Audio Research Corporation

Probably no other name in high-end audio enjoys the reputation, recognition, and respect of Audio Research. The company’s roots date back to 1951 when William Zane (Bill) Johnson opened Electronic Industries, a specialty audio store, in south Minneapolis. Electronic Industries was the springboard allowing Bill to bring his ideas and designs to light as he designed sophisticated amplifiers for customers demanding the finest music reproduction in their homes.

In 1968, Bill sold the company, his designs, patents, and himself to Peploe, another Minneapolis company. Working for another company did not last very long, and after two years, Bill bought back everything and founded Audio Research Corporation in 1970.

Since the beginning, Audio Research has maintained a fanatical devotion to quality and sonic performance. The has kept them at the very top echelon of manufacturers in the industry.

To that end, every single Audio Research component is personally auditioned by Warren Gehl before it leaves the factory. Any subtle sonic deviation from the expected perfection sends that component back to the factory for revision.

Audio Research continues its dedication to unparalleled musical expression and crafting components of the highest quality and lasting value for its customers. Our long-term dedication to service is peerless in this industry (Audio Research, with few exceptions, can repair anything ever produced during its entire history). We continue to seek out new and exciting ways to make music more real and more enjoyable. More than just a name or a marketing tool, Audio Research has come to represent exceptional performance and long-term value. Experience Audio Research – experience High Definition®.


The state-of-the-Art in music reproduction -

Audio Research is one of the oldest continually operating manufacturers in American audio. The company was founded in 1970 in Minneapolis with one goal in mind: to advance the state-of-the-art in music reproduction. Today, Audio Research remains a performance-oriented company by philosophy and design. New product introductions are driven only by genuine advances in technology and performance — the HIGH DEFINITION that is the hallmark of the company’s products. The company has grown steadily over the last 50 years, with a network of top audio specialist retailers across North America and distributors throughout Europe, Asia, and South America. The company occupies a 48,000 square-foot, technically-advanced production plant, and administrative headquarters in Maple Grove, Minnesota, where approximately 50 technical, assembly and support staff guide the product line from concept to finished goods.

The Audio Industry -

Audio Research was instrumental in refocusing the audio industry on designing products for musical performance, and not merely for the sake of new technology or mass-market pricing. Audio Research was founded by William Z. Johnson, who began designing custom audio electronics in the early 1950s and who also operated a specialty audio retail store until the mid-1960s. Johnson’s efforts almost single-handedly revived vacuum-tube designs at a time when major industry manufacturers had abandoned this technology in favor of low-cost solid-state devices which were markedly inferior in terms of musical accuracy, a fact widely acknowledged today. Many industry observers consider Johnson one of the true originators of the entire concept of “high-end” audio as it exists today — an area of technological expertise in which American companies remain the clear innovators and leaders on a global scale.

Musical Enjoyment -

Audio Research prides itself on manufacturing only those products which will provide genuine enjoyment for as long as the customer cares to own them. In company practice, this means that Audio Research technicians can still repair, refurbish and restore to original performance standards most products manufactured during the company’s 40-year history. Indeed, 40-year-old Audio Research designs continue to provide exceptional musical enjoyment daily in music systems around the world.


Music lover -

Audio Research products have demonstrated lasting residual value after purchase. More than a few models have acquired legendary “collector” status and continue to resell for as much or more than what they originally cost. The Audio Research customer does not have to fear instant, marked depreciation as is the case with most other audio components. Used Audio Research equipment is quickly absorbed on the open market because savvy enthusiasts know the company is interested in providing service and support for older models on an ongoing basis.

Much more than a mere carriage-trade brand name, the Audio Research marque has come to represent stellar performance and lasting value for music lovers and audio enthusiasts everywhere.

How Audio Research Continues to Push the Boundaries of Sonic Excellence

For any high-end audio company, the lofty goal of trying to attain sonic perfection is a problematic one. First off, what exactly constitutes perfect sound? Second, how can sonic perfection be measured as it relates to recorded music?

To audiophiles, the idea of an absolute sound means to recreate a live musical event so accurately that it suspends disbelief. While listening to recorded music, if the sound of the stereo system is so pure, organic, and natural that it allows a listener to close their eyes and—literally—believe that they’re listening to a live performance, then the stereo must be considered state-of-the-art.

The question still lingers though: how does any manufacturer measure sound quality? Is it better to use precision machines to bench-test the electrical efficacy of circuits? Or, alternatively, should manufacturers rely upon subjective listening tests conducted by human beings to evaluate sonics?

For 50+ years, Audio Research Corporation (ARC) has continually strived to deliver reference caliber sound from its gear. ARC measures the sound quality of its components through two methods. The first uses precision machines to analyze the electrical performance of individual circuits. The second grades sonics through subjective listening tests that are done by humans.

Tangle Audio Design Approaches: Does perfect sound exist?

Stated bluntly, there is no such thing as a perfect audio component. Compromises inherently must be made within the design and manufacturing of every audiophile-grade piece of stereo gear.

There are, of course, many different ways to engineer high-end audio components. Some manufacturers prefer to measure the electrical proficiency of the circuits with machines to judge the performance. Other manufacturers choose to rely more upon listening tests to grade the sound quality of their gear.

At Audio Research, while objectively measuring individual electronic parts with precision machines is critical, assessing the overall sound quality of a finished component with subjective listening tests is just as important. 

The Products


Reference 160M Monoblock

Reference 160S Stereo



Reference 80S

VT80SE Stereo

Line stage preamplifiers




Phono Preamplifiers




Audio Research Corporation -  Factory Tour

The factory floor

Every component on every circuit board is inserted by hand.
When the board has been stuffed, every junction is hand-soldered.
No wave soldering machines are used - ARC found hand-soldered boards sounded better.

All soldering is done by hand.

Preamplifiers during assembly


All vacuum tubes undergo a rigorous burn-in, then tested, graded, and matched.


Tested, graded, and matched tubes ready for installation

Over the past few months, Audio Research has migrated the manufacturing of the GhostMeter™ into their factory.
"We made this decision to better control quality and production flow. In this photo, Barry is assembling a meter for a Ref 160M.
The process is painstaking; each meter requires 2 hours to complete in our purpose-built meter room, designed to reduce airborne particulates."

Multi-level testing and  quality control

Testing and calibration


Final testing


Every single product  is auditioned by Warren Gehl.
No product leaves the factory without his approval.