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  1. #1
    Owner-Publisher Jerry Del Colliano's Avatar
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    Jan 2010
    West Los Angeles, California

    Is The Audio Research 40th Annv The Best Stereo Preamp Ever?

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    Send your hate mail to KennyT who actually got (and BOUGHT) one of these uber-rare, two-chassis tube audiophile preamps.

    With 40 years of excellence under their belt, Audio Research decided to make a REF5 killer for only one year. Think of it as an Enzo for the woirld of audiophila.

    If you didn't get one by now - you will buying one used at this point.

    KennyT has a unique perspective in that he had both an ARC REF5 and the 40th to compare. Most dealers don't have that. This makes for a good review.

    Check it out here....

    Audio Research Corporation began in 1970 with the goal of producing vacuum-tube preamplifiers and amplifiers, and have long been regarded as the makers of some of the finest high-end tube electronics in the world. The company's original products are still 100 percent supported by the factory and command significant resale values - as well as a near cult-like following. Fast-forward forty years to Audio Research's 40th Anniversary and ask yourself: what would you do to commemorate the occasion? Well, if you're Audio Research, you build something worthy of being called an Anniversary Edition, and given their outstanding reputation for building world-class preamplifiers, it was logical that this anniversary edition would be one. The Audio Research 40th Anniversary Edition Reference preamplifier is this commemorative piece. Retailing for a cool $25,000 and only in production for one calendar year, the Audio Research's 40th is a piece of audio jewelry few will ever own but all will likely lust after for years to come.

    The Anniversary Edition preamplifier is built beyond anything ever produced by Audio Research. Featuring a dual chassis design with one for the power supplies and one for the audio section, the two units are connected by two large umbilical cords and the power supply is connected with a 20 Amp IEC plug. The preamplifier has twice the power supply of any previous ARC preamplifier, and frankly more than many large amplifiers. The power supplies are completely separate for each channel, featuring separate low and high voltage transformers as well as vacuum-tube regulation (6550C, 6H30). The massive power supplies and power reserves ensure near limitless headroom and dynamics.

    The Anniversary Edition's analog section is also isolated to maximize audio quality; featuring an all-tube, pure Class-A triode circuit that possesses zero feedback. A first for any tube preamplifier, the Anniversary Edition's audio gain circuit is a dual-mono design featuring eight 6H30 triode tubes, four for each channel. Further proof that the Anniversary Edition is unlike any preamp you've seen or heard, especially when it comes to ARC's attention to detail and performance, is its use of custom Teflon coupling capacitors each tipping the scales at more than two pounds.

    The 40th Anniversary Reference preamplifier offers six stereo inputs and a dedicated home theater bypass for integration into 'hybrid' or dual use systems with two outputs and a tape out as well. All inputs and outputs are either single-ended or balanced. The analog unit is almost identical to their Reference 5 preamp except the buttons across the bottom of the faceplate are now surface mounted rather than recessed. A large central green OLED display that can be turned off for peak performance conveys all the information one could need, while the two dials on the left and right control volume and input. The buttons across the bottom cover mute, power, phase, processor or home theater bypass mode, Balanced or single-ended and mono.

    Both the power and analog sections measure 19 inches wide, seven inches tall and 15.5 deep. The audio chassis weighs 29 pounds whereas the power supply chassis is 39 pounds, bringing the total system weight to 68 pounds. It's a serious piece, especially considering it's a two-channel preamp.

    Read More from Dr. Taraszka's review here at


    What would you give to get one of these ARC preamps in your system?

    Are there other preamps that you think are better for the money (or less OR MORE)?

    Is $25,000 to far to go for a hobby or is this just about right?

  2. #2
    Administrator Tracy Rainwater's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    If you are Ken, there is no such thing as going too far for the AV hobby. As far as comparisons go, who even makes a tube 2-channel preamp anymore?

  3. #3
    Administrator Jim_S's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011

    and about a thousand more.

    Tubes are alive and well in the preamp world!

    Is the Ref Anniversary the best? Can't say but I'm sure it's pretty damn amazing. Also an excellent investment I'd bet!!

    Kenny is a stud, pure and simple!

  4. #4
    Senior Member Andrew Robinson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2011

    I'm sure it's nice and full of OPulence but $25,000 is steep for two channel anything, especially one that has no built-in DACs etc. I'm sure it sounds like Jesus whispering in your ear but so does the REF 5, which is still the piece to have for the REF 40 is a one off really. It's an engineering exercise, like when VW put the Veyron engine in a GTI (not that the REF 40 is a GTI).

  5. #5
    Administrator Tracy Rainwater's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003

    Just saw an Audio Research 40th on Audiogon. $21,000 and it can be yours.


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