Steve F

Should the AR-5 have been a 12" Speaker?

65 posts in this topic

54 minutes ago, Steve F said:

The 10" AR-5 was a factual flop. You can defend it and justify it

None of my comments yet have been in defense of the actual AR-5. You will get no argument from me that it was a huge sales success - - indeed it was not - - but to use this benchmark as the only yardstick to measure a product's overall quality presents an extremely limited obituary. In fact, the first sentence of this belabored thread exalts the AR-5 based on performance, and many here will be in full agreement with this statement, myself included. After making the performance statement, to later come out with flop flop flop flop flop seems rather disingenuous after first calling it "a great-sounding speaker". Is this a symptom of bean counter myopia?

Flop in sales? OK, you win, we all agree. Flop in performance? Nope, no way, Jose. 

I've certainly got no dog (AR-5's) in this race - - these thoughts are only a simple challenge to what I see as a flawed argument. 

To der, I think the same synopsis could hold up here regarding the LST-2. Excellent loudspeaker with very tepid sales. Nonetheless, I'd love to own a pair.  

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12 minutes ago, Steve F said:

The LST-2 could've and should've been a 12-inch speaker also, and I have posted a very detailed cost analysis and proposed driver/design layout for that as well in past posts. It could have easily hit $400 ea. (like the actual LST-2), would have sold like crazy and been a huge success. We all would've bought them.

But I'm in enough hot water over this "12-inch 2ax" thing, so I'm going to leave that one alone for the time being. But trust me.......

Steve

I've always wanted a pair of LST but never desired the LST2.  I guess I'm on your side Steve. 

der

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I'm talking sales and marketplace performance, which to me, as a businessperson in the speaker industry, is what counts.

The actual 5 and LST-2 (I owned LST-2's!) were indeed great-sounding speakers, even though they were commercial failures.

The owner of a company I worked for (he shall go unnamed) came up with a truly memorable line, one that has stayed with me for all this time:

"We're not here to save the world from bad sound."

Indeed we weren't. If we could sell more by making a better-sounding and better-performing product, then so be it. A competitive edge in engineering, great review bragging rights, Editor's Choice awards, etc. was a means to an end, not an end unto itself. As rabid hobbyists (I'm guilty of this myself), we tend to ascribe pure motives to the designers and owners of hi-fi companies. The truth is, we wanted dealers and end customers to love our products, not for some religious reason of sonic enlightenment, but so they would buy them. Oftentimes, the sometimes conflicting requirements of"beautifully engineered," "love the product" and "great selling" nicely coincided and we felt quite pleased with ourselves.

Other times, we looked the other way, cashed the checks and fed our families. The AM-5 is a credible product, even if it's not your cup of tea and even if Bose knows there's a huge hole at 160Hz, where the sub and sats fail to meet up. 

Marketplace competition usually pushes hobbyist equipment to ever-higher levels of performance, which is good. But sometimes, a knowingly cynical inferior product that has higher sales potential will carry the day. You can only understand this for certain when you're on this side of the fence and you want your payroll checks to clear so no one misses their rent.

Steve F.

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Disregarding price the only way an AR5 makes sense is as an AR3a mimic for chamber music lovers or perhaps acoustic jazz.  I have both. Once you have the 3 or 3a the 5 is an oddball that can't satisfy in a lot of situations.  IMO AR didn't see the Advent coming and never mounted a credible response for whatever reason.  Teledyne, a conglomerate, took over at the dawn of the Advent era, by default trusted AR management who proceeded to do nothing but ride it out. They were myopic and perhaps a little too familiar with Henry Kloss to accurately assess the threat.  The hypothetical cost and  price of what could have been don't matter because AR never really responded for almost the entire life of the OLA.  Its not like they actually made something and just priced it wrong.

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1 hour ago, Aadams said:

Disregarding price the only way an AR5 makes sense is as an AR3a mimic for chamber music lovers or perhaps acoustic jazz.  I have both. Once you have the 3 or 3a the 5 is an oddball that can't satisfy in a lot of situations.  IMO AR didn't see the Advent coming and never mounted a credible response for whatever reason.  Teledyne, a conglomerate, took over at the dawn of the Advent era, by default trusted AR management who proceeded to do nothing but ride it out. They were myopic and perhaps a little too familiar with Henry Kloss to accurately assess the threat.  The hypothetical cost and  price of what could have been don't matter because AR never really responded for almost the entire life of the OLA.  Its not like they actually made something and just priced it wrong.

