Steve F

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  1. 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.
  2. The Beautiful AR-3

    I feel very privileged and honored to have been to Adiano's home twice and heard his great systems, especially his beautiful AR-3's. We've also shared a few fine meals together in Rome. Our daughter lives in Italy about two hours north of Rome with her husband and 2.67 children (# 3 is on the way, obviously!) and I make it a point to stop off and see Adriano whenever I'm there. Adriano--I hope to be there sometime this summer. As my plans finalize, I'll be in touch. Steve F.
  3. Wife needs help finishing his bucket list AR92s

    Kent, I am absolutely moved beyond words about what you've done. Forget the incredible quality of your work, the extra effort making anti-diffraction foam rings, the attention to detail with the matching screw heads, etc. We've all seen your work for years and have the utmost respect fot it. No, it's the humanity and compassion and spirit of personal generosity that strikes me so profoundly. To some, they may just be 35 year-old speakers that now play like new again. Pretty good in and of itself. But to others, they're a symbol of what's right with people, how people can and should respond when there is a need. I'm kind of a grizzled old veteran of a lot of things, and not too much surprises me these days or throws me for a loop. But this did, and it will stay with me from this point on and make me smile a deep smile when I think about it. I wish you a perpetually smooth frequency response with wide, unrestricted dispersion. You deserve it. Steve F.
  4. AR 3 toe in or not?

    -- Didn't cost me a dime. -- My feelings exactly. The world-renowned acoustic consulting firm of Tyson/Steve F/Carlspeak, Esq. will be sending out its bill shortly. Nothing isfree. 3% discount for invoices paid within 30 days. Remittance must be in U.S. funds. Thankyou for your cooperation. We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you again. Steve F.
  5. AR 3 toe in or not?

    Am I being serious? Tongue firmly planted in cheek. Where it's been painfully bitten oh-so-many times in the past. Steve F.
  6. AR 3 toe in or not?

