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Audio Research has introduced two new preamplifiers, the REF6, which supersedes the REF5SE, at $14,000 and the LS28, which replaces the LS27, at $7500.
The goal of the REF6, of course, was to improve performance significantly over its predecessor, the vaunted REF5SE. Audio Research started by increasing the tube count to six in the audio section and by making advancements in the power supply to improve both macro- and micro-dynamics and to lower distortion. The Reference 6 also offers better bass control, higher purity, and more dimensionality. Further improvements include a more grainless presentation, greater transparency, better speed, and more continuity across the musical spectrum. The Reference 6 improves upon its predecessor in every way for a more palpable and immediate musical performance.
Numerous elements such as custom-designed transformers, capacitors, and wiring are designs exclusive to Audio Research and the Reference 6. A completely new chassis has allowed a more beautiful appearance and also provides more structural rigidity to assist in the dissipation of electrical and mechanical interferences. Six premium 6H30 tubes are now used in the audio circuit (increased from four tubes in the Reference 5SE) to provide an even quieter background and increased dynamic range. The tube-regulated power supply is a new design that also yields improved sonics. New circuit boards, circuit designs, and a larger power transformer have been implemented to provide robust operation and serviceability. A new volume control with finer step gradations and higher performance completes the system. The new REF6 is as enjoyable to look at as it is to listen to.
The LS28 is roughly based on the LS27 but with a multitude of improvements. These include a heavily-revised analog circuit with four 6H30 tubes (as opposed to two in the LS27) for higher transconductance that provides much better sound, especially dynamics. There's a new power supply with additional power supply capacitance and a new, larger transformer. A new higher-headroom volume control and many new parts and new proprietary wiring also result in better sound. As usual, the LS28 is fully differentially- balanced and pure Class-A with a single gain stage. Additional features include four single-ended and four balanced XLR inputs and both balanced and single-ended outputs. The menu system allows the user to create custom names for each input, and any input can be made unity gain for use with an external processor such as a home theater receiver or processor. Its new cosmetics mirror the updated look of the REF6.
Sonically the LS28 is much more refined than the LS27. With higher resolution and a very fine grain structure, it plays a larger and much more specific soundstage. It also reaches further down into the bass with more impact, and the entire presentation has much better dynamics. Audio Research thinks the LS28 is actually better than a REF5SE, the predecessor to the REF6 discussed above. When you realize that the REF5SE was $13,000 and that the LS28 is the same price as the LS27, that's quite an accomplishment!.
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