Steve F

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About Steve F

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  1. AR LST and LST-2 cloning

    There are lots of DIY’ers in the speaker hobby realm. We all dream of our ‘perfect’ speaker; we build it in our heads, we imagine what drivers we’d use, the ideal crossover components (especially the capacitors), how we’d do the cabinets (whether ourselves or by a good friend we have who’s a woodworking whiz), what accessories we’d incorporate (depending on how important we thought such things were), like bi-amp terminals, spiked feet, etc. Most home-built efforts fall pretty short of excellence, unfortunately. There are several culprits: - Choosing ill-suited drivers, not knowing whether a woofer is best-suited for sealed or ported use, picking it because it looks “gutsy” or impressive. Midranges and tweeters, again, that “look” impressive, but aren’t good choices to blend with the other drivers or have wildly mismatched sensitivities, etc. - An alarming lack of the engineering ability needed to properly match the woofer to the enclosure, especially in ported systems. - Poor or shoddy crossover design. - Worst of all—the lack of good, consistent, reliable measurements during the development process. Granted, computerized design programs for the hobbyist have made things better. If you do a lot of proper planning and research, these days, the well-informed hobbyist can likely come up with a decent speaker. Probably the biggest obstacle is the cost of a really professional-level test microphone, which can easily run into the $1000’s. When I was in college in the ‘70’s, I was friendly with another “stereo nut” who loved to “roll his own.” He was also a very good woodworker. One September he said to me, “Come to my dorm room and see what I made over the summer.” It was a pair of so-called LST’s. Dimensionally perfect down to the fraction of an inch, the subtle overhangs and every panel angle, they sure looked impressive. For drivers, he used the very popular (at that time) and perfectly good Philips drivers: four of their 1” hard mylars across the top, four 4 ½-inch cone mids and one of their best 12-inch woofers (intended for sealed enclosures). Everything countersunk to be flush with the baffle. Nicely done, for sure, and very impressive-looking, to say the least. (He used a conventional crossover, not an autotransformer.) They sounded…..okay, at best. Okay, nothing more. Decent bass, kind of colored mids and definitely veiled highs. If anyone remembers those hard, translucent-yellowish 1” Philips mylar domes, “veiled” was not exactly one of their sonic traits. Words like spitty, harsh, edgy, brash, etc. come to mind. “Veiled” does not. These were the classic examples of what usually goes wrong with even the best-intentioned home-brew speakers. There were probably some glaring errors in his crossover and he likely never even knew it because he couldn’t do repetitive, accurate, subtle measurements. He probably did all the tuning by ear, relied on test records and A-B’d the speakers against what he considered to be dependable references. It’s amazing what you can convince yourself you hear. Fast-forward 40 years to 2016. Today’s hobbyist could potentially do better, but there are no guarantees. Most home-made speakers sound best in our imaginations. Steve F.
  2. To all my very valued compatriots on the CSP Forum— I say this with the utmost respect and admiration for all you do—your great restorative work, your collective knowledge and experience, your enthusiasm, friendliness and open-mindedness. But……..I must say that the idea of using Classic AR speakers in a home theater system is nuts! Beyond nuts. They weren’t designed for that kind of use, not at all. In the 1960’s and ‘70’s, the predominant source material was analog LP, with a relatively restricted dynamic range. Musical peaks were only around 15-20dB higher than average program levels. Amplifiers/receivers were generally around 50-100 watts per channel RMS (except for the occasional Phase Linear or Crown) and in-home max SPLs were around 100dB. Today’s digital theater source material has dynamic range that can easily be double or triple what analog material was in 1972. Low-frequency content, in particular, is vastly deeper and more demanding than it was previously. THX Reference Level—for the home!—is 105dB, and that’s just average level, not peak. Do the math. For every 3dB increase in SPL, you have to double the power. If your 3a needed 10 watts to reach 92dB 10 feet away at your listening chair, then to reach an instantaneous 110dB digital movie peak will require…..640 watts! Far be it from me to tell you how to treat and care for your irreplaceable 1971-era AR-3a or AR-2ax, but I will never subject them to that kind of torture. How many ¾-inch NOS tweeters are out there? In my many decades in the speaker biz, I worked at Bose, Boston Acoustics and Atlantic Technology. BA and AT make a lot of really great, modern, HT speakers. Ferro-fluid cooled tweeters. Powered subwoofers designed with digital soundtracks in mind. I have a perfectly excellent home theater system with BA and AT speakers. My priceless, impeccably-restored 3a’s are in a 2-channel music-only system, powered by an 80 WPC integrated amplifier. I never play them beyond moderately loud. I want them to last forever, so I treat them accordingly. I can’t imagine doing something crazy like blowing an irreplaceable, original ¾-inch hard black paper dome tweeter on a 30dB peak from an exploding Death Star. To each his own, but my Classic ARs are never going to be mistreated and punished with digital sound effects from trashy modern movies. Steve F.
  3. Happy Holidays

