Audio Research Reference 160M

#21
There is a new review of the Reference 160M's by Ken Kessler of HIFI News. "I suffer no hesitation in judging it one of the finest amplifiers I have ever heard, regardless of price." Sound Quality: 90% (those of you who read this rag know a rating like this is extremely rare — D'agostino Momentum's earned an 89%.)
 

lem321

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Feb 7, 2014
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#22
Congratulations on the new amps and the completion of your beautiful audio room. I had a question about the 160M: prior to purchase, did you have a chance to compare these new amps to the ARC REF 250SE? They're sort of in the same price range ($30K vs. $34K) although the 250SE's are an older design which I suspect will be upgraded before too long.
 
#23
Congratulations on the new amps and the completion of your beautiful audio room. I had a question about the 160M: prior to purchase, did you have a chance to compare these new amps to the ARC REF 250SE? They're sort of in the same price range ($30K vs. $34K) although the 250SE's are an older design which I suspect will be upgraded before too long.
I did not audition or compare the 160M’s. I bought them sight unseen, sound unheard. Perhaps a little risky, but everything I had heard about them indicated ARC had made a significant improvement over all prior designs. I was feeling a little nostalgic when I pulled my much loved REF75, but it took about 60 seconds and it was immediately clear the 160s are better in every way, particularly the low end grip and authority which approaches the best in solid state. In my room, with the Ref75, as wonderful as that amp is, my Alexias have never plumbed the depths they are capable of. But now OMG the depth, clarity, and tonality is something I want to share with everyone. Not to mention the improved resolution and layering. Even my wife noted the instruments are more sharply defined in the soundstage. Killer amps to-be-sure.

I am sure more powerful amps will be forthcoming, but these are real beasts and handle the Alexias with aplomb.
 

asiufy

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#24
Congrats, Bob! Glad you're enjoying yours!
I'm listening to our 160Ms now too, and I'm really amazed. These are winners through and through!


cheers,
alex
 

lem321

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Feb 7, 2014
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#25
Alex,
As an ARC dealer, how would you compare the 160M with the 250SE? Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Bob,
Thanks for your reply.
 
#26
Congrats, Bob! Glad you're enjoying yours!
I'm listening to our 160Ms now too, and I'm really amazed. These are winners through and through!


cheers,
alex
I'm running mine topless, only seems right to let 'em breath naturally—only drawback is with the window behind them the meters aren't too visible in the daytime. The tops are great quality fit & finish, so I may end up going back and forth occasionally... or if we're having a party with other than audiophiles.

A couple audio buddies stopped by yesterday for a very brief listen and were amazed at how much better the 160s controlled the Alexias.

160M_a.jpg

160M_b.jpg
 

asiufy

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#27
Bob,

I personally like'em more with the top on! It's a more cohesive, "whole" look.


cheers,
alex
 
#28
Bob,

I personally like'em more with the top on! It's a more cohesive, "whole" look.
cheers,
alex
I'm with you Alex, they weren't "really" designed for topless operation. I was hoping whatever was coming would be designed so you could gaze at those big, shiny, KT150 footballs, and without the top the meter hanging out there is not the most "integrated" look. The VT80SE sure as hell is sexy in black! My wife thinks they look naked without the top. I'll likely go back & forth. They sound so good I think they'd be OK if wrapped in a burlap bag!
 
#29
There is a new [very positive] review of the REF 160M by Alan Sircom @ HiFi+. It is always nice when the reviewers hear, in a product you’ve purchased, the very things you consider to make it special.
 

Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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#30
Congratulations on this amplifier purchase, Bob! That is very exciting! Enjoy them!
 
#31
Congratulations on this amplifier purchase, Bob! That is very exciting! Enjoy them!
Thanks Ron, I am very much enjoying the amps. I notice you had the pleasure to hear them at Alma. I am biased of course, but these are the best I have ever heard from ARC, and I am a longtime ARC fan. Adding these has elevated my system to a new level.

I had wanted to hear a sota SS amp in my system/room to hear the “iron grip” in the bass everyone speaks of with amps like the Dags, for example. While it still might be fun to compare, the 160M’s deliver low end grip unlike I have heard from any tube amp before (and I have heard many but certainly not all).
 

Ron Resnick

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#32
I think you made a fantastic choice!
 
May 30, 2010
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#33
Just to add that last week I was listening to a system including the Audio Research Reference 160M , Reference 6 and the new Aida II at our distributor. The sound was excellent, very well delineated with great bass - they sounded like they had more than 4 tubes each. I was particularly impressed by the new Aida - faster and more communicative than the old model, that I have owned for some years, extremely musical and present, but probably part of what I was listening was due to the monoblock's.
 

marty

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Apr 20, 2010
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#34
October's Stereophile just came out with Fremer's review of the new Aida. Surprisingly, it doesn't take much to read between the lines to learn that he seems to like it more than his beloved Wilson Alexx!! (especially the bass, which was a surprise, at least to me since he stated that bass performance is why he replaced his Alexandrias with the Alexx).

