High end audio retailer Audio Research is unveiling its new Reference 160M (REF160M) Monoblock Power Amplifier featuring a switchable Ultralinear/Triode operation, proprietary auto-bias, output tube monitoring and protection, an advanced power meter.
Audio Research says its designers wanted to create a new style that would complement the look of the REF6 preamp while also featuring a transparent faceplate that allows a view of the glowing KT150 vacuum tubes. While this window allows you to see the output tubes, it also incorporates an innovative dual-layer construction with distinctively etched markings that create an integrated power meter. The power meter’s output-level markings illuminate via hidden LEDs, and the illumination brightness is adjustable.
Livio Cucuzza, designer of the REF160M says, “The new REF160M is the apex of the Audio Research design language, and the first step in a new era of products. With its transparent meter, we are giving shape to the most renowned Audio Research sound characteristic: transparency.”
The REF160M includes a sculpted cover with an integrated fan to cool the heat generated by the four (4) KT150 output tubes and two (2) 6H30 driver tubes. Solid-state power regulation was chosen to provide increased efficiency, stability, and reliability. The power supply stage uses a newly developed High Energy Capacity Transformer and a hefty bulk storage-capacity network to provide extremely high current on demand for transient peaks and intense dynamics, as well as for prodigious bass depth and authority. It is understood that the best path is the shortest path.
Audio Research says its engineers created a new audio circuit topology with the shortest signal path and the fewest components. Incorporating these components is a 4-layer circuit board that lowers the noise floor to unprecedented levels, and a design which was previously reserved for use in its preamplifiers. The result is a new benchmark in musicality in every criterion of sound quality.
The REF160M also features a proprietary auto-bias circuit that works with various tubes types, including 6550, KT88, and KT120, in addition to the supplied KT150 and works constantly to maintain precise bias of the output tubes, while also adjusting for tube wear. There is no need to check or adjust bias ever again. Audio Research has been deeply enamoured with the KT150 output tube as we feature it in all of our amplifiers, from the VSi75 to the REF750SE.
Audio Research says the tubes supplied are burned in for 48 hours before measuring and grading using our “Certified Matched” process. Time consuming and expensive, the process and burn-in are critical as new tubes drift significantly over those first 48 hours. Complete tube sets are then assembled with the greatest care for each model. A built-in tube hour meter allows the owner to monitor tube usage, while the amp’s tube protection circuit features separate high-quality fuses for each output tube and are located inside the amp for replacement, if ever necessary.
The REF160M tube status indicators on the front panel will indicate if a fuse is blown, and which one. The REF160M is the first amplifier from Audio Research to directly address these varying needs by providing a front panel switch to allow the user to select the preferred mode of operation.
The REF160M will provide a conservatively rated 150 Watts in Ultralinear mode and 75 Watts in Triode mode. The REF160M is what Audio Research says is its first Reference-series amplifier to include single-ended (RCA) inputs in addition to balanced (XLR) inputs so that it can connect easily in any system.
The REF160M retails for US$30,000 a pair and are available now.
The amp also has a RS-232 input and 12V trigger to allow the REF160M to be powered-on remotely. The stats are as follows.