Audio research ref 160M vs ref 250SE

I’m looking to move to one of these two mono blocks (audio research ref 160m or ref 250se) 
I have not been able to hear both in the same room with the same speakers. And to be honest, I haven’t heard the ref 250se in almost 6 months. I will say that I heard the 160m and really enjoyed them.

i think the ref 250se are being closed out in that I see them available for almost half price new in the box with full warranty.

the 160m I would be buying used for just about the same price. The 160m is the way I am leaning. (And leaning pretty hard) But just wanted to see if anyone has a opinion about one. Or the other.

 I am getting a ref 6 Preamplifier.

The rest of my system is:
VPI Classic 3 with a sound Smith VPI zephyr CART
Aqua La Scala mk2 optologic DAC 
‘innous zenith mkiii streamer.
focal sopra 2
rel 3s or s3 subs x2
all Kubala-Sosna interconnects and speaker 
‘currently using a audio research gsi75 intergraded amp 

Any input would be appreciated. It will be one of these two sets that I will be purchasing and although I always appreciate other options, please keep this discussion to the two items listed.

Ag insider logo xs@2xbiketony
I wish I had the problem of deciding between 2 ARC mono blocks.  Whichever on you choose will be great, I’m sure of that.  Have fun and enjoy. 
Well here is a factor that may drive your decision.  ARC is now charging $275 per tube for matched KT-150s.  I surmise that the Ref 250SE runs twice as many KT-150s as compared to the Ref 160M.  If so, … do the math and think how much tube replacement will cost you after 3000 hours of play time.

BTW, if you are thinking that the cost of tube replacement can be reduced by going to 3rd party tube vendors, think about this.  I purchased replacement matched KT-150s from a well respected tube vendor several years ago, ...  before ARC upgraded my Ref 150 to the SE version.  No names mentioned.  The bias spread was barely within ARC spec.  Fortunately, the SE upgrade came with fresh ARC KT-150s.  So the old batch of KT-150s are in back-up reserve. 

And perhaps that is another reason to think about the Ref 160M.  Unlike earlier ARC Ref amps, I understand the Ref 160M (and S) has an auto bias feature.  Not sure, but I think the Ref 160M (and S) may (??) also have an electronic circuit breaker in case a tube arcs.  Check that out too.  More to think about.

No comment about SQ. Never heard the Ref 250SE or Ref 160 M (or S).  I own the Ref 150 SE, which I love.  But I am at the 2000 hour mark on my KT-150s and thinking about tube replacement.  I am working on a possible work-around with my spare batch of KT-150s.  If my idea works out, I'll report back.


Thank you for the input. Even though I just paid over 1k for a replacement tube set from audio research for my gsi75 intergraded amp, I hadn’t given tube replacement cost much thought. That’s enough to convince me to go with the 160m’s . 
Also read your other post concerning kt150 tube purchases in the past. Good information and thanks.
Biketony, check me on the internal circuit breaker feature on the Ref 160M (S).  If ARC added that feature, that's another maintenance headache that is eliminated and another "buy" point in favor of the 160M (S). 

In the old days, if a power tune blew (i.e., arc'd) in an older ARC amp, it would often take a bias resister with it which acted as a fuse.  I hope I don't  jinx myself here, but so far the KT-150s have never arc'd.  I had the problem with 6550 winged Cs and KT-120s.    

Good luck on whatever you decide.
decided to go with the 160m. Had not heard the ref 250se in quite a while and was wondering if the extra power would be missed. But your input about tube replacement and auto bias confirmed what I was already leaning towards. I have to travel close to 400 miles to pickup. Going to pickup around the 17th.

thanks for your input,


How are the 160Ms working out in your system?  Did you ever clarify if BIF was correct in the circuit protection from tube arcs?