Steve F

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  1. Another fun Classic "What if...."

    No, it wouldn’t sound like a 3a with a Microstatic MS-1 on top, unless you think that’s what an LST sounds like. The Micro MS-1, for those readers unfamiliar with it, was a small 4-tweeter angled array that sat on top of an AR or KLH speaker and supposedly improved its HF response and dispersion. The MS-1 used four garden-variety cone tweeters—two 1 ¾, two 1 ½-inch, IIRC—that crossed over at either 3.5kHz or 7kHz, selectable with a 2-position switch. It sounded pretty good, and I used a set with my 2ax’s for a while, before giving them to my cousin (who gave them to his friend for his KLH-5’s). My proposed “AR-3a-t” would be a totally different animal. First, it would use AR’s own excellent drivers, the ¾-inch black hard dome 3a tweeter and 1 ½-inch 3a dome midrange. To my ears, the AR drivers sound quite a bit different than the CTS cone tweeters in the MS-1. Secondly, and more importantly, the “AR-3a-t” would cross over at 575 Hz and 5000 Hz, like the 3a and LST (maybe 525 Hz like the later 3a and later LST, although, truth be told, a 50Hz “difference” in x-o frequency is nothing more than a perfectly-acceptable QC variance in crossover components. Things just aren’t that precise. Don’t be fooled.) The point is, the 3a-t would have the same much wider radiation from 575Hz on up—like the LST—in stark contrast to the 3a/MS-1 combo, which would have a markedly different radiation pattern, especially in the hearing-sensitive midrange. The 3a/3a-t combo would not sound like a 3a/MS-1 combo. It would sound like an LST. Unless, as I said, you think an LST sounds like a 3a/MS-1 combo. Steve F.
  2. In the “Wouldn’t this have been cool, so please don’t bother me with arguments of why it might not have been cost-feasible” department, here’s one for you: Remember how AR used to offer upgrade kits, like the adapter plate w/ 3 ½” driver, to convert the AR-2 into a 2x (first gen) or the AR-2a into a 2ax (first gen)? Or the AR-3t and AR-3st, neat little walnut boxes that looked like dollhouse-sized AR speakers and contained either a 1 3/8” tweeter (3st) or both the 2” dome mid and 1 3/8” tweeter (3t)? These could upgrade the AR-1 and 1w performance to either exactly or close to AR-3 level performance. What if a decade or so later AR offered a Microstatic-shaped add-on containing two 1 ½” dome mids and two ¾” dome tweeters (one above the other) in an angled enclosure with each MF/HF pair firing off to the sides at the same angle as the LST’s side panel? The replacement price for the dome mid was $55.00 ea, the tweeter was $24.50 ea. That’s retail, so “wholesale” is half of that. Wholesale for the x-o? WAG, $20. Cabinet? WAG, $20. That’s a wholesale cost of the “AR-3a-t” of $120, so retail would be $240 ea. Add that to the $250 ea. list of a 3a and you’re at $490 ea. for very close to LST performance (the LST was $600 ea.). That would’ve worked from both a price and performance standpoint, and I bet a lot of 3a owners would’ve gone for it. The Classic era was just too much fun. Steve F.
  3. Two years to get the AR-3a blues ...

    Thanks very much. I Tweeted the link to my review to Don Cheadle and he appreciated it so much--that I 'got' the movie so completely--that he Tweeted me "Thanks" and then re-Tweeted my link to his 300k+ followers. Made me feel good that I was able to give him the knowledge that at least one person got every single last subtle detail of what he was doing. Right down to Hancock's glasses. Steve F.
  4. Two years to get the AR-3a blues ...

