Audio Research Reference 5SE reliability

After reading the glowing revieuw on the Stereophile-website by Brian Damkroger on the ARC REF5SE there was a comment that: quote: by Audioware on nov 15, 2012,

"These pres are outstanding. However the problem is their poor reliability. 06 (six) of them were already on my services bench this year to fix problems with the transformer that feeds the dgital, the remote control and the on-off switch, circuits. It is a small xformer below the circuit board that burns out frequently. Another very serious problem is with the 6H30s filament regulators that do not stand for the increased current demanded by the new 6H30s intead of the old 6922s. ARC has to pay more attention to these problems!"

I already checked my dealer, who was really surprised and did not recognise these problems.

Comments will be greatly appreciated! Thanks.
Six is a stretch. As if he personally has six folks with them? sorry it does not seem realistic.
First I question that the sort of folks who can afford the REF 5SE are going to NOT send them back to ARC for repair.
WHO? is going to send it to some guy, let alone SIX of them.
So I call it bullshit.
Use you common sense.

Now tf it was some old design, say some thirty year old ones.. Yeah he might have seen six of them over time.
But for the Ref 5SE. no way.

It IS possible he has seen one cross his bench, maybe the same one twice, and his opinion is his. but six. LOL
Yes, I don't buy it at all. Why would he see ANY Ref5se's at all? They would be under warranty and returned to ARC for repair... Remarks like that are what is wrong with the Internet. People just make s..t up.
I suppose Audioware is referring also to ARC Ref5 and Ref3, which are also mentioned in the header of his comments, so it is not clear if the number of six are exclusively all Ref5SE. I also doubt about that.
Before posting this query, did you find *any* confirming information, any other message on the originating site or anywhere else that supports the claim sufficient to warrant repeating it here?? Just to let you know there is a perspective from which re-posting a 6-month old disparaging commentary from another Web site can sound like a drive-by.
Hi,phew I was a bit worried there for a minute.I've experienced nothing but good things,with everything from this company.Sure a toggle switch has broken,with my ls 15,but that was my fault.I hope the good stuff keeps on keeping on.Im happy with my se.
Sounds like another internet bull story.
Some dude with some agenda more like.
Elizabeth and Dbarger, the OP is from the Netherlands, so I'm guessing that the units wouldn't be going back to ARC for warranty repairs. The warranty repairs are probably being handled by the European distributer.
I've been fixing ARC for over 20 years as a warranty repair station. I haven't seen a single Ref5 or Ref5SE with a transformer issue. I did replace one transformer in a Ref3 years ago. Me thinks Audioware hath been exposed to too many solder fumes.
Netherlands Schmetherlands, the story still sounds like a bunch of horse shmidt.
Hi guys,

Thanks so far. After the initially worrying about ARC caused by Mr Audioware I am going to listen to Ref5SE within the next weeks, in comparison with Krell 202/Phantom. I got already a great deal on a 5SE with a discount of 40% off new-price.
Any thoughts about ARC Ref5SE against Krell 202/Phantom are welcome.

All the best.
I've has a Ref 5 SE for a year. No issues. Just beautiful music.

As I was instantly floored with the sq of the ARC Ref5SE overall, I bought one. Having now some 35 hours on it and it is already better than just new out of the box.
Hi all, I am a new ARC Ref 5SE user. It has about 73 hours now, connected to McIntosh MC452 amp. While I am happy with its sound quality and how Ref 5SE integrates with the rest of my system, I am wondering if other users experience any over heating problem. My Ref 5SE runs really hot until it damaged the wood shelf above it. I was told the clearance was not enough, so I changed to longer legs, now having 3" clearance between the top of Ref 5SE and the wood shelf above, but still it runs very hot. If used longer than 3 hours, even the volume control knob becomes hot. Is this normal? Thank you.
Three inches is not an acceptable clearance above the preamp. Your dealer should have told you this. Heat rises and needs to go somewhere and not get reflected back into the preamp. This can cause premature aging of the parts inside the preamp. You will need to place the preamp in an area where there is no shelf above it. Doing that will allow your preamp to vent heat properly and keep it running cool.
The ARC importer in my country told me 3-4" clearance is fine but they recommended ventilation fan. I added PC chassis 12VDC cooling fan (quiet type) at the side of the Ref 5SE (open shelves, not closed) and it helps cool down the preamp.
I have over 10" above the preamp to the woodshelf above. It is a very open construction, so ventilation of heat is no problem, no knobs are getting hot, only the top of the preamp itself just above the biggest tube warms up considerably.
Sequence56 that is normal as you have sufficient clearance above the preamp.
Anwar, what is the input impedance of your McIntosh MC452 amp? Is it over 20K ohms?
I drive my MC601s with the 5SE, no problems. The 601s are 20K and I believe the 452 is as well. I have always been an ARC tube amp customer, but I was so impressed with the 601s I traded in my VT200 for them. Never been a Mac fan or a "hater", but these are really very fine amplifiers.
Anwar, I checked the MAC web site. Input impedance is 22,000 ohms Balanced and unbalanced. That just 2K ohms over the minimum ARC recommends. If you load any other devices (e.g., subwoofer) to the Ref 5's output, you may overload the Ref 5.
Djcxxx, your MC601's input impedance of 20K ohms is the maximum load recommended by ARC. If you are running anything else off the other Ref 5 outputs (e.g., a sub woofer), the combined impedance load that the Ref 5 sees will likely drop below 20K ohms. It might be worthwhile to have a call with Kal at ARC to learn if he thinks the 20K ohm load is ok.
Bifwynee, my Ref 5SE output goes to Bryston 10B-SUB, then to McIntosh MC452 (driving Focal Utopia 3 Diablo) and JL Audio Fathom f113.