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone! We got our tree over the weekend and unlike past years, the tree farm where we got it drilled a 6-inch deep central bore about 3/4" in diameter so the tree sits on a 6"-tall "spike" in the center of the stand/water holder. Nice arrangement, and much easier than the old '4-screws-pushing-support-legs-up-against-the-trunk" situation that caused me to utter many a decidedly un-good-willish comment in the past! If the Pats should be so fortunate as to make it to the Superbowl once again, we convert the tree from Christmas tree to Pats tree during the playoffs, replacing all the Christmas ornaments with Pats ornaments. It's worked many times before! BTW, nothing like the Mel Tormé Christmas album on 3as! Steve F.
  4. Why did AR do the LST?

    The theory behind using the autotransformer in the LST was that since the LST was intended to be a professional monitor speaker, it would be critical to the recording/mixing engineer that the apparent loudness of the speaker stayed the same, regardless of spectral balance. A pre-amplifier designed for home use—like the Quad—would have completely different goals for its tone controls. A few other quick comments, in addition to what Tom says above (he is absolutely spot-on with all of his observations). 8. AR wanted to produce a speaker that addressed critics and the needs of a changing market. Referring back to my original post No. 1 in this thread, when the LST was conceived in 1969, the “changing market” and “critics” being referenced above didn’t really exist. Why did AR do the LST? That’s an intriguing question. The first thing you need to know is that products take a very long time to go from a ‘napkin sketch’ to finished goods that are shipping out the door. If it’s a product based on an existing product—filling in a gap in an existing product line, like, say, the AR-5—then those can be done in perhaps 9 months to a year, at the very fastest. It just takes longer than people realize to design things, prototype them, get sample parts in, approve them, fend off the inevitable schedule-ruining interference from the “higher-ups,” etc. etc. That’s for an AR-5, about as “simple” a design/introduction process as a company is likely to have. The LST was intro’d in fall 1971, meaning it was probably a glimmer in someone’s eye at AR in 1969. In 1969, AR still ruled the roost. Advent and EPI hadn’t yet made any impact and the 4x-[1st-gen] 2ax-3a were the stars of the day. The market hadn’t “changed” yet in 1969. The “critics” and retail dealers weren’t yet disparaging AR products like they would be just a few short years later. The stereo market moved very quickly in that timeframe. 1971 was a long, long way away from 1969. As I said—quite accurately, because I lived through it and witnessed it first-hand—Advent (for example) went from non-existent in 1969 to being the No. 1 retail showroom speaker in 1971. People tend to look at a product’s reason-for-being at the date of introduction. That’s the wrong way to do it. It’s the date of concept that counts. For a hugely complex product like the LST—a product with absolutely no similar products (cabinet shape, use of multiple drivers, autotransformer, etc., etc.) in the past for AR to draw upon—the gestation period would be at least two years. I’ve done the marketing concepts and directed the engineering/production development of hundreds of products at Bose, Boston Acoustics and Atlantic Technology. In 1969, developing the LST would have been nearly as complex as, well, putting a man on the moon. Another error in looking at the LST is to think it was somehow intended for a mass buying audience. The statement “to address the needs of a changing market” implies that AR thought the LST was intended to sell to the everyday stereo customer. “Hey, think that 3a is a little dull compared to that JBL L-100? Here, listen to this LST instead. Yeah, I know the 3a is $250, the L-100 is $273 and the LST is $600, but if you want that great AR bass with a little more top end, then this LST is for you. Cash or charge?” No. The LST was not intended for or marketed to the “average” stereo customer, so in no way was its mission to “produce a speaker that addressed critics and the needs of a changing market.” Steve F.
  5. Why did AR do the LST?

