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Carl's AR-3a Super Mod...how does it sound? Who's done it?


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#1 XP-15B

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Posted 07 August 2011 - 08:10 PM

I am seriously considering Carl's Super-Mod for my AR-3a's. I think it makes a lot of sense because it addresses the two biggest problems with the speaker(though, to my knowledge, doesn't address the poor imaging); 1) the crossover point of the woofer and 2) the poor-sounding midrange driver. Carl's website describes it as being a vast improvement and sounding "SWEET!", but I'm wondering how it sounds in actuality. I really love the smooth, laid-back sound of the AR speakers. Does the mod retain that quality? Also, one of my concerns is that lowering the crossover point and introducing a small-ish midrange driver to cover the 300-600Hz region of the music will adversely effect the size, scale, and weight of the sonic presentation; make the speaker sound smaller. I'm also concerned that the midrange basket will be an issue with regard to reducing cabinet size(that woofer is already crowded enough). And finally, I'm wondering if the SEAS paper cone midrange speaker improves the imaging; in other words, is the stock speaker's poor performance in this area the result of the lip around the front of the cabinet and driver orientation, or is it because a sponge is covering the original dome? On paper, it looks like Carl has really done the work here. I'd just like to gather some specific comments on the sound. Thanks!

#2 JKent

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 04:04 AM

I'm a little confused. If you "love the smooth, laid-back sound of the AR speakers", why change them? I have not heard Carl's speakers but here are some thoughts, FWIW:
  • Carl's "super-mod" is not a mod. It's an entirely new speaker of his own design that happens to use vintage AR woofers in an AR box.
  • He uses first-rate components. SEAS drivers are excellent.
  • The new speakers are probably excellent speaker systems but they are NOT AR3a's

So if you love AR 3a's why change? Or, alternatively, if you believe the mid-range is "poor-sounding" why do you love the 3a?

There are some outstanding modern speakers available today, with modern and reliable drivers. Carl's "super mod" may be among that group.

One more thing: I don't believe "imaging" was an issue when the ARs were developed. And for good reason--go to a symphony, jazz performance, rock concert, whatever. Close your eyes and listen to the music. Then think about "pinpoint imaging." There ain't no such thing in a concert hall. The whole point of "surround sound" was to mimic the reflections and reverberations that occur naturally in a live performance.

But, if you are looking for accurate deep bass plus pinpoint imaging it seems to me a honkin' big subwoofer (like these: http://www.vmpsaudio.../subwoofers.htm ) and some extremely accurate "satellites" might fill the bill.

YMMV

Kent

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#3 XP-15B

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 04:57 AM

I don't like subwoofers. The reason to change the speaker is because although I like it's general tonal balance, I'm not very impressed with the mid-driver. It's extremely listenable compared to most speakers, but an improvement would be welcome. The other problem is that running the woofer up to 575Hz as per the original results in unacceptable vocal coloration. You can hear the woofer smearing it's way into the midrange. Carl addresses this issue. The short answer is that though I've been happy with the AR-3a for a very long time, I can no longer live with them. It's either modify them or move on to something else. I've never heard any other speaker I like, other than the Quad ESL 57. The only alternative is to build something new.

#4 genek

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 06:20 AM

I asked Carl about the SuperMod a while back, and he said it was designed for someone wanting the bass of the AR with a more modern sound generally. I think it's probably not feasible to build anything else using drivers available today.

A less invasive alternative might be to simply get another pair of smaller speakers whose sound you like and then disconnect the jumper to disable the 3a's mid and tweeter and use it as if it was an AR-1W.

#5 michiganpat

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 11:00 AM

not to get down on all the great work Carl's done, but if I had a set of good, working AR3's from a value and collectible standpoint, I'd have a very hard time modifying them....at the very least, I'd probably just pull the woofers and build new boxes for them, so I could put them back to original very easily...

other options,

look for some AR58S's or AR91's....basically the same speaker, and the successors of the 3a, with improved mids and tweets, and the drivers are aligned on a vertical axis, so imaging is improved, the boxes are a little bigger, but they aren't as pretty as the classic 3/3a

or the AR303/303a, a modern re-interpretation of the 3/3a built by AR in the early/mid 90's, with improved drivers, and mirror imaged driver orientation, with the mid & tweeet aligned vertically, offset from the woofer axis. these also don't have any "picture frames" around the edge of the cabinet causing diffraction

#6 DON

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 04:34 PM

If I had a nice AR3a and I didn't like it I'd either sell it and buy another speaker or keep it the way it is and put it in another room. I wouldn't rebuild it with other parts. Sell the 3a and put that money and what it would cost to rebuild them together and buy a $900 set of speakers easily.

