A civil discussion about the state of Audio Research


I invested considerable time yesterday expressing my thoughts as to the current state of Audio Research as a company from the standpoint of quality (positive) and customer service (negative) only to have the entire thread censored/deleted by the mods.
For the small subsection of this Country’s population that are home audio enthusiasts, Audio Research is an iconic brand. Moreso than any other company, AR was the torchbearer for tubes when the rest of the amp manufacturers were turning to solid state. Further, though there were a few duds here and there, I am hard-pressed to think of any other company that has made as many legendary models of amps and preamps that have withstood the test of time (imho only Krell, Spectral, and CJ come to mind and present era super-brands such as CH and DarTZeel lack the history necessary).
My point yesterday is that AR’s acquisition by a parent company has resulted in a dilution of brand identity-similar to when Volvo was acquired by Ford between ’99 and ’10 and suddenly cross pollination of parts and assembly took place. My second point is that unlike the car industry, audio is a niche industry and to refuse to interact with customers directly and to instead insist that the customer go through the local dealer is inexcusable. I think we would mostly agree that when one tries to call AT&T about one’s cable and internet service only to get a computer interface and then eventually a clueless third-party intermediary who barely speaks English in India, the entire experience is frustrating and inadequate. I have news (apparently) for the parent company of AR; the present system is not altogether different from getting a clueless intermediary in some remote country who can not really help you.
My local AD is not a top-notch audio salon. They don’t stock a single piece of AR gear in their showroom and primarily cater to home theater. They have one salesperson who has a history of owning AR gear and he only works part-time. More importantly, based on other accounts, I have no confidence that if I experience a catastrophic problem AR will treat me with respect and take care of me. I have heard nothing but the opposite. The human touch is gone. My local Devore dealer, a nationally respected one-man shop dealer-used to carry AR and thanks to several awful experiences since the take-over dropped AR and now sells VTL instead.
I am hoping that this thread results in a CIVIL and appropriate, mostly intelligent discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of AR and AR's future. If the mods wish to delete this post as well, fine, but I want a forum to post my concerns about AR and if this one won’t accommodate me, I will find another.
Again, for the record, I am the original owner of a Ref 6 and Ref 150SE and therefor have ~$30,000 invested in my amp and pre alone. A paltry sum by the standards of some, but not paltry to me.
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It feels a little strange to do this but I kinda feel the need to step in and defend ARC a little bit. I ran Wadia for ARC's parent before we moved Wadia under the Mcintosh umbrella. We were housed in ARC's facility and worked around them and with many of their employees. I had a unique window into ARC. I can tell you a few things:

1) The people at ARC are as dedicated as they've always been. Every brand ought to have employees who love their company and their customers that much!

2) The parent isn't actually all that heavy-handed as a lot of acquirers are. Sure, they want to make money but not at the expense of destroying the brand. So while ARC may not be as free and liberal with all they can do for customers, they still go far and away over other brands.

3) While I'm not even remotely a tube guy, I can tell you that they go to what I always thought were ridiculous lengths to get quality tubes and to make sure they were matched. They treat those little glass things like preemies in a neonatal ICU. 

As for some of the departures from ARC, people change jobs for personal reasons, they retire, and sometimes they just need a change. But they are very careful that they people they hire really fit their culture, and the late Mr. Johnson is a huge part of that culture and legacy.

So while I get that the industry is changing, it's changing for everybody and I assure you that they are trying hard to continue serving customers like they always have. If you have specific complaints or suggestions for them, send them an old-fashioned letter and I would expect that you'd see some concrete action and get a response from them.

OK, I'm going back to my day job, making the world safe from Analog Sound! (Just Kidding!)

Jeff
Everything is good AR as long you can at least spend 15 Grand on some of there units
And as long as the units are less than say 5 years old AND you buy them new from
a dealer.   I have not been able to get Audio Research to return my emails or phone calls since Kalvin left. 
I have had a few back and forth emails with ARC, first about purchasing a remote control for my LS15 preamp and the second time was about identifying the version of my newly acquired SP8 preamp. Lets see, LS is about 18 years old and the SP8 is about 36 years old. This was all in the past 6 months.
I'm not complaining, they helped me out on some older gear when they could have just said it was obsolete.
Heck, they will still service either unit. How many audio companies can claim that?
BillWojo
I want to say a hearty thank-you to Jeff Haagenstad of Exogal for putting his perspective into this topic. I appreciate the positive comments. But why not address the questions that remain unanswered; who is going to replace Ward Fiebiger with engineering of progressively better sounding designs? How is ARC going to dispel attempts by McIntosh to save money by sharing parts, designs, assembly processes and even circuits? I am NOT emotionally tied to ARC. I am not like that 65 year old Chevy Corvette fanatic who walks around with a Corvette ball cap and leather jacket at all times in public and has owned eight brand new Vettes. I am happy to switch to something else. I might. History teaches us that ARC’s future is tenuous at best save an independent buy-out/break-out. Will the factory remain in it’s original location during the next five years? I would be shocked.