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The power-up sequence is smart. Not only is output automatically reset to 0, the outputs are muted too. Beneath the display four controls answer to ‘power’, ‘mono’, ‘invert’ and ‘mute’. The first and last are nearly standard with all amplifiers. The generation of a summed mono signal meanwhile is a nearly endangered species option as is polarity inversion which is sensible particularly with symmetrical inputs that lack a global pin assignment convention. The display is informative and shows volume in large numbers; the chosen input in somewhat smaller letters; and specific choices like mute, mono and invert plus balance. Mono and invert get associated with whatever input you program them with. Balance is only available from the remote. That's a sympathetically light wand, perfectly fitted to the machine’s functions (i.e. not repurposed from another model) and it allows display dimming.

On social graces the DSi200 offers 2 x XLR and 3 x RCA inputs. Those sockets are solid and nicely spaced. Outputs are limited to single pairs of speaker terminals. Here I’ve seen chunkier elsewhere. Fixed or variable line outputs are MIA. That's a bit of an oversight in my book. I’d for example leash up a headphone amp to a fixed output (the DSi200 has no 6.3mm socket) and a variable output would accommodate biamping or a subwoofer.

On (into) the rack. After my guest took up place of honor in my hifi rack and was properly cabled up, he responded clearly ailed. I nearly threw him back out on the street. That’s how stuffed up he sounded. The sounds stuck to the speakers which grumbled listlessly whilst the bass lagged audibly behind all that starkness. Which changed dramatically after the factory-fresh amp had 24 hours under its suspenders. When I returned home from work that day it sounded different already. ARC actually recommends extended break-in. Clearly the amp made a giant leap in just one day. I also noted how a few days of subsequent inaction meant a short new period of acclimation.

The first thing which then impressed was soundstaging. Here my Geithain ME150 speakers are natural champs and very involving. Yet what happened with the DSi200 was breathtaking. I kicked off that first session with very familiar material, A Sigh A Song with the Lisa Bassenge Trio. "Blue Suede Shoes" begins with a double bass. That appeared so far outside the right speaker—essentially outside the room—that I nearly froze. How could the action extend that far to the right? Had I hit the balance control?

Only when Lisa Bassenge’s voice manifested precisely center between the speakers and the piano segued in so far left as to demonstrate an equally cavalier attitude about the outdoors did I appreciate just what sort of virtual stage the Audio Research was on about. For my tastes this was nothing less than spectacular. Curiosity now drove me from studio production to a live cut with Eva Cassidy’s Live At Blues Alley. Here too I was placed more squarely inside the goings-on than ever before, nearly as though I was wearing headphones. Granted, other speakers might tone down this effect. Nevertheless the DSi200 portrayed small ensembles with unbelievably realistic dimensionality. Not only the scope was impressive but so was image focus or localization lock.