Joe ... Yeah, I guess the Ref 5 SE is getting a bit long in the tooth. Just checked the ARCDB website. The SE version was introduced sometime in late 2011. I recall that I had to wait until early 2013 until ARC was ready to upgrade my Ref 5 ... vendor supply issues as I recall.
Can't speak to the GSPre other than there's a review or two out there. For some reason I recall that the one reviewer said the phono section is essentially a PH-8 shoved into the GSPre chassis. For that kind of money. I'd be thinking about the Ref Phono 2 SE. Also, I don't think there's an onboard DAC, but I may be wrong.
Last comment, I seem to recall the reviewer(s) said that the linestage side of the house was roughly equivalent to the Ref 5 SE. I suggest that you call Kal at ARC. He is pretty straightforward about these kind of things.
Put it to you this way. The GSPre is a pretty expensive piece of kit. If it's a showboat for SE Asian consumption, I'd stick to ARC's top of the line separate source components, particularly the phono stage.
P.S. - I am an ARC stalwart. Check my system description.
Thank you for the thoughts. I am not going to jump until either the next major show or the end of the year.
I have auditioned both at my dealer when I was in search of a new preamp. I thought the Ref 5se was slightly better as did a few of my friends who frequent the shop. In the end I bought a Ref 5se.
Yes, I agree the Ref 5se has been around awhile. But the Ref 5se is still selling well. It is hard to say just what ARC will do. They could eventually just discontinue the Ref SE and not replace it right away. There would still be the Ref 10 and Ref 10 phono in the Reference line. Right now the interest is in the G series with the new integrated.
I for one love the G retro styling.
Was surfing on the net while listening to a great Sain San (sp?) piano concerto on my rig. Came across this review that may be of interest to the OP and others:
Interestingly, the reviewer interviewed Warren Gehl, ARC's official listener, and Ward Fiebiger, ARC's chief engineer responsible for ARCs technical designs. Warren Gehl was quoted as saying the following:
"For while the two amplifiers [GS 150 and Ref 150] share many common aspects, there have been numerous parts and layout changes which affect the sound. By contrast the GSPre is really more a hybrid of a variety of products. Performance-wise, it nears the sonic capabilities of the Reference 5SE preamplifier and the PH8 phono preamplifier."
Consistent with those comments, when I was deciding whether to upgrade my Ref 150, I asked Kalvin Dahl at ARC how the Ref 150 SE and GS 150 sonically compare to each other. Kal told me that the two amps are roughly equivalent. He added that while the GS 150 may enjoy some very subtle sonic refinements over the Ref 150 SE, the differences are really very, very minor.
As I posted before, I think the SE upgrade to my Ref 150 made a significant difference. Not sure exactly how much related to the KT-150 tubes or the circuit changes (maybe 50/50), but the SE is better for sure.
Oregonpapa is still in 7th heaven with his Ref 75 SE. Check his posts.
I agree with Lostbears comments. I surmise that the Ref 5 SE may morph into a Ref 6 that enjoys some of the trickle down refinements of the Ref 10. Same as with the Ref Phono 2 SE viz the Ref 10 Phono.
I had a chat with my ARC dealer this afternoon, He is also a friend that I trust. He knows of no plans to replace the Ref 5se. The LS27 is more likely to be the next preamp ARC will updated or replaced. It has been around the longest.
Thank you BIF, Lostbears and everyone else,
I am sure as the year wears on, my choice will be more clear. A friend had the Ref 5 SE and Ref 150 (non SE) and it sounded fantastic. Surely a combination I'd love to have someday. The newer SE amps seem like a no brainer.
Thank you for your experiences. I hope to hear the GSPre and Ref 5SE in my system. I'll let you guy know what I hear.
Joe .... if the review I clipped above is correct re the GSPre and GS150, I urge you to call Kal at ARC and ask him for his views.
The GSPre may look pretty, but it's expensive and may be a no-go showboat. IOW, not a cost effective way to spend your bucks.
In addition, if I correctly recalled what Kal told me about the Ref 150 SE, then the GS 150 is another pretty face that does not meaningfully outperform the Ref 150 SE. Yet, the cost delta is significantly more.
It's your money ... spend it as you will. Just trying to help a fellow A'gon pal make a cost effective and informed decision.
Yes, Great advice.
In my post above, I meant to mention the Ref 75 SE as an amp choice. I don't feel I need the power of the Ref 150 (SE) class amps and 75 wpc will be enough for me.
I am going for the preamp first because I just purchased a Lampizator Big 7 balanced and a pair of Lampizator fully balanced 211 amps. An amazing combination but want to try a preamp in the chain. I am going direct now and can not believe what I am hearing. I normally prefer a preamp in my system but my current CJ GAT is not balanced.
I think an ARC preamp will, in this case, be a great choice. The only major difference I can see is the GSPre's out impedance is 500 ohms vs 600 for the Ref 5SE. Not sure if that means a whole lot, but I usually prefer the lower output impedance pre in my system.
As I understand it, from on line posts and a review of the GS pre and 150 Power amp,in the UK magazine, HiFi News, the changes are largely cosmetic. There may be differences in the sound, but they are not commensurate with the price difference between the Ref and GS lines. This comment only compares the GS power amp with the SE versions of the 75 and 150, not the original KT120 tubed versions.
Thank you for the clarification David. I agree.
To repeat what I posted above, I think the GSPre may be an expensive "pretty face." And the GS 150, also a pretty face, and Ref 150 SE may rough equivalents.
Kal will be back on Wednesday. Ask his opinion.