Oops, didn't mean to derail the thread. Just wanted to comment on micro's comment re hearing the Aida II.
 
May 30, 2010
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#35
October's Stereophile just came out with Fremer's review of the new Aida. Surprisingly, it doesn't take much to read between the lines to learn that he seems to like it more than his beloved Wilson Alexx!! (especially the bass, which was a surprise, at least to me since he stated that bass performance is why he replaced his Alexandrias with the Alexx).

Oops, didn't mean to derail the thread. Just wanted to comment on micro's comment re hearing the Aida II.
Thanks - I also got the mail from Zinio, but did not download it. IMHO the bass of the XLF is far better than that of the Alexx, although perhaps in his room it was problematic. Although I know some people disagree, I globally prefer the XLF to the Alexx by a wide margin.
 
#36
I don't usually post the same thing to multiple forums, but wanted to share the following:

I had a few audio buddies over last night for some listening with the 160M's, and one thing I noted is the sweet spot is greatly expanded in my listening room... the increased resolution and placement of instruments in the soundstage allows for much better imaging even when not right in the prime seat. Sure, voices that are defined by equal volume from each speaker to appear centered when in the sweet spot are going to be shifted if you're sitting left or right, but other voices and instruments maintain pretty good separation even though shifted. This makes it more fun for me when having people over because I never take the sweet spot when guests are listening, and I didn't feel like I missed out.

Everyone was impressed how much better my Alexias sounded. So far, I am listening mostly in pentode mode, it seems the Alexias really do love having the extra power. Triode mode is great too but the lowest octave control is a little softer in triode mode (not unexpected) and the impact of the Alexia bass has never been as clean and controlled (in my room) as with the 160s.

Additionally, my room remodel is paying YUGE dividends -- the bass depth and control provided by the 160s may be much less apparent in a room that gets activated by so much energy. We certainly played some cuts last night with significant volume and my room didn't flinch, there was no overhang or sense things got muddy as the volume increased. As an example, we played a number of cuts from Robert Plant / Allison Krauss "Raising Sand" album, mastered by T Bone Burnett. This album has what I have always considered "over-cooked" bass and in my prior room up in Seattle I could hardly listen, the bass energy just activated the room and things went to hell quickly if the volume went up. Now, while still over-cooked (IMHO) the bass is clear and articulate, even when played at >95+ dB.

Hell yeah, live concerts in my basement! This is as much fun as this hobby has ever given me. If you are ever in the neighborhood, do stop by for a listen.
 

asiufy

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#37
Congrats again, Bob :)
I'm enjoying our 160Ms a lot too! They are indeed fantastic with the Alexia 2s. Interestingly enough, the 160M review on Stereophile this month was conducted on a similar setup to ours:

Alexia 2
160M
REF6
dCS Vivaldi

Don't want to spoil the fun of reading the review (done by JVS), but here are some bits from the conclusion:

"Of all the power amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, and pre- power combinations to have spent time in my reference system, the pairing of Audio Research’s tubed Reference 160M monoblocks and REF 6 preamplifier stands out as having sounded the most musically neutral and natural. Other components may offer more warmth and glow, or wider soundstages, or greater dynamic contrast, or more bass slam, transparency, and detail — but there was an inherent rightness to the sound of this supremely musical ARC pairing that puts it in a class by itself.. Since hearing the Reference 160Ms and REF 6 together, all of my preconceptions about the sound of tubed equip- ment have gone out the window."

So it seems JVS likes tubes indeed, in spite of his initial negative reactions to tube gear...

cheers,
alex
 
#38
Alex, don’t you have a Ref10 pre? The Ref6 is good, but a Ref10 with the 160s is pure bliss. I think any reservation of soundstage width/depth layering compared to other rigs would disappear if JVS was using a Ref 10.

Another terrific LP we played from last night is the Cowboy Junkies “Trinity Revisited” and if you don’t have this it makes a killer demo disk (side 3 and 4, in particular). Ryan Adams, Vic Chesnutt, and Natalie Merchant provide guest vocals—serious bluesy rock’n roll. The first cut on side 4 has some great purposeful distortion (reverb?) that many systems just can’t resolve. Even my Ref75 struggled a little in that it just could’t provide the power needed (with my Alexia) to bring that “live” feeling. With the 160s, all I can say is ROCK ON!
 

asiufy

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#39
Yeah, REF10 here too... I do agree that if he had a REF10, any remaining reservation JVS might had would be gone.

Not familiar with the "Trinity Revisited", just the original "Trinity Sessions"! I'll check that other one asap :)

cheers,
alex
 

DaveyF

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Aug 1, 2010
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#40
Just read JVS’s review, at least this time he wasn’t allowed to screw up the impedance matching with the Alexia’s. The rep from ARC was pre-warned and made sure the guy couldn’t touch it, lol. Nice to see that ARC has finally got it into their heads to offer a single ended input, jeez took them long enough,LOL. Wonder how many sales they lost in the process...before they figured it out!:rolleyes::eek:
 

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