Audio Research ref3, vtl 7.5 vs FS paramount MKII

Has anybody ever compared Audio Research Ref 3 or Vtl 7.5 against First sound Paramount MKII? I leave in Europe and there are no First sound distributors therefore, I have never had the opportunity to test it myself.
My amp is an Accuphase A60, cpd Audio Aero 192mkII and Harbeth monitor 30 as speakers.

Can anybody help me please?

Good question, it interests me too. Though with the Monitor 30 (which I also own) all three seem like a bit of overkill to me. Maybe not...
Hi Drubin,
You might be surprised but I owned a pair of Avalon Opus(25000 Euro) and I replaced them with the Harbeth. The only think that I miss sometimes is the huge dynamic that Avalon had, and that's it. Don't underestimate the harbeth only because they don't cost 10.000 USD, they are excellent speakers. A friend of mine had a pair of Guarneri homage, great speakers too, but, believe it or not, in some areas Monitor 30 over classed the Guarneri. Being said, is the Guarneri -with some other high-end speakers- over priced or, is the M30 one of the best speakers that money can buy?  Of course the size of the room where M30 have to be positioned can’t be too big otherwise they wouldn’t be the perfect choice. Mine is a medium size and they fill it up with sound.

I've never known a person who was disappointed in their Ref 3. I'd definitely take it over the VTL. I've never heard the FS, but my dealer bought the Ref 3, replacing his Levinson 380S, and he's still raving about it months later.
I do own the Ref 3 and do love it on my fully balanced system. Having said that, Ref 3 shines definitely in balanced systems using XLR ICs. In single ended mode I have heard mixed opinions instead. I also love the VTL 6.5 MK2. . . have not heard the 7.5 MK2. First Sound can be sourced directly from the manufacturer. . . no need to go through a dealer if one does not exist in your area. Guido
A friend of mine, who also has Accu A60 (although he uses two of them bridged) auditioned several preamps in his system, and went with Ref 3.
Thank you very much for your suggestions. Any First Sound owner has anything to say? Has anyone ever done a direct comparison between FS Paramount and Ref3?
Thanks Elberoth and congratulation for your great system, I saw the picture. Any First Sound owner?
Salvo, a direct comparison of First Sound Paramount with Ref 3 is a tricky business at best:
First Sound is a single ended design optimized to operate in a single ended system. . . it may not shine at its best when inserted in an otherwise balanced system.
Ref 3 is a symmetrically balanced designed optimized to operate in a fully balanced system. . . it may not shine in a single ended system. . . I know I do not really like its performance when I turn off the balanced signal.
hi there, just thought i'd interject a comment regarding the ref 3 vs vtl preamps. 1. the vtl preamp at approx the same price as the ref3 is the vtl 6.5. there is no mark II edition [mis-stated by guidocorna]. the vtl6.5 was offered after the vtl 7.5 origin, around the time of the vtl 7.5mkII. the vtl 6.5 is the little brother of the 7.5 mkII, sharing the 7.5 mkII technology and is cuperior to the original vtl 7.5 preamp.

salvo: you comment that you have never known a person disastified with their ref3. when, here is one! to be accurate, after a very very thorough a/b with the ref3 and vtl 6.5 , i chose the vtl 6.5. my review of the vtl 6.5 vs ref 3 is posted on audiogon. as mentioned in my review, i have listened to the vtl 7.5 mk II for only a very short while, but it was easily apparent that the 7.5 mkII went the extra 9 yards that the 6.5 does not... and by deduction, would easily outclass the ref3 in some areas of presentation DEPENDING on the other components in the system, incl speakers, amp, cables, current quality, and of course quality of the source components. overall, it is all about system synergy and room acoustics. however, if you are considering the ref 3, i suggest you do some very critical listening in the upper bass presentation with complex / dense orchestra music. also, scores with very rapid sfortzando episodes. transients can lack good resolution, even in music performed on piano alone! this is not to say that the ref 3 isnt excellent. it cerntaily is, but it is not the hands down champion in a class that includes a handful of other top notch preamps in the usd$10k range and above. cheers.
Hi Soundisntmusic, I do stand humbly corrected. I just checked with Bea at VTL and you are absolutely right. . . there is no such animal as a 6.5 Mk.2. the TL6.5 is in its original model. As I mentioned elsewhere, I have been very taken by the 6.5 after I purchased the Ref 3. I purchased Ref 3 before the 6.5 was introduced. Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity of doing a direct comparison this far. Having said that, I have not heard in the 6.5 any of the relative flaws of 'Bluthnerization' of piano sound that I experienced in my auditions of the original 7.5. Were I to consider a new tubed linestage, both the VTL 6.5 and the 7.5 Mk.2 would definitely be in the running.
In wandering about the analog preamp world...mainly due to the fact that the 861 v4, while not a the top of the class in analog reproduction. I listened to a number of preamps in stores...a benefit of travel...and the ARC LS26 and Ref 3, Ayre 5 and VTL 6.5 in my home...driving solid state monoblocks...for me the VTL provided the best balance between the speed/fast settling of the best of SS and the detailed clarity of the mid range without turning the lowend control towards the soft end of the scale...thus for now the 6.5...but I am considering the 7.5mkII, Ayre KX-R...and possibly the new Spectral those are my thoughts....bottom line the VTL seems to combine the best of tube...with only would be nice to have ZERO feedback....but on the other I can't point the finger at a problem it causes...

