Audio Research REF160M mono power amplifier Sidebar

The Family Tree

While this 160M wears the same 'REF' moniker as previous classics including the REF75 [HFN Nov '12], REF150 [HFN Feb '12] and REF150SE [HFN Dec '15] – the latter updated with KT150 output tubes – the design and technical performance of the new monoblock is clearly influenced by ARC's more recent models. Warren Gehl, responsible for 'sonic design', together with the late Chief Engineer Ward Feibiger coordinated the move to the beefy KT150 output tubes, used in the GS150 [HFN Jan '15], and were also the architects of ARC's first auto-bias regime, debuted in the VT80 [HFN Oct '17].

It might be tempting to compare the REF160M with the GS150 as both utilise quad sets of KT150s per channel (and their large power meters are similarly inaccurate!), but this is still the first REF model to use auto-biasing. In practice the technical performance of the REF160M is closer in execution to a balanced/bridged version of the VT80SE. In our independent tests the REF160M and GS150 offered an almost identical power output into 8, 4, 2 and 1ohm loads, but only the former combines this with the low noise and wide S/N of the VT80SE [see Lab Report]. PM

Audio Research Corp.
Minnesota, USA
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd.
0208 971 3909