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AR-2ax Time Capsule Mystery


LorneG
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New member here, and while I collect and restore vintage audio – mostly late 70’s and early 80’s Japanese receivers and turntables. I’ve never been a vintage speaker person, until now.  My friend Jeff, who picks a lot of old stereo gear, let me know he had two AR-2ax still in original boxes that had never been played.  He got them ten years ago from a friend, who found them at a swap meet/flea market in the Detroit area. I’ve always loved AR speakers but never had the chance to own them.  That’s the extent of the backstory that I have, but when I heard about the pair, I snapped them up.  Here is the condition – both boxes had been opened and one speaker was taken out of its box, unwrapped and then returned to the box, some of the wrapping remains.  The other was still wrapped in brown wax paper and sealed with cellophane tape that showed its age, and appears to have never left the box.  I’ve unpacked both and was able to get good sound at very low volume on both.  Pots are all crunchy and impact the output of the high and mid.  Both woofers produce good sound.  Cabinets and grills are 10/10, and on the back warranty cards are still present; however, one detached probably do to repacking which damaged the papers on the back.  They are both gorgeous, and it was amazing to hear them finally perform for the first time in their lives.

Here is the mystery, and maybe this forum can help me investigate.  These are two different AR-2ax – one is an early model and the other a late.  Serial numbers are AX114837 and the other is AX127844. I’m thinking 1969 production on the early, and 1970 or ’71 for the late?  Serials all match on boxes, warranty cards and documentation on the back.  Both were delivered to Allied Radio in Pontiac Michigan.  The most obvious tell on the differences are the badging, but shining a flashlight through the grills show the different tweeters and woofers one foam, while the other looks like a cloth surround.

So how could these two have ended up together on a 50-year journey just waiting to sing?  Here is what I know so far.  Allied Radio was acquired by Radio Shack in 1970, and all Allied storefronts shifted to carrying only Realistic products.  The Justice Dept. ordered Tandy to divest most of the Allied Radio stores in late 1971.  Richard Schaak bought 36 Allied stores from Tandy, as part of the settlement, including all six Michigan stores.  In early 1975, he closed 11 stores including all Michigan stores.  I have no information on the Pontiac store?  So how did these two get put on this journey together – inventory mix up; the shift to Realistic that caused them to get misplaced; warranty returns that were never re-delivered?

I do intend to fully refurbish both speakers back to their original states and run them together.  I will never sell these.  After this long journey together, they deserve to get the chance to perform as they were meant to but not apart.  I realize these are two completely different speakers – tweeters, woofers and different cross-over frequencies, but I have to let them play together.

Any ideas on how this mix-up happened?

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Welcome to CSP Lorne!

Great story and great speakers! Please keep us up to date on the refurb.

As far as "why?" all I can think of is this. AR-2ax speakers were sold individually, not in pairs. AR changed the design slightly but continued to ship them out in the same cartons so, from the outside, they all looked the same. Those were probably sitting in inventory at Allied and they didn't rotate stock, so when the original owner bought them someone at the store just grabbed 2 speakers from stock.

The bigger question, to me, is why didn't the original owner ever play them?

Kent

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23 hours ago, LorneG said:

I’ve never been a vintage speaker person, until now. 

23 hours ago, LorneG said:

I’ve always loved AR speakers but never had the chance to own them.

Nice find with pristine grill cloth.  JIC you have not already done so, be sure to read the AR3a restoration guide before you pull the grills from the speakers.

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@JKentI don't think they were ever sold, since they were never taken out of the boxes and unwrapped.  I'm guessing they were sitting in Allied's Pontiac store when Tandy said replace everything in-stock with Realistic and then got lost in the shuffle? 

@AadamsYes, I've printed the AR3 Resto guide and read it with several of the threads in CSP.  I think the big question will be do I restore the original pots or buy new controls from Larry?

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1 hour ago, LorneG said:

do I restore the original pots or buy new controls from Larry?

PM sent

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/15/2022 at 5:43 PM, LorneG said:

I got the grills off today, lots of patience.  I will start another thread with restoration questions.

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Hi Lorne,

Yours is a great story and strikes a nerve with me on a number of fronts.

First off, the AR2ax were my very first new pair of high fidelity loudspeakers.

