Archives for Audio Research

Audio Research Trade Up!

 

It’s not often… Wait… This has never happened before!

Audio Research is offering a factory supported Trade Up! Program. And we are offering “up to” 75% of the original retail price back in trade for your old, semi-new or even current gear! I put the “up to” in quotes because it appears to leave some wiggle room, but a quick perusal of the Qualified Models schedule (here) shows virtually everything on it at 75% trade-in value!

There are some stipulations, such as if you dinged your unit, you get dinged a little on trade value. Likewise, if you don’t have the original factory cartons. And the new piece you purchase has to be a direct replacement for your old (e.g. you can’t trade a preamp toward an amp) and your new purchase has to be at minimum 175% of the retail price of your trade-in. But these are by no means deal-breakers.

So call us NOW to get a massive hi-fi upgrade with this very generous, factory authorized Trade Up! Program by Audio Research!

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Trade in values up to 75% of original MSRP during the 2017 Audio Research Trade Up! Program

Audio Research is pleased to announce a special program to US owners of older Audio Research amplifiers, preamplifiers, or phono preamplifiers to Trade Up! to current models.  The 2017 Trade Up! Program runs for a limited time so act quickly.
The Program offers US owners of qualified Audio Research models Trade In values up to 75% of the original MSRP* of their Audio Research amplifier, preamplifier, or phono preamplifier when it is traded in toward the purchase of a new Audio Research amplifier, preamplifier, or phono preamplifier. All Trade In units must be in working order and be in reasonable physical condition.
The Program offer is limited to select amplifiers, preamplifiers, and phono preamplifiers. Select monoblock amplifiers are eligible but only when traded in and sold in pairs.  Current models may also be traded in. See your participating authorized US Audio Research Dealer for program details and the complete list of eligible units.
Offer good June 15 – July 31, 2017. Valid only to US customers who trade-in a qualified Audio Research product and purchase new qualified Audio Research product(s) from a participating US authorized dealer.
*Limitations and restrictions apply.

Rob’s Review of his Audio Research LS-27 Preamp

I wanted to send you my thoughts now that I have lived with my Audio Research LS-27 preamp for some time. Last summer I was happy with my system that consisted of a BAT VK-31SE preamp plus a Musical Fidelity M6-PRX amp, BAT VK-P10SE/SP phono pre (purchased used from you) B&W 803S Speakers, and a Music Hall MMF 9.1 turntable with Denon DL-103R cart (turntable and cart purchased used from you). I bought used items from Ultrafi in the past but nothing new. Even though I never bought new, you have always given me great information, advice and counseling regarding this hobby. This has saved me time and money over trying to figure things out on my own. Let it be said that at this point I had the constant upgrade-itus bug because I wanted to hear better and better things from my system.

When I began having a couple of issues with my BAT Preamp I brought it in for service. Bob said he could fix it but it may take a few days so you loaned me an Audio Research LS25. Providing such a nice loaner while my unit was in for repair is great service but you knew better… The loaner changed everything for me. The LS25 simply sounded much more open and extended that my BAT. The BAT had great low end but to my surprise, the LS25 matched this but was more open and natural. The soundstage enhancement was very good. I could not go back to my BAT. After some consideration and based on your advice and recommendation, I decided to buy a new ARC LS27 from you. Now that I have close to 300 hours on the meter I must tell you that I am thrilled with this unit. The openness, 3D soundstage and pinpoint imaging are awesome. The smooth sound of the mids and grain free highs are great, and I never feel that there is any missing detail. There is absolutely no fatigue or compromise. You even cured me of the upgrade-itus.

I am very happy with the LS27 and I plan to hold onto this for many years to come. Thank you to you and Bob. Your excellent service and advice are extremely valuable to me.

Best regards,

Rob

Listen to the Lion

A whole bunch of things just came together.

Stereophile Magazine made Van Morrison’s “Too Late To Stop Now, Volumes, 2, 3,  4 & DVD” the “Record of the Month” in the new issue, thus informing me that it existed, to my great shame and embarrassment.  I’m supposed to know these things!

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The Audio Research PH9 phono preamp passed its 450th hour of at least being on, some good portion of that spent with signal going through it, yesterday.  It should be primed and ready.

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Luke brought me a copy of the newly re-released “Too Late To Stop Now” (volume 1, I guess, which it did not have to be called back in 1974 when it first came out) on vinyl (Sony Legacy) today.

I rode my 1977 Trek road bike this morning before meeting Luke at Ultra Fidelis and the temperature was in the low 60’s when I left.  Bracing as Bruichladdich.

