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I just happened to be in the right place last Thursday and caught a pair of AR 4xa speakers in a moving sale.  Once I confirmed they were actually AR 4xa speakers I took the chance and grabbed them untested for 20.00.   They are in rough shape and will be a a restoration  project for sure.   Took them home and did the battery test 1.5 volt to see if we had any action which I did.  So hooked them up as the were and to my surprise they worked perfectly. Amazing AR sound.

Being the newbie here I now have a lot of questions. 
1. Someone has gone and painted them with what looks like flat black spray paint on the cabinets.  Anyone have any suggestions or know of any products to remove the paint without damaging the veneer underneath ?    Or is careful sanding the only way ?   

2. My other concern is, did the AR 4 xa use foam surround woofers or were they another material ?  If they were foam someone has used a rubber or plastic coating to cover the foam, or was that the way these speakers were.    What is the best way to clean up the surrounds without damaging the cones ?

I will pull all the drivers and stuffing and start the woodworking project, and try to clean up the drivers as best as can be done, along with checking the crossover components.

Any suggestions or recommendations on any of the above would be a great help, some pictures below as I found them.  

 Thank in advance for any help.

Brian

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Hey Brian! Nice find!

Regarding the cabinets, it looks like the front frame has been modified--maybe totally removed and replaced with quarter round, or maybe just rounded over. In any case, that may be a loss. Maybe you could pry the frames off and replace them with solid walnut, looking more like the original, but that would be a chore. As far as stripping, you may want to try a soy-based paint stripper and see how it goes. Or, depending on how "authentic" you want to be and how much effort you're willing to expend, maybe just repaint them in whatever color you like (yeah, I know--heresy!).

The AR-4 woofers had cloth surrounds, which theoretically should last forever IF no one has glopped them up with latex caulk or some other sealant. CSP member RoyC has cooked up some authentic butyl sealant but you probably don't need it. The AR-4 series woofers were not 100% air-tight.

Member ra.ra. is currently the expert on the various iterations of the AR-4 so he'll be able to give some more specific guidance.

-Kent

PS: The "ssearch" function on this forum isn't great. Try using Google and search for "AR-4xa speakers" (without quotes). You'll find several CSP threads and under Google Images there are some photos of the 4xa.

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Hi Brian, that's a really nice pick-up for that price - - the 4xa is a very nice speaker. The best news, IMO, is that you have all original drivers that appear to be in great shape, and my preference would always be to have the cloth surround woofers and the rear-wired tweeters like yours have. When you can, please includes pics of the cabinet backside (labels, terminals and control, etc.) and the innards (crossover and stuffing type). Also, the backside of the tweeter, if possible, to identify its part number and/or magnet size. And also, just for kicks, I'd love to see the all-black speaker with the grille in-place, since it's almost Halloween.

Kent beat me to the punch with an initial comment, and I agree that it is not fully clear from your pics when trying to assess the condition or shape of the cabinet perimeter, but then it is always difficult to photograph anything in black. They should have a square edge profile, but it looks like yours may have a rounded profile - -  please confrim with additional close-ups. Perhaps you can remain open-minded about a renewed finished appearance until you've evaluated these a bit further. Whether it is paint or dye or ink, I doubt if those grille cloths can ever be  lightened, but they seem to be in otherwise good condition. The brass 4xa badges can easily be restored to their original glory. The cabinet paint might be able to be removed successfully, but first you want to confirm if the cabinets have real wood veneer or faux vinyl. Once that is identified, we can help you with ideas for possible next steps.

For starters, I've included a few pics to mull over. The first two show different 4xa crossovers: both have a single coil and single 10uF cap, but while one has the rotary potentiometer, the other has a three position switch with two resistors. The third pic shows a Euro version 4xa in teak with the exact same drivers as yours. Pic 4 shows 4xa with gloss black cabinet and neutral white grille cloth. 

 

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Hi Jkent and ra.ra

Just home, a couple of shots of the backs. Units have the -3  -6 db switch, no paperwork or markings on the back.   Will pull drivers and take pictures of driver backs, crossovers and stuffing inside.  I am just wondering, did AR actually make a AR 4xa in black ?    The goal here is to restore and preserve as many of the AR vintage systems as a can. Yes a hobby, but I also get to enjoy  all these amazing speakers.   

