History of the AR-3

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by arhpg, Apr 29, 2006.

  1. arhpg

    arhpg New Member

    There is considerable interest in the Acoustic Research ("AR") AR-3. Following is a very brief description of the AR-3 and its place in history. Special note: while the 1967 AR-3a was an improvement of the AR-3 in some respects, the changes were subtle. Restoration of the AR-3a, however, is much easier than with the AR-3.

    After the introduction of the first acoustic-suspension commercial loudspeaker system (AR patent No. 2,775,309), the 1954 AR-1, AR went on to develop a scaled-down, lower-cost version of that speaker with the introduction of the AR-2 in 1957. For quite some time Edgar Villchur (patent-holder and co-founder of AR) had experimented with the hemispherical "dome" direct-radiator tweeters, and in 1958 AR once again pioneered in loudspeaker technology with the introduction of the landmark model AR-3, which used the AR-1’s acoustic-suspension woofer in conjunction with the first commercially available hemispherical (“dome”) high-frequency tweeters available in a loudspeaker. There is considerable speculation across the globe about who introduced the "first" dome tweeter, but most experts -- and historical documents -- support the notion that the AR-3's 2-inch and 1-3/8-inch phenolic-dome tweeters were the first direct-radiator dome tweeters commercial manufactured. These dome tweeters reproduced music very accurately, and the on- and off-axis performance of these speakers -- even by today's standards -- is still considered remarkable. Dome diaphrams had been previously used all the way back to the early 20th century, but these diaphrams were always useds with horn-type and compression drivers, never as direct-radiator, wide-dispersion dome tweeters.

    For nearly ten years after its introduction, the AR-3 was widely regarded as the most accurate loudspeaker available at any cost, and was used in countless professional installations, recording studios and concert halls. Many well-known professional musicians used AR-3 loudspeakers due to their life-like, accurate sound reproduction. In the early 1960s, AR conducted a series of over seventy-five live-vs.-recorded concerts across the country in which the sound of a live string quartet (The Fine Arts Quartet) was alternated with the echo-free recorded music played through a pair of AR-3s, using Dynaco MkIII amplifiers, Dynaco PAS-3 preamp and recorded anechoically on an AMPEX Model 351 stereo-tape recorder and condenser microphones. In this “ultimate” subjective test of audio quality, the listeners in these concerts were largely unable to detect the switchovers from live to recorded, a strong testament to the AR-3's extraordinary accuracy and audio quality. It is generally felt that this famous series of live-vs.-recorded concerts validated the Acoustic Research AR-3's sonic accuracy (the "ultimate" subjective test)

    On September 13, 1993, an AR-3 was placed on permanent display in the Information Age Exhibit, The National Museum of American History, The Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. The AR-3 was a part of a stereo pair donated to the Smithsonian by the writer, Tom Tyson. The attached image is a photo taken in the Smithsonian during the presentation of the AR-3 at the museum in late 1993.

    Attached Files:

  2. arhpg

    arhpg New Member

    Attached are images from AR's live-vs.-recorded concerts using the Acoustic Research AR-3. Recordings for these concerts were made in an echo-free environment in order to avoid "double reverberation," and the playback was conducted at many different forums across the United States.

    --arhpg

    Attached Files:

  3. joelongwood

    joelongwood Member

    Location:
    Wading River, NY
    Very informative post........thanks for sharing.
    I've been buying AR speakers (AR4, AR4x, AR2a, AR2ax, AR5, and AR3a) since the late 60s. I still have the AR4, 4x, 5, and 3a. I find them to be extremely musical, non-fatiguing speakers that one could listen to all day. I love them!
    Thanks again. :D
  4. coopmv

    coopmv Newton 1/30/2001 - 8/31/2011

    Location:
    CT, USA
    Great information. These days, we American can certainly use some of that creativity that pioneered and ushered in the multi-billion dollars home entertainment industry.
  5. Casino

    Casino New Member

    Location:
    BossTown
    Kinda wish I still had the AR-5's I used to own. Sold them many moons ago in mint condition.
  6. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    I have AR-2's, AR-3's and 4x's. I love them! My AR-3's are still very hard to beat even today!
  7. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
  8. Who knows how to restore them? I have an AR 3 with a non functioning tweeter.
  9. Rolf Erickson

    Rolf Erickson New Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Restoring speakers is fun.... Great hobby.. is mine.

