My Audio Research experience

To all you goners out there, here is my experience with Audio Research.

Approximately four years ago I purchased an AR Reference 75 power amp.  It was on special at the time and I bought if from a dealer in Brisbane, Australia.

I used the amp for the rear channels of my home theatre system which I only use occasionally because I travel a lot for work and I mainly listen to music.

One night I switched the amp on and a white flash and burning smell came from the amplifier and it didn’t power up.  I thought it may have been a tube, and because I had no spares, I reported the problem to my Brisbane dealer and via email to Audio Research.  A copy of the reply sent from AR on the 5th March 2016 follows:

'Thank you for choosing Audio Research and the REF75. I suspect you had an internal tube arc. The internal tube short can also take out a plate or screen resistor. So just replacing the tube will not fix this problem. The resistors also need to be replaced. You can confirm this by checking the bias for this tube. If the bias reads zero, a resistor is open.  This is an easy repair that our distributor in Australia can do.

The SE update for the REF75 comes with a complete new set of tubes including a new set of KT150s.  This is the only way it is sold. If you so choose, Our Australian distributor can also install this SE upgrade for you while the amp is in for repair.'

I then proceeded to order some more tubes to see if a replacement tube would fix the problem.

I ordered the following tubes:

2 x Electro-Harmonix 6H30Pi Gold with Matched Triodes (Balanced)

4 x KT150 Power Vacuum Tube - [Matching (10+ tubes)]

4 x KT120 Power Vacuum Tubes - [Matching (10+ tubes)]

When they arrived, I tried the new tubes but they didn’t fix the problem as the amplifier failed to switch on.  I then contacted my dealer and freighted the amplifier to Brisbane for repair.  This was done in June of last year.  I included all of the above tubes in the package in case they were needed.  I also would have liked the amp to be upgraded to SE status using the tubes supplied if possible.

In September/October last year I enquired about the status of the repair and before Christmas enquired again. After again emailing AR, I was contacted by the Australian Distributor who told me that the service agent in Brisbane had been trying to get parts for the wrong amplifier and that the amplifier would be transported to Melbourne for repair.  I asked them to get me a price for the upgrade using my tubes.

In January/February of this year, I was contacted by the Australian Distributor and had to supply proof of purchase because there was a dispute over whether the amplifier was in fact under warranty when the fault occurred.  I again asked about getting the upgrade using the supplied tubes which were still with the repair agent in Brisbane.  Eventually I was told that I could have the upgrade using AR tubes only, for the heavily discounted price of $3,000 Australian.  Nothing like gouging your customers!!!!!!  Especially when I could have bought a small car for the original cost of the amplifier in Australia.

I chose to just get the original amplifier repaired under warranty which I was told needed a new main circuit board.  This week my amplifier finally arrived back home after nearly 12 months away for a repair under warranty.  The original tubes have been put in a box with ‘Faulty Old Tubes,’ written on the box.  The tubes I sent with the amplifier have not been returned, and no replacement tubes have been included.

I am amazed that the initial fault destroyed six tubes, so I have asked how the Distributor tested the tubes to determine that they were faulty.  I am now left with an amplifier that doesn’t work and 10 expensive vacuum tubes missing somewhere in Australia.  I am also left with a conundrum, if when I finally get my tubes back and use them to ensure the amplifier works, what happens if it doesn’t.  Will AR then blame me for any fault that occurs on power up because I haven’t purchased tubes from them at their heavily marked up prices????

For me I will never touch another Audio Research product for as long as I reside on this planet.  I will be telling all my audiophile friends and putting this report on every forum that will publish it.  Best of luck for the future Audio Research and may you drown in your policy mess!!!



Did you not agree with bdp24's post above?  It's not the maintenance cost that is the problem, its the design philosophy of not fusing the output tubes.  Even though you will you pay ARC twice as much for the same tubes you could buy for less elsewhere, eventually one of those tubes is bound to go bad and your sending the amp back to ARC.  This versus just changing a fuse.  ARC knows their amps blow resistors. 

There are a lot of other brands equal to the Ferrari 458 amp that are designed to not suffer this problem. 

Audio Research Products are designed for use in sophisticated Music Reproduction Systems and they are to be used by sophisticated users or alternatively those users who have the means and the inclinations to employ the services of a Qualified Authorized Dealer to help maintain their Music Reproduction System. What appears to have happened here is we have an unsophisticated user who compares his Audio Research product to a car and he is unhappy with the expense and the inconvenience of his Audio Research product. To continue to compare this to a car which is a silly comparison as all will agree it is the same as if the user purchased a new Lamborghini and then burned his clutch out at 1,000 miles because he does not know know to use a manual transmission vehicle and then wants to have it repaired under warrantee but only using the discounted aftermarket parts of his choosing and then saying the car has a design flaw because automatic transmission vehicles  do not burn out clutches.

This user would be much happier if he purchased basic equipment for his Music Reproduction System but then of course he would have less to complain about too.
Yes Jetter, I always whine.  Maybe it is because my amp has been for warranty repair for a couple of weeks or a month.  I am straight on the blower whining till I get it back.  Works well whining, it only takes an additional 10 months when you whine.  Can just imagine Jetter with his amp away for warranty repair, don't send it back yet fellas I don't really need it.  Keep it for another year.  Great credibility though.

Sorry thazeldean, you will see I supported you in multiple posts above, but this whine lost your credibility with me: 

"Grogan, you really fit the name!!!   ..."

I have read jm's post for years, sometimes disagree, sometimes agree, but never come away feeling the need to make a rude comment.

I used the amp for the rear channels of my home theatre system which I only use occasionally because I travel a lot for work and I mainly listen to music...........
Especially when I could have bought a small car for the original cost of the amplifier in Australia.
I'm curious as to why you would buy a tube amp--& a super expensive one, it sounds?--"just" for the rear channels of your home theatre system? To each his own, but I'd be thinking SS for HT.

It does sound like you had a horrible "repair" experience tho (where the thing wasn't even repaired?). I'd be thinking--what are reliable brands of audio gear sold in your country, with availability of good service. (I'm sure you are, now).