ARC announces: Vinyl record playback has been an integral part of Audio Research since our founding in 1970. Think back to the great phono stages built into the defining preamplifiers of their day, among them the SP3, SP6, SP8, SP10, and SP11. Even after the introduction of the compact disc in 1982, phono sections remained a revered part of our preamplifiers. The first Audio Research phono preamplifier in a separate chassis was introduced in 1992.
After all this time, we are proud to finally introduce the first two-chassis phono preamplifier in our history, the Reference Phono 10. This model number was designated because it mirrors its line-stage counterpart, the Reference 10, providing an unsurpassed level of performance in its category. The retail price of the Reference Phono 10 is € 30,750.00.
The Reference Phono 10 (RP10, for brevity) embodies everything we know about phono playback, and incorporates many of the insights gained in the development of the REF Anniversary and REF10 line-stage preamplifiers. The RP10 is a true dual-mono design with totally separate signal paths for each channel, from the dual-mono power supply forward. There are separate high- and low-voltage transformers for each channel, and sufficient energy storage for a serious amplifier, fully twice the capacity of a REFPH2, providing incredible dynamic headroom. There are twenty stages of electronic regulation, with separate vacuum-tube regulation (via 6550WE and 6H30) for each channel. There are dual umbilical cords between the power supply and the separate analog stage. The power cord inlet contains a 20A IEC connector.
The dual-mono audio circuits are fully discrete, pure Class-A, with zero feedback. The low gain audio section uses eight 6H30 tubes, four per channel. Rather than using a step-up transformer, special high-gain, extremely low-noise FETs are used in the high-gain section. This approach is costlier than using a transformer, but it is well worth the dramatic performance increase.
The RP10 is a fully balanced design, with an input circuit that allows its RCA inputs to operate in a balanced configuration without requiring an inverter.
The RP10 has two sets of inputs with the same flexibility as the Reference Phono 2SE, including switchable Low (51dB BAL/45dB SE) and High (74dB BAL/68dB SE) gain, seven loading options including 47k, 1000, 500, 200, 100, 50 ohms, plus Custom which can be factory-set according to your needs. In addition to standard RIAA equalization, the RP10 also includes early Columbia and Decca equalization curves.
The RP10 looks almost exactly like the REF10, with the same 7-inch diagonal touch screen mounted asymmetrically, and only two buttons for power and mute on its front panel. (The REF10’s volume knob is understandably absent). The interactive touch screen allows the user to change inputs (and input names), equalization, loading, gain, muting, foreground and background colors of the display, display intensity, and tube hours. Control functions are duplicated on the supplied metal remote.
The side panels of both analog and power-supply chassis are finished to the same high standard as the front panels: anodized, 3/8 inch thick, with no visible screws. The entire chassis (including rear panel) is painted silver to complete the elegant appearance. The tops of both units are clear acrylic with a laser-cut perforation pattern.
From the first note on that treasured LP, its greatness is at once obvious and breathtaking—the Reference Phono 10 is a sonic blockbuster that establishes the new standard in analog music playback. Emphatically. Great vinyl takes on an explosive, dynamic quality that is normally encountered only in a live performance, whether the crescendo of an orchestra, a roaring rock band, or the intricacies of a solo piano. When called for, the stage is vast, holographic, enveloping: Dimensionality is redefined, with an engaging, reach out and touch it quality. The RP10 resolves so much detail without grain, delighting listeners with new information extracted from those familiar grooves. The musical experience is so much more involving and persuasive—you do not want it to end. But these are mere words that pale in comparison to the actual listening experience. Understanding only comes from listening.
Production is starting now, with the first few units shipping in early May. Contact your dealer to experience the product that triumphantly validates the superiority of analog playback; music in High Definition®.
If you are interested to know more about the Reference Phono 10, feel free to have a look at the user manual here.