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  1. #1
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    Default Acoustic Research AR-3

    Anyone has any experience with this AR model?
    How much are they worth? Is it worthwhile to refurb a used pair?
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    Hello,
    The AR 3A speakers were listed as one of the 100 most important audio components of the modern era. They heralded the air sealed, infinite baffle type of speaker design aiming for low coloration of sound and good bass response from a fairly small cabinet. I'm afraid I've never tried to refurbish them, I'm sure other CP members can advise on that. Tweeters and drivers may be difficult to find.
    In my opinion as long as they can be brought into good condition they should be considered. These kinds of audio products deserve to be heard and appreciated.
    Cheers, Ken

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    I did see the 100 most important audio component list. I was waiting for the senior forum members to chime in. I have an opportunity on acquiring a pair for $50.00 Thus far they seem to need minor cabinet work and the potentiometers seem rotted.
    I will check the condition of the drivers today.
    SRT For Life; SDA Forever!

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    "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss the abyss also gazes into you." Friedrich Nietzsche

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    They are quite nice; quintessential "East Coast" sound. Power-hungry and capable of producing prodigious bass (especially by the standards of their time). They will sound "distant" or perhaps "reticent" to modern ears/tastes and indeed are somewhat rolled-off in the treble due (I assume) to the fairly large tweeter dome. The AR-3a used a smaller dome tweeter that corrected this to some extent.

    Everyone should have a pair of AR-3 or AR-3a (I have a pair of the former).

    Tons of info on the classic ARs at www.classicspeakerpages.net

    The rheostats (not L-pads) in the crossover will have seriously oxidized and will need refurbishing or replacement/substitution if they're original and 'as is'.
    all the best,
    mrh

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    I would go ahead and refurb them. Most, unless they have been abused, only really need a re-foaming of the surrounds on the woofer and replacement of the usual electronic components that wear out like rheostats, capacitors, potentiometers and so on. It's really quite easy but does require a delicate touch and patience. In the end though, totally worth the effort.

    The hard part comes when you have to completely disassemble the drivers to replace spiders, VC Formers and other parts of the actual motor structure of the driver. The biggest problem there is that, due to age, the glues are brittle and hard. They aren't as flexible as they were 20, 30, 40 years ago and I have seen people damage drivers beyond repair because of a slip up when messing with a stubborn glue joint.

    If your driver needs internal motor structure work and you're leery about it, it is advisable to find someone who has experience doing the rebuild and have them either help you or do it for you.

    Otherwise, a stellar bookshelf with a unique sound! I had heard a pair a friend from college had hooked up to that mighty mite of a tube amp and they sounded way better than the KLH's I brought with me to Polkfest. I refurbed an old Heathkit integrated for him and that's what he brought over to test it out when I was done with it. I bought a pretty beat up Heathkit from some lady on eBay to get the knobs and new bottom plate. When I got it, it had a set of tubes in it. She said it didn't work, it was a bad transformer. Nothing wrong with the tubes. But they were stickered with sequential serial numbers and taped to the inside was the data sheet for the matched pairs. I ended up with a set of Mullard tubes for my dad's similar Heathkit integrated and I swapped out his 2nd hand Sovteks for the Mullards and gave the guy with the AR-3a's the Sovtek tubes 'cause his had none. His grandfather had built the kit and the tubes were long since gone when he dug it out of his grandmother's attic.
    You're just jealous 'cause the voices don't talk to you!

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    I put my nicest pair on ebay and they brought $1,025.00.
    I put an better than average pair on and they sold for $480.00.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jstas View Post
    I would go ahead and refurb them. Most, unless they have been abused, only really need a re-foaming of the surrounds on the woofer and replacement of the usual electronic components that wear out like rheostats, capacitors, potentiometers and so on. It's really quite easy but does require a delicate touch and patience. In the end though, totally worth the effort.

    The hard part comes when you have to completely disassemble the drivers to replace spiders, VC Formers and other parts of the actual motor structure of the driver. The biggest problem there is that, due to age, the glues are brittle and hard. They aren't as flexible as they were 20, 30, 40 years ago and I have seen people damage drivers beyond repair because of a slip up when messing with a stubborn glue joint.

    If your driver needs internal motor structure work and you're leery about it, it is advisable to find someone who has experience doing the rebuild and have them either help you or do it for you.

    Otherwise, a stellar bookshelf with a unique sound! ...
    The AR-3 woofer used a rubberized or otherwise treated cloth surround; the early AR-3a woofers did as well, though the later AR-3a woofers had foam surrounds.

    The cosmetics of the AR-3 and 3a drivers are sort of... laughable; but these were very competent drivers with fairly hefty AlNiCo magnets. The MR and HF dome drivers were also quite massive.

    FWIW my original pair of AR-3s were dump finds and ugly as sin. They sounded fine, though. The drivers were ultimately bartered to Charles King (who may or may not have used them in the refurbishment of a pair of Cello Amatis). The early AR-3s, at least, employed some almost frighteningly massive oil-filled caps in their XOs.



    I now have, thanks to Gary Kaufman, an attractive (albeit somewhat later) pair of AR-3s. No photos of them, though.
    Last edited by mhardy6647; 11-03-2010 at 02:14 PM.
    all the best,
    mrh

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    Those poor speakers were probably used as plant stands. "Oh, the horror!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth Swauger View Post
    Those poor speakers were probably used as plant stands. "Oh, the horror!"
    That's the better looking of the pair. On the bright side, they were free and they sounded fine (other than the oxidized pots already mentioned).
    all the best,
    mrh

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    I'm glad you rescued them, Mark.

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    I had a pair about 20 years ago, and I thought they sounded great. IMO they're worth 50 bucks, and would make a cool restoration project.

