Keep the REF110.
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The 100.2 is considered the best solid state amp audio research ever made and one of the best solid state amps around. It sounds more tube like than any solid state I've ever heard and I agree with Gmele, it is anything but tinny!
Having said that, I think you would be taking a step or two down from the Ref 110 but if solid state is what you're looking for....
Thanks everybody for the answers, I think I have to try to see what happens in my system. If I do I will post my experience in this thread.
I am sure REF110 is a superb power amp but I also feel I am not getting 100% of its possibilities, perhaps there's a problem in my room, of I would need a better (and maybe bigger speakers). I heard that Proac is a good match with Audio Research but not sure about current models...
I have a friend who runs Proac speakers (i don't know the exact model number, but the speaker has 2 woofers around 7 or 6 inches on Apolito mode). We tried an Audio Research VT200 on those speakers, and faced issue on bass response (bass response was not consistent with medium and high frequencies). I'm not sure Audio research tube amplifier is a good match with Proac speaker, so solid state amp is maybe something to try...
I am not closed only to ARC but I have not experienced with other brands, I used a D200 with good impresions, specially in bass response, so I think the 100.2 could be a good amp to try.
I feel in general a lack of air, the bass is not as defined and sweet as I wanted. Audphile1, maybe you are righ with the Proac remark, with some records the system is a bit aggresive also.
In general I believe the system should sound better having a REF3 and REF110, if the problem is with the room it has no sense to maintain a REF110 working at 50%.
Anyway I have to recognize that I have a very natural mids with good recordings, the realism in some cases is very impresive, but with a poor average of such recordings.
If you are open to other brands, I would recommend you consider the Pass XA.5 series or Ayre. They have been my favourite SS amps, but I'm not saying they are better than the ARC you are considering as I have never heard it. I think that the reason I like so much is that they use very little feedback and as a tube lover, I think this approach to SS makes for better sounding amps to those that like what tubes can do.
Jglpubli, first, let's take it a bit further.
Few more questions:
1) is the REF3 broken in? Do you at least have 500 hours of playing time on the unit?
2) REF110 - how many hours? Broken in or not? Should have at least 500 hours and even more to be considered for a serious audition, same as REF3.
3) Have you had the D200 on these speakers or you had other speakers at the time?
If it was with these Proacs, it is pretty much a hint that you may just need more power to balance these speakers out. that's one. Also, D200 does not have the resolution of REF110. You are hearing a lot more imperfection now with the REF110 and REF3(don't know what preamp you used with D200). I'm just going by the fact you used a phrase "some recordings". So that should be considered as well. Let's not forget the high resolution of the ARC REF stuff.
There are few variables. Best is trial and erro as far as equipment for a specific speaker, be it a ProAc, Wilson, B&W or what have you.
If at all possible, borrow a more powerful solid state amplifier to try with your REF3. Try to audition a nice solid state, hybrid(tube/solid state design such as ARC's own HD220 or Moscode) or a more powerful tube amplifier.
You can have the best possible pieces in your audio rack. But if they don't synergize, whatever you have isn't a "system". Yes, good on their own, but not necessarily together.
Also, I very much doubt 100.2 will satisfy you. it is a very good amplifier, but I kind of doubt it will drive the Proacs any better than the REF110 do, especially if the reason for your complaints is due to lack of power. The only thing you may gain with the 100.2 is somewhat more forgiving sound overall, because it won't have the resolution of the REF110. But it will be still lacking.
Try to audition few different amplifiers, possibly more powerful than the REF110. Some to consider would be Classe, Pass, McIntosh, McCormack DNA-500, ARC HD220.
May be I'm wrong(wouldn't be the first time), but it seems to me it is a matter of finding a proper amplification for the speakers. Also, work on the room acoustics if situation allows. Very essential.
You can audition a Pass XA-30.5 from Reno HiFi. If you return the amp, you'll pay a restocking fee an return shipping, but the audition may change your world.
