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driving my AR3's, would love suggestions


johnschlue
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I recently acquired my late dad's AR3's he bought while serving in Vietnam and I'm trying to decide what to power them with. This higher level audio stuff is pretty new to me so excuse my ignorance :)  With my initial research I'm considering these units (and hoping that they would work as stand-alones without having to also purchase a preamp etc. )

1) Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum III Tube Integrated Amplifier

2) Rogue Audio Sphinx V3 Integrated Amplifier

3) Parasound 2125v.2 2 Channel Power Amplifier

4) Naim Audio Nait 5si Integrated Amplifier

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Hi, and welcome.

 

Congratulations on acquiring your dad's 3's. Not only did you get a fantastic pair of speakers, but you have distinct knowledge of their history which makes them even more special.

 

First thing would be to make sure the 3's are performing as they should. With speakers this old, you probably will need to consider some restoration. In the library there is an excellent guide for AR3a restoration, which can be followed for restoring the 3's as well.

 

When determining what to drive them with, you want to make sure that anything you buy is able to drive 4 ohm speakers, which of course the 3's are. As for the power, the more the better. While certainly you can get away with listening to lower power amps(like the Naim in  your list at 60 watts), I would try to look for at least 100 watts, 150-200 better. It's not to wreak havoc on your family/neighbors, but rather to take advantage of that big, 12" woofer that needs a lot of current/air pumped through it in order to really bring all the benefits of the 3's richness to the music. With more power, you won't have to turn the gain up all that much to have that happen. You'll have more headroom and better dynamics, and you  won't have to worry as much about blowing out one of the sensitive tweeters by turning up the volume knob to get more bottom. Obviously, taking into consideration your listening habits, music, space you'll be listening in are important factors to consider as well.

 

I've personally not heard any of the amps in your list, but certainly all the companies are well thought of. The integrated amps  won't require a separate preamp. Only the Parasound would. And of the 4, I would rule out the Naim at 60 watts.  So that would leave the Rogue's. And on paper they both look good. I don't see 4 ohm specs for either so perhaps somebody here will be able to comment on that.

 

I'm sure others will be around that have  more technical knowledge then me to provide additional guidance and suggestions. When you can, perhaps let us see some pictures of your speakers. It will help in further providing assistance in possible restoration, and besides, always nice to see another pair in the wild.

 

Good luck!

 

 

 

Other

 

 

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After reading through some other threads I also am considering the Crown XLS 1002 (Two-channel, 350W @ 4Ω Power Amplifier). My hope is establish some means of testing this pair out to see what their condition is and upgrade to a more permanent amp setup down the road.

And please forgive my ignorance but would it work for me to run my source audio into my receiver, output L/R to Crown XLS and out to AR3's? Or am I missing a preamp to run this properly?

thanks

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Had a quick look at the manuals, and I think you can probably use the "audio out" jacks on the back of the Yamaha to use it as a preamp, but I'm not sure. Those are both home theater receiver's, and it's not clear to me if either one can be used as a preamp. Again somebody else will probably be around to add to the conversation.

 

 

The Crown has it's own gain controls, so you can just plug your source component(CD player, for example)directly into it and control volume with the Crown(or the cd player, or any other source component if it has their own volume control). If you have more then one source, you can always buy a cheap input box, plug your source's into that and then output it into the Crown.

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Audio out jacks on receivers provide signals pre volume and tone controls, so no, they won't be usable to feed a power amp. You need a specifically marked preamp out jack to do that unless you have a power amp with its own volume controls and are willing to live without the tone controls.

In the olden days it was a fairly easy operation to convert some unused tape out/tape in jacks to pre out/power in jacks by breaking the circuit between the internal pre and power amps and rerouting it to those jacks, but with the introduction of non-mechanical volume controls I wouldn't advise trying that as a DIY project.

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The Sphinx should work nicely, and it's gotten excellent reviews.

The V3 is rated at 100 watts per channel with an 8 ohm load, and double that at 4 ohms.

It also has a phono input, and a variable preamp output, should you want to connect it to a more powerful amplifier down the road (like the Crown).

It's lacking tone controls, if that's important to you.

 

 

 

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“”I still have difficulty understanding, at least audibly, why, in a a specific situation, with the AR3's,  one couldn't get away with with a 20-30 watt tube amp and live happily ever after. “”

That was in 2018 and I’m glad to see that apparently you’ve come around to what it means to drive an AR speaker properly,  LOL.

Though I was suspicious that it wouldn’t be nearly enough in 1971 all I had was my Dynaco ST-35 amp driving my brand new AR-3a’s. Within a month or so I quickly ran out to purchase a new Dynaco ST-120 that I built inside of a few days. Wow, was I so glad I decided to go with high power, or so I thought.

At 60 WPC at 8 ohms, I quickly learned that the new amplifier struggled to allow any sort of realistic bass be part of my listening. As it turned out that amp was woefully under powered and ultimately made for an unexciting experience.

In 1974 I manned-up and went with all the new rage and beginning of the ‘High-Power-Wars’ back then in the ‘Golden-Age’ of high fidelity and I ran out and bought a new Phase Linear PL-400 amplifier (400WPC@ 4ohms), that made my high expectations of AR’s speakers become a reality. I never looked back. Of course I continued to blow out the weakling AR tweeters repeatedly but, ever since I first purchased my AR-3a’s I learned it was par for the course to use high power. Of course judicious use of the volume control is recommended.

Be that as it may, this is why tweeter replacement is such an on-going topic about AR speakers. AR’s design was wonderful, the ‘dome’ and all but, sadly it wasn’t a good match for what the midrange and woofer drivers were capable of putting out.

