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AR 9 vs. AR 90


Supercooper188

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I've never heard a pair of AR9s so I'm going by the skecs only. The 9 has two 12 inch woofers whereas the 90 has two 10 woofers, the rest of the drivers as far as I know are the same. The 9 has a higher power handling capacity and a lower bass response. The 90s produce excellent bass but not quite to the depth or volumn as the 9s. Both require a robust amp to sound right with the 9 being more demanding than the 90.

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I've always thought those specs were a little misleading. To read that sheet, the only difference in the sound of a 9 and a 90 is 4Hz of bass extension.

From 300-400Hz up, the 9 and the 90 *ought* to sound identical. But the crossover from the 8" downward and the 10" upward has to be different in the 9 and 90 even if the crossover point is the same.

(for those who don't understand: the drivers, themselves, have a response curve; unless the 10" and 12" drivers had identical "upper frequency" roll-off characteristics, or unless the cabinet could be counted on to compensate for differences exactly, the crossover would have to change to smooth-out the difference in those characteristics)

Without knowing what the 10" drivers' characteristics are in the crossover area, even a careful calculation of the crossover's and drivers' electrical responses doesn't lead to an answer.

So the differences are, as a matter of practical reality, larger than the 4Hz would indicate, but not necessarily worse. For all I know, the transition from lower midrange to woofer in the 90 could be head and shoulders above that of the 9 (theory would suggest such a thing). I have not A/Bed 9s and 90s ever, so anything I said regarding how this translates in a real room would be the worst kind of speculation.

It is really easy to predict that two 12" drivers will move a lot more air than two 10" and so you'd expect the bass of an AR-9 to be "more authoritative" than an AR-90.

You'd also expect the 10" drivers of the AR-90 to be "quicker" and "less susceptible to overshoot and ring" than a 12"; so bass in the 60Hz range might be "tighter" (less muddy). You'd also expect that fewer crossover components in the woofer section of an AR-90 would lead to a "quicker" response, but the 90's may actually be a more difficult load for an amp to drive than the 9s.

But I don't know how audible any of that actually is.

Has anyone ever had the chance to audition 9s and 90s for extended periods, side-by-side?

Bret

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The dealer wasn't even showing the 90 when I bought my first set of AR-9s, but I was able to compare the two systems a year later, when helping my nephew decide between them.

The comparison was fascinating - the 90 sounded nearly identical to the 9 in a smaller room, when played at moderate volume levels. When moved to a larger environment, the 9 bested the 90 in every way - that is, the extended bass capability of the 9 became immediately noticeable, it threw a better stereo image than the 90, and if the volume was increased beyond "moderate" there was less perceived "compression" with the 9 - it sounded balanced across the spectrum, while blasting out the spl's.

I think it's important to remember that the 9 was AR's first BIG speaker system (excluding the LST, which was nominally a "professional" design) - prior to that point, AR had made its reputation in bookshelf systems that were quite adaptable to normal-sized rooms, and presented little in the way of unique demands upon their environment.

The 9 was different - it *wanted* a big room (and big watts!), and it could be fully appreciated only in spaces that would have most likely flummoxed an AR3a or 2ax. I believe the 90 (and 91) were logical attempts to work some of the 9's magic into more traditional-sized spaces, and probably served as more reasonable (in terms of size and cost) upgrades for the thousands of aging 3a's and 2ax's out there.

To sum: the 90 can sound a whole lot like the 9, *if* the 9 is in too small a room.

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>What size room would they need and how many watts would you

>suggest?

Big - like in a McMansion, or something. I'd say 4000-6000 cubic feet, or more.

Most of us grew up in homes with much smaller rooms, and bookshelf loudspeakers became successful largely because you could fit a pair of them into a smallish room, and not drive your wife to homicide.

The 9 wasn't well-served in most of these smaller rooms (it's an excellent fit for today's "Great Room"), and the 90 was probably a better choice.

Wattage has been discussed many times, here - it seems the consensus is "the more, the better".

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>I've always thought those specs were a little misleading. To

>read that sheet, the only difference in the sound of a 9 and a

>90 is 4Hz of bass extension.

>

>From 300-400Hz up, the 9 and the 90 *ought* to sound

>identical. But the crossover from the 8" downward and the 10"

>upward has to be different in the 9 and 90 even if the

>crossover point is the same.

>

>(for those who don't understand: the drivers, themselves,

>have a response curve; unless the 10" and 12" drivers had

>identical "upper frequency" roll-off characteristics, or

>unless the cabinet could be counted on to compensate for

>differences exactly, the crossover would have to change to

>smooth-out the difference in those characteristics)

>

>Without knowing what the 10" drivers' characteristics are in

>the crossover area, even a careful calculation of the

>crossover's and drivers' electrical responses doesn't lead to

>an answer.

