Visiting the Past and Future with Acoustic Research

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In 1972, I smoked a volume control (literally, it melted). I’d been cranking up Todd Rundgren’s Something, Anything album in my parents’ rec room at 100+db (think loud rock concert level), and my mother screamed for relief. Without thinking, I reached over and turned the volume control knob down to zero. The problem was that I didn’t adjust the Sansui amplifier located in the basement. (My early dabbling in multi-room audio!) It was too much power for a simple volume control of that era to handle on a dime – hence, the melting. I was driving a pair of Acoustic Research AR-6 cabinet speakers, and did they ever love to be driven! That electronic and plastic burn smell was unfortunate. But the sound from those speakers – the sound is what I remember most.

Getting the opportunity this year to be involved with such a legendary brand as Acoustic Research wasn’t just a trip down memory lane – it was a view into the future of the industry. I can’t reveal the full scope of the assignment just yet (I will later this year), but I can tell you a little bit about Acoustic Research (AR).

E. Villchur in his Woodstock, NY laboratory.
E. Villchur in his Woodstock, NY laboratory.

AR invented the loudspeaker – or more accurately, Edgar Villchur (an AR co-founder) invented the acoustic suspension loudspeaker. This one invention revolutionized music listening in the 1950s and 60s, and Villchur’s influence continues to this day. In fact, it was such a marvel for its time that the AR-3 speaker is on display at the Smithsonian.

In addition to being a brilliant engineer, Villchur also had something else: a flair for drama that captivated both music aficionados and the media. His stroke of genius was to stage “concerts” with orchestra musicians. The musicians would play live for an audience; at a certain point in the performance, Villchur would have the AR speakers switched on – playing previously recorded music. The musicians would continue to pretend to play until Villchur’s cue. Then, they would visibly stop and freeze while the music continued. Jaws dropped, as people wondered: how could this be? How could recorded sound be as crystal clear as live music, so much so that it fooled them?

That was a long time ago, and since, AR has been on a long journey with a number of different owners. Fortunately, they were a part of the assets acquired by powerhouse Voxx International, through the purchase of Recoton, in 2003. The AR brand can still coax a twinkle or two in the eyes of many older consumers. But its esteemed image and rich history is less visible to the younger generation. A consumer electronics consultant with a great deal of experience in go-to-market strategies and international consumer electronics, this is where I come in. I can’t wait to tell you about my assignment from AR’s global team – a passionate group of people determined to make a difference.

Watch for a jaw-dropping future for AR in 2015 with full details to follow when officially launched.

In the meantime, if you’re in need of insights on how to grow your business, prepare for transition or deploy your products globally (especially consumer electronics), call me at 513-403-2821 or email me at drodarte@changingvelocity.com and get half an hour of free consulting. Let’s see if we can change your velocity.

Want to know more about Villchur’s “Live vs. Recorded” concerts? Check out this 5-minute video.

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