Audio Research discontinuing lower lines components?


I have looked at several components in Audio Research's line and they are discontinuing the LS17-se, PH8, and PH6.  They discontinued the DAC 8.  I know there is a new Ref 6 to replace the Ref 5se and their is a new Ref Phono 3 to replace the Ref Phone 2se coming out.  I talked to my dealer and he stated that Audio Research seems to be making their components look more McIntosh like in the Galeo series. 

The dealer stated their isn't going to be anything that he has heard that will replace the other lines at this point and that AR will be starting at the LS-27, which is $7500 for preamps.  The Ref 75se is the beginning of the line for Amps, which I know, but man are they going the Mac route with prices, nothing to replace the DAC 8 and the other DAC in the line is $11,000, what's up with this, have you guys heard anything more. 

The starting point for AR equipment is getting pretty high and the only way a newer person without means will be able to afford it will be to buy use, which could send the used prices up if there isn't anything else in the line.  What do you guys think and what have you heard?
sid1
They are obviously looking to cater to the people with deep pockets. They don't care about the hobbyist starting out. I guess they figure there are enough Chinese Imports available in the lower price ranges. In the 80's and 90's Audio Research made products that a guy with a decent Job could afford. Nowadays in order to buy new ARC gear you have to have a lot of discretionary Income.
They also have a huge innovation appetite.  That fuels growth for a while but eventually begins to back up - unless enough people will upgrade until the cows come home.

At some point they will have to maintain a "Classic" line of products - IMO.  Some of them are great - like the PH5 for example.  The only ARC product I have owned.  Just a guess, I could be wrong, they obviously have an intense game plan that appears to be working.
Both ARC and McIntosh are now owned by an Italian holding company called Fine Sounds Group, along with Sumiko, Sonus faber, et al.    Looks like their business model includes narrowing your range of choices.
I think Fine Sounds Group changed their name to World of Mcintosh.

BTW:  Their website is even somewhat, "exclusive": (http://www.finesoundsgroup.com/en-us/brands)  Cookies? NO THANKS!
AR can SUCK it lol. Greed as usual taking over.  OK bash me guys with a lot of money but I really don't care because AR has been a great company for years and most of us normal people could afford it but no longer. Look at the used ads here on Audiogon. The last time I looked the cheapest piece was at least $2500.
I hear you samzx12.  I am equally pissed at the new owners of Thiel and hope they fail miserably.  But Thiel sold, sure they had to under the circumstances, and the new owners have the right to do as they please.  Just wish they would change the name to "Thiel you wish."
They are also discontinuing the DS amplifiers, like the DS450 as well.  I'm glad that I have the, LS17se, DAC 8, PH8, CD2 and the Vt 100 MKIII, especially at the prices I got them for, not retail at all.  There is going to be a mark up of the used gear, because there will be a high demand for it.  If you look at McIntosh, their used gear is priced very high and they usually get what they are asking for it.  Finesounds is pricing us out, wow!!!  I can see Sumiko, which is Pro-ject brand, which is a lower end brand for Fine Sounds going up in price or it becoming the lower brand and McIntosh and AR becoming top tier.
Buy a nice silk smoking jacket and the most expensive meerschaum you can locate, then head for downtown New York, to visit the World of McIntosh(Fine Sounds new, multi-million Dollar, sales venue). They have plans to open more WOM venues in Berlin, Milan and Tokyo. You’ll have the privilege of financing their extremely high-dollar real-estate investments, with every equipment purchase. Perhaps they’ll even allow you to use the indoor pool and visit the roof-top garden, that you’ve paid for. (http://www.mcintoshlabs.com/us/Brand/Pages/NewsDetails.aspx?NewsID=181&Block=1)
Everything not sold in mass quantities is following this trend, the income inequalities in USA are highest in world, save Brazil, it's sell for
big bucks or go broke for corporations of any size at all.
Just my opinion, but I feel that the tone of the complaints here are really unfair and unfounded.  AR is a company just like any other.  They consider themselves to be a "high end" audio company and therefore, they probably realized that the other equipment cannot compete price wise with like priced competition in the lower priced categories.

