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Guest leopoldstotch

Best AR Speakers?

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This subject has been bandied about before on the Forum. My interpretation of the “best” question is not ‘Which AR speaker performed the best’, but rather ‘Which AR speaker best embodied the AR design philosophy, had the most dramatic market impact, and garnered the most notoriety,’ as well as, of course, being a great performer.

Using these highly subjective and personal guidelines, my answer is the 3a. The 3a was certainly regarded as a “best” or “near best” speaker in the industry at the time of its introduction. It embodied AR’s design philosophy to the best of their ability (“…the best speaker we know how to make,” said their lit at the time).

Its marketplace impact was unsurpassed by any other AR speaker. The mid-‘60’s to mid-‘70’s was the time period when the stereo marketplace really came of age. This was when the Baby Boomers went to college in droves, and bought mountains of stereo gear. The 3a was king of the hill during that important time period, and the 3a was the target of all the competition, like Advent, EPI, and others. The 3a was the perfect representative of all the was right with AR, and just as importantly, it was the perfect example of all that was WRONG with AR. It was the victim of AR’s suicidal sales/marketing practices of that time, the ill-fated strategies that led to AR’s marketplace downfall. The 3a was the object of disparagement in non-AR retailers, as they turned down level controls and drilled holes in the cabs to ruin the acoustic integrity of the cabs.

In all cases, good and bad, it was the 3a at the fore. Very few, if any, model numbers of products become icons, instantly familiar to people without even mentioning the manufacturer’s name.

But say “3a” to anyone who knows anything about stereo equipment, and they knew instantly what you were talking about.

Steve F.

P.S.—Sherwood Fool- Many of my friends had 7100’s in college because they could easily drive 4-ohm Smaller Advents with their gutsy, honest 20 watts per channel. We had a 7900 at home for years. My Dad’s 2ax’s and 4x’s loved it.

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A little off topic and I apologize, but this made me do some mental searching about the first (and only)"complete system" I ever bought. It was a Sherwood S7100A with a set of E-V speakers whose model I can't recall. They were about the size of my 2ax's if I remember, and sounded nice with the Sherwood. Don't recall the TT/cartridge other than the TT was Garrard. The dealer sent along a huge FM antenna.

And that's the interesting part to me. It was my first large mail-order purchase. Bought it from an outfit as I recall in San Luis Obispo (Pacifc Stereo maybe?) and had it shipped all the way to GA. Took a real leap of faith for me but it worked out well. I had already blown the tweets in my 2ax's so never got to try them with the Sherwood, sadly. But I remember the system fondly, and wish I could remember what the E-V's were.

Thanks for the indulgence down memory lane.

Ed

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>A little off topic and I apologize, but this made me do some

>mental searching about the first (and only)"complete

>system" I ever bought. It was a Sherwood S7100A with a

>set of E-V speakers whose model I can't recall. They were

>about the size of my 2ax's if I remember, and sounded nice

>with the Sherwood. Don't recall the TT/cartridge other than

>the TT was Garrard. The dealer sent along a huge FM antenna.

>

>And that's the interesting part to me. It was my first large

>mail-order purchase. Bought it from an outfit as I recall in

>San Luis Obispo (Pacifc Stereo maybe?) and had it shipped all

>the way to GA. Took a real leap of faith for me but it worked

>out well. I had already blown the tweets in my 2ax's so never

>got to try them with the Sherwood, sadly. But I remember the

>system fondly, and wish I could remember what the E-V's were.

>

>Thanks for the indulgence down memory lane.

>

>Ed

Probably obvious, but I should have said early '70's.

Ed

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Probably EV Interface: A's.

A very cleverly-designed speaker that sounded very good and garnered EV some of its only real consumer-market attention in that time period.

Steve F.

