My Audio Research experience


To all you goners out there, here is my experience with Audio Research.

Approximately four years ago I purchased an AR Reference 75 power amp.  It was on special at the time and I bought if from a dealer in Brisbane, Australia.

I used the amp for the rear channels of my home theatre system which I only use occasionally because I travel a lot for work and I mainly listen to music.

One night I switched the amp on and a white flash and burning smell came from the amplifier and it didn’t power up.  I thought it may have been a tube, and because I had no spares, I reported the problem to my Brisbane dealer and via email to Audio Research.  A copy of the reply sent from AR on the 5th March 2016 follows:

'Thank you for choosing Audio Research and the REF75. I suspect you had an internal tube arc. The internal tube short can also take out a plate or screen resistor. So just replacing the tube will not fix this problem. The resistors also need to be replaced. You can confirm this by checking the bias for this tube. If the bias reads zero, a resistor is open.  This is an easy repair that our distributor in Australia can do.

The SE update for the REF75 comes with a complete new set of tubes including a new set of KT150s.  This is the only way it is sold. If you so choose, Our Australian distributor can also install this SE upgrade for you while the amp is in for repair.'

I then proceeded to order some more tubes to see if a replacement tube would fix the problem.

I ordered the following tubes:

2 x Electro-Harmonix 6H30Pi Gold with Matched Triodes (Balanced)

4 x KT150 Power Vacuum Tube - [Matching (10+ tubes)]

4 x KT120 Power Vacuum Tubes - [Matching (10+ tubes)]

When they arrived, I tried the new tubes but they didn’t fix the problem as the amplifier failed to switch on.  I then contacted my dealer and freighted the amplifier to Brisbane for repair.  This was done in June of last year.  I included all of the above tubes in the package in case they were needed.  I also would have liked the amp to be upgraded to SE status using the tubes supplied if possible.

In September/October last year I enquired about the status of the repair and before Christmas enquired again. After again emailing AR, I was contacted by the Australian Distributor who told me that the service agent in Brisbane had been trying to get parts for the wrong amplifier and that the amplifier would be transported to Melbourne for repair.  I asked them to get me a price for the upgrade using my tubes.

In January/February of this year, I was contacted by the Australian Distributor and had to supply proof of purchase because there was a dispute over whether the amplifier was in fact under warranty when the fault occurred.  I again asked about getting the upgrade using the supplied tubes which were still with the repair agent in Brisbane.  Eventually I was told that I could have the upgrade using AR tubes only, for the heavily discounted price of $3,000 Australian.  Nothing like gouging your customers!!!!!!  Especially when I could have bought a small car for the original cost of the amplifier in Australia.

I chose to just get the original amplifier repaired under warranty which I was told needed a new main circuit board.  This week my amplifier finally arrived back home after nearly 12 months away for a repair under warranty.  The original tubes have been put in a box with ‘Faulty Old Tubes,’ written on the box.  The tubes I sent with the amplifier have not been returned, and no replacement tubes have been included.

I am amazed that the initial fault destroyed six tubes, so I have asked how the Distributor tested the tubes to determine that they were faulty.  I am now left with an amplifier that doesn’t work and 10 expensive vacuum tubes missing somewhere in Australia.  I am also left with a conundrum, if when I finally get my tubes back and use them to ensure the amplifier works, what happens if it doesn’t.  Will AR then blame me for any fault that occurs on power up because I haven’t purchased tubes from them at their heavily marked up prices????

For me I will never touch another Audio Research product for as long as I reside on this planet.  I will be telling all my audiophile friends and putting this report on every forum that will publish it.  Best of luck for the future Audio Research and may you drown in your policy mess!!!

thazeldean
I had a similar experience with an ARC D125 in the 90's.  An output tube shorted and the amp went up in flames. The main bias board was burned up.  Took it in to the dealer, and the unit was sent to the home factory which was in town. They had one main PC board left, and rebuilt the amp. The dealer said the same thing happened to five other exactly same models. I sold the amp.

No more ARC tube power amps ever again!
I feel vindicated!
i would offer: only buy products manufactured in the country you live in.

my ARC 150 had a tranny buzz, sucks, got the upgrade to SE at some semi-expensive rate, but it was back in 6 weeks. 

the time is what pisses me off more. and a year is due to the fact that ARC is an ocean away. 
What a nightmare experience! I have read so many glowing reviews about the stellar performance of ARC products that I have had high regard for their products. I guess I’ll have to rethink that Reference preamp and Classic 120 tube monoblocks that I have been saving for. 12 months for a repair? Yikes!
I've got a piece in for repair now….Yikes!