(Brand new, around 1970-71)

Secondly, the LAST pair of loudspeakers I acquired ALSO had a very extended period of being unused and boxed up in original cartons.

The entire notion of coming up with stuff like this had been a dream for me and to have it realized is VERY gratifying indeed.

No doubt you’ll get all the help necessarily to bring those back up to snuff in short order. The scruffy pots are typical AR. That developed for me in a very short period of time from relatively new unfortunately. 

If you’re interested, you can read here about my own “boxed up” discovery under the CSP Allison category: Allison IC20’s in original boxes for 20 years!

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Thank you @newandold, that means a lot to me.  It's been a fun restoration so far - I have a separate thread on that in this forum.  All of the vintage audio that I acquire has a back-story which makes it so much more fulfilling than buying new.  Most of what I've bought is the original owner's kids who typically want their parents beloved stereo equipment from the 60's -70's restored, taken care of and enjoyed the way their parents' did.

My own back story on stereo equipment was that of my dad.   He grew up on a farm on the middle of Iowa in the 40s & 50s and was infatuated with radio, because he could pull in stations from Chicago, Omaha and Kansas City.  This is why he was a life long Cubs fan.  When he got out of the U.S. Army in 1961, where he learned advanced radio operation and repair, he bought a Motorola 3-channel console - it was beautiful, and later a Harman Kardon receiver, Advent speakers and a Garrard TT which we were specifically not allowed to touch.  My brother and I followed suit in the late 70's and early 80's when we hit our mid-teens and earned a few bucks, but we were sold on Japanese solid state big power - Pioneer, Yamaha, Technics and JBL speakers (thanks to Maxell). 

Anyway, I got away from it after college but started back down the vinyl path a few years ago.  I went into a high-end audio store and blown away by how great it sounded but it also lacked any soul, feeling or warmth - the sound just kind of hit you in the face instead of smothering and soothing you with its warmth.  They had a room of vintage stuff, and after I walked in, was taken back 40 years and knew I found home, plus it all sounded great, not perfect but listening to audio is as much about your ears as it is with your eyes and your memories.

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1 hour ago, LorneG said:

Thank you @newandold, that means a lot to me.  It's been a fun restoration so far - I have a separate thread on that in this forum.  All of the vintage audio that I acquire has a back-story which makes it so much more fulfilling than buying new.  Most of what I've bought is the original owner's kids who typically want their parents beloved stereo equipment from the 60's -70's restored, taken care of and enjoyed the way their parents' did.

My own back story on stereo equipment was that of my dad.   He grew up on a farm on the middle of Iowa in the 40s & 50s and was infatuated with radio, because he could pull in stations from Chicago, Omaha and Kansas City.  This is why he was a life long Cubs fan.  When he got out of the U.S. Army in 1961, where he learned advanced radio operation and repair, he bought a Motorola 3-channel console - it was beautiful, and later a Harman Kardon receiver, Advent speakers and a Garrard TT which we were specifically not allowed to touch.  My brother and I followed suit in the late 70's and early 80's when we hit our mid-teens and earned a few bucks, but we were sold on Japanese solid state big power - Pioneer, Yamaha, Technics and JBL speakers (thanks to Maxell). 

Anyway, I got away from it after college but started back down the vinyl path a few years ago.  I went into a high-end audio store and blown away by how great it sounded but it also lacked any soul, feeling or warmth - the sound just kind of hit you in the face instead of smothering and soothing you with its warmth.  They had a room of vintage stuff, and after I walked in, was taken back 40 years and knew I found home, plus it all sounded great, not perfect but listening to audio is as much about your ears as it is with your eyes and your memories.

Always fun to come here and share these stories from those who have evolved through a common timeframe.

My “newandold” username kinda sums up my own spin on all of this. Ever since I got started, it’s been a process of advancing the state of the art while hanging onto those things that both appeal to me and are time honored. The loudspeaker is the most enduring component IMHO and if that sound grabs your ears…..matters NOT how old they are.

The electronics are the “new” side of the equation. My oldest component (I run separates) is my multi channel amp. that’s been delivering the goods since Jan. 2001. No more stereo preamp….. I use an AV processor. HDMI forces you to follow the upgrade path, but it’s been worthwhile because for me, lossless audio is the holy grail for truly outstanding audio reproduction.

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