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>I also recall having read the same detailed information from Stereophile, and I assume its correctness against what appears to be a sort of revisionist article containing conflated timelines, unattributed premises and boot-strapped conclusions.

>I've been wishing & hoping for Tom Tyson's definitive AR history for years...would a GoFundMe effort be in vain? —ar_pro

Book: The History of Acoustic Research

Any and all suggestions and ideas here would be greatly appreciated!  Any thoughts about what you would like to see would be great as well.  To do a complete history would be difficult, but a history of the "Classic Period," from 1954-1974 (or 1980 perhaps) in one part and the Teledyne/International Jensen/Recoton/Voxx period in another part or in a revised edition.  The most important part of AR history is the first 25 years or so.  

Anyway, please reply with your thoughts and ideas, for example:  

  • The best title for such a book?
  • The period covered with this book; part of all?
  • The amount of detail to be included in this book?
  • The size of this book, a small book with 150 pp or so, or comprehensive with perhaps 300 pp?
  • The other questions you might have. 

There are also many people here on this website with detailed knowledge of specific aspects of AR history and technology.  Therefore, give me ideas about how you would like to see such a book.

59474141891e6_AR-24-ThorndikeStreet_001.jpg.7b3787d4adf177cfc43b8360e00f5f7d.jpg

—Tom Tyson  06Jun2017

Edited by tysontom
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Tom, is this going to be technology and products, or "behind the scenes" company org and persons? I'd personally prefer the latter, although the fact that most of the principals are no longer with us would obviously be a hindrance.

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2 hours ago, genek said:

Tom, is this going to be technology and products, or "behind the scenes" company org and persons? I'd personally prefer the latter, although the fact that most of the principals are no longer with us would obviously be a hindrance.

I think this book should be generally about the company, its people, financial reports, products and how the company changed the course of high-fidelity history.  I also don't think a lot of people would want to read the book if it were too technical; therefore, I think it should be about the people and products, and how they contributed to the remarkable success of the company. 

One thing I don't have are pictures of the original operation in Cambridge.  I have very few vintage, original pictures of 24 Thorndike Street in Cambridge.  I have nothing on the Mt. Auburn location where it began.  In Norwood, I personally took a lot of pictures of testing, the anechoic chambers and production lines, etc.  In the book, there would be some technical discussion to explain what AR actually accomplished, and how it was done, but no heavy technical stuff.  References to the many disclosure articles by Villchur and Allison would serve that purpose.  This is one reason I wanted to get feedback from people on the forum as to what they would want to see in this book.  Specific models, how they were built, what years, and that sort of thing.  AR's Music Rooms, AR 5-Year Warranty, AR's Live-versus-Recorded concerts, and that sort of thing, too.  There might be chapters (such as the AR-3a restoration guide, with permission, to be included) that go into some restoration hints and so forth.  Most of the books that I have seen on the subject (there are books on Paul Klipsch, JBL and so forth) deal with the products but not great detail or specifications, particularly.  Thoughts?  I would really like to hear from everyone who might be interested in this book, what they would like to see it become.

There are very few of the original AR employees and individuals still alive now, so this is a problem.  Many of that generation left have forgotten many details, thus some things remain mysterious.  Fortunately, I have the AR Archives, and there are secrets held there on marketing/development decisions, etc.

--Tom

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I think some technical info should be included on the more important break thru speakers. But yeah, the people involved. Pictures speak volumes. Good luck. Looking forward the the released product.

I ran into a member on the Emotiva website who made voice coils at one of the plants. He lives in NH I believe.

 

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Tom,

I agree with DavidR that some technical info on the watershed speakers (AR-1, AR-3/3a, AR-LST, AR-9, Magic, etc.) should be included in the book; perhaps as appendices so those not interested could skip that material.

I would expect that your publication would muster even more interest in our beloved classic AR speakers.

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Sometimes we try to tackle too big of a range of time or info because we want to be thorough and comprehensive, but this can lead to it never getting done.  Maybe tackle it in logical steps presented in volumes or some other catchy manner like "AR - the early years" or something based on eras of the company.  Might help you get your head and available time around it more productively.

Also, a go fund me page if successful might help you pay for a professional researcher that you can task to dig into finding things or people that just takes your time away from other activities or writting.  Those researchers are really good at what they do and know how to find stuff typically. 

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Multiple volumes sounds like a good idea to me. One for the Villchur years, one for Teledyne and beyond?

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26 minutes ago, genek said:

Multiple volumes sounds like a good idea to me. One for the Villchur years, one for Teledyne and beyond?

