McIntosh C1000 tube pre vs. ARC Ref 3?

Has anybody heard these against each other? Both are very well received by the audio press.
I wouldn't say all that. The verdict on the ARC 3 is that it is "Audio Research's best preamplifier ever".

The C1000 got Stereophile's Product of the Year. I wouldn't even mention the two pieces in the same breath. The McIntosh is the clear winner here by a country mile, even though I will admit I haven't heard the ARC. I heard an ARC Ref 2 for a while, and the C200 murdered it IMO. The 1000 is so far beyond the C200.
The McIntosh is the clear winner here by a country mile
Based on everything but a personal side-by-side audition, I know which one I would choose. It would only be as a result of an in-home comparison, with the McIntosh showing a clear advantage over the Audio Research, that would persuade me to not buy the ARC Ref 3 over the Mac.

Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity of auditioning a C1000, and I am not inclined to comment on products that I do not know. On the other hand, I have auditioned at length the ARC Ref 3, and ended up purchasing it. I compared directly against VAC Sig, VAC Ren II, Aesthetix Callisto Sig with single PS and all NOS tubes. Compared it indirectly also against ARC Ref 2 Mk. 2 and BAT VK51SE. In all these cases I liked better the Ref 3. Out of these the Callisto was perhaps the closest. In more recent times I have auditioned at some length the VTL 6.5 version 2 which I enjoyed immensely and the Rowland Concerto pre, which I also loved. Unfortunately I have not been lucky enough to compare these last two with Ref 3 during my selection process.
You can read some of my selection criteria and detailed findings at:
most people who like McIntosh do not like ARC and vice versa. The house sound is different between the 2 brands.

To say one is better than the other is absurd until side by side comparison is done with a knowledge of one's sonic preference.
>>The McIntosh is the clear winner here by a country mile, even though I will admit I haven't heard the ARC.<<

It's probably a good idea to think before you type.
" The McIntosh is the clear winner here by a country mile, even though I will admit I haven't heard the ARC." What kind of BS is this? This is what I and most seasoned audiophiles are sick of. Please, all you young A-philes don't get caught up in someone's BS like this. Even well tutored A-philes opinions are just that,opinions! All gear is synergy dependent. It's nice to have an experienced opinion but, just do like the rest of us and buy it and try it. If it doesn't work in your rig than sell it. Gee, Hantrax must have a McIntosh piece for sale!
Based on all the reviews out there, which the OP mentions, my statement was accurate. At least I admitted not hearing the Ref 3. That's probably more than most of you would have done.

You can surmise that the 1000 is ahead by a country mile just from reading the reviews. The same magazine picked one as Product of the YEAR. And of the other they say "the best preamplifier ever from Audio Research". Sounds like a backhanded compliment to me.

As I said, I've spent much time with the Ref 2 and the 1000. So I am quite a bit more qualified here than most.
The original poster did not ask about the ARC Ref. 2! The Ref. 3 is so much beyond the Ref.2. Even the LS 26 is beyond the old Ref.2 and by a wide margin! Plus, if you depend on audio rags to justify your audio gear purchases your in for a big let down. I've not heard the Mac.the poster is asking about but, I'm not stating that the Ref. 3 is better. I'm just trying to let the original poster know that a lot of hot air blows around these threads when it comes to opinions!
>>So I am quite a bit more qualified here than most.<<

No not really. Lots of us haven't heard a side by side comparison of these two products.

You are one of us.
>>I'm just trying to let the original poster know that a lot of hot air blows around these threads when it comes to opinions!<<

Which is precisely why I disclosed the fact that I had not heard the ARC Ref 3. We're on the same page here. I'm on your side.
"At least I admitted not hearing the Ref 3. That's probably more than
most of you would have done"

Really? Do you Hantrax have priviledged knowledged of what I or anyone else has heard. . . Or may this be a minor case of Messianic fixation?

Sad reality is that you seem to be as qualified as I am in drawing a direct comparison between the two units. . . which is not qualified at all. . . i.e. I know Ref 3 very well, but C1000 not at all, thus I won't be caught dead commenting on the prowess of the latter. Yes, I do admit of having heard other McIntosh linestages Over the years. . . but that is not at all relevant, as none of them were a C1000.
Hantrax your logic is nonsense. To post a strong opinion about something you never heard is absurd. I have owned many ARC and Mac products through the years and although there tends to be a house sound, The Ref3 has been touted to be a break through product. The best to come from ARC in many years. Come back after you've done yourhomework! While brand loyalty is something we can all relate to, your post is hard to swallow.
Thank you all for your responses. I decided to arrange for a one on one in house direct comparison. The differences to my ears are that the Mac was more neutral and transparent. You could hear greater detail on passages, both simple and complex and better leading edge on notes. Also, human voice sounded more real. On the other hand, the ARC had more bloom, bigger soundstage and could be overwhelmingly beautiful. Much more drama. MAC = film. ARC = technicolor. I'll take the MAC but I could understand the ARC point of view. Also, MAC is one beautiful piece of audio jewelry.
>>Hantrax your logic is nonsense. To post a strong opinion about something you never heard is absurd.

