Any Comparisons between VTL 7.5 & ARC Ref 3

Anyone do a detailed comparison of either. Anyone compare the VTL 7.5 Mk II to the ARC Ref 3?? Got the upgrade bug.
I'd love to hear about it as well.
I guess the VTL should be better since it costs more. ESP the series II. I am trying to provoke a response here.
Dgad, it's an interesting theory. Yet I fear. . . correlation does not imply causality. . . but it's safe to gess that they will sound somewhat different.
Are you still enjoying your Ref 3?
It is all so system dependant in the end. You are right about impedances etc. My thinking is that I have never heard a fully tube power supply. I am curious. Very. Not that the VTL was small. It is huge. We really need to compare the 7.5 mk II to the Ref 3 to know what is happening these days. 2 different price points but from what I understand, both at the top of the game.
Sherod, I am enjoying my Ref 3 immensely, no plans to jump on greener pastures even when I eventually found one . . . simply 0 budget for it. The only minor issue I can see with its tubed power supply is that the 6550C in it runs out of steam after 1200 hours of operation and needs to be replaced perhaps once a year or so. Dgad, you are absolutely correct, while I did have some slight reservations about the original VTL 7.5, the new series is a totally different kettle of fish. My friend PSCIALLI has purchased a 6.5 Mk 2, and it is. . . outlandishly wonderful. I cannot find in it any of the past issues as any of the gentling of transients I heard on the old 7.5. I can only guess that the new 7.5 would be an even more authoritative bigger brother of the 6.5 Mk. 2. If I find an audiophile in Austin (Tx) with the VTL 7.5 mk. 2, I will definitely try to arrange a get together of the local gang to listen to both units on the same system.

Thank you. So to stay consistent 7.5 MkII it is. Either I sell mine & buy new or upgrade mine. Lets see.
Sounds like a perfect plan DGAD. When you get the new 7.5 Mk.2 and you break it in, please let us all know about the differences you perceive compared to the original model. Guido
I'm curious if you've tried your friend, Pscialli's 6.5 Mk II in your system. That would be an interesting evening of listening after knowing what your Ref 3 sounds like.
Sherod, unfortunately a direct a/b session may be difficult. I live in Austin (Tx) and Pscialli's system is in Fairfax (Va). Taking my REF 3 along during one of my periodic visits is not feasible.
I am waiting to hear the differences. Dgad????

I will need a lot of time. Breakin & all. It is a preamp which is the biggest pain to do a comparison. I will report back in a long while.
Ok thanks Dgad..Looking forward to it.
For what it's worth, Richard Hardesty's Audio Perfectionist has just published an extensive comparative review of the VTL 7.5 v2, Esthetix Callisto Signature with twin external PS, and the ARC Ref 3. I do not have access to the complete article, but have been told Mr. Hardesty appears to have an overall preference for the Ref 3 over the other two devices. His final comment on the Ref 3 is:

“ I’ve heard preamps that have a little more of this and a little more of that. But none that’s as complete, top to bottom, or as satisfying in its presentation of the entire musical picture, weaving
each distinctive element of music into a coherent whole. The Ref 3 goes beyond hi-fi; it’s a 21
century classic from ARC.”

Haven't auditioned them myself but a user who has mentioned that although the Arc is excellent in many ways, it's noise floor remains tubey and was unacceptable to him in comparison to that in other pres like the VTL.
Bar81, I have heard rumors of a high noise floor on Ref 3, but can not substantiate it. All Ref 3s I have listened to, including my very own are totally dead quiet. I can only guess that some degraded tubes may be the cause of the noisyness on the unit your friend experienced. The device should go back to ARC for servicing. By the way Hardesty seems to indicate that in fact Ref 3 appears quieter than VTL. I also tried Ref 3 with on Art Audio PX-25 monos and Avantgarde horn speakers, and there was still no noise.
Guidocorona: Audio Perfectionist? - or Arm chair audiofool who just reviews other reviewers reviews and makes statements about design? Wonder what fine magazines he quoted this time around?

