You might want to repost about the Ref 5's bass after 600 hours. It will continue to improve.
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Ulf, Some manufacturers tend to overbuild the first model and then continue to try and improve, fine tune the next product. Sometimes that means using fewer parts. Sometimes it means changing parts. All of this takes a lot of time to do, i.e. man hours. You listen to the product, remove or change a part.etc. and listen again. You might have to do this a few hundred times, spending 100's of hours in the process to voice the new product and get it just right. In order to recoup the time spent, the price of the product may go up. This is not at all unusual.
My friend, a skilled tecnician, had inspected both ref3 and ref 5 and he says that the simplification on ref5 against ref3 is rather big. That should lead to lower production costs perhaps even out the cost of many hours fine tuning a new product.
It would be a good thing if a fine company like ARC would say: We have made a better product and sells it for less!!
07-25-11: UlfGood thing for who? It is priced at what the market is willing to pay. ARC is a PRIVATE company and the goal of a PRIVATE company is profits so they can stay in business.
I think the Ref3 is an incredible preamp. I've had it for about four or five years now. I refuse to even listen to the Ref5 until I can afford to buy one. I don't need the aggravation of lusting for something that I can't afford. So, if I don't hear it, I won't know what I'm missing. The Ref3 has answered all of my preamp prayers.
There are at least 3 versions of the ref 3.
First batch with a different set of (inferior) tubes.
Then- I think the most common- with the present set of tubes.
The the last batch was a Lim Ed with some changes and very good sound. Some of my audiophile friends made a shootout with this REF3LE and a REF5 and the sound was very very similar.
Ulf, you are correct about the production progress of the REF3. The last 25 were badged Limited Edition. It's unclear as to how many of those 25 ended up at Dealers in North America and how many went to Europe and Asia.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on one of those LE and you are also correct about some of the parts used in the LE version making their way into the new REF5 design when launched into production.
The sonic attributes and similarities of the LE vs REF5 aside, the LE will become a collector's item to the likes of the SP10 and REF40.
If you can not afford a REF40 get an LE...... If/when you can find one.