Audio Research, now a part of the Fine Sounds Group, was showing a couple of bits here at CES, alongside the monster Aida loudspeakers from Sonus Faber. Let me say, first, that this is the best that I’ve heard these speakers sound — not a knock, but at this size and with this level of capability, extracting that full measure of sonic mastery isn’t a trivial task. Whatever — here, the system overflowed with power and drama. At $120,000/pair, I’m confident that my lust for them will never advance beyond the stalker phase, however beautiful they are to look at or listen to. [Sigh].
Okay, back to Audio Research — the demo featured the new Reference 10 dual-chassis preamplifier ($30,000), with its startlingly large monochromatically blue/white touch-screen LCD display. I didn’t get to fiddle with it, but it certainly looks inviting and there seems to be quite a few controls to fidget with.
Anyway, the Aida’s were run bi-amped, which explained the four power-amps sitting between them — a pair of Reference 250 monoblocks ($26,000/pair) had the top, and a pair of DSM450M solid-state power amplifiers ($11,000/pair) powered the bottom.
I really like the Mu-meters on the Reference amps — I wish they’d update the Reference 150 with them! A Reference DAC ($16,000) was paired with a new CD player, the Reference CD-9 ($13,000), which was spinning the disks while I was in the room.
In a separate room, several ARC amps were on static display, all nekkid-like, their tubes garishly exposed to my prying eyes and snap-happy camera. Particularly impressive was the Reference 750 ($55,000/pair), which weighs 175lbs each, and no, it doesn’t come with casters (which would have been nifty, if you ask me). What with all those tubes sticking out of the top, I’m getting a serious anti-user-friendly vibe off this bad boy, but 750 watts per channel would be sweet.