salvo: i am wondering if you have had the opportunity at this time to audition any of the preamps on your list? if you are seriious about the ref 3, i would also see about an auditon with the vtl 6.5 if the vtl7.5 mk2 is not in the budget.

guidocorona - your comments noted. wishing you the opportunity to explore the vtl 7.5 mk 2 at length for your comments some day. i know you have done good listening with the vtl 6.5 at your friend's on the east coast.

hikejohn - dont forget to share your opinions and comparisons after ample audions of the high end ayre.vtl/spectral preamps when you have the time. inquiring minds want to know LOL. cheers
I had the experience in my listening room to compare the VTL 6.5 and my Ref 3. I have to notice that my Ref 3 has 2800 hrs on the tubes and that I read on many threads this isn't right especially for the 6550 (Guidocorona thanks for your evaluation). To be honest I did not experience any downgrade in my listening...but I will keep you posted since i have decided to retube in the next month or so. Now on the listening...
The firt thing and most important to report is that the ref3 has very high acceptance in the input and does like input voltage of about 4 Volts better than 2 Volts. For the VTL is the exact opposite. Infact just switching from Ref 3 to VTL with High voltage CD made the vtl sounding very bad in comparison; Harsh sound, flat dinamics, flat soundstage... With High Voltage there is no comparison: Ref 3 is much much better.
Adjusting the voltage to 2 volts ( possible on the wadia 27) the situation has strongly improved and the Vtl started to sing. In this situation what we noticed has been a warmer sound on the VTL, the low frequency more extended and the piano more silky... In other words less stressing sound...especially for Piano. The ref.3 seems to have more definition but at the expense of being sometimes stressing.
Now the evaluation has been made with the input set at 2 volts...But ARC likes 4 volts and with this set-up it gains a lot of dynamic and lifelike sound. So with appropriate set-up I still prefer the Ref.3
I'm not sure I would trade my ref 3 for the 6.5. This is especially true for the Phono input. Infact my Ref Phono has high gain and I fear this would be not compatible with the vtleven I did not do this experiment. I sense the 7.5 is probably really superior. I will let you know if by changing the tubes to my ref 3 anything will shift toward a warmer sound.
"You might be surprised but I owned a pair of Avalon Opus(25000 Euro) and I replaced them with the Harbeth"

Hello Drubin
I'm not surprised! ehe
I had the Harbeth C7ESII and I know how magical is the Harbeth production
Marco_esposito - 2800h is indeed a bit too much for the 6550 in Ref 3.

If you are about to change 6550 tube, I would strongly suggest trying NOS TungSol 6550 tube. The improvement is very substantial. It brought my Ref 3 to another level sonicly. There is a thread on this topic:

ARC Ref 3: Tung-Sol 6550 in power supply?
Hello Elberoth2. I did order the 6550 TungSol. Since I did not find a NOS Tungsol in Europe (I live in Italy) I went for a current one. I hope this will work. I will keep the audiogoner posted on my experience. Your assistance to fing the Tube you recommend would be much appreciated.
I got mine for $200 from Andy from Vintage Tube Services.

Tube World also carries them, although they went considerably up in price recently.