ARC REF 3 or MBL 5011 - what is better buy?


Hello, I have the opportunity to buy MBL 5011 and ARC REF 3 for a great price. I cannot demo or audition them so I would like to get the opinion of the people who have/had/tried them in their systems. My listening preferences are jazz, classical (orchestra, chamber or solo piano) music. The rest o my system:

Esoteric x-3se cdp
Plinius sb301 amp
Egglestone Andra II speakers
Stealth Metacarbon Ics (RCA)
Stealth Dream Petite (bi-wired) speaker cables

Any advice is highly appreciated. Please do not bother with recommendations to demo/audition them because it is out of the possibility.
denon1
I owned the Reference 3 for a short while, and I used it with Pass Labs XA-60.5
amplifiers. It was good, but not overwhelming. I preferred the bass control and
balance of a Lamm L2 Reference with the Pass Labs amps, and I subsequently
sold the Ref 3.

Of course, this may have absolutely no bearing on the Ref 3's performance with
your Plinius amp, so my apologies in advance.

I suspect the Reference 3 is much easier to resell than the MBL, so you might
start with a Reference 3 from this standpoint alone.
I think I need to add more info to my issue/situation. Currently I have Antique Sound Lab Flora (6sn7 tube based) pre-amp. It is a good pre-amp for the money. When playing CDs with small group of instruments (jazz) it produces great soundstage, good imaging, natural timbers. But when playing CD with the large orchestra music, the soundstage remains good , but I strongly feel that all presentation is loosing crispiness, transparency, even so the soundstage remain large. The impression is that somebody put curtains on my speakers. I think this is attributes to the ASL Flora in my system, so that is why I am looking to change/upgrade the pre-amp and ARC REF3 or MBL 5011 are the good candidates. Again, because the possibility of demo is non-existent, I would like to get as much opinions/suggestions as possible.
You do not specify but if you have not upgrded to Mundorf caps and NOS tun=bes in your Flora then you have not heard it at it's best.
It still may not get the job done for you but then again it may...If you have already done these things....never mind my post :-)
Unless I missed it, it seems that nobody even considered that the MBL is solid state while the REF 3 is a tubed preamp. I personally love the sound of tube preamps, but eventually you will have to replace the tubes which can hit the $1,000 range for excellent quality tubes. Vacuum tube equipment is a whole other universe which eventually will lead you down the road of tube rolling, etc. etc. You need to consider whether you want to walk down that road.
10-21-08: Cyclonicman
...eventually you will have to replace the tubes which can hit the $1,000 range
for excellent quality tubes.

The Reference 3 uses five 6H30P tubes and one 6550C tube. Five 6H30P tubes
cost $150, and one 6550C tube costs $80...for a total of $230.

There are more expensive versions of these tube types available, but reading
these forums reveals that the results are mixed insofar as using the more
expensive NOS tubes produces marginal improvement, if any. Many users
believe using the less expensive tubes supplied, and recommended, by ARC is
best.

So, it seems that with the ARC Ref 3, one need not be too concerned with the
cost of re-tubing the preamp.
I bought my replacement set of ARC original factory supplied tubes for my Ref.3, tested and matched, for $330 nett.

Have to agree with Tvad, having lived with the Ref.3 for 3yrs previously, they are good partnered with SS amp--but not the greatest. Though given the choice (having briefly encountered a 6010D in a friend's system), I'd still opt for the Ref.3. IMO, they are still one of the best value pre-amp available today (considering price to sound performance ratio). Especially buying used, I believe that you'll preserve most of your dollars invested upon reselling.

If you love the sound of Plinius why not also try out their pre to maximize design synergy?
Glide3, my Flora has a Mundorf caps and I rolled tubes and now have NOS Tung Sol Round plates that considerd one of the best. But even with that, I feel that some transparency missing. Dont get me wrong, it ia a great pre-amp for the moeny, but I think it is has limitations. Does anybody had/have the the chance to listent MBL5011? Based on the couple reviews I found, the MBL5011 is better than ARC REF 3.
Have you researched Room Treatments?

