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  Review: Audio Research Corporation HD 220 Amplifier
My musical tastes include primarily classical, jazz, folk/blues and some exceptional rock. Specific recordings can be discussed via phone @ 610-721-1304. Soundstaging, dynamics, transparency and coherence are paramount, while the correct tonality and warmth are of equal concern. In other words I need it all to be right or else I sell the stuff! My HD 220 has 300 hours on it at this point and it is exceptional indeed. My recent decent into Krell evo solid state gear left me wanting so I sold the rig and started anew.

When a system is in the "zone" for me it conveys lifelike dynamics, accurate tone, clarity with warmth and soundstaging to die for!! This amp does it like no other I've had on all types of music (taken as part of my current setup). One major note...USE THE STOCK POWER CORD!!! The HD 220 started to amaze me aftethunderousr I decided to try it's own power cord in place of my reference cords. As long as my ref 3 has a great power cord all is well. The amp conveys a sense of limitless power with explosive yet controlled is effortless but with great force and dynamic swing!! Treble is extended and full of sparkle but grainless and pure at the same time. Midrange is full and neutral with a tad of warmth, but not overdone. Bass is earth shaking and well defined with amazing definition. Focus and placement of instruments is the best I've heard. Width and depth of the soundstage is top notch as well. Palpability and presence are eerie baby...spooksville!!

Compared to the other great tube amps past and present it connects on excitement, dimensionality, dynamics and extension without the tube haze, lethargy and softness often found with their presentation. I prefer it over the 110 for real world reasons and for purely musical ones. Overall it takes one away with the music where very few other components take you!!

Money is no object for me ...the HD 220 is's that good!!

Associated gear
ARC Reference 3 preamp
Krell SACD standard V5.1
Krell Resolution 2 loudspeakers
MIT V2.1 Oracle IC's and speaker interfaces
Transparent MM power cord (ref 3)
MIT AC2 power cord (Krell SACD)
ARC stock power cord (HD 220)
Wattgate recepticles
Dedicated 20amp lines

Similar products
ARC VT100, VT200, VS110, VM220's, Ref 110, Ref 610T's
Krell FPB 600, 400cx, 350Mcx, evo 402
Levinson 336
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

  Responses (1-37 of 37)
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05-31-07: Dave_b
Hey everyone, just wanted to apologize for the spelling mistake and the corrupted sentence..I was in a hurry!! Decent should read descent and what I was trying to convey is that after a couple hundred hours I was not in love with the sound until I decided to try the stock power cord which transformed the amp into a music maker...dynamic contrast and slam, bass palpability and soundstaging with effortless power on demand. Weird but sometimes experimentation proves something that's counterintuitive.
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

05-31-07   Thanks for the review. it's very difficult to find any info ...   Esharp

05-31-07   Hello. thanks for a good review but do you know they (ar) se ...   Etran

05-31-07: Dave_b
Give em a call etran..remember however that the power cord testimonial only applies to it's use with the HD 220!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-01-07   The farther you get away from krell gear the closer you will ...   Cytocycle

06-01-07: Dave_b
It may be helpful to know that I tune my system for the largest most dynamic sound possible speakers ar almost 14ft apart along the long wall of my 20 x 14 room. I sit against the far wall with the speakers facing almost directly forward with minimal toe in. My main complaint with otherwise great speakers like my wilson 6's is that they are designed to be aimed at your ears which always limits dynamics and constricts soundstaging. My res 2 speakers allow the soundstage to expand while maintaining focus and maximizing dynamics. I understand that Mapleshade has similiar recomendations. My room is filled with soft furniture, plants and artwork to break up standing waves and disperse frequency anomalies naturally without resorting to ugly room treatment panels.l
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-01-07   Dave_b you said in your review i guess the real world issu ...   Rayden1972

