Audio Research Reference 80S power amp offers flagship design at lower price point

Audio Research Reference 80S
(Image credit: Audio Research)

Audio Research has some impressively spec'd valve amplifiers under its belt, as demonstrated by its near-flagship Reference 160M (mono) and Reference 160S (stereo) power amps. They're roughly £30,000 ($30,000, AU$60,000) and £20,000 ($20,000, AU$40,000) two-channel offerings respectively, though, so we're pleased to hear the American audio giant has packed similar features and technology into a stereo model around half the price.

Designed for the melomaniac who doesn't need the level of output power delivered by its siblings (140 watts), the Audio Research Reference 80S stereo power amplifier combines an 80-watts-per-channel output with a £14,998 price tag.

The Reference 80S shares the same dimensions as the 160M and the same feature set as the 160S, including four KT150 output tubes, complete with the dual GhostMeters that 'float' in front of them behind a glass window; a proprietary auto-bias circuit that adjusts for both tube age and powerline voltage swings; and XLR, SE and RS232 inputs, 4/8/16-ohm output taps, and 12V input and output triggers. The list goes on, so so shall we.

Audio Research Reference 80S

(Image credit: Audio Research)

Typically for Audio Research amps, the 80S sports a fully balanced design and is built by hand in the firm's Maple Grove, Minnesota facility. A four-layer circuit board has been developed to provide a separate ground plane, fewer noise-inducing point-to-point connections and generally an improved layout, too.

Operation can be switched between Triode and Pentode in the name of flexibility when it comes to loudspeakers (and personal preference), and an hour meter keeps you in the know of how many hours have been clocked on the tubes.

The Audio Research Reference 80S is now available in black or silver, priced £14,998 (roughly AU$29,999). US and Australian availability and pricing to follow.


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Becky Roberts

Becky is the managing editor of What Hi-Fi? and, since her recent move to Melbourne, also the editor of Australian Hi-Fi magazine. During her 10+ years in the hi-fi industry, she has reviewed all manner of audio gear, from budget amplifiers to high-end speakers, and particularly specialises in headphones and head-fi devices. In her spare time, Becky can often be found running, watching Liverpool FC and horror movies, and hunting for gluten-free cake.