Edgar M. Villchur, a Hi-Fi Innovator, Is Dead at 94
A few highlights, and a trip down memory lane:
Audiophiles have hailed Mr. Villchur as a seminal figure in the field. In its 50th-anniversary issue in 2006, Hi-Fi News ranked him No. 1 among the “50 Most Important Audio Pioneers.” John Atkinson, the editor of Stereophile magazine, credits him with bringing hi-fi into the home.
“Villchur’s development of what he called the acoustic suspension woofer made it possible for music lovers to buy loudspeakers that were domestically acceptable,” Mr. Atkinson said in a 2009 interview. “A guy’s wife could accept their presence on the bookshelf in the living room."
By 1966, according to Stereo Review magazine, Mr. Villchur’s company, Acoustic Research, was the leader in the nation’s speaker market, with a share of just over 32 percent.
Mr. Villchur also made two other advances that greatly improved high-fidelity performance. He developed one of the first dome tweeters, a drive unit that produces high frequencies.
In the early days of the turntable, one of its biggest problems was an effect called rumble: vibrations from the motor and the turntable that were picked up by the needle. Mr. Villchur’s solution was to separate the motor from the turntable and connect the two with a rubber belt, significantly reducing the vibrations.
One day in spring 1954, speaking to his acoustics class at N.Y.U, he hinted at his idea. One student, Henry Kloss, stayed after class, eager to learn more. Soon, student and teacher were in Mr. Villchur’s 1938 Buick, headed to Woodstock. In Mr. Villchur’s basement workshop, they listened to the copious low-frequency tones on an LP recorded by the renowned organist E. Power Biggs... Mr. Kloss, who died in 2002, is credited with designing the production process for the AR-1 speaker and its successors, the AR-2 and the AR-3, which combined Mr. Villchur’s woofer and tweeter models.
Among Mr. Villchur’s duties was promoting the products. In the early 1960s he sponsored “live versus recorded” concerts around the country, including one in a recital room at Carnegie Hall and another at Grand Central Terminal. At the concerts, a string quartet would play a piece of music, then mime it as parts of a recording by the same quartet played through a pair of AR-3 speakers. The listeners were rarely able to detect the switchovers.
RIP, to one of the greats of the "Golden Age".