ARC Ref 3 - thoughts?

Hi all, 

I have an ARC ref 3 that I've been really happy with, after switching all the valves it has improved a lot. What's the view on the newer ref series, are these much better? Could you describe the sound improvement?

Thanks, Tim
Hi Tim,

I have done the Ref 3 upgrade circuit.  Namely, the Ref 5, Ref 5 SE and now the Ref 6. IMO, there was an incremental and noticeable improvement from the Ref 3 to the Ref 5SE and then again to the Ref 6.  

I recall seeing a few Ref 3s listed on A'gon for the high $3ks to maybe $4K range.  The list prices for the Ref 5SE are all over the place, but assume something in the high $5Ks or low $6Ks.  So, moving up to the Ref 5SE could cost some change.  

That said, I recall that my Ref 3 was a real sweet sounding pre.  If you are happy with your Ref 3, especially after the retube, why not stay put and just enjoy it?


I own a REF5se and love it. Years ago I had an LS26 and it needed some repair and the dealer lent me a REF3 while mine was in the shop. First taste of heroin is always free, right! I got hooked and started to save. Then the REF5 came out and that dealer and I did a A-B between the 3 and 5 and both of us were amazed at the soundstage and articulation. So I saved more then they introduced the SE version and I finally had enough to buy one just as the 6 was coming out. All I can say if  you have the means bypass the 5 and go with the 6, if not you will be pleased with the 5 after owning the 3.

All my opinion of course

Totally agree. I had the Ref 5 se for about 4 months and my dealer lent me the Ref 6. What a big difference. With everything. Was really truly amazed. It’s definitely a keeper. 
tattooed, thank you and it lends to my theory that, I really don’t think ARC comes out with a new model unless they are confident it is better than it’s predecessor. Case in point, when they came out with the LS27 it was so good they revamped the REF and introduced the SE version as the 27 was too close in performance and wanted the 5 to be the value at it’s price point.