ARC Ref 2

Anyone with a Ref 1 that upgraded to the Ref 2? Every review I've read leaves me with the impression that the 2 is anything but neutral. Thoughts?
Here's my experience: I just sold an SP-11 that I owned for quite some time. I had been increasingly unhappy with a higher frequency glare and sibilance from the SP-11. In my search for a new preamp I borrowed a friend's Ref 1 for several weeks. Same sonic signature as the SP-11 in my system with marginally better staging. Same high frequency glare and sibilance. The owner of the Ref 1 had just bought a BAT VK50. I tried the VK50 in my system and was amazed. Better bass resolvement, no glare and sibilance. I ended up buying the VK50SE from a dealer here. I still beleive that ARC products are a good value, but in two very dissimilar systems, the BAT high-end preamps just plain sound better, in spades! Perhaps you may want to consider a VK50/VK50SE loaner from your dealer before you commit to the REF2 upgrade. I cannot comment on the REF2 but I can only assume that it has the ARC house sound as well. If you have any questions, Email me at:
There is a huge difference between the Ref 1 & Ref 2. Much more airy with a HUGE soundstage, greater dynamics, etc. It also seems to be much more quiet of an amp. It does have a bit of the ARC signature (everything has some sort of signature sound), but paired with a nice complimentary cable like the Transparent Ref XL, Nordost SPM, or the Purist Audio (have not personally heard but am told they are great,)it sounds incredible. Definitely upgrade to the Ref 2, it is arguably the best preamp on the market today. The other thing to ask is what amp are you running it with?
I have a REF 1 and I find the soundstage too imposing at times. If the Ref 2 has even greater dynamics I would probably NOT upgrade as I will probably find it too overwhelming. But judging from the new design, with tube rectifiers the sound should have more bloom and be less glary and perhaps more laid-back. Of course careful auditioning is a MUST before committing to the mod, as this is mighty expensive and not just stuffing in a few infinicaps.
Hi Hifigy, My observation parallels with Beemer. Give the Bat VK50se an audition in your system. All the best, Tom
The Ref 2 will give you a bigger soundstage, a bit smoother highs, more dynamics and a bit less bass detail, but still all the bass dynamics of the Ref 1. Most prefer the Ref 2 to the 1, but some still prefer the Ref 1 to the 2. Nevertheless, those who have heard both are usually talking about the differences mentioned above. If you feel your system is a bit too analytical then this would be an improvement, but if your system is a bit laid back, then keep the Ref 1 as is. It really depends on how you want to tune your sound. Let me know if I can be of any further help. Tony
Thanks, everyone for the feedback (pun intended) btw, I'm using a VT-200 and Dunlavy SC-V's with Synergistic cables & interconnects. hifigy
I have the same amp and the Ref 2 is a beautiful match for it. You will not be disappointed.
Synergistic goes very well with the ARC equipment. The Ref 2 has a detachable power cord and if you get a chance, try their designers reference squared power cord on it. WOW!