    Parts are available for AR vintage speakers... I may even have a tweeter pair myself, I know I have a pair of mid-ranges.. I will check on inventory.. It's a fun hobby, speaker resurrection. Rewarding, and occasionally profitable, to a small degree. Rolf.

    By the way, Regarding the ebay item referred to above... (Photo of it below) I looked at the quality of the surround replacement workmanship... A little sloppy with the excess adhesive glue visible around the circumference of the inner lip... Likely won't harm the sound any, just poor cosmetics.. But could be indicative of a sloppy job in general... Can't be sure, but the surround foam appears to be slightly off center on at least one woofer? Anyone else see this? This guy has a lot of stereo stuff around his garage... Looks like he makes a small business of recycling Hi-Fi... nothing wrong with that, I do some of that myself.. But if he did the re-surround himself, looks a little like amateur-hour to me. If he paid a "pro" to do it... He got taken... Looks unprofessional.... Not a clean job.. (I would never let a woofer I refurbished go out like that..) Just sayin'. R.E.
  10. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
    Ok. Gonna go head and grab 'em for $300, and I can pick them up tomorrow.

    My first vintage speaker!
  11. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Looks great!

    Just a reminder...

    Make sure your amplifier is capable of driving a 4 ohm load. AR-3a's are very difficult to drive. I have blown up a few amps with these speakers! Also, make sure your amp has lots of clean power. I would recommend at least 150 watts per channel. If there is any clipping, you risk blowing tweeters. AR tweeters have excellent power handling abilities, but they can not take distortion. I have run AR speakers with amplifiers up to 1000 watts per channel with no problems. Just because you have a ton of power does not mean you have to listen at a million dB. It just offers you a large cushion before distortion.

    In the ebay listing, it says that there is a screw missing on the midrange driver. Make sure you plug this hole with something (like Mortite). The cabinet must be airtight for the acoustic suspension principle to work.
  12. SamS

    SamS Forum Legend

    Location:
    Texas
    Thanks Joe!

    Any tips for improving the cosmetics and/or grills?
  13. Rolf Erickson

    Rolf Erickson New Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    $300 is a decent price for refurbed AR3a's, hard to buy a better speaker pair today..

    for anywhere like that kind of wampum! If they work correctly, you may find listening to these is better than nearly anything you bought in the last 10 years... But like Nino says, have plenty of clean power available, these are not very efficient speakers. But you will be rewarded with some pure, minimally colored reproduction. They won't throw a lot of fireworks into the room, no blasting bass, no ear jarring highs, no bitter, shrill mids... just fairly flat response, real sounding music.

    Just a bit of advice, because of the recent re-surround job... when you go to pick-up the speakers Wednesday, push gently on the woofer cones with both hands. Use four fingers set at 1:30 and 4:30 O'clock with your right hand, and 7:30 and 10:30 with the left hand.. carefully push in the cone, it should not rub or scrape at all... but some resistance from the air sealed enclosure should be felt, and when released, it should slowly return out to rest. Do it several times. If you feel or hear any scraping of the coil, the re-surround work has been done poorly.... And the "centering" is off... And this is reason to re-negotiate the price, as you will need to fund some repair or replacement of the woofer.
  14. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Grills are tough to do anything with, but the cabinets can be freshened up with some lemon oil.
  15. Joe Nino-Hernes

    Joe Nino-Hernes Active Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL

    I agree. It is hard to find an affordable speaker today that does what the AR-3a does. Most of today's inexpensive speakers are way too bright!

    At this point, I have restored 4 pairs of AR speakers!!
  16. Rolf Erickson

    Rolf Erickson New Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles, CA
    Question about "off-centering" of the surround edge.. And level controls.

    I can't tell for sure.. but does the 1:00 O'clock position of the woofer surround start to show a black edge line there? which continues till about 3:00 O' clock? I could be totally wrong, but.... I'm a dancing fool..... (F. Zappa)

    Rotate the level controls while signal is going into the speaker... preferably a steady tone... like an oscillator with variable frequency's... If you hear a lot of "scratching" sound, this indicated a "dirty" or "corroded" L-pad or pot or level control "wiper" area. This can usually be cleaned off, often just "cranking" the control many times (100?) lock to lock.. will mechanically clean it off, and it will make less noise and "scratching" will minimize with working it, until it is negligible, and you can live with it. If no distortion occurs during music at all, it's OK, and don't sweat it. Unless you like weekend projects. In which case you can pop out the woofer, get inside the enclosure and attempt to treat the pad with some fluid product or something... or remove the crossover and rebuild it... lot's of work... But... if you like that sort of thing.

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