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!!!


Sorry but I have to correct you on one point.  The VT100 Mk2 also had a fan and was less problematic than the Mk1.  I had two Mk2's so I know.  I had problems with my Mk2s but I caused the problems.
There are a lot of consumer laws both state and Federal .
 They are very seldom enforced .

Hello all and again thanks for your insightful comments and criticisms.  Some further information.  You are correct I am fairly unsophisticated as an audiophile having only been introduced to the wonders of Hi Fi equipment when I purchased my first loudspeaker kit in 1973 - a pair of KEF Concertos.  I had a NAD amp and a Connoisseur turntable, Grace arm and moving magnet cartridge.

One day I heard some Magnepan speakers and fell in love with the sound.  Unfortunately I could never afford this equipment in Australia at the time being in the 'I'm having kids time of life'.

In 1992 my brother was sent by the RAAF to study at Dayton Ohio.  While he was there he purchased a pair of Apogee Centaur Majors, a McCormack DNA 1, a McCormack ALD 1 with outboard power supply and phono stage.  Upon his return I purchased them from him and I still have the ALD 1 but traded the DNA 1 for a DNA 2, I have had both amps upgraded by Steve McCormack to Revision A status as well as a second DNA 2.  All these amps are still in use and sound fantastic.

My tube journey started about 12 years ago when I purchased a second hand Manley Steelhead which I have since sold to my brother.  We replaced the tubes in the amp last night and it sounds amazing.  I purchased an Aesthetix Io Eclipse brand new as well as Martin Logan CLX speakers.  Part of my unsophisticated audio journey.  I now own a Clearaudio Master Reference turntable, Graham Phantom Supreme tonearm, Benz Micro LP-S cartridge, SME Series V arm and Koetsu Azule cartridge.  I have the Allnic L-3000 preamp and currently Ayon Audio Orthos XS using KT150 tubes drive the CLX's and I use twin Martin Logan subs.  I also purchased a pair of Apogee Divas which are with Graz being upgraded and these will eventually replace the CLX's.  I used the Ref75 for the rear channels driving the Apogee Centaur Majors because I felt they were a bit lacking in power for the CLX's.

I purchased several power amps because my original intention was to use an active crossover and tri-amp the Divas but I have since changed my mind but will keep the amps in case that changes in the future.  My intention was to use tubes for mid and tweeter and SS for the bass panel.

Anyway I agree with the many posts that suggest never to deal with the retailer in Brisbane again and I have already decided this having had issues with him on other occasions.  Unfortunately this leaves only one other dealer in Queensland and as I live in Mackay, I will now have to travel to Sydney or Melbourne for any listening sessions.  Like travelling from Los Angeles to New York really.

ARC have been good since I have updated them on the situation but the Australian Distributor is trying to pass the blame back to them advising me that the person at ARC who replied to my original email no longer works there so there was unavoidable discontinuity by ARC.

For my part I discussed the possibility of the upgrade using my supplied tubes with the Distributor and the email correspondence that took place: 

Fri, 21 Oct 2016

Hello Gareth, 

Thank you for your reply regarding my Reference 75 amplifier. From your email, I am reading between the lines that you have only just looked at the amplifier to determine what is wrong with it. This is extremely disappointing if it is true. 

I was going to get the amplifier upgraded to the SE model but have since changed my mind, AR will not permit upgrading with tubes supplied by the owner and as I have the tubes required for the upgrade, I do not want to pay for them again. As this is their policy then please repair the amplifier back to original under warranty and I will use the tubes that I sent with the unit (for that repair) rather than buy additional tubes from Audio Research.

Hello Tony,

 It is actually quite the contrary, there have been points of inefficiency in the process that have led to this unfortunate delay in processing your service job. 

 My involvement in this is to try to resolve this as quickly as possible and not to further exacerbate the situation.

 According to my information, your unit is out of warranty and was damaged by corrosion caused most likely by a fluid being spilled onto the main board.

 The RRP of the main board is AUD$3,500.00 inc GST plus labour, as mentioned I am happy to subsidise this due to the circumstances we are discussing.

 I personally am not aware of your request to do the SE upgrade on your unit, if this is the case we can certainly manage to create a work around on the valves that would help. Please let me know as this will impact the repair work also.

 Kind Regards,

 Gareth Weller  ||  National Sales Manager

Hello Gareth,

You are incorrect about the warranty. The unit was under warranty when it was sent for repair. I have the receipt and warranty card to prove it. Nothing has ever been spilt on the unit it has been in an air conditioned room in Mackay where I have had other amplifiers for over 10 years with no issues.

Hi Tony, 

I am the service manager for Synergy Audio, I totally apologize for the delay in getting back to you regarding Ref 75 repair.

 We are liaising with Audio Research for the (discounted) price for the boards required to upgrade your REF75 to the SE version (less the tubes).

 I will be in touch as soon as we hear back from Audio Research.

 Thank you for your patience.

