Audio Research Reference 160M: The Epitome of Hi-Fi Amplification

Introduction

In the world of high-fidelity audio, nothing quite compares to the immersive experience of listening to music through a powerful and precisely engineered amplifier. The Audio Research Reference 160M is a true testament to the art of sound amplification, offering a level of performance and sonic excellence that is second to none. In this review, we will delve into the intricacies of this exceptional amplifier and explore its features, characteristics, and audio performance.

At its core, the Audio Research Reference 160M is designed to deliver an unparalleled listening experience. With its meticulous craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology, it has been engineered to reproduce music with utmost accuracy and fidelity. Whether you are a discerning audiophile or a professional musician, this amplifier promises to elevate your audio experience to new heights.

The importance of high-quality sound amplification cannot be overstated. A great amplifier serves as the backbone of any audio system, ensuring that every nuance and detail in the music is faithfully reproduced. It has the power to breathe life into recordings, allowing you to hear the artist’s intentions as they were meant to be heard. From delicate whispers to thunderous crescendos, the Audio Research Reference 160M aims to capture every subtlety and emotion in the music, creating an immersive sonic landscape that transcends traditional listening experiences.

Whether you are a music enthusiast seeking an extraordinary listening experience or a professional looking for a reliable tool for studio work, the Audio Research Reference 160M promises to deliver exceptional performance and uncompromising sound quality. Join us as we explore its technical specifications, design and construction, functionality, sound characteristics, performance, advantages, value for money, and ultimately draw our conclusion on this remarkable amplifier.

Technical Specifications

The Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier is a powerful and versatile piece of audio equipment that offers exceptional performance and functionality. Here are the technical specifications of this amplifier:

The amplifier operates in Class AB, combining the efficiency of Class B amplifiers with the low distortion characteristics of Class A amplifiers. This ensures optimal power output and sound quality.

With a power output of 150 watts in ultra-linear mode and 75 watts in triode mode, the Reference 160M delivers ample power to drive even demanding speakers with ease.

The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of this amplifier is impressive, ensuring a clean and noise-free audio signal. The total harmonic distortion (THD) is kept to a minimum, resulting in accurate and faithful reproduction of music.

In terms of inputs and outputs, the Reference 160M features one XLR analog input and one RCA line-level input, providing flexibility in connecting various audio sources. It does not have a built-in DAC or phono stage, so external sources may be required for digital or vinyl playback.

The amplifier supports a wide frequency response range, from as low as 0.5 Hz to as high as 110,000 Hz. This ensures that every nuance and detail in the music is faithfully reproduced.

With separate terminals for different speaker impedance levels, the Reference 160M can easily accommodate a variety of speaker setups. It provides a stable connection for speakers with both low and high impedance.

Overall, the Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier offers impressive technical specifications that make it a top choice for audiophiles seeking high-quality sound reproduction. Its power output, low distortion, wide frequency response, and flexible connectivity options make it suitable for a wide range of audio setups.

Design and Construction

The Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier boasts a visually stunning design that seamlessly complements the REF6 preamplifier. The amplifier’s transparent front panel allows for a glimpse of the glowing KT150 tubes, adding an elegant touch to its overall aesthetic.

In terms of construction, the Reference 160M showcases meticulous attention to detail. The amplifier is built with high-quality materials, ensuring durability and longevity. The chassis is sturdy and well-constructed, providing stability and minimizing any unwanted vibrations or resonance.

One notable design feature of the Reference 160M is its efficient cooling system. The integrated fan in the protective cover ensures optimal heat dissipation, preventing overheating during prolonged periods of use. This design element not only enhances the amplifier’s performance but also contributes to its longevity.

Additionally, the connectors and switches on the Reference 160M are of exceptional quality. They are robust and provide secure connections, eliminating any potential signal loss or interference. The attention to detail in this aspect further enhances the overall performance and reliability of the amplifier.

Overall, the design and construction of the Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier exemplify a perfect blend of aesthetics and functionality. Its sleek appearance, premium materials, efficient cooling system, and high-quality connectors make it a standout choice for audiophiles seeking both visual appeal and superior performance in their audio setup.

Functionality

The Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier offers a wide range of functionality to cater to various audio sources. It provides multiple connectivity options, allowing you to connect CD players, computers, smartphones, and other audio devices effortlessly. With a dedicated XLR input and a line-level RCA input, this amplifier ensures compatibility with different types of audio equipment.

In terms of operating modes, the Reference 160M amplifier provides balance controls and tone adjustments, allowing you to tailor the sound according to your preferences. Whether you prefer a more neutral sound or want to enhance certain frequencies, this amplifier gives you the flexibility to fine-tune the audio output.

