Audio Research Reference 160M

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,380
163
63
Beverly Hills, CA
#1

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,167
43
48
Far Hills, NJ
#2
Well, well, well...
After years of denigrating everyone who uses output tube autobias by saying it simply can't be done without compromising audio quality, they have apparently changed their tune and have implemented this feature now (and probably forever). Better late to the party than not at all. Now, we'll just have to see if their reliability factor has improved from past performance (I blew up both of my 610s within a week of installing them many years ago). I certainly hope so.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,380
163
63
Beverly Hills, CA
#4
The most interesting thing to me is that after VTL offered tetrode/triode switching at least 20 years ago, ARC is now incorporating that flexibility into this amplifier and, presumably, future amplifiers which will inherit the 160M’s design characteristics.

When in the future ARC upgrades the 750SE to the circuit design of the new 160M with triode mode, then it would be fascinating to perform a direct, apples-to-apples shoot-out of that future ARC versus the Siegfried IIs.
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,167
43
48
Far Hills, NJ
#5
The most interesting thing to me is that after VTL offered tetrode/triode switching at least 20 years ago, ARC is now incorporating that flexibility into this amplifier and, presumably, future amplifiers which will inherit the 160M’s design characteristics.

When in the future ARC upgrades the 750SE to the circuit design of the new 160M with triode mode, then it would be fascinating to perform a direct, apples-to-apples shoot-out of that future ARC versus the Siegfried IIs.
+1 But as far as the apples to apples comparison, I'll leave that to you Ron. I owned Siegfried's (and still own the 7.5 III pre which I consider a masterpiece). But as good as the Siggies are, my days of owning amps with a large number of output tubes are over. Even with auto-biasing and the superb logistics that VTL Siggies currently have for replacing a blown tube (and they do blow), a microphonic in just one tube can create headaches for weeks until you track it down. Been there, done that. Acceptable perhaps when you're younger, but it gets old quick (like we all do!)
 

asiufy

Member Sponsor
Jul 8, 2011
2,841
53
48
San Diego, CA
almaaudio.com
#6
Well, well, well...
After years of denigrating everyone who uses output tube autobias by saying it simply can't be done without compromising audio quality, they have apparently changed their tune and have implemented this feature now (and probably forever). Better late to the party than not at all. Now, we'll just have to see if their reliability factor has improved from past performance (I blew up both of my 610s within a week of installing them many years ago). I certainly hope so.
Marty,

I can't speak for sound quality, but reliability on the new (read: 2-3 years back) ARC series is impressive. We've had the line for about a year now, and we had *0* issues. Nothing. As you said, a few years ago, reliability was indeed a concern with ARC, and actually, when we were discussing the dealership opportunity with them, we brought this subject up as a serious concern we had. This was also addresses in the factory tour we did, and they showed the little things they've been doing to help with reliability.

I'm just glad their recent stuff is all rock solid, and, to my ears, are the best products they've ever done, across the board.
 
May 30, 2010
14,302
135
63
Portugal
#7
Marty,

I can't speak for sound quality, but reliability on the new (read: 2-3 years back) ARC series is impressive. We've had the line for about a year now, and we had *0* issues. Nothing. As you said, a few years ago, reliability was indeed a concern with ARC, and actually, when we were discussing the dealership opportunity with them, we brought this subject up as a serious concern we had. This was also addresses in the factory tour we did, and they showed the little things they've been doing to help with reliability.

I'm just glad their recent stuff is all rock solid, and, to my ears, are the best products they've ever done, across the board.
Modern ARC is more reliable also because current tubes are much more reliable - even with very old series I only had problems when tubes broke. Dealers should persuade them to include a B+ fuse in supply of the high voltage. Did they add it in the new series?
 

asiufy

Member Sponsor
Jul 8, 2011
2,841
53
48
San Diego, CA
almaaudio.com
#8
Modern ARC is more reliable also because current tubes are much more reliable - even with very old series I only had problems when tubes broke. Dealers should persuade them to include a B+ fuse in supply of the high voltage. Did they add it in the new series?
I agree, the KT150 is an exceptional tube, much superior to the KT120s used recently, both in sound quality as well as reliability. The amps also go easy on the KT150s, given what other brands are doing with them.

I do not recall a fuse specifically in there, when they pointed out the protection circuitry in the new amps, but it might be there and I just don't remember right now...
 

DaveyF

Well-Known Member
Aug 1, 2010
5,883
59
48
La Jolla, Calif USA
#9
I agree, the KT150 is an exceptional tube, much superior to the KT120s used recently, both in sound quality as well as reliability. The amps also go easy on the KT150s, given what other brands are doing with them.

