Growing up in the 70’s I was big into stereo – home and car. Lots of components, lots of music, but all Japanese equipment. I knew of the more esoteric (for me) audiophile stuff built in the states, but that was well beyond my budget at the time. Nonetheless, I read the magazines and I lusted. Then life came along and lots of gear, cables, big speaker boxes, yards of LPs, and jamming tunes were slowly downsized and eliminated; the core of the albums boxed and stored.
CDs came along and everything got smaller; my last memory of a stereo in the house was a black Sony all in one (no turntable) with speakers placed for aesthetics rather than sound. For the last couple of years everything has been played through a Sony soundbar connected to the Xbox.
A couple of months ago I was driving home and happened across an “Estate Sale” sign. Deciding to take a chance I made the u- turn, parked the car, and went in. The house was a nice bungalow and what was left reflected people who were reasonably well off all the way back to the 60’s; clothes, luggage, briefcases, furnishings all dated to the period but were obviously up-scale.
Electronics were a downer as it looked like they had re-upped sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s with an all in one radio-record-cassette ensemble. Nonetheless, I kept wandering and was down to one bedroom with things looking grim. Walked in, spun around a couple of times and was just about to leave when I saw buried in the corner three speaker-looking shapes in dark wood veneer.
These revealed themselves as two bookshelf-sized speakers marked AR-1 and a more oddly, fan-shaped speaker that was wider than tall with four distinct front panels marked Janszen I-30. I knew of AR and that the AR-3’s and later AR-9 vertical series were good speakers (but again, out of my price range at the time) but had never heard of AR-1’s and knew nothing of this Janszen device. However, it was only $22 for all 3 pieces and there was no way I was letting these go. So, I scrounged $22 in 5’s, singles, and change from my pockets, briefcase, and car (everything with a debit card, it seems and estate sales rarely take them) bought the speakers and took them home.
As I was moving them from car to office I noticed that even though both of the AR’s were marked AR-1, they were quite different front and back as one was 2-way and the other had but a single woofer in the cabinet.
Once inside I immediately began internet research and grew happier by the web page as I came to realize exactly what I had stumbled upon. As I did not have a stereo receiver at that time, I scooted over to my cousin Tommy’s who is not only a musician but also has a nice Bogen tube amp, good turntable, and Bowen and Wilson speakers that we thought sounded quite fine. We hooked these up, flipped the switch, and just stared at each other upon the sound coming out of these boxes. The Bowen & Wilson’s are good, these were just audibly way better.
We then discovered that the Janszen was not working. Tommy, however, is also an accomplished electrical repair guy and I left them with him to see if he could get it to work and enjoy the speakers till I could find a receiver.
The next day I got a call that everything was working. Zoomed over to listen to the entire set and it was even more amazing; just really clean, clear, music with presence and depth. The only problem was that past a certain point, the Bogen just could not push these speakers.
I finally acquired power to push them (Pioneer A-88X), a turntable for my heretofore boxed and stored vinyl (Kenwood KD 5100) and a Harman Kardon HD 7525 cd player (Burr Brown DAC – in my opinion sounds better than the Philips CDB 630 [TDA 1541a DAC] that I found at Goodwill – actually the HK and the Kenwood, as well).
Here is speaker data:
- The AR-1 was purchased sometime in 1955 (based on s/n 480). As far as I can tell, the grill has never been removed.
- The AR-1W has s/n 12863 and, as already mentioned, is mis-labeled as an AR-1. I have noted reference to at least two more (s/n’s 12792 and 13195) that were also described as mis-labeled. So that would seem to provide a starting range for this error.
- The Janszen I-30 Electrostatic tweeter has no serial number. The back is the mirrored silver finish which does not photograph well.