ARC ref 5SE current or past owners


Hi
I have an option of buying a preowned ref5SE.
My amps are the Audionet MAX and my natural choice would be the Audionet top of the line pre but I don't have where to audition.
My current pre is the MBL based MC601 by music culture technologies.
I never thought I will go for a tube pre again but I can audition the ref5 probably next week so I will give it a shot.
What should I expect from the ref5 Se?
Previous owners - which pre replaced it and why?
Did anyone compare it to Audionet pre G2 by any chance ?
Thanks in advance to all repliers.
icorem
Icorem ... I can't speak to how the ARC Ref 5 SE compares to the other brands you mentioned. I can only say that I own the Ref 5 SE and am extremely pleased with what it does for my rig. Please note that I probably get the best from the Ref 5 SE because it's part of an all ARC system and I think much can be said for system synergy.

FWIW, I have continuously moved up the ARC product line for a long time. Each equipment move-up was a palpable improvement over the previous item.

My only advice is that you should try to audition the Ref 5 SE. You wrote that you are thinking about buying preowned, which I think is fine as it stands. Not sure how you can manage an audition.
Thanks
I will be able to audition. I'm hesitant as for the impedance matching with my amp in balanced.
Do you use it balanced or single ended ?
love my REF 5 SE
replaced a MAC SS
can not comment on yours or the alternate as have not heard
home auditions in your system near priceless
i had at home Aesthetix, MAC, Ayre, CJ and a few others. System synergy ruled day for me anyway.
IMO ref will benefit some w tube rolling and isolation like HRS Nimbus
BTW get the metal ARC remote and check plexi cover for cracks.
My Ref 5 SE is hooked up to my ARC Ref 150 SE via balanced I/Cs. No other choice really.

I pulled this off the ARCDB website re Ref 5 SE impedance matching:

"600 ohms Balanced, 300 ohms SE main (2), **20K ohms minimum load and 2000pF maximum capacitance.** Outputs (3): 2 main, 1 tape (XLR and RCA connectors)." (**emphasis added)

So yeah, watch your amp's input impedance. If less than 20K ohms, it will affect the SQ of the Ref 5 SE. This is especially important if you use the Ref 5 SE as a source for a subwoofer. You have to consider the combined input impedances of both devices.

Btw, don't mix and match output taps, i.e., XLR and SE. ARC advised me NOT to asymmetrically load the Ref 5 SE. If you may have this issue, call ARC. There are solutions, e.g., use of an impedance buffer.

I have the name of a guy who can custom make such a device. I know ... because I used one for my rig a while back. :)
Hi again
I had the Ref5SE for home audition for the past 2 days.
As anticipated I had impedance matching problems with my Audionet MAX amps. In XLR - total mess but in RCA it worked fine when the volume was at 50 and up. It sounded then much better than my current pre but I won't take it because of these synergy problems. My lesson was however that i have much to upgrade in the preamp department. As previously said I might eventually buy blindly the matched Audionet preamp but until then I will try to audition some more. Any recs ?
Icorem,

Just checked the Audionet website. The problem *IS* your amp's input impedance:

RCA: 37 kOhm, 100 pF
XLR: 3 kOhm, 100 pF

No wonder you had a different result when using the RCA and XLR inputs. The XLRs are *WAY* below what ARC recommends (20K ohms)... as I posted above. It does not surprise me that you had a better result with the RCA jacks.

I'm not sure that it is significant that your rig didn't open up until you dialed the Ref 5 SE up to 50. Right now, my Ref 5 SE is dialed up to 75. It goes to the sensitivity of the amp (or in my case, my DEQX PreMATE).

The real question is whether you liked the sound with the Ref 5 SE hooked up to your awesome looking amp (via the RCA jacks). If not ... keep looking.

