Audio Research I/50 DAC Module en Ref 160M MKII

Audio Research

Importer Reference Sounds announces that that the long awaited DAC Module of the I/50 has finally gone into production. There is also the MKII upgrade for the Mono version of the Ref 160 power amplifiers.

Reference Sounds is very excited about the news they have in store: ‘Last week we received not one but two nice Audio Research news items of which we would like to inform you about with this message: First, the announcement that the long awaited DAC Module of the I/50 has finally gone into production and is therefore (almost) available. Plus the announcement of an MKII upgrade for the Mono version of the Ref 160 power amplifiers’.

Audio Research I/50 DAC Module – now available

‘Global challenges in the area of electronic components got in Audio Research’s way quite a bit during the development of the DAC Module for the I/50. The original design was unfortunately thrown in the garbage bin. But after the necessary prototypes, the final design eventually rolled through all the testing phases and went into production. Fact is that Audio Research was able to pull out all the stops to make this DAC a special piece of art that can just be spooned into the bibs of the I/50. Unfortunately, the network connection and built-in streaming functionality that was previously still on the blueprint didn’t make it into the final product, simply because the guys couldn’t physically get it to fit. As a result, the price of the DAC Module did come down a bit. Every disadvantage….,” the importer tells us.

The announcement goes on: ‘Equipped with RCA Digital Coaxial and Toslink Optical digital inputs and a USB connection, the I/50 is the perfect center of your High-End audio setup. The Coaxial digital input supports a maximum resolution of 192kHz, with the optical input limited to 48kHz. The USB input goes a bit further with a maximum PCM sample rate of 384kHz and also supports DSD64, DSD128 (DSD1x and DSD2x), DoP64 and DoP128. Nice too: the DAC is additionally equipped with a Bluetooth receiver for fast, wireless music streaming to the I/50. Sound-wise, an external streamer is of course always a better choice but it’s still cool that it can’.

Musical jewel

Reference Sounds: ‘As far as we are concerned the I/50 really is a musical jewel. Fantastic to see but especially to hear. What this little Audio Research integrated amplifier manages to do with every musical note is truly sublime. Sound color, conviction, stage, everything is hit and conjured out of the top hat with a generous smile. With this sound magician, Audio Research brings a completely in-house developed and manufactured amplifier in a – by Audio Research standards – significantly lower price segment. Best of all, it will get a sibling later this year as well. Probably in the form of a separate pre- and power amplifier but we promise nothing’.

The I/50 with built-in DAC Module has a suggested retail price of € 8,290

The DAC is also available as a separate module so that it can be built in afterwards. In that case the I/50 DAC Module has a suggested retail price of € 1,490

Audio Research Ref 160M MKII

The importer continues: ‘Our introduction show of the Wilson Audio ALEXX V is still clear on the eardrums. Thanks in part to its combination with the Ref 6SE preamplifier and the Ref 160M Mono power amplifiers. The four KT150 tubes, subtly glowing behind the white Ghost Meter paint an extremely smooth and detail-rich sound spectacle. Super realistic and three-dimensional at the same time. As if Salvador Dali and Rembrandt together took care of the design themselves. With the behind-the-scenes development of a Ref 320M flagship that we expect to introduce later this year, some new insights also emerged. Minor improvements in the signal path and newly available components too good to save just for the Ref 320M. So the guys grabbed the Ref 160M by the horns and implemented some of these modifications into the current flagship from Minnesota. The results proved stunning. So today, 5 years after its official entry, we introduce its successor – the Audio Research Ref 160M MKII.

Although we believe Audio Research blind, in all honesty we have not yet heard the MKII, but we have ordered it. The good thing is that existing Ref 160Mono’s can be upgraded with all the goodness from the MKII version. Various new internal components and cabling have, according to our friends an impressive impact on the low frequency response that gains solidity and at the same time has become even more elastic. The dynamic talents of the 160M are further magnified with the upgrade and Audio Research’s typical High Definition sound character is imposed on the speakers with even more élan and eloquence. Long story short – we can’t wait’.

The Ref 160M MKII Mono Power Amplifier is available immediately and has a suggested retail price of €22,490 each. An MKII version for the Ref 160S Stereo has not yet been announced.

An upgrade of an existing Ref 160M to the MKII version is doable by us. The expected upgrade price is € 6,990 per power amplifier.

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