    A few thoughts here: First, as Tom and Genek said, the AR domes were designed to produce very wide dispersion and a large amount of reflected energy, meaning that AR expected listeners to be seated in the far field so ‘toe-in’ for near-field imaging purposes wouldn’t be necessary. Also, in the 1960’s, AR envisioned their speakers to be true bookshelf speakers, as shown in this picture from their 1971-1972 full-line brochure. Mounted in a bookshelf, the speakers would not be physically able to be toed in. So that’s pretty much the ‘proof,’ so to speak, about how AR felt about toe-in. There is the thought that a speaker’s best FR will be 1m on-axis, so the appropriate toe-in would place the listener (at least the one in the ‘money seat’) on-axis of both stereo speakers, so ostensibly, he’d hear the speakers’ best response as first-arrival sound, a few milliseconds before room reflections kicked in. This didn’t matter with the 1950’s-1970’s AR (Classics and ADDs), because their haphazard driver placement and horrendous diffraction (in the Classics) meant their on-axis FR wasn’t their best performance. AR barely measured 1m on-axis system performance, preferring instead individual driver curves (to verify accurate response within their band) and full-system far-field energy curves, which is all AR felt really mattered at that point in speaker design history. So I’d agree that toe-in with the 3, 3a or 5 is unnecessary. By the time AR did the Verticals in 1978, it was a different story. The 9, 90, 91 and 92 had exemplary near-field frequency response and terrific far-field energy response. AR finally realized that the two were not mutually exclusive. For the Verticals, I’d say experiment a bit. I have my 9’s toed-in very slightly, but my 3a’s (in another room) are pointing straight ahead. BTW, a quick comment, not meant as criticism, just an observation. Samberger’s room is so nicely decorated—beautiful drapes, a magnificent fireplace, rich-looking hardwood floors. Those 3’s on a stand, with speaker wire draped unceremoniously all over the place, look so homely, out of place and unharmonious with the décor of the room. I know we all love our speakers, but this room is absolutely ruined by those 3’s. The 3a’s buried in a bookshelf, as shown in the attached AR brochure pic, is pretty much the only way they look acceptable in the “public area” (non ”man-cave” area) of a home. Steve F.
  7. I've heard them and they're really excellent, in the Classic AR/AT tradition. They have a really nice grille/baffle design that minimizes diffraction, very clever. But the best thing about them is that they use a 3/4-inch soft dome tweeter, like the 3a, 11 and 9. 3/4-inch! Wide HF dispersion andspeaker/listenerplacementflexibility in the best tradition of the great AR speakers of old. No one uses a 3/4-inch tweeter these days. But AT does. These are really good. Steve F.
  8. The Atlantic 4200/4200e and 4400 systems are all the same, save for some minor cosmetic differences. Their performance is identical. I think the 4200's were reviewed more often than the 4400, so you can probably find a lot of reviews of those. Really excellent speakers and we had some really good "old-timers" working with some incredibly talented younger engineers, producing speakers in the best of the classic traditions with modern capability. The 642e SB sub is one of the cleanest, quickest, best-sounding subs you'll ever come across. I'd peruse the various sources for used as well as new. You can no doubt score these for less than $2k. The AR303/302/338 series also had some smaller bookshelves/sats and center (I forget the exact model numbers), and these were very much in the same mold as the AT's--clean, neutral, detailed but not harsh or overly-analytical, very musical. I like the AT subs just about more than anyone's, however. Our sub guy had a way with amps, matching ampsto drivers, creating filters and EQs that took into account cabinet resonance and eliminated it, really seamless, inaudible distortion-limiting circuitry. The 642e SB is one great sub, but it's kind of a beast at 19" cubed. Still, at $1200 list, we had it in our lab and measured 1/5th the distortion on it vs. a $4000 Velodyne and ours had 4dB greater output between 25-50Hz. The 422SB, 344SB and 444SB would be really good slightly smaller options. Again--just to be clear--I left AT in 2012 and have zero association with the company. None. Nada. Their stuff just happens to be flat-out great, that's all. Steve F.
  9. Aside from my usual caution about using priceless, irreplaceable classic AR speakers in an HT system with digital soundtracks playing potentially-destructive high-SPL special effects for which these speakers' designers could never have imagined in their wildest dreams, let me say this about center channel speakers: First, I'm "retired" from the home speaker industry, so I have no financial interest in these products and I don't stand to gain or benefit one way or the other. I worked at Boston Acoustics for 11 years. I conceived and co-designed the VR10. It was one of our best-selling products, a smash hit. With its 3-way design and vertically-aligned mid-tweeter config, it solved the problem of poor horizontal dispersion that plaguedevery single horizontally-arrayed M-T-M center speaker then on the market. Its aluminum VR tweeter with AMD was a superlative performer, ruler-flat--and I mean within +/- 1 dB or less from 4k-20k. BA's incredible in-house robotic assembly line was computerized and self-diagnostic, so we knew why each reject failed and the next run had fewer rejects and the run after that had fewer still, and so on. Unlike AR in the mid-60's were they had bins and bins of reject hand-built tweeters--about 30-40%--BA was producing drivers on a SOTA automated line with well under a .5% reject rate, each virtually perfect, within +/- .75dB or so. But the VR10 is the wrong center channel speaker for you. It's too sharp, too hard, too relentlessly-revealing to blend nicely with your vintage 2a's. I left BA to work at Atlantic Technology, where I was also for about 10 years. Here, I had greater autonomy in designing and voicing our speakers than I did at BA, so I voiced them all a bit more like Classic ARs, since that was my preference. There's an excellent center channel, the 4200/4200e/4400 (all identical except for minor cosmetic differences), all THX-approved for FR , power-handling, low-distortion, wide-dispersion, etc. But these use silk-soft-dome tweeters and are a bit more "relaxed"-sounding than the VR10. They would be a better match to your 2a's. Here's the link Again, I am not associated with either company any longer and I have no vested interest in making these comments. I'm very proud of them both, but for you and your 2a's, the AT's are a better match. As a matter of fact, the AT's are the answer for any "What do I use for a center with my Classic AR's in a home theater?" question. AR-2ax's, 5's 3's, 3a's, etc. Use the AT4200/4200e/4400. I voiced them specifically for that when I did them. Steve F.
  10. New AR2 Owner

