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Austin AR Discoveries...3rd....and final for the moment....


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AR Acquisition #3

Over the past few months the AR-92’s finally went up for sale and the KLH 17s and 23s that I had also acquired via CL were rolled in with a couple good-priced SS receiver/turntable combos and given as gifts. This cleared out the excess speaker inventory and left only the original AR-1 setup. During that same time I watched several AR-1s go for some pretty hefty amounts on ebay; always a tourist, never a player at those prices.

About a month ago was out on a Saturday morning walking within a half mile of my house and see a “Garage Sale” sign. I have learned that you must seek if you wish to find and there is a lot more seeking than finding.

In addition to the normal garage miscellany there were a Fisher and Grundig tube console, several guitars and amps, a 12-high stack of empty wooden McIntosh component cabinets, and the assorted carcasses of some obviously looted-for-parts electronic components.

Talked with the guy for a bit, he was indeed a McIntosh-phile and had all the components from the cases custom built into his house. He also swore by their speakers. I have never heard a pair, so had no input.

Was a nice chat, but could see nothing that I wanted to actually pay for and take home until I glimpsed the rather beat-up looking side of a sturdy, dark wood cabinet hiding beneath a couple of towels and topped by a pan of assorted garage tools. Walked over to look at the back and found the familiar AR-1 sticker and the early 7 binding posts; looked at the front and could immediately see that the Altec and woofer were both in place because there was no grill. Asked him about “this speaker” and response was “Oh, the AR, well, I don’t have the grill, think my kids destroyed it long ago, but I’ll take $100.” I didn’t argue, just told him “give me 10 minutes to hit the ATM and I’ll be right back.” Twenty minutes later and it’s in the car.


Got it home and discovered two things:

  • Altec 755a wires had been clipped.

De-soldered clumps of bad work on the speaker terminals (obviously not its first time out of the cabinet) and resoldered wires to speaker.

It could be that the wires were clipped by somebody planning to try and sell just the Altec but stopped because...

  • The cone had two tears running in the direction of rim to center: one is 2” and the other 1”. I saw these when first looked at the speaker and they did not seem fatal to me. On closer inspection, both appear to have been repaired with Elmers looking glue and the repairs seem to me quite old; perhaps decades.

Neither appears to have actually torn all the way through (shined a light against the cone and could see no gaps). While they do not seem to affect the sound (or at least I can’t tell the difference) they would affect the collectible value of the Altec and hence might have saved this speaker from the AR-1 parted-out graveyard.

Observations on this speaker:

  • Case has had the snot beat out of it in places and is severely parched.


  • Serial # is 3423; the actual writing is very faded and illegible on the AR tag with the first two numbers secure but the next two iffy. However, someone had scribed that number on the back of the case right above the tag after it had been stained. The photo is really bad, but was best I could do wiht Point/Shoot to get some image. Does anybody know if this was factory practice or was it by owner?


  • It sounds just as good as s/n 480 which is in much better shape (I switched R/L speaker connections, played mono/stereo recordings, and used the reverse switch – no difference to my ears) – which indicates to me that some cracks in the Altec cone are not fatal. However, I just saw one go on E-Bay that had a severely distressed and deformed Altec; have no idea if that one was still viable even though the seller said the speaker “worked” – ebay speak for caveat emptor.

So, a long and winding story with (to me) a happy ending as there are now 2 AR-1s available to provide incredible sounding (to me) music whenever I feel the need. Adding another Janszen is probably the most logical and economical route, but I would also like to know what addition of an AR-3ST or AR-3T would do. Although to be quite frank, I find the highs as produced fit comfortably within the presented range of sound.

Next steps will be to restore the cabinet and create a grill. I don’t mind the naked speakers but don’t think it will pass the aesthetic panel of which I have essentially no vote in the coalition. I plan on creating a template for the grill and to cover it with fabric. Does anybody know what/where are good fabric matches for the early AR-1?


Will try to keep a photo log as I proceed through the process.

Thoughts on the pair:

  • Has anyone ever had the luck to compare two models with the different binding posts/pots to see if there is discernible sound difference?
  • Running at 4 ohms the pair can make my amplifier quite hot and it’s a 120 wpc SS monoblock.
  • They are indeed power sponges and sound really good when played loud. Adele’s “Fire to the Rain” at high volume is pretty amazing (I use it as the first track when doing A/B speaker comparisons).
  • They sound to me better in the horizontal, rather than vertical position….which makes my search for speaker stands somewhat more difficult as they need to be around 40” high and able to support the 50+ lbs of speaker.
  • A pair of AR-1s is even better sounding than the AR-1/AR-1W/Janszen 130 combination, although this probably does not mean that I will quit bringing home the odd speaker bargain/rescue pair for ongoing A/B comparisons.

Finally, I have cycled quite a few speaker pairs through in the past several months including KLH 17 & 23, AR-2AX, AR-92, Bowen & Wilkins, and some smaller bookshelf speakers; Infinity S2-2003 and Sound Dynamics.

In every case, the AR-1s sounded better to my ears. They have a great presence and can really show a good recording while exposing a bad recording on both vinyl and cd. I think what impresses me (and others who have listened to them here) is the brutally neutral sound. It takes a while to get used to but no matter what other speaker I have on the “B” switch, the selector eventually and always returns to the AR-1s. At times I wonder how they got all those miniature musicians behind the grill, a la Flintsones.

Hope the story and photos were useful or at least interesting and it’s also meant as encouragement to any who believe ebay has sucked all the good stuff out of the world and onto the web. While it has made whatever is your good stuff harder to find, they are still out there awaiting perseverance and a bit of luck.

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Well, I think we will all be moving to Austin. Apparently that's the best place to find real steals on old hi-fi equipment. I'd STILL be in that guy's garage! :D

The AR speakers were originally "bookshelf" designs and were meant to be placed horizontally, so that fits with what you hear. In fact, many early ARs (AR2 I think) had no veneer on one long side, since it would face down on the shelf.

This thread shows the perfect replacement grille material for the AR3 and AR1 (I believe both used the Saran plastic material originally) http://www.classicsp...?showtopic=7250


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Looking through ebay today I see a guy here in NJ is trying to sell a single Altec 755A for 3 grand!

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Nowhere near as rare and exotic as AR-1's, but I'd have to agree that there appear to be some good vintage speakers to be had in mid- Texas. See CL post from last summer, just south of Austin.

"Start your own museum."


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