    Frank--thanks very much for the kind words. A few additional LST thoughts: That transformer was a very well thought out design. It was not a “level control,” in the way the pots were on regular bookshelf AR speakers. The LST control was designed to give the speaker a set of six repeatable, knowable spectral balance curves that would be precisely available to the recording engineer (nod, nod, wink, wink) at any time. The autotransformer control kept the output level of the midranges constant, so the apparent loudness of the speaker remained the same, regardless of switch position. That would be important during the monitoring process, since, as we all know, a “louder” speaker tends to sound better. Each successive position of the switch raised the woofer level by 1dB and lowered the tweeter level by 1dB, rotating around a fixed (constant loudness) midrange level. Switch pos 1 had the tweeters 1dB up (over the mids) and the woof 1dB down (to the mids) Switch 2 was “flat.” Switch 3-6, the woofer level is raised by 1dB and the tweeters are cut by 1dB for each succeeding position. AR said that positions 5 and 6 were roughly equivalent to an AR-3a with its controls set to “Normal,” but that was really pretty useless, irrelevant info, since, 1) the radiation patterns of the two speakers was so wildly different and 2) no one—no one—ever used the 3a with its level controls set to “Normal.” The LST didn’t really need a graphic EQ since its far-field power response was so smooth and the switch provided those six precise spectral profiles. But just for the record, in the early-mid ‘70’s there was an affordable 10-band/octave 2-channel equalizer available for home use, the Soundcraftsman 2012A. Interesting side note: When AR was doing their prelim work for the 1976 Neil Grover drumset live vs. recorded demos, they tried the LST along with the 10Pi. The 10Pi beat it easily for purposes of replicating Grover’s drumset sound. There was too much audibly-destructive interference between the LST’s multiple mids and tweeters, and it didn’t do anywhere near as good a job as the single-driver-per-band-all-forward-facing 10Pi. I offer that little tidbit without any implied or explicit comment as to the LST’s superiority or inferiority at reproducing an already-recorded soundfield, vs. the 10Pi. Steve F.
  6. Why did AR do the LST?

    Why did AR do the LST? That’s an intriguing question. The first thing you need to know is that products take a very long time to go from a ‘napkin sketch’ to finished goods that are shipping out the door. If it’s a product based on an existing product—filling in a gap in an existing product line, like, say, the AR-5—then those can be done in perhaps 9 months to a year, at the very fastest. It just takes longer than people realize to design things, prototype them, get sample parts in, approve them, fend off the inevitable schedule-ruining interference from the “higher-ups,” etc. etc. That’s for an AR-5, about as “simple” a design/introduction process as a company is likely to have. The LST was intro’d in fall 1971, meaning it was probably a glimmer in someone’s eye at AR in 1969. In 1969, AR still ruled the roost. Advent and EPI hadn’t yet made any impact and the 4x-[1st-gen]2ax-3a were the stars of the day. So did Roy Allison say to someone, “You know, we could do this speaker with four ea. of the 3a’s mids and tweets, angle them and the thing would have truly flat power response in the forward hemisphere. Recording studios would eat it up, they’d jump at the opportunity to have a recording monitor as accurate, and repeatable as their best electronics.” Maybe he or someone else actually said that. Or maybe it was something like, “You know, if we took 4 ea. of the 3a’s mids and tweets, angled them, we’d have a speaker that could handle enough power in the mid-high end to have a flat power response in the forward hemisphere. We could do it. It’d be cool.” “Why would we want to do that? What the heck would we do with it? Who’d buy it?” “Beats the heck outta me. But we’d get great reviews and publicity for having the “World’s Best Speaker,” and we could leverage that PR to the bank. Who knows? Maybe some recording studio would want the thing.” And then in a very rare stroke of marketing genius, AR decided to sell the LST to individuals only by “special permission”: the customer had to place an order at an ‘authorized’ AR LST dealer, pay for them up front, and then IIRC, AR would ship them directly to the customer’s home. Ooooooo…..so secret…..so special. (In time, of course, you could simply buy them at the store.) As a product, the LST was one of the truly great audio products of all time. The autotransformer feature must’ve taken quite a while to design and perfect, as did the decision on what the spectral balance would be for each of the six transformer positions. I can imagine hours of listening and many hours of arguing. I’ve been there, many times. I’ve read that AR minimized the inevitable interference between all those closely-spaced mids and tweeters and that also must’ve taken a lot of prototype cabinets and a lot of listening and measuring. Remember also, the LST was done eons before there was today’s degree of automated computer analysis and measurement, so every curve was swept individually, mic placed by hand, the pen scrolling out the curve on the moving graph paper. Tedious. Considering the amount of discussion over exactly what to make, how many drivers, pointing in what direction at what angle (this is known as the ‘product definition,’ and settling on a hard def—a “frozen def” as we say— is often the hardest part of the entire process), the drawing of the cab, sending it out for samples, getting quotes from prospective vendors (assuming anyone even wanted to make a crazy cabinet like that!), doing all the measurements and listening, etc.----man! I’m surprised they could do this in just two years. Maybe they started the LST in 1965! Gentlemen, you simply listen to and enjoy the LST as a finished speaker. But as someone who has spent many decades on the inside and has been part of the conception/engineering/manufacturing/marketing process for countless products from Bose, BA and Atlantic Technology, I can’t even begin to imagine the complexity involved in bringing an earth-shattering product like the LST to market. Even beyond the “Manhattan Project” nature of the nearly-equally-impossible AR9, because the LST was done mostly by hand. (Much like Apollo 13 that flew to the moon in 1969, being designed and engineered mostly by hand.) However much you respect and admire this speaker, double it. No, quadruple it. Steve F.
  7. Introduction dates of AR10 and 11

