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Sound Impressions of the Audio Research Corporation I/50 Integrated Tube Amplifier's new DC1 DAC Card

Today, we will discuss the new DC1 DAC Card for the I/50 Integrated Tube Amplifier from our friends at Audio Research Corporation.  

This article will discuss my sound impressions of the AKM DAC Card implementation. 

If you are interested in learning more about the technical specs, price, and availability of the DAC card check out this video

Sound Impressions

Listening Environment

For my sound impressions, let me first give you some info about my system and room. My listening room is about 15 ft wide by 22 ft long, with my seating position being 9ft away from my Sonus faber Olympica Nova V tower speakers.  

I have bass traps behind the Novas, both on the bottom of the back wall, the top of the back wall, and the corners. I have acoustic sound panels at all main reflection points and panels on the rear walls.

The floor has a large shag rug for treatment directly in front of the speakers. All in all, my room has a superb quality of sound with even bass response, a detailed sound stage, good liveliness, and magnificent timing.

DC1 DAC Card

With that said, let’s discuss how my I/50 with the DC1 DAC card sounds. To do this, I think it’s vital for you first to understand the sound characteristics of the I/50 as an integrated tube amplifier. I have run it in my room with multiple DACs from Chord Electronics, Sabre-based DACs, AKM DACS, and my Marantz turntable.

So I have a pretty good grasp of its sound, which is highly detailed, as detailed or more detailed than some solid-state amplifiers I have heard in my room. The sound of the amplifier is also very holographic.  

In audio terms, I mean that the amplifier can create a very 3-Dimensional sound stage in which the speakers disappear, and vocals and notes from artists and their instruments float with well-defined images in the air on the sound stage with precision and accuracy.

In fact, with my Nova V towers, this 3 Dimensional sound quality has yet to be bested by any other amplifier, even more, expensive amplifiers. It has had me wondering over the last few months if the entry-level ARC I/50 is capable of such realism or hyper-realism as it’s often referred to in the world of art; what are the other amplifiers higher up in the food chain capable of achieving in this respect in my room, with my speakers!

I wouldn’t describe the sound of the I/50 as a warm-sounding amplifier, but as a neutral-sounding amplifier with great treble extension and magnificent air that pairs best with my preferences with neutral or neutral warm-leaning speakers.  


The midrange sounds fairly neutral with ample detail and a life-like timbre, with just the right amount of magic for vocals and strings that pairs exceptionally well with my Nova V towers and remains my favorite amplifier I have in the house with my speakers.


Bass is pretty tight and dynamic sounding when paired with the Nova V towers, which on paper require a bit more watts and current than what the I/50’s 50 watts per channel specs offer.  

However, I think the amplifier is putting out more than it claims. I am continuously impressed by how this amplifier can sound so good at higher or lower listening levels.  

With some electronica, metal, or heavy bass-produced pop music, turning on my REL T/9x stereo subwoofers and mixing them into the equation picks up more of the low-end frequencies and provides a bit better punch in the bass region. 

However, for most other genres of music, I am thrilled with the presentation of the I/50’s bass with the Nova V towers, and with more efficient speakers in the house, the I/50 handles them with ease.

Lower Listening Level Performance

To expand on what I said a moment ago, I am superbly impressed with how good the I/50 sounds at lower listening levels. The volume of the I/50 maxes out at 45 on the volume dial. I generally listen between 25-30 on the Lexi Tubes and even lower listening levels when I listen with my daughter or want a quieter listening session.  

Final Thoughts

With all that said, the I/50, when paired with its new DC1 DAC CARD, maintains its sonic characteristics in my room, creating a brilliant hyper-realistic sound presentation. For under $10,000, I have yet to hear a better amplifier in my room.  


Compared to the more expensive and analytical-sounding DACs I own, the velvet sound of the AKM DC1 DAC card provides an excellent balance to the house sound of the I/50 amplifier. For its reasonable asking price of $1000, you will be hard-pressed to find a better synergistic DAC pairing, especially if your goal is to reduce the number of boxes and additional components in your listening room.

Bluetooth Implementation

I was also pleasantly surprised at how good the Bluetooth implementation of the DAC card sounded, streaming music directly off my phone from several music streaming services. I don’t listen to music this way in my room; however, for a quick way for friends to cue up tracks from their phones when visiting the house, it works without issue or any dropouts.  

Getting my iPhone connected and working with Bluetooth was a cinch.

I prefer the AKM implementation of the DC1 DAC Card with the I/50 versus a bit harder-edged sound quality of some of the Sabre DACS I have heard in-house that, generally speaking, pair better with warmer leaning amplifiers in my experience.  

DC1 DAC Performance

Hearing the DC1 DAC card in-house re-affirms my thoughts about Audio Research choosing the velvet sound of an AKM DAC. If I had one wish, it would be for the DC1 DAC Card to receive official Roon-tested status allowing it to be appropriately identified in Roon as the I/50. However, it plays with ROON, and I tested it extensively with my Zen Stream outputting into the USB.

Sonus faber and Audio Research in my room is a match made in heaven, and now I have a deep desire to hear what other amplifiers in Audio Research’s lineup can do with the Nova V towers, so I may have to reach out to them very soon to demo other amplifiers.  

The entry-level integrated amplifier from Audio Research Corporation is far from entry-level sounding, and Audio Research has earned a lifelong fan in me. I highly encourage you to get out to your local ARC dealer to listen to this little powerhouse of an amplifier.

Want to Test it Out Yourself?

At the time of writing this article, we have the I/50 in stock at our 10,000 Sqft. Torrance, CA showroom to pair with numerous speakers from some of the best manufacturers in the world, so if you are in SoCal, we would love to see you; stop by and hang out with us and listen to the I/50.  

Trade-Up Program

If you are interested in trading up your old headphones, amplifiers, or other gently used audio gear for a new amplifier, check out our trade-up program, and don’t forget we will price match, other authorized dealers!  

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Until next time friends, remember, let the music be your guide! 

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