Ref150 is an ideal match for 5a's
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I'm with stringgreen here. I bet you can't go wrong with either...but they are a bit different. I've really enjoyed my Ayre MXR's...and that was coming off 25 years with tube amps. I haven't heard the latest ARC 5SE+Ref 150...but the reviews/comments are awesome.
Good luck..let us know what you decide to do...
i had Vandy 5a and listened to 5 amps extensively: Aesthetix in stereo, mono, Ayre in mono and stereo Vx-R and the ARC Ref 150. Also gave the HD 220 and DS series a quick listen.
picked the stereo Ayre and love it. Have since upgraded it to 20 series after 3 plus years. Ayre support awesome.
i would say each of the five amps had virtues. The vxr and mxr in my mind sound identical and worked best for me as i did not want amps on floor.
hope this helps.
I realize i gave you nothing to work with other than my choice.
Strengths - the MXR and VXR have a bell like almost microphone feed clarity. female vocals have a fine detailed yet liquid clarity. Extreme treble also has same air and shimmer when VERY warm. i believe Twenty series solve this drawback as they sound awesome right out of standby. i took to leaving VXR on all weekend or when I was going to do a LOT of listening. Image widdth and depth is very close for all three amps, call it nits between them. you might get diff results as Vandersteen 7 which we used to evaluate are pretty revealing of image issues IMO. Weakness would be absolute low low bass drive and definition which is not a weakness of the 7.
Aesthetix. Winner in low and even lower mid bass definition and drive. less air and extension on treble. We did NOt use the internal electronic high pass filter. this was also NOT the signature version of the amp which might improve the MID clarity. Spent a lot of time listening to Alison Krause as we had just seen her live in a fairly small intimate venue and had also seen Jerry Douglas at a really small venue so while amplified had a recent LIVE benchmark to shoot for.
ARC is just a wonderfull all around amp, again not an SE and I have heard the REF 75 SE in my system and judge it to be a close peer to the VXR and betters it in image width for sure. Still lacking a bit in treble extension and air but midrange is to die for. Slightly veiled never got impression I was listening to microphone feeds on my Stax cans but also upper mids have a visceral punch and warmthblacking in the other amps. i think the REf 150 SE would do well in many systems. i did have a concern about tube issues w dealer 6 hours away ..we have since moved and ARC dealer is now 20 minutes away. also some concern w 150 WPC enough for Vandy 7. I leave that to individual choice, taste and how loud you need. 150 WPC more than enough for Vandy 5 a which I had atbthatbtime. Ultimate low bass Ok w ref 150 but not the equalmof thenother amps in this system and room.
Hope that helps.