The Ferrari 288 GTO of ARC Tube Amps

Further to my fried Levinson, I am hoping some ARC gurus might give me some advice on a new power amp.

Those of you who have read my Retro High End system might understand -- I have a weakness for circa late 80's high end cult classics including my ARC SP-11 MK II and Tympani IVas.

Although dated in some respects -- like the 1986 Ferrari GTO -- these classics were way ahead of their time, continue to compete with the best of the new gear but IMO are more fun and involving to own.

Can any fans of ARC tubes suggest an amp that might best suit my taste? What is the 288 GTO of ARC tube amps? M-300s? (Or are the M-300s more like an F-40 -- fabulously brutal but less refined?) Or would M-100s drive Tympanis?

Or should I be a little less retro and go for a newer unit -- say Classic 150's.

If you havent already guessed, my taste leans more towards midrange, warmth and soundstaging and I am not obsessed with the last word in detail and resolution. These amps are tricky to demo and very $$$ to ship/return so any advice is greatly appreciated.

Oh -- and if I havent asked too much already, it would be great if the thing didnt require constant service and/or raise my room temperature to 180 degrees.

But of course that is secondary.

Thank you.
I don't think the ARC SP-11 Mk II pre-amp is dated. A pre-amp that sounds right and natuaral, just like the real thing. How can such a "correct pre-amp get dated"?

In my opinion, the golden age(from 1985-1993) of pre-amp is already gone. Most of the best sounding pre-amps are from that era, like the ARC SP-10, SP-11, CJ P7, MFA MC-Reference etc.

I bought a ARC Ref 1 about a year ago in Audiogon. It replaced my ARC SP-11 MkII for only 5 hours. Then I packed it and sold the Ref 1 the next day.

I agree -- you are restating exactly my point.

My question is -- what ARC power amp is worthy of similar praise?
Creme de Creme of ARC amps..hmmmm...D79A or D160, I have not seen either on Audiogon for fact I do not
think I have ever seen a D160 for sale, rare and a keeper.
Shubertmaniac has spoken exactly what I was going to say. I can only add that there are tech people who can do a few upgrades with caps, resistors and tubes and these are absolutely unbelievable.
My experience with this era of ARC follows along the lines of what Albert refers to about updates.I have taken an ARC product from the era of your 11 to what I feel is a new level by some simple updates. There are at least 3 lines of new caps out now that are supposed to be much better than what was used in ARC amps from the late eighties; Cardis Golden Ratio caps(used by Great Northern Sound), AuriCaps, and DynamiCaps. I am a firm beleiver that caps have a major influence on the sound of a HiFi design.

I remember enjoying the M300 but it has been years since I heard them. Classic 150's are based on the 300 but may not give you the juice you need but may be the match you are after as far as sound. M300's may not be a D160 or D79, but have some very good qualities, one of them being the brute force required to run a pair of Tympanis. If you like the 11 it is likely that you will also like the 300's. If not keep reading.

You could talk to Steve Huntley at The Great Northern Sound Co. about which amp he may think would be the best candidate for modification for your application. With a few new caps and IEC's on a pair of M300's you may get what you are after. M300's can be found for sale here on Agon so you won't be looking for something that is quite so rare. My point is that Steve can probably make what you are looking for, for you. A mod by Steve should not destroy the value of your amp to amyone but a collector since they are very profesional from what I have seen. If anything I think they add value for a music lover.
Hello.....what about the D250 in any of its versions? If you are driving Maggie speakers, I do not think the M100s will be enough. As for the M300s or CL150s (which I own), neither of these will have that classic ARC tube sound that I believe you seek....but the M300s would be a great match for the speakers. I saw a D250 here not too long ago for $2k and that is a great deal....just be aware of this amp's reliability problems.

As for the preamps of the 80s, I had an SP-10 for 8 years and loved it. The SP-11 never did it for me even with its lower noise floor and added resolution. However, if you are not into the phono scene, the SP-10 makes little sense. Its line stage is very mediocre relative to today's products.....but what an awesome piece for LPs. I could not believe how improved CD playback became when I finally got a new line stage.

It took me so long to find a later product to give me all the SP-10's musicality and yet extend the frequency extremes as well as so much more resolution. This for me was the LS5/PH2 combination. None of the SP series products of the 80s could compare to this. The LS5 II has an exaggerated top end giving too much sibilance but I have sense gone to an LS5 MK III which corrects this problem and yet even adds another layer or resolution. And the upgraded MK III was done based on the Ref1 work....many people I know who have heard both have prefered the LS5.

As for Edle shipping the Ref1 off one day after getting it, obviously being very disappointed and much prefering the SP-11, it would be interesting to know if he was listening to LPs or CDs and with with phono stage with the Ref1. Would be nice to know what happened there.

So keep your eyes out for the D250.
Jafox: wasn't the D250 a servo type, as I recollect???
If I had the moola, I would like Albert said, take a D79A
and do some serious modern mods. I thought it was THE killer
ARC amp. I think it has about a jillion joules of energy, it
would drive about anything. By the way, I still have a
picture of the D160 from their literature, still hanging
on a basement wall. I REALLY lusted over that one!!!!

You're not the seller of the D-160 on ebay by any chance, are you?

I am otherwise thinking I should take your advice and buy it...
That D160 you mentioned on E-bay, so far appears to be going for a bargin bin, yard sale price at $1500! I would think that at anywhere under $2500 you would never have a problem getting you money back out of it if it weren't the sound you were after. Seems to be a respected unit here on Audiogon.
All of a sudden there are two D-160's on E-bay. Tympani's can be bi-amped can't they? Just a thought?
Two D160s Wow! Who would of thought!!! But be aware of any vintage tube amp: most likely they need to be retubed and
matched. There are 10 6550s total and finding matched sets will not be inexpensive. $1500 in my opinion is high, by the
way. I would not pay more than $1000. You are asking why don't I go for it, since I have lusted over them for 18 years?? Owning them and oogling over them are two distinct
ideas. It would be like dating Christy Brinkley, great idea
but could you afford the VERY HIGH MAINTENANCE costs??????
Maintenance never seems like a big deal until you try to repack an amp that weighs over 100 pounds and then find someone to collect and ship it!!!!

My fried Levinson is a featherweight 75 pounds or so and I almost threw it out the window last night. (In my mind, at least, because in actual fact I can hardly budge it.)

Makes you consider a Naim Nait or something.....
and just one more thing......"Ferrari" seems to be correct, not only in terms of performance but in terms of maintenance.

Just spoke to ARC (very helpful) who described the D-160 as "an old Ferrari -- a money pit"!

It seems all the old amps run $5-600.00 per channel for retubing PLUS shipping, plus capacitors, plus cartons etc etc.