    I know this thread is now veering off into Miles Davisland, but regarding the movie "Miles Ahead," I wrote this article: Steve F.
  5. In rough chronological order of ownership, since 1969: 4x (my Dad's), 2ax (2nd gen), another set of 2nd gen 2ax, 7, LST-2, 91, 11, Connoisseur 50t, TSW110, TSW105, 3a, 9. Some of these were for secondary systems, some of them were 'rear' speakers, some of them were replacements of my primary speakers. The 9's are my main speakers now, have been for the last five years. I find them eminently satisfying, to the point that I don't covet anything else. My desire for AR speakers is completely quelled, not simply because the 9's are so good unto themselves, but also because I hear every AR speaker in the 9. I hear the wonder of the 1954 AR-1's bass, the tonal realism of the 3/3a, the surprise of the 4x/7 (yes as big and expensive as the 9's are, they surprise me, every time I play them), the effortlessness at high SPLs of the LST, all wrapped up in the 9's unique approach to solving the acoustic puzzle. My dad was as big a music and AR aficionado as I am--maybe even more so--but he passed away in 1998, about 12 years before I got the 9's. He knew about them, had heard them with me at BAS meetings, but never even for a moment thought he'd own them. He'd be so incredibly pleased with their sound, and even more pleased that I now owned them. That's the icing on the cake--whenever I play these amazing speakers, my Dad is right there with me. Who could want more than that? Steve F.
  6. T-1030 vs. VR 40

    When I arrived at BA (1992) the 1030 was the top of the current line and development of the VRs started in 1993. They were introduced in the fall of 1994. No one had any complaints with the actual sound and performance of the 1030, but it was a blocky, ugly speaker, with no visual style or grace whatsoever. The trend at the time was to go slightly smaller, be really sleek and stylish and maintain an absolutely unimpeachable acoustic performance. Gerry was the lead engineer on the 1030 and was responsible for its voicing. By the time we did the VR series, another engineer had joined the staff (Dave Fokos) and he did the VR and CR lines. Gerry turned his attention to the best-selling Subsat 6 and Sub Sat 7 sub/satellite systems, along with their companion center channel speakers, the CS6 and CS7. If I remember correctly, Gerry also did BA’s first THX-approved speakers, the 555 LCRs, 575 surround and 595 subwoofer. And all of BA’s truly excellent in-wall speakers Anyway, the VR40 ended up being a truly great speaker. I’ve been in this business for many decades and been associated with some truly great speakers, and the VR40 is near the very top of that list. Sleek, trim, great-looking, it was a dual 7” woofer 3-way system with a 5 ¼” mid and BA’s superb aluminum VR tweeter with AMD. The real walnut veneer cab was quite nice as well. That speaker was ruler flat on-axis from around 40-45Hz-20kHz, with good dispersion. It had a 1”-thick baffle and by-pass caps in the x-over. Bi-ampable. Carpet spikes. Quite sophisticated. Very musical and not harsh at all, in spite of the clichéd reputation that metal domes have. I liked them so much that I got a pair for my dad to replace some older ARs that he had. I am very surprised to hear that the pair you are looking at had their surrounds “re-foamed.” The VR woofers had butyl rubber surrounds, not foam. They would never need to be replaced, unless they were mechanically torn or suffered some other misfortune. They were not susceptible to ‘foam rot,’ since they were not foam. Same with the midrange. Comparing the T1030 directly to the VR40, I would characterize the 1030 as being slightly “gutsier” and the 40 as being slightly more “refined.” Both terrific speakers, just a slightly different approach. Steve F.
  7. Photo of the Day

    What I've said about the 910 in years past: 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 TSW110 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 ground-breaking, 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. July 12, 2016--My opinion of the 910 stands. Steve F.
  8. AR-8 crossover schematic diagram ?

    In their great 1971 full-line brochure (in my opinion as a decades-long marketing/product development/eng dir/mgr, that is about the best brochure I’ve ever seen, in terms of both subjective emotional appeal coupled with objective black-and-white ‘proof’—a perfect balance), AR said of the 4x—“ may not have as wide a frequency range as some of our other speakers, but in terms of uncolored, natural reproduction, it holds its own with any of them.” Clearly, AR regarded the 4x as having the same mission of musical accuracy as the 2ax, 3 and 3a. And it clearly succeeded: Julian Hirsch of Stereo Review said its frequency response was unmatched by almost any speaker at any price and added, “We know of no competitively-priced speaker that can compare with it.” Steve F.
  9. AR-8 crossover schematic diagram ?

