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|Vol. 15, No. 1
This year Audio Research has introduced new products in both the tube and solid state categories and has also announced upgrade or "Signature Edition" upgrades to three of their existing preamplifiers.
In an effort to support the ever-increasing popularity of vinyl playback at a more affordable price, Audio Research has introduced the new LP1 phono preamplifier at $2195. This is a hybrid vacuum tube-based unit (6H30) which is primarily designed for higher output cartridges such as moving magnet and high output moving coil designs putting out at least one millivolt. Design features include a custom, Audio Research-designed power transformer, multiple stages of regulation, and zero overall feedback. Inputs and outputs are single-ended. The LP1 simply sounds wonderful, with great transparency and a lovely tonal balance. It passes on all of the information in the record groove and sorts out the most complex musical passages.
At the opposite end of the conceptual scale from the LP1 is the new DSPre. This unit is a combination of the DAC8 USB Digital-to-Analog Converter we discussed in issue 13 with a solid state, pure Class-A, zero-feedback, analog preamplifier, all in one chassis at $7495. The market's increasing demand for simplicity and flexibility, combined with high performance has been stimulating the integration of multiple components into single products in the audio industry. (Of course, when high end companies are involved, this needs to be done, insofar as possible, without loss of performance.) It was that demand, and Audio Research's desire for a DS-series source component, that led to the development of this new Definition Series product. The DSPre comes with both single-ended and balanced inputs and outputs. Sonically, the DSPre is simply captivating, with a transparent, extended, and relaxed presentation that is so unlike other solid-state products that you will instantly know that it came from Audio Research. The sound is spacious and focused and resolves incredible amounts of information without any brightness, graininess, or introduction of artifacts. Thus, the DSPre allows the user to play back computerized audio files with the highest possible sound quality and to improve the sound quality of other digital sources without adding an outboard DAC.
For those who have hungered for the performance quality of the Reference 150 power amplifier we discussed in our last issue but who didn't need that much power or who couldn't afford the price, Audio Research has introduced the new Reference 75 at $9000. Offering a hefty 75 Watts/channel and a power supply the same size as the old REF110, it offers the same great sound quality as the Reference 150 at a more modest power level. With a chassis the same size as the REF150, the REF75 front panel sports two analog power/bias meters, one for each channel. This means that it not only sounds terrific, but it looks great, too, and is simple to use and bias. We applaud Audio Research for bringing their reference-quality sound down to a more affordable price.
In the update area, the LS17 has become the LS17SE at no additional price. Cosmetically, the front panel of the LS17SE matches the newer products. Internally, Audio Research has replaced the coupling capacitors with the same ones that are used in the LS27, and they have added the same Teflon bypass capacitors that are used in the REF5 preamplifier. These changes provide greater perceived speed, articulation, resolution, and transparency. Everything is better sorted out, and the presentation is more relaxed and grainless. The improvement is not subtle, with the SE version sounding substantially better than the LS17 and much more like the LS27. Owners of the original LS17 can have their units upgraded for $800.
The Reference 5 preamplifier and Reference Phono 2 phono preamplifier have now been updated to SE versions, with greatly enhanced performance and the latest cosmetics. The Reference Anniversary established a new standard of performance for preamplifiers, but it was only available for a limited time. Having learned a great deal from its developmentAudio Research decided to infuse the Reference 5 and Reference Phono 2 preamplifiers with as much of the magic found in the Anniversary preamplifier as possible . Both new versions have the latest cosmetics and sell for $12,995. There are a number of internal changes and refinements. There is an additional capacitor board which almost doubles the energy storage capacity, there are new and additional Teflon and hybrid coupling and bypass capacitors, and there is new wiring. The sonic improvements are immediate and startling rather than incremental. Resolution is significantly higher, with finer grain and an improved sense of “ air”. Beyond that, there are much enhanced tonal color and explosive dynamics. Also the sense of effortlessness and control are addictive. Current owners of these products can have their units updated for $2500 for the REF5 and $2000 for the REF Phono 2. Anyone interested in updating their Audio Research product should contact us for more information.
Audio Nexus, LLC
33 Union Place
Summit, NJ 07901
Store Hours Mon-Sat 10:30 AM to 6 PM, Thursday til 9PM
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Anthony Gallo Acoustics * Arcam * Audeze * Audience AV * Audio Physic * Audio Research * Audioquest * Balanced Audio Technology * Benz-Micro * Chang Lightspeed * Clearaudio * Creek Audio * Epos Acoustics * Gingko Audio * Goldring * Grado * Kimber Kable * Lyra * Magnum Dynalab * Music Hall * NAD * Niles Audio * PrimaLuna * Pro-Ject * PS Audio * PSB * Quad * Revel * Richard Gray's Power Company * Rogue Audio * Rotel * Runco * Salamander Designs * Simaudio/MOON * Sonus faber * Stewart Screens * Sumiko * Totem Acoustic * Vandersteen * VPI * Wavelength Audio * Wharfedale
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