ar_pro Posted September 17, 2016 Report Share Posted September 17, 2016 A borrowed pair of AR-3a systems has afforded the opportunity to do a comparison with the AR-91 speakers that I put together last year. The 3a's are in decent condition, with recent surrounds on the woofers, and replacement caps for the front-wired mid & tweeter sections of the crossover. There are no labels or serial numbers present, but the cabinet is MDF, with a velcro-style attachment for the grill. Locating the speakers on the same stands as the AR-91 was pretty straightforward, and made for relatively quick switch-over times; the differences in mid/tweeter arrangement between the systems meant that the AR-91 tweeter was about 5" higher than that of the 3a. Listening was via WAV and FLAC files at CD standard, as well as a few 24/96 recordings, through a 200w/channel McIntosh integrated amplifier, set to run without tone controls and at a fixed volume. Both speakers had their level controls set at maximum output. While there were significant similarities in the nature of the reproduction - a family resemblance that runs throughout most of the Classic-Era speakers - it was immediately apparent that compared to the AR-91, the overall presentation of the AR-3a was heavier in the LF region, with a spectral tilt away from the midrange and above. The immediate impression was of a powerful, extended output from the 3a woofer, but almost over-emphasized vis-à-vis the rest of the system. The bass response of the AR-91 was not as prominent; there seemed to be an added degree of control, or tightness that ceded maybe a bit on the very low end to the 3a woofer, but achieved a better overall balance with the 91 mid & tweeter. The mids & tweeters of both systems sounded very similar from 15 feet away, with slightly more output from the AR-91 tweeter. I suspect that there was not a significant difference in the output levels, but that the relative height of the 91 tweeter was at play, here. Having read and enjoyed Roy C's evaluation of the evolution of the AR 12" woofer, and his take on the AR-9 series, I think his observations are spot-on. I believe that the earlier AR-3a is ever-so-slightly tilted toward a gravitas that may have been adjusted out of later iterations of AR's 12" 3-way systems. The modern term is "voicing", and I'm beginning to think that this could have taken place between the last AR-3a systems, and the AR-9 series. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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