Audio Research • Reference 160S Stereo Amplifier $22,000 Review
October 16, 2021 § Leave a comment
But the improvements found in the Reference 160S are not limited to the lower regions. Two further aspects stood out. First, the reorganization of the lower bits carried along the rest of the frequency ranges, no doubt because the improvements in the foundation work like a pyramid. If the bottom layer is not level and steady, what rests above it wastes precious energy trying to find its footing. Second, the Reference 160S, mated in my system with ARC’s Reference 6 SE preamplifier and Reference Phono 3 SE, really showed the advantages that come with genuine synergy of components. Each of these products has the same new capacitors and wiring changes; these are significant in isolation, but when added together they result in improvement that exceeds the sum of the parts. The preamplifier and phono stage each opened up the soundstage and better defined the space between notes. Adding the Reference 160S to the mix added pitch stability and speed, inching the sound of the combination bit by bit closer to the best that solid state has to offer, while at the same time maintaining and improving upon the bloom and grace that define ARC’s tube sound. Symphonic recordings kept getting better with the addition of each piece of ARC’s latest-generation equipment, the addition of the Reference 160S adding the powerful tone of the amp’s bottom end to the nuanced sound of the front-end components. Hearing Kleiber’s famous (and familiar) rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth [Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft 2530 516] through this amplifier convinced me that this recording, even after countless plays, still has layers of detail previously submerged and dynamics tamped down awaiting excavation.