The most magical Audio Research amplifier yet…
Two years in development, the new Reference 160M (REF160M) Monoblock Power Amplifier is built like no other and sounds like no other amplifier that you have ever heard – whether tube or solid state – but it is unmistakably Audio Research. It features a refined audio topology with fewer and better components in the signal-path, switchable Ultralinear/Triode operation, proprietary auto-bias, output tube monitoring and protection, an advanced power meter, and much more. This array of features has never been offered before in an Audio Research amplifier, and neither has this level of performance.
The designers at Audio Research have created a new style that complements the look of the REF6 preamp and other ARC models, and also features a clever transparent faceplate. While this window allows you to see the output tubes, it also incorporates an innovative dual-layer construction with distinctively etched markings that create an integrated power meter. The power meter’s output-level markings illuminate via hidden LEDs, and the illumination brightness is adjustable and also defeatable.
The REF160M includes a sculpted cover with an integrated fan to cool the heat generated by the four KT150 output tubes and two 6H30 driver tubes, although use of the cover is optional. Solid-state power regulation was chosen to provide increased efficiency, stability, and reliability. The power supply stage uses a newly developed High Energy Capacity Transformer and a hefty bulk storage-capacity network to provide extremely high current on demand for transient peaks and intense dynamics, as well as for prodigious bass depth and authority.
In audio, the best path is the shortest path. Audio Research engineers created a new audio circuit topology with the shortest signal path and the fewest components. Those components are not only the best available, many are custom made for Audio Research. Incorporating these quality components is a special 4-layer circuit board that lowers the noise floor to unprecedented levels, and a design which was previously reserved for use in their preamplifiers. The result is a new benchmark in musicality in every criterion of sound quality.
The REF160M also features a proprietary auto-bias circuit that works with various tubes types, including 6550, KT88, and KT120, in addition to the supplied KT150 and works constantly to maintain precise bias of the output tubes, while also adjusting for tube wear. There is no need to check or adjust bias ever again. And a built-in tube hour meter allows the owner to monitor tube usage, while the amp’s tube protection circuit features separate high-quality fuses for each output tube and are located inside the amp for replacement, if ever necessary.
Some music lovers prefer or require a tube amp that provides higher power and operates in Ultralinear mode, while others (usually with high efficiency loudspeakers or those who listen at lower levels) prefer Triode operation, which produces less power. The REF160M is the first amplifier from Audio Research to address these varying needs by providing a front panel switch to allow the user to select the preferred mode of operation. The REF160M will provide a conservatively rated 150 Watts in Ultralinear mode and 75 Watts in Triode mode, and the user can switch between modes while the amplifier is operating.
The REF160 is on demonstration now. We’ll welcome Dave Gordon, Brand Ambassador from Audio Research, for a special event on May 30th to officially launch the amp, explain the new technologies, and play some great music. In the meantime, you’re welcome to stop by and see and hear the REF160 while we rack up some hours to break it in. You can also read more on Audio Research’s web site, here.