I was pleased to see that Audio Research introduced a new Class D amplifier, the DS450. This is a stereo amplifier, housed in a traditionally sized box, with 450 watts per channel output and a price of $7995. My previous experience with the Class D Audio Research 300.2 in a review setting was positive (click here for my article on this), so I was happy to see that the 300.2 wasn't the end of the line.
Like all new technologies, early versions of class D were not perfect (heck, bipolar class A/B circuits are not perfect after 40 years or more). In addition, as is often the case with new technologies, key start-up suppliers can vanish in the competitive (and economic) melee, and this was the case with Tri-Path who supplied the "class T" digital amp modules for the 300.2.
So, I was impressed when I saw that Audio Research was bringing out another Class D amplifier. If a new technology is to show it's stuff in the perfectionist world of high-end audio, someone or someones have to support development. This is what Audio Research is doing, and I applaud the effort.
From a brief listen, this is a good amplifier. It is next to impossible to really assess amplifiers (or probably anything) at a show, except to say that if it sounds good, it can't be too bad. The DS450 was demo'ed with ARC's Ref 5 preamp and Ref 2 phono stage, along with a Well-Tempered turntable, Dynavector cartridge and Sonus Faber Elipsa speakers. The sound was open and warm, with a natural sort of clarity. It made me think that this amp could be an improvement on the 300.2 and a useful way to get high-powered ARC sound at a much lower price than would be required if tubes were used.
But more than anything, I applaud the effort to invest in the development of new technology. If everything is judged only by short-term improvements, the slope of progress is likely reduced.