WOODSTOCK- Edgar Villchur died in his Woodstock home on Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 at the age of 94. He was an inventor, educator and writer. His 1954 invention of the acoustic suspension loudspeaker revolutionized the field of high-fidelity equipment, providing better bass response than was previously possible, at the same time radically reducing the size of the cabinet. He received a patent for that invention as well as for the dome tweeter, which greatly improved the ability of loudspeakers to reproduce accurate high-end sounds. His AR-3 speaker is on display in the Smithsonian Institute's Information Age Exhibit in Washington, D.C. Acoustic Research, Inc. (AR), of which he was president from 1952 to 1967, manufactured high-fidelity loudspeakers, turntables, and other stereo components of his design. After leaving AR, he went into hearing aid research and developed the multichannel compression hearing aid, whose basic design has become the industry standard for hearing aids.
Villchur received his Master's degree from City College in Art History, and was headed for a career as a scenic designer. World War II changed those plans, and he was trained in maintenance and repair of radios, radar, and other equipment. He was stationed in New Guinea, where he rose to the rank of Captain and was in charge of the electronic equipment for his Army squadron. Later, he served in the Philippines and in Okinawa.
After the war, he opened a shop in Greenwich Village where he repaired radios and built custom home high fidelity sets. He continued to educate himself in the area of audio engineering, taking night courses in mathematics and engineering. After submitting an article to Audio Engineering magazine (later renamed Audio), he was asked to write a regular column. He also taught a course in his special area of interest, reproduction of sound, at the night school at New York University. He wrote three books and over one hundred and fifty articles on acoustics and sound reproduction, including two articles written at the age of ninety.
Although he considered himself a scientist and a researcher, he was very successful as a businessman. As president of AR, Villchur was known for progressive employment practices and innovative advertising techniques. AR used equal opportunity employment practices, and employees received health insurance and profit sharing benefits which were highly unusual in any but the largest firms in the 1950s and 1960s. The company was also known for its liberal repair policies, fixing most products for free no matter how old they were, and in general providing excellent customer service. AR's advertising was distinct from the sensationalistic ads of its competitors, instead concentrating on technical information, reviews by impartial critics, and endorsements from well-known musicians and other personalities who actually used Acoustic Research components.
In 1967, Villchur sold AR to Teledyne, and went back to working as a researcher. He chose the field of hearing aids, since he felt that there was considerable room for improvement in these devices. He spent several years investigating the problem in his home laboratory in Woodstock. By 1973, he had come up with multichannel compression, a revolutionary concept in hearing aid design. Rather than apply for a patent, he decided to publish his findings and make them available to anyone who wanted to use them. Resound, a hearing aid company in Calif., worked with Villchur to produce a compression hearing aid. Over the next two decades, Villchur's design became the industry standard for hearing aids.
Villchur lived in Woodstock from 1952 until his death. Music and art were very important to him, and he served on the boards of Maverick Concerts and of the Woodstock Artists' Association for many years. He was a friend, advisor, and benefactor to countless organizations and individuals in the community.
He is survived by his wife, Rosemary (Romy) Villchur, to whom he had been married for sixty-six years; his son, Mark Villchur of Boston, Mass.; his daughter, Miriam Villchur Berg, of Woodstock; and many devoted friends who considered themselves, and were considered by him, members of his family.
For more information, see the Wikipedia article "Edgar Villchur" and its accompanying bibliography and links, as well as his personal website, edgarvill chur.com.
He was a great philanthropist, and supported many local organizations, including Family of Woodstock, The Woodstock Emergency Rescue Squad, the Woodstock Fire Department, the Woodstock Library, Maverick Concerts, and the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum. Donations in his name can be made to any of those organizations.
A memorial service for Edgar Villchur will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23 at the Woodstock Artists Association and Museum at 28 Tinker Street in Woodstock.