    The AR-10Pi, AR-11 and AR-MST/1 were the first models in the new Advanced Development Division, which overlapped for a short time with the last few months of the Classic Series. Those first ADDs were introduced in March of 1975. I remember writing to AR in August of 1975 and asking why the AR-3a and AR-11 were both $295, since it seemed strange to price them the same. As was always the case with AR's very convoluted marketing, they gave me some nonsensical answer. AR tried to clean up their distribution policies with the ADDs and they were supposed to sell at retail for "list," while the Classics were subject to any discounting the seller wanted to take. So in reality, the 11 sold in the marketplace for at or close to $295, while the 3a was readily available for under $230. But the short answer to your question is March 1975. Additional ADDs followed in 1976--the 12, 14 and 16 were next. Steve F.
  8. I was the Director of Home Audio Product Development at Boston Acoustics from 1992-2003, so I can tell you something about these speakers. The original CR series (Compact Reference) was introduced in Dec 1994, as the replacement to the HD series. That first CR family consisted of the CR6 (5 ¼” 2-way), CR7 (6 ½”), CR8 (7”) and CR9 (8”). They were all ported speakers, because BA was being hammered at the time at retail in A-B comparisons by companies like PSB and Energy. Those companies had ported speakers, which gave them a little deeper -3dB point—at the expense of a very rapid 4th-order rolloff beneath that—but in a retail A-B (especially without efficiency compensation, which most retailers no longer used), they sounded like they had “more bass” than the sealed HD5, HD7, etc. They were received very well by dealers and they sold quite well. The 6 and 7 used a cheap Tonegen hard dome, while the 8 and 9 used a BA-built 1” soft dome, that we called “Kortec.” Totally nonsensical, made-up name, meant nothing, but it sounded good. The tweeter itself was superb, as was BA’s 1” aluminum dome (used in the VR20, 30 and 40 floorstanders), also built in-house in Peabody MA. The CR7 was a favorite of BA’s president, Andy Kotsatos. For an inexpensive speaker using pretty ordinary components, it sounded truly excellent, with great balance and a very smooth FR. My favorite in the line was the CR8, which really did do the “where’s the sub” trick pretty well, especially for a 7” woofer. That 1” tweeter was smooth as could be and that was a great speaker. The CR9 was a “big bookshelf” (by 1990’s standards), but it was full range, with solid bass down into the mid 40’s. The front baffle and rear panel were reinforced molded plastic and the four panels (top, sides and bottom) were MDF with 45-degree cuts and connected together by their black or woodgrain vinyl wrap. We had a special jig that held the front and rear parts upright, applied the glue and the inner MDF wrap just fit right into slots around the outside of the plastic panels. There was also a big internal MDF U-brace, and the legs of the brace fit into receptacles on the backside of the front plastic baffle. The resulting cabinet had the look of a traditional wood bookshelf speaker with the smooth details (terminal well, port flare, driver recesses, rear-panel wall-mount keyhole, etc.) that could only be done that nicely as a one-piece plastic molded part. Add to that nice metal-perf grilles, and the CRs were lookers, that’s for sure. Made ordinary bookshelf speakers seem like 1950’s relics. At CES in January 1995, it seemed like every high-profile competitor was in our booth, examining the CRs. I remember the head of one of the major Canadian companies (probably Energy) was there with their head Eng person, and their President was admonishing the Eng guy, shaking his finger at him, saying, “This is how you build a bookshelf speaker!” The CR4 and 5 came quite a few years later, very small sealed speakers, using 4 ½” drivers—a full-range driver in the 4, a 2-way with that cheap Tonegen tweeter in the 5. These were nothing special. The second-gen CR bookshelves—the CR55, 65, 75 and 85—used all BA-built tweeters, even in the lesser models. The little hard-dome Tonegen was gone, replaced by a far superior BA ¾” dome. But even though the 55, 65, 75 and 85 were truly good speakers, by then—around 2001—the market for “real” audio was starting into its downward spiral and they were not as successful as the previous CRs were. Steve F.
  9. I have to disagree. That was a great comment, but it referred to only one speaker. IMO, Julian's best comment was: "AR speakers set new standards for low-distortion, low-frequency reproduction, and in our view have never been surpassed in this regard." I believe that was from the AR-3a review [1968], but it shined down upon the entire line, all models. Steve F.
  10. Historic AR-1