    That chart is not 100% accurate. Close and a worthwhileeffort, but not airtight. It's a reasonably valuable guide, but many dates and spec details (crossover specs, especially) are slightly off or incomplete. If I ever have the spare time (what a quaint notion that is!) or inclination, I will update it. Hat's off to whoever did this, however--it's an admirable undertaking. The AR-2 and 2a overlapped for a time. The 2a was not a direct "replacement" to the 2, just like the 2ax was not a direct replacement to the 2x. The Classic era always had multiple 10" models in the lineup. David--I got wind of the 4xa in 1973, so I would have been 19 when I said that to my Dad. Steve F.
  11. New AR2 Owner

    From my post almost exactly 13 years ago, 31 March, 2003. This is how AR did their model numbering scheme. It's not confusing, at least not from 1954-1973. So if you've been a long-time reader of my posts, I've covered almost every historical aspect of AR, at some point. March 31, 2003: The subject of AR’s early product naming scheme has always been a focal point of confusion and fascination for audio historians. Any marketing person can tell you that there are two basic ways to name products: You can use alphanumeric designations or actual names. Your products can be named the Audi A4, A6, Acura 3.2 TL, Pontiac 6000, or you can call your products things like Accord, Celebrity, Trinitron, Dustbuster, etc. If you’ve settled on the alphanumeric way of doing things, you then have several more choices to make. The products can be named in ascending or descending order of price/performance, they can be named so the model number gives a description of the product’s features (for example, the Panasonic CT-27R was a 27-inch Color Television with Remote control), or the products can be named chronologically, with each new model given a higher number. This last method is the way AR named their original products. In addition, AR had a consistent, intentional method by which they would add an "a" or "x" suffix to their original model numbers. It held true right up until 1974, which, not coincidentally, is when AR’s marketing and product line offerings went awry. So, in a nutshell, here it is: - An ‘x’ suffix designated a change concerning a cone mid or high frequency driver. - An ‘a’ suffix designated a change concerning a dome mid or high frequency driver. The AR-3 went to the AR-3a—changes in the dome drivers, from 2-inch and 1 3/8-inch to 1 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch. The AR-2 went to the 2a—the 1 3/8-inch dome tweeter was added. The AR-2 became the 2x—the dual 5-inch cones were replaced with the single 3 1/2-inch cone The AR-4 became the 4x—the 3 1/2-inch cone was replaced with the 2 1/2-inch cone. The AR-1 became the 1x—the 8-inch cone was replaced with the 2 1/2-inch cone. The AR-2a became the 2ax—the dual 5-inch cones were replaced with the single 3 1/2-inch cone (The big exception to this whole thing was, of course, the AR-2 series. Early 2ax’s used the 3-style grille cloth and logo—a rectangular brass logo in one corner that had "AR" on it, and the brass "2" in the other corner. Later 2ax’s, like mine, had a new woofer, similar to the AR-5 woofer, the new 3/4-inch tweeter replacing the old 1 3/8-inch fried egg, new crossover frequencies of 1400 and 5000Hz, compared to 2000 and 7500Hz, new white linen grille cloth, and the newer style logo with the red debossed "AR-2ax" lettering. The 2x also went from "old" to "new" with the same changes to the grille and logo, the upgrading from the 3 1/2-inch driver to the 2 1/2-inch driver, and the crossover change from 2000 to 1200Hz. But AR left these model numbers alone, for some reason. I remember speaking to Roy Allison and asking him, when the 4’s and 2x’s 3 1/2-inch drivers were being upgraded to the new 2 1/2-inch unit, why was the 3 1/2-inch driver left in the 2ax? Certainly the new 2 1/2-inch driver was superior—that was the whole reason for using it in the other two speakers—so why was it left in the 2ax? He never gave me a clear answer, saying something along the lines of, "Yes, all things being equal, it would be better to use the new driver with a lower woofer-to-midrange crossover point. However, there