    Aside from the mediocre sound, the ugly appearance and the ill-conceived marketing campaign that made it the most spectacular flop of the entire Classic series (the only true out-and-out failure from 1954-1974), the AR-8 is interesting for a few other reasons. First, the 10-inch woofer—at least at the beginning of this product’s life—was indeed a different woofer from the one in the 2ax/5. AR’s own lit on the AR-8 said something to the effect of, “....we’ve used a 10-inch woofer that is somewhat more efficient than our other designs.....” and the system’s resonance was spec’d at 52Hz, different and lower than the 2ax/5 system resonance of 56Hz. Both of those data points indicate that the 8 had a different low-frequency design than the 2ax/5. The other design interesting aspect was AR’s contention that the “Increase” position of the tweeter level switch provided “sharper, harder, more exaggerated high frequencies, appropriate for today’s rock music,” or words to that effect. In other words, AR was admitting outright that their other speakers were “dull” on the popular music of the day and with the 8, they were intentionally abandoning any pretense of musical accuracy—quite a departure for them. The AR-8 failed on every count. Its bass was not any stronger or deeper than the 2ax or 5 in practical, real-life terms, so AR soon saw the folly of manufacturing separate woofers for the different systems and went to a “universal” 10-incher instead. The 8’s “increase” tweeter position did not produce ‘sharper, harder’ high frequencies. The 8 sounded no brighter or different than the AR-6 or 7. (Actually the 7 was the brightest of them all, as I’ve pointed out before, and the High Fidelity Magazine curves show that quite clearly. High Fidelity tested the 6, 7 and 8 and ran curves on them in exactly the same manner, under the same conditions. The 6 and 8 are well nigh identical; the 7 shows an unmistakeable increase around 7-10kHz of about 2dB or so, and that’s exactly how it sounds.) At $119 ea., the AR-8 in an ugly vinyl wrap was $3 more than the Large Advent in real walnut and $17 more than the Advent in vinyl. If I ever teach a graduate marketing course at Harvard Business School and I want to give an example of a product from a major company that got every single blessed last thing wrong, I’ll tell the class about the AR-8. Steve F.
  10. Garage Sale Season

    There was a speaker in the early 1970's called the "Array 12." All full-range drivers. I think those are them. I don't remember much about the company who made them and a quick Google search didn't give me any info. But I distinctly remember a BAS meeting I went to in the fall of 1975 and there were both AR-3a's and Array 12's there, demo'ing whatever it was we were listening to that night. BTW, those are probably CTS 4 1/2-inch full-range drivers, popular back then. IIRC, the 901 Series I and II used those drivers. Certainly the Series I did. Steve F.
  11. Classic Speakers AR should have made Certainly, the bane of AR during the 1969-1977 timeframe (which was the very height of the stereo market boom) was the Large Advent. A very formidable speaker: great bass, virtually the equal of the 3a; an agreeable mid-hi balance and tonality that sounded clear, detailed and pleasing on most program material and most musical genres. Neither too bright like the JBLs nor too dull like the ARs. As I’ve detailed in past posts, AR could have gone in two different directions to produce a speaker that could do battle with the OLA, and done so without tooling new parts or incurring any great delay in time-to-market. Here are two ways they could have gone: 1. A “super” 2ax with 12-inch woofer. Compared to the 5, a “2ax+” would have a more expensive woofer (+$10 wholesale), but would’ve more than made up for it with a far less expensive mid (-$20 wholesale net difference between the 3 ½” cone and the 1 ½” dome) and far less expensive x-over (-$15 wholesale). Yeah, ok add in around $5 for the very slightly more expensive 12”-sized enclosure and woofer-mounting hardware, but a “super 2ax” would still be at least $20 wholesale cost less than the AR-5, which translates into a far lower retail price than the AR-5’s $175. 2. As I posted recently here in post #13, they could have done a 12-inch 2-way with the AR-14’s 1-inch dome tweeter (although this option wasn’t available to them until around 1975.) This would also have been around a $140-150 speaker, far more attractive and saleable than the AR-5 at $175, the AR-14 at $140 or the AR-12 at $225. In addition to the Advent fighter, there were other speakers AR should have done. The LST-2 was a misfire, with its 10-inch woofer and 3 ea. 1 ½-inch mids and ¾-inch tweeters. AR always mis-read the appeal of their 12-inch woofer. The AR-5, -8, LST-2, AR-14 and AR-12 were all sales flops, mainly because at their asking price at that time in the market, they were not a particularly good value. AR 8”-based speakers were almost always a good value. AR’s 12” speakers were sought-after products, almost regardless of their asking price. But the mid-price 10” speakers from the 1970’s were not good values (except the 2ax). The LST-2 should have used the 12-inch woofer in the same enclosure as the LST. With the greater ordering quantity of those cabs, the cabinet price would have dropped. Do two 1 ½-inch mids (one ea. on each side panel) and three ¾-inch tweeters—one on each side panel and one centered on the front, above the woofer. The radiation pattern of both LSTs would be identical, unlike the “real” LST-2, which had a forward-facing mid. This proposed LST-2 would still have significant advantages over the 3a in terms of power-handling and dispersion, but would be able to come in at the $400 retail price point, far enough away from the LST’s $600 so that both made sense. The other interesting speaker AR could have done is a 3-way 8” speaker, based on the AR-6 woofer. This could have been either an “8-inch AR-5” (which would’ve one heckuva nice—but pricey—little speaker, around the same or slightly more than a 2ax) or perhaps a less expensive variant, with the either the 4x’s or 2ax’s cone driver as mid and the ¾-inch tweeter, coming in at around the retail of the 2x (~$102-110 ea.) An “8-inch 2ax” (AR-6 bass with 2ax mids and highs) might have been a very interesting product. Steve F.
  12. 14's from the landfill