 

The coincidence of these things has put me right in the mood to listen to music.  The air, and also the light today, are whispering that Summer’s days are numbered.  Oh, sure, we’ll likely have some more scorchers or near ones, but today is more than a reminder that it won’t be too long before indoor music listening season is in full swing.

I have been poring over the V 2/3/4 “Too Late…” recently.  I love this music.  And I have for a long time.  I told a couple friends about the release and how excited I was about it, and one of them texted back “Not a big Van fan.”  I thought about it.  Hmm, I’m not either, I guess.  The ratio of his music that I find essential to that which I can easily ignore is pretty low.  But the good stuff is GREAT.  And nothing stops Volume 1 from being one of my favorite records.  In fact, I would be hard pressed not to contend that Side 4 is the best live side of an album I can think of right now.

So, of course I’m interested in Volumes 2, 3 & 4 of this stuff.  I can’t get enough.  But the “autumnality” of today and the arrival of this third version of Volume 1 inspired me to host a good old shootout among my V1 vinyl versions, to wit-

Original 1974 Warner Bros. release, bought originally by me when it originally came out.  It’s well traveled and played.  The inner sleeves say “KMAL 6-27-80” in my handwriting which means I cleaned it on the Keith Monks Audio Ltd. record cleaning machine we had at Audio Emporium way back when.  I treated it to its second bath and a LAST Record Preservative application today.

Fairly recent (don’t remember the year) Back To Black (henceforth B2B)/Polydor/Exile issue I bought several of when they became hard to get a few years ago.

2016 Sony Legacy/Exile release I received today.  I used to work, a long time ago, in record retailing and, very briefly, wholesaling.  Back then, I was up on my label families, but I have no idea how a record that came out originally on Warner Bros. was next released on Polydor and is now ended up in the house of Sony, but there you go.  And when did Exile enter the picture?

I decided to use “Listen to the Lion” as my comparo-track because, well, why not?  Once I play a track off side 4, I have to play the whole thing starting from the beginning, but “…Lion”, which ends side 3, can just stand alone.  And it really represents everything this recording can do.  Dynamics, space, tonal colors, but mostly emotions.  And the way it just fades away to nothing until the woman in the audience decides it’s over and utters, “All right!”  It’s perfect.

How did the different versions fare?  I’ll cut to the chase.  I remembered liking the B2B issue better than my original when I got it and that holds today.  It’s bigger, meatier, and yet more subtle.  Van’s voice and the rest of the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, especially the saxes (Van himself plays one on this track) and cymbals, especially, of the drum kit, are just right.  The proscenium and ceiling of the stage take over my room and present the performance with a degree of vividness and “they are here” that are breathtaking.  If you just read the lyrics to this song (I did it on line today to verify this), they read like something you would never want to hear lest you die of the monotony.  Hearing them performed by Van and the Orchestra on this pressing is transcendent.  Chills?  Check.  Tears?  Held in check, but just.

I played the new Sony one next, after treating it to the same bath and LAST protocol all records get here.  Wow.  A lot less good.  Hard to see people in the band, er, Orchestra.  Stuck together, two dimensional cutout paper dolls in a not very spacious space largely devoid of air.  Neither are they here, nor I there.  Van’s voice is not quite shrill, but much less fleshed out.  And the cymbal sounds, so dark, rich and present on the B2B pressing, could almost be machine-made here.  But saddest is that the players seem to have lost some of their commitment to the music on this very committed music.  On the plus side, surfaces were dead quiet, significantly better than the B2B, and it wins authenticity points by maintaining the triple gatefold cover from 1974 whereas the B2B dumbs it down to double.  

On to the original.  Wow again. A lot of surface noise, somewhat debilitating in such subtle and dynamic music, but the sound is quite good.  Like a slightly thinner, but maybe more lithe version of the B2B.  The end is a bit of a letdown as some details are lost to surface noise, but overall quite satisfying.  

Until I put the B2B record back on.  Oh, nope.  It’s better in every way.  Every bit as lithe when it needs to be, but significantly more substantial all the time.  This is the one we played all four sides of after the AudioQuest event at the store, when Steve and I sang harmony, fueled by Founders Centennial, for over an hour.  It’s addictively good.  Maybe Scott has a white label promo that beats it, but I’m thinking it would take that, if even.  There’s just so much meat on these bones.