Thanks for these suggestions.  One idea came from an associate that it would be important to emphasize the period from the AR-1 through the AR9/AR9Ls-period series, the "Magic" speaker, and to cover the last versions with less detail.  Multiple volumes would be a good idea as well.  

I did set up a gofundme.com account with the purpose of defraying the costs of travel, editing and research-related expenditures, let alone the possibility of having to self-publish the book, which would be quite expensive and a last resort.  I have never worked with a gofundme account, so it is a new learning experience.  --Tom

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It might be a good idea to come up with a proposed outline to give prospective funders an overview of what they'd be underwriting. And you could probably pull together some of your many past forum posts on AR history into a "sample chapter" as well.

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Speaking of "the early years", I just found this thread which included a pic of the Mt. Auburn St. building. Am not sure exactly when the street address numbers were revised, but a 1930 map of Cambridge (attached) shows this building as 21 and 23 Mt. Auburn when it was the Boston Bookbinding Co. Inc. The building extends thru the middle of the block to Arrow Street, and I think there is a thread on this site (started by JKent?) about the Baruch-Lang speakers that mentions an Arrow Street address for Henry Kloss' pre-AR enterprise.

A very comprehensive book about the history of Cambridge has just recently been released, but I have not yet inspected it for any mention of these specific buildings or the loudspeaker industry in general. It was produced by the MIT Press, and I have long been an admirer of their publications. One of the co-authors is Charlie Sullivan, the "go-to" source regarding Cambridge history.

https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/building-old-cambridge

My personal feeling is that this project would best be served if kept to a single volume in the 150-page range, with both black/white and color images, and I would love to see the graphics reflect a contemporary look suggestive of upwardly mobile America of the 1950's and 60's. Someone has already mentioned including the "watershed" models, and I want to get in a request to not only discuss the "big boys" (AR-1, 3, 3a, 9's etc.), but to also be sure to cover the more modest models, particularly the hugely successful AR-4x. The entire "classic" lineup should be described within a timeline, marketing rationale, and matrix of features and attributes, including the oddballs (AR-1x) and ne'er-do-wells (AR-8).

AR's place within the larger loudspeaker industry is an important topic, and I would also love to see: 1) a "family tree" of industry personnel, beginning with Villchur and Kloss and then spreading into the principal AR staff as well as all of the offshoot speaker companies that had significant ties or origins with Acoustic Research. Also, it would be highly informative to include: 2) one or two maps to illustrate the concentration of highly-regarded audio companies in the immediate metro Boston region - - - perhaps Cambridge deserves one of its own (AR, KLH, Advent, a/d/s, etc.), but also a larger view of a portion of New England (AR - Norwood and Canton, EPI - Newburyport, Avid - Providence, Bose - Framingham, HH Scott - Maynard, and on and on) might be effective to communicate the impact of AR in being instrumental to the establishment of a burgeoning industry.    

Edit: Well, never mind part of this blurb - - I had the chance today to look at the new Cambridge history book I was praising, and despite its back-breaking heft of 900+ pages, there is only scant mention of any of these buildings, and none of the writing pertains to the subject at hand.  :unsure:

 

1930 Cambridge map 2.jpg

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Tom,

I look forward to your efforts with great anticipation. My suggestion is that there be a human interest "hook" to attract readers other than old speaker geeks like us. Things like Vilchur's rebuff by established speaker companies, Kloss's pursuit of Vilchur and the disagreements that ultimately led to the break and the formation of KLH, and the broad appeal of these revolutionary new speakers to famous musicians as diverse as Judy Collins, Miles Davis and Herbert von Karajan. I think Robert's suggestion of reflecting the '50s and '60s America is genius. There is great interest now in "mid-century modern" and all things related to design from that time period.

And of course the title will have to pique interest. I'll get back to you if I come up with anything brilliant :D

-Kent

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Sound Advice:
How America's Greatest Speaker Companies Turned
Down The Idea That Transformed An Industry

or some such

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On 6/6/2017 at 9:49 PM, tysontom said:

I think this book should be generally about the company, its people, financial reports, products and how the company changed the course of high-fidelity history.  I also don't think a lot of people would want to read the book if it were too technical; therefore, I think it should be about the people and products, and how they contributed to the remarkable success of the company. 