    Apropos of the thought in this thread that the AR-14 was supposed to battle the Large Advent, but failed, I am of the opinion that it was the famous and desirable AR 12-inch bass that made the biggest difference in salability (at a given price), not smoothness of AR’s MF-HF response. The AR-5 and AR-12 were complete sales flops in spite of their MF-HF acoustic excellence, because at their relatively high prices, the customer demanded 12-inch bass response. Let’s look at a phrase I coined several years ago when discussing the 4xa and LST-II: “Parts bin engineering” That’s the thought that you literally take a look in your parts bin, see what you already have (no inventing/tooling brand-new parts is allowed), and re-shuffle them into a new product. With the goal of combating the Large Advent, let’s look at the (then recently discontinued) AR-1x: 12-inch Woofer? Yup, existed. 1x/3a Cabinet? Yup, existed. AR-14 1” tweeter? Yup, existed. 2-way crossover? Yup, existed. (OK, this is the one exception to the “no new parts allowed” rule, because a slightly different crossover is merely a matter of ordering different value caps and chokes from your supplier, and you’re doing that every week anyway, just like ordering pens and paper from Staples.) So the “AR-1ax” will have the 12-inch woofer with the 1” dome tweeter. It’ll sound great. It’ll cross over at 1300Hz, a tad high for the 12” woofer, but know what? it’ll make it, just fine. Really. (And before you howl about midrange dispersion from a 12-inch woofer, do the math, ok? 13560/Driver piston diameter = Frequency limit of good dispersion. AR’s “small” 12-inch woofer has a mid-surround-to-mid-surround piston diameter of about 10 inches. 13560/10 = 1356Hz. So a 1300Hz x-over is fine. And no, the AR 12-inch woofer is not too “slow” to reproduce those frequencies.) Now, the cost analysis, using the AR-5 as a basis of comparison (from the AR Parts Price List): Go from the 5’s 10-inch woofer to the 12-inch woofer: +$20 Go from the 5’s 1 ½-inch dome mid to the AR-14’s 1-inch dome tweeter: -$27 Eliminate the 5’s 3/4-inch dome tweeter: -$24.5 Go from the 5’s 3-way crossover to a 2-way crossover: -$20 That’s a net cost reduction of $51.50 relative to the 5. Divide that by two to get wholesale cost, because those are retail prices, so the actual cost differential is $25.75 lower cost than the AR-5. That translates into a retail differential of about $50 per speaker. That means instead of the non-selling flop of an AR-5 at $175 ea, AR could have had an “AR-1ax” at $144 ea. (the 1x’s $194 retail price—which was obviously insanely inflated, since the AR-2x was $102—less $50), with AR’s famous 12-inch bass and the smooth upper mids and highs of the AR-14. (A tad rough in the midrange? Maybe....but no worse than the large Advent.) $144 for the 1ax instead of $175 for the 5? Now you’re talkin.’ And the parts were just sitting there, waiting to be used. Steve F.
  13. 14's from the landfill

