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Audio Research Vsi60
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Personally I love this amplifier, but will conceded that it’s not all things to all men. Probably one of the most ‘solid-state’ sounding tube integrateds around, it allows transistor amp owners to go thermionic without leaving their comfort zone. It also lets people like me, who know exactly what music they listen to and ancillaries they use, to parachute in a valve amplifier when normally only a solid-stater is powerful enough. But what it won’t do is please the fully paid up valve brigade, who love to be cosseted, wrapped in silk and serenaded by their glowing glass bottles. It’s not a valve aficionado’s valve amp, but rather a music lover’s - or more precisely, a rock, pop or jazz music lover’s. Not having the Audio Research VSi55 to hand any more, I can’t comment authoritatively on the relative changes, but I’d wager that the new VSi60 is a fraction more powerful and just a touch more open and svelte sounding - all of which are steps in the right direction. This is a great product then, a truly charismatic, distinctive amplifier aimed at audiophiles who know precisely what they want.

verdict five globes

Broad shouldered, barrel-chested bruiser of a valve amplifier with a compellingly musical character.


Absolute Sounds

+44 (0)20 89 71 39 09


- exuberant nature

- visceral power

- supple, fluid rhythms

- convenience, accessibility


- restricted tonal palette

- unatmospheric treble



Audio Research Corporation is one of the oldest continually operating manufacturers in American audio. The company was founded in 1970 in Minneapolis, and has grown steadily over the last quarter-century. It occupies a large production plant and administrative headquarters in Plymouth, Minnesota. A research-only facility has also been established in Palm Desert, California. Its founder and president William Z. Johnson began designing custom audio electronics in the early 1950s, and also operated a specialist audio shop until the mid-1960s. He was a big name behind the renaissance of ‘tube’ audio in the US. The company is particularly famous for its after sales service; Audio Research technicians can still repair, refurbish and restore any product ever manufactured during the company’s thirty year history.



The VSi60 uses single push-pull output pairs of 6550s working with fixed bias to deliver 40 Watts per channel (1% thd) into either 8 Ohms or 4 Ohms. Power levels from each were almost identical so secondary coupling efficiency is good. ‘Fixed bias’ is a misnomer by the way: it means the bias has to be adjusted regularly, unlike Auto bias which needs no adjustment but gives less power.


Distortion levels were very low, hovering around Harold Leak’s ideal 0.1% figure in the midband, except close to full output (0.6%) and comprising innocuous sounding second harmonic. The output transformers, as small as they look, worked very well at low frequencies, with just 0.2% distortion at 1 Watt, 40Hz, rising to 1% near full output. At 10 Watts, 0.35% of second harmonic distortion at 40Hz suggests clean sounding bass compared to many valve amps. However, damping factor is low at 1.7, suggesting little feedback (a feedback valve amp usually manages 3-8) and soft bass with under-damped (bass heavy) loudspeakers.


Input sensitivity was low at 400mV and bandwidth also restricted to just 23kHz (-1dB) again suggesting low feedback. Lowering feedback produces a more dynamically expansive sound.


The VSi60 measures well all round. It should give a tidy yet impressive sound, much like its predecessor. NK

Power 40 Watts


Frequency response 3Hz-23kHz

Separation 98dB

Noise -96dB

Distortion 0.2%

Sensitivity 400mV

Damping factor 1.7







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