06-01-07: Dave_b
Sure Rayden1972, whereas the 110 is ultimately more seductive in the midrange and lower treble on some material, the 220 retains the dimensionality and enough of the 110's traits here. Inevitably, the 110 (tube amps in geberal) soften transients a bit too much and aren't the last word in bass control. A certain tube film can permeate the soundstage on well recorded ensemble material. Microdynamics are a tad more engaging on some material thru the 110 but it is system dependant to some degree. The 220 gives me what I've always enjoyed about the best tube and solid state designs...dimensionality instead of paper cut outs and fixed images, roundness without bloat or hyper inflation of images, tonal accuracy without listening fatigue, warmth without haze or grain. Macrodynamics are explosive, bass expansive and controlled, treble pure and extended, midrange neutral but realistic and alive with action!! By the way I have had no quirks, noise, hums or problems of any kind from my HD 220 or ref is absolutely dead quiet when no source material is going thru the system. The fans on the HD 220 keep it at a nice warm but never hot state...they do make some residual noise on soft passages, but my brain has already begun to filter it out during my listening session. If the unit is placed in an open setting, the fan noise is almost inaudible...I have a custom cabinet setup so the noise is amplified a bit! When I add the CD 7 this fall I believe I will have just about all of the virtues of tubes without the headaches and drawbacks of output tubes.
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-01-07: Dave_b
Just thought I'd mention that I had faulty wiring on my Reference MM power cord (had it re-terminated for 20amps and it was wired wrong). I fixed it myself today and played the system for a couple of hours...everything good about the amp became stunning. The entire presentation has closed the gap between the HD 220 and the reference 110 and is absolutely huge, open, airy, lush and crazy dynamic..the midrange has become glorious and oh so vivid..bass is subteranean with great pitch, treble delicate and incisive without any edge or harshness. In other words the HD 220 is closer to a true tube amp than I originaly thought, but without limitaions at the extremes...power seems inexhaustable! This amp is a no brainer..I fully expect it to garner much praise in the months and years to come.
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-02-07   Dave, i'd be very intrigued if you managed to listen to you ...   Guidocorona

06-02-07: Dave_b
Tried the purist..not my cup of tea! Have not heard anything superior to the Transparent MM or MIT Ac2's.
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-06-07: Dave_b
I revisited the stock power cords again on the amp first and then the ref 3 with currently 300 plus hours on the equipment. The ARC power cords get the dynamics and tonality dead on with exemplary transparency. My reference cord on the sacd standard provides all the purification needed for the rest of the audio chain, given my Oracle IC's also deal with signal distortion farther along the signal chain.
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-06-07: Dave_b
My paradigm has shifted as to what is possible in audio! Final tweaks are in.....Transparent MM power cord on Ref 3 and SACD Standard with ARC cord on HD 220. Changed outlets for front end...used outlet extender..big mistake!
Words do no justice to having a symphony orchestra in my listening room!!!

Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-06-07: Dave_b
This will be my final comment on the system at hand which includes the HD 220...I have never heard a more realistic portrayel of a symphony orchestra via a stereo system under any circumstances. I thought I was so jaded at this point as to not be able to become enthused about audio ever again.....bottom line is a ref 3 will transform any sytem, an HD 220 and a ref 3 will deliver a living breathing organic soundstage like no other given the source is worthy and the speakers can handle the dynamic envelope of the upstream components. Good listening!!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-09-07   Dave: thanks for all the time you've spent sharing info abo ...   Dodgealum

06-09-07   I also had an arc 150.2 and loved the ergonomics but couldn' ...   Esharp

06-09-07: Dave_b
The HD 220 is world class. It has a unique way of presenting the music as it is experienced in the hall. It is dynamic, pure, extended but not edgy or bloated. It is not overly lush and bloomy nor is it constrained and too well mannered. Heat is not a problem, as I have a cabinet runs barely warm (the fans really work). I have ran it all out on symphonic material the last few days and it does not seems to have unlimited reserves of power into my 89db res 2's (they go down to almost 2ohms). By the way, instrument tone is dead on and finely rendered with great transparency. The HD 220 is also very quick and agile with an enormously explosive bottom end! One caveat..I have a REF 3 preamp which allows the exceptional characteristics of this amp to shine thru!!!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-10-07   Dave: any idea what the peak current output is for the hd220 ...   Dodgealum

06-11-07: Dave_b
Dodgealum, the peak current figure aside (not in manual), your speakers will most likely be the limiting factor. What speakers are you driving and do you have dedicated 20amp lines? Power cords can have a huge effect on the capabiliites of the amp as well...trial and error best, for instance an 8 gauge pure copper pc will increase dynamics. I've pushed the 220 on my Res 2 speakers for extended periods of time using highly dynamic classical music far beyond concert levels...the 220 didn't protest nor did it run hot. System synergy and listening preferences will also determine if the 220 or possibly a VS110 would be better for you. An LS26 would certainly be a great match for the HD220 down the road. No reviews yet.
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-12-07: Dave_b
By the way, FYI...the longer I play the ref 3 and HD 220 the more exquisite the tonal shadings and dynamic contrasts become. I am going to try my last tweak by getting a cryo-hyper pure 8 gauge wattgate terminated 20amp power cord for the 220..will report results in about 2 weeks. Also, I use Caig' Pro gold on all contacts every two weeks!! This combo just may keep me happy for more than the usual 6 months (or less)!!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-12-07   Thanks, dave. i'm currently running daedalus audio da-1's w ...   Dodgealum

