Audio Research Reference 6 Preamp Review


Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128elem79
Thanks for posting the link. Nice review, $14K preamp is bit a stretch for my budget.  

I am hoping for a review on LS28, it would be interesting to learn how does it fair against the Ref 6. 
600 hours to fully break in??? LOL!

The only thing ARC has done in the last 15 years is put in crazy capacitors.

Long live the old ARC classics, without long break in, and comparable sound quality.
^^^

don ... 

ARC goes far beyond just capacitors. Here, take the tour:

 Fremer tours Audio Research./analogplanet-visits-audio-research-corporation...-audio-research-corporation#CL3WiRmVWjQAfws..
oregonpapa

I have toured the ARC factories in the past, and they have not changed their manufacturing!

The older gear was just as good sounding IMO!

They have a slightly different flavor of sound now, that’s all.
Im happy you like your older gear don_c55 I'm sure it's just as enjoyable!

Yes indeed new ARC gear goes beyond caps...

It was awesome to see the process from inside the factory tour with Fremer. 

I've listened to a lot of different equipment and I'm throughly amazed just how good their new products are! 


elem79

I have owned many old ARC pieces, but only have one SP9 MKIII left, that is not used.

I use all Pass Labs amplification now, and prefer them over ARC.
Pass is good stuff! Tried some of their stuff as well. In the end I always end up coming back to tubes. :)

Enjoy!
I do not like the reliability issues, and changing sound quality of tube power amps.

My Pass Labs XA.5 amps sound better than tubes.

To each their own.
Post removed 
In my experience several gears over the years, the combination of tube stage preamp and solid state amps gives you the best of both worlds.  
Well, Don, caps make a huge difference in a finely tuned system. For example, I tested two different brands of teflon cap in my RIAA stage: one was fast and clear, one was unlistenable. Now, having brought my amps to a fine edge, I found that power supply caps on the circuit board made a significant difference - replacing "mere" polypropylene f&f with MIT RTX styrene f&f did it. That's on the rails, for heaven's sake - not the signal path.

Does that "c55" part of your name refer to MB?
terry9

Of course caps make a big difference, and ARC has used very good exotic caps since the 80s, in their equipment.

But only in the last 10 years did ARC preamps take 600 hours to break in. That is 10 months, at 2 hours per day, on average. Can you return the preamp if you do not like the end results?

Bill Johnson must be rolling over in his grave!


My first ARC piece was an SP-6.  Then I moved up to an SP-14 and a Classic 60. Then went into their ref products. Each step was a definite improvement. 

On the SS vs Tube ...  I've heard some really good solid state equipment over the years even owning some myself  One of the best rooms at the Newport show was the Harbeth room. They were using top of the line Naim SS electronics. But, when it comes to organic realism in my own home, I'll take tubes every time. 

The REF-75 and the REF-75se took 500 hours to completely break in. I felt the long process was worth the wait. 
Oregonpapa

The REF 75SE is an awesome amplifier! I also over time worked my way through the refrenece line and felt each component offered a definite improvement over the last.

The reference 6 is my first new ARC product, I usually by used through Agon, but couldn't pass on an opportunity I had to purchase one new.

While ARC says it does take 600 hours to fully break in, right out of the box it sounded awesome! I've got about 400 hours now on it and a GS150 power amp and I'm absolutely in heaven!

Ill take tubes over solid state in my system every time! 
Why so negative Don_c55? No need to rain on everyone's parade.
The Ref 6 is simply an amazing preamp.  Yes, sorry to say it to the "they keep coming out with new models all the time" crowd but it is a quantum leap over the Ref5se.  And yes, I did say that about the improvement the 5se made over the 5.  I did not say it about a 5 over a 3.  That was a mild improvement, not a big deal.  
So before someone says "just wait for the Ref7", yes, I would expect it to be an improvement again, and will likely buy one.  But for now, this is by far the best preamp I have heard.  It makes all my gear sound better, and records sound incredible.  

elem79, what is your opinion about SP-20?  There are couple of them on sale. I can't afford to buy a new Ref 6, so I am eying on LS28 or SP-20 to mate with my KWA150SE's.  