I posted no strong opinion on anything I haven't heard. You probably need to go back and read the thread.
I listened to the tubed Mac against Ref 3 with esoteric cd player, B&W 802s MacIntosh 501 monolocks. Then listened to Ref 3 alone with Halcro amp and Hansen King speakers which were beautiful. Listened to classical guitar, Steely Dan, Van Morrison, smattering of classical and jazz. I have ordered the Mac pre and will use with Mac 2102 tube amp, VPI Superscoutmaster w Dynavector XV-1S, Bel Canto PL1 universal player, Stealth cabling, Wison Watt Puppy 7 speakers. What Fremer said in his review was so true. The background is so black on the Mac that all detail is revealed. All human voices lose grit and grain that I never knew was there until I heard voices without it. This is truly the least tubey- sounding tube product I have ever heard, but it is by no means solid state. The ARC wears tubes on it's sleeve very well. In fact, it could be more spectacular because of it's nice blend of color saturation. On the other hand, an instrument on the ARC can occasionally sound slightly unlike the instrument itself (although always on the side of euphony). The clarity and leading edge that the Mac has is simply missing on the ARC. But I was very impressed with it's way with music though and would probably have purchased that over any other pre I've heard. I have heard VTL, Conrad Johnson VAC, CAT, BAT all of which have great qualities and faithful adherents . I simply can't imagine a pre can sound better overall than the tube Mac 1000. Although I must qualify that I have not heard the Lyra Connesoisseur and I have heard Shindo and Lamm and liked them a lot (esp Shindo) but refuse to consider a pre that lacks flexibility of use and some form of remote. As far as looks are concerned, the Mac tubed preamp is simply far and away the prettiest piece of audio equipment I have ever seen. That's not why I'll buy it, but it's a nice extra. I expect to have it in hand by Friday. I'll update you on phonostage or any other aspect that you'd like.
Gpgr4blu, nice write-up.
Synergy is everything. Mac pre + Mac monoblocks is most likely more synergistic than ARC + Mac monoblocks.
Would be cool to know how Mac pre sounded with Halcro amp.

So have you auditioned both of these in-home or at a dealer's?
I agree with your comment on synergies. Although I would guess that I have a grip on the gestalt of both. They are both world beaters with very different personalities. I auditioned at dealer. I intend to find out how Mac pre sounds with Halcro, Classe, Levinson and other solid state. But we can't buy too much all at once, so maybe next step at year end. I like the Mac 2102 alot, but of course an upgrade always leads to wondering how other new items will interact with the newest purchase. Best case, you realize you have what you like the best and stick with it. But how often are we that lucky?
I've been looking at the ARC REF3 as a possible replacement for my Pass Labs X 0.2 preamp. After reading the Stereophile article on the MAC 1000 at their website and reading the answers on this thread, I'll be looking at the MAC 1000 as well, which is one drop dead gorgeous preamp. It looks like there's a new kid on the block. Also, I agree with Audphile1: Gpgr4blu, your comparison and contrast of the two preamps was very well written and thoughtful. Best Regards, Stan
Hantrax, OMG the REVIEWERS give a " product of the year award" and based on THAT you believe something to be true " by a country mile". Thats fine for you but I think the responses to you are from thoughtful people who actually believe in hearing for themselves and not taking for granted the opinions of paid " reviewers" who work for a magazine which accepts advertising. Even if the reviewer is being totally unbiased you still can not account for the "reviewers" personal taste, set up, musical selections etc. You NEED a head to head comparison in your system, in your room, listening to your music to make any credible judgement about the relative merits of the two preamps. BTW and this is JMHO but at this level nothing with the possible exception of speakers is better " by a country mile". There are certain APPLICATIONS which favor one piece or another. - JIM
>>I posted no strong opinion on anything I haven't heard.<<

I suppose if Bill Clinton can argue the meaning of "is" you certainly have the right to argue the meaning of "strong".

However, an opinion is an opinion. Perhaps YOU should go back and read the thread. One foot is comfortably inside; there appears to be plenty of room remaining for the other.

One product gets Product of the Year, and then the same reviewers declare the other "the best preamplifier ever" FROM ARC.

