Acoustic Research AR3a – A Review in Song

Byblos (Terry Kath) – Chicago


I saw her once before, she didn’t turn me on
One night she stopped to talk to pass the time

The Acoustic Research AR3a definitely did not turn me on.
Her ‘fried egg” drivers are eye sores.
In fact, before I sealed the transaction to take her home, I had to double check the net to see if they were the real deal.
The AR3a gives the impression of being built by a bunch of 11-year olds for their science project!


And then I saw her eyes, her softly smiling glow
We sat and talked all night at Byblos

Then I heard her sing.


She talked of feelings that I knew were true.
She painted me a picture using every shade of blue.
It was light with laughter, at times it made me cry.

The AR3a is one of the most listenable speakers these ears have come across.
The highs may be somewhat rolled off so this is not the last word as far as detail presentation is concerned. But then again, they are not as peaky or in-your-face; sort of like listening to the Tower Of Power at mid-hall level wherein the horns don’t pierce your ears. Even by current standards, those ‘fried egg’ domes have exceptionally good dispersion and response.

The AR3a is a bit bass heavy but can easily be dealt with by proper placement. This is not a pair for small listening rooms. It was still a bit wooly when pushed 5 feet away from the back wall but presented its low end authority when playing Deep Purple’s Lazy or Led Zep’s Moby Dick.

But it is that midrange magic that has captivated me. They have a full, rich-bodied flavor that allows me to listen to hours on end. Some may call it vocal chestiness, but when listening to Nat Cole or Colin Bluntstone, I find myself embraced by a cool presentation that still retains the warmth of the overtones.

The AR-3a really do sound like real music in ways that most speakers then or now do not.
And if these speakers were good enough for Seiji Ozawa and Miles Davis, then I guess my ears were in good company too.


And now I’ll never know just why I didn’t ever try to hold her
to squeeze her, to kiss her all night long; I never tried to please her

The Ar3a are heavy mothers for bookshelves so it’s unfortunate that I was just too lazy to try out different placements other than my regular 3-4 feet away from the back wall. I could have improved the soundstage with extra experimentation. I also didn’t have time to have the caps checked/replaced. Doing so would have given cleaner highs. Besides that, there are other mods available on the net to further perk up its overall performance.


Then soon she had to go, I sat there all alone
and thought of things she said “The whole day through”
And then I realized, I never took the time
to find out where she lived or where to call

I wasn’t really planning to sell the AR3a. But a few years back, a young enthusiast came over to take a casual listen. He was so enamored with the sound and asked if the pair was for sale.
I appreciated his admiration for the speakers and told myself – heck, why not let others take pleasure in what I’ve been experiencing too.
I was so sure I’d stumble into another set in the future.


I thought that I would see her the next night
anticipating how I’d set myself right
Then, I went back to Byblos
I sat there and waited, feeling just a little nervous and a little frustrated

I thought it would be easy to find a pair of used ones again.
In this age of polished cabinets and shiny titanium tweets, who would want to keep a pair of these ugly mothers?
Well I guessed wrong!
It’s been almost 2 years and not one has been in the market for sale up to now.


Then, soon, in she came; looking just the same
I could hardly wait to take her, far from that game

Then a person came in to the club that I had to speak to
I explained the situation to her and I thought she understood
But I guess she thought that I was jiving her around
‘Cause when I looked for her, this is what I found

She was rapping with a real good friend of mine
He was happy, oh, it was his time
I really couldn’t blame him
He was sad and lonely too
But just talking to her did me so much good
I knew she’d do him good too
I took the chance and called up that young enthusiast to ask if he would want to sell back the speakers to me.
But before I could ask him, he thanked me endlessly saying how much he’s enjoying the AR3a.
I really couldn’t blame him. It was his time and the speakers were doing him good too.


Then I went home and I got it on
Sat down to write these words when I was finally alone
Then, about halfway through, I wondered if someone knew
Where she was, so I could give her a call
And I found out that she was right down the hall not too far away

But that’s ok, I’ll just wait for the day
When I can see her again
And spend some time, time
Some time, some time

I got a tip recently that there was a vintage audio collector who might have a pair of AR3a speakers.
Apparently, he is just a few blocks from where I live.
I’m just wavering but I just might pay this collector a visit some time, some time. . .


I‘m gonna get her, I’m gonna get her
Come back and get her, I’m gonna get her
I’m trying to get her, I’m trying to get her
Come back and get her, ooh, get her
Gonna get her

Yup,gonna get her


Many thanks to the late Terry Kath







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