Not having owned ARC products so skin in the game, besides the glowing recommendations, it seems from reading Agon that ARC is a bit on the higher side of average in terms of needing repairs. 
When i got a week ill read this!!
Sounds like your problem is with ARC dealer in Australia.  An Ayre MXR-20 owner in Australia is having similar issues so these are the brands to avoid in Australia.

When a power tube blows, bias resistors were blown and need to be fixed.  ARC told you ... so why did you use the amp with a new tube without fixing the resistors?   Tube probably ran too hot and caused more problems.   If this is the case, then it's your fault.
knghifi, why would you think it is unreasonable to replace tubes to make sure that it is just not a blown tube before sending an amp out for repair?   I would try a new tube and check the fuses if the ARC has replaceable ones.  His amp was gone for a year and his expensive tubes were not returned to him. 
The resistors are visible so if blown, why bother trying a tube?

It appears the problem is with his Australian dealer.   I always try to buy from manufacturers in my country to avoid these types of issues.
Why didn't they fix the issue if the amp was still under warranty? As for the tubes, most manufacturers don't use customer supplied components in their gear just like if you take your own parts to your car dealer and expect them to use it in a repair. But they should have returned them to the OP.
Thazeldean - Sorry to hear about your bad experience but I'm glad you posted it.  Have you considered sending this account directly to ARC management?  I hope you will.  ARC gear is something I've long "coveted".  Now, though, with a change of ownership, high initial purchase and repair costs, my impression is they are resting too much on their laurels and "brand equity".  My "fervor" has definitely cooled.  I hope mftrs. read these sorts of threads.  Maybe they will realize the real cost to them of poor service and just plain indifference to their customers' interests whether manifested directly or indirectly through their representatives.  I would certainly expect a premium brand company like ARC to have done better.

ebm - I guess you are a really slow reader. High marks to you for empathy, though.
Not having owned ARC products so skin in the game, besides the glowing recommendations, it seems from reading Agon that ARC is a bit on the higher side of average in terms of needing repairs.

I'm not sure this is accurate in terms of percentages. It's simply a matter of supply. A manufacturer who sells 1000 units probably will have more service issues than a manufacturer who sells 100 units.
ARC sells more units than almost any other tube manufacturer out there, hence, with a similar 1-2% failure rate, they would have more units impacted than other manufacturers.

Personally, I've owned two ARC preamps with no service issues at all.
I've owned 3 BAT preamps, and they all had to be serviced.
Am I ARC lucky, but BAT unlucky? Who knows?
jmcgrogan2, your experience certainly trumps my conjecture. I vaguely  remember reading a few post where people mentioned that when their ARC blew a tube they sometimes take out resistors.  Maybe the fuse doesn't blow first? This may have been just with a particular year/model.  Or bad memory.

A blown tube taking out on of its resistors is not uncommon. For many years I owned a pair of AirTight ATM-2s setup for mono. These drive the tubes really hard and would blow all the time (usually when I wanted to show the system off 😏) taking out a resistor as they did in a fine display of sparks and smoke. Anyway turn the amp over unscrew the cover and it was ten minutes work to solder in a new resistor - so if you are going to rely on this sort of "protection" the least you can do is make it easy to fix!
@jetter , well, to be fair, I've never owned a ARC amplifier, only preamps.
You ignored ARC 's recommendations and instead rolled tubes on your own. ARC gear is not designed that way.  Your poor judgement, your error, your problem..
If ARC is going to sell its products in Australia, they should make arrangements for repairs to be done in a reasonable amount of time (weeks, not months or years).  If they can't do that they shouldn't sell in Australia or other places where their products can't be repaired..
OP,  I can understand your frustration and feel sorry for the terrible service you received. It's simply inexcusable.  As other members pointed out, you should have followed ARC advise and turn the amp over to your dealer for service repairs under warranty. 

No manufacturer out there prefers to repair their products with customer installed 'tweaks'.  You should have kept your expensive tubes instead of including them with the amp. Any time I sent my components for service, I remove all of my tweaks including expensive tubes and reinstalls factory OEM parts.   

If anyone to blame here is your Australian ARC dealer network. You should expose the identity of these crooked lazy ass dealer's who sat on your amp for almost a year and lost your stash of tubes. 

I currently own ARC gear, great sounding components and their customer service is outstanding.  

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psag   382 posts                                                                 04-01-2017 6:48pm

You ignored ARC ’s recommendations and instead rolled tubes on your own. ARC gear is not designed that way. Your poor judgement, your error, your problem..
I suggest you reread the OP’s original message. The tubes in the amp at the time of the failure of the amp were the original ARC factory tubes. The original ARC tube/s caused the damage to the amp it appears.

