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Great tour--nice to see the staff there. Fremer was quite lost, but amusingly so. The man who gave the tour of the vintage room, a true shrine of ARC history, and is chief designer for WOM, meant World of Mcintosh, now the parent name of the Fine Sounds Group. It seems the name Mcintosh will lend the panache to the group while allowing ARC to maintain their own legacy of high standards.
German automobile companies will reimburse your trip to Germany, your stay in the hotel, company tour if you purchase one of their cars. A full disappearance of manual transmissions from the USA market on all BMW models even M-series made me kinda upset and aiming to enjoy traveling to Germany to get package I really want -- turbo-diesel engine with 6-speed manual tranny on 5-series model. BMW is TOP NOTCH company (maybe will install in future AudioResearch sound system who knows?), but I wonder if ARC offers company tour to the casual customer rather than dealer(s) just like BMW?
The one thing missing from the tour was the most important---the circuit designer(s) and their "laboratory". I went to a number of in-store appearances by Bill Johnson, and asking him about his ARC designs was always a goldmine of information. Where does Rich Larsen do his circuit sketches, and do his listening? At home? I didn't feel like there was a heart and soul in the building we saw, ya know? All we got to see was an assembly plant, which I guess was the point of the tour.
yeah, I agree. That personal touch that was present during Bill Johnson’s tenure is now gone forever with his passing. ARC now belongs to a conglomerate that has its eyes set on the bottom line (pretty much like Harman International & others who have swallowed famous brands of yester year). Sad. But maybe not a bad thing - I say this because if it were not for consolidation the brand might have died (like, say, Joule Electra. They made some wonderful equipment, were fun to interact with it but did not have an heir to the business.....).
What we saw in the tour was an operation of a "big" company; not the cottage industry company Bill J founded.
Also, like you wrote - the topic on AnalogPlanet was "FACTORY" tour. So, like you wrote, it lived up to its name..... ;-)
But i would like to know who in ARC is designing these new circuits? Is it the same old, same old circuit with modern components & an elevated price? OR, is there a real designer (like Bill J was) designing new components? For e.g., when Kondo-san (Kondo Audio Note) passed away there was a successor (Ashizawa Masaki), hand-groomed by Kondo-san to take-over ensuring that AN-Japan would continue in the same vein. I would like to know if Bill Johnson did something similar?
If this aspect would have covered in the factory tour, it would have been really nice. If I’m paying $20,000 for that new ARC power amp they showed being custom-built I’d sure like to know who designed it (& know that it was not some monkey nor that it was a bean-counter from Fine Sounds just looking at the bottom-line).
As time went on, Bill was less and less at the center of design at ARC, even long before he sold the company. He had a couple of other long-time ARC designers (especially Rich Larsen) designing more and more of the new products, starting with the first hybrid tube-mosfet pre-amps. It was those products (like the SP-11) that some feel ushered in a change in the ARC sound, from a traditional slightly soft/warm sound to a white/dry one; too much solid state, not enough tube.
Some ARC products of the last couple of decades had very little Bill Johnson involvement. But ARC still maintained it’s "Bill Johnson" image for years after it was a true reflection of who was actually designing their products. They have a great dealer network, and a dedicated, loyal clientele, who continue to this day to sell one ARC product and replace it with it’s new version in the company’s lineup. And the old models keep their value, making buying used, listening to for a number of years, then selling for little loss, a good way to get great sound at a reasonable price.
Who knows how long ARC can maintain their place in perfectionist audio, when no one knows who is actually in the drivers seat, design-wise. I wish Fremer had been able to talk with Rich and whoever else is actually responsible for new ARC products. Without that, ARC is just another faceless company, with no identity. To me, anyway. With a Herron product, I know who does the designing, and what he's about. Same with Atma-Sphere, Music Reference, Pass Labs, VTL, Lamm, Zesto, Manley, and the other smaller, designer-owned companies, like ARC once was. That's was being high end is all about, isn't it?