So, I believe that they made a business decision (which I don't agree with) to eliminate the lower priced equipment.

That's their choice.  I don't agree with the decision and I'm sure that many within AR didn't agree with that decision.  But, as you all know, you can voice your opinion to upper management, but after you do and management makes it decision, you have two choices.  1) move on with the knowledge that you expressed yourself or 2) move on to another company.

We will see if this decision isn't the start of the downfall of AR or if it is a sound business decision.

I don't think this was an internal AR decision but a parent company business decision.

Nothing wrong with the used equipment market.  Apparently, AR like many other companies come out with new or upgraded equipment every four years or so.  So the used market is pretty good.  You can now find used REF3s, REF5s or REF5SEs, Ph6, etc. for good prices and they are still equal to or better than most equipment out there. 

REF3s are a steal right now on the used market.  The DAC8 is still one of the best DACs out there, despite that awful review from a top magazine a few years ago.  I compared that DAC with many other top DACS and it was equal to or better than every one of them.  So, I realized that some reviewers are really biased and may be in the pocket of other competitors.

Anyway, please tone down the AR and McIntosh bashing.  Really good equipment that puts good hard working people to work. 

enjoy





Too bad,   I own and have liked ARC but oh well someone else will fill the niche if needed.   I wonder if their tube replacement and service costs will skyrocket as well?   If it does I will strongly consider dumping this brand now.
Sorry, but just to point out:  It isn't AR, it's ARC, (Audio Research Corporation).  AR is Acoustic Research.  For what that's worth anyway.
One thought-
thanks to eBay & AudioGon, there is a plethora of used/demo gear in heavy rotation daily. I am certain that the retail end of this business watches the secondary marketplace as well.
McIntosh has not been the same company every since they sold out to Fine Sounds SpA of Milan. 
McIntosh & Sonus Faber have new entries in the "Lifestyle" category, equally decried by their devotees as diluting the brand, so who really knows what the future will bring for ARC?

I think the one point that needs to be considered, is that maybe they aren't selling enough of the lower end product to justify keeping them in production. A good example is, or least last I heard, that Vandersteen would like to discontinue older designs such as the 1,2,3 series, but he continues to get so many orders that he continues to offer them. As with ARC, maybe they don't get enough orders to financially satisfy the "bean counters" at Fine Sounds to either produce or update and therefor must let them go. Which may indicate that McIntosh may be forced to trim their line up as well.

All of course just my point of view not representative of any insider information from ARc or Fine Sounds.

One thing for sure, I will continue to buy when budget permits.

Back in the 1980's , when I first started buying ARC gear , there wasn't the plethoria of options there are now , you had the SP8 & SP10 for preamps and 3 or 4 power amps and that was it . In 1983 the Australian dollar retail for an SP8 was $3,300 , that's an enormous amount of money in inflation adjusted terms , probably close to $25,000 today , and for that money you can get an LS27/SP8 combo which is a far superior product in every way . I admit I'm not a big fan of the Galileo type styling , but I'm probably old , boring and long for the good old days of the golden era of HiFi , but the Ref75Se , which is their new entry level power amp , will probably walk all over a D70 Mk2 , which again , in inflation adjusted terms , was probably more expensive , there is hope yet !
ARC is overrated anyways. Plenty of great stuff that can be had for much less...
"ARC is overrated anyways. Plenty of great stuff that can be had for much less"

You could say the same thing about most of these high-end companies.

You guys are bashing the wrong brand and looking at it all wrong.

First of all, there are plenty of budget audiophile brands that offer good performance for the money (Parasound, NAD, Emotiva, Prima Luna, etc.).  Most budget-minded audiophiles don't even use the brick and mortar dealer route anymore, so that adds another element to the equation that you guys aren't considering.

ARC is NOT a budget brand and doesn't sell via online dealers.  They also deliver higher performance that can compete with the very best regardless of price.  Companies like Ayon, VAC, Boulder, DCS, etc. charge obscene amounts for arguably no better performance. Thus, ARC is still a relatively good deal if you want the "best of the best" sound.