>Disregarding price the only way an AR5 makes sense is as an AR3a mimic for chamber music lovers or perhaps acoustic jazz.  I have both. Once you have the 3 or 3a the 5 is an oddball that can't satisfy in a lot of situations.  IMO AR didn't see the Advent coming and never mounted a credible response for whatever reason. 

Aadams,

Good message.

The AR-5 came nearly two years prior to the introduction of The Advent Loudspeaker, so we can hardly blame AR because they "didn't see the Advent coming and never mounted a credible response for whatever reason."  I see your thinking—and it's certainly rational, particularly in view of all of the obtuse "back-and-forth" conversation from Steve and me—but there was absolutely no idea in anyone's mind—not the least Henry Kloss' mind—that a successful 2-way speaker would be on the horizon that would dig into everyone's product market and start to eat AR's lunch in the AR-3a and AR-5 market-segment.  The sheer success of The Advent Loudspeaker was happenstance, not a contrived design to put a hurting on the old AR stalwarts.  The Advent came out of necessity to generate much-needed money.

After KLH was sold to Singer in 1964, things (for a number of reasons) began to go downhill for Henry Kloss, and he left KLH and started Advent in 1967 with the idea of developing Dolby tape recorders, inexpensive Dolby noise processors and his earlier Videobeam televisions, but he soon ran out of money and needed to find a way to fund these ambitious projects.  He certainly knew how to design speakers, so why not another new speaker?  What was needed was a cash cow.  Kloss basically stumbled into the huge success of the Advent.  

Actually, he did have great vision, and his experience at AR and KLH taught him what was needed: AR-1 bass with great treble response in an inexpensive speaker for the high-fidelity masses.  The KLH Six before it had been highly successful because it had the good treble response of his first full-range speaker, the miserably unsuccessful KLH Four.  The Four did it all well, but it was too expensive at $231.00 in 1957.  The Six sold like crazy because it had smooth and wide-response treble and was an excellent speaker for the price point, but it lacked the low-end power of the big AR or the KLH Four, not far behind.  

In 1969, Kloss' thinking was to have a KLH Six speaker with the KLH Four bass for less money than either: enter The Advent Loudspeaker.  I really don't think anyone saw it coming until it was too late. 

>Teledyne, a conglomerate, took over at the dawn of the Advent era, by default trusted AR management who proceeded to do nothing but ride it out. They were myopic and perhaps a little too familiar with Henry Kloss to accurately assess the threat.  The hypothetical cost and  price of what could have been don't matter because AR never really responded for almost the entire life of the OLA.  Its not like they actually made something and just priced it wrong.

I think you are right about AR's myopic "Old Guard" management team.  When Teledyne purchased AR in 1967, Teledyne's CEO, Henry Stapleton, had agreed to Ed Villchur's demand to allow top AR management stay in place (thus policy) for five years.  Teledyne had some of their people at AR doing things during this time, but AR's old management team, Abe Hoffman, Roy Allison and Gerald Landau, ran the company pretty much the way it had always been done in the previous years, but the design genius of Edgar Villchur was now gone.  Roy and Chuck McShane were hard at work on new products, such as the AR-3a and a year later, the AR-5.  An improved AR-2ax came in 1970.  The AR-6, the AR-LST and so forth.  Sales continued to rise, but market-share began to steadily drop from the 1966 32.3%, and this was in the direct cross hairs of Teledyne management. 

In 1972, Teledyne took over AR from top to bottom with their people.  Roy wasn't offered a new plan with the company, and he soon departed.  Plans were made to move the company to Norwood for 1973, and a lot of R&D money was invested in an entirely new product line in 1975 and yet another new line in 1978, and so on.  Interestingly, the first thing that was done in Norwood to try to combat the success of the Advent was the AR-8.  It was too late, of course.

All that said, I still think the (earliest) AR-5 was one of AR's best speakers.  Yes, it lacks that last -octave of deep bass, but it makes up for it with smoothness and lack of "heaviness," sometimes a criticism of the AR-3a with some of the earlier ferrite-woofer versions.  The AR-5 was just too expensive to compete with the Advent, and it was close enough in cost to the AR-3a that customers frequently sprung for the $150 additional bucks to move up to a pair of the "best" loudspeakers money could buy at the time.

—Tom Tyson

 

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Again, this has been an extremely interesting read, with so many well-structured opinions and valuable insight from knowledgeable insiders.

