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New Old Allison Speakers / Parts


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Allison Acoustics is back from the dead. I met with the new owner of the company at the 2002 CES and was impressed with what he’s doing. Roy himself was dug out of retirement to come back and help update the crossovers and drivers for the “Classic” line of speakers now in [re] production. They are once again building the models One, Three, and Four, and all are of very high quality, even better than the originals.

No cheap crap here: The classic style “pulsating dome” tweeters and oversized 3.5” dome mids are being produced in-house at the KY factory, woofers are a new improved design custom built for Allison by Eminence [also in KY]. The cabinets are GEORGIOUS to put it mildly. Real wood veneer all over plus solid wood trim on the beveled edges at the top and bottom, as well as on the long vertical corners of the triangular cabinets. I talked at length with the cabinet manufacturer and he detailed how they literally spared no expense in making the cabinets.

New parts for the Old: With all the original style parts now being reproduced, there are finally direct replacements for the dome mid and tweeters. While we’ve never had a problem finding better than stock woofers and tweeters for the 1’s and 3’s, the 3.5” mid has been a huge problem. It crosses over to the woofer at 350Hz, way too low for even the big 3” Dynaudio dome mid. 4” cone mids could be adapted in, but they never sounded quite right. We did a few conversions with the amazing Dynaudio 15W75 mid driver and the results were incredible, but the cost [4 x $125] was high and required major cabinet modifications. The new reproduction mids are an exact drop-in fit for the classic cabinets, and unit-to-unit consistency is going to be much better than the early 70’s parts.

On the downside: There will be some sticker shock for would-be Allison owners; the One’s will be about $6000 per pair, $4500 for the Three’s, and $2500 for the Four’s. These are suggested retail prices, so there should be some discounting, but probably not much. Cheap they’re not, but hand building quality speakers in the US has its price.

The only part of the new Allison’s I could fault are the crossovers. While better designed and built than their early 70’s forefathers, they still use electrolytic caps and rather smallish bar core inductors, neither of which you should get in a modern $6K pair of speakers. When I listened to the new One’s they reminded me of the stock AR 303’s, OK sound as-is but you could tell that there’s something holding them back. Stock 303’s sound only marginally better than a set of 3a’s in good shape. Upgrading the [economy minded] factory crossovers in the 303’s makes an unbelievable improvement. You realize the full potential of the more modern mids/tweeters and they jump way ahead of any stock 3a. I can easily see an even greater improvement potential in the new Allison One’s.

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Having moved to Woodbury, MN from Danville, KY 4 years ago, it will be fun to go back to Danville during the next KY visit and see if I can get into the factory for a tour of some sort. In my mind's eye I can visualize passing by the factory about once every two weeks or so in normal driving around town...I believe it was a converted grade school, at least it looks like it.

If I do manage to get in for a tour I *will* ask if I can take some pictures of the new models being manufactured and some of the tooling and such. I can't imagine there's any processes there that are *that* proprietary.

Should be fun, hopefully this summer the family and I will get back to KY.


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Those were some interesting remarks on the new Allison product line. When they finally appear, it will be exciting to review them for The Sensible Sound. I look forward to the task.

Regarding the posted comments concerning the crossover in the new Allison Model One, I find it remarkable that a pair of $6000 speakers would not be up to snuff in terms of crossover performance and crossover-parts quality, particularly when we remember who is doing the redesign of that crossover. If Allison knows his stuff well enough to obtain the loyalty of scads of fans, it seems almost idiotic to immediately take a pair of his new products apart and apply a bunch of modifications. This is particularly true when one remembers what the new systems will cost.

Indeed, it is just as remarkable that anyone believes they could do a garage-mechanic-style modification of that new Allison-designed crossover and come up with something that works better. Is this modification going to involve the use of precision test gear, or is some golden ear going to re-voice the things by ear? If the latter, I think the result would be a joke.

Incidentally, the AR-303 was designed by Ken Kantor, and as with the Model One, I find it hard to believe that anybody doing a garage-style modification of it could come up with something better. They might succeed, but it is not likely to happen with the kind of so-called expertise that some enthusiasts bring to the modification bench.

Howard Ferstler

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Guest rickcee

Hi I find it humerous. * off topic * The stereo phile test ( maybe aug. '95) of AR 303 - complained about lack of high freq , -using an ultra expensive tube amp, tested at same time, that had lousy spec - They blamed the AR speakers, not the tube amp. ! Audiophiles.! $10. a foot or more for speaker wire ? $50. for 3 ft interconnect cables ? I remember a stero review mag. test of various amps - comparing expensive tube types with high end solid state and mass prod. pioneer type - in the 'blind test' no one could reliably tell the difference , at moderate non overload vol. too bad I can't remember the ddate of issue. maybe '88 ? Except at very low freq. (not in much of my listening , below 45 hz) I don't notice much diff. between my good ole dynaco 25,s and much newer and more $ AR 302 - they're right next to each other, half the time or more I play the dynas. to each . . . Rick

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  • 2 weeks later...

About the crossover:

I was refering to the quality of the components, not to the design. Anyone with real speaker building experience can tell you that the quality of crossover parts is just as important is the quality of the drivers or cabinets. Crossovers are simply the easiest place for manufacturers to save the most money when it comes to production costs. Crossovers are usually designed/ prototyped with high grade parts, but final production units often get a more "cost effective" build quality. A complex crossover for a multi-way speaker can easily cost $100-$150 to produce even with "mid grade" hifi components like common poly caps and 14ga inductors. That same crossover built with electrolytic caps and cheaper inductors can get produced for under $20. You can cut crossover costs by 80% and still make a listenable speaker, but you can't do that with custom woofers and tweeters, even if you tried.

When you break down the total manufacturing costs that $100 or so savings [per cabinet] can be VERY significant, especially to a startup company that is heavily in the red from the enormous startup costs invloved in custom speaker manufacturing [read Allison]. Same for an established company that has corporate overloards looking to save every possible penny. You also have the odd designer who has very fixed ideas about certain things. Kantor believes electrolytic caps are just as good as poly's, Dr. Amar Bose thinks paper cone tweeters are superior to domes. These ideas go hard against the grain, but both men have made plenty of $$ selling their wares.

Even the very high-end independent manufacturers skimp sometimes for what seems like a tiny sum: The Wilson Audio WATT-Puppy system is the defacto "high end" speaker, reguarded by many professional reviewers as the best overall speaker at any price [$20,000/ pr in this case, and its Wilson's mid line product]. But, these reviewers still find fault in the slight harshness from the Focal titanium tweeter it uses. In a personal conversation, the owner/ designer was asked point blank by another industry member why he continued to use the Focal tweeters instead of the much better Dynaudio or Scan-Speak models [companies that already make their woofers and mids]. His reply, "I can get the Focal's $60 cheaper". Lee Iacocca also chose to put the $2000 Ford Pinto on the road without a $1.89 reinforcing bar that would have kept them from exploding when hit from behind.

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