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The question has to be asked best at doing what? I don't think any one AR model was best at everything. Two top contenders were LST and AR9. Each was a landmark product which in certain important ways represented a departure from previous AR models while preserving the basic design philosophy and technology. Each was introduced to overcome at least one problem which couldn't be solved by merely introducing a previous model with mere evolutionary improvements. It is not fair to say that LST was an AR3a on steroids. It took on a the problem of the basic limitation of the three way box speaker, it's inability to reconcile flat on axis frequency response and flat total radiated power response. The arrayed midrange and particularly tweeter drivers not only increased power handling capability, it overcame the high frequency dispersion limitation of even the excellent AR 3/4" tweeter, remarkable to this day with only a 5 db dropoff at 15 khz 60 degrees off axis. I still don't know of a single tweeter which can match that performance. But it clearly wasn't good enough and AR engineers must have known it. In a way, it harkened back to the Janzen electrostatic tweeter which was also a kind of array but LST's solution was far more practical. Not only did it solve this problem, in increased the usable best listening area in real rooms. But it did not solve the load sharing problem of having to cover 10 audible octaves with three ranges of drivers each only capable of handling 2 1/2 octaves. All attempts by AR and others at solving this were compromises which inevitably sacrificed something audibly important. The answer to that problem along with others was solved when AR9 came along literally boldly blowing the problem out of the water with a 4 way design just a Jason solved the unsolvable Gordian knot by cutting it with a sword. Not only did this solve the transition from woofer to midrange far better than previous models but allowed the 12" drivers to function as true built in subwoofers and by providing two of them in a single double sized enclosure they created one of the very best low frequency reproducers ever, bettering in that regard (low frequencies) even their previous best design considerably in every way. They also solved the transition of low bass to mid bass design very cleverly with the side mounted subwoofers and the front mounted lower midrange. Tim Holl's write-up on this site explains it very well. But they did NOT provide the mid and high frequency dispersion advantages of LST and IMO, LST is still best in that category.

Having experimented with AR9 for over 20 years now, I have concluded that considerable improvement in accuracy can be made by adding an indirect firing array of tweeters providing over 90% of the sound above 6 khz and rebalancing the voicing of the speakers using both the built in program controls and a graphic equalizer. The result is what to my ears is by far the most accurate speaker I have ever heard reproducing the sound of musical instuments more truely on more recordings than any other speaker. Recently, listening to many modern sound systems including Van Schweikerts, Martin Logan Summits, and a vast array of systems at Vacuum Tube Valley's show in Piscataway NJ last May, I had no desire to trade for anything I heard including a $400,000 system which used a pair of $125,000 Audio Note speakers. They were simply no match for my enhanced AR9s. This is the speaker to own if you can find it. My only regrets...haveing passed up the opportunity to acquire more of them.

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..........Having experimented with AR9 for over 20 years now, I have concluded that considerable improvement in accuracy can be made by adding an indirect firing array of tweeters providing over 90% of the sound above 6 khz and rebalancing the voicing of the speakers using both the built in program controls and a graphic equalizer. The result is what to my ears is by far the most accurate speaker I have ever heard reproducing the sound of musical instuments more truely on more recordings than any other speaker. Recently, listening to many modern sound systems including Van Schweikerts, Martin Logan Summits, and a vast array of systems at Vacuum Tube Valley's show in Piscataway NJ last May, I had no desire to trade for anything I heard including a $400,000 system which used a pair of $125,000 Audio Note speakers. They were simply no match for my enhanced AR9s. This is the speaker to own if you can find it. My only regrets...haveing passed up the opportunity to acquire more of them.

soundminded

Have you compared your improved 9's to Bose 801 or 901? It sounds from your description very much like Amar's approach to indirect firing of a high frequency array of speakers and use of a graphic equalizer. Obviously, I haven't seen your speakers, so I could be completely off base here.

Remember, it's all about the music

Carl

Carl's Custom Loudspeakers

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Hi Frank, Here is the rest of PL story. I liked the way my PL 400 sounded and that is why I upgraded to 700 series II (more power to crank those Allisons and stay competitive with my brother!)It had a left channel problem that sent it the shop several times and back to PL twice before they finally replaced it. I opened my replacement 700 Series II and it didn't sing, it hummed in one channel, albeit a low level hum. I sold it with full disclosure of the hum to a co-worker that seemed not to mind the hum. I don't mean to dis PL as I wanted very badly for it to work very well! I know the Series II's were made after Carver sold the company and I don't know how much the guts differed from a 700B. As I said my brother's 700B gave years of great service before the problems started. I've also had plenty of other equipment crap out over the years including Luxman, Counterpoint, and even some Dynaco Mark III's. Sparks happen or is it spark happens?

