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AR-11s Reborn

Guest OpusX

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Good to see the discussion groups back and everyone exchanging thoughts and information about these great old speakers. Haven’t posted in here in ages, but have silently lurked and read most everything that has come through here since I joined the discussion group. My brother Rick probably does enough posting for the both of us.

As I have posted before, I have (in order of acquisition) AR-MSTs, AR-11s, AR-90s, AR-LSTs (although I have never seen or listened to my pair, bought them and Richard picked them up and has been babysitting them for a little over a year now) and AR-9s. Have an old GAS Ampzilla II amplifier to drive things and an Adcom GFP-565 preamp (use only the bypass circuit). Taste in music is wide and varied.

The real purpose of this post is talk about the rebirth of my AR-11s. I purchased this pair of speakers new when I was overseas in 1978. Over the years they had seen the normal aging as most all of them do – the foam grills and the surrounds disintegrate and the caps deteriorate and the cabinets get their share of wear and abuse. Once I got the 90s and the 9s they went back into the original boxes and found a place in the basement. Richard also has a pair of AR-11s and wanted to try his hand at replacing the surrounds so he picked up the speakers on one of his trips through Omaha. Needless to say, they needed a little more than just some new surrounds and if you can read and handle a soldering iron you might get the urge to tackle the caps and resistors in the crossovers so I gave Rich the ‘green light’ to give it a try. He used all the original drivers that I had in them, but rebuild the crossovers, rewired everything and changed the terminal posts to something a little more up to date than the old knurled nuts.

Got my AR-11s back yesterday afternoon....and even if they wouldn’t have sounded any better than when they left here, they looked great. Rich did an incredible job on the cabinets – sanded, stained and refinished and they look better than they did when I took them out of the box new. A few years ago I made my own grills using black grill cloth stretched over a frame that fits EXACTLY in where the old foam used to go and gives them a look more like the front of the 9s and 90s.

And how did they sound when I plugged in the speaker cables and gave them a test drive. ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC !!!!!. You can ask Rich all the technical details you want about what he did with the crossovers. I’m not a techno-bandit – it’s the music that’s important (to paraphrase Eddy Wilson from ‘Eddy and the Cruisers’...*S*), and the music sounds incredible through these. Hearing details in the sounds like you can’t believe. Clean tight bass as you might expect, but so much more detail in all the other sounds. Margot Timmons never sounded more clear or better on the ‘Trinity Sessions’. You can darn near feel the bass strings moving in the opening notes of ‘So What’ by Miles Davis and his trumpet playing never sounded better. ‘Black Coffee’ by Jacintha on her ‘Lush Life’ album had me grinning from ear to ear – silky smooth. Could go on and on about the new little details and absolutely great sound coming out of these now, but I won’t...if you are in the neighborhood just drop in and I'll let the speakers do the talking.

Will just leave all of you with these two points. The AR-11s were a great speaker and with a little maintenance and rework they can produce incredible sound. How good are these now? Except for the bass response and fullness ..... I am almost a little afraid to hook the AR-9s back up for fear that I might be disappointed in their clarity and detail compared to these born again AR-11s. Yes...they are that good!!!! And finally, even though I told him personally, I wanted to say it publicly. Thanks Rich. They look like new and they sound better than they ever did before..... great sound and great work. PL

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>I am almost a little afraid to hook the AR-9s back up for fear that I might be disappointed in their clarity and detail compared to these born again AR-11s.<

Does this mean you'll be changing your moniker to OpusXI?


Anyway, what is it that startles you most about the way the 11s sound? I know you were talking "detail" but how's the image? (he asks knowingly)

Do they "excite" the room like the 9s?


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>>Anyway, what is it that startles you most about the way the 11s sound?<<

Here’s my take on this one. Before starting this project, I thought the AR-11s had lost a lot of what I remember they sounded like when they were new. The sound was as if the speakers were behind a curtain. Over the past year, I had compared them to AR-90s, LSTs, and AR-9s. The sound just wasn’t as clean (accurate) in the 11s anymore.

What startles me most is the absolute clarity (accuracy) I am hearing now. Not only the sound coming from the instrument (any instrument) but also the quiet between the notes. I hear each and every note distinctly, they do not run together. I hear notes between notes I’ve never heard before. If there were such a thing as loudspeaker slew rate, I think these would be very fast (for a speaker with ferrofluid cooled tweeter).

How about vocals? When I play Norah Jones I could almost swear she is sitting at a piano 15 feet directly in front of me. The AR-11 is still one of the most accurate loudspeakers AR ever made.

>> I know you were talking "detail" but how's the image? (he asks knowingly)<<

Now, these AR-11s image as well as or better than they ever did. Obviously, they won’t image as well as a vertically aligned driver array with an acoustic blanket to dampen diffractions. I’d have to make major changes to the AR-11 cabinet or upgrade to an AR-91 to improve over what I have now. But, by the same token, a driver array on a vertical baffle will not image as well as a driver array on a sloped (vertically and horizontally) baffle that is both time- and phase-aligned.

To get the best imaging with the AR-11s, placement in the room is the key. I’m able to move the speakers around quite a bit in my family room/listening room (15’ X 18’ X 9’). With the AR-11s on short stands that tilt the speakers back a few degrees, toed-in slightly, and 11 feet from each other and 11 feet from my listening position, I can achieve a very respectable soundstage across the room and extending well behind the speakers. Great ambiance.

>>Do they "excite" the room like the 9s?<<

I don’t know about the room, but they sure as heck excite me. Very close to the soundstage I get with the LSTs.

Rich Laski

Sorry for the lack of "detail" and "clarity" in the picture. The only digital capability I have is a camcorder with snapshot feature. This shows the crossover just before it goes through the Woofer hole. Once its inside, I have to rotate it 90 degrees and align the switches and binding posts to their holes in original crossover board.


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