Ed Villchur, in memoriam

Ed Villchur

I had the honor of sitting at the feet of Ed Villchur during his most creative years. Roy Allison, his Executive with the title of Plant Manager assigned me to work with EV, as we called him,  in developing the AR-4. I had discovered him in articles and in the letters to the editor of the hifi magazines of the 50’s and a book written by him about hifi.

I worked next to the anechoic chamber on the fourth floor of the Thorndike St building. The walls were covered with the rubber stamp of Henry Kloss, who had worked in developing the original AR woofer before going off to found KLH. My work consisted of building new prototypes, testing them in the anechoic chamber and occasionally bringing the promising one to EV’s office for auditioning.

His technical innovations and inventions were substantial. Even more impressive were his marketing innovations. When he started Acoustic Research, Inc. (AR), high fidelity was a home hobby affair, monophonic, of course. Hifi systems required many thoughtful purchases from many different sources. The typical hifi’er was usually an engineer who designed or built some of the components himself. The original Radio Shack store was in downtown Boston and the source of many components. The LP vinyl record was a recent development. Graduate students at MIT were working on pulsed amplifiers and four by four arrays of mid-range drivers (so-called “sweet sixteen”, which were in a way the predecessor of the Bose 901.)

Marketing has always been a magical mystery to me, so I have no idea how he did it, but ten years later he had created a network of more than 3,000 distributors and dealers and a near monopoly on the hifi speaker market.

Having achieved his product and financial goals, he sold his company to a conglomerate, and more or less retired to his rustic home in Woodstock, NY.

Some of his inventions and innovations:

* Acoustic suspension woofer system, which allowed true bass from a small enclosure.
* The philosophy of accurate sound reproduction from a speaker, along with the requisite specifications. especially linearity and dispersion.
* He was a pioneer in the technique of audio delay by a tape loop.
* Dedicated public listening rooms (in Grand Central Station and Harvard Square.)
* Live versus record public concerts, where musicians alternated with recordings of their performance.
* Simulated “live vs recorded” as a R&D technique for subjective evaluation of ne speaker designs.
* Not only anechoic loudspeaker measurement but also reverberant in a twenty sided polyhedron of his own design of which no two sides were parallel or perpendicular to each other.
* The development of an audiophile turntable for the mass market.

In marketing, his emphasis on quality and service were decades ahead.

When I started my own speaker company, virtually everything from product considerations to business practices were based on having worked with him. Unfortunately, I never learned anything about marketing.

Winslow Burhoe

AR,  KLH, EPI, Burhoe Acoustics, Audio Products International, Genesis Physics, Direct Acoustics and ZVOX Audio, a long trail