    Hello Steven, My name is Steve Feinstein. I was in the audio business for many years, with Panasonic/Technics, Bose, Boston Acoustics and Atlantic Technology. I held Product Development and Marketing roles with those companies, and was therefore our company's "point person" for outside activities such as reviews, literature/brochures, press releases, industry events/trade shows, etc. As such, I had the opportunity and privilege to know Julian very well over a period of many years. I wrote the attached tribute to your dad in December 2003--it was published word-for-word in the Feb 2004 edition of Sound & Vision magazine. If you haven't seen this, I thought you might like to read it. Sincerely, Steve Feinstein Julian Hirsch tribute.pdf
  11. AR MGC-1

    In terms of being “worth looking at,” there are several considerations. First, and most important from a practical standpoint, is that the foam inserts that control the speakers’ directivity may have all degraded into nothingness by today, 30 years after they were made. Unlike merely re-foaming a woofer surround, it may well be impossible to replace/re-create these inserts. Without them, the original performance of the speakers will be lost. Second, you’d have to determine that the associated ambient amplifier was working and in proper condition. I doubt you could find a service schematic for such a rare item and without one, you’d have to find a technician who could recognize by sight what the circuitry and layout were all about, and then test for leaky capacitors, etc. Third, the very design premise of the speakers—wider soundstage and a more ambient sound akin to the original performance venue—has been rendered irrelevant. Not that the final goal is irrelevant, but modern multi-channel digital/home theater electronics very strongly suggest that the best way to accomplish this goal is with sophisticated receivers and pre-amp/processors, feeding multiple speakers around the room. There are better, more convincing ways to do this today than there was 30 years ago. I suppose the best thing that the Magics had going for them was the ability to sound three-dimensionally lifelike using only two speakers, as opposed to a modern multi-channel system requiring 5 or 7 speakers. For all these reasons—especially the first—I’d be very cautious. If you can find them for next to nothing, then why not, but I wouldn’t expend too much time, energy or money chasing them down. Steve F.
  12. AR MGC-1

    Incorrect P. 2 above--use this one. Please forward these to Mark. Steve F.
  13. AR MGC-1

