ACOUSTIC RESEARCH (AR) – What happened

From time to time we wondered this too. This time though, we did a bit of searching and this is what we found:

USA based producer of loudspeakers, founded in 1954 by Edgar Villchur, Henry Kloss, Malcolm Lowe and J. Anton Hoffman, and started out by producing acoustically suspended loudspeaker called the AR-1. Strangely enough the company managed to get patents for the acoustic suspension techniques used in the construction of the speakers and is usually credited with its invention despite the fact that suspended designs had been sold and made in the USA under the Hartley Products brand for some years prior to that and even longer in the UK.

The company is perhaps better seen as an innovator in the area of marketing but AR pioneered such schemes as a 5 year return to factory warranty and aggressive advertisements campaigns that emphasised innovation and technical superiority that was indeed there to some degree but was perhaps overemphasised, much in the vein of what Bose is doing these days.

Due to this and excellent reviews in USA consumer and electronic magazines the company was a clear NA market leader in the loudspeaker field as early as 1958 but the rapid pace of expansion meant that the company often had difficulty in financing itself, this in turn meant that the introduction of some products were delayed until money had been found to pay for retooling and the updates of the production lines which in turn meant that new models were almost constantly late to market which was at that time evolving extremely rapidly due to the introduction of stereo records and consumer tape recorders.

It did not help that AR had a tendency to announce new products early anyway and late shipments meant that some customers put off buying current products and instead waited for the new models resulting in a rather classic case of the Osborne Effect. The stress on finances had other negative effects on the company, Kloss, Lowe and Hoffman left the company after disagreements with Villchur and went on to form KLH, that company got a license to use the patents and technologies that AR had developed in lieu of financial payments due and after just a couple of years KLH had become AR's main competitor with a broadly similar model lineup and if anything a better pricing structure and had by the latter half of the 60's overtaken AR in the North American marketplace.

While the company continued to grow in the early 60's, it lost market share rapidly and Mr. Vilchur ended up selling the company to Teledyne in 1967. There is some information on their classic loudspeaker models to be found on this page.