If I were writing the recent history of hi-fi, one thing would dominate the tale – the rise of the ‘one box solution’. Although the market for discrete components in the audio chain is still strong, what was once dismissed as a ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is now highly prized as a practical way of getting the best of everything in one convenient package. The GSi75 by Audio Research didn’t invent this market, but it seems to have perfected it!
The new G-Series from Audio Research currently comprises a preamplifier, a power amplifier, and most recently the GSi75 integrated model. As the name suggests, the integrated is a 75W design, using the KT150s first used in the GS150 power amp and now featuring throughout Audio Research’s lines.
In addition to being a good quality integrated amplifier, the Audio Research GSi75 sports a very fine phono stage, an outstanding upsampling DAC, and even a very high performance headphone amp. Unless you are desperate for balanced connections, or have a burning desire to stream from an amp, you are going to struggle to find an excuse not to look at the GSi75 as a one-stop audiophile shop.
The options the GSi75 provides are almost not the headline topic for the G-Series, though. Named after that well-known Audio Research enthusiast and son of Minnesota, the Renaissance Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, the G-Series changes to the product design are every bit as radical; a clever and truly multinational operation to refresh Audio Research’s long-standing design cues without sacrificing all the brand stands for.
The result is a taller, cleaner looking amplifier, without the front panel handles, and a design that harks right back to some of Audio Research’s earliest models, yet doesn’t look so retro it fails to appear fresh and new. The mark of good product design is similar to that of a really good song; as soon as you encounter it, you think it’s something you knew of for years, and the GSi75 nails that perfectly. This is the World Of McIntosh (née Fine Sounds) Group’s special sauce – few other big names in the high-end have access to an internationally respected Italian product design team. In truth, I was a little apprehensive at how the G-Series would have been received by Audio Research’s faithful following, but the response has been so welcoming that the design has ended up influencing core products like the new Reference 6 preamplifier.
It’s easy to get carried away with this and fill pages in the way Ian Fleming mastered (he could weave a page and a half about the patina of a Ronson lighter into the text without ever making it seem like ‘filler’) but the physicality of the GSi75 is not something to be sniffed at. It’s a large, sophisticated integrated amplifier for the modern music lover: it does everything you could think of, does it all well, and exudes a sense of absolute class in the process. It’s a tube amp for people who like the sound and the idea of tube amps, but don’t like all the fuss and bother they sometimes cause. Insert, bias, play… it’s all made extremely simple. Perhaps this is indicative of the influence of the new boss at ARC, Mike Tsecouras. Tsecouras comes from a Texas Instruments background, and TI isn’t the kind of brand that allows something less than fully professional out the door. The GSi75 has that kind of professionalism, and as a result makes a lot of traditional high-end audio look a bit, well, shoddy by comparison. This isn’t one of those “oh well, you know Barry… he’s a genius, but you have to turn his amplifier on with a long wooden stick because it might electrocute you” kind of products. This is designed to compete in a modern consumer electronics environment, where things are well made and competently designed. That we even have to say that about the GSi75 highlights just how bad things have got in the industry – all our products should be built to this standard, now. Not just a handful. Nevertheless, Audio Research deserves kudos, for raising the collective game in high-end audio, especially tube high-end. Other brands (and you know who you are), take note.