Audio Research Reference 1 Preamplifiers

Reference 1

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User Reviews (13)

Showing 1-10 of 13  
Bob   Audiophile [Dec 20, 2000]
Strength:

Soundstaging, resolution of detail, MUSIC!

Weakness:

None

When I started to assemble the system I had wanted, I used a passive preamp, essentially a volume control only, between my PH3 phono stage and a VT100 amp. Sometimes I skipped the passive preamp and plugged the phono directly into the amp. This was driving Martin Logan CLSIIz's, and although it worked and was detailed, it lacked dynamics and was dull. Enter the Ref 1. Since the Ref 2 had just come out, my dealer (the pusher man!) had Ref 1's coming in on trade-in, so I bought one used that had the Infinicap upgrade already. Well, dynamics are incredible, soundstaging is wonderful with instruments having body in space. After a year I changed from Tara Reference Gen II Master interconnects to their Air 1 series. Highs opened up a great deal, and running balanced rather than single ended actually increased volume at the same setting. The overall sound is hard to describe because it simply sounds like the music, or at least like what it would be like to hear the master tape. It can handle all sorts of difficult music, and I listen to almost everything. After reading about tube rolling on this site, I realized that there was a whole WORLD OF TUBES beyond the simple Sovteks that ARC supplies with their equipment. I just installed some Amperex orange globe label 6DJ8's from about 1970, and it did make a very nice difference in the way the bass is controlled (now very tight)and an across the board reduction in grain from the Sovteks. And I thought it sounded great before. Tube rolling made an even bigger difference in the PH3SE phono preamp. The big problem with this preamp and all ARC equipment is that I can't stop listening!

Similar Products Used: Passive Mod Squad
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Kevin   Audio Enthusiast [Apr 09, 2001]
Weakness:

The unit is very large for a preamplifier, remote looks very cheap.

The Reference 1 in one word sounds great. The soundstage is true and it does a great job on the vocal range. My older pre-amps were harsh on vocals but Audio Research has done a surperb job designing this unit. I find myself listening to my reference CD's and being pleasantly surprised on how natural the sound is. I recomend using XLR cables from the amp to the pre-amp. My orginal cable was RCA connectors and I had to turn the volume led's to the four o'clock position to play at a serious level. But with XLR cable this problem has been taken care of.

The Reference 1 is a large pre-amp. It makes my amplifier look small. The circuit boards are mounted vertically thous gives the unit some height. Consideration in where you will be putting this unit is needed because of the size. The other comment is that the remot looks cheap. It does all functions but it is made out of light plastic. I'm using a programmable remote so the factory remote was put in a drawer where it belongs.

After all is said and done I'm very happy with this purchase of the Reference 1. The pre-amp was bought used, I was fortunate to find this unit in great condition. What a nice difference this preamplifier has made with this system.









Similar Products Used: Bryston .4B
Classe CP35
Valve Amplification Company- standard preamplifier
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Peter   Audiophile [Dec 26, 1999]
Strength:

Soundstage, articulation of extremes,

Weakness:

Expense every few years of retubing

First of all the "CEO's" of AudioReview should do themselves a service before their product becomes diluted, at best, and a farse at worst. They should do policeing of their product (the reviewers comments). Nothing could exemplify this more than the review of one of worlds most highly acclaimed audio products: The Reference 1 (i.e., see Audio Enthusiast from Jacksonville below). You tell me if the review by "Audio Enthusiast from Jacksonville" is for real.

Not only did the Ref 1 convey the pulse of the music it made me forget that I was listening to electronics. That is most of the time. There still are more important aspects to the listening environment including room treatments and room size. And most importantly the original recording.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
Mike Malter   Audiophile [Oct 20, 2001]
Strength:

Large soundstage. Very natural sound. Gives the music a presence that was not there before. Great detail with out being harsh. Lots of bass.

Weakness:

None that I can think of.

I must say that I am very pleased with this preamp. It gives music a presence that makes it seem alive. The soundstage is very big and deep with 3 dimensional imaging.

A number of CD's in my collection I could not listen to and was about to throw away because they had too much glare and were too harsh. Now I am going to keep them and they all sound much better.

There is a lot of detail. This detail is in all frequency ranges - high as well as low. You also get the sence of many individual instruments playing. You can actually pick out the instruments as they play.

I actually was so pleased with what I heard that I must confess that I decided to split my system into a music and a home theater system and went out and bought an Audio Research VT100 MK II to pair with it.

I really recommend this preamp if you want very high quality sound.

Similar Products Used: Never used a tube amp before.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Peh KB   an Audiophile [Apr 15, 1998]

After one has heard this preamp (especially with the Ref 600), he can accept no substitute.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Chris Rud   an Audiophile [Jun 11, 1999]

It seems we are all on a never ending quest for that elusive system that will end all the upgrading. As soon as I dropped the Reference One into my system I felt as though I found the ultimate preamplifier.
I was using a Mark Levinson No. 380S which I automatically assumed would be the perfect match for my Levinson No. 336, 36,& 37. Once I listened to the Ref One I put the 380S back in. It came back out in about 15 minutes, the soundstage just went flat and the music lost it's life.

