stevesl500

Audio research reference 110 or audio research vs115 amp's

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Hi guys I need help once again,

After buy a Audio Research LS 27 Pre - Amp I was going to buy a new Icon Audio MB90 Power Amp to use with the LS 27 Pre - Amp, but have been told that the Icon Audio will not mix well with the Audio Research.

So after doing some more home work I have come up with 2 new Power Amps that I think will work and blend well with the Pre Amp, although they are both 2nd hand and are much the same price as the new Icon Audio.

The 1st is a Audio Research Reference 110 that has been well looked after buy its one owner but has over 2800 hours on the tubes, I think will need re-tubing very soon, I can go and try it out but not for over 3 weeks as the guy who is selling is going away on holidays.

The 2nd is a Audio Research VS 115 that has also had only one owner that it is being sold by a dealer that is not near to me, but is mint condition and has had recent new valves, I can go and try this out any time soon.

My question is: Has anyone heard or had any of these Amps, How do they sound against each other? And do you think they will drive my Harbeth 30.1’s that are 88db

Thanks for any help you can give me on these amp’s

Steve.

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Well I had the 110 and I found it the worst amplifier I have ever heard. Total borfest, the guy I bought it from only had it five minutes as he thought the same as it turned out. Dull dull dull..

Was paired with a ref 3 pre and esoteric k-03 Cdp

so don't buy that lol

tbh I don't get audio research at all, it's simply not musically engaging. I bought into it because of the hype that surrounds the brand in mags and such.

Also look into the history of them as audio research folks tend to be anal about that and they do break down by all accounts. If you sell it on as I am confident you will, you don't want to get a kick in the nuts because of its repair history.

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I used to run my audio research ref 5 `s with my belles mb200

wow was it good . incredible spooky realism

there is a ref 5 available again at a very good price but I am sticking to modwright at the moment because of their support and build quality

personally I have no experience of either of the power amps mentioned although I did know someone with a 110 who had to send it for repair

personally I prefer to use the ls27 with a ss power amp and of course there are a huge selection that would sound good

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Good advice, the pre will give you that 'valve ' soundstage but I would stick to a ss amp. The Belles works well with valve pre's, I too ran the ref 3 into a Belles for a bit. Sadly the ref 3 is wafer thin.. Never heard the ref 5 tbh.

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its absolutely superb . well worth hearing !

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Moderator

Well just to be different....I have owned both and dull they ain't.

Both can be improved by replacing the power valves with KT 120s or if you are feeling flush the KT150s. You will need to check with ARC about whether both can take KT150s but the KT120s are still quite an upgrade and sound more dynamic and less 'cuddly valves'. The LS27 is considered by many to be equivalent to the Ref 3 so that should give you an idea of where things will be going. The Ref3/Ref110 is a classic mix and was the one I owned as the LS27 did not exist. For me the Ref110 will be a more refined amp with better scale and 3D sound compared to the VS115. I suspect the LS27 will be a bit more dynamic than the Ref 3.

The VS115 was ARC's slightly cheaper power amp that introduced balanced connections to these slightly cheaper amps. It is a newer amp but I think you will find the Ref 110 a better amp.

Whatever you do connect them with good XLRs, something like the Transparent Audio Supers are ideal. The VS115 for me looked prettier in that at night the valves lit up nicely.

I would try to hear both and buy what you prefer.

There were reports of some Ref 110s being unreliable but I never had any problems with mine and they can be serviced/repaired easily. If they work well now then you should be OK. Both amps are well built (despite reported small issues, which impacts all amps) and will last a long time.

For me both give excellent sound quality that is modern and not the warm romantic side of the fence a la Icon. The bass is superb and fast and really drives music along. They work really well with big powerful music and 70s and 80s rock is just brilliant. If you prefer a very detailed slightly dry music then they will not be for you as they do not do the ultra detail. But fun amps they really are. The Ref 110 just gives more scale, 3D and deeper bass.

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The ref 110 I had did sport the KT 120 valves, I would put music on and find myself so bored I would go get a book and read.. Start looking around aimlessly totally disengaged.

Each to to their own I guess..

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Sure.

I would have given a real thumbs up for an Esoteric K-03, Ref 3 and Ref 110 so we clearly listen to different things. I have not heard Belles amps apart from at shows so can't even try to understand whether you are a SS type of guy and prefer the clearer more transparent type of sound they give compared to ARC valves. Some have criticised the ARC for being too close to the sound of transistors especially Conrad Johnson lovers. Hey ho it is a broad church...

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Super Wammer
Sure.

I would have given a real thumbs up for an Esoteric K-03, Ref 3 and Ref 110 so we clearly listen to different things.

^Me too.

I'd add to the mix that a good Class A power amp can work supremely well with a valve pre.

Like those amps, I'm completely biased; I have a Plinius SA-103 for sale. 125W isn't much given it's heft, but they are astonishingly good Watts, plenty of brawn but real delicacy, speed and texture with it. I'm gradually downsizing what I have or I'd keep it, it's a stunning amp.

Of course, others are available...

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^Me too.

I'd add to the mix that a good Class A power amp can work supremely well with a valve pre.

:goodone: I am using my LS27 with a pair of Rank Concept 18 watt Class A SET mono valve amps bought from Horace (Hi Martin). The match with my ART loudspeakers is simply wonderful.

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Reference 110 is very capable power amp , I used one while ago but with 6550 tubes , not sure if KT120 was available back then .

Anyway ,  try and listen to one , make sure all tubes are fairly new , old power tubes might sound lifeless , I do replace power tubes approx. every 2000 hours , 

I would also try 6550 which amplifier has been designed around , 

do not worry about reliability ,just make sure all tubes are in good condition .

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I used a Reference 3 pre and Reference 110 at Scalford great combination, boring and dull are not words I'd use to describe it.

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Best of both worlds would be a valved pre with SS power amp. The ARC will give the depth and space and a solid state power will provide the grunt.

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I've heard Harbeths with many amps and I've recently been using an ARC LS26 pre with VAC Auricle Musciblocs. These are 70W monoblocks designed for KT88s but I've been running them with KT120s. I think it's unlikely you'd need any more power than this. I'm selling them if you are interested, but only because a VTL 150 came up and I couldn't resist. I haven't actually got the VTL yet to compare them side by side so I'm taking my chances. The VACs are really excellent; a superb mixture of clarity and dynamic punch with exquisite refinement on vocals/instrumental tone. And they look gorgeous; a lot nicer than beasts like the Ref 110! However I am sure your REf 110 option woud be great too.

Edited by andreweast

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