In April of 2010 Audio Research announced the Reference Anniversary preamplifier, a special limited edition product commemorating our 40th anniversary. It was acclaimed by many as the finest preamplifier available and a fitting tribute to all of the classic Audio Research products that were introduced during the forty years that preceded it.
That we would only accept new orders for this special product during the anniversary year surprised almost everyone, but we considered the limited time frame appropriate. Sales of the Anniversary more than doubled our projections and we received hundreds of requests to keep it in the lineup, but that would not have been fair to original owners. Strong demand for a new, two-chassis Reference preamplifier has not diminished since production of the Anniversary ceased.
We are very proud to introduce the Reference 10, a new two-chassis line-stage preamplifier that will again redefine performance and the preamplifier landscape. The retail price of the Reference 10 is Euro 31.500,-.
Is it better than the Anniversary? Yes, clearly. We have learned a few things in the last 2-1/2 years, and the improvements are immediately apparent. Included are critically chosen new components, proprietary custom-made capacitors, wiring, and new connectors that cumulatively provide a level of performance never before achieved.
Key design traits remain: The signal path is fully discrete, all-tube, pure Class-A, with zero feedback. Other attributes and choices remain, too: Each unit is completely hand-soldered and hand-constructed in our Minnesota facility using the finest materials, with major components such as custom transformers, plated-through circuit boards, and casework sourced locally. All engineering is performed in-house.
The REF10 draws from the Anniversary’s layout and design, with dramatic updates in aesthetics and operation. The REF10 has a very modern and elegant finish that will attract new admirers without alienating fans of our older products. The front panel of the main control unit has a new, large round volume knob on the right side, with two buttons under it for Power and Mute—the only two buttons on the unit—and a large display on the left. Our logo is above the knob on the right, making this the first asymmetrical Audio Research preamplifier ever.
The left side of the front panel contains a 7″ (diagonal) interactive touch-screen display that allows the user to easily control almost all functions. After the initial turn-on sequence, the Volume, Input, Balanced/SE, Stereo/Mono, Phase 0/180, Balance (left-right) control, Mute/Operate, and Settings icon are clearly displayed. Touch the input displayed (such as Tuner), and all of the inputs are displayed for your selection. Likewise, if you touch the Stereo icon it switches to Mono, touch the Mute and it switches to Operate, and so on. It is quite straightforward and intuitive.
Touching the “Settings” icon (it appears as a “gear”) on the display brings you to a submenu with different options related to the setup and functionality. You can change the input names via an alphanumeric keypad, for example. Input gain offset can be adjusted independently for each input; you can check (or reset) the tube hours meter, adjust the display intensity, or you can change the foreground and background colors of the display—there are ten color options for each. The default display has our traditional green text on a black background, but you can change that to white on blue, or red on dark gray, or so on. It is very easy to customize the look you want.
The power supply chassis, connected to the main unit via two umbilical cords, simply has one green LED under its offset Audio Research logo. All of the side panels are finished identically to the front panels: Natural anodized, one quarter-inch thick, with no screws visible. The entire chassis (including rear panel) is painted silver to complete the look. There are beautiful new, clear acrylic covers with a revised perforation pattern; metal covers will not be available. And, there is no printing on the front panel of either chassis. Units with a black finish will not be available until early December.
After the single 20A power cord, the REF10 is completely dual-mono from the power supply through the audio circuit. There are dual, separate low- and high-voltage transformers for each channel; there is dual-mono vacuum-tube regulation (one 6H30 and one 6550WE per channel), dual-mono audio circuits (four 6H30 per channel), and enough energy storage for a serious power amplifier.
As usual for a Reference preamp, there are seven inputs, including a Processor input with unity-gain, one Record output, and two sets of Main outputs. All inputs and outputs have both Balanced and Single-Ended connections. For the first time in a Reference preamp, there is an RS-232 input in addition to dual 12V-triggers.
It is difficult to describe the sonic attributes of the Reference 10 because the descriptions are oft repeated to the point of cliché. Just as the Anniversary preamplifier was shockingly better than its predecessors, the Reference 10 offers a further level of resolution, refinement and dynamism that vividly improve the musical experience in every way. As we have said before, words can only fall short of your own experience; to understand how much more profound listening to your favorite recordings can be, you must hear the Reference 10. It is stunning.
Production is already underway, with some units available in October.
Audio Research Corporation