Never having owned a new Advent - I strongly preferred the 2ax in the same price range - it seemed to me that the speaker was a nice-looking, well-marketed product, with good-enough performance and a dedicated dealer network that was motivated to promote and sell what was essentially a price-protected budget box with a wooly-sounding woofer that could cross over at a high enough frequency to satisfy a tweeter that lacked the sophistication of the AR dome.

That the Advent could play rock at reasonable levels, with decent bass response, and didn't sound half-bad with Jazz or Classical, it was still my feeling that it did not better the 2ax in overall sonic presentation or accuracy.

In retrospect, I'd say that Advent's success was as much due to their dealer network's ability to make a strong profit with a $128 box & incentivize their $alesmen, than to any practical or performance advantage the speaker might have had over less-profitable, but possibly better-sounding offerings from AR, and the like.

In other words, AR got beaten at marketing, not engineering. Someone would still need to be motivated to sell that low-margin hypothetical 12" AR-5.

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9 hours ago, tysontom said:

>Disregarding price the only way an AR5 makes sense is as an AR3a mimic for chamber music lovers or perhaps acoustic jazz.  I have both. Once you have the 3 or 3a the 5 is an oddball that can't satisfy in a lot of situations.  IMO AR didn't see the Advent coming and never mounted a credible response for whatever reason. 

Aadams,

Good message.

The AR-5 came nearly two years prior to the introduction of The Advent Loudspeaker, so we can hardly blame AR because they "didn't see the Advent coming and never mounted a credible response for whatever reason.

 

Great post and I want to make a clarification. 

I was not saying the AR 5 was a pre-emptive response to the OLA.  I was saying, It really has a limited appeal if a 3 is equally accessible. 

Also, with regard to the OLA; AR just plain never responded even though they were the go to bass brand for at least 15 years. IMO the 5 was ARs attempt to spread the blessings of AR3 power response and smoothness down market to a yearning mass of sophisticated ears when, as you so eloquently stated, the down market was in fact mostly about the visceral bass hit and sizzle at a value price point.  I will say,once again, in those days I would have preferred the Advent.  I was such a rookie.

PS  This entire thread is a about how the disregard  of 4 musical notes reshaped an industry. We are literally talking about 3 or possibly 4 tempered pitches of sound over a span of 8hz.

Adams

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Dr Floyd Toole has said (fairly recently) that how the bass sounds accounts for about 30% of a loudspeaker's appeal. Back in the days of the Advent vs AR-5 I believe how the bass came across was probably even more important to a prospective buyer. So no surprises that the Advent at its price point did very well.

I suppose there is a point where the mid and treble have to be 'good enough' to get the sale and the Advent easily met that criteria.

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The AR5's were my first high fidelity speakers.  The bass was clean and tight when driven by a 40 watt/channel Dynaco SCA-80Q.   No one who listened to my pair ever said that they were deficient in the low end, including a close friend who was gifted his AR3a's.   In the summer of 1977, I had the very good fortune to obtain a new fully-assembled Dynaco Stereo-400 for $250.   Driven by this 200 watt/channel amp, the AR5's achieved a remarkable step change in improved performance throughout the whole audio spectrum, including clarity, detail and bass response...effectively, less "compression."   Simply put, they are yet another power-hungry vintage AR speaker which needs loads of amplifier headroom to manifest what they can truly do.    That pair went to my cousin in 1978 when I got the AR9's.   He still has them and still loves them.

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14 hours ago, ar_pro said:

Again, this has been an extremely interesting read, with so many well-structured opinions and valuable insight from knowledgeable insiders.

Never having owned a new Advent - I strongly preferred the 2ax in the same price range - it seemed to me that the speaker was a nice-looking, well-marketed product, with good-enough performance and a dedicated dealer network that was motivated to promote and sell what was essentially a price-protected budget box with a wooly-sounding woofer that could cross over at a high enough frequency to satisfy a tweeter that lacked the sophistication of the AR dome.

That the Advent could play rock at reasonable levels, with decent bass response, and didn't sound half-bad with Jazz or Classical, it was still my feeling that it did not better the 2ax in overall sonic presentation or accuracy.

In retrospect, I'd say that Advent's success was as much due to their dealer network's ability to make a strong profit with a $128 box & incentivize their $alesmen, than to any practical or performance advantage the speaker might have had over less-profitable, but possibly better-sounding offerings from AR, and the like.

In other words, AR got beaten at marketing, not engineering. Someone would still need to be motivated to sell that low-margin hypothetical 12" AR-5.

