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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: Audio Research, Inc. VS55 Amplifier (Tube) by hairydog

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REVIEW: Audio Research, Inc. VS55 Amplifier (Tube)

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Model: VS55
Category: Amplifier (Tube)
Suggested Retail Price: $2500
Description: 50watt tube amp
Manufacturer URL: Audio Research, Inc.
Manufacturer URL: Audio Research, Inc.

Review by hairydog on June 09, 2005 at 17:47:42
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for the VS55

I recently got a used VS55 because I missed the sound of tubes. A lot of these seem to come and go on audiogon. Prices range from $1100 to $1400. Mine was a mint unit. When I first listened I could understand why it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Make no mistake this thing sounds like a tube amp, more of a "vintage" sound and a great departure from the typical Audio research sound I have heard (very 3D, analytical and detailed). It is more extended on top than a "vintage" amp and has better bass. But the bass was a place where I felt like there were actual or potential colorations. In fact I thought I had made a huge mistake after the first couple days of listening. It was a bit tubby, and low notes on piano were given an obvious fatening. I switched out the EH 6550 it came installed with for SED winged C 6550, and the bass tightened up some and highs got a bit smoother. I also put in a set of interconnects that usually have a lighter bass than most- and the sound got more better. I could still see there being some humpage issues with certain speakers and rooms...so be warned. I use small monitors that have a 5 inch woofer and a small port, so it works very well after making a few changes. Both of the online reviews (one is on AR's site) of this amp are mostly accurate- when ken kessler says it sounds like vintage, but don't choke on your corn flakes, it is a good way to put it. All of the tube virtues are in evidence- air around instruments, and a sound more like live music and less like hi fi. There is a nice sounstage but it is not overdone in an ultra 3d sense. The top is smooth and not obviously rolled off, midrange dynamics are very realistic. Bass was now strong and tight. I was well aware what the amp was doing to the sound, but love it at the same time. Jazz music, in particular sax and trumpet were given the tube treatment via that in the room thing. Walked by a guy playing sax on the corner the other day...the sax sounded full and dynamic, not "accurate". Same with classical, each instrument had a more believeable sound and the "ambience" was natural. Has the grunt needed to rock out too. I was getting some very enjoyable music now in a way that only tubes do. My thinking was if you are going to get a tube amp, might as well get one that sounds like tubes. There are a few I have heard that are so close to "good solid state", why bother? The VS55 is not one of those amps. It has also got to be about the best looking amp AR has ever come out with...the modern look coupled with a more traditional sound is what might make you choke on your corn flakes.

Product Weakness: Potential bass humpage. Runs even hotter than the last tube amp I had. Need your own volt meter to bias.
Product Strengths: Beautiful tube sound. Rich and dynamic. More like live music.

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: power amp
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): LS3
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Rega
Speakers: Monitor audio studio 2
Cables/Interconnects: various
Music Used (Genre/Selections): jazz, classical, rock
Room Size (LxWxH): 13 x 8 x 12
Room Comments/Treatments: nice sounding room
Time Period/Length of Audition: a month so far
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): monster
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Your System (if other than home audition): home

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Topic - REVIEW: Audio Research, Inc. VS55 Amplifier (Tube) - hairydog 17:47:42 06/9/05 ( 6)