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!!!

At one ARC in-store seminar I attended in the 1980’s, Bill Johnson stated that he designed and built his electronics to have a twenty year lifespan. At my then age, twenty years seemed to me like a long time, twenty years being a good chunk of it. At my current age, twenty years doesn’t seem so long! Sorry to keep bringing up Roger Modjeski, but he states he designs and builds his Music Reference amps to last one hundred years. In consideration of a technician in the far-off distant future needing to know the bias settings (and other values) in one of his amps, he silk-screens that info onto their top plate. My ARC LS-1 pre-amp is a lot older than twenty years, but then tube pre’s require a lot less in the way of maintenance than do tube power amps, especially a single-tube design like the LS-1. The SP-10 is a different story!
There is a little irony in all of this.  You are talking about fairly expensive tube amps and their longevity.  There are tens if not hundreds of thousands of Dynaco ST70s out there that are 50 or 60 years old that have had nothing or only a couple of components replaced and are still  going strong.  
This thread truly amuses me. When one gets into high end audio and starts to delve in the esoterica of tubes...and tube amps in particular, then I do believe that some of the ’issues’ with said tubes are to be expected. My ARC amp is over 30+ years old. I have had to have it serviced and have also had to replace all of the tubes. Surely, one would expect this?? OTOH, for anyone to state that a certain design can last for one hundred years is really pushing the envelope, IMO. Anything can last for a hundred years, so long as every single part is replaced or remanufactured over and over to insure that. Reminds me of the old Ford from 1918, still running like a top....why, because every darn part in it has been replaced or restored, LOL. Same with our tube amps, or any piece of gear for that matter!
ARC is in business to succeed and make a profit, no one forces anyone to buy their products...The fact that they are able to service my amp and keep it in my system after all these years gives me a good feeling. Yes, the service might be pricey, but at least the option is there!! Unlike the old Hales speakers that i used to own.
As to Carver, I think their philosophy speaks volumes for them. Whether you like their sound or not is another question, but their philosophy seems to be on the right track. Bob Carver may have made some missteps in the past, but who in business did not!! The fact that Frank Malitz professes what he does, say a lot for their company...all IMHO.

I started a thread about ARC and it ended up in a discussion about Carver amps.  I would like to add some information about both, for the record.

Firstly I was contacted by Synergy Audio in Australia about the Reference 75.  They informed me that the issue with the main board was from corrosion. I live in Mackay, which is tropical and I am only a mile from the ocean at best, so subject to South Easterly trade winds bringing salt water inland.  It is also a coal port and before you all get on the environmental bandwagon, you can't have cars without coal, it is made from iron ore and coking coal.  Just wanted to add that because the Greenies in Australia want to close all the mines because of climate change but all drive to the protests - hypocrites.  Anyway Synergy have informed me that the board was damaged from natural causes and that the new board is designed with better protection and won't suffer the same fate.  They have also been in contact with ARC who have offered to replace the tubes under warranty even though this is well outside the terms of the warranty.  This is very much appreciated by myself and has changed my opinion of ARC as I think they have been embarrassed by the situation.  Thank you for this extremely generous offer.  Happy days.

From the comments about the Carver amps.  I also own a pair of Black Beauties serial Numbers 00009 and 00010.  I purchased these in 2011 as per information below:

Thank you for your order!

Order Information


Bob Carver LLC

Billing Information
Anthony Hazeldean
1 Matterson Ave
Eimeo, Queensland 4740

Transaction ID:


I purchased them when I saw an advert In TAS.  I believe they were the first pair in Australia before Bob even had an Australian Distributor.  They are wonderful sounding amps and are extremely dynamic through the Martin Logan CLX's.  I really, really like the sound of these amps.

I note that they were awarded Product of the Year by TAS but this was discontinued, I believe when Bob Carver was taken over by Emotiva (I think that is what they were called)

When the KT150 tubes were released I emailed Bob about installing them in the Black Beauties and this is his reply. 

Hi Tony,


Yes, you can replace the KT120s with KT150s. The amplifier might not get as much power as our new 350 watt amplifiers because your Black Beauties don’t have the latest updates, new transformers, and increased energy storage, but unless you really push them hard, you won’t have problems.



Ulises Hubbard

Chief Operating Officer


I installed the KT 150's and after several months of operation started having problems with one monoblock blowing a tube and the fuse.  I intended to send these to a repair agent in Melbourne but as I now find they are still under warranty I would like to return them for repair.  Can you please supply the warranty address fmalitz?  I would very much like to get these beasts up and running again.

I love happy endings and thanks for all those that provided support.

Jetter - Having owned some ST70's I agree they are simple and reliable. Sonically, however, I can assure you they are not ARC. There is no comparison.