Audio Research Ref 6 SE


Hi , was told today that Audio Research Ref 6 SE is about to get released with first shipment scheduled by the end of December/ early January, if anyone has more information about specs please share , I emailed AR support waiting for response with details but they confirmed about Ref 6 SE release . I was about to purchase one so would be interested to see what got upgraded or how much will current Ref 6 will drop in price ..,
datka3
interesting.  I am also curious of the changes and cost.  
I just read on another forum 

“In January, ARC will make available a REF6SE Upgrade kit, consisting of vastly improved and higher quality capacitors, internal wiring, and a few other parts. The SE Upgrade kit price will be announced at that time.

For those that wish to have Audio Research perform the upgrade, the retail price is $3,000 and ARC will do all of the labor and testing to company standards along with the typical service warranty.”
Interesting...’vastly improved and higher quality capacitors, internal wiring and a few other parts.’ ...
Which leads me to ask why were ARC using totally inferior and poor quality capacitors, internal wiring and other parts in the first place??
Plus, how did such amazingly new caps, internal wiring and other parts suddenly become available!
This marketing technique has always been a MAJOR turn off for me with ARC gear. IF--if such improvements are made over a large period of time, this I can understand and totally accept, but with such consistency and in such a small amount of time ( just a very few years with the Ref5 to Ref5SE and so many others ( Ref 6 to Ref6SE...how long??) ( as ARC has always been able to do...looking back at their history) ---that doesn’t pass the smell test, IMO.
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Were you happy with your Ref 6 last month? Did it sound sublime to you last month?  I get it if you buy and sell alot but if you were thrilled with the sound last month, then absolutely nothing changed.  We audiophiles get frustrated when companies rest on their laurels and we get frustrated when companies come out with SE versions right after we purchase. Its a catch 22 if you are a company right?  

Long time ARC customers know once we purchase something that one of two things is about to happen: if you own a Ref (non-SE) product then a SE is about to be introduced and if you own a Ref "X" SE product then a Ref "X+1" is about to be released. At this level of performance, once the initial depreciation is done, they hold their value quite well. Ref 5SE's are selling for in excess of 20% more than when the Ref 6 was introduced.

At least ARC is no longer hiding the "fixes" they made to design weaknesses, problems, and outright failures as they did during the SP3 and SP6 days, sneaking them in when they introduced the New! Improved! Mk.2/3/4/5/6 versions.

ARC pulled another con when they discontinued the LS2 Mk.2. They sent all the "Reconditioned" units they had left in stock (where did they all come from?) to their dealers, discounting them from $2995 to $1995. Once those were all sold, they sent their still new (non-Reconditioned) units to the dealers to sell at the same $1995 price! What an ethical company would have done is offer both the Reconditioned and non-Reconditioned units at the same time, with the Reconditioned pieces at a lower price than the non-Reconditioned pieces, letting the consumer decide which version to buy. After that, I vowed to never again buy a new piece of ARC.

That's okay, there's better stuff available anyway. Ask Audiogon member folkfreak; he compared his Ref 40 to the big VTL pre, then sold the Ref. Has any ARC owner ever compared their Ref pre to the EAR-Yoshino 912?

This has nothing to do with being happy with the sound. It has to do with honesty, ethics, integrity and treating customers right. Especially those of nearly 30 years and those who specifically asked if a new product was imminent. And it's even more important when we're talking about products that cost $15,000.
Products get upgraded all the time in this industry. Others offer similar products with upgraded parts in their product lines like Prima Luna. Myself I own Jolida separates with optional factory cap and matched tube upgrades. What is different about what ARC is doing?
@9rw  +1000

What is still one of the most annoying and IMHO unethical things is the fact that so so many folks seem to think that it is ok to tell people some of the facts, but not all of the facts....IOW, it's what they don't tell you that hurts. NOT OK in my books! 

I have a good friend who also bought a very expensive piece of audio gear...only to find out that two weeks later a revised version came out with upgraded parts etc., which immediately resulted in a lowering of the value of his piece ( and a considerable loss if he had to sell it now).
He tells me that he would have been more than happy to wait the few weeks to buy the newer version...IF the dealer/manufacturer had made him aware of this fact. How many folks here think my friend is a happy camper and praising the dealer and manufacturer after this episode???
And yes, the piece he bought sounds exactly the same as when he bought it...so what!!
Honesty. I specifically asked.
@9rw   That makes it even more heinous! 
I think the ONLY way these companies and their dealers learn is for everyone to vote with their wallet. Maybe when their income stream dries up, they will learn their lesson.
Not being an apologist but how far in advance do you expect them to preannounce?