#7 Carlspeak

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 05:14 PM

If I had a nice AR3a and I didn't like it I'd either sell it and buy another speaker or keep it the way it is and put it in another room. I wouldn't rebuild it with other parts. Sell the 3a and put that money and what it would cost to rebuild them together and buy a $900 set of speakers easily.


Gene, it's seems to me this thread belongs in the mods/tweaks area. Comments like those above are certainly expected in this forum where the focus is on restoration rather than modifications.

Sorry Kent to disagree. It is a mod simply because the box and woofer are retained in the design. Otherwise, it would become a silly debate as to where a mod ends and where a 'entirely new speaker' begins. With the grilles on, who's to know what's behind them if the sound is pleasant to the listener?
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!

Carl
Carl's Custom Loudspeakers

#8 genek

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 07:41 PM

Gene, it's seems to me this thread belongs in the mods/tweaks area. Comments like those above are certainly expected in this forum where the focus is on restoration rather than modifications.

I've left it where it is for now because the OP asked if the SM would preserve the original "laid back" tone and I wanted to see if anyone would discuss ways to make the SM sound more like the original speaker, but I'll probably move it once it's played out so it'll be in the right place for archival purposes.

One question, though: since we routinely discuss the use of the HiVi tweeter with mods as a replacement for the 3a tweeter, what if someone wanted to "mod the super mod" to bring its tonal balance more in line with that of the original at some setting of its level controls? Since original 3a mids are just as old and hard to get as original tweeters now, maybe we need to expand the concept of "restoration and repair" to cover ways to get close-to-original sound using modern components.

#9 XP-15B

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 08:20 PM

Let's talk about the subject at hand; how Carl's mod actually performs/sounds. All else is off-topic, though I also welcome discussion of alternatives to Carl's mod. The goal is to have the ultimate 3-way, sealed box system with a 12" woofer. It really doesn't matter to me how I get there. I'm not the least bit interested in keeping my AR-3a's original for collectible value.

#10 XP-15B

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 08:22 PM

I've left it where it is for now because the OP asked if the SM would preserve the original "laid back" tone and I wanted to see if anyone would discuss ways to make the SM sound more like the original speaker, but I'll probably move it once it's played out so it'll be in the right place for archival purposes.

One question, though: since we routinely discuss the use of the HiVi tweeter with mods as a replacement for the 3a tweeter, what if someone wanted to "mod the super mod" to bring its tonal balance more in line with that of the original at some setting of its level controls? Since original 3a mids are just as old and hard to get as original tweeters now, maybe we need to expand the concept of "restoration and repair" to cover ways to get close-to-original sound using modern components.



Absolutely; an excellent post.

#11 XP-15B

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 08:29 PM

I have already modified my AR-3a with SEAS T25CF001 tweeters. These were a drop-in replacement, integrate nicely and sound fine with the original crossover, and are a huge improvement over the original units. Changing the midrange driver is not so simple. I could find a replacement dome and install that unit, but that doesn't address the issue of altering the crossover point of the woofer. I don't know enough to design a crossover, so that is why Carl's mod interests me. In terms of his actual driver choice, I may experiment with different alternatives there. I could simply start with another speaker and another cabinet from scratch, of course, but I figure it's better to begin with something I like already. Really, all I'm seeking to do is drop the crossover point of the woofer to around 300Hz and use a larger diameter, cone midrange. That's it. I just don't know how to design that system. Seems like Carl has already done it.

#12 genek

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 08:40 PM

The goal is to have the ultimate 3-way, sealed box system with a 12" woofer. It really doesn't matter to me how I get there.

"Ultimate" is in the ear of the beholder. Whether your "ultimate" is something resembling the original sound or something completely different is probably what will determine how quickly this discussion ends up getting moved to Mods and Tweaks. :)

#13 Carlspeak

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 09:20 PM

I've left it where it is for now because the OP asked if the SM would preserve the original "laid back" tone and I wanted to see if anyone would discuss ways to make the SM sound more like the original speaker, but I'll probably move it once it's played out so it'll be in the right place for archival purposes.

One question, though: since we routinely discuss the use of the HiVi tweeter with mods as a replacement for the 3a tweeter, what if someone wanted to "mod the super mod" to bring its tonal balance more in line with that of the original at some setting of its level controls? Since original 3a mids are just as old and hard to get as original tweeters now, maybe we need to expand the concept of "restoration and repair" to cover ways to get close-to-original sound using modern components.


I'm glad you at least plan to move it. I'm also hoping some Super-Mod owners spot this thread and contribute their un-solicited (at least from me) comments on the sound. I wasn't planning to add mine personally; simply because they would obviously be viewed as biased. All I'll say is the intent of the SM development was to preserve the original laid back sound of the 3a's but improve on the overall clarity and imaging thru the use of high quality, modern mids and tweeters.
You alude to a mod of the SM to "bring it's tonal balance in line with that of the original". IMHO, I'm not sure that's necessary since I've heard no feedback that the 'tonal balance' was changed with the SM. Let's not speculate on what may or may not have changed. Let the owners of the SM make that call.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!

