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tysontom

AR-3a vs. Original Large Advent

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In a post in the "Advent" section, one respondent wrote the following about the The Advent Loudspeaker. He sited an opinion that many people had during the early 70s regarding the performance and value of the AR-3a vs. The Advent Loudspeaker. His comments are below:

"Your comparison is set too late in time. The Advent entered the market in '70 or '71 and was pitted against the AR 3a, 5, and 2aX & KLH 5, 6, & 17 line up at that time. The Advent was more than a match for these, and just about stopped sales of those models. At $125 for the veneer cabinet model, and the AR-3a at $225, it was no contest. The Advent sounded better, and was half the price."

This comment regarding the Advent being more than a match for the AR-3a, etc., is right off the Advent sales floor fresh from the early-1970s. It's totally untrue, and unfounded. The original Advent was designed in 1969.

What is true is that the Advent sold for about one-half the list price of the AR-3a, was an excellent value, and resembled the AR-3a in having a low 43-45 Hz. bass resonance. On the other hand, the Advent had a great deal more output in the midrange and treble (read "brightness"), relative to bass, than the 3a, and this gave the illusion that it was superior in the midrange and treble. Nothing could be further from the truth. The AR-3a had better midrange and treble dispersion, which resulted in smoother and flatter acoustic-power response. In the bass, the Advent woofer was no match for the AR-3a woofer once the volumn was cranked up, or if a lot of organ or bass-drum music was present. At high levels, the Advent had significantly higher bass harmonic distortion. At moderate levels, the two were similar. The Advent, being a two-way, had to cross the largish woofer well up in the midrange, and this created roughness in the response and diminished off-axis response in the lower midrange. The Advent's otherwise excellent tweeter was also taxed pretty heavily in the lower midrange as well. It had to be large enough to handle the midrange, yet still be small enough to have decent extension and dispersion -- a difficult compromise for any tweeter, no matter how good.

In the end, The Advent Loudspeaker was a better value than the AR-3a, but it was not a better speaker.

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Hi Tom,

Been away for awhile out at Edwards AFB. Glad to see you're still espousing. Tom, I have a line on a pair of Advent's that are local. They are in real nice cosmetic condition, and have recently been re-foamed. I'm in the process of working this fellow down to $100/pair from $150/pair. I think I have him over a barrel, because his clientele is basically the Bose, or grey wooly dj speaker crowd. But with my luck......

Anyhow, I am a little confused as to what these actually are. I know they are close to the originals but, hey, I'm confused! They have the rounded front cabinet edges, and are labeled on the terminal placard, "The Advent Loudspeaker". What am I chasing?

Also, what can you tell me about ADC 303ax's. I have a nice pair of those in my youngest (13 yrs) daughters room, driven by a Dynaco SCA-80Q. Any history on these? I sold audio around 1974, and only remember having TINY little ADC's that were like little bricks in our showroom. Oldest daughter (17) has my original, '74 vintage KLH 6's in her room.

Toasted Almond

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I'm not as educated on Advents as on ARs, but I think what you might be describing is the original "The Advent Loudspeaker," introduced in late-1969, early-1970, and continued on well into the 1970s. There was a walnut-veneer version that had an outward-facing solid-walnut front cabinet molding (vs. the concave look of the AR-3 and AR-3a molding). The plastic molding strip between the grill cloth and the molding was square at the corners. Advent also offered another version of the same speaker, with a walnut-finish, vinyl-clad utility cabinet. This cabinet resembled the AR-2ax, AR-5 and older KLH-6-style cabinets.

In mid-to-late 1970s, Advent brought out an improved version of The Advent Loudspeaker called "The New Advent Loudspeaker," and I think it was designed (or the improvements were engineered) by Andy Kotsados (currently CEO of Boston Acoustics). It, too, was a superb speaker for the price, and was available in walnut veneer or in a vinyl-clad utility cabinet. "The New Advent Loudspeaker" had a more rounded outward-facing molding, and the plastic insert between the grill and the walnut molding was more rounded at the corners.

--Tom Tyson

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The ADC-303ax's were similar in performance and price to the AR-2ax and KLH-6, and were highly rated ("check-rated," I think) in Consumer Reports during their test of mid-priced speakers. I have some technical data on them somewhere, and I can check further if you wish.