It's sort of like you dated around before you got married, and your wife is the one you married, but that one girl was "the best redhead" you ever dated. That's a slap in the face. They didn't say "one of the best preamps we've ever heard". They said "the best from ARC".

There is a massive difference, and I am sure you all see this and are just giving me a hard time for fun.

But I do agree with your need for a head to head comparison in your own system. There is also a need (for most of us) to get out there and gather as much info as possible from as many sources as possible. This is what GPGR4BLU did, and he made the correct decision.

How many people on the EARTH have done a comparison of an ARC 3 and a C1000 in their system? I would venture to guess that there are less than a dozen. The guy wanted info, and I provided that, WITH my disclaimer that I had NOT done a head to head comparison.

You guys just want to argue for fun, and that's cool b/c I can do that all day. But I'm right here.
And another thing. . . McIntosh doesn't ADVERTISE with the magazine in question. Not that it has any bearing on the topic at hand, but I thought I'd point that out based on your insinuation that they are buying these awards.
Hantrax, Yes in a way I am just giving you a hard time as my opinion isn't worth all that much. However, I stand by my opinion that he ought to HEAR ( for the reasons above)them to decide for himself. Also and this might be a bit more controversial but ( with exceptions) " reviewers" opinioins are not worth worrying about one way or the other. To make a decision based on their 'latest and greatest' B.S. is silly. Trust what YOU hear and don't be influenced by these nimrods. JMHO - Jim
Are there any reasonable responses to the question of ARC REF 3 VS. McIntosh c1000? Has anyone A/B'd these two GREAT preamps? I've heard both, but at two different places with different speakers, and amps, etc. I'm looking to make a choice between these two preamps myself. I know I can't go wrong with either. I own a pair of Vandersteen 5A loudspeakers, and know the ARC REF 3 is a safe bet for my speakers, its just that I can get a great deal on either of these preamps so its difficult to just write off the McIntosh C1000. When I heard the C1000, the combo was somewhat cleaner and had an unforgettable pureness to the sound that wasn't as LARGE as the ARC Ref 3, but quieter and a bit darker. I'm torn!

Please help!
The chances of anyone(reading/posting here) who have auditioned both the REF3 and C1000 in the same system are slim and none.......and slim just left town.
Actually, slim is set forth above. I will add that the Ref 3 throws a huge, deep, wide soundstage. However, the downside is that instruments that shouldn't take up much space (eg oboe, James Taylor's acoustic guitar in relation to his voice) sometimes are not portrayed in proper proportion. Another upside to the drama is great tone color and texture. The Mac, on the other hand, was so pure, natural and neutral, I could not resist. Your taste may vary. Also, if ur into phono, the Mac stage is as remarkable as the rest of the package, much better than the 2200 pre phono stage which was merely above average.
Thanks for the info Gpgr4blu!
Anytime. If you get to A/B these 2, let us know your viewpoint.
Just to keep this thread in perspective, the Mac cost almost double or triple (depending on options) the REF-3. I would hope for the extra spend that the MAC is better.

To me, the Mac is a bit gimmicky. In that they offer both a tube and SS option. So that tells me they admit there is a sonic difference between the two and want to offer the customer a choice in sonic character. Otherwise, they would have offered only one topology which would have been based on a straight wire with gain principal (Pure Accurate Amplification).

I contend when spending this kind of money that all these items are of very high quality and that in critical home listening they both will sound great.

At this price point, I doubt that anything blows any other thing "out of the water". But I am sure that there will be sonic differences that any individual can have a preference for.

I have the REF-3 and feel it is very accurate and faithful to the recording. I do not feel that it adds or subtracts anything from what is on the recording.

I am sure the MAC is a fantastic piece of equipment as any statement product should be. But since both of the products are very well designed and intended to produce the music as accurately as possible. I expect the differences to be shades of gray. Sometimes these discussions sound just like sports car discussions. My Ferrari is better than your Z06.

The bottom line is we become passionate about a given brand and all else pales in comparison regardless of objective thought.

In the end, unless someone with a remarkably high resolution system compares the two together under equal circumstances everything said on this thread is personal speculation....Steve
There is no such thing as a straight wire with gain.

You will just have to get one and try it out for yourself. Personally, if I had the money for the McIntosh, this debate would be a no brainer.

Straight wire with gain is the ideal. I would expect that is the design goal for high-end design as opposed to creating a device that has a purposely built in sonic signature/style. Again if you like MAC, buy it. Since the debate for you personally would be over.

But many with unlimited funds; I am sure will make different choices based on both sonics and brand loyalty.