Regarding the ‘Crown’ amps. Those are built for heavy duty use for live theater and live show use with bass-bins, and where large projected sound reinforcement sound is required. Will they sound the same as amplifiers built for in home use, do all amplifiers sound the same which is a long running question in high-fidelity. I think not and if one has quality experience they'd know the truth. Absolutely not, all amplifiers do not sound the same. Think of it these 'CHIP' amps are offered at less than $300. for 200 watts per side. Maybe things have changed but, I still feel there’s no free-bees in high-fidelity. There are loads of opinions though and like belly-buttons, everyone has one. That doesn’t prove inexperienced and ‘parroting’ opinions are valid. What you put inline before the speakers is what you’ll get out.

Common-sense should be your guide.

Regarding ‘receivers’ well, back in the day and certainly these days. If one didn’t want to be fully involved with getting the best sound possible, didn’t want to really be a dedicated member of the hobby, they bought a receiver and I believe that’s still ongoing these days. If one has reasonable budget and the true willingness to get the best sound possible, they opt for ‘separates’ of pre-amp, and separate amplifier, separate tuner, quality interconnects, etc.

Hey John, any relation to Tom Shillue the comedian?

P.S. A good tip is to ask the person you're trusting for information and suggestions is to ask about their system and what components they're using and how long they've been in the hobby. Also ask how long have they've owned AR speakers and why do they own them.

FM

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56 minutes ago, frankmarsi said:

“”I still have difficulty understanding, at least audibly, why, in a a specific situation, with the AR3's,  one couldn't get away with with a 20-30 watt tube amp and live happily ever after. “”

That was in 2018 and I’m glad to see that apparently you’ve come around to what it means to drive an AR speaker properly,  LOL.

Regarding the ‘Crown’ amps. Those are built for heavy duty use for live theater and live show use with bass-bins, and where large projected sound reinforcement sound is required. Will they sound the same as amplifiers built for in home use, do all amplifiers sound the same which is a long running question in high-fidelity. I think not and if one has quality experience they'd know the truth. Absolutely not, all amplifiers do not sound the same. Think of it these 'CHIP' amps are offered at less than $300. for 200 watts per side. Maybe things have changed but, I still feel there’s no free-bees in high-fidelity. There are loads of opinions though and like belly-buttons, everyone has one. That doesn’t prove inexperienced and ‘parroting’ opinions are valid. What you put inline before the speakers is what you’ll get out.

Two things:

1.) At its introduction, the AR-3 was most-commonly used with vacuum tube amplifiers or receivers having what we would now consider to be very modest power: probably somewhere between 15-60 watts. The AR-3's fine reputation was built using this sort of amplification.

2.) Over the years, discussions of Crown equipment have frequently included the caveat that it's designed for commercial or professional use, which in some way makes it different, or less desirable than equipment designed strictly for consumer use. This was an inaccurate criticism when discussing the DC-300 amplifier from 1968, and it's equally inaccurate now. Crown equipment has always had a well-deserved reputation for ruggedness and reliability, and maybe those attributes were interpreted as being at the expense of sound quality, but this was never the actual truth, and there are plenty of old and new Crown amplifiers in great audio systems today.

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A pair of AR-3s powered by a 25wpc amplifier could comfortably produce an SPL of 85 dB in a typical Boston or NYC apartment living room of the 1960s (roughly 2X the square footage of a supermax prison cell). More than enough to result in angry neighbors banging on your door and yelling at you to turn your @#$% volume down. So yeah, a lot of AR-3 owners found 25 wpc enough when their speakers were new.

AR's live vs. recorded demos powered a pair of AR3s with a pair of Dynaco MkIII power amps. 60 wpc was enough to credibly reproduce the sound of a chamber quartet from the stage of Carnegie Hall. The amps reportedly overheated to the point where they had to be replaced after each show, so that's probably not something you'd want to do very often. Or ever.

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I'd go with number 1 on your list. I have several AR speaker models and have a very nice sounding SS limited Edition Emotiva SA250 amp with 500wpc and a Bob Latino/Dynaco ST-120 that has 60wpc in pentode mode. I love the sound of my tube amp with AR speakers or is it I love the sound of my AR speakers with a tube amp. I typically drive AR10Pi and AR91 with the ST120. The bass is different with a tube amp. If you want very tight bass then go with a SS amp that has high damping factor.

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To echo a previous statement about damping factor, I'm driving 3a's with a Mac MC2100 which is not a particularly high damping factor design, but does have a decent amount of (if not quite Crown-level) power.  I've heard tighter from more modern solid state, however there is something very musically "right" and organic to the 3a's bass with the MC2100 - as well as a sense of abundant reserve power on tap, even with higher listening levels. 

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Just now, leemichaelbrian said:

To echo a previous statement about damping factor, I'm driving 3a's with a Mac MC2100 which is not a particularly high damping factor design, but does have a decent amount of (if not quite Crown-level) power.  I've heard tighter from more modern solid state, however there is something very musically "right" and organic to the 3a's bass with the MC2100 - as well as a sense of abundant reserve power on tap, even with higher listening levels. 

I use a 2105(same as 2100 but with meters) with my 3a's, and while rated power is 105 watts, these normally bench at closer to 150. Plenty of power and headroom for the AR's.

 

And I agree with you about it being musically right.

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I have a vintage Mac amp that measured 130watts at the Powerguard trigger, when it was refurbished two years ago.  It is fed by a Mac Preamp that sends the same program source to 2 Crown XLS amps all connected to 12 inch ARs.  There is no audible difference.   I agree, amplifiers do not all sound the same but in this case they do.

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