ARC does not say the user has to use ARC tubes in their equipment. ARC does say if the equipment is sent in for repair, under warranty or not, ARC at their discretion may use the owner’s new tubes or not.

The amp was repaired under warranty, the way I understand what the OP said. The repair shop just didn’t return the amp with any tubes in it. The OP did not want to pay for ARC tubes. ARC wouldn’t use the new tubes the OP sent with the amp to be repaired. Just a guess the dealer the OP sent the amp and new tubes to in the first place did not ship the OP’s new tubes with the amp onto the next repair place.

Somebody owes the OP for the new tubes he sent with the amp or they need to return the new tubes to the OP. And that would not be ARC.

To be honest I am surprised, after reading the OP’s original message, he even got his amp back, let alone repaired.
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jea48, What exactly did the OP do that would cause ARC not to repair his amp and send it back? What did he do that would result in him losing ownership of the amp and the tubes that he sent along with it?

If someone in this process didn’t like him sending his own tubes, they knew his address, all they had to do was send them back and inform him that if he didn’t want to buy his tubes from ARC at greatly inflated prices, the amp would be repaired and returned without tubes. And people wonder why high-end gear isn’t more popular?

I don't understand why he isn't demanding his tubes back, either directly, or through his dealer.
Thazeldean,
You have had an unfortunate experience, seems like the dealer is more at fault than ARC. I'll bet if you called up ARC directly you could easily get to speak with someone in authority in the company, they are not that large a company. If you carefully explained your problem I'll bet you could resolve this to your satisfaction.
Even though they are part of a big global conglomerate they are still basically a local Minneapolis company with strong customer service values. I own several pieces of ARC gear and love the stuff.
One bad experience should not spoil their 40 year reputation for quality
Post removed 

Thanks for all the posts guys but some information to clear up some misconceptions.  Firstly the amp failed with the original tubes.  I could not see a resistor blown when I opened the amp to see what had happened.  I replaced the fuse in the amp and tried other tubes but the amp wouldn't power up so I couldn't have damaged it by trying new tubes.  I was accused of pouring water into the amp by the Brisbane repair agent etc. etc. etc.

Compare this to my experience with Allnic.  I have an Allnic L-3000 that was upgraded to L-4000 by the manufacturer.  I bought the amp second hand from a guy in the US when the Aussie Dollar was higher.  I left the batteries in the remote for too long and they leaked and wrecked the remote.  By the way the preamp has worked faultlessly since I purchased it second hand in 2011 and it is the best sounding preamp I have had in my system.

I emailed Allnic Audio directly and this is a copy of the reply:

Dear Mr Tony, thanks your using L-4000 so long time, okey, will send you

a new remote.

Best regards KS Park.

A couple of weeks later I was contacted by the Australian agent and the remote was sent free of charge.  Guess which brand I will buy again in the future.

Tony Hazeldean

Just to clear up another issue, in Australia if we take our cars for service and take other than the manufacturers genuine parts then the dealers must use them and it doesn't affect the new car warranty.  This can save a fortune in parts as most manufactures buy them from after market makers anyway and just rebadge them as genuine. Both Ford and General Motors do this here. Why should amplifier manufacturers consider that they are the only ones that can get the correct tubes.  I used replacement KT120's that are only manufactured by Tung Sol anyway so why insist that you must purchase them from AR when they have to buy them from Tung Sol.  If they couldn't be used why have a bias control????

Also I didn't roll any tubes, the KT120's are only made by Tung Sol and the Electro-Harmonix 6H30Pi Gold tubes are the ones that AR specify for the upgrade to SE status.  I only ever replaced the KT120 tubes as I wasn't sure that the others were suitable for the non SE version.

thazeldean said:

Why should amplifier manufacturers consider that they are the only ones that can get the correct tubes. I used replacement KT120’s that are only manufactured by Tung Sol anyway so why insist that you must purchase them from AR when they have to buy them from Tung Sol. If they couldn’t be used why have a bias control????

thazeldean,

I got the impression from reading your original posted message the amp was repaired under warranty in your country. Is that correct?
Did the repair center send you paperwork stating they did indeed install a new circuit board and replaced any other parts they found defective? The amp was indeed repaired?

If you lived in the US and sent the amp to ARC, here is what may have happened if you refused to let ARC install their tubes in the amp to complete the repairs of the amp.

