Soundstage Fine Audio

Where Music Matters

Soundstage Fine Audio
© 2018 Soundstage Fine Audio
Site last published: 2018-12-23
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Many audiophiles trace the origins of high-end audio to the introduction of Audio Research products back in the early 1970's. The Founder and President of Audio Research was the legendary William Z. Johnson. It was Bill Johnson who re-introduced the vacuum tube as the primary amplification device. This was then a radical move as the world of audio was very much a solid state affair. It wasn't long before audiophiles were talking about the incredible detail and rich, full sound of tubes. (They also spent a lot of time explaining the difference between AR - Acoustics Research and Audio Research;-) Audio Research products to this day continue to be the gold standard.

The Reference 6 is new in every way. From the addition of two extra tubes (total of 6 premium 6H30 tubes) in the analog section, to the advancements in power supply, to a new volume control with finer step gradation. A completely new chassis has allowed for a more beautiful aesthetic. New circuit boards and new circuit designs. Numerous elements,such as transformers, capacitors, and even wiring are designs exclusive to Audio Research and the Reference 6. All these add up to better bass control, a relaxed purity, greater transparency, better speed and more continuity across the musical spectrum.
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Inspired by the much lauded Reference 6 and part of the FOUNDATION SERIES the LS28 is a flexible and intuitive preamplifier. Four balanced and four single-ended inputs, and two sets of both balanced and single-ended outputs, allow maximum connectivity. The straightforward menu allows control of numerous parameters including input naming, tube hours, auto shutdown and home theatre passthrough. Phase invert and mono are also standard functions. At the heart of the LS28 are four 6H30 vacuum tubes in the analog circuit. While the LS28 is the perfect match for any Audio Research amplifier it has been designed to work with nearly any amplifier on the market today. The LS28 is extremely transparent and provides a presentation that is holographic and dynamically alive with great resolution.
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Part of the FOUNDATION SERIES the VT80SE the most recent upgrade to the VT80. The big change from the VT80 to the new VT80SE is upgrading the KT120 tubes to the higher performance KT150 output tubes. Audio Research clearly thinks highly of these tubes as they feature it in all their other amplifiers, from the VSi75 to the REF 750SE. Its performance is unparalleled and its 3000 hour average life allows years of uninterrupted listening. The tubes arrive having been burned in for 48 hours and are chosen using Audio Research’s “Certified Matching” process. What sonic improvements will be heard? Tonal colour, detail, dynamic swing and purity are all improved along with a bigger and more robust presentation. The music gets better in every way. 75 watts per channel. Available in black as is a ventilated tube cover.
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Also part of the FOUNDATION SERIES the DAC 9 digital to analog converter decodes most current formats with state-of-the-art vacuum tube technology. Five digital connections - USB, RCA, BNC, AES/EBU and Toslink - provide connectivity to all your digital sources. Quad DAC architecture provides a balanced digital signal, wide dynamic range and decoding resolutions from red book CD up to 384kHz and native DSD sampling rates. A pair of 6H30 vacuum tubes are at the heart of the analog circuit. Both balanced and single-ended connectors are provided for output connectivity. Native-rate upsampling and selectable digital filters allow for customization of the digital signal.
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When Audio Research was founded in 1970 vinyl was the de facto music source of the time. Audio Research has either incorporated or built stand-alone phono stages since the very beginning and has continuously provided phono preamplification. The REFERENCE PHONO 3 is the next advancement of analog playback. The tube count in the analog section of the PHONO 3 has increased from four to six. The power supply has been redesigned to accommodate the additional tubes as well as provide a greater dynamic range. Numerous other components and parts, including proprietary coupling capacitors, wiring and cryogenically-treated pieces advance the playback experience to a level reminiscent of master tape playback for a realism that was previously unavailable. The vacuum tube audio stage utilizes six 6H30 vacuum tubes, three per channel, and one 6H30 and a 6550WE provide regulation in the power supply. The large fluorescent display on the front panel shows all function relative to the selected input. A row of six buttons control power, mute, input and menu controls. Menu function include; auto shutdown, gain and load settings, display brightness, equalization settings and tube hour reset. High and low gain settings, as well as six fixed and one custom impedance setting, accommodate most moving magnet or moving coil cartridges. Two single ended inputs provide connectivity to two turntables. There are two main outputs providing both balanced and single-ended outputs. RS-232 and IR input allow for additional control options. Remote included. Available in black.
The new GSPre is both a line stage and a phono stage with programmable functionality and flexibility. The phono stage is not an afterthought but a separate vacuum tube powered circuit providing enough gain for a variety of phono cartridges. The GSPre also has a headphone amplifier capable of driving a range of headphone impedances. The front panel is elegant in its simplicity while still clearly displaying all functions and information. It pairs very nicely with the also new G-series amplifier shown below.
