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Best AR Speakers?


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#21 frankmarsi

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 03:45 AM

>>Having recently aquired a pair of AR-2ax speakers I was
>>wondering which AR speaker do most of you consider the
>>"best" model? Also which vintage receiver would
>>really make the AR-2ax's shine? I look forward to your
>>suggestions. Thanks.
>> Bruce
>
>
>Hi Bruce;
>
>The AR-2AX's are a great, well respected classic speaker.
>
>My vote would be, the AR_LST's, with an appropriate amp,
>related equipment and a suitable listening area.
>
>


7-25-06
Dear members, please let it be known that I did not. I repeat, I did not pay “Vern” to say this, but, dang-it, he’s oh so correct for doing so! Now let’s get back to me, myself and “I” and AR. Then, maybe we’ll get back to this gentleman’s question.
I’ve never quite loved any speaker as much as I do the AR-LST’s, and for that matter 3a’s too. After that I’m into big 1990’s “Apogees” and into another world altogether for my ‘head’ to dream-on, but not purchase.
I must add of course that for any individual to ever appreciate a vintage AR-3, or 3a, or LST’s, it is essential to use at least a 200 watt per channel amp to drive them to their fullest potential. Speaking for myself I drive 3a’s and LST’s with Phase Linear Series1 400's, which can actually ‘put-out’ approximately 400 watts RMS per channel into 4 ohms on paper. I could only imagine what a Phase Linear D-500, or “Manley-500”, Boulder, Bryston 4B, and on and on, amp must sound like.
Let’s not ever forget “Julian Hirsch’s” “S-R’s” magazine report about the LST’s being driven by a Phase Linear700B for testing. He reported that they could have even ‘absorbed’ more watts RMS than that! That amp is app. 700 RMS per channel at 4 ohms. Please don’t be ‘put-off’ by my comments here as I actually started in 1972 driving my AR-3a’s with a “Dynaco” ST-35 tube amp which was truly ‘running-out-of-steam” driving them until I built my Dynaco ST-120 and that amp took me to new and certainly lofty heights in driving my 3a’s, with a mere 67 watts RMS per. My mind was very open in my early days of Hi-Fi, ’67 to ’74, presently it’s 50/50. It may be said by some that ‘today’ most people only hear music and sound-systems, whereas back then most ‘listened’ intensely as it was growing at such a rapid pace and getting so good to boot.
Then in 1974 I took the ‘plunge’, ‘bit-the-bullet’ and bought into the S/S ‘super-power’ amps that were becoming all of the rage back then in ’70 to ’80. My original ’74 PL400 is still with me, but unfortunately not working and has become a ‘parts-car’ for my other wonderfully performing PL400’s. Sure I admit these ‘brutes’ are using ‘off-the-shelve’ high voltage ‘trannies’ of their time, and even ‘geranium’ devices (is that a flower’s spelling?) which at this present time would be considered wrong to do, stupid and with too many inherent problems. And Vern I do fuse as I always have since way back in the day.
I will end my diatribe by relating a story I was told in 1991 by a British employee of AR I spoke to at what may have been AR’s last spectacular- show casing of their new high-end component amp and pre-amp, which I don’t remember the model numbers they came out with then, the show was at “Singer-Stereo”, one of the last remaining high-end stores in Manhattan to date. I timidly told this ‘AR- guru’ about my then fully functioning ‘stacked’ AR-LST array, being driven in parallel by my original PL400. After he listened with some amusement to my story, he told me of being with a bunch of AR higher staff personal in England doing the same with stacked AR-LST’s, using 2 Phase Linear 700b’s back in 1974. He said if I can recall, “The best that there was, or could ever be for the world’s ears”! A beaming smile came to his face as he recalled his then state of listening nirvana.
Of course if we’re talking 40 to 50 grand for other stuff, then we’re on a different horse and state of minds. I don’t go there, do any of you?
Now all of you ‘non-believers’ may balk and or even doubt that these particular amps are not what their ‘cult-followers’ say these monsters sound like. But if we’re talking strictly vintage late 1960’s to 1980 sound, these babies are the ‘cat’s meow’! Sure they can be problematic, obsolete and sometimes ‘slow’ and even ‘hurtful’, but damn, the amount of ‘SLAM”, extension and strength after a full warm-up is something to behold. Listening to anything else would be academic for sure.
Of course there’s other better gear, but do you have the cash for it? I don’t! Yes there are more reliable and perhaps better sounding at a higher price, but I’m in my ‘groove’ and that is all pure 70’s vintage and I’m staying here when it comes to sound equipment. Where your head and ears? I don’t care, let’s get back to me.
I’m sure if anyone else has the time, you’ll counter my beliefs, but so what, this is like I said ‘vintage’, which is subject to interpretation and certainly I’m being biased. So what! If you want other stuff, go ahead, be my guest and enjoy your stuff and invite me over, but would you be enjoying more than I am? That's fully debatable.
Your friend and mine, Frank Marsi*
*The Too Far Gone Pure AR-PL, Nut!
(Any counter will have to fight a man who actually served on two sister ships that amongst their many other guns had 9- 16 inch, 3000 pound
projectile armaments in the great world war second. No I wasn’t in that war, put I worked on the battleships circa 1969-70 and they taught me what was considered then and still now ‘ultimate-greatness’ and power of man's machines!)
FM
Pardon the usual tendency of my usual ‘verbose’ ramblings (ha, ha), but history should always be detailed. And don’t forget “a little knowledge is dangerous”. And also pardon me for I seek affirmation in confirming my own opinions, don’t we all? I’m having fun in this crazy vintage AR addiction, it’s almost too silly, and so am I, how about you?
Right now I’m cranking Lynynd Skynyrd with “Free-Bird” live, re-mastered. I ride the NYC subway everyday, so 100+db is no big deal for me listening at home.
FM

