In my opinion, and to answer your original question, if you can get I REF 6 for that price, there is no question in my mind which one is better. Having spent time with the REF 5SE it's a wonderful preamp.
If I never compared it to the 6 I would be more than content. However, comparing the two everything about the REF 6 is just better...
Just more of everything and imaging that makes you want to reach out and grab the musicians! I'm getting much less sleep than I used to. :(
Elem79; You are absolutely correct the Reference 6 is a WOW, no a double wow compared to the 5SE. I have about 50 hours on mine and I am listening to music more and more. My wife's complaining on why I am not spending time with her - It is because I am falling in love with music through my new ARC.
I am blown away by the soundstage, the width and depth of the artist within the soundstage. The bass is tighter and Ref. 6 is more detailed than the 5SE. Mmbl622 don't even think about the 5SE you will always wonder what the 6 sounds like.
here's a couple of review links that compare the 2
Two thumps up for the REF6 - I had a well broken-in 5SE in my system - only thing I changed was placing in the 6 to demo from my dealer. New out of the box and upon initial listening I was pleasantly surprised of what it was doing in my system both stage wise and sonically speaking - kinda shocking because I haven't experienced this from any other new out of the box ARC product and I have owned numerous pces over the years- always took some time to hear this or that.
It's now well broken-in - very nice pce indeed!!!!!!!!!!!!
elem79 thx - have you tried any footers underneath as of yet? If not you should because doing so you will hear noticeable changes. I just happen to have a few - mini stillpoints/sistrum footers to name a few. Have 3 SP's currently under now and like what I'm hearing and in a weeks time will try the sistrum and then go back to nothing to see which is my preference. Always like these simple isolation tweaks and have usually found using them to be positive.