I contacted Ron C of McIntosh through email and he confirmed ARC preamps work well with McIntosh amps. But no success contacting ARC technical support yet due to time zone (I am in Malaysia) as no ARC email contact is available.

After adding the Cooler Master 12V PC chassis fans (1200rpm and they are really quiet) at the left side of Ref 5SE, no more over heating issue.
Anwar, check the input impedance of your sub. I suspect that the combined impedance load on your Ref 5 SE is less than 20K ohms. If so, you are overloading the Ref 5 and potentially degrading its already excelleant performance. Try Kal again. If you can't reach him, try Chris Ossanna.

Remember, the formula for combined impedance is:

CI= (Input device 1 - ohms x Input device 2 - ohms)/(Input device 1 - ohms + Input device 2 - ohms). So, if you do the math, if both devices have an input impedance of 20K ohms, combined impedance is 10K ohms . . . oopps.

Btw, are you symetrically loading the Ref 5's Main 1 and Main 2 outputs? That is are both Mains balanced or SE, or are you asymetrically mixing and matching the Mains: one balanced and the other SE. If the later, not a good thing to do.

That's why I worked with Tom Tutay in Florida. A great guy and very well respected in the audio hobby. If you do have an issue, check my threads for his number.

Good luck and let us know how you make out.

To add my 2c to Bifwynne's post and unless JL Audio has changed it, the JL Audio subwoofers impedance is an extremely low 1k Ohms.
Vladimir, if you are referring to a self powered sub, and you are sure that it has a 1K ohm input impedance, which strikes me as low, you are overloading the Ref SE by a very wide margin. Confirm your stats and call Kal at ARC. If he confirms my suspicion, better call Tom Tutay.
I don't want to hijack this thread as my original question was about how hot the Ref 5SE runs.

I want to correct a few things here. JL Audio f113 single-ended input impedance is 10k Ohms (balanced unspecificed). But the f113 sub was never connected directly to Ref 5SE but to Bryston 10B-SUB active crossover.

So here are my connections:

Ref 5SE ====> Bryston 10B-SUB XLR (impedance=20k)
10B-SUB low pass ====> JL Audio f113 (10k or 20k unknown)
10B-SUB hi pass ====> McIntosh MC452 (22k)

I've tried connecting Ref 5SE directly to MC452, then f113 to MC452 output, that means only one set of REF 5SE output used. There is no difference to 5SE running temperature. But I noticed less background noise.
Anwar, seems like you just squeeked under the wire. You might still want to call Kal to get his view on whether you might gain any further sound improvement if the output impedancce could be tweaked up just a bit more.


Hi everybody.
Currently I´m testing a REF 5 used unit to evaluate sound and finally buy a brand new 5se. From what I heard in comparison to my previous VTL 6.5 was a stunning sound, deeper and punchier bass, and finally the most impressive mid and highs, never fatiguing. Anyway sounds terrific. BUT I found a problem that´s happening and doubt wheter is the unit, energy or some incompatibility with rest of gears. Here I´m connecting REF 5 by XLR to Paganini DAC and to Krell EVO 600e amps. Here´s the issue: sometimes, when changing volume level during a track, after 30secs or so, the sound cuts for a milisecond time and returns "instantly". I dont know if It really has to do with this unit, but I´m really worry If will get the same issue on my possible brand new unit. Never experienced It before with any preamp.
Hi,my pre seems to get cooler the more hours I put on it.I do have the airconditioner set at 20 which helps keep things cool,like the cd player and amp.Hope this helps
I had a AR Ref 5 plugged into a PS Audo 300 PC and it burned up. That was my fault though. I didn't know it would work. AR took care of everything though.
Hi i wanted to bring back this thread,as my 5se has played up twice now.I too thought it was a bit much for so many reliablilty problems mentioned.Ive had a real good run with ar in the past.Anyone else having trouble with pre
Misternice ... No. All of my ARC gear, including my Ref 5 SE works A-OK.
Likewise, My previous REF5SE was in my system for two years with over a 1000 hours on the clock, never missed a beat.
What are the nature of the faults Misternice?
I blew a power tube,no problem there though.The pre shut down all together,its on the way to a specialist.The power goes to around the 4 tube area,and dissapears.He wasnt a ar specialist and didnt want to go further.I dont think it will be too serious.Im getting them to put on a furutech rhodioum iec inlet while hes at it.Which i wanted done anyway.Im just hoping its not going to be on going.
Thanks! for sharing- All.

Keep us posted Misternice, this is a killer pre-amp and would really hate to keep reading about QC problem(s).

When it gets fixed, Happy Listening!
Ok,yes me too.
2400 hours..of bliss
no issues except for cheap plastic remote..
Good to hear mate.I should hear back about mine in a day or so
Hi,the preamp has a small transformer underneath which had blown.It may have been a power surge.If it happens again,ill see what i can do with the power box outside the house.
Don't worry AudioResearch doodz know that so they fix it right away charge you $$$ and send the unit right back and you'll be happy.
Known industrial trick.
Same thing with many other industries. If you can't bend someone over to stick it deeeeep, you ain't makin' no money and most of'em going towards property and income tax.
You could be right..Ive had a good run with theiir gear in the past.Im pleased it repaired..and not destined for the rubbish bin