When I borrowed a Ref 3 from my local dealer the noise floor was amazingly silent, but I still suffered from a mid bass suck out in my system with the Ref 3 (which someone suggested was the 6550c needed replacement). I have huge power noise problems so to me it was amazing that the ARC was so stone silent. Plug a CJ in and you get nothing but HISS through the speakers..
CytoCycle, if the 6550C was running out of steam, a suck out in mid bass is only the beginning of the slow spiral of 'grayness'. Next all highs would go the way of the Dodobird. Mr. Hardesty is certainly controversial. I have read some of his editorial pieces. As far as I know the article in question is an actual review, but I do not have the article in front of me to confirm. He seems to have high overall praise for all three devices discussed.
Question, Is the ARC a tube power supply or a hybrid power supply?
PS in ARC 3 is tubed to the best of my Knowledge. There is both an 6H30 and a 6550C at this time in it.
Guidocorona: "go the way of the Dodobird" I almost fell out of my chair....
Hardesty: has stated he is personal friends with ARC and VTL ....sooo and I'm not willing to pony up $110 (for 4 issues) to contribute to his rantings to find out..

At the end of this year I'll try to borrow the ARC (and I'll buy a new 6550c tube to have on hand) and I'll borrow a VTL 6.5 Mk II... and do a shoot out on my system to determine what flavor I like....

I wish we could hear from someone that has heard the VTL Mk II series...

I actually had a chance to look at the APJ you are referring to and the quote needs a couple of footnotes.

One is that Shane Buettner is the one who did the reviews of the ARC and Callisto, not Hardesty. Not sure if Hardesty had a chance to hear these units or not. Also, I believe Mr. Buettner was comparing these two units to his owbn VTL 7.5; I am not sure it was an upgraded MKII unit.

Small details, but I figured since I'd had a chance to look at it I'd let everyone know.

Thank you Jonas, if the reviewer has truly compared the Ref 3 with the old and original VTL 7.5 v1, the entire conclusions of the article would be invalidated.
My Ref-3 is dead quiet, don't have any noise issues with any of my ARC components including a ph-7 and ref cd7.....Steve
If a component at that level is throwing noise into a system I would be p*ssed. I would look to the electrical before I looked to the component anyway.

I personally haven't had the please to ad a 7.5 to my system, but I can say my 5.5 quieted things down for me.
I believe Shane Buettner sold his original VTL7.5 to buy a REF3 about 1.5 years ago. I chatted with him when he had his VTL up for sale on AG and I know he ended up with a REF3 shortly thereafter.

I bought a brand new VTL 7.5 and used it for about a year. During that time period, I borrowed a REF3 (the upgraded version) from a local shop and used it in my system for about a week. I was using a Reimyo CD Player & Vandersteen 5A Speakers. I felt that both preamps produced wonderful sound, but I preferred the VTL 7.5. In my system, the REF3 added noticeable “bass boost” and seemed to just slightly add exaggerated sparkle on the top end. I preferred the “softer” sound of the VTL that I would describe as more accurate and/or natural (assuming such a thing really exists outside of my head).

Additionally, I had spent SIGNIFICANT time tweaking/fighting the VTL and found running it as VTL recommends works best. Valhalla PC directly to the wall outlet and sitting on a good isolation rack. I used the VTL for several months running into a Nordost Thor and this proved to be a bad thing. I mentioned this to the Nordost guys once at a demo, that convo did not go to well… I found that running the VTL into the Thor (and 4 other power conditioners I own) produced a very noticeable cold, flat and pretty much lifeless sound. I have heard many guys here on AG describe the VTL exactly that way and I wonder if the units they were using were running into power conditioners.

With the REF3, I plugged it directly into a wall outlet, using a mid level AudioQuest PC. I did not play with it anymore then this and I would agree that it would be possible to make subtle changes to its sound via tweaks, so yes, your mileage will vary.

