From The Editor....
You see, valves are historical. And Audio Research's latest Reference 80S amplifier that you can find on p10 raises a few nuggets. Being designed and manufactured in the USA it is a "tube amplifier". And Americans prefer to use what is made there, which historically was the 6550 output tube in Audio Research amplifiers. I was quite taken aback when they dropped the rugged and reliable 6550 a few years back, replacing it with the KT150 – made in Russia no less! The Reference 80S has four of them.
The main reason is that the KT150 was designed from the ground up to be reliable, as well as sound good. Likely because of U.S. influence, since the Russian plant producing this valve is linked to New Sensor Corporation of Long Island, New York. This is run by Mike Matthews, who was a personal friend of Hendrix back in the 1960s when he was on the road touring in the USA, meaning before arriving in the UK. Another valve amp manufacturer, Icon Audio of the UK, told me it was Mike Matthews who financed Hendrix's visit to the UK, at the invitation of Chas Chandler on what is now considered to be a pivotal event, well catalogued.
The link between Mike Matthews and Russian Sovtek is explained by him in a YouTube interview (June 2010) where you get to hear the problems he had working with the Russians, up to the point of intervention from President Putin. So now we're into politics as well as history!
All of which is to explain that the Audio Research amplifiers we review in this issue invoke a lot more than you might be aware of, there are whole historical threads within their background.
Martin Pipe alludes to another technology with a chequered past, the Planar Magnetic drive unit – see his review of the Aeon 2 Open headphone on p34.
There's often more background to the products we feature in Hi-Fi World than you might imagine, something we try to mention. I hope you enjoy the view.