Audio Research Reference 150 power amplifier Associated Equipment

Sidebar 2: Associated Equipment

Analog Sources: Clearaudio Concept turntable, tonearm, and moving-magnet cartridge; Clearaudio Ovation turntable, Clearaudio Talisman V2 cartridge.
Digital Sources: Benchmark DAC1 HDR, Bel Canto DAC 3.5VB Mk.II D/A converters; Bel Canto CD 2 CD player; Bel Canto VB-1 power supply; Sony Vaio laptop computer.
Preamplification: Clearaudio Nano & Basic+ phono stages.
Power Amplifiers: Rogue Audio M-180, Simaudio Moon Evolution 880M (both monoblocks).
Loudspeakers: Revel Performa F30, Mårten Django.
Cables: Digital: Stereovox HDVX coaxial, Silver Sonic D-110 AES/EBU. USB: Cardas Clear. Interconnect: Sain Line Systems Pure, balanced & single-ended. Speaker: Kimber Kable BiFocal X. AC: Sain Line Systems Reference.
Accessories: Shunyata Research Hydra 8 Power conditioner, Ready Acoustics room treatments, ASC Tube Traps, butcher block audio table.—Erick Lichte

Audio Research Corporation
3900 Annapolis Lane N.
Plymouth, MN 55447-5447
(763) 577-9700

Phil Sommers's picture

In this review we get two sentences from the Erick Lichte on how this amplifier sounds and whether he likes it: The ARC sounded significantly more dynamic and open plugged into the wall; the Hydra 8 obscured the amp's drive and punch in a very obvious way.  End of review of the ARC Ref150, for all intents and purposes.

Lichte then proceeds to attach the first of two after-market power cords.  He likes the first combination a lot, and swoons over the ARC when attached to the second:  I thought I'd try the 20A Sain Line System Reference cord I already owned. Holy smokes! The Sain Reference further opened up my system's sound, offering greater immediacy, staggering depth, a wider soundstage, less grain, more textured and fleshy images, and extension of both ends of the audioband...The sound of the Ref150 with Sain Line Systems' Reference cord was silly good, and that's how I powered the amp for the duration of my listening [my emphasis].

Erick Lichte likes the Ref150 so much he thinks it should be in Class A in Recommended Components.  He refers to the ARC list price as $12,995.  Is he recommending the amplifier from ARC with its stock power cord or the Ref150 with the Sain Reference 20A, a combination which costs (I think) $16,595?  That he doesn’t make clear.

Too often a reviewer doesn’t review the piece of equipment as produced by the manufacturer but instead reviews his own special version, one he has improved or “tuned” to his preference via tube-rolling, accessory footers or power line conditioners.  The improvement may be real but the reviewer may now have a psychological interest in liking the modified product.  After all, it’s no longer just the manufacturer's creation; together they have brought together the perfect combination—an example of “The Invented Here Syndrome."

This is what I think the editors of Stereophile should do: first, the reviewer reviews the amplifier (for example) the way it comes in the box, plugged into the wall with its stock power cord and sitting on its stock rubber feet.  Then, in a clearly headed section, the reviewer can detail his experiments with accessories and other modifications.  Recommendations should be made on the basis of the stock unit or, if not, this should be made unambiguously clear.  If you follow this rule your readers will have a better idea how a piece of equipment sounds and what they will be getting if they decide to buy.

jokeka's picture

Also, would the use of the after market power cord affect the measurements, which we assume are made with the stock cord?

Phil Sommers's picture

Mrckrescho's picture

Like it.

benleo's picture

I like this review and do not take the exceptions that Phil Sommers does. Music is a personal excerise.  Sound is affected by tweaking and the other components in the listening system.  This review gives me important information about what amplifiers I would include in a list to listen to.