When Audio Research was founded in 1970, analog vinyl playback was the de facto music source of the time. Audio Research has either incorporated or built stand-alone phono stages since the very beginning and has continuously provided phono preamplification, even during the height of digital music. The Reference Phono 3SE is the next great advancement in analog playback and represents a new benchmark. The knowledge gained in the creation of Audio Research’s award-winning Reference 160-series amplifiers has transitioned to both Reference preamplifiers. The Reference Phono 3SE continues the upgrades introduced in the Reference 6SE line-stage, including a number of new, ultra-high-quality parts judiciously incorporated into its design and ushering in a new level of sonic accuracy and musicality. Due to the extremely low-level nature of the signals involved in a phono stage, the component and wiring upgrades incorporated in the Reference Phono 3SE combine to create a startling advancement in performance. The improvements heard immediately include enhanced resolution at all levels, greater purity and focus, improved transient speed and snap, and better dynamic shading. The sum of these improvements is exceptional, further breaking down the barrier between reproduced sound and the immediacy of a live event.
The Reference Phono 3SE phono preamplifier is housed in a single chassis with heavy, machined aluminum side panels and special acrylic top and bottom covers for the best sound. The vacuum-tube audio stage utilizes six 6H30 vacuum tubes (three per channel), while one 6H30 and a 6550WE provide regulation in the power supply. The large, vacuum fluorescent display on the front panel shows all functions relative to the selected input. A row of six buttons controls power, mute, input, and menu controls. Menu functions include auto shutdown, gain and load settings, display brightness, equalization settings (RIAA, Columbia and Decca), and accumulated tube hours. High- and low-gain settings, as well as six fixed and one custom impedance setting, can accommodate most any moving coil or moving magnet cartridge. Two single-ended inputs provide connectivity to two turntables. There are two main outputs providing both balanced and single-ended outputs. RS-232 and IR input allow for additional control options. The Reference Phono 3 includes a full-function remote control.