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As luck would have it, I also own a pair of original Bose 901s. Long sitting dormant in storage for a couple of decades, I've been experimenting with them as well during the last 3 to 4 years. They remained in excellent condition. IMO they had 2 serious flaws. They could not reproduce high frequencies above 10khz and even with their equalizer they do not have anything close to flat frequency response in the range they are capable of. I think their inability to reproduce the highest octave of sound results from the high inertia of their 4" cones. They have a significant upper bass/lower midrange peak in the 200 to 500 hz region. Their low bass output even with a 6db/octave boost starting around the 180 hz system resonance frequency is also insufficient to achieve the deepest bass consistant with the 1 khz output level and so requires even more equalization and power. This is not surprising since acoustic suspension speakers such as this have a 12db/octave falloff. A good design would be to stack 2 to 4 pairs with about 1000 watts per channel available power. I've added a high frequency tweeter array to them using biamplification with a 6 db/ octave crossover around 9 khz. I've increased the reflected/direct ratio in this region from 8:1 for the rest of the spectrum to 12:1 to compensate for what I call "spectral reflection distortion" that is the speaker/room combination's inability to deliver flat power transfer response to the listener even when the radiating pattern is uniform due to differential absorption/reflection of the room boundaries.

The result can be made similar to results with AR9 but with the advantages of the direct/reflecting characteristics. It also isn't possible to compare the ultimate deep bass capabilities because of the 135wpc available from the largest amplifier I've got which in this case is marginal even in a small room. One project I have in mind is to build a direct/reflecting speaker using the principles of my enhanced AR9. It promises to be a humdinger.

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>One project I have in mind is to build a direct/reflecting speaker using the principles of my enhanced AR9. It promises to be a humdinger.<

A project I'd actually spend the money on, if it were doable, would be a pair of speakers on the MGC-1 model, with everything optimized.

It's the room, more than anything else, that keeps me from being content with what I already own. As far as I can tell, the MGC-1 was the first speaker to take-on the room, not merely using unknowable parameters of the room for reflected sound, but *controlling* the primary reflections insofar as time and amplitude.

I never got to hear a pair of MGC-1s, but I think I see where Ken was going and why. I'm sorry that he didn't get the opportunity to optimize the design exactly the way he wanted (he's made comments about the bass - evidently he wasn't satisfied but had to be practical).

10pi's pulled into the room, raised considerably off the floor, angled-in about 23-25 degrees in a triangle to the sweet spot is as close as I have come to having the cabinets disappear entirely. Now, if I could get *that* with the 9's addition of the 8" driver. . . holy cow!

And if I could get it in a more "modern" MTM design with multiple radiating planes, and I could control those planes and not have to just settle for whatever comes out of them (eg LST), I'm betting I would never leave my listening-room except to answer the door when UPS brought more and more music for me to hear.

And I'll bet, with today's technology, the speaker that could be built just going back to the MGC-1 and "optimizing" it, would be something to experience. I'll also bet it would retail for $35,000 and I couldn't afford it.

But it's fun to speculate about.

Bret

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Bret,

One of my fantasy projects for this Fall, (post-AES), is to get my old MGC-1's running again. Some day, I'd like to do something along the same lines, but with modern DSP.

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>Large and Dyna A-25. Everybody drolled over AR3a's(remember

>that AR listening room in Grand Central?) but nobody could

>afford that($300ea)!!

Hi all,

I was raised in New York, and went everywhere by bicycle.

A wonderful thing about the AR room was that you could waltz in

with a bicycle and they wouldn't complain. (at least not in 1972 :-)

I went in quite often and one time found myself alone with

the AR person, and we spent a bunch of time (Did I mention the

AR room was air conditioned, and it was often as hot as it is

now in NYC) comparing the LST's with the AR-3a's back to back.

They were both, of course, new. The AR-3a's were consistently

what I would call cleaner than the LST's. Of course, you stood

well back from the speakers in the AR room, and they were in

regal splendour on a great big wall, so dispersion issues weren't

nearly the problem they might be in a less optimal listening

situation.

The AMP was the old brass front AR solid state amp, and the

source was an AR turntable. I remember EL&P and the Chicago under

Reiner on RCA as sources, but there were lots.

You're right about not even dreaming about owning them,

it was another 11 years before I had a pair of my own. :-)

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My favorite sounding AR's thus far are the AR3a's. Of course, this is just my opinion.

There is no question that listening habits, room size/acoustics, setup and equipement will alter one's opinion(s).

I have owned and/or auditioned AR2, AR2ax, AR4x and AR3a.

Best 'bang per buck' speaker award goes to AR4x. Maybe I'd include AR7 but I still have not gotten my hands on a pair as of yet.

I plan on owning AR9 one day. Maybe, if the sun, moon & stars are perfectly aligned, I could find an inexpensive minty pair of LSTs - but I doubt that would ever happen.

-Cheers

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