>

>So the differences are, as a matter of practical reality,

>larger than the 4Hz would indicate, but not necessarily worse.

>For all I know, the transition from lower midrange to woofer

>in the 90 could be head and shoulders above that of the 9

>(theory would suggest such a thing). I have not A/Bed 9s and

>90s ever, so anything I said regarding how this translates in

>a real room would be the worst kind of speculation.

>

>It is really easy to predict that two 12" drivers will move a

>lot more air than two 10" and so you'd expect the bass of an

>AR-9 to be "more authoritative" than an AR-90.

>

>You'd also expect the 10" drivers of the AR-90 to be "quicker"

>and "less susceptible to overshoot and ring" than a 12"; so

>bass in the 60Hz range might be "tighter" (less muddy).

>You'd also expect that fewer crossover components in the

>woofer section of an AR-90 would lead to a "quicker" response,

>but the 90's may actually be a more difficult load for an amp

>to drive than the 9s.

>

>But I don't know how audible any of that actually is.

>

>Has anyone ever had the chance to audition 9s and 90s for

>extended periods, side-by-side?

>

>Bret

Bret, if you can indulge me once again, I remember an interesting audition (conducted by AR field reps at an AR dealership) in which a pair of AR-90s was driven by a big Mac MC2500 (or 2300) with specially recorded, Dolby-A, 15-ips recordings of live jazz and orchestral/organ music, previously recorded at AR. This demo took place somewhere in the early 80s just prior to the introduction of the compact disc. The room was relatively large, but not specially treated -- it was the dealership's large demo room with other equipment, etc. I have never heard anything quite like that through any AR speaker before or since. The bass was powerful and full, "shook my pantlegs" and rattled everything in the room. The clarity and realism of the AR-90s in that setting at least, with that music, was almost beyond belief. The reps obviously knew what they were doing, and had the AR-90s pushed nearly to the limit. Although there was a pair of AR-9s in the building, there was no mention of "comparing" the two, as the reps wanted to show the capability of the AR-90 on its own merits, and they were successful.

The reason I believe AR was doing this was to promote sales of the AR-90, which lagged behind big-brother AR-9. The point of it all was that the AR-90 was capable of life-like reproduction, and very powerful bass, nearly the equal of the AR-9. Lots more "bang-for-the-buck." Their comment was that unless you had a very large listening room, it was hard to justify the expense and heft the AR-9 over the AR-90. Ironically, I owned AR-9s at the time, and while wonderful, they never sounded anywhere that good at our house, even in our 25' x 18' living room. I tried desparately to get a copy of that tape, but the reps would have no part of it.

I will say this as well: both the AR-9 with its two 12-inch woofers and the AR-90 with its two 10-inch woofers are nearly identical down to 35Hz or so, and the reason for this is that both woofers are uniform and flat in output right up to the crossover into the 8-inch driver. There is not much difference above about 35Hz up to 200Hz or so in the frequency response between the 12-inch and the 10-inch woofers unless the speakers are driven abnormally hard, at which point the 12-inch versions exhibit more output with lower distortion. But at 200Hz or so you could probably superimpose the frequency response of the 10-inch woofer over that of the 12-inch woofer and not see much difference except for a slight efficiency difference. Both drivers are flat within 1-2 dB in that range. Above the woofer's crossover frequency, I can't see where there would be much difference in the AR-90 and the AR-9 except for the height of the tweeters and so forth. But the "balance" of the speaker is slightly different due to the extended low-frequency output of the AR-9, and this can affect how the upper registers will sound.

--Tom Tyson

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  • 2 weeks later...

>But the "balance" of the speaker is slightly different due to the extended low-frequency output of the AR-9, and this can affect how the upper registers will sound.<

Tom. . . indulge you? I'm always happy to see you put your memory of things in writing. It benefits us all.

I appreciate your comment, which I quoted above, about "balance." I have been surprised by how little it takes to change a speaker's balance. I have also learned how much a smallish change in balance changes the "overall" speaker.

That's why I maintain that the replacement drivers we are being sold are inadequate, or wrong, or stink as replacements; even though they may be better drivers.

I did want to ask you a question about your 18 x 25 room. What was the approximate ceiling height?

Bret

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  • 10 years later...

Yesterday I bought a pair of AR90s which are pictured below next to my AR9s.  I hope no one minds that I resurrected this old thread, as it provides useful insight and context for comparison.