--Tom Tyson

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Hi,

I concur largely with Tom Tyson's assessment of the Advent models. The Original Large Advents were made in two versions. Acoustically they were identical as far as I could tell; I listened to perhaps several dozen pair in various environments in the 1970s; sold many more as hifi sales became my primary job in college, and along the way owned a few pair. One version (the Original Large Advent Utilty) had a very plain veneer cabinet with very square edges; the other version (the Original Large Advent Walnut) looked considerably nicer. The Original Large Advent Walnut cabinet had beveled edges. In my opinion, these two Original Large Advent speakers (the Utility and the Walnut) are the all-time price/performance leaders in speakers, and despite what anyone might say, I have a hunch that if you could find a pair in their originally manufactured condition, nothing that is sold new today for approximately $200-$250 (PER PAIR NEW - which is what the Original Large Advents sold for in the 1970s) would sound any better or be more faithful to the original recording.

Somewhere in the mid 70s (I'm guessing about 1977), Advent introduced the New Large Advent, which had a walnut-looking cabinet. It was similar, but different: different cabinet (the cabinet edges were rounded rather than beveled), different drivers, and I believe the woofer moved from lower (toward the end of the cabinet) to a more central location. By the this time (1977 or so) my interest in hifi equipment had moved to products such as Dahlquists and Audio Research, so I wasn't paying as much attention to Advents as I had a few years earlier - but it was and still is my impression that the New Large Advent struck me as more a way for Advent to reduce cost and improve margin than it was a way to improve the sound; the sound of the New Large Advent did not really equal the Original Large Advent. Advent may have claimed it was improved - maybe it was in terms of specs, but I don't think so in terms of sound. I think the improvement, if any, was only in their margin.

As a hifi sales person for a store that sold a lot of Advents, we were on very good terms with our Advent rep. One day he came to my apartment with the guys from my store, and we demo'd a pair of the Original Large Advents for him. His contention was that electronics had no impact on the sound; he felt that only the transducers (cartridge and speakers) made a difference. We played the Original Large Advents with an Audio Research Dual 76 amp and a Audio Research SP-3A pre-amp and his eyes got as wide as could be; I think he said something to the effect that he never knew Advents could sound like that - and he had been pretty sure they were great before that day.

Bottom Line: If you can find a pair of Original Large Advents in mint condition for anywhere near $200, do yourself a big favor and scoop them up. The Utility cabinet will sound just as good as the Walnut (as long as you get the Originals), but if you can, hold out for the Walnuts - they are pretty nice looking in mint or near mint condition.

(I happen to be on a mission to find a mint pair of Original Large Advent Walnuts myself, as well as a mint pair of AR-3a speakers, especially in Mahogany or Rosewood, otherwise Walnut.... in case anyone runs into either pair (Advents or AR). I'm not going to get into the Advent vs. AR-3a debate; at least not at the moment; Tom T's post on that was pretty close to my view.) Thanks

yadaday@attbi.com

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Yada,

Thanks for the personal message. Hey, forget the stuff about "taking me up on my offer" as I thought you were Ed246 who wants to come over and listen to my AR-9's. If you ARE in Jersey, come on over. I meant what I said about my wife and two daughters, each one wackier than the next. Kind of like "wholewheat" wackos though, instead of the Charles Manson type if you catch my drift. Harmless, but nuts.

I appreciate your candor about those "New" Advent's. Maybe I wont chase them too hard. I'll try and get them loaned out for awhile before I make a decision, although the right side of MY hearing graph looks like Niagara Falls. 25 yrs of driving around on -135 jet tankers will do that to a pair of ears (only 5 yrs to go, I'll be STONE DEAF when I retire at 55). Probably can't even HEAR 10kHz at this point in time, so a lot of my opinions are indeed suspect. Actually, 12 years ago I tore right through a pair of AR-5's trying to hear 10kHz. Got a test disc, and everytime the guy said, "And now a 10kHz tone....", I kept on making it louder and replaying it. I finally heard something alright. I heard the tweeters departing the scene!!!

Thanks for the words,

Toasted Almond

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"In mid-to-late 1970s, Advent brought out an improved version of The Advent Loudspeaker called "The New Advent Loudspeaker," and I think it was designed (or the improvements were engineered) by Andy Kotsados (currently CEO of Boston Acoustics). It, too, was a superb speaker for the price, and was available in walnut veneer or in a vinyl-clad utility cabinet."

