing the AR-5, you’d be much better off using a parametric EQ and removing the upper bass heaviness from the 3a. Then you’d have the best of everything: The 5’s perceived “quickness” and freedom from excessive “weight,” combined with he 5/3a’s superlative mids and highs and the 3a’s deep bass. That’s the way to go. Steve F.
  14. Should the AR-5 have been a 12" Speaker?

    No, in fact you're precisely incorrect, as your own figures show. As the college-age Baby Boomer buying demographic came to dominate stereo equipment sales through the 1970's, AR's market share dropped to humiliatingly low levels from their pre-eminent status of the 1960's. The low single-digit % in the late 1970's says it all. I went to college in Boston in the early-mid 1970's, and that town had a concentration of stereo stores and college-age buyers unsurpassed by any other geographic area. It was AR's hometown, yet not one store or chain carried and pushed AR speakers. Every store--Tech Hi Fi, Tweeter Etc, Atlantis Sound, NE Sound, DeMambro and all the others--every one sold against AR. In terms of sales made at retail, after a A-B demonstration in a sound room, Advent beat AR by a virtual shutout. The vast majority of AR sales were through mail-order discount houses like Baltimore Stereo Wholesale and the like that routinely peddled AR for 20-25% off of "list" price, and through "not-really independent stores" like Lafayette Radio (shielded from Advent competition there). There were some died-in-the-wool AR dealers scattered around the country and some of them gave AR a fair shake, but boy, they were the exception, not the rule. Remember, too, AR had a much bigger product line in 1972 than Advent: the 7, 4x, 6, 2x, 2ax, 5, 3a and LST. Advent had two models of speakers. Add the 8 and 4ax in 1973. So it only stands to reason that AR managed to squeeze more total dollars out of 9 models than Advent did out of two. Yet in head-to-head retail competition, Advent destroyed AR. Obliterated them. Advent also had absolutely no--zero, zippo, zilch--international sales or military PX sales, two very large sources of sales revenue for AR. Comparing overall corporate "total" sales may give the defend-to-the-death-at-all-costs AR crowd some empty solace, but in the retail competition, head to heard, let's hear 'em and decide competition, sorry. No dice. The unit sales of the Large Advent at retail vs. the 2ax-5-3a in the mid-70's were ridiculous. Revisionist history need not apply here. AR never recovered their previous glory in terms of being the retail favorite. Steve F.
  15. Should the AR-5 have been a 12" Speaker?

    AR was stuck in a late-50's/early-60's mindset. The "40's to 50's-year-old GE engineer listening to classical music and Dave Brubeck in his middle-class suburban split-level home at comfortably moderate volumes." That was their vision of their customer. Oh-so-deliberate and detail-oriented. When you think about it, the KLH6/17/5 and OLA were perfectly suitable in the real world for Hendrix, Brubeck and Mozart, but the 4x/2ax/3a really only shined on 2 of those 3. Say what you want about anechoic smoothness and 60-degree off-axis dispersion, AR's technical superiority did not translate into real-world sales success once the buying demographic shifted from the 1962 GE engineer to the 1969 college kid. The AR-5 was a product of that early-1960's thinking, and although it was a great-sounding refined speaker, AR's myopic view of the music market doomed it to an undistinguished sales career. As to the 3 overlapping with the 3a, for 50 years, I haven't been able to explain that one. Roy A. was a great designer and product person, but let's call it as it was: he was a lousy marketer. His refusal to deviate from his self-imposed restriction of "room-matched loudspeakers" with the Allison brand showed his lack of marketing vision. There should have been a line of regular forward-facing bookshelf box speakers under the Allison name, using his great Allison drivers. He was stubborn and shortsighted. As I've said many times on this thread, I can just envision the lunch meeting in 1967 where he sketched out the AR-5 on a napkin to whomever, and I'm sure to Roy, it was a great idea. Steve F.