Additionally, the amplifier features different modes of operation, including ultra-linear and triode modes. The ultra-linear mode delivers a power output of 150 watts per channel, while the triode mode offers a power output of 75 watts per channel. This versatility allows you to choose between higher power for dynamic music or lower power for a more intimate listening experience.

Overall, the Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier’s functionality is comprehensive and user-friendly. It provides various connectivity options for different audio sources and offers adjustable settings for a personalized listening experience.

Sound Characteristics

The Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier delivers exceptional sound characteristics that will captivate any audiophile. Its ability to reproduce music with stunning clarity and precision is truly remarkable.

When it comes to detail retrieval, the Reference 160M excels. It effortlessly brings out the nuances and subtleties in recordings, allowing you to hear every instrument and vocal with astonishing clarity. The level of instrument separation is exceptional, creating a wide and immersive soundstage that makes you feel like you are sitting in the front row of a live performance.

The bass response of the Reference 160M is tight, controlled, and powerful. It adds a solid foundation to the music, providing a deep and impactful low end that will satisfy even the most demanding bass enthusiasts. The amplifier’s ability to reproduce low frequencies with accuracy and authority is truly impressive.

In terms of treble clarity, the Reference 160M shines. The high frequencies are rendered with exceptional detail and transparency, without any harshness or sibilance. The treble is smooth and extended, adding sparkle and airiness to the overall sound presentation.

Regardless of the music genre, the Reference 160M elevates the listening experience to new heights. From classical to rock, jazz to electronic, this amplifier effortlessly handles them all. It brings out the dynamics and energy in rock and electronic music, while also capturing the delicate nuances and emotion in classical and jazz recordings. The Reference 160M truly enhances the enjoyment of any genre by faithfully reproducing the artist’s intent.

Overall, the sound characteristics of the Audio Research Reference 160M are nothing short of exceptional. Its ability to deliver detailed, well-separated sound with powerful bass response, clear treble, and an immersive soundstage sets it apart from other amplifiers in its class. Whether you are a music lover or a discerning audiophile, the Reference 160M will undoubtedly impress with its captivating sound performance.

Sound Performance

The Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier truly shines when it comes to sound performance. It has the remarkable ability to transport the listener into a captivating auditory experience, delivering an exceptional level of audio quality that is sure to impress even the most discerning audiophiles.

One of the standout features of this amplifier is its ability to faithfully reproduce audio signals with incredible precision and accuracy. The clarity it offers is simply outstanding, allowing every nuance and detail in the music to come through with astonishing clarity. From delicate whispers to powerful crescendos, the Reference 160M captures every subtlety and conveys it with remarkable finesse.

The dynamics provided by this amplifier are truly impressive. It effortlessly handles both soft and loud passages, maintaining a level of control that ensures no detail gets lost in the mix. The amplifier’s ability to handle transient peaks with ease adds a sense of realism and impact to the music, making it feel incredibly lifelike.

When it comes to tonal balance, the Reference 160M excels across the entire frequency range. The lows are deep and impactful, providing a solid foundation for the music without overpowering or muddying other elements. The midrange is rich and textured, allowing vocals and instruments to shine with exceptional presence and realism. The highs are detailed and extended, offering a level of sparkle and airiness that adds dimension and excitement to the overall sound.

Whether you’re listening to intimate acoustic performances or bombastic orchestral arrangements, the Audio Research Reference 160M delivers an immersive soundstage that envelops you in a three-dimensional sonic landscape. Instruments are precisely placed within the space, creating a sense of depth and separation that enhances the overall listening experience.

In conclusion, the sound performance of the Audio Research Reference 160M is nothing short of extraordinary. Its ability to faithfully reproduce audio signals with clarity, dynamics, and tonal balance across different frequency ranges is truly remarkable. If you’re looking for an amplifier that can bring your music to life with unparalleled precision and realism, the Reference 160M is undoubtedly a top contender.

Advantages

The Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier offers several distinct advantages that set it apart from its competitors in the market. Comparing it with other models in the same price range, the Reference 160M stands out for its exceptional performance and features.

One of the key advantages of the Reference 160M is its advanced design and construction. The attention to detail is evident in every aspect, from the visually appealing combination with the REF6 preamplifier to the transparent front panel that showcases the glowing KT150 tubes. This amplifier not only delivers outstanding audio quality but also adds an aesthetic appeal to any audio setup.

Another advantage of the Reference 160M lies in its versatility. It features both ultra-linear and triode modes, allowing users to choose between higher power output or a more refined sound quality, depending on their preferences. Additionally, this amplifier supports various tube options, including KT150, 6550, KT88, and KT120, providing flexibility for audiophiles who want to experiment with different sonic characteristics.