About 10 months ago, I bought a new CD Player that has a built in volume control, a highly modified Esoteric UX-1. After a very short time, it was obvious that this Esoteric player sounds best with no preamp and thus I was able to sell my VTL 7.5. I really liked the VTL 7.5 while it was in my system and it worked 100% flawlessly from day one, which I can not say about the majority of high end gear I have owned.
Billbench, your description of the sound of the VTL 7.5 is consistent with my early findings a couple of years ago on a 7.5 version 1. I did find its presentation very tuneful with 'soft' treble and -- to me at least -- slightly deemphasized transient leading edges. I admit I do prefer the presentation of the Ref 3 equipped with 6550C in the power supply, admittedly because of its comparative slight sparkle at the top and slight more authority at the bottom. Did you use a VTL version 1 or 2? I understand the 7.5 V2 is rather similar to the 6.5 V2, which instead I do like very much.
Billbench. You must have the 2.5. Did or are you going to upgrade to the "T"?
There is no question the 7.5 is a different (better IMO) preamp completely than the ARC Ref3. Too often they are mentioned in comparison to one another, not sure why completely. The 7.5 is a different animal altogether, from price point to form factor.

I think as far as tubed preamps go, the buck stops with the 7.5 hands down.
Hi JC, sorry I am confused, please explain 'better'
What about what I wrote is confusing??? Now I am confused...To be clearer for you, the comparison of these two preamps is imbalanced from the start. A more fair and equitable comparison would be the aforementioned 6.5 to the ARC, not the 7.5. The 6.5 is about 80% (according to VTL) of the 7.5, which is about what I attributed to the Ref3 in my auditions when comparing to the 7.5.

The 7.5 sounds light years better to my ear, and the 6.5 is on a more even footing to the Ref3.
Also, you should know the PS in the ARC Ref 3 is Hybrid not pure tube. Dgad was correct.
To me, at this price point, better is at best subjective. Both units are very well designed and executed. I expect the goal of the manufacturers is to be as accurate as possible. Just two different designs to achieve the same goalm, since both are statement products built without compromise.....Steve
Stesom - what amp are you using with your REF3, PH7, REF CD7? REF110?

Is the amp dead quiet too? I think the REF3 is dead quiet, but when the REF110 was added, there was a little bit of hiss.

I am running Ayre MX-R monos. I have heard the same setup as mine at my dealer, but using the ARC Ref-210s and also dead quiet.....Steve
What about what I wrote is confusing??? Now I am confused...To be clearer for you, the comparison of these two preamps is imbalanced from the start. A more fair and equitable comparison would be the aforementioned 6.5 to the ARC, not the 7.5. The 6.5 is about 80% (according to VTL) of the 7.5, which is about what I attributed to the Ref3 in my auditions when comparing to the 7.5.

The 7.5 sounds light years better to my ear, and the 6.5 is on a more even footing to the Ref3.

There is nothing "imbalanced" about comparing two reference model preamps from different manufacturers, regardless of the price difference. If a higher price tag meant anything, then the VTL couldn't be compared to many more expensive preamps like the $36K Boulder and some others.

It's especially ironic that the preamp you feel doesn't measure up comes from the company with the longest history in the business and with preamps specifically. ARC/Bill Johnson virtually invented the concept of a high end dedicated preamp over thirty years ago.

It's a bit like saying that you shouldn't even discuss Rollins in the same breath as Coltrane because Coltrane is so vastly superior. Where ever you come down on these comparisons, there is a lot of subjectivity involved in picking the preamp that you consider to be the most musically rewarding. It's one thing to make your case for your favorite, but declaring the competition not worthy of comparison is a silly way to do it.
I had an extensive explanantion of the principles behind the VTL 7.5 design. In a nutshell and from my minimal understanding, a Tube based current source will always be limiting compared to a Mosfet one. Hence the VTL decision to use Mosfets for the current source. They prefer the musicality of the 12AX7 tube or 12AU7 tube as they are deisgned for audio. This is compared to the Russian tubes used by ARC & BAT in their preamps. While the 12AU7 being using in the original 7.5 sounds soft in the 2nd version it is opperated at a much higher current (I hope I am remembering the explanation correctly and putting it in writing 100%) into its most linear range. At this point the 12AU7 tube will not be soft sounding. My skeptism is much reduced in a design theory after these explanations.