The job of a preamp is to direct complex signals, provide attenuation and get out of the way. It's an incredibly difficult job but one that ARC's preamplifiers have excelled at for decades. This is the next nerve centre of your system. This is the next best chapter in ARC's evolution of preamplifiers.
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Challenging source material and difficult speaker loads are met with control and finesse with the GS150, presenting a musical landscape of breathtaking proportions. There is considerable buzz about this latest offering in amplification from ARC, some already calling it a 'classic'. Three meters across the front panel provide a window into the operation of the amplifier while also giving it a striking appearance. The circuit design features the new KT150 power output tubes for 150 watts of effortless power delivery. All four tube pairs are matched of course. This is an exciting product. Listen to it paired with the new GSPre and you'll hear music as it was intended.
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After four years of winning both acclaim and rewards for the Reference CD8, Audio Research has seen fit to replace it. A lot has changed in those four years. People still want play their CD's but they now also want to add other digital sources such as computer audio to their music systems.
Enter the Reference CD9 CD DAC. The REF CD9 combines a super high resolution compact disc player with a super high resolution digital to analogue converter that is stunning in its musicality. All four digital inputs are able to handle 24 bit / 192k resolution. Retaining the Philips PRO2R transport, still the best CD mechanism available, the REF CD9 utilizes quad 24 bit DAC's in mono mode with dual master oscillators. Additionally there is a selectable digital filter with either fast or slow rolloff. Audio Research claims the REF CD9 has five times the bandwidth of the REF CD8 with one tenth of the distortion, plus greater dynamic range and it's quieter. Sonically, the REF CD9 is in a new class, combining the musicality of tubes with new levels of transparency and aliveness. It sounds faster with greater transient speed, improved dynamics from top to bottom, much greater resolution of inner detail, with a focus and purity that is captivating. Available now for your listening pleasure.
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This is one beguiling looking amplifier. And at a price that will bring it within reach of many audiophiles. While the Reference 75 proved to be a runaway best seller the newly upgraded Reference 75 SE is sure to follow suit. The primary upgrade is the utilization of the new, designed for the audio industry, KT150 vacuum tubes. These matched tubes are capable of higher power handling and current delivery. Custom designed capacitors couple the output of the tubes for the purest signal possible. Under each meter is a knob to switch from power output to bias monitoring for each output tube. Bonus, bias adjustments are accessed from the front panel too, a real convenience. Power, as the name suggests, is 75WPC. Available in Natural (silver) or Black.
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Audio Research calls the REF150 SE "a breakthrough in stereo power amplification". Replacing the REF 150 it offers more power, greater dynamic thrust, a more vivid and resolved presentation, greater finesse and quieter operation. Power-supply energy storage has been doubled to 1040 joules. All new interstage coupling capacitors effortlessly link input stage to output stage, the latter being driven by two matched quads of new KT150 output tubes driven by 6H30 twin triodes. Power output is rated at 150WPC into 4, 8 or 16 ohm speaker loads. 4-8-16 ohm output taps with 12v triggers are on the back. Each channel is very quietly fan cooled with selectable fan speeds. Internally a small LCD display indicates tube hours. Listening to the REF 150 SE the immediate impression is of greater speed, power and control. Bass extension, harmonic delineation and speaker driver control are simply superb revealing inner harmonic structure and dynamic realism that you've not heard before. Prepare to be astonished. Available is Natural (above) or Black.
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The Reference 250 SE is a large monoblock amplifier which, as its name implies, delivers 250W into a 4, 8 or 16 ohm load. The REF 250 features new enhancements outside as well as major performance advances inside. As with the other REF SE amplifiers the Reference 250 SE is outfitted with the new Russian KT150 vacuum tubes. The power supply is 50 per cent larger than its predecessor. An analog meter, with adjustable illumination, displays power output and tube bias settings. The Reference 250 SE is both visually and sonically breathtaking. From the moment the music begins sound emerges that reveals performance cues and micro details reserved for live performances. Substantial bass underscores the event with both resolutions and textural accuracy. Space surrounds performers. Groups of instruments stretch before you onto a lifelike stage with both scale and body. Dynamics swing from silent passages to grand fortissimos without effort or strain. This is the definition of high definition. Available in Natural (above) or Black.
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The VSi75 continues the series of open chassis design yet incorporates elements from the Reference series to combine a visually striking sonic phenomenon. For power output the VSi75 uses the KT120 tube. The KT120 is bigger and stronger and draws a little more current than the KT88. As a result the VSi75 outputs 75w from each pair of KT120’s. As Alan Sircom from hi-fi+ summed up, “Let’s put this into perspective. I could improve on the sound of the VSi75 within the Audio Research range, but I would struggle to improve significantly upon its performance from two boxes anywhere near the same price. No, that’s too sanitized. If this were real life, I’d be leaning in and I’d be whispering this; don’t let anyone know, but every fibre says this is Audio Research Reference amplifier combination-grade sonic performance, but with £10,000-£15,000 lopped off the price.”