Audio Research versus McIntosh tube amps: anyone experience or compare both?

As stated in the title of this thread, considering both brands.  I'm looking for a new or near new tube amp to run my Joseph Audio Pulsar's.  Have been using a Pass XA25, which sounds a little lean with this speaker.  Looking for a touch of tube warmth and bloom, but still good detail.

Considering a new McIntosh 275 MkVI or possibly a preowned ARC Reference 75SE.  New ARC costs more than I want to spend ($6K range or less).  Preamp is ARC Ref 2 MKII BTW.

Would appreciate any insight for those who have experienced both.  Thanks!


Used ARC REF150se sometimes trade for $6,000 or less, if you need more watts.  I own one.  Great amp.  I think undervalued on the used market, but that's the market.

Are the fans audible in the newer bigger ARC amps like the 150?

Also, is the biasing procedure complex?


Convenience has value IMO.

I have mine on low (3 available speeds) and can't hear them.  Things seem to stay cool enough.  Might need a higher speed if your room is hot, but them you wouldn't want the amp on for super long anyway. 

Biasing is pretty easy.  I think the VT100 is known to be one or the worst ARC amp to bias.

It's a pretty great amp.  I considered replacing it with a REF160S, but they are quite heavy (close to 100 lbs?) and I suspected the 160S will be replaced or augmented with a new amp that uses the KT170 tubes.  I think I am correct about this, as the 320M became the new 330M with KT170 tubes.

The contemporary Audio Research Reference and VT amps have audio biasing and soft start. So, no fiddling is ever needed.

I agree with Docknow. The Audio Research Ref 150 was the best value in audio I have ever had.  Great bass, sweet but detailed midrange and accurate highs. I recommend finding a used one. I currently have the Ref 160 Mk 2 mono amps which are 15% better at 9 times the cost. In the past, i also had the Ref 110 which was not nearly as good as the Ref 150. Docknow refers to the 150Se which is slightly better than the Ref 150. They are both tremendous values.