Not one but two audio audition nights in one month hardly earn the fair city of Melbourne the title of Australia’s hifi capital. Considering though that these kinds of gatherings happen all the time in Melbourne, what it does say about our city is this: it's got a thriving, well-educated hifi community. Both were turning the spotlight on high-end gear. One showcased PS Audio’s Bascom King-designed stereo and dual-mono amplifiers. The one tonight, held by Carlton Audio Visual, one of the country’s best hifi specialist stores, featured the new Audio Research Galileo Series of components driving a pair of gorgeous Sonus Faber Amati Futura speakers.

Anyone familiar with ARC's styling will tell you how its anti-style—featuring front fascias screaming rack-mounting replete with handles—is the brand’s style. The Galileo series takes its styling directly from Europe. The young talented Italian designer entrusted with the series makeover has managed to blend iconic ARC features with cues that are as much about Bauhaus as they are Minnesota, the brand’s traditional headquarters. The G series comprises the GS150 amplifier bristling with KT150 tubes to be good for 150 watts per channel. The GSPre Preamplifier (a confused and confusing model name) is a line stage/phono stage/headphone amplifier built to a sonic standard ensuring every part sounds sublime. The model which set my pulse racing was the GSi75 integrated amplifier. Ownership of an AR D70MK11 and Classic 60 amplifier and now a Ref 75 amplifier tells me that Audio Research hit my sweet spot with models rated from 50-75 watts per channel. But be aware, the new styling is bereft of handles, anywhere.

Upper right, Philip Sawyer (right) owner of ARC's Australian distributor Synergy Audio Visual; lower right, CAV's Owner, Rab Turner (right) chatting to Geoff, a Melbourne audiophile.

Carlton Audio Visual had the GSPre and GS150 powering the Sonus fabers in one room, with an Audio Research Ref CD9 providing the signal. Nordost provided the Hemdall 2 speaker cables and Valhalla power cables. The overriding impression of this combination was dynamic, detailed and smooth in the best high-end usage of these tired terms. Nick, one of the guests, best summed it up when he described what he was hearing as "deft". In an upstairs room, the GSi75 linked to an Audio Research CD6 driving a pair of very desirable Sonus Faber Guarneri Evolution. This was showing the same agility as the more powerful models downstairs. Cables were lesser Nordosts but shy of rummaging in the dark on all fours using my iPhone as torch, I can't tell you what models they were.

I have to admit that when the Fine Sounds Group acquired Audio Research, McIntosh, Sonus faber and Wadia to expand their empire, I worried that it would hasten the end of an era - especially where Audio Research were concerned. After all, one of its leading business luminaries was the same man who had charted Swatch watches to the top. Hmm, I told myself. ARC could disappear in a marketing mirage. I was wrong. Audio Research are being led into the modern era without paying the impost of losing their soul or sound. Nights like these are modest but given audio’s perilous future, worth celebrating wherever/whenever they’re held. Cheers.