Andy did design it. Andy's last name is, of course, Kotsatos, not Kotsados--probably just a typo!!

My recollection of the New Advent was that although it had a smoother and somewhat more refined sound than the original, it did not have the same mid-40's Hz system resonance as the original Advent. Thus, the "Advent value advantage" over AR--having 3a-class bass extension at far lower cost--was gone.

I think the AR-14 and -12 were superior speakers to the New Advent in terms of smoothness and musical accuracy. The AR ADD 10" models had slightly larger internal cabinet volumes compared to the previous-generation AR 10" speakers (the 2 series and the 5), so their deep bass extension was very marginally improved as well. The 12 especially, with its ferro-fluid cooled 2 1/4" cone midrange, is an excellent speaker and a terrific value.

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It is great to have the contributions of Steve F in this forum. He is extremely knowledgeable about the history of Acoustic Research, Advent and related products of this era. He is also current on today's audio technology and marketing strategy -- important in the understanding of audio history. Steve will contribute a great deal to this subject.

My apologies on misspelling Andy Kotsatos name -- a typo.

--Tom Tyson

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I too am (or was an Advent loudspeaker fan.  I own a pair of Advent utility loudspeakers (original owner vintage 1976 and seeking a good home for them.  

 

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There is also a "for sale/wanted" section. Please post your ad there. Also, include price, location and condition.

I always loved the Advents. Still own a pair of OLA (walnut). They sound great and are way easier to maintain than the AR speakers. Tweeters and woofers are readily available and cheap. Plus NO finicky pots!

Welcome and Good luck!

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are way easier to maintain th[an] AR speakers.

 

In retrospect, that is certainly true. Who knew in 1973 what a total pain it would be to still have a properly-functioning set of 3-way second-gen AR Classics 45 years later?

OK, so woofer surround foam rot affects all speakers from that era, but that is pretty easily remedied.

But the problems specific to ARs are really bothersome and some are just not correctable.

For the 2ax (new), 5 and 3a, there is the tweeter issue: those three little blobs that constitute the tweeter ‘surround’ simply degrade and stiffen, reducing the tweeter’s output far below its already “reticent, too-polite” level. When brand new, the 2ax’s/3a’s on-axis tweeter level was 5-6 dB below the woofer level. AR’s own system curves show this. A 40-year-old tweeter with output reduced even farther below that level results in a speaker with barely-audible highs.

The foam dampening button underneath the black ¾” paper dome has long since deteriorated into nothingness. Unfixable (although it’s of uncertain audible impact).

One of our members apparently can re-build those original hard-paper black domes. But as of a year ago, there simply was no remedy to the degraded originals, if you wanted originals.

The pots. Enough said.

Even the off-white linen grilles are unusually prone to glue stains and darkening, and require an inordinately complicated cleaning/bleaching/drying procedure if you want to bring them back.

Sure, it’s worth it. Properly-functioning 3a’s deliver a combination of great sound and amazing nostalgia that’s very tough to beat. But it’s not an undertaking for sissies or the unskilled.

OLA’s on the other hand, seem to be pretty hardy beasts. Just re-do the woofer foam and you’re likely good to go.

Steve F.

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In my case, I never owned the AR3 or AR3a's when I was a young man. Too expensive. Bought the affordable Advents. So all my memories and nostalgia are linked to the Advents.

Much later in life, I purchased AR3a's and restored them. Great sound but not to the point where I can't live without them.

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4 hours ago, Steve F said:

For the 2ax (new), 5 and 3a, there is the tweeter issue: those three little blobs that constitute the tweeter ‘surround’ simply degrade and stiffen, reducing the tweeter’s output far below its already “reticent, too-polite” level. When brand new, the 2ax’s/3a’s on-axis tweeter level was 5-6 dB below the woofer level. AR’s own system curves show this. A 40-year-old tweeter with output reduced even farther below that level results in a speaker with barely-audible highs.

The pots. Enough said.

Steve, your observations are spot on!  Below is an example of that original AR frequency response graph.

My 3a's still sound fairly decent (I am the original owner), and I did NOT spend a fortune restoring. I by passed both pots, and added a padding resistor to the mid to drop it further behind the woofer.  Finally, I bi-amp using just the 3 terminals AR provided.