So far pairs of the following mint close to showroom condition

AR 9's with original boxes, sales receipt and manuals and brochures.
AR 91's as new

Anyone have an opinion on the AR spirit 162  or the TSW 410's.  I see some new old stock for sale ??? 

 

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OK, the only thing we've learned for certain is that you have the version with the switch control for the tweeter - - pic attached shows other images of this crossover.

Still somewhat difficult to see detail of dark, black cabinets ..... and just a guess here, but it looks to me like someone had the regrettable urge to re-style the cabinet profile by rounding off each and every one of the perimeter edges. :( If so, it was probably done with a shaped router bit which would cut through any veneer and expose the matrix of the core MDF panel, thereby necessitating the subsequent paint job. And if this accurately describes what has taken place, methinks there is little-to-no chance of restoring them to original appearance but still, it is worth sanding and stripping at least one edge area to learn more about what is going on here.  

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10 hours ago, brianw said:

So far pairs of the following mint close to showroom condition

I agree with ra.ra. 

Brian, you sound like a collector and these speakers will never be in showroom condition but they ARE very nice speakers for listening pleasure. Assuming the cabinets have been irreparably wrecked cosmetically you might consider the method I've used with some speakers: PlastiKote 264 Black Truck Bed Liner. After sanding the cabinets just spray it on. It will probably take close to 1 can per cabinet. I've used it on small CSW Ambiance speakers, Advent 400 radios and AR-94Si's. Here's the thread on the 94Si's: http://www.classicspeakerpages.net/IP.Board/index.php?/topic/8149-ar-94si-improved/

-Kent

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Thanks so far to everyone for some great info, this is a great board. If I had not been told here, I may have ordered foams for these thinking they had been preserved with rubber. But looks like they are cloth surrounds with a rubber covering of sorts.  Wondering if they could be replaced with foam ?

So anyway the process has started as of a few hours ago.  Pulled the drivers, pulled the filling and decided to do a quick sanding on bottom and side to see what I had to work with. So below are the pictures so far and it looks like they were white ?   The cloth grilles were spray painted which is to bad, but I was told we maybe able to actually remove the paint, so going to talk to a paint specialist about that.  As for the finish not sure yet until we get sanded down to hopefully some wood.  

The rounded corners are unusual but do not seem to be an add on, more like someone rounded the edges for some reason, did AR ever make a unit with rounded edges ?

 

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J.Kent  you are very correct a bit of a collector of both AR vintage products and Bryston products. Along with other pieces should they catch my attention and are restorable.   Done several amp rebuilds both vintage HiFi and vintage guitar amps.  

Currently focused on AR. My prize AR units which I will never sell are my AR 9  and AR 91 speakers. And on a quest to more AR products a second life.

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Thx for the update w/pics. It's interesting to see that the black paint was so easily removed but that the undercoat of white is far more tenacious. If you have any chemical stripper, maybe try that along one of the rounded edges with some steel wool. And is that walnut showing up on the inside of the side panels? Keep us posted.

Without paper labels it's difficult to confirm the origins of this pair - - and not sure where you are located either - - but the multi-colored stuffing usually denotes a speaker assembled in one of AR's European facilities. The crossover looks fully as expected, and it is very possible that the blue Sprague cap does not require replacement. The tweeters appear to have the smaller 2-1/8" diameter magnet and one is clearly marked with a date stamp from 1974.

One of the woofers has a nearly legible date stamp that appears to suggest 1984, but is more likely 1974, thereby matching the tweeter date. Also, just as an aside suggestion, but you might want to get in the habit of storing out-of-cabinet woofers with the magnet end down - - this way you do not unnecessarily squish the soft cloth surround, which was originally coated with a brushed-on liquid butyl. And foam surrounds? Yeah, sure you could replace the cloth with foam, but why would you want to do that?