It sounds like product not released yet, but announcement has been made already.
So it’s a question of how far in advance, where company knows following announcement difficult to sell current model. 
Whatever the magic day is, there will always be people who bought the day earlier, right?  So move announcement up a week to placate those people. But wait, then there’s still more who bought the day before that ..... 

someone will always get screwed
I am done with Audio Research. I have seen a HUGE decline in customer service and how it treats people. Fortunately, there are still some great ones, like Pass, Vandersteen and a few others, but how disappointing to see this transformation.
kren0006: The Reference 6 I purchased hadn't even been manufactured. I had to wait several weeks. The 6E came just a few weeks later. It would have cost ARC nothing and would have rewarded a loyal customer who has spent close to $100,000 on ARC gear over the last 27 years.

@kren0006 Let’s hope that you are not the poor sap who bought the day before...LOL.
Selling the current model is not difficult at all once a new model has been stipulated, one simply has to discount the old model enough and disclose the new model to all potential buyers...very simple....unless that is you want to try and justify an unethical act.
Got it. Yeah I can see why you’re unhappy. I wonder if they will work something out with you
i think it has probably happened to everyone at one time or another. Not uncommon not to preannounce new models in many industries. I get it, it sucks. 
Look at pc industry in 80s and 90s or really any time. Been there. 
@9rw the fact that you asked is a tough one. If you paid anything close to retail, i would ask them to upgrade to the se as a good faith gesture. Its worth asking.
@ghasley I think the fact that 9rw asked specifically and was not told the truth is a telling fact. So, either his dealer is dishonest or whomever he spoke to at ARC is, IMHO. Personally, I think that 9rw should not even have to ask for the upgrade, it should be offered as a simple courtesy...along with some form of compensation for the fact that he was deceived. That would be good/appropriate customer service IMO. 
Agree 100% there is no harm in him asking...only in him being denied, again IMHO.
There has to be some happy medium, and I can totally understand why co’s don’t preannounce beyond a month or so having worked in various engineering companies.
Look at the other extreme- ps audio. Read their forums and their ceo has been openly discussing imminent release of great speakers for 3 yrs and still not out. Similarly for a digital server tho not as long.
You know there are people who put off purchasing 3 yrs ago and still waiting and are probably mad as hell as result.
I’ve been there - there are any number of setbacks that can happen in last month before release that can cause long delays, and if co announces more than that in advance and one of those happens and sales dry up co could literally fold in some cases
Just bought (used) a ref 6 eight days ago. Also bought a (used) pair of ref 160M’s. I was using a GSi75 intergraded before. I am super happy with my purchase. And super happy with sound quality. It’s my dream system. Not upset at all with not knowing about the upgrade to the REF6SE. In fact pretty happy that there is a upgrade path. It really is amazing to me that this amp and preamp can get better sound for less than retail of my speaker wires.
What’s the retail cost difference between a Ref6 and Ref6Se?  Maybe ARC will update your to a SE for the difference?  
Had I purchased a used Reference 6 this wouldn't be an issue. Yesterday I sent the dealer, Stereo Exchange (Dave Wasserman), an email asking whether I'd be given any consideration for an upgrade. I'll keep you posted, but I'm certainly not banking on it happening. Even so, on the used market an upgraded unit doesn't have the value of an original. That's the first question every potential buyer asks. Anyone care to make a guess about the outcome?
9rw, not sure if you mean upgrade via the upgrade kit biketony mentions above or to trade in your 6 for a 6SE?
REF6 retail is 15k
REF6SE Retail is 17k

I'd prefer a new 6SE, but I'd be OK with upgrading mine, depending on the cost of each. I'd be happy to pay the difference ($2k) for a new one, but I think there should be no charge for an upgrade. Sound reasonable?
Obviously, tech companies are generally not going to disclose future design projects or features, even to their good customers.

If I call Apple today and ask them what features will be in the next iphone or when exactly it will be released, do you think they will tell me? Anyone who did would be fired immediately.