Carl
Carl's Custom Loudspeakers

#14 ADVENTAGIOUS

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Posted 08 August 2011 - 10:18 PM

I am in an AR3a restoration based on the guide mentored on this site.....new caps, new pots etc. I have always wanted a pair of AR3a's but after reading some of these posts I suddenly feel I will have a sub standard speaker when I'm done. The modded units in my opinion are not AR3a's anymore.......just a new speaker using some of the AR3a parts. If the AR3a was so good, why is it now so bad. I hope my many hours of tedious work was not a waste of time. This is an AR forum isn't it? What's so bad about the AR3a?

#15 XP-15B

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 12:18 AM

I am in an AR3a restoration based on the guide mentored on this site.....new caps, new pots etc. I have always wanted a pair of AR3a's but after reading some of these posts I suddenly feel I will have a sub standard speaker when I'm done. The modded units in my opinion are not AR3a's anymore.......just a new speaker using some of the AR3a parts. If the AR3a was so good, why is it now so bad. I hope my many hours of tedious work was not a waste of time. This is an AR forum isn't it? What's so bad about the AR3a?



I can tell you exactly what's wrong with the AR-3a. First, the original tweeter is somewhat spitty and nasty sounding and has to go. Secondly, the midrange driver is not very articulate, nor full-bodied or transparent, and is somewhat hard sounding. The cabinet has a giant frame around it and the drivers are recessed into a cavity, thus introducing a host of diffraction problems. The drivers are not lined up correctly for the purpose of coherent imaging. And lastly, the original crossover design runs the woofer up too high so that there is a chesty, boomy coloration that is most obvious when listening to vocals, particularly female. The woofer clouds the midrange and you end up with a speaker that sounds like mids and highs with a booming, intrusive subwoofer.

The good thing about the AR-3a is that A- the cabinet is extremely well made. B- the woofer is decent. C- the stock midrange unit is extremely well-behaved compared to most drivers in the world and D- the overall picture is a big, warm, smooth..though somewhat opaque...sound. As I mentioned, though. There are some rough spots. They will become more and more obvious over time. The stock AR-3a, in my opinion, is completely unacceptable and will never be a reference quality loudspeaker. The only solution is to attempt something like Carl has done. Carl's mods represent, in my opinion, some very intelligent thinking.

#16 dynaco_dan

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 01:34 AM

The stock AR-3a, in my opinion, is completely unacceptable and will never be a reference quality loudspeaker.

Carl's mods represent, in my opinion, some very intelligent thinking.



Hi there

You are about 3 decades too late to say that about the AR-3A.

It was in it's day's, a world class standard, maybe in the top 25 overall, under $10,000.00, that is.

Your tastes are not for the AR-3A, so move on to another model or brand.

Why trash a speaker thought so very highly on this site and by the hifi community in general.

As we will be less able to replace original drivers with original drivers we will need to compromise with different drivers and pots.
VERN

dynaco_dan2@yahoo.ca

#17 ar_pro

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 02:07 AM

Seriously, why are you even bothering?

Your criticism of the 3a is counterintuitive - a speaker you "love" for its "smooth, laid-back sound" is the sum of its parts.
Mess with the parts, and the sound will be gone - ipso facto!

This whole thing smells of troll.

#18 XP-15B

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 02:52 AM

Seriously, why are you even bothering?

Your criticism of the 3a is counterintuitive - a speaker you "love" for its "smooth, laid-back sound" is the sum of its parts.
Mess with the parts, and the sound will be gone - ipso facto!

This whole thing smells of troll.


If you want to insult people and make ridiculous statements, maybe you're the one who shouldn't bother. "Mess with the parts, and the sound will be gone." Oh really? Are you sure? How much experimenting have you done with parts swapping and crossover mods on the AR-3a? Please tell us about it.

#19 XP-15B

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 03:00 AM

Why trash a speaker thought so very highly on this site and by the hifi community in general.



I'm so sorry I expressed my personal opinion and your feelings were hurt. So if I understand correctly, you are wondering why I would dare make unpopular statements about/and question a product that everyone loves as-is? And I assume you also don't understand why I would want to change something that so many people favor? I'm sorry. I really don't know how to begin to answer these questions, nor do I see how this sort of direction pertains to the subject at hand and this thread in general.

Perhaps Carl is correct and the administrators should move this discussion to the alternate section where people are open to modification of existing designs. It's not my mission to offend anyone.

#20 genek

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Posted 09 August 2011 - 03:17 AM

If you all don't stop taking personal potshots at each other, it's going to get closed and moved into The Kitchen.




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