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AR Speakers: Avoiding Shipping Damage


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Buying and selling AR speakers on eBay and other places is a great source of enjoyment, for sure, but the safe transporting of these items from one location to another can be critical.

What I have learned through many years of dealing with the issue of shipping damage is that without “double-boxing” the shipped speaker, and allowing for several inches on each corner of the shipping carton, can result in serious damage to the speaker cabinet. AR speakers on the whole are very heavy for their size, and there is the simple expedient of inertia! The most critical area is the corner of the speaker enclosure, and even speakers shipped by AR early-on suffered from occasional mashed corners, despite all the cardboard inserts.

What to do with no original AR carton?

1. Place of piece of cardboard over the grill opening of the speaker, and then wrap the entire speaker with clear plastic.*

2. Wrap the speaker in two to three layers (or more) of bubble-wrap.

3. Place the speaker in a box, then place that box inside another outer shipping carton with foam pieces, Styrofoam or other material to insulate the box and suspend it.

What to do with an original AR carton with inserts?

1. Pack the AR speaker in the AR carton in the normal fashion with inserts.

2. Place this box inside a larger shipping carton with foam pieces, Styrofoam or other material to insulate the box and suspend it.

This seems like overkill, but it is really the only safe way to insure damage-free transit in this day and time. UPS, FedEx and USPS will usually treat stuff okay, but if you see how the packages are routed down a sorting line, over-packing is not unreasonable.

*The cardboard panel over the grill-panel assembly is assurance that the woofer will not be damaged by a dropped package, causing a sudden air-pressure change inside the shipping carton. AR had hundreds of AR-2s damaged early-on because of this phenomenon. Pressure changes caused woofer cones to actually go outside the voice-coil gap and lodge on the top plate, due to sudden decompression inside the box. Other speakers had flattened voice-coils due to being pushed in too far.

--Tom Tyson

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The later AR tweeters with the plastic bodies can also come loose during shipping. I had a pair of 2ax with one tweeter broken at the mounting ring during shipping. They were not designed to survive the inertia of modern shipping practices.

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Thanks for your kind advice. Purchasers of large AR units might refer sellers to this link, and hope they take it seriously.

I have never observed damage in shipments that were double boxed as you described. I have seen damage in two shipments packed in 1-1/2-inch-thick styrofoam board inside a single box. In both cases, the shipper was proud of their packing and the trouble they took to pack in a way they thought to be safe. Styrofoam board is HARD. One pair of AR-11 had both midrange drivers crushed. The frame of an AR-11 projects 3/4 in. above the baffle board, the same as the midrange driver! One hit crushed the drivers. AR-11s require special care in packing.

Unlike the 11, the 3/3a frame projects 1-1/4" above the baffle board, yet the 1/4-inch-deep imprint of one AR-3 midrange driver was clearly visible in the styrofoam. No damage, but a larger hit might have.

Others have recommended foamboard, but I disagree based on statistics of three out of these four.

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Hi there;

I just received 2 separate cone drivers from an AR-2 series speaker today.

They were bought naked, no housing.

They were shipped and packaged exactly as I had requested of the seller.

Face to face only with nuts and bolts and oodles of bubblewrap.

My stupid error was in not realizing that these cone surrounds are still sticky after all these many years.

Securing the aluminum or plastic housings face to face is not a problem at all.

The individual drivers arrived stuck fast together, surround to surround.

Even trying to part the frames very, very gently over a period of time caused the surrounds to separate from the cone and frames.

I did the ebay feedback and wrote an email to the seller.

I am not making any claim against him at all, it was all my fault and I pay for my mistakes.

My suggestion now is, the same as with AR-4X tweeters, a tubular, small washers or nut spacers of 5/16" - 3/8" between the frames.

And only nuts and bolts, no longer zap straps or other means.

This was a totally preventable accident, I'm still learning and trying to pass on knowledge to others from my mistakes.

As a side note.

I received a pair of AR-4X's last year encased in a Polystyrene carton and tape only.

They came via USPS and I was amazed that the fabricated carton held up so well.

This also kept the weight under 40 pounds.

The main trouble with shipping speaker enclosures is, also adding extra thickness, makes shipping almost impossible for the very largest speakers.

Polystyrene sheeting, at least in my particular case, kept the dimensions and weight down, below 40 pounds at least.

My pair of destroyed AR-2 speaker systems that were destroyed in transit a few months ago, not via USPS, would not have perhaps suffered all of the external damage but the internal damage would have still happened, sadly.

We bought a brand new chest style deep freezer about 25 years ago.

It was delivered from their warehouse to our home and brought in by their staff.

A forklift had run it's prod into the chest through the outer carton.

It could be worse with our classic speakers. HEH?

An after thought.

If I had left them stuck together, I could have wired them out of phase and the cones would have moved in unison. lol

No dispersion though.

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  • 2 months later...

Hi there;

A recent thought regarding shipping AR and other brand woofers.

When shipping woofers in particular, connect a jumper of sorts across the positive and negative connections of the woofers.

This will lessen the back and forth movement of the voice coil/cone in transit.

You can try this with a un-installed woofer.

Lay it facing upward and very gently press the cone downward and quickly release it.

Now place a short copper wire, any guage, across the two terminals and try it.

I know that I have read a reference to this, possibly an old Heathkit manual, about removing the jumper, when unpacking their woofers.

Obviously it takes a minute or two and the jumper material but it is well worth your time and effort to do this extra step.

A techie may come along and correct me, but I believe it has to do with the back EMF or such.

Or not. LOL LOL

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Guest Bret

Great post, Tom, and a word to the wise.

I hope that many speakers survive because you took the time to post a method of doing it right.

The only thing we just can't seem to guard against is the shipper dropping the speakers. With the massive magnets that AR used on the midrange drivers in the 3 and newer models, it doesn't take a cabinet-destroying accident to apply enough force to sheer the magnets off the midranges or bend the woofers.

It is important that we all learn from Vern's experience with face-to-face shipped drivers. Not only can the surrounds stick together, but when you face-to-face the frames and stick a bolt through them (or wire-ties or whatever) you may not realize that you are *increasing* the likelihood of damage to the frames.

Want to hear a case of over-doing it?

Kenwood KA-9100 in it's original box and packing. That wrapped in bubble-wrap and boxed. Four inches of rolled-up towels were applied to the second box and it was placed in a third box. It was big and incredibly heavy. Incredibly heavy. USPS hit it with a forklift and put a tine half-way through it. I guess nobody wanted to lift it!

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It's not just speakers that suffer. I recently shipped a KLH 21 radio. Wrapped it in bubble wrap, put it in a carton surrounded with packing peanuts, marked it "Fragile" and sent it USPS Priority mail. The recipient sent me an email asking if it was normal for the cabinet to be coming apart at the seams! He sent me a photo and sure enough one corner was bashed and the seam was open. Don't know how they managed that!

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