I think this is accurate; "AR got beaten at marketing, not engineering," and in one way or another, this concept has been emphatically repeated by Steve F and others regarding AR's feeble attempt at marketing its products.  I do think this conflates the marketing practices of the 1980s and 1990s—such as at Boston Acoustics and others—with practices of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.  There were transformational changes in the way companies did business in these intervening years, and AR's marketing practices in the first two decades were totally different and would not be viable in the 1980s, yet AR commanded such dominance in the high-fidelity speaker market during those early years, it is hard to criticize the company.  It was also the reason that Teledyne, the prestigious aerospace-engineering company, was so interested in acquiring Acoustic Research in the late 1960s. 

However, by the time Teledyne fully took the reins around 1972, AR's traditional, Ed Villchur-mandated, laissez-faire method of marketing was passé and obsolete; no longer could the company depend on pace-setting technology, customer service and engineering superiority to steer itself into market domination.  For years the classic AR, Inc. had thumbed its nose at hi-fi dealers—basically treating them all the same regardless of volume of business—relied on superior engineering and product quality to outsell its competitors—which it clearly did from 1954 until after 1967.  Abe Hoffman, symbolic of this earlier time, used to say, "customers beat a path to our door, and the products sell themselves," which was 100% correct for the first decade of business at AR. 

Teledyne AR was in a pickle to try to win back dealers by offering bigger discounts, more sales aids, spiffs, holdbacks and other traditional industry sales gimmicks for dealers to promote products.  Peter Dyke, a bright Director of Marketing at Teledyne AR in the mid-1970s, worked tirelessly to reinstate many disgruntled former AR dealers, and he did a remarkably good job of rebuilding the dealership network.  Allied Radio and Lafayette were no longer the main selling tools for the industry; dedicated, franchised-audio dealers were the way by the time Teledyne took charge, so this was a difficult task.

Musical tastes were changing, too, and high-fidelity buyers were now younger and listened less to classical and jazz, but more to popular and rock music, thus the "smooth, low-distortion AR sound" was not as important as in the fifties and sixties.

—Tom Tyson

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14 hours ago, ar_pro said:

Again, this has been an extremely interesting read, with so many well-structured opinions and valuable insight from knowledgeable insiders.

Never having owned a new Advent - I strongly preferred the 2ax in the same price range - it seemed to me that the speaker was a nice-looking, well-marketed product, with good-enough performance and a dedicated dealer network that was motivated to promote and sell what was essentially a price-protected budget box with a wooly-sounding woofer that could cross over at a high enough frequency to satisfy a tweeter that lacked the sophistication of the AR dome.

That the Advent could play rock at reasonable levels, with decent bass response, and didn't sound half-bad with Jazz or Classical, it was still my feeling that it did not better the 2ax in overall sonic presentation or accuracy.

In retrospect, I'd say that Advent's success was as much due to their dealer network's ability to make a strong profit with a $128 box & incentivize their $alesmen, than to any practical or performance advantage the speaker might have had over less-profitable, but possibly better-sounding offerings from AR, and the like.

In other words, AR got beaten at marketing, not engineering. Someone would still need to be motivated to sell that low-margin hypothetical 12" AR-5.

The low-margin hypothetical AR-5 with the AR-3a woofer, AR-2ax 3.5-inch midrange and the 3/4-inch tweeter would have ruined AR's reputation, and the company would never have attempted such a speaker.  It would have tanked the sales of the AR-3a and it would be ridiculed as a "sooped-up" AR-2ax.  Yeah, hypothetically, the "parts-bin" thinking is appealing and looks like a no-brainer, but on closer look, it would have harmed AR's viability.  As they say, "a great hypothesis slain by an ugly fact."

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Interesting post, if unprovable.

The hypothetical 12-inch 2ax was no more “parts bin engineering” than the AR-5, which was simply a 10-inch version of the 3a in a 2ax cabinet. Granted, the 5 had a sort of “unique” 10-inch woofer (for a very short time only), but the rest was classic parts-bin think.

The phrase “low margin” here makes no sense. The 12-inch 2ax , as I’ve calculated many times for everyone here, would have returned the same percentage margin to AR as the 2ax or 5. In terms of dealer margin, it would have been as good or as bad as any other AR speaker of the day, given AR’s sales and distribution policies in the late 1960’s. In any event, the use of the phrase “low margin” strikes me as a gratuitous pejorative, since it is bereft of any factual basis.

As far as “tanked the sales of the 3a,” please see my explanation of the folly of withholding a potentially strong selling product for fear of hurting the sales of an existing one. I really don’t want to re-post that again. Everyone should know the words to that hymn by now. Ignoring a business truism doesn’t make that truism go away. It just means that you’re ignoring it. Besides, the 3a would still have significant acoustic and cosmetic advantages over a 12-inch 2ax—as much as, if not more than, the 3a had over the actual AR-5.

