Audio Research Factory Tour

Analog Planet took a tour of the ARC factory.  Here are a couple of videos.

I was an ARC dealer for many years and have personally gone through the factory several times.

TOP NOTCH company all the way around.
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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?  

A great example of how a well intentioned poster had their post shattered.

Good or bad, that was the end result.

I have to agree, astro58go. I’ve been working on keeping my opinions to myself, but have a ways to go ;-). My goal is to make positive comments only, such as this one: I consider Audio Research Corporation the most important and influential hi-fi company of the "modern" era, modern meaning the "new wave" of designers and their often self-owned small companies that sprung up starting in the early-70’s, creating what is now called the High End (courtesy of Harry Pearson). There are probably more ARC products considered classics than those of any other company.

The consumer hi-fi business as we now know it started right after the end of WWII, when the radio engineers returned home and applied their electrical engineering knowledge to the creation of an industry dedicated to offering products enabling the recording and reproduction of music. Those products used tubes, of course. The appearance of transistors in hi-fi products changed that industry significantly, and by the late 60’s tube-based products were history. Bill Johnson and his ARC single-handedly changed that! He bravely swam against the current, reintroducing the vacuum tube to consumer hi-fi products. He also taught us that the pursuit of as-low-as-possible test bench distortion specs was folly. I can’t imagine our current hi-fi without Bill Johnson.

It’s only natural that people fear Bill’s death, and the sale of ARC to a multi-national, may endanger the direction ARC takes. Though this video is interesting, it doesn’t assuage those fears. Time will tell, ay?

If ARC is a big company (it is actually very small) how come there are only two assembly people in manufacturing, shown in the tour?

The plant looks like a ghost town!
good question but I guess that in a 20 minute video you can;t show everything. The main point is that every piece is hand built and the construction is a labor intensive process. Maybe there are not a lot of employees at this plant but they do make the point that some part of the manufacturing process is out sourced to local companies. I own two ARC amps and love them. I'm not sure if location makes a real difference but I am from the mid west and Minneapolis makes a lot of great products across many industries.
It's interesting to me what people expect in a 20 minute video. If you know the company's history and have owned and listened to many of their classic designs the video is a nice supplement to all that. I don't need to hear a soliloquy on circuit design. I appreciate seeing the people that have worked there for decades and have used that knowledge to  build great products we might own. It's gratifying to me to see the parts inventory and know that I can keep my treasured Ref 40 till I die and that ARC can restore or repair it with original parts to like new condition if anything ever goes wrong with it. Just hope I can get someone on the phone. Miss you Kalvin!
I don't see any ARC users (or anyone else, for that matter) saying, sorry I'm not buying your product because I don't know who designed it.
The original fans of Bill Johnson's designs, like the State-Of-The-Art SP-10 pre-amp and D-79 power amp, were dismayed when he handed over a lot of the ARC design work to Rich Larsen, who was largely responsible for the hybrid SP-11. That pre-amp ushered in the "dry/white/bleached" era of ARC sound. It's not that they didn't know who was doing the ARC design work, but rather that they did---Rich Larsen, not Bill Johnson. Rich's hybrid sound has obviously improved a lot since then.