06-12-07: Dave_b
Fans are very low in level and have been tuned out by my ear/brain system not unlike the grandfather clock outside my bedroom..only actually hear it about twice a day..funny how the brain can filter out what it expects or is used to hearing!! The 220 really sounds authoritative and I'm used to 400 to 600 w/ch Krell amps!!!!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-14-07: Dave_b
One last comment. If like me, you believe that the musical truth lies somewhere between the best attributes of both solid state definition and control, with just enough of that magic which tubes provide....look no further! At this point I can safely say that the HD 220 communicates every aspect of recorded music at such an exhalted level..well, I am completely and utterly transfixed every time my system is played. Properly utilized, an HD 220 should be the last amp one would ever is that good! ARC has made a classic...again.
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-19-07   Hi, dave ... just wanted to express my appreciation for you ...   Oregonpapa

06-19-07: Dave_b
Quite frankly, I am amazed at what the HD220 can do in every audiophile dimension I can think of...if it has an achilles heal, it's well concealed. Perhaps if I had a much larger space and Maxx 2's maybe I'd find heaven with a pair of 610T's??? The HD220 is a tremendous bargain and completely capable of transporting one to the venue...I'm happy!!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

06-21-07: Dave_b
I almost crapped my pants today!!! Recieved an 8 gauge pure copper slam 20 amp cryo'd wattgate terminated power cord from Wegrzyn loudspeaker and cable co. Get one now for your amp(s) is sickly good. Relaxed, huge and open / transparent soundstage, powerfull, controlled, effortless, silky smooth highs and full complete midrange without glare, bass weight and definition beyond compare....get the idea!!! The HD220 can be considered a reference class offering from ARC with this power cord connected to it..that s a fact. FYI..and mean it man!!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

07-02-07   Whatever dave is the best...   Jc51373

07-02-07: Dave_b
And don't you forget it sweetheart..Jc51373!! Does my gear make you horny...Grrrr!!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

09-04-07   Did you have a chance to compare ref 110 to hd220 at home or ...   Elberoth2

09-05-07: Dave_b
The ref 110 is the way to go if stickin with ARC. I gave up on my ref 3 and HD220 after extended listening...ARC it appears has entered another "High Definition" over musicality phase. Remember the bleached whitish sound of yor...only over time and after the rush of new purchases wears off can one ultimately understand a product. I give two thumbs down! Also, after having owned alot of tube gear, I must declare the 6H30 tube to be the most unmusical tube made by man!! I have tweaked a Krell 400xi, SACD Std and Res 2 speaker system to the point of sounding like vinyl without the drawbacks..see my 400xi review.
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

09-05-07   You seem to change your mind 180 deg quite ... well, often. ...   Elberoth2

09-05-07: Dave_b
I am as well, it seems that the more the 220 broke in the harder sounding it became..I can only respond from experience over time. At first the definition and sheer grunt factor floored me. Their is palpability and roundness and great soundstaging but after re-visiting my collection it became obvious that what I was hearing was not state of the art nor musical enough for my tastes. The Thermal Traks appear to have a lean sound once fully cooked. It's subtle stuff but completely frustrating when you hear it over time. The baby krell stuff sounds more like my record player without the drawbacks..go figure!!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

09-05-07   Now it makes sense. thanks !   Elberoth2

02-25-10   I am glad that i followed this whole thread. i was shocked t ...   Walkelin

02-25-10: Dave_b
Thank God you followed the entire thread...often what impresses at first blush, leaves you wanting later on:O( Ever wonder why the HD220 was never reviewed? All their other latest greatest stuff get's reviewed asap...not the HD220!
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

11-24-10   Hate to say it, but goes to show how much one should read in ...   Ckoffend

12-06-10: Dave_b
The HD220 delivers excessive overemphasis in the upper octaves. Overall, it sounds bright, forward lean. Still being avoided like the plague by reviewers...Hmmmm"O)
Dave_b  (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

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