It would be “ridiculed as a ‘sooped-up’ 2ax?” No.  That’s pure emotionally-based conjecture, completely without any provable factual basis. It wouldn’t be ridiculed any more than the actual AR-5 was ridiculed as a “watered-down 3a.”

“Harmed AR’s viability”?  “Ruined AR’s reputation”?

Harmed their actual viability as a company? As in their ability to survive and thrive and exist? Really? Destroyed their actual reputation? A 12-inch 2ax would do all that?

Hardly. What it would have done is outsell the real AR-5 by a landslide. The 3a’s sales would be essentially unaffected, since the 3a’s appeal of TOTL was so strong to its buyers. You’d have had the 2ax holding down the mid-price point as it did with a really terrific speaker for $128. You’d still have the 3a with its great reputation and terrific reviews as the top of the line, your standard-bearer, the ‘ooh-and-ahhh’ piece when people came over your house.

But instead of a sales dog, a marketplace loser between the 2ax and 3a, now you’d have a terrific speaker in its own right. A legit step-up from the 2ax (from the 10-in bass to the 3a-level bass) and still with a legit step-up reason to go to the 3a (that great, smooth dome mid, the 1” picture-frame molding look, the undeniable caché and appeal of owning AR’s best).

We can’t re-write history and rationalize that the actual 10-inch AR-5 was the right speaker for AR to have done. It simply wasn’t. It was a huge mistake and a total sales failure. The 12-inch 2ax at $168 list in 1968-9 would have been a huge success, another all-star to add to the winning roster of a winning team.

 

Steve F.

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12 hours ago, AR surround said:

The AR5's were my first high fidelity speakers.  The bass was clean and tight when driven by a 40 watt/channel Dynaco SCA-80Q.   No one who listened to my pair ever said that they were deficient in the low end, including a close friend who was gifted his AR3a's.   In the summer of 1977, I had the very good fortune to obtain a new fully-assembled Dynaco Stereo-400 for $250.   Driven by this 200 watt/channel amp, the AR5's achieved a remarkable step change in improved performance throughout the whole audio spectrum, including clarity, detail and bass response...effectively, less "compression."   Simply put, they are yet another power-hungry vintage AR speaker which needs loads of amplifier headroom to manifest what they can truly do.    That pair went to my cousin in 1978 when I got the AR9's.   He still has them and still loves them.

Similar experience here and probably should be a new thread but the amplifier headroom and/or damping factor theories don't really account for the difference in sound people notice when using larger amps with AR speakers. I thinks the change in sound is more akin to phase shift or a power factor problem creating a non-linear response.

Anyway, I agree with TomT's analysis of AR's decline and changing fortunes.

Roger

 

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12 hours ago, Steve F said:

The hypothetical 12-inch 2ax was no more “parts bin engineering” than the AR-5, which was simply a 10-inch version of the 3a in a 2ax cabinet. Granted, the 5 had a sort of “unique” 10-inch woofer (for a very short time only), but the rest was classic parts-bin think.

 Steve F.

Steve,

If that was the case, why did AR go to the trouble of making an 8 ohm version of the 3a midrange for the AR-5? Furthermore, none of the primary components in the rather involved crossover are the same as those in the 3a, nor are they found in any other model of the era (even the 4uf cap was different than the same value cap found in the 2ax). The AR-5 model concept may have been ill conceived, but there was obviously some new design work and parts involved, albeit heavily influenced by the success of the 3a.

As emphatic as you are to the contrary, there are very real limitations to the AR 12 inch woofers' (both versions) midrange response, as well as the lower part of the 2ax mid's response range and sensitivity. I believe there would be lots of blown mids. (The 2ax mid's magnet looks like a toy next to that of the Advent tweeter/mid). After working with these speakers for many years, I simply cannot agree that the "dull and ponderous" 1x would transform to a "fine and dandy" speaker with a late 60's AR tweeter added. Imo, AR had valid reasons to make the 1x disappear as soon as possible.

Roy

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If I had one question/comment to add, it would be, why didn't AR look at other options to handle the midrange for a lower cost 12" speaker, or a redesigned 10" woofer with a heavier cone/lower Fs? I'm sure they could have made (or bought) a 4-5" cone driver that when mounted in a "can" could reach down to 500hz or less, and make it up to 4-5khz to cross over to the tweet for a lot less than it cost to produce the 3/3a mid....

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