#22 ninohernes

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 12:30 AM

I forgot about those!

McIntosh integrated amps are very good. My ideal choice do drive my AR-3's would be a McIntosh MC402, which is 400 watts per channel (into any load). McIntosh amps produce exceptionally clean power, and are capable of easily driving tough loads like the AR-3 with almost no measurable distortion. However, McIntosh products are very expensive.

If you are on a budjet, Adcom power amps are excellent for driving AR speakers. I have been driving my AR-2's with an Adcom GFA-5400 which is 125 watts per channel into 8 ohms (200 into 4).
Joe Nino-Hernes
Recording, Mastering and Live sound engineer
www.srctape.com

#23 charger3834

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 12:24 AM

The AR-2ax is somewhat easier to drive than it's big brothers. There are lots of choices.

As for recievers, I second Joe's opinion on older Marantz units. Try the 2270 (70 RMS watts per channel) I found the 2245 a little weak. In addition, The 1970's brought a ton of high quality Japanese units to the market. A very good and very conservativly rated 45 watt unit in my experience, is the Sony STR-6055. Other models like it should be good as well. The AR reciever is great as well.

In an integrated amplifier, the Marantz 1150 works well (75 WPC). Moving up in cost would be the McIntosh MA5100 and MA6100(45 and 70 watts). Either of those would be a great investment. Of course the AR amplifier is great too.

There are really lots of choices.

#24 ninohernes

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 12:10 AM

It is hard to say which speaker is best. Speakers, like all hifi gear, are highly subjective. Sure, we can sit down and compare spec sheets and measurements to objectivly find out which speaker is technically the best, but this really does no good. If the end result happens to be a model that has a sound that you don't care for, sifting through the data is useless.

It all comes down to personal preference. That is why I said in my last post that "my favorite model is the AR-3", and not "the best speaker is the AR-3".

I write for an audiophile magazine, and it is very hard if not impossible to write an unbiased review of a component. Personal preference always weighs heavily into the outcome of the reviews.
Joe Nino-Hernes
Recording, Mastering and Live sound engineer
www.srctape.com

#25 dynaco_dan

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 12:07 AM

>Having recently aquired a pair of AR-2ax speakers I was
>wondering which AR speaker do most of you consider the
>"best" model? Also which vintage receiver would
>really make the AR-2ax's shine? I look forward to your
>suggestions. Thanks.
> Bruce


Hi Bruce;

The AR-2AX's are a great, well respected classic speaker.

