Audio Research Corporation Reference 160M Monoblock Amplifier

Higher Definition

Equipment report
Tubed power amplifiers
ARC Reference 160M
Audio Research Corporation Reference 160M Monoblock Amplifier

For a bigger difference, you can choose, with the touch of a button, triode mode rather than Ultralinear. In triode mode, the REF160M is very reminiscent of the sound of the ARC Classic 60 and Classic 150 (which came wired in triode). The presentation is markedly leaner, a bit more midrange-centric (and more detailed in the mids), a bit drier, less extended, and less full and powerful in the bass and the treble—a presentation that in some (not all) ways is closer to classic ARC (or classic ARC triode). Of course, you lose half of the amp’s power in triode, but 70W is still enough to drive most speakers with a relatively high sensitivity (such as the M3s) to thunderous levels. All things considered, I preferred Ultralinear with the Magicos, though triode had (and has) its appeal, as did that 4-ohm tap.

So there you have it. The ARC Reference 160M is a definitive product from a company that has produced a long series of definitive products. Two years in development, it represents Audio Research’s latest and most advanced thinking—and its sexiest packaging. Whether you will like it as much as I do will depend on your listening priorities and, to some extent, your speakers. But at its best the 160M offers things I’ve never heard before from an ARC amp: a newfound control that makes for “higher definition” from top to bottom; a standard-settingly low noise floor; a naturally richer and more neutral tonal palette; a naturally fuller power range; somewhat better focused and less midrange-forward imaging; and an even-handed presentation of the dynamic/harmonic envelope that no other amplifier I’m familiar with can better. Oh, the sentimental part of me still rather misses some of the wild-and-woolly qualities of ARC’s vintage 6550-based WZJ amps (higher noise and all), but that doesn’t change the fact that the REF160M is a more realistic-sounding, more transparent-to-sources, and more convenient-to-use offering. Obviously, the REF160M receives my highest recommendation. It is a reference-quality amplifier (and in its reproduction of the dynamic/harmonic envelope, a standard-setting one) that every music lover should hear.

Specs & Pricing

Tube complement: Two matched pairs KT150; two 6H30 
Power output: 140 watts continuous from 20Hz to 20kHz
THD: Typically 1% at 140 watts, below 0.04% at 1 watt, 1kHz
Power bandwidth: (–3dB points) 5Hz to 70kHz 
Frequency response: (–3dB points at 1 watt) 0.5Hz to 110kHz
Input sensitivity: 2.4V RMS balanced for rated output
Gain: 25.5dB into 8 ohms
Input impedance: 300k ohms, balanced; 100k ohms, single-ended
Output taps: 16 ohms, 8 ohms, 4 ohms
Damping factor: Approximately 14 
Overall negative feedback: 14dB 
Slew rate: 13 volts/microsecond 
Rise time: 2.0 microseconds 
Dimensions: 19.0" x 10.25" x 18.5"
Weight: 56 lbs. (net) per amp
Price: $30,000/pr.

655 Wedgwood Road North, Suite 115
Maple Grove, MN 55311
(763) 577-9700

JV’s Reference System
Loudspeakers: Magico M Project, Magico M3, Voxativ 9.87, Avantgarde Zero 1, MartinLogan CLX, MBL 101 E MK. II, Magnepan 1.7 and 30.7
Subwoofers: JL Audio Gotham (pair), Magico QSub 15 (pair)
Linestage preamps: Soulution 725, Constellation Audio Altair II, Siltech SAGA System C1, Air Tight ATE-2001 Reference
Phonostage preamps: Walker Proscenium V, Soulution 755, Constellation Audio Perseus
Power amplifiers: Soulution 711, Constellation Audio Hercules II Stereo, Air Tight 3211, Air Tight ATM-2001, Zanden Audio Systems Model 9600, Siltech SAGA System V1/P1, Odyssey Audio Stratos, Voxativ Integrated 805 
Analog sources: Acoustic Signature Invictus Jr./T-9000, Walker Audio Proscenium Black Diamond Mk V, TW Acustic Black Knight/TW Raven 10.5, AMG Viella 12
Tape deck: United Home Audio Ultimate 1 OPS 
Phono cartridges: Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, Air Tight Opus 1, Ortofon MC Anna, Ortofon MC A90
Digital sources: MSB Reference DAC, Berkeley Alpha DAC 2 
Cables and interconnects: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo UEF, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power cords: Crystal Cable Absolute Dream, Synergistic Research Galileo UEF, Ansuz Acoustics Diamond
Power conditioners: AudioQuest Niagara 5000 (two), Synergistic Research Galileo UEF, Technical Brain
Support systems: Critical Mass Systems MAXXUM and QXK equipment racks and amp stands
Room treatments: Stein Music H2 Harmonizer system, Synergistic Research UEF Acoustic Panels/Atmosphere XL4/UEF Acoustic Dot system, Synergistic Research ART system, Shakti Hallographs (6), Zanden Acoustic panels, A/V Room Services Metu acoustic panels and traps, ASC Tube Traps
Accessories: Symposium Isis and Ultra equipment platforms, Walker Prologue Reference equipment and amp stands, Walker Valid Points and Resonance Control discs, Clearaudio Double Matrix Professional Sonic record cleaner, Synergistic Research RED Quantum fuses, HiFi-Tuning silver/gold fuses