Trivia: Did you know that William Z. Johnson, Audio Research Corporation's founder, trademarked the words "high definition" back in the '70s? In many ways, he was a man ahead of his time, even if what he was pushing when he started Audio Research in 1970 seemed behind the times, even back then -- vacuum tubes. The company made all of its audio products using them because Johnson felt they simply sounded better -- and it stayed that way for a long, long time, which is likely why Audio Research is now the preeminent tube-based hi-fi manufacturer in the United States, if not in the world.
Audio Research Corporation is legendary for producing some of the best tube-based and solid-state electronics in the hi-fi business. The company currently makes preamplifiers, amplifiers, phono amplifiers, disc players, and digital-to-analog converters. All of its products are designed and built in-house.
Insofar as high-end hi-fi companies go, Audio Research is a fairly big one -- it has a large factory, plenty of products, and numerous skilled employees. The reason they're skilled is that all the products are effectively handmade -- there's no robotic assembly or similar kind of automation to be seen on the factory floor. Even circuit boards are populated and soldered by hand in what's called the board assembly area, which was the first place I visited when I toured the factory.
After the circuit boards are completed, they make their way to an adjacent area in the factory called chassis assembly, which is where the products begin to take shape. It's in this area that the boards are installed, connectors are attached, wiring is completed, and various parts are installed to create a fully functioning product ready for testing.
Audio Research's quality assurance department is responsible for not only the testing of assembled products but also the parts for products to be assembled. Its numerous, rigorous tests help to ensure that each Audio Research product performs exactly as specified.
The final department that a product moves to before it's packaged and shipped is what Audio Research calls paneling. In paneling, the top, bottom, and front panels are attached, as well as the knobs and handles. Other small jobs to complete the product also occur here. It's when paneling is complete that an Audio Research product really looks like an Audio Research product, since it's where all the distinctive cosmetic elements are added.
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