Taters, I strongly advise you to make a decision ASAP. There's an LS 27 listed for sale on A'gon right now for about $5300! They don't hang around for long. Ref 3s are also posted for sale from time to time for about the same bucks.
I used to own the Ref 3. It is very very good. I now own the Ref 5. I really enjoyed my Ref 3, but I think the Ref 5 is a bit more refined and detailed. Bass is tighter; top end a bit more open.
I mention this because I understand that the LS 27 is a baby Ref 5. I don't know how the Ref 3 and LS 27 stack up against each other. I belive there are a couple of threads on the Forum which discuss this very issue. I suggest that you read the threads to learn what other members have posted. Then I would call Cal at ARC and ask his advice first thing Monday AM. He is very helpful and can help you make an informed decision.
But as I said, used LS 27s don't hang around for long, so "pull the trigger" quickly if you go the LS 27 route.
Please let us know what you decide.
Woooaaah. Bifwynne--why such urgency in your post? This isn't a race. I'm sure both pieces are nice and the differences between them are relatively small. ARC sells lots of units and updates their product line with (some say too frequent) regularity. Taters, I'd suggest taking your time, enjoying what you have, gathering opinions here and elsewhere and, most importantly, trying to audition both units (ideally in your own system) before making a decision. Enjoy the journey for crying out loud! Undoubtedly the price will come down while you are patiently making an informed choice and you will be more certain you did the right thing once you have the new preamp inserted in your system. Then you can begin thinking about your next upgrade!
I'd choose the REF3 if it were my money.
If you can't rob a bank for the ref5, go for the ls27. It's a wonderful piece.
Dodge. . . , the only reason why I counsel decisiveness is because LS 27s don't come around very often. Ref 3s do. The LS 27 currently for sale is practically brand new. If Taters is a serious buyer and is really trying to decide between these two pieces, I would NOT take my time. Of course, IMHO.
I have not compared the Ref 3 with the LS27. I do own an LS27 and I'm super happy with it.
I'm trying to get my local dealer to loan be an Ls-27. I might just take a shot and buy a Ref-3 here on Audiogon. I'm sure I can always get my cash back if I don't like it.
I was wanting buy a REF3 but after speaking the Dave Gordon and Calvin from ARC at RMAF, I will wait to buy the LS27. The implimentation of improvements they gained in the design of the REF5 have filtered their way into the design of the LS27. From what I understand the power supply alone is better than the one used in the REF3. My local dealer has just sold his LS17se and feels it may rival the performance of the LS26. Those folks at ARC are doing some really great stuff these days.
Taters, the LS27 may be better than the Reff3, I've never heard the LS27, but the Ref3 is a stellar preamp. You will be very pleased if you buy the Ref3.
This is puzzling - according to a review in AS, Valin mentioned that he thought the differences between the REF3 and REF 5 were tiny,though he thought the 5 was an improvement (that the 40 anniv really gave him a good feel for the improvments). If the change (or improvement) is slight between the 3 and 5, how slight is the difference between the 27 and 3?
I have heard the ref 3 and LS 26, not in comparison but in seperate systems. Have not heard the 27 or ref5.
As an owner of a low hours LS-26 I too have considered which would be the right move to make and canvassed the opinion of someone who reviewed the LS-27 and as I do not have his permission (because I haven't yet asked) to post his comments he will remain anonymous. His comments were:
"I have used the Ref 3 but not in a very long time. I do recall comparing it to the LS-26 back in the day and thought the 26 was awfully close. But I did not have one handy to make a direct comparison to the 27. If I was making a choice between a Ref 3 and a 27 I would go for the 27. I do note that AR claims the 27 betters the 3. I can't confirm what is obviously marketing but it is not inconsistent with what I hear and recall."
I also spoke to someone @ ARC and their opinion was to make the jump to the LS-27 Vs a used Ref 3 but I temper, but do not totally discount, that with the fact my buying a used unit doesn't necessarily impact their balance sheet in a positive manner.
Having recently acquired new speakers this matter has taken a back seat in my audio upgrade path and I recently purchased some NOS 6H-30DR tubes for my LS-26 as a stop gap measure which I have yet to install...
Since Valin alludes to all new ARC preamps coming (yet again), I would wait.
I have listened to REF 3,REF 5 ,LS 26 And LS 27.
In my opinion REF 5 is much better than REF 3(I owned and sold 3 = 1 new and 2 used as recently as 3 wks ago.
I tried to like REF 3 but after extensive listening I decided that both REF 5 and LS 27 are much better( the latter has convenient output selection).
Right now I have Burmester 099(great solid state with dac)and LS 27 and I am trying to figure out which piece is staying(listed both at cheap price).
My amplifier is Ayre and speakers Dynaudio with Kimber and Audioquest cables.
LS 26 is also very good piece as is LS 16 mark II.
Never liked LS 25 I or II which are selling for 2500 plus.
I have to agree with Pawel8. I owned a ref3 and now a ref5, and the difference is pretty large. The 5 is much more rhythmic, and musical. When I saw that review implying the differences were minor, and knowing that they were actually quite large, I just had a lot of qestions about the review...