Audio Research, the American gods of valve-based audio extend the awesome design and performance of the Reference 160M and 160S power amplifiers to a lower price level – please welcome the Reference 80S 

Product summary 

  • Stereo valve power amplifier – delivers the same level of design and engineering as the universally acclaimed Reference 160S, with a lower power output (80W per channel) and lower price tag.
  • Incorporates four KT150 valves – widely considered to be the finest output valve available, owing to its exquisite combination of power and finesse. (The Reference 160S sports eight KT150 valves.)
  • Sports the same stunning industrial design as the Reference 160M and 160S, including dual GhostMeters that ‘float’ in front of the KT150 valves within the dual-layer glass window.
  • Power supply circuitry facilitates extremely high current delivery on demand, enabling breathtaking transient peaks, intense dynamics and prodigious bass depth and authority.
  • Fully balanced differential circuit topology combines the shortest possible signal path with the best possible components – many of which are custom made – to deliver extreme sonic purity.
  • Expertly engineered facilities ensure flexibility and convenience, including a proprietary auto-bias circuit, valve monitoring and usage display, and a choice of operational modes – Ultralinear or Triode.

The Reference 80S stereo amplifier continues Audio Research’s latest design effort in creating a vacuum-tube amplifier that not only redefines ultimate music reproduction, but does it in an incredibly beautiful package. The UK retail price is £14,998 in either natural silver or black finishes. Shipments are begin- ning with immediate effect.

Outwardly, the 80S shares the same dimensions as the 160M. A single shallow whisper fan is built into the bottom plate. Flexibility is built-in, too, with XLR and SE inputs, 4-8-16 ohm output taps, 12V input and output triggers, RS232 input, tube hour meter, switchable fan speeds, and defeatable auto-off function.

The 80S was created for the music lover who does not require the level of output power delivered by its siblings, the Reference 160S stereo and 160M mono amplifiers. The 80S continues the design ethos, including dual GhostMeters® that float in front of four KT150 output tubes. Extruded panels, a vital part of the all-aluminium chassis, provide rigidity and beauty.

The feature set is the same as the 160S, including a proprietary auto-bias circuit that adjusts for not only tube age, but for powerline voltage swings. There is fusing of the output tubes, single-ended and bal- anced inputs for flexibility, switchable Triode-Pentode operation to accommodate loudspeakers and per- sonal preference, output tube monitoring, and inclusion of an hour meter so you know how many hours are on the tubes – like an odometer for your amp. This is a tube amplifier that does not require fid dling, it is meant to be enjoyed. The built-in 12V trigger turns the 80S on or off when connected to a modern preamp with a 12V trigger.

Like every Reference amplifier before it, the 80S is a fully balanced differential design because it pro- vides the highest performance and lowest distortion. A four-layer circuit board is used to provide a separate ground plane, better circuit layout, and fewer noise-inducing point-to-point connections. Music is projected against a quiet, jet-black background – like looking at the stars out in the country, removed from light pollution. It is magical and enveloping.

Built by hand from the ground-up in our Maple Grove, Minnesota facility, this is created in service of the music, bringing it to life in every sense of the word. Listening through the 80S is a compelling experience, never a mental exercise. Set up appropriately, the 80S can fool you into feeling you are in the presence of the original musical performance: The finest details are heard, with rich harmonics and full dynamic contrasts – from the smallest whisper to the largest crescendo – showcased with the ambience of the original acoustic space.

Price and availability 

The Audio Research Reference 80S stereo power amplifier is now shipping to the UK, distributed exclusively by Absolute Sounds. UK RRP is £14,998 inc. VAT.

UK contact for consumers and trade customers 

Absolute Sounds – sole UK distributor of Audio Research products

W: T: 020 8971 3909