I do not recall a fuse specifically in there, when they pointed out the protection circuitry in the new amps, but it might be there and I just don't remember right now...
+1

I would go as far as to say that if anyone is considering a new tube amp, then any amp that does NOT use a KT150 is going to be less on the radar. Having owned many tube amps in the past, my current pair with the KT150's are easily the most resolving of any I have heard. I am pretty sure that the KT150 is a big contributor to this attribute.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
5,380
163
63
Beverly Hills, CA
#12
Well, well, well...
After years of denigrating everyone who uses output tube autobias by saying it simply can't be done without compromising audio quality, they have apparently changed their tune and have implemented this feature now (and probably forever). Better late to the party than not at all. Now, we'll just have to see if their reliability factor has improved from past performance (I blew up both of my 610s within a week of installing them many years ago). I certainly hope so.
One friend of mine own two pairs of Siegfried IIs and I believe he has had zero trouble with them.

Another friend of mine has been auditioning ARC Reference 750SEs and I believe he has had zero trouble with them.

Having written that I always tell people that I derive significant comfort from knowing that if a big VTL tube amp has a problem I can relatively easily (i.e., easy relative to fitting an amplifier into a wooden crate and arranging the pick-up, transport, delivery and return logisitics and cost) drive it up to Chino, CA to be looked at and fixed.
 

KeithR

VIP/Donor
May 7, 2010
3,121
77
48
Marina del Rey, CA
#14
Well, well, well...
After years of denigrating everyone who uses output tube autobias by saying it simply can't be done without compromising audio quality, they have apparently changed their tune
I wonder if their circuit is now similar to VAC which actually optimizes bias. They do mention a proprietary auto-bias, so doubt its like VTL or others.

By far the worst part of ARC amps of yore (besides the whitish/SS sound) was the manual biasing of tubes with a voltmeter. The 75, 250, and 750 can all be done via front panel for the past five years.

But yes, I agree on ultra-high powered tetrode tubes - I'd probably go SS with a tube preamp instead.
 
Jul 18, 2014
653
69
28
#15
Single ended input with Triode mode option as well (at last)... very nice. Tho calling it Ref160 when it’s output has been reduced down from the Ref150 and GS150 to 140 watts is more of a marketing thing as a Ref140 isn’t going to sound as a step up from a Ref150. But i suppose if winding it back a bit makes it sound better or may increase tube life then that is a good thing. I also couldn’t see an output figure for the Triode mode but it hopefully might be at least 50 to 60 Watts.

For sure if it’s a sonic advance on the GS150 then it sounds a very promising option.

Comments on how successful the KT150 as a tube is proving also then makes me wonder how long before Cat also offer a KT150 version of their JL5. That would also be a nice thing to see. Maybe also with more and more KT150 amps coming out with time maybe the boutique tube makers like Psvane and Kron may also start offering their takes on the KT150 as well.
 
May 30, 2010
14,302
135
63
Portugal
#16
Single ended input with Triode mode option as well (at last)... very nice. Tho calling it Ref160 when it’s output has been reduced down from the Ref150 and GS150 to 140 watts is more of a marketing thing as a Ref140 isn’t going to sound as a step up from a Ref150. But i suppose if winding it back a bit makes it sound better or may increase tube life then that is a good thing. I also couldn’t see an output figure for the Triode mode but it hopefully might be at least 50 to 60 Watts.

For sure if it’s a sonic advance on the GS150 then it sounds a very promising option.

Comments on how successful the KT150 as a tube is proving also then makes me wonder how long before Cat also offer a KT150 version of their JL5. That would also be a nice thing to see. Maybe also with more and more KT150 amps coming out with time maybe the boutique tube makers like Psvane and Kron may also start offering their takes on the KT150 as well.
All recent ARC amps could be used in single ended mode. The manual states "approximately 75 watts/ch in triode mode " and also refers the longevity of KT150's - KT120's were supposed to be replaced at 2000 hours, KT150's at 3000 hours.

People will have to get a logbook - the signal tubes (6H30) should be replaced before 4000 hours and the KT150's at 3000 hours. I think everyone will replace them all at 3000 hours!
 
Jul 18, 2014
653
69
28
#17
50 per cent more output tube life is very useful and 140 Watts linear and 75 Watts in triode would make them a nice option for quite a few speakers I’d imagine.

Very much looking forward to them being released and also wonder if there’ll be a Ref250 replacement with triode mode also somewhere on the horizon... hope so.
 

Elliot G.

Industry Expert
Jul 22, 2010
729
29
28
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
#20
Well, well, well...
After years of denigrating everyone who uses output tube autobias by saying it simply can't be done without compromising audio quality, they have apparently changed their tune and have implemented this feature now (and probably forever). Better late to the party than not at all. Now, we'll just have to see if their reliability factor has improved from past performance (I blew up both of my 610s within a week of installing them many years ago). I certainly hope so.
I cant speak for reliability since they are new and I have not owned them but they did sound good at Axpona. It was one of the few rooms I had time to visit and liked what I heard. It seems to be priced at a good number as well.
Me personally I am done with things that glow in the dark I have seen the light LOL and will live with my M1
 

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