Audio Research Corporation ARC Reference 600

Has anybody had any experience with these, good or bad? I had VTL MB 750's before and loved them, but had to sell due to finances. I see the ARC Ref 600's use a lot of tubes. I do not need a that power, but I like the whole paraphernalia of the hobby. It's like having a hot rod. Sure, you don't "need" 500 horse power. Lol. Would anyone recommend the ARC Ref 600's, or should I look elsewhere?
I gave them a thought once...but after reading that the retail cost of a new set of tubes would be $4800, um, no thank you.
It's a very expensive way to heat your house.
So that's two for negative. I appreciate your input! Thank you.
Find a nice used pair of Ref 250's if you didn't need the power of the 600's.
Next year, these amps will be 20 years old. They'd be due for for a good going-over and would need to be sent back to the Audio Research factory. Shipping both ways to the factory (400 lbs) and the fee for the Audio Research check-up make the cost of ownership for these amps a serious matter.
Although I am an ARC warranty repair station and would be happy to service them for you, the fact is with a total of 32 6550 output tubes and 8 regulator 6550's you have multiplied your chances of arcing a tube by a large percentage. Unless you need that kind of power, (you didn't mention the speakers you would be using or their sensitivity), and you have friends to help you shlep them around, I would tend to look for a lighter, lower powered ARC amp. Ref 75's are nice.
I use Klipsch KLF 30 speakers. It's not about needing the power, it's more about the paraphernalia of it all. Like hot rods or muscle cars, sure, you may not "need" 600 horsepower in a 65 Mercury Conet Caliente. Lol
I had a pair of VTL MB 750. Maybe I should look for a pair of those. They only have 12 output tubes. It just seemed like a good buy as I can get 600 for the same price most are asking for 300's. and 300's weigh 132 lbs, so they are not all that much lighter. From the sounds of it, these 600's are too heavy, too many tubes, and almost 20 years old, so they may be a financial disaster. Thank you for the input everyone!
On your speakers a singe Ref75 would be sonic heaven, seriously give one a listen, it is one of the best sounding amps ARC has ever made.
So I guess nobody has anything good to say about the ref 600's. even at a price under $8000.00 with stands, shipped.
They will need new tubes though. Can I just put tubes in myself, or do I have to have a professional do it?
You could do them yourself if you had a schematic diagram showing you which tubes go where. But the cost would still be between $3,500 - $4,500 for new tubes for both monoblocks. Then biasing the tubes, etc......

I agree with other posters, a brand new Ref75 or Ref150 or used Ref250's would be sonically superior and more reliable (and cheaper in the long run!)
Very nice amps. even compared to today's newer amps. You will love them. However, I believe you may have misread some of the responses. They are simply warning you of the expense of replacing the tubes. That is all. If that isn't an issue or if the tubes have recently been replaced, go for it. These were the top of the line AR amps and they are still incredible. I believe that the 610s replaced them. I also second the recommendation of auditioning the REF 75 or 150 or 250 amps. I love the 250 amp.
Does anyone have any opinion about manley amps? The neo-classic 250's or 500's? Do they measure up to ARC, or VTL?
I just looked up the specs on the Klipsch KLF 30 speakers. Sensitivity is a very high 102 db. Unless you have a huge room and listen at ear-splitting levels, I think you would be hard pressed to stress a good 75 wpc amplifier such as the REf 75. Most of the time you will be listening at less than 1 watt.
Agree with Mabonn. If you think you may change speakers at any time in the near future, you may want to step up to the Ref 150 now, the Ref 75's bigger brother. Anything more than the Ref 150 at this time is like swatting a fly with a 1000 ton press. Btw, I've seen some preowned Ref 150s listed for a decent price.

Aside from power overkill, I would challenge point how the Ref 600 sounds compared to ARC's current Ref offerings. There's been a lot of water under the bridge since the Ref 600 was at the top of the ARC food chain.


You can get the same "hot rod" effect with a set of Ref 300s with half the cost and effort. Even the half power of the 300s is more than needed as others have already stated, but that doesn't seem to be your goal. I would have ARC go over the amps regardless of tube age. Just like a high performance engine these amps need an open check book to give their best and avoid costly repairs.
For the vintage, Ref 300 is superior in sound quality to Ref 600. Google for reviews and probably why Ref 300 are more $$ than Ref 600 in used market.
I have owned many ARC and the Reference 300 is their best! The problem with ARC is that once aged, the circuit board will short circuit and BANG!*"|@# ... total up needed!
Let me also add that since you have speakers that have a 102dB sensitivity @ 1W 1 meter, noise becomes more of an issue. The Ref75 should be quiet enough, but what kind of preamp are you using? The s/n ratio of some tube preamps would be low enough to cause a definite backround hiss through your speakers which you may find objectionable. This noise can interfere with imaging, front to back depth, and low level detail. Just thought I would throw that in.
Another vote for the Ref 75's. They make the finest sound I have heard in my system. Detailed and dynamic, with good base slam, but no edge or harshness at all. They do not run hot at all. I am using them with sensitive Daedalus speakers and I have neighbors, so don't play at 100DB. I haven't been able to move the meters more than a micron, since I bought the amp. A proverbial no brainer if your speaker and music choice allow
I am thinking about VTL MB 450 amps as well. It seems like ARC has more fans then VTL. Is there anyone who would choose VTL MB 450's over the ARC 300's?
Those speakers are so efficient that most often they're using only "fractions" of a single watt! You seem very enamored with the idea of ultra power amplifiers (hot rod effect).I say in that case satisfy your craving and go for it. It's a strange match but if it makes you happy, why not?
what are you after? if it is sound quality, using huge high powered amplifiers from ANY company will be a step BACK in sound quality. If you were using huge and inefficient speakers that would take advantage of all of that extra power, that would be a different story. But with your speakers, high powered amps would sound less good than one with less tubes and circuitry in the signal path. A ref 75 would sound MUCH better than even a ref 150, or any of their higher powered monoblocks.
You guys are awesome. I am gathering that a ref stereo 75 is better than monos? Or are you referring to two stereo 75's as mono blocks?

Don't think the Ref 75 can be used as a mono blocks.

Given the high sensitivity of your speakers, the Ref 75 should have more than enough muscle. I only mention the Ref 150 if you think you may change out your speakers for less efficient jobs. Otherwise, the Ref 75 is at the top of the audiophile food chain.

Good luck and let us know what you decide upon.


I am leaning heavily towards a REF 75. How could you go wrong? I just though separates were considered better than a one box deal. But throughout this thread, the REF 75 seems to be so loved. It's always nice buying something that you know you'd have no problem selling if and when I am ever done with it.
You should audition a REF75 in your system if you have an ARC dealer nearby. Then you will be able to make an informed purchase decision.
Based on sonic merits alone, the REF75 is at the top of the ARC amp line (now and past).
Just my 2 cents.