Should replacement vacuum tubes be required to complete a repair or update, only Audio Research tubes will be installed in order to assure product performance and to validate the 90-Day Limited Service Warranty.

If a customer refuses the use of Audio Research parts and/or tubes needed to complete a repair or update; the product will be returned unrepaired at the owner’s expense.
http://www.audioresearch.com/en-us/company/service-and-policies

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thazeldean said:

Why should amplifier manufacturers consider that they are the only ones that can get the correct tubes. I used replacement KT120’s that are only manufactured by Tung Sol anyway so why insist that you must purchase them from AR when they have to buy them from Tung Sol. If they couldn’t be used why have a bias control????
ARC buys the power tubes from a vendor that agrees to test the tubes and select tubes that meet ARC’s minimum spec requirements. At ARC the power tubes are burned in for 48 hours before they are then retested again to make sure they meet ARC’s specs. The tubes are closely matched to tubes with the same tube characteristics for push pull circuit/applications. This extra testing process costs money.

What testing procedure/process did the Vendor use that you bought your power tubes from? Not all tube vendors are created equal.

Part 1
http://www.analogplanet.com/content/analogplanet-visits-audio-research-corporation#gZsaU2i7XlIuyD6b.97

Part 2 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvL9FNuPwkE

 




Post removed 
Is it also part of their policy to keep the customer's tubes?
Is it also part of their policy to keep the customer's tubes?

My understanding the amp was not repaired by ARC. It was repaired by an ARC distributor in Australia.

In September/October last year I enquired about the status of the repair and before Christmas enquired again. After again emailing AR, I was contacted by the Australian Distributor who told me that the service agent in Brisbane had been trying to get parts for the wrong amplifier and that the amplifier would be transported to Melbourne for repair. I asked them to get me a price for the upgrade using my tubes.

In January/February of this year, I was contacted by the Australian Distributor and had to supply proof of purchase because there was a dispute over whether the amplifier was in fact under warranty when the fault occurred.

 
Who has the OP's tubes? My guess is the Brisbane dealer may have them. Like I said in an earlier post I would start there.
roxy54

Is it also part of their policy to keep the customer's tubes?
I have no plans moving to Australia but for educational purposes, why don't you contact the Australian Distributor and let us know.

This thread is IRRELEVANT if living in North America.  ARC service is 2nd to none!
It sounds like the distributor accused the OP of damaging the amp by pouring liquid on the tubes/circuit thus voiding the warranty and it was ultimately sent back unrepaired. Its a shame having to go through so much drama for a relatively simple repair.
knghifi, this thread is irrelevant to you.  But to someone that may have thought of buying a new ARC amp, the fact that the company is so rigid that you have to buy tubes from them for a warranty repair is a non starter.  Especially since it is well documented their tubes sell at rip off prices.  I know, you get what you pay for, yada yada.
jetter

knghifi, this thread is irrelevant to you. But to someone that may have thought of buying a new ARC amp, the fact that the company is so rigid that you have to buy tubes from them for a warranty repair is a non starter. Especially since it is well documented their tubes sell at rip off prices. I know, you get what you pay for, yada yada.
It's obvious reading your posts you don't have any personal experience with ARC in NA so not going bother. 
You are correct knghifi, I have had no contact with them.  So if you are saying they are ok I do listen to the voice of experience.  Again, I don't know about other companies policies, but to me having to buy tubes from them to retain your warranty it just seems unreasonable. 
Should replacement vacuum tubes be required to complete a repair or update, only Audio Research tubes will be installed in order to assure product performance and to validate the 90-Day Limited Service Warranty.

If a customer refuses the use of Audio Research parts and/or tubes needed to complete a repair or update; the product will be returned unrepaired at the owner’s expense.

With a a policy like that how can one possibly say that their customer service is "second to none".  What a joke!
Maybe you meant to say their service is "just like none"???
In the USA if you send in an amp or preamp to ARC they replace all tubes with ARC tubes before they fix the amp. They send back the non ARC tubes.

They return all products back to factory issued condition.

They do not trust or warranty none ARC tubes.

Just for the record ARC don't make tubes so to call any tubes ARC tubes is a misnomer.  The fact that they won't repair one of their amps unless you purchase replacement tubes from them is pure capitalistic greed.  I am sure that in Australia this could be challenged in the courts and ARC would lose. Our laws prevent monopolistic and anti-competitive policies.  This would be a sure winner for the customers in any court here.

Anyway the Australian distributor didn't give me the option of buying new tubes from ARC for the amp they just sent it back with the board replaced and with no usable tubes.

I am calling them soon so stay posted for updates.