My vote would be, the AR_LST's, with an appropriate amp, related equipment and a suitable listening area.
VERN

dynaco_dan2@yahoo.ca

#26 charger3834

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 11:47 PM

Hi Bruce,

Congratulations on your AR-2ax's a fine speaker and a personal favorite of mine.

Your question about which AR model is the best, depends on which era you are looking at. During the reign of the AR-2ax 1964-1976, the answer could be the AR-3, AR-3a or AR-LST depending on what year you are refering to.

I am defining the "best" as the most advanced model of the time. There is of course room for personal preference. Joe is pointing to the AR-3, and he is speaking as a very knowledgeable recording industry person. He also has young ears, and is not on this forum for only sentimental reasons.

#27 ninohernes

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 10:57 PM

Some of the big old Marantz and Pioneer receivers sound really nice with AR stuff.

My favorite model of vintage AR speaker is the AR-3. Great low end, and magical highs!
Joe Nino-Hernes
Recording, Mastering and Live sound engineer
www.srctape.com

#28 Guest_leopoldstotch_*

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 10:31 PM

Having recently aquired a pair of AR-2ax speakers I was wondering which AR speaker do most of you consider the "best" model? Also which vintage receiver would really make the AR-2ax's shine? I look forward to your suggestions. Thanks.
Bruce

#29 frankmarsi

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 02:25 AM

I believe it's 'SH-T Happens"
FM

#30 Guest_charlie03m_*

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Posted 04 August 2006 - 12:57 AM

>Large and Dyna A-25. Everybody drolled over AR3a's(remember
>that AR listening room in Grand Central?) but nobody could
>afford that($300ea)!!

Hi all,
I was raised in New York, and went everywhere by bicycle.
A wonderful thing about the AR room was that you could waltz in
with a bicycle and they wouldn't complain. (at least not in 1972 :-)
I went in quite often and one time found myself alone with
the AR person, and we spent a bunch of time (Did I mention the
AR room was air conditioned, and it was often as hot as it is
now in NYC) comparing the LST's with the AR-3a's back to back.
They were both, of course, new. The AR-3a's were consistently
what I would call cleaner than the LST's. Of course, you stood
well back from the speakers in the AR room, and they were in
regal splendour on a great big wall, so dispersion issues weren't
nearly the problem they might be in a less optimal listening
situation.
The AMP was the old brass front AR solid state amp, and the
source was an AR turntable. I remember EL&P and the Chicago under
Reiner on RCA as sources, but there were lots.
You're right about not even dreaming about owning them,
it was another 11 years before I had a pair of my own. :-)

#31 kkantor

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 05:47 AM

Bret,

One of my fantasy projects for this Fall, (post-AES), is to get my old MGC-1's running again. Some day, I'd like to do something along the same lines, but with modern DSP.

#32 Guest_Bret_*

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 05:23 AM

>One project I have in mind is to build a direct/reflecting speaker using the principles of my enhanced AR9. It promises to be a humdinger.<

A project I'd actually spend the money on, if it were doable, would be a pair of speakers on the MGC-1 model, with everything optimized.

It's the room, more than anything else, that keeps me from being content with what I already own. As far as I can tell, the MGC-1 was the first speaker to take-on the room, not merely using unknowable parameters of the room for reflected sound, but *controlling* the primary reflections insofar as time and amplitude.

I never got to hear a pair of MGC-1s, but I think I see where Ken was going and why. I'm sorry that he didn't get the opportunity to optimize the design exactly the way he wanted (he's made comments about the bass - evidently he wasn't satisfied but had to be practical).

10pi's pulled into the room, raised considerably off the floor, angled-in about 23-25 degrees in a triangle to the sweet spot is as close as I have come to having the cabinets disappear entirely. Now, if I could get *that* with the 9's addition of the 8" driver. . . holy cow!

