Audio Research Ref 3 vs Atma-Sphere MP-1 mkIII

Has anyone been fortunate enough to compare these two excellent preamps. I'll be driving, at least for now, Gamut M250 monoblocks, in balanced mode

Thanks for your insights.

I have.

In my system, driving Pass Labs amps in balanced mode, the Atma-Sphere
MP-1 MKIII was a better match...resulting in a much larger image (which I
like), and a more lifelike, dynamic reproduction.

I'd say the ARC Ref3 was the more tonally neutral of the two, if that's a

FWIW, both were replaced with a Lamm L2 Reference, which has the neutrality
of the ARC married with the dynamics and life of the Atma-Sphere.
Grant, if you wouldn't mind, could you expand on your comment that the Atma-Sphere presented a "much larger image"?
The reason I ask is that I have heard this phrase many times, and IME, it usually means a more forward soundstage. A wider and higher soundstage, but at the sacrifice of depth.

FWIW, depth is a priority to me, I like a deeper 3-D soundstage as opposed to the more forward, larger 2-D stage. I do realize that everyone has different tastes though.

The image was higher and wider, which is what I meant by larger. Depth was
about equal, as I recall, and it could be adjusted with positioning of the
speakers (closer together and/or more toe-in produces a deeper image in my
system...and a small amount does it).

I believe it's fair to say that in my system, the Atma-Sphere put the listener
closer to the front of the concert hall than did the ARC Ref 3.
Thanks Grant, that does clarify certain things.

I prefer a more laid back, or mid-hall perspective as opposed to the "in your face" front row perspective.

I know that I differ from others who love the front row view, so thank you for clarifying what you meant Grant.

Let me offer a slightly different take on what I think Tvad may be describing. I'm not sure that the MP-1 presents an inherently closer or further view of the soundstage. In other words, I don't think its a front row vs. mid hall preamp. Although I have heard preamps (some CJs, the Premier 17 for example) that do seem to put you further back, so its not entirely a recording issue

Imagine you're looking at an orchestra, standing on the same level as the musicians are sitting. Imagine you could ride a boom-lift straight up so now you're at say a 45 degree angle from where you were. Imagine what that would do to your perspective on the orchestra.

Using this scenario I think the MP-1 yields a more oblique perspective. You are not closer or further, but the orchestra *seems* more "spread out" (higher, wider) than it does with a preamp that gives a more 'head-on' view. Distance (depth) is the same, but the perspective yields a more dimensional view of the musicians.

I grappled with this issue recently listening to the MP-1 and another preamp. I'm not sure my account ultimately holds up, but I needed a way to explain to myself that the MP-1 gives a different view, but not necessarily a closer one.
Tim, my perspective with the MP-1 was not one that you describe, i.e. 45
degrees above the plane of the orchestra.

I think system variables make an enormous difference. For example, I listen
nearfield with the speakers 8 feet from the chair. I'm sure the perspective
would be different in a larger room.