Initially, I was somewhat stumped by the sound of GSi75, which I found a little antiseptic. After an hour of warm-up, which I have come to think is especially essential for the GSi75, it relaxed and conveyed with precision one of my recent CD acquisitions, Bach’s violin concertos played by Alina Ibragimova on the Hyperion label. For whatever reason, I’ve often found that recordings of the orchestra on Bach’s violin concertos can sound turgid, recessed, or confused. While the Hyperion recording is not perfect in these regards, there can be no doubting that Ibragimova plays with real verve and originality, qualities that came through beautifully with the GSi75. I was especially struck by the unit’s ability, on cut after cut, to unravel with impressive fidelity the sinuous and intricate orchestral lines. Not once did I have the impression that it was treading into steely sonic territory, sacrificing tonal richness for accuracy.
Something similar can be said about the GSi75’s rendition of another of my favorite CDs. On a recent Harmonia Mundi recording, the marvelously talented cellist Jean-Paul Queyras, whom I listened to when he used to play at my grandmother’s home in Freiburg, Germany, when we were both teenagers, performs Haydn’s cello concertos with the Freiburg Baroque orchestra. This ensemble has won renown for dedicating itself to baroque performance practice, but adding a good deal of verve to the proceedings. Put bluntly, Queyras’ performance is, to borrow from Donald Trump, high energy. Once again, the GSi75 conveyed with great gusto the hair-raising presentation. At one point, Queyras, in the heat of the moment, whacks his cello with his bow—a nonmusical event, to be sure, but I have to tell you that I was shocked by how much of the hall space the ARC captured. You could really hear that whack resounding in the recording venue. This was, in its own way, a tribute to the ability of the GSi75’s tubes to open up the soundstage so that very small details are never lost or obscured. Instead, the imaging of the GSi75 is spot-on. Queyras’ cello was in perfect proportion to the orchestra, and I could hear all the way into the back of the hall.
As enjoyable as digital was, I remain first and foremost a vinyl aficionado, partly because it sounds so darned good, partly because it reminds me of my childhood spinning black gold. It’s comforting to know that not everything from the good old days has gone by the wayside; indeed, vinyl is making a comeback. So onto the Continuum Caliburn I plopped that wonderful disc, The Persuasions’ We Came to Play, as soulful an album as ever was recorded. Admittedly, this album may not be for everyone; my buddy and fellow reviewer Anthony Cordesman sat in stony silence when I played it a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, this gem, which A.J. Conti of Basis brought to my attention several years ago at his factory in New Hampshire, is one of my reference discs. On the cut “Gypsy Woman,” I reveled in the superb imaging, the pellucidity of the voices, and above all, the ability of the GSi75 to faithfully reproduce Jimmy Hayes’ bass. The intonation was about as good it gets, and the GSi75 communicated the emotional excitement of the lyrics as they reach an impassioned crescendo. There was no blurring, no smearing, no overlapping of voices with the GSi75.
Another album that I’ve been deploying with some regularity is Shelby Lynne’s Just a Little Lovin’—the 45rpm version, I should add, recently released by Chad Kassem’s Acoustic Sounds. The sound is pretty much impeccable—tremendous presence. What more is there to ask for? The GSi75 locked onto the ensemble and never let go. Cymbals came across with just the right amount of metallic sheen and the guitar accompaniment was perfectly delineated. No, it wasn’t the kind of jet-black background you get with solid-state gear. But the flipside is that you get that glorious 3-D imaging that only tubes seem able to provide.
No, the sound was not as big and voluptuous and powerful as with my reference Ypsilon gear. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise either. The GSi75 isn’t meant to go against the heavyweights. For that you would go to ARC’s reference gear. This is a stripped-down, lithe, nimble performer that delivers the goods. Whether you hanker for a little more bloom or pulchritude is a question that you can only answer by demo’ing the GSi75. On the yin-yang continuum, as HP used to say, this definitely lands on the cooler side. This is emphatically not an old-school piece of tube gear.
But when you hear how quiet the backgrounds are with the GSi75 and its commendable fidelity, it’s hard not to be smitten by this superbly engineered new piece from ARC. Coupled with a loudspeaker that’s relatively easy to drive—I used the 4-ohm taps with the Wilson XLF loudspeakers—I never found it wanting. With the GSi75, ARC has produced an integrated amplifier that is more than worthy of its illustrious heritage.
SPECS & PRICING
Output power: 75Wpc
Tubes complement: Two matched-pair KT150 (power output), two 6H30 (driver)
Frequency response: 1Hz to 70kHz
Input sensitivity: 0.55V RMS single-ended for rated output
Input impedance: 52.5k ohms single-ended
Inputs: SE1, SE2, SE3, phono, SPDIF digital (coax RCA and TosLink), USB
Maximum input: 10V RMS (any input)
Output polarity: Non-inverting (any input)
Output taps: 8 ohms, 4 ohms
Damping factor: Approximately 4
Overall negative feedback: 4dB
AUDIO RESEARCH CORPORATION
3900 Annapolis Lane North
Plymouth, MN 55447-5447
Continuum Caliburn with SAT and Cobra tonearms; Lyra Atlas and Miyajima Mono Zero cartridges; dCS Vivaldi CD/SACD playback system; Ypsilon preamp, phonostage, and SET 100 Ultimate monoblock amplifiers; Transparent Opus, Audience, and Nordost Odin 2 cabling; Wilson XLF loudspeakers and Hammer of Thor subwoofers