IMG_6852.png

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I used to have AR9´s in the early 80´s and my good friend used to have pair of AR90`s these times. We did agree that LF extension of AR9 was better but somehow bass reproduction of AR90´s was felt somehow tighter. Low bass of AR9 was not felt to be too precise compared to AR90´s. We were living in smallish rooms, where too much power was needed, so both models were a bit overkill for us. We were using decent amplifiers, but no powerhouses. Anyway, I belive amps were newer driven even close to clipping. We auditioned both speakers in several locations, so I suppose that room dimensions should not be only reason for how we found these spekers to perform.

 

Kimmo

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I just spent an hour listening to both pairs back-to-back in my home theater, which is described and analyzed here and here.
The AR9s are positioned as shown below with the AR90s spaced 18" inside (about a foot more than shown above):

img_2425.jpg

The 120" screen is on the right edge of this diagram, and the listening position is at the center block labeled "table" (which has been replaced with an upholstered chair):

auralex_matthews_back.png

For each track, I listened to the AR90s first, then switched the leads from the Adcom GFA-585 to the AR9s without adjusting the B&K Reference 30 volume, and hit repeat.  One track I always use when auditioning speakers is Jennifer Warnes - Bird on a Wire (Leonard Cohen), and one of the more entertaining tracks I used today was Buddha Bass - Inceptional (Variant Field Remix), both on CD.

For every track, the AR90s sounded absolutely fantastic, so good that I genuinely wondered whether it was even possible for the AR9s to sound better.  The highs and mids are identical as anticipated, and both produce an incredible depth of bass.  It's hard to describe the difference, but the AR9s seem to do a better job of filling this large, challenging room with sound.  This is not to say that the AR90s are not enveloping; they are truly excellent, and seem to produce the same volume, but the AR9s added a subtle dimension that is hard for me to articulate.  Though not a small speaker, the AR90 is significantly smaller than the AR9, yet achieves virtually the same sound, which is very impressive indeed.

Bottom line: I would be satisfied with either and am thrilled to have both!

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Thanks for the analysis. I'd still like to have both some day.

I have noticed from the schematics for the 9 and 90 is that the LMR, UMR and tweeter are wired out-of-phase on the 90.

Are those upper mids in both the 9 and 90 the original drivers? Typically the plastic ring is silver.

They look like the mid from an AR58 (part number 200044). IIRC this driver was the same as the UMR part number 200032; the only difference being all black.

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Great!  Thanks for the analysis and report.  To me, your conclusions make sense and I am not surprised the 90's performed so admirably.

Sounds like the 90's might fit better than the 9's in a smaller room while a larger room does not threaten the 9's. 

I am expecting similar results between my 9's and ADS L1590's once both pairs are fully restored.  The larger scale of the 9's will always leave an impression.

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17 hours ago, DavidR said:

Are those upper mids in both the 9 and 90 the original drivers? Typically the plastic ring is silver.

They look like the mid from an AR58 (part number 200044). IIRC this driver was the same as the UMR part number 200032; the only difference being all black.

I bought neither pair new so cannot guarantee that the drivers are original, but they do appear to be identical and correct.  They sound amazing.  Stunning, even.

 

2 hours ago, DavidDru said:

Great!  Thanks for the analysis and report.  To me, your conclusions make sense and I am not surprised the 90's performed so admirably.

Sounds like the 90's might fit better than the 9's in a smaller room while a larger room does not threaten the 9's. 

I am expecting similar results between my 9's and ADS L1590's once both pairs are fully restored.  The larger scale of the 9's will always leave an impression.

That's a fair assessment.  The AR90s sound terrific in my largish room, while the AR9s sound terrificker. :) The opposite may be true for a smaller room.

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On 2/29/2016 at 1:48 AM, iso said:

I used to have AR9´s in the early 80´s and my good friend used to have pair of AR90`s these times. We did agree that LF extension of AR9 was better but somehow bass reproduction of AR90´s was felt somehow tighter. Low bass of AR9 was not felt to be too precise compared to AR90´s. We were living in smallish rooms, where too much power was needed, so both models were a bit overkill for us. We were using decent amplifiers, but no powerhouses. Anyway, I belive amps were newer driven even close to clipping. We auditioned both speakers in several locations, so I suppose that room dimensions should not be only reason for how we found these spekers to perform.

I have not discerned a difference in the quality of bass, which is powerful and precise from both, but agree that any room can be overwhelmed (no, I did not try this):  :D

IMG_6851.png

(AR9 / AR90 / M&K V75-II / DefTech 200TL / M&K V75-II / AR90 / AR9)

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