Acoustic Sounds
By: Michael Fremer

June 17th, 2023


Factory Tours

Audio Research Factory Tour

fabled company rescued and resilient

Following "Making Vinyl" in Minneapolis, which was the best-attended most significant of these events (though the one at Hansa Studios in Berlin was the most exciting) and attended by 500 industry people from around the world, I took a short Uber ride from downtown Minneapolis to Audio Research inMaple Grove.

Managing Director Dave Gordon took me on an "after hours" tour of the factory you're sure to enjoy. The company moved to this somewhat location five years ago and soon ran out of room. Fortunately Phillips Electronics exited an adjacent space that Audio Research grabbed for its expansion.

You'll see a company that, thanks to the intervention of Acora Acoustics' Valerio Cora, might have been liquidated, but instead was rescued from the proverbial ashes. Mr. Cora is a fan of the company and didn't want to see the storied brand disappear or turned into a name to be exploited by predatory marketeers. On the other hand he wasn't about to throw good money after bad. After examining the situation ARC found itself in, he was certain the reorganized company could turn a profit and survive.

The reasons for the financial predicament the company found itself in was not the result of poor sales or a loss of interest in the company's products but rather a series of events both outside and from within the company that are now in the past and it's time to look forward to Audio Research's future. This video is a good place to begin but first: a few takeaways from the "Making Vinyl" event:

I flew from Newark by chance sitting next to Pheenix Alpha's CEO and co-founder Niklas Poblens, who began the company in 2006. He'd worked at the predecessor company Toolex Alpha as a young man before its bankruptcy when vinyl was declared dead. The story of how Pheenix rose from the ashes (that's two rose from the ashes references in one piece) would make for an interesting piece in and of itself, but one thing Niklas told me tells it well: the company started with two employees. Today it has thirty seven!

I ran two panels at the event, one on the Minneapolis music scene, which was fun, and another on whether or not we need a new SPARS-like code for vinyl so buyers know what they are getting. Everyone agreed greater transparency was needed and most agreed a simple series of letters isn't sufficient to tell the whole story.

There were a few "green" presentations. One was from a European company now manufacturing PVC from waste cooking oil. The speaker said pellets for vinyl records could easily be made using the new material, which he said is identical to PVC made using oil from the ground. Another company showed records pressed from recycled plastic bottles. I have a sample with non-modulated grooves intended to demonstrate how quiet this formulation was. Instead of paper labels, the pressed records are auto fed into a silkscreen machine that prints the label directly onto the record. Very cool demonstration. I've yet to play the record but I will. Another presentation showed new, modern lathes and lacquer plating done with vapor deposition instead of nickel bath tanks. Very exciting! I video'd that one with my phone and if I can get permission I'll post it.

Now Back to Audio Research!

Here are a few stills:

early Audio Research preampThis is an early Audio Research preamp. i didn't get the model number but if you know it let me know and I'll label it here.

RPM turntableThis is a photo of Allen Perkins' 1990s era RPM turntable. Still a great 'table and as you can see, the industrial design has been copies by numerous brands still using it today. I'm sure many of you can name them.

That' all I'm going to show as stills. Enjoy the tour!


  • 2023-06-17 08:24:41 PM

    Zaphod wrote:

    …records, more new records…

    Another great video! Keep these coming, would like to see some small companies like Leben Hi-Fi or Jadis! (At least I think they are small companies)

  • 2023-06-20 04:17:52 PM

    Jeff 'Glotz' Glotzer wrote:

    Congrats to Audio Research! Long live AR!

  • 2023-06-20 06:52:40 PM

    Georges wrote:

    Looks like a SP3.

  • 2023-06-27 05:04:44 PM

    Andrew Rahl wrote:

    Great video Michael! Please keep us up to date on ARC news.