One thing I don't have are pictures of the original operation in Cambridge.  I have very few vintage, original pictures of 24 Thorndike Street in Cambridge.  I have nothing on the Mt. Auburn location where it began.  In Norwood, I personally took a lot of pictures of testing, the anechoic chambers and production lines, etc.  In the book, there would be some technical discussion to explain what AR actually accomplished, and how it was done, but no heavy technical stuff.  References to the many disclosure articles by Villchur and Allison would serve that purpose.  This is one reason I wanted to get feedback from people on the forum as to what they would want to see in this book.  Specific models, how they were built, what years, and that sort of thing.  AR's Music Rooms, AR 5-Year Warranty, AR's Live-versus-Recorded concerts, and that sort of thing, too.  There might be chapters (such as the AR-3a restoration guide, with permission, to be included) that go into some restoration hints and so forth.  Most of the books that I have seen on the subject (there are books on Paul Klipsch, JBL and so forth) deal with the products but not great detail or specifications, particularly.  Thoughts?  I would really like to hear from everyone who might be interested in this book, what they would like to see it become.

There are very few of the original AR employees and individuals still alive now, so this is a problem.  Many of that generation left have forgotten many details, thus some things remain mysterious.  Fortunately, I have the AR Archives, and there are secrets held there on marketing/development decisions, etc.

--Tom

Thanks for these suggestions!  I'm going to look at all of them, but I'm thinking that a single-volume book (size unknown at this point, of course) makes the most sense.  Getting one book off the ground will be hard enough, let alone multiple volumes.  I do plan to discuss somewhat the history of the "New England" high-fidelity industry, largely how AR—literally overnight—changed the face of the loudspeaker industry and formed what became known as the "New England Sound," and how this small company brought down many component-speaker giants in the hi-fi industry during the early post-war years.  

Such a book would therefore have to be much more than just the interest in the products themselves, of course, to attract any readers at all.  I think this book should also explain the culture of Acoustic Research and its people.  But product details are important to anyone interested in high fidelity.

I agree with everyone here (and some email messages) that the book should have a catchy title and the subtitle to get readers interested.   One grave reality: a book such as this might go "begging" to find enough readers to make it even remotely interesting to a publisher.  This worries me the most, and it has occasionally dulled my enthusiasm, knowing the time it would take to do it right.  The high-fidelity industry—in the grand scheme of things—is/was simply tiny.  There are a few small biographies and generic audio-history books, but none is considered important or a big seller by any means, and most appear to have been self-published by individuals or by the firm about which the book was written.  Ed Dell, who originally published a do-it-yourself audio magazines such as Audio Amateur, Speaker Builder and Glass Audio (before audioXpress and Voice Coil) used to have almost the entire list of audio-specific books for sale at the back of his magazines, and this was during the heyday of hi-fi audio, so this is a slight dilemma.

—Tom  

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Maybe a hook to outsourcing, offshoring and the decline of "Made in the USA" by workers with full time jobs and benefits? AR was unusually progressive in this area for a company of its size and time.

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On 6/6/2017 at 9:49 PM, tysontom said:

One thing I don't have are pictures of the original operation in Cambridge.  I have very few vintage, original pictures of 24 Thorndike Street in Cambridge.

There are very few of the original AR employees and individuals still alive now, so this is a problem.  Many of that generation left have forgotten many details, thus some things remain mysterious.

A thought occurred to me while reviewing the book 'The JBL Story, 60 Years Of Audio Innovation'. Many of the pages in that book are devoted to photographs of installations employing JBL professional speakers, such as the setup used for the Bruce Springsteen world tour in 2002-2003. Is there anyone here who knows and could contact Jon Landau, on the off chance that he might have any AR documents / photos / stories from his dads time with the company?

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My thoughts are:

Coverage from the beginning, through the early 80's.  While the Teledyne era led to the decline, it also represented the last time the company sought to advance the state of the art.  Doing so was very much in the spirit of the founders of the company, and a great continuation of the legacy of the AR1.

Include contemporary reviews, and try to get reprint rights to the many articles published by Mr. Villchur in Audio and High Fidelity.  There were interviews over the years with principals of AR and of Kloss.  Reprint rights or excerpts would be beneficial, and lend first hand perspectives to the sequence of company events.  

In many ways AR was the Western Electric/Altec of the East Coast in that so many companies were linked directly or indirectly to AR.  Show the parallels between AR and Altec as a way to investigate the differences between East Coast and West Coast sound.

Emphasize the market share dominance of AR in the late 60's.

Title and tag line:  Acoustic Research- how a single company revolutionized an industry

Ken Kessler wrote official company histories of McIntosh, KEF and a few others.  I am sure his services are not cheap, but maybe he can offer unofficial advice ?  He is an AR fan.   Also Ken Kantor should be a resource.  Didn't he conduct a feasibility analysis of reproducing AR dome tweeters ?