Did you by any chance audition LS28 before you bought Ref 6? 
Laltik, both seem like great preamps. Not knowing an awful lot about the SP-20 I would probably be more partial to the LS28.  I think that may be the sweeter of the the two based on some of the reviews I've read.  

I didn't get the chance to hear either.  I had a REF 5SE and loved it. When the REF 6 came out I thought it might be a better match for my GS150 and based my purchase of the 6 entirely on the strength of REF 5.  
Thank you for your feedback and enjoy the Ref 6.
From what I hear about the REF-6 I put it into my bucket list. 
On a somewhat related note, I've never heard the Ref 6, I own the 40th Anniversary pre. I'm not sure if I'll ever switch, it's been an absolute pleasure. 

However, I do own the new Ref 3 Phono preamp and it's an extraordinary improvement over the Ref 2. The dynamics are incredible. My perception is that I am hearing more information than I was able to glean from my albums in the past. Since the Ref Phono 3 and Ref 6 are fundamentally built on similar platforms, I am encouraged to believe that the positive reports on the Ref 6 are, indeed, true. 

Happy listening!
It would be interested to evaluate both the new Ref6 against the 40th Anniversary edition.
I certainly have not. However, I spoke with "a person" at Audio Reaearch about the two. He said, fairly matter-of-factly, that despite the improvement in the Ref 6 power supply that, in his opinion, the 40th Anniversary still out performed it. If the Ref 6 is even close then I would highly recommend giving it an audition. 
jhconnor, typically one box solutions are not considered 'no cost object' designs. Let's be fair, how about asking this person a direct comparing between the 40th anniversary edition and Reference 10?

http://www.audioresearch.com/en-us/products/preamplifiers/reference-10


I would take comments like, I spoke with someone who remains nameless at Audio Research that fairly matter of factly one is better than the other with a grain of salt.

The only way to know is to compare for yourself.

However I do know someone who owns a REF 10 and said that the REF 6 is 90% of the REF 10. Which really represents an amazing value all things considered since not everyone wants or has the space for a 2 box preamp.

Also worth mentioning is that if you have any of the newer ARC products they look even better when they match. :)
http://www.audioaficionado.org/audio-research/36203-audio-research-ref6-vs-ref10-preamp.html
elem79, I am digging the 'new' look as well. 
I would certainly have to demo the Ref6 and Ref5 SE side by side for further evaluation.
lalitk, me too!  The craftsmanship and precision that when into the 'new' design is only fully appreciated in person. 
jafant, I came from a Ref 5 SE and was able to compare both side by side. The 5 SE is a wonderful preamp and loved it dearly. Comparing the two, I could not go back after listening to the 6.  

By comparison the the 6 is faster yet sweeter sounding while adding detail. The bass especially is more defined while sounding fuller at the same time. Soundstage is wider, but probably the biggest change is the depth of soundstage. The great depth the ref 6 offers leads to some stunning layering and very precise imaging all adding up to more holistic you are there feeling. 

I did not read the review - audio is so subjective and in the end personal never mind depending on what other pces your have paired up so below are only my thoughts.

I owned the 5se and had the chance to demo the 6 THINKING that it will likely only offer minor improvements - but brand new out of the box I could already clearly hear positive SQ differences. I had a Anniversary also in my system which I could have gotten at a very attractive price - very nice but in the end I preferred the 6 never mind taking up less real estate.

I also had a 10 which I did prefer over the Anniversary but upon listening to the 6 I found the later to offer more similarities SQ wise than differences - hence my decision to purchase the 6 and use that extra coin for music.

I also prefer the 6 over my highly regarded Vac pre's (Sig & Master) too which shocked me, both costing substantially more.  

As long as you are listening to music that's all that matters - there will always be something around the corner that offers something different.

Dev, WOW great feedback and excellent advice!

Enjoy!
dev, thank you for your candid feedback. I am looking for a opportunity to audition LS28 and Ref 6.  