As one of first posters mentioned, always a risk in purchasing anything that a newer and better model will be released shortly. The fact that you asked doesn’t change anything if you asked outside of the window when company deemed it permissible to discuss, other than it would obviously be super frustrating due to the bad timing.

Sounds like here there was a window, happening now, and your purchase fell outside of it. That is terrible luck for sure, but it happens. Regardless, I hope they give you a discount on the upgrade path, though I highly doubt it would be free (why would it?) as you suggest.

I'm facing similar dilemma right now because I want to purchase Rega Elicit R and Cambridge 851n for $4.5k for 2nd system now but I'm holding off because I have a hunch each of them could be upgraded in next year.  It's just a hunch and could be wrong, but I've looked at the release date timeline for each company and it seems like it is getting close to when you'd expect upgrades for each.  I have asked both companies but of course the answer is the same one you got, and that doesn't make me angry, it's what I totally expected.  
Comparing Audio Research (McIntosh Group), which is not a "tech company," to gigantic Apple (mass-marketed phones and computers) isn't really relevant. With computers, they're outdated in 18 months or so. Everyone knows that. ARC deals in a niche market. Anyway, I'm not counting on anything good coming of this. I'll be amazed if Dave Wasserman of Stereo Exchange even responds, but I'll let you know if he does. Thanks, everyone.
Fair point about differences between apple and arc.  Good luck
Ironically, the rise of forums like this probably make it much less likely that companies will provide the kind of advance "heads up" you were looking for.

25 years ago if a company told a customer an upgrade is coming, they only had to worry about that customer and maybe the customers friends (who he/she told in person or by phone) would delay purchase - negligible risk to company.  

Today, telling one customer, who then posts it here or any of the other forums, could literally be like telling nearly the entire universe of folks seeking to imminently purchase (at least anyone who before spending $15k does a search to see what's up).
ARC wasn't sitting on inventory. That would perhaps make its behavior marginally understandable. Dave Gordon and Wasserman could have simply said the 6SE was coming out in two months and I could have suffered with my LS28 for another few weeks. Or I could have gone ahead with a purchase of the Reference 6 and have saved the $2k, but it would have been an enlightened decision.
Well unless they were sold out they certainly were sitting on "inventory," even if it hadn’t been fully assembled and boxed.

Here’s what I mean.

Obviously each time they get an order ARC does not order one set of printed circuit boards, and doesn’t separately order each of the individual components for that amp.

They have all of those pieces in stock and ready for the next scheduled production run of that amp. So although they may not have a bunch of them built and boxed, they likely still have sunk the $$ to have everything to build them, some of which (e.g., PCBs and certain components) likely won’t be useful for anything else.

I get it that my view on this isn’t as pro-consumer as yours, but that’s because I’ve worked on the other side and see both sides of it. (and obviously I’m not personally affected as you are so your frustration is fair given the bad timing, just presenting the countervailing view)
Those may be valid observations, but I wonder how many parts in the 6SE are truly unique. I doubt, for example, that it has a whole new circuit board. If it were truly revolutionary, it would be called the Reference 7. Also, knowing at least six months ahead that the 6SE would be in production now, I doubt ARC had tons of useless parts in inventory.

My frustration with ARC is greater because of a current negative experience with my barely 3-year-old REF75SE and having to pay $10 apiece for four LEDs -- which are nothing special and cost ARC pennies -- with less than 100 hours of use plus $9 shipping when the actual shipping cost was $3.74 USPS. One LED burned out despite the fact I hardly ever have the meter lights turned on. The first REF75SE arrived from the factory in late summer 2016 with none of the LEDs working, so there seems to be an issue.
I don’t have your experience with ARC, as I only have one piece (DSI200 integrated). I think it is fantastic but it’s admittedly by far the highest-end amp I’ve owned so I don’t have lots to compare against in my room. I hope to one day move up the food chain.

As a longtime owner of dozens of ARC products, do you still feel that ARC makes the best sounding stuff overall from sound quality standpoint, and you are now just frustrated with customer service?

Or have you also noticed that ARC’s equipment is not what it used to be in terms of sound quality versus the competition?
Has any ARC owner ever compared their Ref pre to the EAR-Yoshino 912?