But on a different note, I am using the Thor on my 7.5 v1. I really didn't A B it as I tried it in some other systems to great effect. Based on Billbench's comments I will need to go back & try again. 2nd of all, Billbench, I would love to know what Amplifier you are using in your original comparison.
I was using the VTL7.5 Series 1. I gave very serious thought to sending in my unit for a Series 2 upgrade, hoping it would equal running my Modded Esoteric direct as I really wanted to keep a preamp in my system, but in the end, I decided not to waste another 3K as I am confident it would not have proved better than running the Esoteric direct to amps.

Frankg, yes, Alex created my CD Player. It’s a 2.5 version and I could not be more happy with it. I am going to hold out until the end of the year before I send him my UX-1 for an upgrade as I would bet that another refinement will come by years end.

About what I said regarding the Thor, I was not trying to make an “absolute statement” but I thought it was ironic that from day one, VTL told me not to bother with power conditioners and of course, I said to myself…what do they know :), and in the end of my experimenting, VTL’s advice was dead on accurate (for me). FWIW, the best power conditioner I used which got me closest (but not there) to running direct to the wall was a Reimyo ALS-777. That Reimyo Power Conditioner noticeably improved the Reimyo CD player but it did not work at all on my new modded Esoteric UX-1.

As far as comparing the REF3 and the 7.5, I think it’s a completely fair comparison. Let’s face it; most high end gear is good and usually very good. The Differences between component A and another manufactures component A are usually minimal at best. What sucks is going to a high end shop to listen to Component A and the set up of the shop is a complete joke, from speaker placement, to extreme room clutter, to components sitting on the carpet, and the list goes on forever. You got to get this stuff back to your home if you r really interested in how it sounds.
i have posted a comparison of the vtl tl 6.5 preamp in comparison to the arc ref 3. on this site, in reviews from members.

the vtl 7.5 was completely out of my pricepoint. i heard it at the dealer in the same set up as i heard the 6.5 at the dealer [my review is with my system at my home]

however, though i was advised that there would be perhaps only a subtle difference between the 6.5 and 7.6,in less than 20 seconds of listening [a/b 6.5 and 7.5] i noticed a difference in nuance and articulation and finesse. the 7.5 is impressive. sibelius,violin concerto,mutter.
the vtl 7.5 i heard was the latest version, series 2, not the orig 7.5. the series 2 version, which i heard for a short time and only one once work, was superb. cheers.
Davemitchell: I'm a little late about commenting on your post of 06-09-07 regarding the VTL and ARC preamps, but here goes. You say it's especially ironic that the preamp you feel doesn't measure up comes from the company with the longest history in the business and with preamps specifically. ARC/Bill Johnson virtually invented the concept of a high end dedicated preamp over thirty years ago. Not true, there is a company that maybe you have heard of called McIntosh Labs that got a 21 year head start (since 1949, Audio Research began in 1970). McIntosh's C-20 and C-22 preamps were considered edge of the art not to mention a dear gentleman named Saul Marantz who also built state of the art preamps. Not knocking Audio Research, but just setting the record straight and also McIntosh and Marantz did not have an update or new model change every few months or every few years, i.e., SPl, SP2, SP3, SP3A and so on up to LS26 and Ref l, 2, 3. No sour grapes here, just expressing an opinion.
Speaking of Ref 3 - there is an excellent review written by Martin Colloms in 3rd issue of HiFi Critic. This a new ad-free mag which I strongly reccomend. Martin makes extensive comprisions to CJ ACT II.2 and CT (5?) pre amps.

Elberoth2 - could you give a bit of the highlight of Collom's remarks on Ref3 and ACT2. I enjoy his writing, but at roughly $150 USD for a one year subscription his words turn into cream.

Well, $100 (not $150) certainly may seem as a lot of money for a magazine. At least at the first sight when you compare them to Stereophile and the likes which sell for 12$ a year. BUT, when you think what you get for your $100 ... well, it makes things look different. In this case, you do really get what you paid for.

In this case, the ad-driven Stereophile IS really worth 1$ and ad-less HFC IS rally worth 15$.

You will get your $15 back ($100 a year) when you buy (or do not buy) one of the components Martin describes. Imagine how much money (and time) that $100 may actually save you.

Where you can find a detailed WP 8/ Avalon Diamond comparo ? Or ARC Ref 110 / CJ Premier 350 ? Or ARC Ref 3 / CJ Act 2 ? Whery you can read that the Krell 202 preamp failed ? Or ARC Ref 3 fauiled ?