Had it not been for Mark at Reno HiFi, I'd never have heard the Pass Labs amps, and I am grateful for his no-pressure assistance.
No telling if you will prefer the Pass over the ARC, but you'll never know unless you try it for yourself.
I don't want to push Pass to hard to someone who owns and likes ARC which is very fine equipment indeed, and the REF110 has a very good reputation, BUT, if you do want to try SS, I have to agree with Tvad, that the Pass XA.5 series is fantastically good and worth an audition. I had an XA30.5 with my Merlins (they don't need too much power and the Pass seems to be very conservatively rated) and it gave my CAT JL2s and Music Reference RM9SEs a run for their money; I regret selling it, it is darn good and an amp a tube lover can appreciate. There is a dealer in Iowa that carries both ARC and Pass and they may be able to give you some insight into pairing the REF3 with a PASS amp. I would expect it to be a wonderful combination given the neutrality of the ARC with its tube bloom with the quiet, transparent, and warm side of neutral sound of the PASS - worth considering - and very reliable and fuss free.
I have no doubt the X series (or anything by Nelson Pass)is good. I am thinking however that the D38s would not need more than 60 Class A Watts or so to play very loud (again, they are conservativley rated if the XA30.5 is any indication), the D38 are fairly sensitive speakers if I remember correctly - 90db or so?. This would allow you to take advantage of the full Class operation of the XA series and what I suspect would be an even higher level of performance in the midrange. This may be hair splitting, as I never heard a Pass amp sound anything but good. IF the ARC SS can compete with Pass, then my hats off to them, they've designed a great SS amp.
Thank you again for your help.
I have a Michell Gyrodec + Origin live silver tonearm + Ortofon Jubilee + Graham Slee Era Gold mk5 + Graham Slee Elevator EXP as a phono preamp's.
My CD is an old Linn Karik + Numerik modified with bybee filters.
I don't think the problem is in the source because both have the same character and defects when listening through the speakers, otherwise the listening with headphones (Graham Slee Solo + Sennhesiser HD600) is very satisfied.
This is why I think the problem could be located in the trio power amp-speakers-room.
Audphile1, the REF 3 is completely broken with more than 1500 hours and the REF110 has about 450.
I had the Audio Research D200 with Ruark Equinox speakers and Linn Kairn preamp, I had also the Ruark Equimox with the REF3 and VT100 MKIII, and I had similar problems than I am having now, but with a bit less global performance.
Maybe you are right that with the D200 the sound was more forgiving, I am not sure if too much resolution could be a problem for me.
I would recommend you try a solid state amp, such as Classe CA-2200, McIntosh MC402 or Pass Labs X250.5 or X350.5 or McCormack DNA-500.
I think any one of these amplifiers will be a good fit. Besides, any one of these should be a good match with the REF3. JMO of course. If you go with any of the above mentioned amps used, you don't have much to worry about because you can easily sell them here. You can also try the Pass amps that Tvad and Pubul recommended, although I am not sure how loud you like to listen to your system, you may be somewhat limited with 30 or 60w/ch.
After almost 3 years I thing all of you deserve a response.
Some months later I bought an ARC 100.2 and I tried in my system for several weeks, almost all of you were right, the REF110 is much better than the 100.2, specially because it is closer to the real music. Only the bass was tight and with more punch in the 100.2, but the emotion of vocals and highs with the REF110 was missing in the 100.2.
This does not mean the 100.2 is a bad amplifier, I thing the majority of audiophiles could live with it.
It is curious that I sold the 100.2 to the same person who I bought it because he missed it after trying other amps.
Then I discover that the fault in my system had to do with the speakers (Proac D38), or rather with the isolation with the floor (which is made of marble). I bought some RDC cones and a methacrylate platform which improved the bass response with a overall improvement, only was introduced a bit resonance in mids frequencies.
After a couple of years with a satisfactory setup I want to explore a bit the possibilities with isolation and room condition. I will create another post for that.
Many thanks everybody.