And if I could get it in a more "modern" MTM design with multiple radiating planes, and I could control those planes and not have to just settle for whatever comes out of them (eg LST), I'm betting I would never leave my listening-room except to answer the door when UPS brought more and more music for me to hear.

And I'll bet, with today's technology, the speaker that could be built just going back to the MGC-1 and "optimizing" it, would be something to experience. I'll also bet it would retail for $35,000 and I couldn't afford it.

But it's fun to speculate about.

Bret

#33 soundminded

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 06:17 PM

As luck would have it, I also own a pair of original Bose 901s. Long sitting dormant in storage for a couple of decades, I've been experimenting with them as well during the last 3 to 4 years. They remained in excellent condition. IMO they had 2 serious flaws. They could not reproduce high frequencies above 10khz and even with their equalizer they do not have anything close to flat frequency response in the range they are capable of. I think their inability to reproduce the highest octave of sound results from the high inertia of their 4" cones. They have a significant upper bass/lower midrange peak in the 200 to 500 hz region. Their low bass output even with a 6db/octave boost starting around the 180 hz system resonance frequency is also insufficient to achieve the deepest bass consistant with the 1 khz output level and so requires even more equalization and power. This is not surprising since acoustic suspension speakers such as this have a 12db/octave falloff. A good design would be to stack 2 to 4 pairs with about 1000 watts per channel available power. I've added a high frequency tweeter array to them using biamplification with a 6 db/ octave crossover around 9 khz. I've increased the reflected/direct ratio in this region from 8:1 for the rest of the spectrum to 12:1 to compensate for what I call "spectral reflection distortion" that is the speaker/room combination's inability to deliver flat power transfer response to the listener even when the radiating pattern is uniform due to differential absorption/reflection of the room boundaries.

The result can be made similar to results with AR9 but with the advantages of the direct/reflecting characteristics. It also isn't possible to compare the ultimate deep bass capabilities because of the 135wpc available from the largest amplifier I've got which in this case is marginal even in a small room. One project I have in mind is to build a direct/reflecting speaker using the principles of my enhanced AR9. It promises to be a humdinger.

#34 Dave S.

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 05:42 PM

Hi Frank, Here is the rest of PL story. I liked the way my PL 400 sounded and that is why I upgraded to 700 series II (more power to crank those Allisons and stay competitive with my brother!)It had a left channel problem that sent it the shop several times and back to PL twice before they finally replaced it. I opened my replacement 700 Series II and it didn't sing, it hummed in one channel, albeit a low level hum. I sold it with full disclosure of the hum to a co-worker that seemed not to mind the hum. I don't mean to dis PL as I wanted very badly for it to work very well! I know the Series II's were made after Carver sold the company and I don't know how much the guts differed from a 700B. As I said my brother's 700B gave years of great service before the problems started. I've also had plenty of other equipment crap out over the years including Luxman, Counterpoint, and even some Dynaco Mark III's. Sparks happen or is it spark happens?

#35 Carlspeak

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 03:51 PM

..........Having experimented with AR9 for over 20 years now, I have concluded that considerable improvement in accuracy can be made by adding an indirect firing array of tweeters providing over 90% of the sound above 6 khz and rebalancing the voicing of the speakers using both the built in program controls and a graphic equalizer. The result is what to my ears is by far the most accurate speaker I have ever heard reproducing the sound of musical instuments more truely on more recordings than any other speaker. Recently, listening to many modern sound systems including Van Schweikerts, Martin Logan Summits, and a vast array of systems at Vacuum Tube Valley's show in Piscataway NJ last May, I had no desire to trade for anything I heard including a $400,000 system which used a pair of $125,000 Audio Note speakers. They were simply no match for my enhanced AR9s. This is the speaker to own if you can find it. My only regrets...haveing passed up the opportunity to acquire more of them.

soundminded


Have you compared your improved 9's to Bose 801 or 901? It sounds from your description very much like Amar's approach to indirect firing of a high frequency array of speakers and use of a graphic equalizer. Obviously, I haven't seen your speakers, so I could be completely off base here.