Quite possibly - nowhere.

Big magazines avaid such a direct comparos like plague. Not because they are not able to do that, or 'cos they are not aware that readers expect that, but 'cos that may upset their advertisers.

IMO, HIFI Critic is THE most professional, troughful and insightful magazine that is currently available. And I'm really VERY happy I can buy this kind of advice/expertise for 100$.

As for the ARC - I can only say, that is set a new reference standard for Martin.
$150? Wow.

Absolute Sound, Stereophile, etc. sell their blather for a much lower price.

I guess if there's a market for $400 Police tickets some moron will pay $150 for some "audio expert's" musings.

Now Mikey and the crew can raise prices to read their drivel.
I read the first edition of this magazine and IMO was no better than any other mag and in some areas a lot worse.
At least with Stereophile you get JA's test reports.
I auditioned a CJ ACT 1 in my system after reading a review by MC, couldn't agree with the rosey review that he gave it and saved myself alot of money and bought an ARC.
You have got to listen to preamps in your system and decide for yourself if the sound is to your tastes and not those of some pundit.
There is just one BIG question for me: Can you(or even M.Colloms-I respect him very much) really compare ARC REF3 and CJ ACT2 Series 2? One(ARC) is fully balanced design which IMHO sound much better when used in balanced(as intended) mode. In SE mode you loose much of its sound qualities IMO. CJ ACT2 Series 2 is on the other hand SE design and sound very best when used with amps that are not balanced. Try to connect ACT2 to ARC REF110 with adaptors and you will get totally crappy sound-I am speaking here from personal experience...

So, I do not agree at all with M.Colloms that you can compare this two preamps, at least not with the same amp...

On the other hand you can compare VTL TL7.5 MkII with REF3 since both are balanced designes and here you can use the same amp as a reference...

Speaking about Hifi Critic I also like the magazine very much but, I also think that $100 is too much for it. M.Colloms is also biased towards few manufactures, everyone who reads his reviews in last 15 years knows that...

I like Roy Gregory from Hifi+ but, I do not like to quote him despite the fact that some of his reviews are truly excellent(and with few I fully agree which is very rare thing, at least for me)...

My point is that all magazines are not that much important for US-the audiophiles. They are important for the industry... Bad review for some product in major mag can be a kiss of death for that product(or even the manufacturer!)...

Long live the difference in our ears and opinions!

Thanks, Elberoth - perhaps you saw subscription prices for the UK. The HiFi Critic Web site says a 1 year (6 issue) subscription sent to the US is 75 GBP. At present exchange rates that works out to ~$149 USD. I agree that head-to-head comparisons seem to be a thing of the past.

Scousepasty -> sure you shouldn't buy anything without listening first. But then, you are not able to listen to everything on the market. Good reviews can serve as pre-filters.

Funny thing that you mentioned that you found ARC better than CJ ACT 2. That is EXACTLY what MC did himself in the next issue. So I do not really get your point here.

I do not want to defend MC work. IMO it defends itself and anyone who knows his work back from HiFi News times, knows that. Because even there he was curageous enough to write a bad review of Wilson Audio speakers (himself beeing an owner of X-1 at the time) or Krell (again - Krell KPS20 owner at the time).

Show me a bad review of any big name in JA, MF or ST writing.

BTW -I'm from Poland and I do not know MC personally.
MC also so gave bad reviews to several ARC products namely the VT200 or was it the VM200?? as well as one of ARC's lower rangte pre amps, which ARC re-designed after his review.

The only brand that I have never seem MC give a bad review to is cj.

Elberoth, Fremer also gave a bad review for that amp as well. Fremer has also given a bad review for the top of the range Audio Physic speaker, so telling everyone here that the so called commercial magazines does not give bad reviews is a little misleading.

Mark Mickelson from soundstage was the ONLY reviewer to bring up the serious issues the VTL 7.5 has with tube gain hiss/noise. Use any power amp with over 29db of gain and you are faced with HUGE amounts of tube hiss. Absolutely stupid to design a so called reference pre amp with this issue. OK if you run it with VTL amps only.