The build quality of the Reference 160M is top-notch, ensuring durability and longevity. With a powerful high-capacity power transformer and large capacitors in the power supply, this amplifier can handle transient peaks and deliver impressive bass depth and power. The inclusion of a built-in fan for cooling further enhances its reliability during extended listening sessions.

In terms of functionality, the Reference 160M excels with its automatic biasing, control, and protection features for output tubes. These capabilities enhance user convenience and ensure optimal performance while safeguarding against potential damage.

When compared to other amplifiers in its price range, the Audio Research Reference 160M stands out as a formidable contender. Its meticulous design, versatile tube options, and robust construction make it a compelling choice for audiophiles seeking uncompromising audio performance.

Overall, the Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier offers a range of advantages that make it a standout choice in the market. Its exceptional design, versatility, and solid construction set it apart from competitors, while its advanced features and performance make it a worthy investment for discerning audio enthusiasts.

Value for Money

The Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier offers exceptional value for money in the high-end audio market. With its impressive performance, extensive features, and competitive price point, this amplifier stands out as a worthwhile investment for audiophiles seeking top-notch sound quality.

When considering the value of the Reference 160M, it is important to take into account its outstanding performance capabilities. With a power output of 150 watts in ultra-linear mode and 75 watts in triode mode, this amplifier delivers ample power to drive even the most demanding speakers with ease. The use of high-quality tubes such as the KT150 and 6H30 ensures a clean and accurate sound reproduction, allowing listeners to experience their favorite music with exceptional clarity and detail.

In addition to its impressive performance, the Reference 160M boasts a range of features that further enhance its value proposition. The inclusion of multiple operating modes, including ultra-linear and triode modes, allows users to tailor the amplifier’s sound characteristics to suit their personal preferences. The automatic biasing, control, and protection of output tubes ensure optimal performance and longevity of the amplifier, providing peace of mind to users.

Considering the price point of the Reference 160M in relation to its competitors, it becomes evident that this amplifier offers excellent value for money. While it may not be the most affordable option on the market, its combination of exceptional performance and premium features make it a worthwhile investment for serious audiophiles who prioritize superior sound quality.

In conclusion, the Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier represents tremendous value for money. Its impressive performance capabilities, extensive features, and competitive price point make it an attractive choice for discerning audiophiles seeking a high-end amplifier that delivers exceptional sound quality. Whether used in a dedicated listening room or integrated into a home audio system, the Reference 160M offers an unparalleled listening experience that justifies its investment.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier is a powerhouse of performance and innovation. With its meticulous design, exceptional construction, and advanced features, this amplifier sets a new standard in the world of audio amplification.

The technical specifications of the Reference 160M are impressive. With a power consumption of 700 watts and a minimum frequency response of 0.5 Hz, it delivers an incredible range of sound. The use of KT150 and 6H30 tubes ensures optimal performance and flexibility in tube selection.

The design and construction of the Reference 160M are truly remarkable. The visual integration with the REF6 preamplifier, along with the glowing KT150 tubes visible through the transparent front panel, adds a touch of elegance to any audio setup. The inclusion of an integrated fan for cooling the tubes demonstrates Audio Research’s commitment to ensuring optimal performance and longevity.

In terms of functionality, the Reference 160M offers various operating modes, including ultralinear and triode, allowing users to customize their listening experience. The inclusion of automatic biasing, control, and protection features further enhances the amplifier’s user-friendly nature.

When it comes to sound characteristics, the Reference 160M truly shines. It delivers a rich and detailed soundstage with exceptional clarity and precision. The bass response is deep and powerful, providing an immersive listening experience. The amplifier’s ability to handle transient peaks with ease ensures that even the most demanding musical passages are reproduced faithfully.

In terms of sound performance, the Reference 160M excels in every aspect. Whether you’re listening to classical music or rocking out to your favorite rock band, this amplifier brings out the nuances and dynamics in the music like no other. The tonal balance is impeccable, offering a natural and lifelike representation of instruments and vocals.

The advantages of owning the Audio Research Reference 160M are numerous. Its high-quality construction ensures durability and reliability for years to come. The flexibility in tube selection allows users to tailor the sound to their preferences. The integration with other Audio Research components further enhances the overall audio experience.

While the Reference 160M comes at a higher price point, its exceptional performance and build quality make it worth every penny. If you are a discerning audiophile who values top-notch sound reproduction and appreciates fine craftsmanship, the Reference 160M is an investment that will not disappoint.

In conclusion, the Audio Research Reference 160M amplifier is a masterpiece of engineering and design. Its technical prowess, stunning aesthetics, and outstanding sound performance make it a top choice for audiophiles seeking the best in class. With its ability to bring music to life like never before, this amplifier is sure to elevate your listening experience to new heights.

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