Remember, it's all about the music

Carl
Carl's Custom Loudspeakers
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!

Carl
Carl's Custom Loudspeakers

#36 soundminded

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 03:12 PM

The question has to be asked best at doing what? I don't think any one AR model was best at everything. Two top contenders were LST and AR9. Each was a landmark product which in certain important ways represented a departure from previous AR models while preserving the basic design philosophy and technology. Each was introduced to overcome at least one problem which couldn't be solved by merely introducing a previous model with mere evolutionary improvements. It is not fair to say that LST was an AR3a on steroids. It took on a the problem of the basic limitation of the three way box speaker, it's inability to reconcile flat on axis frequency response and flat total radiated power response. The arrayed midrange and particularly tweeter drivers not only increased power handling capability, it overcame the high frequency dispersion limitation of even the excellent AR 3/4" tweeter, remarkable to this day with only a 5 db dropoff at 15 khz 60 degrees off axis. I still don't know of a single tweeter which can match that performance. But it clearly wasn't good enough and AR engineers must have known it. In a way, it harkened back to the Janzen electrostatic tweeter which was also a kind of array but LST's solution was far more practical. Not only did it solve this problem, in increased the usable best listening area in real rooms. But it did not solve the load sharing problem of having to cover 10 audible octaves with three ranges of drivers each only capable of handling 2 1/2 octaves. All attempts by AR and others at solving this were compromises which inevitably sacrificed something audibly important. The answer to that problem along with others was solved when AR9 came along literally boldly blowing the problem out of the water with a 4 way design just a Jason solved the unsolvable Gordian knot by cutting it with a sword. Not only did this solve the transition from woofer to midrange far better than previous models but allowed the 12" drivers to function as true built in subwoofers and by providing two of them in a single double sized enclosure they created one of the very best low frequency reproducers ever, bettering in that regard (low frequencies) even their previous best design considerably in every way. They also solved the transition of low bass to mid bass design very cleverly with the side mounted subwoofers and the front mounted lower midrange. Tim Holl's write-up on this site explains it very well. But they did NOT provide the mid and high frequency dispersion advantages of LST and IMO, LST is still best in that category.

Having experimented with AR9 for over 20 years now, I have concluded that considerable improvement in accuracy can be made by adding an indirect firing array of tweeters providing over 90% of the sound above 6 khz and rebalancing the voicing of the speakers using both the built in program controls and a graphic equalizer. The result is what to my ears is by far the most accurate speaker I have ever heard reproducing the sound of musical instuments more truely on more recordings than any other speaker. Recently, listening to many modern sound systems including Van Schweikerts, Martin Logan Summits, and a vast array of systems at Vacuum Tube Valley's show in Piscataway NJ last May, I had no desire to trade for anything I heard including a $400,000 system which used a pair of $125,000 Audio Note speakers. They were simply no match for my enhanced AR9s. This is the speaker to own if you can find it. My only regrets...haveing passed up the opportunity to acquire more of them.

#37 Steve F

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 02:49 PM

Probably EV Interface: A's.

A very cleverly-designed speaker that sounded very good and garnered EV some of its only real consumer-market attention in that time period.

Steve F.

#38 Guest_Eunomians_*

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Posted 07 August 2006 - 08:52 PM

My favorite sounding AR's thus far are the AR3a's. Of course, this is just my opinion.

There is no question that listening habits, room size/acoustics, setup and equipement will alter one's opinion(s).

I have owned and/or auditioned AR2, AR2ax, AR4x and AR3a.

Best 'bang per buck' speaker award goes to AR4x. Maybe I'd include AR7 but I still have not gotten my hands on a pair as of yet.

I plan on owning AR9 one day. Maybe, if the sun, moon & stars are perfectly aligned, I could find an inexpensive minty pair of LSTs - but I doubt that would ever happen.

-Cheers




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