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A Tribute to Roy F. Allison (1927-2016)

by Tom Tyson March 08, 2016

Acoustics researcher, writer and loudspeaker designer, Roy Allison, age 88, died March 1 in Manchester, New Hampshire after a long illness.  

Allison was born in Milford, Connecticut on May 6,1927.  He was the oldest in family of 12 children.  Upon graduation from high school, Allison enlisted in the US Navy Reserve and served from 1944-1946; he spent his first year of duty in intensive electronics training and for the remaining year and a half, he was a a radar-electronics instructor.

Following his service, he attended the University of Connecticut from 1946-1949, majoring in electrical engineering, leaving one year shy of a degree in order to support his wife and new baby.  He was subsequently recalled to the Navy in 1951 to serve for eight months during the Korean conflict.   

In 1949, Allison became a draftsman and staff writer for Radio Communications (Radiocom, Inc.) and was named editor in 1951.  Radiocom changed to "Audiocom, Inc" and began publishing High Fidelity magazine in 1953.  He became a contributing editor to High Fidelity while continuing to be editor to other trade publications, including TV and Radio Engineering, and Communications Engineering, and beginning in 1955, Audiocraft  magazine.  By 1954, Allison had become associate editor of High Fidelity and audio editor in 1957.  By 1959, however, High Fidelity magazine moved on to new owners and was sold to Billboard Publishing, but Allison had elected to stay with his original publishing company, Audiocom, Inc.

Allison's writing clarity and electronics knowledge led to a meeting with Acoustic Research co-founder and president, Edgar Villchur; in March, 1959, Allison joined AR as "assistant to the president."  This position was to be as public-relations assistant to Villchur, but soon after working in AR's repair department, customer service and production engineering, he solved several large production/shipping issues that developed with the AR-2 speaker, and he became chief engineer in 1961.  After plant manager Harry Rubenstein left AR to return to teaching in the fall of 1964, Allison assumed this position.   Abe Hoffman, former AR president and Allison Acoustics Vice President, commented in 1962 that Roy Allison and Gerald Landau (sales and marketing) were brought into Acoustic Research as understudies who could step into management at the appropriate time, and this proved to be forward thinking on the part of Edgar Villchur. 

In 1967, at the time of AR's acquisition by Teledyne, Inc., Allison was made vice president of engineering and manufacturing, a position he held until he resigned from the company in 1972.  During these years, Allison established AR's renowned quality-control program, warranty policies and designed (or managed the development of) the AR-3a, AR-4, AR-4x, AR-2x, AR-2ax, AR-5, AR-6, AR-7 and AR-LST loudspeakers in addition to the line of electronics products, including the AR Amplifier, FM Tuner and Receiver and the hugely successful AR-XA Turntable.  

In late 1972, Allison left Acoustic Research and spent approximately a year studying the interaction of loudspeakers and rooms.  With newfound knowledge of the effects of room boundaries on loudspeakers—now well-known as the Allison Effect "boundary dip"—he felt that he could use this knowledge in the design of a new line of loudspeakers that would address these issues, and co-founded—and became president of—Allison Acoustics, Inc. in March, 1974.   He subsequently filed for a patent on his design, US Patent 3,983,333 and published disclosure articles on his research and findings. During this time, Allison also designed a new midrange and tweeter unit with exceptionally wide dispersion, and a patent was applied for this design as well.  Allison was responsible for the development and production of Allison Acoustics loudspeakers that were considered to be among the highest-quality products available at that time, including such models as the Allison: One, Two, Three and Four, and subsequent models of that range.  Leading high-fidelity publications, as well as consumer-testing organizations such as Consumer Guide and Consumer Reports, consistently rated Allison speakers at or near the top in performance and quality.  In the late 1980s, Allison's new flagship model, the IC20, received France's Dispason d'Or top award for excellence.  Allison Acoustics closed in 1990.


Roy Allison continued with speaker design into the early 1990s, forming RDL (Room-Designed Loudspeakers) and subsequently RAL (Roy Allison Labs), a mail-order organization.  By 1993, Allison retired from the day-to-day grind of loudspeaker engineering and production, and he began outside consulting work in the loudspeaker industry with clients such as JBL, Cambridge Acoustics and BIC. 

Allison was intelligent, clear-thinking and largely self-taught in acoustics and mathematics.  He was an excellent and precise writer, and during his career, he authored over 100 articles in audio trade magazines and papers in peer-reviewed audio and engineering journals, such as theJournal of Audio Engineering Society (JAES) and the Journal of Acoustical Society of America (JASA).   In 1962, he wrote a fine book, High Fidelity Systems: A User's Guide, first published by Acoustic Research and later reprinted by Dover Publications in 1965.  In 1973, Allison was elected a life Fellow of the Audio Engineering Society for his contributions to the understanding of interaction of loudspeakers and room acoustics.  As well, Allison was an IEEE member.

Acoustic Research

Acoustic Research, Inc. ("AR"), co-founded by Edgar Villchur and Henry Kloss in the summer of 1954, became one of the great pioneering hi-fi speaker companies in the history of audio.  Not unlike Hewlett-Packard's genesis of California's silicon-valley electronics businesses in the late-1930s, Acoustic Research, on a smaller scale, spawned many of the great loudspeaker companies in the Boston area of New England during the 1950s and 1960s, such as KLH, Advent and later, Boston Acoustics.

From AR's start in 1954 came the AR-1, the first acoustic-suspension loudspeaker, followed by the smaller AR-2; in the late 1950s, AR introduced the AR-3, a speaker incorporating the hi-fi industry’s very first dome tweeters, an engineering innovation that has since become standard practice, even to this day. IC-20_1987

By the early 1960s, these relatively small AR speakers—capable of reproducing powerful deep-bass response and wide-dispersion, low-distortion treble response—replaced many of the huge refrigerator-sized Bozak, Klipschorn, E-V, JBL and Altec Lansing speakers to became the new standards of sound reproduction in the home. The timing of the new small AR speakers was perfect, as it coincided with the 1958 introduction of two-channel stereo, which necessitated the placement of two reasonably-sized speakers in the living room. The world of high-fidelity sound reproduction changed forever.  

During Roy Allison's 13-year career at AR, he made many important contributions to the U.S. speaker market, introducing many new "industry-standard" AR speakers such as the AR-3a and the AR-LST.  After Allison left AR he started his own company, Allison Acoustics in the 1970’s, and continued making excellent loudspeakers, many of which became "standards" in their own right.

Roy Allison - Missed but NOT  Forgotten

Through the years, Mr. Allison was highly regarded in his industry and characterized by a kind, soft-spoken and self-effacing demeanor—always thoughtful and generous.  He put the customer first, always, and he will be missed in the high-fidelity loudspeaker industry as one of the premiere designers of the formative audio years.