are literally dozens of things that are NOT equal in the real world. In any event, the difference between 1200 and 1400Hz would not be considered significant." I have a suspicion that the marketing people didn’t feel comfortable changing all the drivers from the old 2ax to the new 2ax and keeping the same model number. And marketing probably wanted to keep the 2ax designation because by that time, it had some worthwhile marketplace equity. These kinds of things do happen inside companies "in the real world", especially when opposing strong personalities are involved.) But for the most part, the model-numbering scheme was very consistent, very repeatable. So when I heard about the upcoming "AR-4xa" in 1974, I was excited. My dad had 4x’s, and we thought that the 4xa was going to replace the 2 1/2-inch cone tweeter with a new DOME tweeter—an "a" designation indicating a change involving a dome driver— suitable for use in two-way systems. "I bet it’s a 1 1/2-inch dome, with a low enough resonance to use down to around 1500Hz," I said to my father. He wondered if AR would offer a factory upgrade for the 4x, the way there had been for the 3 to the 3a, or the 2 to 2x, and 2a to 2ax. But much to our disappointment, the 4xa did not have a dome tweeter. It had the 1 1/4-inch CONE tweeter from the AR-6. In retrospect, maybe we should have figured out that it would use the 6’s tweeter. After all, how could a lower-priced model have a better tweeter than the best two-way (the AR-6) in the line? Anyway, from this point on, AR’s model numbering scheme went out the proverbial window, and AR entered an almost two-year dark period of marketing ineptitude that persisted until the new line, headed by the 10 and 11, was introduced in 1975. Think of it: AR had three 8-inch, two-way models in the line (the AR-6, AR-4xa, and AR-7), all with the same tweeter and very little to distinguish between them. Each one a good speaker, to be sure, but it was unquestionably faulty marketing and product planning. AR finally did come out with 8-inch two way speakers with dome tweeters (first the AR-16, followed by the AR-15), but they continued to clutter up the line and dissipate their resources with too many 8-inch two-ways: the AR-7 became the AR-18 (a big success), the AR-4xa became the AR-17 (a forgotten, unnecessary speaker). So the AR-4xa was the first AR speaker to break with the original meaning of the "a" and "x" model numbering format, and 4xa’s introduction marked the end of the "old" AR. Steve F.
  12. Was the 3 better than the 3a?

    What you are reporting gives credence to an earlier post of mine (I forget which topic or when it was) which spoke to the importance of spectral balance. The presence or absence of higher frequencies has a dramatic psychological influence on a listener's perception of overall "heaviness" or "brightness." If the 3a suffered from a "weak tweeter" (certainly CU felt that was the case) and the 3a's ferrite/foam woofer had an inferior midrange response to the Alnico 3 woofer, then that's a huge part of the explanation. Here's another question: Did the 3's 1 3/8-inch phenolic tweeter have a higher on-axis level relative to the 3's woofer than did the 3a's 3/4-inch paper tweeter did to the 3a's woofer? We know that the 3a's tweeter had superior dispersion to the 3's tweeter, but that superiority was relative to the tweeter's own on-axis performance, and has nothing whatsoever to do with the overall level of the tweeter relative to the woofer within the system. The 3's on-axis tweeter level relative to the 3'swoofer vs. that question for the 3a is the critical question, in my view. There are no published system FR curves that will answer that, to my knowledge. AR published individual driver FR curves and a quasi-complete 3asystem FR in the 3a "Technical Data" sheet. No corresponding "Data Sheet" exists for the 3, to my knowledge, so there doesn't appear to be any apples-to-apples comparison to make. You have done much 3 and 3a restorative work and critical listening to both systems. What is your impression of the 3's tweeter level relative to the 3's woofer level, and how does it compare to the same question for the 3a? Steve F.
  13. How do you compare speakers?

