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Vol. 9, No. 1 Spring/Summer, 2006



NEW PRODUCTS

Audio Research

After the introduction of the stunning Reference 3 preamplifier which we talked about in our last issue, Audio Research was faced with the question of how to “trickle down” as much of the Ref 3's technology into the rest of their product line. This has now been successfully accomplished with the introduction of four new products, two preamplifiers, a phono preamplifier, and a tube CD player.

Audio Research LS26 preamplifierThe new LS26 preamplifier at $5995 physically resembles a downsized Ref 3. It maintains all of the inputs, outputs, controls and functionality of its predecessor, the LS25, and adds phase inversion via the remote control. The LS26 benefits from many enhancements passed down from the Ref 3, including new proprietary parts, special damping, and other design elements. The LS26 sounds like a Ref 3 on a slightly smaller scale, with an expansive and properly-proportioned soundstage that is focused and grainless. Dynamics are natural, expressive, and immediate. Audio Research states unequivocally that the LS26 is superior to the Reference 2 Mk II, the predecessor to the Reference 3.

Audio Research LS17 preamplifierIf the LS26 is the "Ref 3 Junior", then the LS17 at $3995 is surely the "Baby Ref 3". This is Audio Research's newest preamplifier, and offers many new features as compared to its predecessor, the LS16. As with the other preamplifiers, the LS17 uses the 6H30 super tube and has improved circuitry and parts in both the power supply and audio path. These Reference 3 inspired improvements give the LS17 a strong family resemblance to the rest of the preamplifier lineup. Resolution, focus, soundstage, clarity, and bass definition are all improved over the LS16.

Audio Research PH7 phono PreamplifierOur last newsletter discussed the PH5, a remarkable phono preamplifier at the affordable price of $1,995. The new PH7 ($5,995) uses the Reference 3's advances to improve upon the PH5 in every important way. Soundstage dimensions are scaled up in width and depth and have even more solid image specificity. Tonal shadings and micro dynamics, so important to the believability of any musical rendition, are much more vivid, thanks to extra power-supply muscle and a low noise floor. Perceived frequency extension is much improved, with silky and vivid highs, and deep bass notes are carved out with slam and real tonal definition. All functions of the PH7 are available by remote control, so you can listen to the effect of changing cartridge loading resistance while sitting in your listening chair. Every record in your vinyl collection will take on new meaning when heard through this remarkable product.

Audio Research and its customers have, for years, wanted a CD player with tube outputs that would surpass the performance of the superb CD3 Mk II. This has finally become possible with the development of the Reference 3 preamplifier's gain stage. The CD7 employs the same transport as the CD3 Mk II but has a tube gain stage taken directly from the Reference 3. The CD7 uses 7 6H30 tubes, four in the audio path and three in the massive power supply. It also uses the same proprietary capacitor technology found only in Audio Research Reference level components. At $8,995, the CD7 ought to be significantly better than the CD3 Mk II, and it surely is. It has a quieter and blacker background, more robust dynamics, and more subtle nuances. The soundstage captures the presence of a live performance, and the bass is massive and tuneful. Getting the most out of your Red Book CD collection is surely what the Reference CD7 is all about.


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