 Kind Regards,


Jim Filatakis ||  Technician

As you can see the amp was with the distributor since last November.  I finally got sick of waiting several weeks ago and ARC have sped up the repair so I now have an amp with a new board , no tubes I can use, no idea of the future warranty if I use ARC tubes although I have had a missed call form the Distributor.

I will keep you posted.

I do not blame ARC for this mess but they are responsible for their Australian Distributor and repair centres.  As I said my experience means that I will never deal with several people in Australia or purchase ARC equipment.

I think everyone would agree, in a perfect world, we could bring our equipment back to an authorized dealer and expect excellent service.

Anyone who thinks we live in a perfect world is an absolute fool. OP started with an excellent idea, contacting AR directly, to ask for guidance.

IMHO it is reasonable to expect excellent results and customer sx when you follow their suggestions, and to also hold them accountable for the results of following their advice.

OP screwed up badly by sending the amp to the dealer first. AR said distributor. I think they suggested this for a reason. They probably have a very high level of trust in their distributors and are very confident their distributors will uphold their standards. 

AR was told their was a white flash and a burnt smell. I'm not a rocket scientist, but to me, unless the tube blew open, a tube failure ought not to smell funny. It's entirely reasonable to follow AR recommendation at that point, and send it to the distributor, not order tubes and see if that works, especially under warrantee, when putting in a fresh tube could cause further damage they should not have to be held accountable for. 

AR did NOT say they would do the upgrade with your supplied tubes. To draw an analogy to automotive repair, reach your own conclusion that they should is YOUR problem, not theirs.

If the OP had presented this exact scenario, and then complained of two issues, I'd not have responded. First, he is correct, Dealer should have returned the tubes he supplied. Second, I think if this was all warrantee work, AR's distributor should have returned it repaired with a replacement tube for the one tube presumably that failed under warrantee, unless tubes are generally regarded as wear items. (That I don't know)

As a person in the US with a very litigious society, and one who is very deeply involved in motorsports, I have to comment on the interesting side discussion about car repair and bringing in your own parts.

So, to my Aussie legal expert audiophiles:
If I bring my BMW in to a dealer and give them a cheap aftermarket control arm to replace a worn one, they must apparently use it, despite not having come from their OEM supplier who is held to certain standards.

If I die in a car crash who's fault is traced to a failure in that control arm, can my wife sue the BMW dealer for faulty work? In the US, BMW could certainly expect a lawsuit if the dealer had used OEM parts.... 

Hi cleeds,

Take a Thöress phono stage and an ARC phono stage to your most highly recommended tube amp technician and ask them which they’d prefer to service. One of these products will outlive its maker in terms of serviceability and the other one won’t.
@cleeds  wrote:

There’s really nothing to argue about here, because Audio Research products have already outlived their maker. ARC founder William Z. Johnson died six years ago, yet ARC will still service his SP-1 preamplifier, which was introduced in 1970.

The few ARC products that the company can’t fully support are CD players, where parts for the mechanisms are no longer available. All of its amplifiers and preamplifiers can be serviced to original factory spec, or better. Please feel free to verify this with ARC directly or any ARC authorized dealer.

ARC service is legendary. That’s part of the reason why the products retain their value on the used market so well.

Thom, I understand that you don’t care for electronics that rely on circuit boards, and you’re certainly entitled to your preference. But to extend that preference to conclude that ARC products aren’t serviceable flies in the face of the facts.

If this is true, then ARC is to be applauded for having circuit board inventory on hand for 40+ year old preamps.  As I mentioned above, I have no way of fact checking your comments which are in direct opposition to perfectpathtech's comments: 

perfectpathtech wrote:

Tonykay- I sold my Classic 120’s 3 years ago after owning them for 7
Like yourself saved a long time to buy a used pair. The same mono blew up 3 times! Dumped them as-is. Sad part is gent I sold them to couldn’t repair it, he sent it to ARC, and they said it was irreparable!

When Bill Johnson passed and the company sold, first thing they did was throw away their vast parts supply for all previous products! Mr Johnson has to be rolling in his grave!

What can't be debated is the availability of wire to repair for example, an 80 year old Western Electric amplifier.  I'm only advocating informed decision making during the purchase process, as we all get to vote with our checkbook. For me (obviously, others may differ), I'm a big fan of non-disposable technology where possible.  I don't like to see products rendered irreparable and in a landfill if at all possible.

I need to clarify my earlier comment regarding circuit board vs. traditional construction techniques in order to be fair about this.  Taking first world labor rates into consideration, I'd never expect a product retailing at $4,000 (for example) to employ these traditional techniques.  An example of a product using circuit boards which I heartily recommend is the Herron VTPH-2 phono stage.  It's an absolute steal at its price point (disclaimer:  I sell these phono stages, so take this comment for what it's worth).

Once a product surpasses the 5-figure price point, I think construction methods are one element of many which should be factored into the purchase decision.

Thom @ Galibier Design