    Regarding A-B speaker comparisons, all of what has been said here has some validity: The need for level-matching, the need to have the speakers under comparison be similarly-positioned in the room so their placements are affected in close to the same way, ‘blind’ A-B listening, the possible effect that the passive drivers of an un-driven speaker might have on the sound of an actively-playing speaker, although that’s a pretty ethereal consideration for just two pairs in a domestic listening room, and more likely a serious consideration only in a retail showroom, where there might be 10 pairs (20 cabinets’ worth) of passive drivers influencing the sound of any single pair being played at a given time. I find none of the above matters that much in reality, however. I’ve done 100’s of A-B’s over the span of perhaps 45 years in my home, using either manual speaker switchers or amplifier “Speaker A-B” buttons. If the efficiency/level differences are incredibly dramatic, as I select A or B, I turn the volume up or down accordingly at the same time. Close enough. I have found the differences between the 4x/2ax, Large Advent/2ax, Large Advent/3a, ESS 9/3a, 2ax/3a, 3a/11, Connoisseur 50/11, Connoisseur 50/Boston VR40, Atlantic AT-1/AR9, etc., etc. to be so dramatic that within a nanosecond of the very first switchover, the two speaker’s individual tonal signature are indelibly locked into my brain and I knew which one I preferred and what the detailed differences were between them. It takes a mere fraction of a split second. “Oh, I get it. Speaker A does this and Speaker B does that.” A few dB of level difference does not matter one bit. Less than not at all. Nor does switching at the amplifier and having to go back 8-10 feet to sit down in my listening chair. None of that has any impact whatsoever. I have never, ever, ever changed my impressions and opinion of an A-B speaker test because of level, room positioning, program material, being close-up to the speakers when performing the switch, nothing. It takes one switch and then you know absolutely everything, every time, without fail. That’s not to say that you know before the A-B test how the two will stack up. That can be a bit of a surprise. But after one switchover, you know it all. Every single last little bit. Steve F.
  14. Was the 3 better than the 3a? An intriguing question. On “paper,” the 3a was an unquestionably improved design. The drivers with their greatly-improved dispersion, the lowered crossover points, AR’s published power response—all superb and they were all advancements over the 3. (Well, AR never published a system power response curve for the 3, so that is not directly comparable.) Julian Hirsch said of the 3a in his April 1968 review, “The best frequency response we have ever measured using our present test set-up.” There was a published FR curve of the 3 in High Fidelity by Julian several years prior, but it wasn’t particularly uniform or flat, no doubt due to the measurement conditions and environment. As to the 3-3a comparative sound quality, High Fidelity said “what was good has been made unquestionably better.” Julian said that depending on the position of the level controls, “either speaker could be made to sound better than the other,” although he implied that when the controls were set identically, the 3a was better. But the disastrous 1968 Consumer Reports review of the 3a (where CU stripped off the Emperor’s Clothes and said exactly what AR’s harshest critics had been saying all along) really laid it out: that the 3a was thick-sounding, colored in the midrange and the tweeter (although it had a flat, extended response) was too low in level and could not be brought up to the same loudness as the woofer. CU said the 3a’s main problems seemed to be centered on the “new midrange driver.” CU never reported those problems in an earlier test of the 3. Indeed, except for a general sense that the 3 may have been too “polite”-sounding, the 3 never received the very specific “thick” or “colored” criticism from anyone that the 3a often did. So why did the 3a sound “thick”? Its 575 Hz w-to-m xover “should” have resulted in a faster, cleaner, more open-sounding midrange than the 3’s 1000 Hzw-to-m xover, right? And we all just know—without a doubt!—that the AR 12-inch woofer is far too ‘slow’ to take all the way up to 1000 Hz. Roy Allison found a 2dB rise in the 3a’s woofer’s response when measured through the crossover at around 550-600 Hz, and that resulted in a new choke for the 3a a few years into its production life. That is probably the change that accounted for the 3a’s published crossover spec being changed from 575 to 525 Hz. Yes, 550-600 is directly in the “thick”-sounding region. Has anyone here done some extensive A-B listening to properly-functioning 1967 vs. 1971 3a’s? That would be interesting. One thing we all know for sure, courtesy of 20-20 hindsight: the 3a’s thickness was not because of the “new midrange driver.” The AR-11 and 10π used the exact same driver and they didn’t sound thick. For that matter, all 1 ½” AR dome mids were essentially the same, so the 91-58s-78LS also used that driver, and none of those 12-inch 3-ways sounded “thick” either. So what was it? It’s not that the 3a was a bad speaker—it was quite justifiably lauded as one of the best speakers ever made, with amazing dispersion and wide, smooth frequency response. Except for that trace of lower-mid thickness, it was as sweet and musical and unstrained as could be, plus with its phenomenal bass response—bass that has still never been equaled for deep extension, tightness and definition from a 1.48 cu.ft. enclosure. Never, not even close. So, yes, the 3a is a terrific speaker, one that I am proud to own and delighted to listen to. But why does the 3a have that slight lower-mid heaviness that the 3 doesn’t? The $64,000 question. Steve F.
  15. Your thoughts on the 3a, 11 and 303.