What I also learned is how incredibly great the Audio Research PH 9 is.  It engages in a way my 8 simply doesn’t.  And it makes short work of comparing pressings without ever failing to let me drift away with the music.  Even the Sony pressing was a delight, although a relative one, because the PH 9 was in the mix, letting me hear maximum music and minimum medium.  That’s what great phono preamps do- turn those 12″ vinyl discs into near master tapes and unlock the magic of the performance.  Closer, closer, closer we get.

Finally, I reaffirmed what a great record this is.  Perfect for tuning up your soul for the coming music season.  I’m hoping to get back out on the bike tomorrow, but for sure I’ll spend some time listening to music.  One more spin through George Crumb’s “Music for a Summer Evening” before it becomes downright inappropriate.

Mississippi, You’re On My Mind

Astounding. Is not a word I use much. It’s old sounding, something my father would have said a lot more often than I do, and he was born in 1908. But my audio system is that. Astounding.

It’s doing it regularly, including this morning with pedal steel and dobro on “I Can’t Escape From You” by Vince (“Triple O”) Martin. This record was recorded right after and on the site of Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” and avails itself of the very same stellar gang of Nashville session players, minus my buddy Norman Blake, and sounds even better than “Skyline” by dint of a more direct sound with more vivid, distinguished instrumental timbres and sparkier dynamics. Columbia’s recording of Dylan with these same dudes has more of that Vaseline on the lens kind of sound, as if they were trying to soften the scene for Dylan’s first shot at singing country and sounding like someone else. They all sound fine there, but they really step forward and snap here. And the dobro and pedal steel have that, well, astounding, in-the-room feel.
And, look here… It’s doing it again right now on “Straight, No Chaser” from Monk’s album of the same name. Not to ding Columbia Records twice in succession, but my “go to” Monk record for sound (as well as some of my very favorite of his music) is the much earlier Riverside “Monk’s Music.” But my system is so… astonishing that I can get as lost in this still pretty damn great sounding Columbia record. Charlie Rouse’s tenor is standing right where the pedal steel was this morning and every bit as convincingly. Every so often, I look over there and instead of Charlie, there sits Lily, her head flicking around as if she, too, is looking for the musicians. It’s got us both fooled, and at least one of us deliriously happy.

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I’m blaming Audio Research. They have been on a quiet roll for a few years now, but it’s starting to get loud. My inside source tells me it all started with the SE versions of the power amps, the development of which created just the right amount of additional music to leak through into their eardrums that they could investigate everything that happens before, or “pre-” the power amp with new ears stuffed with bags more knowledge.
Things just sort of snowballed from there. The Reference 6 line stage and Reference Phono 3 have been blowing open doors for over half a year now, and they are about to be joined by the Foundation Series for those of you who have been waiting for the more affordable lineup- LS 28 line stage, PH 9 phono preamp and DAC 9 D-to-A converter. Take your pick at $7500 each, or collect them all for maximum affect. All three will be in stock by August, with the LS 28 due this week. And joined by a tube amp before the snow flies.
The Ref 6 seems to be the source of this… astronomical improvement in my listening enjoyment. When I say “blowing open doors” I mean it. That is the sensation. So many veils lifted it as if they had added up to a door. One that is now open. In fact, removed from its hinges and leaning against the wall in the garage, so gone is it. It, in partnership with my Ref 75SE, causes the condition where seemingly every bit of good and none of the bad is unlocked in all recordings. Equality at the top of the sonic heap is a little hard to handle! It leaves little time for anything other than listening to music.
The other night, I was on a Jerry Jeff jag. The only copy I have of “Too Old To Change” is a test pressing of the vinyl. Literally a white jacket, no cover art, and a 8 1/2 x 11 photocopied piece of paper slipped inside with track listings. Normally, this would be cause for extreme celebration. If promo copies are guaranteed early pressings, you can imagine what something that precedes those sounds like. Except it has a flaw that lasts almost all the way through “Hands On The Wheel,” a knockout of a Jackie Jack solo voice and electric guitar. It’s heartbreaking. So I dialed it up on Tidal. Sweet mother of vacuum tubes! It’s still a knockout. This is a tender ballad and I thought the dynamics in Jerry Jeff’s voice were going to blow my speakers. It was… asparagus! Sorry, I’m at a loss for words. I have never heard such “jump,” such uncapped dynamics revealing a man singing a song completely unbound by the limits of a sound reproducing machine. Experiencing it with a voice I know so well and love so much was bordering on unnerving, but in such a beautiful, exciting way.