    The AR-14 was introduced in 1976 as part of the second wave of the ADD family of products, following the AR-10π, 11 and MST/1. The 12, 14 and 16 came out more or less together, in the spring of 1976. The 12 and 14 used the newest version of the 10-inch woofer, mounted, as AR put it in their lit, “in a cabinet the same size as we use for our 12-inch models.” The thought was that the slightly larger internal volume would enable the 12 and 14 to respond a bit deeper than the 2ax and 5. The 12 and 14 were spec’d as -3dB @ 44Hz, which was not directly comparable to the 2ax and 5 since AR never actually spec’d those models’ 3dB down point. In any event, any “improvement” in LF response over the 2ax and 5 was minimal at best. The 12 and 14’s bass sounded exactly the same as the 2ax and 5, to my ears, and nowhere near in the same league as the 3a/11. Yes, the 14 was an all-out assault on the Large Advent, but it missed the mark quite badly from a sales and marketing perspective. First of all, the Advent’s success was based on its 3a-level bass at half the price of a 3a. Loud pounding rock music in your dorm room at BU in 1974? Yup, the Advent delivered, in spades. The 2ax was dull in comparison and didn’t have the bass of the Advent. Secondly, the dealers didn't trust AR, since the Classic series before the ADDs was unprofitable for retailers to sell because of wide-spread mail-order discounting, while the Advents were very selectively-distributed, which assured the dealers' profitability. Was the Advent a little uneven and hard-sounding in the mids-lower treble? I guess so, but not to an extent that anyone really objected to, given its amazing sales. The 14 (and 12) were incredible improvements over the Advent in M-HF smoothness. The 14 started out life with the then-popular Peerless 1” dome tweeter, but changed shortly to an AR-built 1” dome. The tweeters had a resonance of around 1050Hz and crossed over at 1300Hz, which was idiotic design. Conventional wisdom says cross over a minimum of one octave above resonance, which meant around 2000Hz. I remember A-B’ing them vs. the Large Advent in Harvard Square in Cambridge in 1976 and the ARs made the Advent sound like a honky, over-midrangy mess. But the Advent had that bass, and the ARs couldn’t match that. Also, the Large Advent in Utility (vinyl) finish was $102 ea. The Advent in real walnut veneer was a steal at $116 each. The AR-14 was $140 each—way, way off the mark for the typical 18-25 year-old customer. The AR-12 was $225 each and I’d venture to say that it was as big and total a sales flop as the AR-5 had been before it. AR continually misread the market and misread their own product strengths. AR’s biggest market strength was their 12-inch bass. Look at the AR products that made its reputation and still today command the big collector’s dollars: The AR-1, 3, 3a, LST, 11, 10π, 9. Far, far more than the 2ax, 5, 12, 14. If AR had wanted to really take on the Large Advent in the 1971-1977 timeframe, they would have needed to do a speaker that had equal or very close to 3a/11-like bass. The “smooth mid-treble” response of the 12 and 14 didn’t do it. Not by a long shot. Steve F.
  14. I “met” George (Toasted Almond) about a dozen years ago when I joined the CSP community. He was pretty active with this forum back then and he and I quickly established a nice rapport based not only on Classic AR speakers, but also that we were both aviation aficionados. The frequency of his contributions had dropped off precipitously in recent years, which always leads to speculation of some misfortune or failing health. I tend to think that most people retain their interest in this hobby and when we don’t hear much from a once-active contributor, it’s usually cause for concern. You could tell from his posts that not only was George a knowledgeable classic speaker enthusiast, he also had a great Cheshire-cat-like sense of humor that came through his writing and a genuine down-to-earth warmth and compassion. We’ll miss him. Steve F,
  15. The 10Pi autotransformer would be unnecessary if you are going to construct a home-built powered subwoofer using AR-12-inch woofers. The 10Pi’s WEC was a simple level control that adjusted woofer output level for three different very generalized local environmental conditions. As you can see in the curves that Tom supplied, the woofer responses are exact parallels of each other—strictly level differences. There is no contouring, only level adjustment. If your home-brew sub is powered, then a level adjustment will be available to you either via the sub amp’s volume control or the pre-amp’s or receiver’s “sub out” level control. All HT receivers/pre-pros have a sub-out level control; many stereo pre-amps do as well. If you’re building some type of passive AR9 woofer section, then things are a bit more complicated in terms of system integration and a simple Pi, 2Pi, 4Pi adjustment for the sub may not be sufficient. You won’t know until you try, but my gut tells me that finer level adjustment—as well as frequency (crossover) adjustment—will be needed. Again, HT receiver/pre-pros and many ‘better’ stereo pre-amps have adjustable sub x-o controls as well. Steve F.