Consider whether this will evolve into a coffee table book with heavy paper stock, high quality images, or a final product that is physically more modest.  I would prefer a complete and detailed history and would be willing to sacrifice tangible heft it doing so would facilitate production of the final product.

Post a link to the go fund me page.

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Suggestions....magazine size book or bigger with lots of pics. 150 pages seems enough to have it broken down into beginnings, the rise to the top, the battles within and competition, the lines of speakers that were introduced and why, the marketing that worked and what didn't, then the fade to selling the company.

I tell people that come here and see and hear these great speakers...that this was the last of the great era of US manufacturing and the great minds that were involved in changing the way music was heard....and seen.

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Everything "Hi Fi" started for me with my parents having a pair of Ar 2a 1963.

Though I'm now a die hard Allison guy, I will buy this book and soak it up, cover to cover as soon as it comes out!

 

Bill

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I own the Ken Kessler McIntosh book, and I would say that his task was not unlike what a history of the Acoustic Research company would present to an editor/writer.

To be frank, my primary motivation for reading this sort of thing would be to discover new or unfamiliar information & personal insight into the operations of the endeavor that set standards in producing our much-beloved speakers (and turntables!). Tom's unique familiarity would give the effort a leg up from the very start, and - just based upon his many contributions over the years - provide an enthusiast's view of the workings of the company.

As far as an editorial timeline would go, I have a very strong preference for more knowledge of the company's founding & early, developmental years, the establishment of a "standard of quality" by way of the AR-1 and AR-3, and the evolutionary development of subsequent top designs in the AR-3a and AR-LST. The turntable, lesser loudspeaker designs, advertising & promotional philosophies, and processes for new product development would also be fascinating to read about.

Although it might appear to be sacrilege, I have almost no interest in anything beyond the era of the AR-10pi and AR-11, feeling that these designs were the virtual last link to AR's glory days. Well, maybe the AR-9/90/91, but only if it's something that's never been covered! ^_^

 

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Truth in Listening - The history of Edgar Villchurs Dream

I am eagerly awaiting for more news on the book!!!

Regards,

Sudhir

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If it's of any help, I spent a lot of time in the AR Listening Room in NYC and would be glad to share those observations. 

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Tom,

Many years have passed but I remember you from your shop, Woofer and Tweeter, in Carrboro, NC. I was a student at UNC in Chapel Hill from 1974 to 1979. I cannot say I was a great customer; I was a poor student back then. But I do remember and appreciate your willingness to talk to me and explain and demonstrate products, since I was a hi-fi "newbie." Your enthusiasm must have rubbed off on me, since I have mainatained an interest in hi-fi for the 40 years or so that have passed since then. (I have to say, however, that my real interest is music and the equipment is a means to an end.) I do remember listening to some AR speakers in your shop and I remember your love for the marque. I have found that AR speakers and their progeny bring me closer to the music in a way that their west coast counterparts do not. They can easily hold their own with the European (British, French, Danish, etc.) speakers that are in vogue today.

I recently bought a pair of NHT speakers and am aware of their connection to the AR lineage. This sparked an interest in the history of the company and, lo and behold, I came across your name, which I remembered instantly. I am excited that you are writing a book about AR and hope to read it when it comes out. My suggestions are not to make it overly long or technical. I recoil at the multivolume idea suggested above. I think I would also talk about what a compassionate man Edgar Villchur was to treat his employees the way he did. How did his own love of music motivate his desire for better sound and how did his inventions change the way we listen to music? This can be best accomplished by interviewing folks such as your former customers and those that frequented the AR demo room in Grand Central Station as mentioned above (which I have been to a few times but was too young to really know what was going on.) This is a good opportunity for oral history (sorry, my undergrad degree from UNC was in history.) Anyway, these are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I am sure that with your interest, knowlege, and motivation, the finished product will be great and I look forward to reading it. Happy writing and listening.

 

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Tom,

If it would be helpful I might be able to contribute to this effort. Back in June of 1967 I was recruited from Weldon Tech by Roy Alison to be an R&D Technician and member of the new electronics development team. Edgar made a deal to give us free rein for 5 years and we were disbanded in 1972. To say it was a magical time would be an understatement. I have endless information if you're interested. I've attached a picture of a younger me in the lab discussing  a circuit design with my supervisor John S.

Best regards,

Mike M.

6-18-2011 22-9-9_151.jpg

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