I also thought that solid state would be better defined in the bass and more extended. . . wrong, the Ref One had tighter bass as well as more extended bass. The highs were flawless.

The only complaint I have, which has no bearing on sound is the CHEEZY remote. I know it has no affect on performance but come on. . . for $8500.00 can't they make a nice aluminum remote?!

Other than that this thing is perfection in my opinion!


OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
HADI WIDJAJA   an Audiophile [Jun 01, 1997]

Of all my entire 24 years life, I think this is as close as perfection a pre amp can get. At least for the present time. Maybe in the future when some ET came from outer space and tell us how to build a more musical pre amp, then The ARC Reference 1 would no longer be the ultimate pre amp.

The imaging, detailed, low, mid, high frequency all are in perfect harmony.
The build quality is also among the top. The thick front alluminium panel is thicker than other ARC product. The rotary know fell expensive. The manual is easy to understand and very user friendly.
Too bad the remote control outer shell is made from cheap plastic. I hope ARC would make remote like Krell or WADIA remote control which are heavy and made from alluminium billet. I suspect the plastic remote control is from some outside supplier from Taiwan or China. But as a remote control device is does have all the full operation function and yes it work well. Just a little cosmetic uglyness that I fell should be addresed by ARC.

Too bad the price of this pre amp is a little bit steep. But considering this is the top of the line, reference quality product, well you'll be the judge.

Some how I fell a bit dissappointed though that I am not rich enough to buy the most suitable partner of this pre amp. That is the Reference 600 power amp from ARC. Because at $30,000 US currency list price, they only can be categorize affordable by people like Bill Gates and some Sultans.

I don't understand how an old tube technology can sound better that more advance discrete solid state. Probably it's the tube design that cause it.
Now if just that ARC make a less powerful, less expensive Reference power amp.

Thanks Mr. William Z. Johnson.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Sridhar Mahadevan   an Audiophile [Oct 06, 1999]

The Ref 1 is one of the most outstanding audio products that I have ever heard.After almost 12 years of listening to different preamplifiers, I thought I had
heard it all. Boy, was I wrong.

Simply put, the Ref 1 has completely changed my view on digital recordings.
Prior to having the Ref 1, I was never entirely happy with my digital front
end (Levinson 37/36). It sounded a bit compressed and sterile compared to my
analog source (Basis/Graham). However, the addition of the Ref 1 changed all
this. I cannot believe how vivid and dynamic my CD collection sounds.

The Ref 1 is outstanding in a number of respects. It sets up an amazing soundstage: my Quads simply disappear, leaving only the music. On many recordings, the soundstage almost reaches my face, and extends all the way around the room (truly better in many respects than any 5.1 channel system I have experienced).

The Ref 1 is unique in being able to simultaneously combine accuracy with musicality. It reveals layers and layers of new information from old recordings that I have heard many times, but it does not sound harsh or bright.

The Ref 1 also has a truly astounding dynamic range, and the transient attack of instruments is quite amazing. A plucked instrument leaps off into thin air, seemingly appearing 5 feet or more in front of the speakers.

The tonality of the midrange and highs is dead-on: violins sound like violins. Massed strings sound luxurious and woodwinds simply sound gorgeous. One of the most appealing aspects of the Ref 1 (along with the VT100 Mk II amp that I'm using) is that the entire sonic presentation is cut from a single cloth. No one part stands out, but it sounds coherent, articulate, and alive.

I completely agree with Moncrief's review in IAR: you simply sit in your chair transfixed by the sound coming out of your speakers. I cannot imagine higher praise for any audio component than this.

Regarding the remote: it is cheesy, but it works. That's more than I can say for the brick-sized fancy Levinson remote that comes with the 37/36. The Ref 1 remote works no matter where I'm located in the room, even at a very acute angle. The brick Levinson remote only works almost dead-on flat. I'd take a cheesy remote that works over a fancy aluminium remote that does'nt anyday.


OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
mitch   an Audio Enthusiast [Apr 12, 1999]

The Reference One replaced a Krell KRC3 in my system. I was skeptical prior to auditioning because the KRC 3/FPB300 combination had been quite satisfying. I initially tried the AR LS25....I was amazed at the improved soundstaging, but found the bass a little ripe and not as transparent as I enjoy. I then tried the Reference One. WOW...that old addage of being able to hear parts you didn't know existed was realized. I thought I had evolved beyond that point in my system cinfiguration. But I hadn't. An outstanding piece!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Claude Lapouble   an Audiophile [Oct 20, 1997]

I had in the past SP8, SP11, SP15, LS5 mkII and mk III, and now the Ref1. It is so neutral that you can not notice it's presence in the system. Really a great piece of equipment. At last a good balance control. I don't like the volume knob because the ramp is too quick and the remote is cheap too. ARC should make a remote that would work with the REF1 and their CD1 so a single remote would be enough...Overall, a preamp that I will keep for many years...I hope !!!
C.Lapouble

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Showing 1-10 of 13  

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