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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: Audio Research, Inc. Classic 120 Amplifier (Tube) by O'Shag

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REVIEW: Audio Research, Inc. Classic 120 Amplifier (Tube)

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Model: Classic 120
Category: Amplifier (Tube)
Suggested Retail Price: $7000./pr.
Description: 110W monoblocks, KT-88 output tubes.
Manufacturer URL: Audio Research, Inc.
Model Picture: View

Review by O'Shag ( A ) on January 24, 2005 at 13:40:42
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for the Classic 120

My Classic 120 monoblocks are balanced, and drive a pair of KEF Reference 107s. Although of hybrid design, they deliver a distinctly triode-tube sound - slightly smoother and less etched than an equivalent solid state amp. The Classic 120s posess several outstanding attributes, perhaps most noticable on first listening is the quality of image and soundstage. Their ability to receive information from the preamp and create a detailed three-dimensional image on a soundstage of correct depth and width surpasses anything I have listened to thus far. As a hybrid design, these amps benefit from 'the best of both worlds'. They retain a beautiful balance, with great speed, grain-free clarity and detail, plenty of punch, and of course that velvety smooth triode sound. The midrange is simply outstanding, and this is at the heart of their tremendous musicality. I find the Classic 120 monoblocks to be a synergistic match for my KEF R107s(also outstanding) and they show the full extent of these speakers midrange capabilities. In terms of power reserve, the Classic 120s will drive my KEF's 4 ohm load without any strain. The KEF R107s are capable of VERY high volume levels without distortion, and the Classic 120s will remain unperturbed and utterly smooth even at these SPL levels. This is not to say that they can match my most powerful solid state amp in terms of raw power.

To extend the period between frighteningly expensive tube replacement, I use my Classic 120s only on weekends. For the rest of the week I make do with one of my solid state amps. Each week, I wait with a little anticipation and excitment for Friday evening, when I can flick those toggle switches and fire up the Classic 120s,

For those who are more inclined toward a very clean and clinical sound on the cooler side of neutral, then these monoblocks may not be the ideal choice. But for my taste, they are the best I've ever heard.

Product Weakness: May be a tad smooth for those that prefer a very lean, clinically clean, cool sound.
Product Strengths: Relay image soundstage and detail info to the speakers very effectively. Wonderful triode sound. Powerful enough to drive most speaker loads at high SPLs with ease. If you don't like em, they are brilliant room heaters during the winter

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: ARC Classic 120 Monoblocks
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): ARC SP6e
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Carver Tube CD player / ARC DAC2
Speakers: KEF Reference 107s
Cables/Interconnects: Transparent Musiclink /Musicwave
Music Used (Genre/Selections): All types
Room Size (LxWxH): 24 x 16 x 8
Room Comments/Treatments: None
Time Period/Length of Audition: 1 year
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Audio Research, Inc. Classic 120 Amplifier (Tube) - O'Shag 13:40:42 01/24/05 ( 3)