On top of that, they have tons of equipment out on the used market, so it makes no sense for them to make a brand new $3k amp when I can buy a Ref110 used for the same price and get better parts/performance.  In fact, many of their legacy models still deliver SOTA performance that will embarrass newer models from other companies.

What would you rather...a used ARC Ref 110 or new pair of Emotiva monoblocks? Virtually every seasoned audiophile would rather the Ref 110 hands down (assuming sound quality is the primary focus).

If you're on a budget and want ARC, it's not that hard to get great deals used.  I picked up a Ref110 for $3200, a VTM200 (single mono) for $1300, a VT50 for $1k, an LS12 for $1200, and there are constantly DAC3 for less than $2k that still give you performance almost anybody's system will appreciate.  

In fact, there is an LS5 for sale right now that many will tell you is one of the best preamps ever made by ARC.  To beat that LS5, you would have to spend 3-10x as much brand new...and even then you're not guaranteeing a material improvement.  It's reference quality as-is.

I'm not saying prices aren't ridiculous overall in the industry.  However, relatively speaking, ARC delivers sound that has almost no peers...plus there is a level of service and pedigree that you get with ARC and not many others.  

In short....you SHOULD have to pay more for ARC, but, even if you can't buy brand new, you can still join the club via the used route.  Bashing ARC is like worrying more about a leak in the roof of your garage versus a busted pipe flooding your house.  There are countless brands with less pedigree/service 
that charge far more for lower performance.
labtec is right, there is no sense in bashing ARC, they are simply the messenger. Sure, their top of the line preamp lists for 3X the price of their top preamp 8 years ago, but look around, just about every other audio company has done the same thing in the last 8-10 years.

As schubert pointed out, this is about income inequality, not about ARC.
ARC is just doing what their customers demand. Their customer base wants to spend more money, so ARC will oblige and take more money. No different than what the other high end companies are doing.

Why would any of these fine high end companies wish to compete with the booming Chinese market of products? There is no future there.

It's not personal.....it's just business.

I am afraid prices for all High End companies are rising exponentially and I am sure it is at least in part, due to a small turnover. Like it or not, our hobby is dying on it's feet, with fewer and fewer people interested in setting up a decent system, compared with the golden age of the 60's and 70's say.

 I know this isn't news to anybody, but we all have some idea of economics and business. The fewer sales there are, the more manufacturing costs and overheads are carried on each item sold. This is not going to change either, I can not see the High End dying out, but it will limp on with a rump of customers. Companies must adapt or die and they are. I think the middle ground is most at risk., there is some sort of budget industry selling reasonable amounts and the top end can manage with a few sales at insane prices. This may be why ARC is abandoning it's lower price ranges. As a company they are very good at churning over the product line, to persuade us to upgrade what we have or buy the latest and "best".

 There have always been some real gems in their products and for me they have mainly been in the Power Amp area. The ARC Ref 75SE is one of these I believe

Had ARC 20 yrs ago don't care now!!
Its also a function of  computers ,smartphones , video games etc eating up average Joe's spare change . Till computers came out in the 70's all that cash went into hi-fi .
It’s a matter of priorities too. If good sound is important enough to you, you’ll find a way to get the money. Audiophilia has always been an exclusive club---the people who don’t care enough now wouldn’t have in the 70’s either. I had to sacrifice other consumer desirables in order to be able to buy an SP-3 and Dual 51 & 75 to bi-amp Magneplanar Tympanis in ’72, and they weren’t cheap then either ($595, $695, $995, and $995 respectively, in 1972 dollars. A new Toyota was then $2,000, a BMW 2002 $4,000). But I agree, the pricing has really spiraled out of control. Just be thankful ARC enthusiasts are upgraders---their cast-offs are great values!
You guys are looking in the wrong direction. 