In the end it will be a subjective and emotional choice based on each individual....Steve
Well said Stesom. I could certainly understand anyone preferring the ARC sound over the MAC sound. These are 2 outstanding products. As to the straight wire with gain paradigm, the minute I think I hear something close to it, I hear something else that in some respects sounds more like it. In fact, this forms the basis for many of us of the disease known as audiophilia nervosa. For me personally, the MAC C1000 and the Stealth Indra interconnect are the 2 closest things I believe I have heard to the straight wire from source ideal. Some Japanese jewelry (Shindo, Zanden, Reimyo) approaches the ideal from a different direction---approaching the immediate and actual sound of things through careful selection of high end innards and voicing of components that is uncanny.
Sincere question; how can anyone know if something has been added or subtracted from the recording, or if your equipment is accurately reproducing what was originally recorded?
Without having been at the concert or recording session for comparison. I look for how natural instruments and vocals sound compared to my experience to live music. Most folks have a good feeling for what things sound like in real life.

There is no way to tell on overproduced and massaged recordings, but when listening to purist recordings of single or small groups of instruments and vocals you can get a feeling for how close to real they are sounding.

I know it is not scientific, but I know that my system is getting much closer to reproducing the essence of the performance and the realism of the vocalist and instruments.
Thanks for the illumination...seems obvious now and further listening will have an educational component... keep the recording simple and get out more!
I have a Mac 220 pre (Ayre V1xe,Silverline Grand La Folia, Ayre CD5xe) and a friend have a Ref 3 (DIY Orion,ATI amps, Reiymo CDP). We changed preamps for some days. In my system ref 3 has more warmth, more bloom and a fantastic big soundstage almost like surround. Mac was more accurate, more neutral and it has tone controls (which I like). I sligtly prefered Mac thinking that ref 3 was to warm. But I still missed that big soundstage.
In my friends system my Mac was clearly superior giving a more accurate and correct sound.
The 220 pre cost about half as much as the ref 3 so I think it is very good value. I have not listen to the Mac 1000pre.
Ulf - interesting. I have learned the most by swapping gear with local hifi buddies. What preamp did you replace with the C220? What other preamps have you tried in your system? Thanks

Since I deal in Manhattan with Lyric HiFi, great guys, and they have both I have just concluded an A/B. My system: ARC REF 3, ARC CD 7, ARC REF 110, Virgo 111's, NBS Omega Cables all around. I will admit that the system is tremendously accurate and transparent, but needs some warmth. I demoed the MAC for a few days and was almost sold. In many ways it does beat the ARC REF 3, but unfortunately IMHO it is simply colored. On many recordings, especially lean ones, it improves the musical element, but at the cost of accuracy. The clincher: on vocals such as Frank, Ella, and many opera singers I never felt that I was listening to the singers as I knew them. I could see many people however favoring the MAC. I still need more warmth, but can't go this direction. Still a great piece of equipment, just not for me.
Sparkster- Everything is colored. There is no such thing as perfection. Good luck in your search.

Sparkster, for a touch of added warmth you may want to vary the cable configuration rather than switching electronic components. Try for example a length of Purist Anniversary between the CDp and your linestage.
... or Kubala Sosna Emotion IC.
Sparkster...2 great preamps you demo'ed and you did it the right way. Aball is right though everything electronic adds color.
Thank you all for your responses. What about speakers? I have been contemplating a change, but I don't want to lose the transparency I love. Anyone hear the new Virgos or Avantis? Any speaker suggestions with this system would be appreciated. I heard the Vandy 5as at the show and wasn't overly impressed but it is the show.

The 220 replaced a Rowland Synergy 2i. Also very good but the C220 clearly better.
Well as other people said it makes no sense to discuss about the differences if you did not hear them next to each other. I had the Ref3 in my system and also had the Mac C2200. In my systen the C2200 sounded much better than the Ref3. So I guess if the C1000 is better than the Ref3 it will sound better also.

However in my friends place the Ref3 played much better. I all comes down to system matching and integration.

Hi Peter, could you give us some more detailed comparative findings? Unfortunately the terms 'better/worse' mean different things to different people. Please let us know how the two unit differed in several areas, and what made you prefer one unit over the other.
Fast forward a few years, the ARC Ref 40 leaves the C1000 in the dust.
Which one do you think is a better match in my system, the C500T combo or the ARC 3? My system is Esoteric K01 - preamp TBD (currently my friend's Jeff Rowland Capri) - Mcintosh MC 602 - Dynaudio C4.
Googleli, The ARC 3 is no doubt a top performer, but in YOUR system the Mcintosh c500 would be a natural match to the MC602 IMO.