One thing led to another, as will happen, and I found myself completely rediscovering Jesse Winchester’s “Mississippi, You’re On My Mind,” long a classic in my life, as though for the first time. Gigantic, enveloping, loaded with musical sparklers at the same time as it let me explore every nuance of the scene the lyrics paint. What a revelation this Audio Research gear is! And what timing. Hottest night of the year and I’m playing perhaps the ultimate hot summer song. It was a harmonic convergence of a rare kind. Night is hot, song is hot, tubes are hot. Let it roll!
In the case you don’t know the song, I’ll leave you with a minor admonishment, the lyrics to it, and a strong recommendation to check out the latest or forthcoming Audio Research gear soon. If they have me listening nonstop in July, just think what will happen when the leaves turn.
Mississippi You’re On My Mind
Jesse Winchester

I think I see a wagon rutted road
With the weeds growing tall between the tracks
And along one side runs a rusty barbed wire fence
And beyond it sits an old tar paper shack

Mississippi, you’re on my mind
Mississippi, you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I hear a noisy old John Deere
In a field specked with dirty cotton lint
And below that field runs a little country stream
Down there you’ll find the cool green leaves of mint

Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I smell the honeysuckle vine
It’s thick sweetness like to make me sick
And the dogs, my God, ah, they’re hungry all the time
And the snakes are sleeping where the weeds are thick

Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Mississippi you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I feel the angry oven heat
The southern sun just blazin’ in the sky
In the dusty weeds, an old fat grasshopper jumps
I wanna make it to that creek before I fry

Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Mississippi you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

Mississippi you’re on my mind
Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

Living with the Niagara 7000

I first heard the effects of the Niagara 7000 on November 10th at the official U.S. launch by Garth Powell of Audioquest at Ultra Fidelis.  As I wasn’t feeling tip-top, I chose to sit in the back row in a room full of audio aficionados.  Mr. Powell started out the evening by playing some live music on his drum kit to “set our ears” and to give us a point of reference for the rest of the night.  What I heard the rest of the evening, even from the side of the back row, impressed me enough that the following week, I purchased the first store stock unit of a Niagara 7000 to arrive at the store.

I will say that a little planning goes a long way when setting up the Niagara 7000.  It weighs in at about 80 pounds and had the tightest plug sockets known to man.  I was able to plug in all of my equipment before sliding the unit onto the bottom shelf of my HRS rack.  Since then I have moved one power cable to separate my CD player from my pre-amp — much easier with the unit out of the rack.

Anyway, what the Niagara 7000 has done for the sound of my system is quite amazing.  I find myself listening at lower volumes than ever before.  And, while listening at lower levels, there is a much greater sense of focus, ease, openness and dynamics than previously.  Additionally, the soundstage extends both in front of and to the sides of my speakers.  Previously, the soundstage was defined by the location of my speakers. Listening to Roger Water’s Amused to Death on 200 gm LP, the sound is almost 3D fully immersing me in the sound. On Shelby Lynne’s Just a Little Loving, also LP, there is clear space around her voice and the instruments.  Even listening after my wife has gone to bed at very low levels (4 on my REF 5 SE volume setting) there are still good dynamics and details creating a whole new late night listening experience.

Bottom line: the Niagara 7000 has taken my already very good system to a new level.

System: Audio Research REF 5 SE, Audio Research REF CD9, Simaudio MOON 610LP, Audio Research REF 75 SE, Vandersteen 5A Carbon, Audioquest Niagara 7000, Audioquest Fire and Wild interconnects and speaker wire.

 

-Bob F.

The Vandersteen Adventure

I flew to Portland (The West) to set up a wonderful system this past weekend.  Vandersteen 5A Carbons (newly updated) and a bunch of Audio Research and Audioquest paired with a nice VPI turntable.  The unusual part is this system had recently come home to the U.S. from China where it had spent its life so far.

We had shipped what I know to be the first pair of Vandersteen 5A’s to China over a decade ago for a Wisconsinite who moved there for business  He is making long term plans to come back to the U.S. permanently as opposed to occasionally, so it now makes sense to have the music gear back here.  The interesting part for me was that, rather than ship all his electronics back to their manufacturers for “U.S.-ification,” he had an electrician wire his listening room for 240 volt operation.  And here, it’s even balanced as opposed to what he got in China.
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Hearing the sense of dynamic ease and grip made me wonder why we don’t all do that.  Oh, I know there are reasons (120 volts is safer, it’s what Edison’s orginal light bulbs drank, and it’s what we are served here, so many manufacturers won’t sell anything but 120 volt gear here), but if it sounds better, I say damn the torpedoes!  It’s got me scheming.