One unusual thing I do see - - not sure if I've ever seen original 8" AR woofers that combined the cloth surrounds with the square ferrite magnet. Others will know better, but if '74 is the accurate production date, perhaps this suggests the transition period where alnico magnets were being phased out but other 'older' parts (cones and cloth surrounds, e.g.) were still being used in woofer assemblies until that inventory of parts was depleted.

And yes, AR made at least one series of speakers with a rounded cabinet profile. Show here is AR-28b cabinet - - it is faux walnut vinyl covering on particle board, and this round profile was shaped only along the front edges.

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I wonder if there was a European version of the 4-xa with rounded corners and a black finish. The stripped one reminds me of my Cambridge Soundworks Ambiance speakers. The Nextel came off easily and the light grey primer stayed intact.

Don't remove the cloth surrounds unless you are sure they are damaged. They look fine in your photos but maybe post a close-up.

Kent

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HI Ra.ra and Jkent

 

Again thank you for your input, I am travelling in unknown territory with these.  I also started to wonder if that was a hint of walnut showing through. And yes both woofers are sitting upward now resting on the magnet, thanks for the tip about that. A bit more sanding proved to me that the rounded edges seem to be stock and not modified, I will find out more today. 

Disconnected one of the Sprague cap's and checked it with a fluke capacitance meter, value was 9.989 and 9.998, the capacitive reactance measured very low to nothing at upper frreq.   

I have a free day today so will be attempting a small spot with some chemical stripper to see what is beneath, as well as hopefully completing the sanding and/or stripping.   Also going to look into re-veneering in walnut, but will talk to some cabinet and wood specialists to see what they think today. 

A point of interest is were I live, Vancouver Island, BC Canada,  https://www.tourismvictoria.com/  , we have a lot of folks who have moved from England and other areas in Europe. So it is possible someone brought along their speakers over the past years.  And with the amount of elderly and estate items up for grabs or given to thrift stores these very well could have come from Europe or England. 

Thank you again for everyone for the extremely valuable input and guidance with these speakers.  Will post my results later tonight.

Brian

 

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To my surprise, we have found wood.   Before any more sanding decided to try a bit of paint stripping. Talked to a woodworking friend who suggested  using circa 1898 wood stripper, very gel like.  And after about 20 minutes on one side the pictures below will tell all, even the rounded corners are a walnut finish.

Brian

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Here are the results of the first cabinet.  And you were right someone took a router to the edges removing the veneer.  Not sure how I am going to blend that in yet before staining or refinishing so any suggestions are welcome!!    All in all came out better than I expected considering the shape they were in. 

 

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Interesting. Maybe refinish the walnut and paint the rounded-off edges a contrasting color, like gloss black?  Or a matching color like brown? Short of building new cabinets from scratch I think you're stuck with the rounded edges. Maybe build up all the edges with something like Bondo, sand all surfaces perfectly flat then apply new veneer to all 4 sides plus the face frame. That would take a lot of skill I think.

Maybe Glenn will have some thoughts.

Too bad but I guess the previous owner was going for a certain "look".

As far as the grille cloth, refer to the AR-3a restoration guide. I'd tear off the painted cloth and install new linen from 123 Stitch.

-Kent

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23 hours ago, brianw said:

My prize AR units which I will never sell are my AR 9  and AR 91 speakers

I have a pair of 91s and just finished a second pair. I don't think I fully realized, before seeing your side-by-side photo, how the 9 behemoth dwarfs the not-unsubstantial 91!

btw--I've always admired, but never owned, Bryston amps. Amazing quality, built like tanks. Between the Bryston amps, Oracle turntables and several outstanding speaker companies, our neighbors (neighbours) to the north sure know how to build audio gear, eh! ;)

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I am never surprised at the things people have done to their specimens to make them unique and/or to fit in a certain situation.

I would effort being certain that there is no compromise of the joints all around, maybe even some extra epoxy or whatever on inside joints to make sure there is no air gaps.

Nice project, look forward to your progress!

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I'd like to think that the rounding of the corners and painting was done to fix another issue instead of being done for purely cosmetic reasons.  For example, the speakers may have taken a fall and the corners were badly dented and gouged.  In this case, rounding over seems like a reasonable (or at least quick and easy) way of salvaging a speaker.

