Allenc, what is the rest of your system, including ICS, speakerwires, PCs, etc. . .? What music do you listen to? What do you like least about your LS25? What do you like best about your LS25? What sound do you wish to achieve?
I am proud owner of a Ref 3, yet that does not mean anything, as both devices are excellent and to the best of my knowledge without reproach. It will be only a matter of personal preference. . . so, do tell us more.
Guidocorona, my system consists of Esoteric x01, all transparent ultra mm cables and shunyata pcs (python & anaconda). It is not that I don't like ls25 but looking for something better. I mostly listen to classic and some jazz.
What a coincidence Allenc, I also have an X-01, into Ref 3, Into Rowland 7M, into MagnePan 3A. My Ref 3 replaces an ARC LS2B. I chronicled my long selection process on the following thread:
I listen almost only to classical music, and within that not too much orchestra, but mostly chamber and vocal. You won't go wrong with either linestages. VTL will give you perhaps just slightly softer transients and a slightly more intimate or romantic feel. Ultimately you may need to audition both these creatures. . . really tough to find them both in the same store though, except perhaps at Soundworks in Kensington (Ma). 301-929-8600. If you decide to buzz them, you should make sure you talk to Peter, he is extremely knowledgeable, the rest of that company's crowd is quite run of the mill instead. By the way, you should try an Anaconda Helix Alpha on your X-01 if you have the opportunity!
If your amp contains the super balanced topology it will benifit from running fully balanced. There is a new circuit recently released into the VTL 6.5 that was not included until a recent release. Make sure you get the latest version. It incorporates updates that have been introduced into the VTL 7.5 mk II. They didn't rebadge it though. Also the updates increase dynamics while maintaining transparency. It is a worthwhile upgrade. If you like the VTL sound then stay w. the VTL preamp. I honestly believe there is a strong synergy staying with a brand to some extent.
For the biggest immediate improvement, ditch the Transparent cables. Transparent makes a system sound lifeless -- or at least that was what a friend and I heard in our systems. If the high end needs taming, Transparent works great -- but you pay a big price. If you don't believe me, borrow something like any of Acoustic Zen cables and see (hear) for yourself.
Dgad, do you happen to know when was the update on the 6.5 introduced? And do all 6.5s after such date sport the new circuitry, or is it an option only? The update may very well have addressed some of the mild objections I voiced on the 7.5 when I listened to it two years ago. This all points to Allenc really needing to hear both these devices before committing to one of them.
In consultation with Guido and Peter of Soundworks fame, I purchased a VTL 6.5 in mid April. I don't know if it has the newer circuit topology or not. After about a year of intense research, I had my selection narrowed down to the Ref 3 and the VTL. Both are magnificent. I am a tube guy all the way and opted for the very slightly warmer sound of the VTL. To my ear, the Ref 3 was a touch, but only a touch more analytic in character. I personally find Wilsons to be a bit too emphasized in the mid bass, but that could well be because I've never heard them properly setup. Based only on this experience, I might view the ARC as a better match for that system. I remain thrilled with my VTL 6.5, Bel Canto amps and B&W N803 speakers. I'm more of a jazz and female vocal listner; although, the system really shines with orchestral music as well. I'm about to replace some relatively long runs of Kimber 8tc speaker cable with some very short runs of Acoustic Zen Satori Shotgun. I'm doing so partially to increase the "snappiness" of the system. The B&Ws while not slow, are not the fastest speaker in town and conceivably I'll replace them in the next couple of years with something faster such as Maggies or Quads. Bottom line on the topic question though is listen to both and pick the "flavor" you like better. Both are excellent!
My response is undoubtedly biased but IMO the Ref3 is just the best preamp available today.
I don't know when they did the update but it is very recent. See my post on the 7.5 update. Same applies to the 6.5. I would stay VTL the whole way through since you have the amps. I am sure the update is expensive. Call them & let me know what they charge you.
It looks like all new VTL 6.5 are born with the update. According to Bea at VTL, Dr. Scialli's device, which came out of the furnace in April, already was born with the new circuitry.
Don't you love how much great product is available today? Also the value of some of the 2nd from top equipment that receive trickle down technology is incredible. It can often be a waiting game to get the technology in a lower priced package. No one can truly proclaim a best, but they can make a recommendation for best value.
The ARC is a stunningly good preamp! On top of that, I have found that VTL has awful customer service. G. Garfield
I can also vouch for the fact that the customer service at ARC is second to none
I've had the opposite experience with VTL. I've called or Emailed Bea two or three times with questions and was handled very professionally and quickly. I haven't dealt with ARC customer support in several years, but my experience was that while efficient, they were not particularly folksie and the repairs were extremely expensive. As I said, I haven't worked with ARC in a long time, so my experience may not reflect the current state of affairs. However, I've had nothing but good will and superb sound from my VTL product.