The AR-3a was Acoustic Research´s High-end speaker and customers had to pay around 500$ to buy a pair, a fortune at the time. In the manual (see below), the company describes the AR-3a as “the best home speaker system we know how to make
” and it is even today an impressing vintage speaker. The AR-3a had to comply with highest expectations, as the original AR-3 (developed in the late 50ies) was the highest quality speaker available for nearly a decade and had been used in a variety of professional settings. You can find information about the original AR-3 speaker from 1958 in our review.
When the AR-3a was introduced in the mid 60ies it took over the role of the AR-3. Acoustic Research placed a new set of smaller dome midrange and tweeter into the cabinets. By 1966 Acoustic Research held more than a third of the US market shares in the speaker market, the highest share ever measured in the industry.
Refoaming the AR-3a speaker
An old AR-3a is definitely worth it to be refoamed. Many of the available speakers have broken or worn out foam surrounds which can easily be replaced. A refoaming kit can usually be bought for around $30 and replacing old foams will just take around 1 to 2 hours. There are surrounds available that fit to a variety of speakers and some that are produced for very specific speakers, such as red foam surrounds for CW speakers. The AR-3a does not need a specific kit and it is fairly easy to install a kit. It does not require any particular skill, just a calm hand and a little patience. We tried out a variety of available foams and recommend to use this 12 inch refoam kit by parts express.
AR-3a Speaker Review and Specs
|Acoustic Research AR-3a
The AR-3a is a three-way speaker and measures approximately 25” x 14” x 11½ ” inches and weigh about 46lbs each. It´s cabinet is made of real walnut veneer, grills are mostly cream colored. Each speaker has a 12 inch woofer, a dome midrange and a ¾ inch dome tweeter. High and mid-frequencies can be additionally adjusted at the back of each speaker. I can recommend to place the AR-3a´s on small stands, in this case solely to keep them a little cleaner and safer.
The sound of the AR-3a´s is very warm, but clear. Considering the fact that the speakers are nearly 50 years old, their bass is strong too. However, not rock or heavy bass music, but music with classical instruments or in general classical music lets these speakers shine. A big pro for these speakers is the huge variety of replacement parts available. You can constantly find replacement screens, refoam-kits (but you need to know how to refoam!) or little “AR-3a” logos on ebay. If you consider buying one of these vintage favorites you have to be aware that they can cost quite a bit of money and sometimes it can be beneficial, if you know how to restore vintage speakers, as many have worn down parts. A big plus is that there are many restoration guides, some of which are very detailed.
You found this speaker? Clean it!
We frequently receive images of old, dusty speakers that some lucky owner found in his or her garage after decades of storage. Others purchased an old set of speakers for little money at a garage sale. Our advice: Don´t let them deteriorate, but also don´t scratch them with the wrong tools.
Instead: Clean them carefully. Get a set of soft brushes and other cleaning utensils. If the wooden speaker cabinets look dull or out of color (e.g. due to sunlight), give the wood some new life:
1. wipe off the dust .
AR-3a Quote from 1970
A quote from the original Acoustic Research owner´s manual: The Ar-3a is the best home speaker system we know how to make. It has been designed to reproduce music as accurately as present day knowledge of acoustics and electronics permits. In addition to incorporating the 305mm (12in) bass driver with which AR introduced its acoustic suspension systems to home listeners, the AR-3a was the first speaker system to use two miniature hemispherical speakers developed by AR to give better midrange and high-frequency response. The new miniature speakers offer an unprecedented degree of accuracy in their respective ranges.
The design of such small speakers – one is only 19mm (3/4 in) in diameter – although technically difficult, allows the laws of physics to operate to the listener´s advantage. While larger speakers must beam high frequencies straight forward, AR´s hemispheres instead spread these frequencies through a wide angle, considerably improving the realism of music reproduction for listeners in all parts of the room.” (Quote out of my old AR-Manual, 1970ies)
Acoustic Research AR-3a Specifications:
Drive Units: 305 mm (12 in) acoustic suspension woofer, 38 mm (1 1/2 in) midrange hemispherical dome, 199 mm (3/4 in) high-frequency hemispherical dome.
Crossover: 575 Hz, 5000 Hz
Impedance: 4 ohms nominal
Controls: Midrange and high-frequency driver level controls
Amplifier: Up to 100 watts per channel
Size: 356 x 636 x 289 mm deep ( 14 x 25 x 11 3/8 in)
Weight: 24 kg (53 lb)
Woofer resonance: Free air 18 Hz, in enclosure 42 Hz
Volume of enclosure: 48.2 litres (1.7 cu ft)
AR-3a Price: $800+in good condition up to $1400.
|Acoustic ResearchAR-3a Specs Sheet
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