Thursday, June 09, 2005

Audio Research VM220 monoblocks

Source: Hi-Fi News July 2005 issue

To my knowledge this is the first VM220 review in mainstream hi-fi magazines. More interestingly, reviewer David Berriman also reviewed VM220's little brother, VS110, some time ago in the same magazine and was able to put VM220's sound into that context.

The VM220 is an odd-man-out in Audio Research product family. It differs from visually similar VS-serie (VS50 & VS110) by having both SE and balanced connections and being monoblock against VS-serie's stereo design. The output stage has six 6550 tubes and is fed by a power supply with 438 joules of energy storage. The design uses high quality components (e.g. Nichicon caps, extra-wide-bandwidth transformer) and bandwidth extension is higher (up to 100kHz) than in VS-serie products. Stereophile's measurements of VS110, on the contary, illustrated frequency roll-off -4db at 50kHz.

Hi-fi News tested VM220 with Musical Fidelity A306 CR and Audio Research Reference 2 pre-amps. David Berriman noted: "From memory, the VM220 certainly has better bass grip and treble clarity than stereo Audio Research VS110...Whereas the VS110 had more of a typical warm, cuddly, rounded valve sound, the VM220 was having none of this." He confessed that he searched words to describe the enigmatic sound of VM220, i.e. "it's both delicate and assertive, ... brilliant and soft." And finally, "Just don't expect to hear it and not alter your audio perceptions."

In other words, he liked VM220 - a lot. The amp for melomane, according to him.

Viewpoint: There is a huge price difference between VS110 and VM220. In my view, ARC has a gap in its product line and they should introduce balanced version of VS110 with some price premium over standard VS110. Currently to enjoy ARC power amp sound in balanced mode sets you back at least €8000 (VT100 mkIII).

BTW, if you are interested in ARC products, Manfred Persson maintains excellent Web site, "Audio Research Database", listing discontinued and current ARC products, including revisions per product.

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