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    for $50, it's worth it...i got AR-2A that needs refurb, cabinet is in amazing shape and begging for cleaned pot
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    2Ch system: MC2105, C-26, AR-XA, MR-80, AR-2A, AR9, BX-300

  14. #14

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    ... now seems like a good time to pull out my Radio Shack and LRE AR catalog scans :-P







    You all probably know that, besides being the first commercial acoustic suspension loudspeaker, the AR-1's main claim to fame was its use of the near-legendary 8" fullrange Western Electric 755 (later made by Altec) as a "tweeter" :-)
    all the best,
    mrh

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    Thanks for all the information. I took the front grills off and much to my dismay, the midrange and the tweeters on both cabinets are shot. Both woofers are in good condition.
    At this point, I don't think it's even worth $50 with the amount of work they need.
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  16. #16
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    Here are some pics:








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  17. #17

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    I think a lot of the time you'll find the issues are with the original AR pots. Most IF not ALL the pots I've seen on them in years are worn out and should be replaced if you're going to get max performance out of these classic speakers.
    Sealing the cabinets is even more critical than on the Polk sealed cabinets.
    They're a great speaker and are well worth having and restoring.
    IF you ever have the opportunity to listen to a pair of these in proper working condition you'll quickly notice why they've earned their reputation.

    IF you need anything at all for these contact Larry Legace at Vintage AR Repair/Restoration.
    He's got anything you need for these and will treat you right.
    Last edited by HB27; 11-04-2010 at 06:03 AM.

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    Yup, don't give up too easily! Those look to be in good shape, as well.
    The rheostats (pots) are a well-known issue after 4 or 5 decades :-)
    all the best,
    mrh

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    pots in my AR-2A needs cleaning as well...these pots are in exposed and thus corrode....but that makes it easier to clean and make it work again
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    2Ch system: MC2105, C-26, AR-XA, MR-80, AR-2A, AR9, BX-300

  20. #20

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    There's a how-to with photos somewhere on teh interwebs - either at www.classicspeakerpages.net or on the forums at www.audiokarma.org
    The other option is to replace them with fixed resistors - they apparently cannot be just be replaced with a wire (said to yield too much MR and HF), although I am not sure why - in fairness, I haven't studied the XOs. It is noteworthy that the attenuators are not L-pads (i.e., the "knee" frequency of the XO slope changes as the setting of the pot - or rheostat - is altered).

    EDIT: Heck, there's info rat cheer on this very forum!
    http://www.polkaudio.com/forums/showthread.php?t=51494
    Last edited by mhardy6647; 11-04-2010 at 08:38 AM.
    all the best,
    mrh

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    The AR-3/3a is something everyone should own....I would go out on a limb and say that they are THE most significant product in audio.

    F1 would be the guy I'd ask about refinishing.

    BDT
    I plan for the future. - F1Nut

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    What about AR4's???
    Hot Rodded SDA 1.2TL's, SDA 1C's, SDA CRS+'s...
    Powered By Wyred 4 Sound, STP-SE, SX-1000...
    MIT-Shotgun's ...

  23. #23

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    They sold zillions of AR4 family members - the price was right for the burgeoning college-age population. I am not a huge fan myself, but they're held in significant regard... the AR-4x is generally thought to be the best AR-4 incarnation.

    I like the Teledyne-era AR-18 (which uses the same basic cone tweeter design) quite a bit - in its time, it was the best sounding cheap ($65 a pop) speaker available (IMNSHO, of course). The pre-Teledyne, small AR-6 and AR-7 models were also similar.
    Last edited by mhardy6647; 11-04-2010 at 10:29 AM.
    all the best,
    mrh

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    Their build quality has really impressed me. these need too much work.
    If I were to undertake this refurb, I would need to replace both tweeter/midrange, the pots,
    upgrade the crossovers and completely refinish the cabs.
    As much fun as this sounds, I really don't have the time. I may just buy a refurb 3A and be done with that.
    SRT For Life; SDA Forever!

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  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by ESavinon View Post
    Their build quality has really impressed me. these need too much work.
    If I were to undertake this refurb, I would need to replace both tweeter/midrange, the pots,
    upgrade the crossovers and completely refinish the cabs.
    As much fun as this sounds, I really don't have the time. I may just buy a refurb 3A and be done with that.
    1) so you're really sure the dome drivers are kaput?
    2) You won't likely find a refurbished AR-3a for 50 smackers. You probably knew that already :-)
    all the best,
    mrh

  26. #26

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    Vintage AR's has been my next favorite speaker...next to the Polk SDA line.

    I bought my AR91's back in the 80's thinking they were the best I could get similar to the AR-3A I had always hoped to have.

    The AR-91's have never disappointed; recently re-foamed and totally enjoyable especially the mid and high end even more than my Polks, but sound stage is much smaller.
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  27. #27
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    The dome tweeter and dome midrange on both speakers are gone. If you look closely on the pictures taken you can see coil sticking out on the midrange and tweeter. If I can find a pair of 3, 3a or 9s locally I wouldn't mind adding them to my collection.
    Last edited by ESavinon; 11-04-2010 at 10:40 PM.
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  28. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by ESavinon View Post
    The dome tweeter and dome midrange on both speakers are gone. If you look closely on the pictures taken you can see coil sticking out on the midrange and tweeter. If I can find a pair of 3, 3a or 9s locally I wouldn't mind adding them to my collection.
    ahh. :-(

    They're frighteningly easy to find in my neck of the woods (a stones' throw, or at least a commute away, from Cambridge) - my ugly AR-3s, a pair of AR-2ax, and AR-14s were all picked up from the Yankee swap pile at our town dump.
    all the best,
    mrh

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