Then to bring everything back into balance, I simply provide more voltage to the mids/tweeters via the volume control on their dedicated amp. In short, I have moved "voice control" from those pots behind the speakers to the volume controls on my amps. Further, on my latest amp the volume controls exist on a single remote, so altering voice is now a matter of remote clicks.

This was done on my 3a's ten years ago and I have experienced zero problems with this setup. Now, in all fairness, Roy cautioned me ten years ago about the eminent demise of the tweeters. He felt the additional power they now see, will kill them off.  The 3a's are in my den, a very small room, so keeping Roy's advice in mind, I rarely apply more than a watt of power.  At that level the voltage across those tweeters ... well, it isn't very much ... NOT very much at all!  They really aren't being "pushed" that hard and I suspect that is why almost 50 years later they still work and sound better than the original "muted" setup.

Regards,

Jerry

AR-3a-graph.jpg

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Compared to AR 3a/2ax/5, the original large Advent was cheaper.  Had almost the same deep bass response.  Sounded better with rock music.  Could handle more power when playing rock music.   Marketing was designed to appeal to a younger buyer.    Advent hit a home run with their first product.

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I never had a chance to listen to a direct comparison of the 3a or the 2ax to the Large Advent, but I did attend a demonstration put on by an Advent sales rep in 1977 at a local stereo shop that pitted the Large Advent against the AR-11.  The rep was very clever in his setup and his choice of music.  The impressions of the Large Advent by all attending was very positive and some felt that the Advent’s sound was superior to the AR’s. 

On closer inspection, it was obvious that the setups were not exactly “equal”.   The Advents were placed only a few inches from the back wall @ about 6-ft apart, with the high frequency switch set to high.  The AR’s, on the other hand, were placed inside of the Advents @ about 4-ft apart, and over a foot away from the wall.  In addition, the high-range switch on the AR’s was set to -6 db.  Finally, most of the music played during the demonstration was standard rock with limited detail and range.

After the Advent guy left, the store salesman let us rearrange the speakers and adjust the switches.  We also had him use the just released Steely Dan album, Asia, for the comparison.  The difference was like night and day.  The AR’s sounded smoother, far more detailed and possessed a much tighter base.  The Advent sounded muddy in comparison. 

That is not a knock on the Advent.  It is an excellent rock speaker for the price – far better than the KLH 6’s that I owned at the time.  It just is not in the same league as the 11’s.  By the way, I ended up also listening to the AR-14’s, which lead me to selling my KLH 6’s and buying the 14’s.  I know that there are many that won’t agree with me, but the 14 is also a better overall speaker than the Advent.  I still own them today along with a pair of restored 11's and a pair restored 15's that make up a 6.1 system. 

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We’re a bit off-topic now (AR-14 and NLA), but ok, I’ll bite. If it was a 1977 demo of the Advent and AR-11, it had to be the New Advent, not the original. The Original was discontinued in 1976 and a rep would be showing off the latest, and that would be the New. The New was smoother and a bit more refined than the Original, but it didn’t have quite the same deep bass extension.

I remember distinctly doing an extended A-B at a Cambridge MA store between the OLA and the AR-14 in 1976. Except for the very deep bass, the 14 trounced the Advent, making it sound like a honky, over-midrangy mess.

The NLA would have less of a deep-bass advantage over the 14 but would likely have been more competitive with it in the mids and highs.

The 14 was a terrific speaker. Although 10-inch 2-ways have since fallen out of favor because of the extreme midrange beaming by the large woofer before it crosses over to the small tweeter (heck, even 8-inch 2-ways are almost non-existent these days, the norm being 6 ½-inch and 5 ¼-inch 2-ways), a very strong argument can be made that the AR-14 was the very best overall 10-inch 2-way speaker of all those great original New England 10-inch 2-ways: the KLH 6, the Original Large Advent, the New Large Advent and the AR-14. I’d take the 14 over any of them.

Sorry—I don’t consider the AR-2 or AR-2x (either ‘old’ or ‘new’) to have been great 10-inch 2-ways. Good, but not great. The original 2 was also very significant historically, but with its somewhat ragged midrange FR, its necessity of horizontal-only use and its lack of extension above 12-13kHz, it can’t be called “great” by objective standards, once emotion is removed from the evaluation.

Steve F.

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