In the USA if you send in an amp or preamp to ARC they replace all tubes with ARC tubes before they fix the amp. They send back the non ARC tubes.

Remind me never to buy ARC.  While there may be some justification for charging more for tubes due to their testing process, there is no justification for requiring the purchase of a completely new tube set in order to get a warranty repair done.  None.  Full stop.  Imagine if the fuel pump burned out while your car was under warranty and they told you you had to buy four new tires, new wiper blades, an oil change, and brake pads to bring it back to factory new condition in order to get it fixed?  Tubes are a consumable.  That policy is nonsense.  
In the USA if you send in an amp or preamp to ARC they replace all tubes with ARC tubes before they fix the amp. They send back the non ARC tubes.

Remind me never to buy ARC.  While there may be some justification for charging more for tubes due to their testing process, there is no justification for requiring the purchase of a completely new tube set in order to get a warranty repair done.  None.  Full stop.  Imagine if the fuel pump burned out while your car was under warranty and they told you you had to buy four new tires, new wiper blades, an oil change, and brake pads to bring it back to factory new condition in order to get it fixed?  Tubes are a consumable.  That policy is nonsense.
Not 100% accurate.   They test the tubes and inform you the number that doesn't meet spec before replacing them.

I also have a friend negotiated with ARC in purchasing tubes from Upscale and ship them to ARC.  All these rules are negotiable case by case. 
I guess that some people will defend ARC to the death.  My experience with their agents in Australia has been terrible and I have made a decision to never buy another piece of ARC equipment.  My choice!!! Compare 12 months and numerous emails and phone calls to get an amp repaired, the amp returned with a new board but no tubes, tubes missing that were sent with the amp etc. etc. etc. with Allnic who sent a new remote free of charge even though I was not the original purchaser and I informed them the battery had leaked (completely my fault).  Just putting it out there for anyone considering a purchase, in the end we all make choices.
Post removed 
+ swampwalker
I agree that it does seem difficult to defend ARC's repair policy, and I own an ARC preamp. Having read this thread, I would probably have it serviced somewhere else. Fortunately for me, RHB Sound Dezign is close by. Bob does great work.

That said, it is difficult to compare the OP's story of a damaged amplifier with a damaged remote control. Comparing ARC to Allnic service in this case is like comparing apples to oranges in my opinion.
+1 for RHB Sound Dezign

Not really jmc.  The ARC story shows their disdain for their customers.  The Allnic story shows that they care about their customers.  Nuf said
@thazeldean , you are certainly entitled to your opinion, as are others here. I know how you feel. I, for one, will never buy BAT gear again due to many issues.

That said, folks who complain about one company just had the misfortune of poor customer service and/or design flaws. Not unlike folks who have had issues with a shipping company. Some folks have been burned by FedEx, USPS, UPS, etc. They will never use these shipping company services again.

Search the web long enough and you will find good and bad about any and all companies, including Allnic (which I also own). 



Should replacement vacuum tubes be required to complete a repair or update, only Audio Research tubes will be installed in order to assure product performance and to validate the 90-Day Limited Service Warranty.

If a customer refuses the use of Audio Research parts and/or tubes needed to complete a repair or update; the product will be returned unrepaired at the owner’s expense.
http://www.audioresearch.com/en-us/company/service-and-policies

"SHOULD REPLACEMENT VACUUM TUBES BE REQUIRED"

SHOULD.......
IF the service center in Melbourne had received the OP's new tubes they would have tested the new tubes and if they tested good they would have used the tubes in the final bias adjustments/bench testing, and listening test. The new tubes would then be pulled from the amp for shipment and sent along with the amp back to the owner.

I would be willing to bet the OP's new tubes were never sent/shipped with the amp to Melbourne by the dealer in Brisbane. Only the amp and the original ARC tubes that were  in the amp were sent to Melbourne.  The original tubes would have been tested in Melbourne and some were found to be defective.

We have no way of knowing what, if any, communications transpired between the service center in Melbourne and the OP. Just a guess there was something.

I would hope the OP takes the time today to contact the ARC dealer in  Brisbane and inquire about where his new tubes are. I hope any emails between all parties were preserved. Phone calls are full of I don't recall that conversation. 
Tonykay- I sold my Classic 120's 3 years ago after owning them for 7
Like yourself saved a long time to buy a used pair. The same mono blew up 3 times! Dumped them as-is. Sad part is gent I sold them to couldn't
repair it, he sent it to ARC, and they said it was irreparable! When Bill
Johnson passed and the company sold, first thing they did was throw away their vast parts supply for all previous products! Mr Johnson has to be rolling in his grave!