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Why was the AR-12 a one-year product?


Steve F
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Why was the AR-12 a one-year (actually, it was two—1976-1977) product? This is a good question and deserving of its own thread.
 

As good as AR’s engineering was throughout the Classic-ADD-Verticals time periods (roughly 1954-1979, the initial debut of the 9-90-91-92 models), their marketing savvy was reciprocally lousy. The one glaring mistake from a straight product standpoint that AR made over and over in this time frame was their foolish belief that their customers craved that smooth, neutral AR mid/high-end sound more than their customers wanted that deep, majestic, AR 12-inch bass.

The AR-5 was based on the belief that customers wanted a 3a-style mid-high speaker with just a tad less bass, at a nice reduction in price, for smaller rooms. Likewise, with the AR-12, although it wasn’t quite an “ADD AR-5,” it certainly was a far more advanced and sophisticated speaker in its ADD lineup than the AR-2ax was in the Classic lineup. 

The dismal sales in their day of the 5 and 12 proved that the “sophisticated, expensive 10-in 3-way” approach was a marketing disaster. The speakers themselves were terrific-sounding and they make great restoration projects today, worthy of any collector’s vintage lineup.

But from a mid-60’s or mid-70’s marketing/sales standpoint, they were failures. People didn’t want AR-mid-high smoothness at upper prices; they wanted AR 12-inch bass for a price less than the 3a/11-10 Pi.

The AR-12 would have been better off being a 12-in 2-way speaker crossing over to the 1-in dome of the AR-14. In exchange for some admittedly rougher midrange response, the customer would have gotten 11-style bass (-3dB @ 35Hz) for around $180 ea. The AR-14 was $140 ea. The real AR-12 was $225 ea.—much, much too close to the AR-11’s 1975-7 price of $295 ea. Now, we’ll cue those AR retro-purists who “insist” that the AR 12-in woofer was incapable of going above 800 Hz. The AR-3’s woofer went to 1000Hz no sweat. AR could have coaxed the same out of the ferrite/foam woofer if they’d wanted to.

I remember in 1976 I was in Harvard Square in Cambridge MA at a stereo store, AB’ing the OLA vs. the AR-14 and AR-12. I remember it like yesterday.

Three things stuck out:

1.     Both the AR-12 and AR-14 made the OLA sound like a honky, over-midrangy mess.

2.     The OLA’s superiority in deep bass (under the -3dB point of 44Hz of both the 12 and 14) was READILY apparent on everything we played (jazz and well-recorded pop/rock).

3.     The 12 and 14 sounded virtually identical to each other. Identical. As in identical.

The 12 needed to have 3a/11-style bass, equal to the OLA in the deep bass with the better overall tonal balance that it would have had. Yes, even with a 12-in woofer struggling up to 1300Hz, it still would have had better tonal balance than the OLA, much more like the 14.

Anyway, the answer as to why the 12 was so short-lived is that at $225 it was too expensive for 44Hz bass. The customer wanted 35Hz bass at that price. AR misread it, both with the 5 and the 12.

Steve F.

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I'm guessing the spiderless, 12 only mid was also an expensive option to cover the gap from the woofer to the 3/4" tweet

a relatively flat response 4-5" cone that reaches down the 300 hz seems like it should have been easy to source even back in the 70's....

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