    Here is the MGC lit. I scanned it in color, 4 pages. Gene or another Admin should add this to the Library. The sharp-eyed will notice: 1. AR spec'd the 12" MGC-2 at -3dB @ 39Hz, the same as the MGC-1's dual 8-inchers, to avoid embarrassing the -1. The -1 had barely 2ax-level bass in real life (remember, I heard them many times), while the -2 had normal AR 12-inch bass. All Classic and ADD AR 12-inchers were 35 Hz. 2. The -1 had a 9LS-era dual-dome assembly, with a 3/4" soft-dome tweeter. The -2 had a 1" titanium dome, a la the Connoisseur 50t. 3. The -1 had a 2-way side array with a 1" dome tweeter, probably a soft dome, same as their better 2-way offerings of that era. 4. The -2 had a single 6 1/2-inch full-range side driver--no tweeter. Note that the side array on both models was electronically limited to 5,000 Hz anyway. On the plus side, these were really seriously-engineered speakers of the highest quality, with a very ambitious goal. On the minus side, they didn't sell at all and they didn't confer any meaningful market attention onto AR that helped the sales of their "regular" speakers. Steve F.
  14. AR MGC-1

    Steve - I seem to recall reading that the MGC-2 woofer used a polypropylene cone - does your brochure agree with this? Yes, it was a pp woofer. All their woofers at that point were pp. The TOTL line at that time was transitioning from the 9LS to the TSW910. The 910 definitely had pp woofs. Also at that time, the more high-end Connoisseur Series was concurrent with the MGC-1 and the TSWs. I had Conni 50t's (12" woof, 6" cone mid, 1" titanium tweeter) and the woofer and mid were pp. The 50's were nice speakers, but a bit bright. And even though the cabinet volume was around 2 cu ft compared to the 11/3a's 1.48 cu ft, the 50 definitely did not go deeper--if even as deep. Gives a lot of credence to the thought that those Japanese Tonegen pp woofers had a meaningfully higher Fs than the paper cone 12" woofers that had been built by AR in MA. If I get motivated, I'll scan and post the MGC-2 lit. Steve F.
  15. AR MGC-1

    You should also seek out the Stereo Review and High Fidelity reviews of this speaker. It really made quite an impact on the audio press, although the actual sales were miniscule. It certainly was an innovative and ambitious design. Due to the very precise reflecting angles involved, the speaker was really best suited to conventionally-shaped rectangular rooms. By far the most controversial aspect of its design was the marketing decision to use dual 8-inch woofers and take the bass response down to only around 39-40 Hz. Just a tad deeper than the 2ax-5-12 level, but not as deep as the 3a-LST-11 level. Defenders of the MGC-1’s bass are quick to point of that the difference between the Magic’s 39 Hz and the 3a’s 35 Hz is minor, hardly worth quibbling about. In reality, the bass was in two different worlds. For an AR loudspeaker, there are two kinds of bass and only two kinds of bass: AR 12-inch bass and AR less-than-12-inch bass. The MGC-1 was not AR 12-inch bass. I was at the Boston Audio Society meeting where the MGC-1 was introduced and demo’d and I heard it several more times at a BAS member’s house. It was a superbly clean and detailed speaker and its side-firing array with delay amp did a pretty good job of creating a nice three-dimensional illusion. But the BAS and local audio press was merciless in their criticism of AR for their choice not to give the MGC-1 at least 3a-level bass. Especially considering the MGC-1’s price: $3500/sys. in walnut and $7000/sys. in genuine rosewood. Stratospheric pricing in the mid-80’s. Merciless. To the point where AR was compelled to come out with an MGC-2! This was a conventional tower speaker in a rectangular cross-section cabinet with a diagonal gold inlaid stripe on the top panel. The user was to align the gold stripe to be parallel with the wall behind the speaker and that would orient the MGC-2 at the correct angle for the side-firing array to work correctly. But the main thing about the -2 was that it used a 12-inch woofer and had bass fully equivalent to any other AR 12-inch speaker. I remember Ron Fone—AR’s president at the time—saying to the BAS at a later meeting, “AR had finally gotten it right this time.” I don’t know for certain if the MGC-2 ever went into production and if any were ever sold. But I have a nice brochure on them—probably the only one in existence! Steve F.