If one wanted to restore square corners, they could chamfer the corners, then glue on wooden blocks.

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Corner blocks could also be added to the inside to improve the structure of the cabinets. 

It is hard to tell from the pictures if the existing veneer is in good condition (i.e. deep scratches, gouges, watermarks, paint deep in the wood pores, etc.).  Are you trying to save it?

Personally, I think that I would leave the rounded corners, apply a piano black finish, and recover the grills with whatever fabric makes my wife happy.

 

 

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16 hours ago, brianw said:

Here are the results of the first cabinet.

Well, you did a very impressive job of removing multiple layers of paint in very short order, but your pics confirm my initial thoughts. :( It seems that you have a perfectly good pair of speakers regarding performance, and now this project has become essentially a visual aesthetic conundrum and a series of challenging woodworking decisions and tasks.  

2 hours ago, Glitch said:

If one wanted to restore square corners, they could chamfer the corners, then glue on wooden blocks.

Even though it would take advanced woodworking skills, precise attention, and many hours of work, Glitch offers a couple good ideas shown in his sketches. Keep in mind that along the short edges, any solid wood edging that is added will have grain running perpendicular to the direction of the veneer on the side panels, and will result in a very obvious and distinctive edge appearance which is different from all AR's from this era - - sort of like the cabinet edge condition of these ADS-400 speakers (with or without the rounded profile shown here).     

Tough decision, best of luck.

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It is possible to take wide boards and cut triangular pieces with cross-grain if you have a table saw. 

This might be a case where the best approach is just put on a fresh coat of "soft black" paint and make a set of linen grills.

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38 minutes ago, genek said:

This might be a case where the best approach is just put on a fresh coat of "soft black" paint and make a set of linen grills.

Great idea, that's probably what I would do.

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ra.ra:  My sketches were inspired by a pair of L400's.  You make a valid point about the woodworking precision needed to make it look right.  I believe that one would get the precision from a router and chamfer bit.  This setup would index from the cabinet edges and a precision of a few thousands of an inch are possible.  The wood pieces should be made to be  slightly "proud" of the surface then sanded flush.

genek:  The cross-grain corners that you suggested may look very nice.  However, they would be prone to cracking with seasonal wood movements.  Your suggestion of "soft black" is good since it is a relatively forgiving finish to apply.

Another possibility is to apply veneer to the chamfered edge like on some of ADS's larger speakers.

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The problem with this idea is getting a good match of the veneers.  A contrasting veneer could be used, but I'm not sure how good it would look.

One could also just build new cabinets to the original specifications.  In the long run, this may be easier than any of the other "woodworking solutions".  This is always an option if any of the other attempts are tried and the results aren't satisfactory.

 

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Again, everyone thank you for the great suggestions.   

First cabinets are solid, the router corners do not seem to weakened anything. I am taking the cabinet over to a woodworking pro to see what we can do. They are suggesting it can be blended with some of the new products, that I have to see.  Will keep everyone posted.  

Question for everyone, have been offered a pair of DYNACO A25 speakers working and not painted, actual wood.  Is 100.00 a good price ?  Otherwise will stay on my AR quest and give a few more AR speakers a second life...

 

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1 hour ago, Glitch said:

genek:  The cross-grain corners that you suggested may look very nice.  However, they would be prone to cracking with seasonal wood movements.  

Yes, thought of that after I posted. You'd probably want to cut the beveled cross-grain pieces from plywood to avoid the problem.

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It has taken a while, some patience and a lot of drying time, sanding and preparing.  

So after 1 coat of stain prep, 6 coats of stain, that is stain not paint. 
1 coat of sealer and 3 coats of MinWax polypropylene satin finish.

This is what I ended up with ..... So now just to remount speakers, redo the grills and we have a modernized Teledyne Acoustic Research  AR 4 X4a....

Best Regards Everyone, And thank you for all the suggestions and help.  

Once the final product is done final pictures will be posted.  Next decision keep them or sell, as someone has offered to buy them. 

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