Big EAR fan but prefer ARC pre.   More air bloom ...

Admittedly an ARC fan, I believe their equipment now is the best sounding it has ever been. The new Ref 160 monos and 160 stereo are knockouts. 
Parts always get better, and more expensive. 
Their press release says that they have taken things they have learned in the development of their "lastest products" and put them in the 6 SE update. The "latest products" are the 160 amps, so they must be using parts used in them. 
In the past, if there is an update that can be retrofitted in a product then they call it a mark II or an SE. If the product can't be updated they usually go to the next number. The LS27 never changed, so when the new model came out it was an LS28.
9rw why don't you ask for a better price on an SE update? All they can do is say yes (happy) or no (not). 
I've been a fan of the ARC sound since 1992; however, I've also owned high-end equipment from Pass, Levinson, Rowland, Wadia, Classe, etc. I think the new ARC stuff is the best-sounding yet, but customer service and appreciation is at an all-time low, so that's what is so sad. All the great people of the past are gone and indifference is a generous way to put treatment of customers (at least me) now. I've asked Wasserman of Stereo Exchange about working out some kind of consideration but I continue to be ignored.
Good to hear about sound quality.  Not so good about customer service if true generally.

bummer, I would also be disappointed IF I had spoken about this with Dave at ARC within 2-3 months of release....The dealer could also have been in dark, but with a long term loyal arc cuctomer at risk, step UP to plate and help.

Eric I have a REF5se and the big VTL is quite good, takes the two chassis model to achieve parity IMO....but yes, my next auditions will certainly include VTL...
BTW for the out of warranty club, a real old stock USa made Tung Sol in the REF5se power supply is freaking awesome....

Andy at Vintage Tube can help...
Thank you, tomic601. Wasserman at Stereo Exchange got back to me and is going to ask ARC about working something out. He made no promises, but we'll see.
9rw, here is hoping they come through for you.
9rw, glad stereo exchange got back to you. Don’t forget you can always contact ARC directly. In the past they have always been very helpful with me.
Definitely hope ARC steps up here and works something out!
Good luck 9rw.  I agree wholeheartedly with you and hope ARC works it out.  The same thing happened to me years ago.  I bought a PH5 and the PH6 came out less than a month later, unbeknownst to me.

Like you I made a significant investment with my dealer which also included a turntable, arm, and cartridge in addition to the preamp.  Would have liked the option to choose!

In his case he had the ph5 in stock which tells me ARC or he had no exit strategy when it comes to innovation.  
Good news. My dealer, Dave Wasserman of Stereo Exchange, informed me today that Audio Research will work with me on upgrading my Reference 6. The price is fair, so I thank them both.
Frankly, I am pleasantly surprised. My take (rightly or wrongly) is that Mr. Wasserman must sell a lot of ARC gear such that the folks at ARC could not say "no". 
I love my Ref 6 and Ref 150SE combination. I paid full boat for each three years ago. I will not be spending $3000 to upgrade. I have no doubt that the SE will sound both different and better. How much different and how much better will vary among listeners. Whether the $3,000 is a value play will also differ among each owner. I invested long green on Cardas Clear Beyond XLR's to connect the two after experimenting and finding ARC's recommendation to buy the very best XLR's one could afford very true. 
My own personal situation is that my loudspeakers and listening room (combined) are a much greater impediment to better sound than any incremental difference there might be between the Ref 6 and Ref 6 SE. ARC's price structure for both new equipment and accessories (e.g. replacement tubes) is on the very high side. They have always positioned themselves as a barely affordable luxury brand compared to the likes of Lamm and CH Precision. I sense the same applies to their upgrades. This is just pure conjecture, but I think ARC is charging $3K to do changes that someone like, say for example, Mike Sanders at Quicksilver would charge $1000 for doing. They don't give existing owners breaks on upgrades. 
And further, the Ref 6 SE will then be eclipsed in 2-3 years by a Ref 7. 
I have reached a point in my personal audio journey where I feel content and don't have to have the latest/greatest. I hope it sticks. 
The question that I always have is this...how many times is a so called ’upgrade’ truly what it purports to be? If we are to believe everyone in this industry, all upgrades are always a step forward...yet IME, that has not always been the case. OTOH, how often have we heard that the upgrade is in fact...a downgrade in SQ!