I would look towards sorting your room out before swapping electronics. I own Andra IIs and it's been my experience that they can sound congested in a too small or too bright room.
Does anybody had/have the the chance to listent
MBL5011? Based on the couple reviews I found, the MBL5011 is better than ARC
REF 3.
Denon1 (Threads)
Be honest. What you really seek is
just one person to validate your desire to purchase the MBL5011.
Tvad, I hate to say but you are absolutely wrong. All I want to get as much opinions as possible to find a good choice, because for me this is the one of the best options to come up with the more or less of good choice. It does not have to be MBL 5011. As for now, I’m leaning towards ARC REF 3. The only thing that stops me from buying it the opinion of the Audiogon member( Guidocorona ) who seem reviewer for TAS and respected here on the AudioGon. He is stating on several occasions that Jeff Rowland Capri sounds close if not better (for him of course) than ARC REF 3. When I read that $3000 unit sounds as good or better than $10000 unit it make me confused at least and make me to go on another round of evaluations.
I have owned and appreciated the MBL 5011. It is a very fine preamp, and close to the flagship 6010D in sound quality, though not as resolving. I eventually traded it in for two reasons: it lacks a balance control and its output impedance of 100 ohms, though relatively low, is still too high for getting the best out of my amp (a Burmester 911 Mk3).
OK. Good luck.
TVAD, I was not aware of how many tubes were in the Ref3 or the replacement cost from Audio Research. I have a REF 1, which uses 8 6922/7308 tubes and nos tubes such as Siemens, Valvo or Tungsram can be close to $1,000. So if it is only $330 to replace the tubes on the Ref 3, than you guys are right, as it should not be too much of a concern. The Ref 1 is a superb preamp and from what I have read, the Ref 3 leaves it in the dust!
contact Tboooe. he had both preamps. I am sure he wouldn't mind sharing his thoughts. REF3 is a good preamp and I think if you are listening to a lot of large scale orchstral it may serve you well. Tboooe kept MBL. But I believe his taste in music is small ansamble jazz and vocals and not a lot of large scale classical. But do contact him. Also read through his system page he shares his thoughts there in regards to both units.

Best of luck!
Well, I'll toss the Lamm L2 Reference into the suggestion pile. I preferred it to the ARC Reference 3. Better bass definition, depth and control. Better tonal balance throughout the frequency spectrum in my system. Image size (height, width and depth was about the same).

No remote. Two boxes instead of one (control unit and power supply).

Pretty good deal if purchased used, too.
Just to clarify,I owned a REF 3 and a Capri which I acquired based on Guido's favourable reviews,he is a well respected audiophile.The Capri just didn't make majic in my system,nor those of several others I have since corresponded with.
I am a believer in equipment synergy and I have no doubt that in Guido's system the Capri excelled.
The Capri just didn't make majic in my system,nor those of several others I have since corresponded with.
Markwatkiss (Threads | Answers)
After I sold my ARC Reference 3, I heard from two other Reference 3 owners who experienced the same lack of magic in their systems.

As you state, system synergy is crucial and is difficult to predict on paper. Not until one gets the components together is it possible to determine if they make the magic we all seek.
Tvad, I agree. I will have to go this road again. Trial and error. Untill I hear it in my system and in my rooom, I will not be able to determine. But still your advise as well as the others is very helpfull. Thank you.
another consideration would be to sell the plinius in the future and save up for a used lamm 1.2 or 2.2s. These amps are really special and magical! and i have read they work well with the Egglestons.
I had plinius amps before, integrateds & separates. They are very good amps, no doubt! but in my experience, they just dont have the magic and soul of the Lamms. YMMV.
I use to own the Andra 2's and these are great speakers, I also used Stealth product within that set-up. Indra, Dream SC and PC's and really worked well them. Amps I had McIntosh 501's and then Pass X600.5's all using the Stealth product and all with a Ref3 pre. I currently still have all of the Stealth product and use MBL 101E speakers and still have the Ref3 pre. If I still owned the Andra's I would have liked to have tried the Lamm product. Ref3 and Lamm are suppose to be a really nice match and many use this combo. I have heard Plinus and I preferred the others connected with the Ref3

In the end it's your choice but if it was mine, I would get the Ref3 pre and look at amp change if not now down the road but make sure you do not rest your opinion when paired up with the Plinus.
{{{As for now, I’m leaning towards ARC REF 3. The only thing that stops me from buying it the opinion of the Audiogon member( Guidocorona ) who seem reviewer for TAS and respected here on the AudioGon. He is stating on several occasions that Jeff Rowland Capri sounds close if not better (for him of course) than ARC REF 3. When I read that $3000 unit sounds as good or better than $10000 unit it make me confused at least and make me to go on another round of evaluations.}}
I used to be a Plinius dealer and the ARC Ref 3 worked very well with the Plinius amps either a 26 or a Ref 3 would be a great pairing
Rowland gear has always matched up best with their own matching units as they were designed to do
I believe guido when he hears this fine pairing with the Rowland gear.
I wouldn't let it confuse your situation as the Plinius ARC is a different interface.
Best John