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Edgar Villchur, 1917 - 2011

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tysontom    0

Edgar Villchur, 1917-2011

I learned this afternoon that Edgar Villchur died in his sleep in Woodstock, NY. He was 94 years old.

Edgar Villchur died in his Woodstock home on Monday, October 17, 2011 at the age of 94. He was an inventor, educator, and writer. His 1954 invention of the acoustic suspension loudspeaker revolutionized the field of high-fidelity equipment, providing better bass response than was previously possible, at the same time radically reducing the size of the cabinet. He received a patent for that invention as well as for the dome tweeter, which greatly improved the ability of loudspeakers to reproduce accurate high-end sounds. His AR-3 speaker is on display in the Smithsonian Institute’s Information Age Exhibit in Washington, DC. Acoustic Research, Inc. (AR), of which he was president from 1952 to 1967, manufactured high-fidelity loudspeakers, turntables, and other stereo components of his design. After leaving AR, he went into hearing aid research and developed the multichannel compression hearing aid, whose basic design has become the industry standard for hearing aids.

Villchur received his Master’s degree from City College in art history, and was headed for a career as a scenic designer. World War II changed those plans, and he was trained in maintenance and repair of radios, radar, and other equipment. He was stationed in New Guinea, where he rose to the rank of captain and was in charge of the electronic equipment for his Army squadron. Later, he served in the Philippines and on Okinawa.

After the war, he opened a shop in Greenwich Village where he repaired radios and built custom home high fidelity sets. He continued to educate himself in the area of audio engineering, taking night courses in mathematics and engineering. After submitting an article to Audio Engineering magazine (later renamed Audio), he was asked to write a regular column. He also taught a course in his special area of interest, Reproduction of Sound, at the night school at New York University. He wrote three books and over one hundred and fifty articles on acoustics and sound reproduction, including two articles written at the age of ninety.

Although he considered himself a scientist and a researcher, he was very successful as a businessman. As president of AR, Villchur was known for progressive employment practices and innovative advertising techniques. AR used equal opportunity employment practices, and employees received health insurance and profit sharing—benefits which were highly unusual in any but the largest firms in the 1950s and 1960s. The company was also known for its liberal repair policies, fixing most products for free no matter how old they were, and in general providing excellent customer service. AR’s advertising was distinct from the sensationalistic ads of its competitors, instead concentrating on technical information, reviews by impartial critics, and endorsements from well-known musicians and other personalities who actually used Acoustic Research components.

In 1967, Villchur sold AR to Teledyne, and went back to working as a researcher. He chose the field of hearing aids, since he felt that there was considerable room for improvement in these devices. He spent several years investigating the problem in his home laboratory in Woodstock, NY. By 1973, he had come up with multichannel compression, a revolutionary concept in hearing aid design. Rather than apply for a patent, he decided to publish his findings and make them available to anyone who wanted to use them. Resound, a hearing aid company in California, worked with Villchur to produce a compression hearing aid. Over the next two decades, Villchur’s design became the industry standard for hearing aids.

Villchur lived in Woodstock from 1952 until his death. Music and art were very important to him, and he served on the boards of Maverick Concerts and of the Woodstock Artists’ Association for many years. He was a friend, advisor, and benefactor to countless organizations and individuals in the community.

He is survived by his wife, Rosemary (Romy) Villchur, to whom he had been married for sixty-six years; his son, Mark Villchur of Boston; his daughter, Miriam Villchur Berg, of Woodstock; and many devoted friends who considered themselves, and were considered by him, members of his family.

For more information, see the Wikipedia article “Edgar Villchur” and its accompanying bibliography and links, as well as his personal website, edgarvillchur.com. He was a great philanthropist, and supported many local organizations, including Family of Woodstock, The Woodstock Emergency Rescue Squad, the Woodstock Fire Department, the Woodstock Library, Maverick Concerts, and the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum. Donations in his name can be made to any of those organizations.

--Tom Tyson

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JKent    0

Thank you Tom. And THANK YOU Edgar!

Kent

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dynaco_dan    0

Edgar Villchur, 1917-2011

I learned this afternoon that Edgar Villchur died in his sleep in Woodstock, NY. He was 94 years old.

--Tom Tyson

Hi Tom

Thank you for posting this here.

I never met or talked to Edgar but he certainly had a very positive effect to my personal life.

He made quite a positive difference to our world and will be missed by many.

My condolences go out to his family and friends.

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I, too, never met or spoke to Mr. Villchur, but the loudspeakers he helped create have enhanced my appreciation of music in a profound way. Perhaps others here feel the same. Considering how important music is to all of us, that's quite a legacy. God bless him.

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Steve F    0

Thank you Tom, for writing such a detailed, accurate, no-nonsense tribute to Mr. Villchur.

He would have approved, since your write-up was perfectly in keeping with the "style" of those great Classic AR speakers, and indeed, perfectly in keeping with the manner in which he ran AR.

Steve F.

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genek    0

My first thought was to say something like "end of an era," but truth be told, Mr. Villchur had already moved on to create at least one more new era after Acoustic Research's time had come and gone. The hearing aid technology he invented after departing AR achieved a dominance in its field that far exceeded AR's best market share in loudspeakers.

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npt3    0

I would argue (and it is a crime that this point has not yet been made in the press) that his work was as transformational as the Walkman (and, later, the iPod) was to how people enjoyed, lived and loved music. After the AR-1 and AR-3a, "regular folk" could not only afford extremely high-quality gear, but they did not have to arrange their entire rooms/homes around it, and in fact could put their kit into any room they wanted, from small apartment-dwellers to ranch-house owners. After the AR-XA, LPs could be listened to at their full potential. And the Amplifier tied it all together, and stylishly, too. And I don't think that it's an accident that the rise in music creativity and recording studio innovations in the early 60's (Beatles/George Martin, et al.) coincided with AR's rise.

Thanks, Edgar.

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Carlspeak    0

Here's another youtube video where EV describes in some detail his development of the acoustic suspension loudspeaker.

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npt3    0

The NYT Bits podcast this week discusses Villchur in the week's news (after Steve Jobs). Not much more new information than what was in the NYT obit, but it was touching that Jobs and Villchur were tied together by the Paper Of Record.

Pathetic beyond belief that our own Boston Globe has yet to run something on him, in the birthplace of American audio.

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Carlspeak    0

Pathetic beyond belief that our own Boston Globe has yet to run something on him, in the birthplace of American audio.

The BAS should be outraged.

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