Cheers,

BIF
A power amp with an impedance impedance of 3kOhms?! Keith Herron says that is done because lowering the input impedance of an amp improves it's test bench specs. Unfortunately there is a price to be paid for doing that.
10-17-15: Icorem
Hi again
I had the Ref5SE for home audition for the past 2 days.
As anticipated I had impedance matching problems with my Audionet MAX amps. In XLR - total mess but in RCA it worked fine when the volume was at 50 and up. It sounded then much better than my current pre but I won't take it because of these synergy problems. My lesson was however that i have much to upgrade in the preamp department. As previously said I might eventually buy blindly the matched Audionet preamp but until then I will try to audition some more. Any recs ?
Your result is not surprising. Checkout a VAC Signature MKIIa SE or higher. My Sig MKIIa has no problems driving my Hegel H30 with a 4M XLR. I think H30 input impedance is 20kΩ XLR | 10kΩ RCA.
BIF
When hooked to the RCA input the ref5 sounded very good but as I said the volume level was at 50 and up so I won't go for the ref5 as these limitations might cause problems in the future.

BDP24 - can you elaborate a little bit ? I didn't understand exactly what do you mean by "improve test bench specs". Do you think Audionet is trying to push the owners away from high output impedance tube preamps...?
Icorem, you posted that "[w]hen hooked to the RCA input the ref5 sounded very good but as I said the volume level was at 50 and up so I won't go for the ref5 as these limitations might cause problems in the future." With respect, your post is a bit of a non sequitur. The volume control level setting is not a limitation per se that will a fortiari cause problems in the future.

That said, if you find a linestage/pre that sounds better when hooked up to your AudioNet MAX, ... definitely go for it. In audio, there is no such thing as one size fits all.
Bif
I totally agree with you, but when other owners say that their volume level rarely go over 40, I think it has something to do with the impedance ratio between the units and the long IC between the amps and the pre.
I've yet to find a better solution but will probably audition the Constellation 1.0 line stage or buy blindly the Audionet pre g2...
Icorem ... again, if you find a better match for your awesome looking AudioNet MAX mono amps, then you most definitely should go for it. If you are still in the investigative stage, keep looking.

But I think the volume control setting on the Ref 5 SE is only relevant if you are not able to drive your amp to full power. The amp's 37K ohm RCA input impedance is well above ARC's recommended minimum.

I have 2 suggestions, but only if you have any continuing interest in the Ref 5 SE. One ... if you think you kinda' like the Ref 5 SE match, call Kal at ARC customer service and share your concerns with him. It's a fair technical issue that deserves a technically competent answer.

Two ... if Kal assures you that the volume setting question is a non-issue, then give the Ref 5 SE a serious road test. IMO, it's a great pre, but not the only great pre out there.

That said, if you have moved on and the Ref 5 SE is not on your short list, ... well ok then. Keep looking.

Sorry to perseverate. I just don't think the volume control setting is a key issue. FWIW, I am listening to DG Mozart piano sonatas CDs, played off my ARC Ref CD-8. My Ref 5 SE's volume control is set at 70. Speaker SPLs are just fine. If I move the volume to 80, my ears hurt. And that leaves 24 clicks to go.

Cheers,

BIF
BIF
Thanks for the reply.
I'm leaning currently towards the Audionet pre.
I am doing a home audition also with the Ref 5SE. The unit is running balanced using Transparent super cabling into my Theta Prometheus monoblocks. They are rated at 47k so there is no impedance issues. This preamp is fantastic. My last line stage was the Audio Research LS25 MKII, which I sold years ago. The first thing that impressed me was the bass solidity and definition. The instruments do seem to float in space between the soundstage. The wide soundstage is a known treat when listening to Audio Research preamps and line stages. I was searching for a unit that gave me back that wonderful sweet midrange and treble that I lost using my Classe SSP-800 as the solo line stage.

Please do not misinterpret that last statement. The Classe sounds wonderful in itself, and is fantastic with multi-channel music. It was a personal feeling when listening to 2 channel stereo, that I was still missing that last 15% to satisfy my taste. The amount of definition this unit reveals is amazing, I am hearing subtle cues in recordings that were definitely not present before. I guess the offer is just too good to pass up especially now that there will be a Reference 6.
The Ref5SE is still tops, IMO.