I bought my first home in 1965. It was brand new in Huntington Beach. Yes ... THAT Huntington Beach, the one close to Newport Beach. I paid a grand total of $20,650 for the home and my payments, counting principle, interest, taxes and insurance was $147.00 per month. That home today would sell for around $600,000. So, the question is ... did the value of the home go up, or did the value of the money go down?

As long as we have a monetary system whereby the central social planners and the banking cartel can create money from nothing, not backed by anything of value, we will continue paying the hidden tax known as "inflation."  Its time to face facts ... we have a socialized monetary system, and its been this way since 1913. 

Audio Research is subject to inflationary pressures just like any other firm, or private person.  Smoke and mirrors guys ... smoke and mirrors.
Audio Research is subject to inflationary pressures just like any other firm, or private person. Smoke and mirrors guys ... smoke and mirrors.

C’mon now oregonpapa, you can’t blame all of this on inflation. ARC’s prices have gone up 200% in the last 7 years. In 2008 the Ref 3 was the top of the line preamp at $10K. Today the top preamp is $30K.
Yes, the dollar has weakened, but not by that much. That is a 200% increase.

I know other audio manufacturers have followed the same path, but most outside of the audio industry are not raising prices 200% over 7 years, not even in education (which is out of control as well).

You can maybe blame 30-40% on inflation, the other 160-170% is on the redistribution of wealth, and the companies that cater to the elitism.
It should be obvious.  It's a business plan.  They have built a substantial market in high-priced gear.  They can lower overhead by reducing their line to very expensive, high-margin equipment.  Fewer people, smaller manufacturing facilities, high profit. 

They just have to be careful to continue to provide value at those high price points.  Some small manufacturer could undercut ARC with superior equipment at a fraction of the ARC price.
Premiumnization - that is the plan for ARC.  They have built the base of premium products for years and are now in position to drive pricing to whatever they choose.  And for the high end niche they are big box - pretty good position to be in.  bpoletti is right though - there will always be hand crafted gems that make david beat goliath.  But ARC will still crank out the volume to loyal ambassadors.  Fine with me.

listen first
then vote with your wallet
my only ARC component is a REF 5 se, they say the 6 is better.
my real brick and mortar dealer will loan it to me..
listen, decide, repeat...
Oregon, should have kept that SoCal beach community house...what is not inflation smoke and mirrors is they aint  making much new beach..your story does not play out the same in..Palmdale...
Oregonpapa,

I believe 1913 is the year they started the Federal Reserve. Correct me if I am wrong.

Pops,

I have never heard the word the word premiumnization before. But the way you described it makes sense to me.

Taters - my former employers came up with that term - they made up a lot of things!!!  LOL!

"Audio Research discontinuing lower lines components?"

 I think the Bilderberg Group is behind it!!! Man,they cant keep their grubby little hands out of anything...

That's a great scapegoat! Blame it on the Bilderberg group.

jmcgrogan ...

You are comparing the price of a REF-3 to the REF-30? Ha ... that's not a fair comparison. The 2008 price of a REF-3 needs to be compared to the price of a new REF-6. 

REF-3 ... $10,000.
REF-6 ... $14,000. 

I stick by my inflation point.

Consider this: How does a government pay for a war that costs trillions of dollars without raising taxes? It doesn't. It finds a way to raise taxes while at the same time pulling the wool over the eyes of the taxpayer. That tax is called "inflation."  Who suffers? Savers and those on fixed incomes. In other words, those who can least afford the inflation tax; old people and the frugal. Every dollar brought into existence through counterfeiting dilutes the worth of a dollar already in existence. The difference is ... if you or I were the counterfeiters, we go to jail. When the government counterfeits money through the banking cartel, its called Quantitative Easing. Remember the trillion-dollar bailouts? No taxes raised for that either.

Look, every company has had their expenses rise over the years, including ARC. Have you looked at your household electric bill lately? Now imagine getting an electric bill for an entire factory. What's the current price of toner for your employer's copy machines today? How about the phone bill? How about the increase in payroll?  Unless one runs one's own business, these expenses escape the eyes of the rank and file employees. 