Initial reports do indicate trickel down technology in foundation series from reference line. 

I own the following ARC gear: LS27, PH7, PH8, SP20, SP10, SP15a, LS8Mk2, VT60, D60, 2 D240Mk2, D400Mk2, Ref110, Ref150, CD3Mk2. I listen to the stuff in various configurations with the only limitations being the Ref110 and Ref150 do not have a SE input and the SP10 does not have balanced outputs. Everything is connected by either Litzlink and Litzline (both black and grey jackets). I use a HO version of a Dynavector xx2mk2.

Reliability: I never had a problem w/any of my equipment that is the backbones of four systems. One of the  D240Mk2s has a solder joint issue that occasionally causes a 30 second or so disruption.

Sound: The newer stuff is quieter. The Ref150 is in a class by itself. The D400mk2 is the best solid state amp I have ever owned and it has much better bass control than the REF110. The LS27/PH8 combo is much better than the SP20. The SP15a is a very strong contender. The SP10 is not as extended in both ends and sounds artificially euphoric compared to the LS27/PH8 or the SP20.

 I have not compared the PH7 v PH8 v Phono stage of SP20. I will also eventually get around to using the PH6 with the SP15a and SP10 linestages.


Thoughts??


Enter your text ... I have not compared the PH7 v PH8 v Phono stage of SP20. I will also eventually get around to using the PH6 with the SP15a and SP10 linestages.


I meant PH8.

However I do know someone who owns a REF 10 and said that the REF 6 is 90% of the REF 10.

I would take comments like, However I do know someone who owns a REF 10 and said that the REF 6 is 90% of the REF 10 with a grain of salt.

The only way to know is to compare for yourself. 
jhconnor31 posts07-19-2016 10:08pmI certainly have not. However, I spoke with "a person" at Audio Reaearch about the two. He said, fairly matter-of-factly, that despite the improvement in the Ref 6 power supply that, in his opinion, the 40th Anniversary still out performed it. If the Ref 6 is even close then I would highly recommend giving it an audition.

I have Ref250SE and preamp came up when talking to someone at ARC and he also said 40th Anniversary out performs Ref 6.   

jhconnor, typically one box solutions are not considered 'no cost object' designs. Let's be fair, how about asking this person a direct comparing between the 40th anniversary edition and Reference 10?
One is not superior to the other but just different.  Mainly due to different capacitors.


5,6,40,10 - they all share the same circuit design.  The 6 has improvements trickled down from the 10.   Dual mono power supply makes a significant difference separating the first tier Ref gear (5,6) from the second tier Ref gear (40,10).  

The system context that allows one component to fulfill its potential may be limiting to another component from a higher class.  Without that context most comparisons are limited.
I think ARC is doing more than upgrading capacitors.  I loved my ARC 40th and switched to the Ref. 10.  More than an icremental improvement: attact, bass, extension, mids, depth and width of sound stage, etc.  Takes more than a capacitor tweek to deliver that.  Don't get me wrong. The earlier ARC stuff is great.  I just find the newer stuff alot better and so it should be with technolgy and if its going to go head-to-head with the top three, including Constellation.

TY-elem79.
Which model- Ref6, Ref10 or $40th costs the most retail?
In ascending order

  • Ref 6 $14K
  • 40th Anniversary $25K (in 2010)
  • Ref 10 $30K

Both the Ref 6 and 10 are current models, the 40th (which I own) was a limited edition
You know what's odd, looking at the DAC 8, which ARC claimed took 500 hours to break in, the caps were WIMA cheapies. Nothing like the big exotics you'd expect to take that long.
I wonder how long it will be 'til the Ref 6SE is introduced and makes the Ref 6 sound broken ;-).
bdp24, that's the crazy part of this hobby. LOL!!!
bdp24, that's the crazy part of this hobby. LOL!!!

Actually that's how a SUCCESSFUL company is run so my guess is ~3 years.  

From 12/2015 to 7/2016, 300 REF 6 sold, $14K x 300 = $4,200,000.   LOL all the way to the bank!  article