Also i will have NO WAY to compare both of them side by side.
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While I do agree with @stereo5 that the ARC will probably not take the edge off, limited to these two choices, I would choose the ARC Ref 3.
Wait a minute....this thread looks awfully familiar......
The ref 3 is a very very good pre-amp, up their with the best designs of all time IMHO. Not sure on how the ML will stack up against it as I have not heard one. I do listen to a ref 3 regularly as I have one in long term rotation against an Ayre KX5 and a MSB Analog DAC ( with volume control).
With a good SS amp to back the ref 3 up, its a killer combo, one I just spent all day enjoying with my Ayre MX-R mono blocks. Prior to the MX-R I had the ref 3 paired with a Ayre VX5, both combos are sublime. I highly doubt I will ever move my ref 3 on, I have listened to the ref 5 , ref 5se and ref 6. They sounded very nice of course but not "oh lets pony up 10-15k " good to get me to upgrade. That said, I am looking to move my KX5 on. Read that as you will.
Hope this helps.
I've cleaned more than half my collection with ultrasonics, about 2500 records. It's the greatest thing since sliced bread - if you play vinyl.Agreed. Even some new, factory-sealed LPs are dusty and benefit from a good ultrasonic cleaning.
discussing record cleaning on a preamp thread ? quite funny.
Even more so when you look at the OP's virtual system and see that he doesn't own a record player.
TTM - I would recommend a tube preamp in your chain, but look for one with variable gain. This will allow you to deal with compressed rock music better which is your requirement. ARC no longer offer variable gain.
When I contacted Leonard and Kalvin over the years at ARC - you know when you could get them direct, I asked why not ? Their response to me was....
Klyne and Atma Sphere are two that offer this feature. For ARC you would need to go back to before remotes were used - if this is a requirement ? I have heard many preamps in my room including SP8, SP10, and Ref ARC models. I would not give up variable gain. Once one has mastered how to use it with different sources, different recorded music material (all genres), different amps, you can't be without it.
Check out the Belles tube Preamps. You will forget about the brands mentioned above once you have heard a Belles. One thing that is remarkable about Dave Belles tube designs is that they are dead quiet as a tomb. You will hear no hiss sound coming from the tubes which is a problem with many tube preamps. Hand made in New York. Both his solid state and tube designs are known for their very rich, ultra smooth sonic character with killer bass. Off the radar, doesn't advertise, and has been in business for thirty years. Very strong word of mouth reputation. Has a strong cult following in Asia and Great Britain. His VT-01 and LA-01 tube preamps are true statement pieces. Build quality is much better than ARC. The performance level of these units are typical of tube designs in the $10K to $20K price range.