Its been said many times ... If the American People were to ever realize what has been done to their monetary system, there would be a revolution by morning. 

I apologize for getting political on our favorite audio forum, but it had to be said. 

Happy listening ... 


ebm3,014 posts01-26-2016 8:52amHad ARC 20 yrs ago don't care now!!

Boy, you're an old f...!!!   Smart move, there are NO innovations past 20 yrs.

@oregonpapa-  Yep!  Prices certainly do go up when a company starts buying multi-million Dollar buildings in Milan, Tokyo, and Berlin, like they did in downtown New York City.   Then decks them out with indoor pools and roof-top gardens.     I didn't mind spending my money for those great sounding ARC preamps I owned, years back.   Damned if I'd invest in Fine Sound Group's excesses though.
^^^ I don't want to get into a pissing match with you rodman ... but where can you find a suitable building these days in Milan, Tokyo or Berlin for less than "multi-millions?" 

And by the way, I don't think the employees of ARC are enjoying those "rooftop gardens" in Minnesota this time of year. 

Do you belong to the "profits are evil" crowd???  How's Bernie Sanders looking to you these days?? *lol*
oregonpapa, top of the line is top of the line, don't let model numbers confuse you.
2008 ARC's most expensive line preamp was $10K.
Today, ARC's most expensive line preamp is $30K.
Forget the names, just look at the cost.
^^^ Sorry, but you guys are looking at apples vs oranges. The top of the line ARC preamp is a different animal.  One box vs two. More electronics and state of the art doesn't come cheap. For those who can afford 30k for a preamp, more power to them. If ARC dealers can sell a million of them at 30k more power to them as well. Its called capitalism ... and believe it or not, even in today's world, capitalism isn't a dirty word. 
From what I’ve heard, ARC is for sale since October 2015.

They had introduced the new, much priced higher Galileo series, discontinued the budget products, and sales have just collapsed worldwide.


Elberoth2,

I thought Fine Sounds just acquired them a few years ago. Are you saying they are for sale again? Plus they just recently discountinued there lower priced line. This all seems to be happening to fast.



Oregonpapa,

ARC wishes they could sell a million units of their 30k preamp. I would be surprised if they sold over 1000 units worldwide.

taters,

They did. But it is for sale again. Supposedly they are loosing money on ARC now. They killed the cash cow ARC used to be when Fine Sounds first bought it.
Elberoth2,

What do you think they did to kill the cash cow?

oregonpapa, no need to be so defensive for ARC. We all know that you love ARC.

As I mentioned in my first post, ALL high end companies are following this business model. Perhaps due to the lesser numbers of audiophiles, and the lack of desire to compete with Chinese products, but all high end companies are spiraling upwards at an alarming rate.
Nordost came out with Odin line, Tara Labs released all their Grandmaster stuff, even my favorite company, VAC, released their Statement line with ridiculous pricing.

I don’t blame the high end market, why shoot the messenger? It is the economy that is driving them to change their business model. Adapt to what the market demands. The market obviously wants to spend a lot more money on gear these days.
It is NOT a simple matter of inflation though.
"The market obviously wants to spend a lot more money on gear these days"

I agree with you're statement. The 64k question is why?



Great points jmcgrogan2 - good job expressing economics.  I am ready for a revolt!  

The other issue for a company like ARC is the ceiling they reach when economies of scale have run out.  The necessary step to keep growing and making money is to reinvent, innovate, and have a long term growth plan.  That takes cash and upfront investment.  Don't forget about rising costs Jmcgrogan mentioned because that is reality!  So now for a fictitious example, maybe they were spending 31 cents on every dollar they made,  At some point to maintain that ratio or improve it, again, you need a plan.  You sure as hell cannot survive if it goes the other way.

 Now I could be wrong about ARC reaching their ceiling but when your brand is is global with a  good distribution network there are not a lot of gaps to fill.  Time to sell to new owners who have a strat plan and rarely if ever is it business as usual.  My favorite audio company Thiel is another example.  But they are going the other way, value versus premium.  

Interesting information from Elberoth....