    I’ve had the good fortune of enjoying extended AR-3 listening sessions at Adriano’s (Sonnar’s) house in Rome the last two times I’ve been in Italy, visiting our oldest daughter (who’s lived there for over a decade). Listening/hearing impressions are often influenced by the emotional/psychological circumstances present at the time. Here we were in the beautiful city of Rome, in Adrian’s comfortable, welcoming home, listening to a great selection of classic jazz on beautiful vintage AR speakers. To say that it was a wonderful setting would be the understatement of the year. But the 3’s did sound great, regardless of any favorably-biased pre-dispositions I may have had going in. Look, I’ve worked in the US speaker industry for many decades and have helped conceive, design and voice many speakers over that time span, including some that have gone on to be all-time best sellers. I have a pretty decent idea of how a good speaker is supposed to sound. The 3’s were just flat-out terrific. We didn’t A-B them with anything else (Adriano has 3a’s sitting right there), so in all fairness, there was no comparison to another speaker. But I distinctly remember thinking at the time that they were about as nicely-balanced, relaxed and “musical” as a medium-sized bookshelf speaker could be. As much as I love my 3a’s (I also have 9’s in another room), when I play them—and there are no other speakers in that room to A-B them with—I can clearly hear their colorations: that strange “woody/nasal” tendency to the mid and the slightly too-low level of the tweeter. Doesn’t mean I don’t love the 3a—I do—but I can easily hear their character even without directly comparing them to something else. However, Adriano’s 3’s didn’t “call attention to themselves” the way the 3a can. They were simply relaxed, open, unstrained and natural. And the specs are all “wrong.” You “can’t” take an AR 12-inch woofer up to 1000Hz, right? The woofer is too ‘slow,’ it’ll sound thick and muddled in the midrange. Everyone “knows” that. Hogwash. The 3 is totally devoid of the lower-mid thickness that people accuse the 3a of having. And even though the 3a’s ¾-inch tweeter is the ‘best vintage tweeter ever made,’ the 3 never seemed dull or depressed in the highs, whereas the 3a can. Like I said, maybe it was all due to the enjoyable setting and circumstances of those listening sessions. But I know what I heard, using my own CDs. Steve F.