Mods for ARC preamp / amp

There's a company called Great Northern Sound advertising on Audiogon saying they can do some pretty amazing mods on ARC gear. Has anyone out there used them? Were you satisfied by their work? I have an Arc ref 3 / ref 110, before I consider handing them over for a mod, would really like to hear from all of you. Thanks.

Hi Erik...I have similar setup with CD7 as well. GNSC does not do mods for the Ref 110 nor any of ARC's digital products. So the only product eligible for modding is your Ref 3. I contacted them a few yrs ago and at the time decided to wait. By the way they also mod Wadia products so you may want to enquire about their mods there. I am interested to see what feedback you get. Also, how do you like the combo of the Ref 110 with the Elipsas? Did you always have this combo or did you switch over to the Elipsas with the ARC gear? Is the Ref 110 sufficient to drive the speakers? Thx
I mean an Oppo.. yeah easy to upgrade the audio. A product like the Ref 3 would be pretty tough to mod and have it worth a damn. AND Audio Research would not later be willing to fix it. Unless they put all the stock stuff back. So then you got no more factory support. And One of the GREAT things about Audio Research products is they will fix them nearly forever. (except the CD players.. which was a parts problem) So your modded Ref 3 resale goes out the window.
If you REALLY need to upgrade your Ref 3... BUY a new Ref 5.
I own several Audio Research products.
Do an internet search on GNSC modifications. They are not new at this and have been doing it for a long time. Steve also has a history with ARC. I believe that there are some reviews of their mods on HiFi+ magazine. I have not owned thier products but have heard them in others systems and was impressed.
I have had the following ARC products modded by GNSC over the years with stunning sonic results. Highly recommended.
PH3SE, LS16MKI, REF2MKI, REF Phono, Classic 120's.

I currently have a REF3 LE and a REF2 Phono at GNSC being modded as we speak.

Visit their website.
Have read lots of positive reviews of these guys, and since they have been promoted on Audiogon, they are recommended.
I think Elizabeth summed it up just right. I don't think I would want somebody besides ARC messing around with my $10,000 component. I own the REF 3>REF 110>CD 7 combo.
I have had most of my ARC amps modified over the years with great results.
Remember that (even) ARC build their products to fit a price band, profit margin and 'house' sound.

GNS modified my Wadia 581SE and I was happy enough to send them my Ref 5 & Ref 2 Phono to modify.
Smoffatt - What is the REF3LE and how does it differ from the REF5? Thanks.
To Rgurney,
The last approximately two dozen REFERENCE 3 preamps built was designated "Limited Edition". It has several unique cosmetic and performance enhancements. Cosmetically, there are natural metallic-finish handles to match the natural anodized Limited Edition front panel (black not available). In addition, the words "Limited Edition" is printed directly below the Audio Research logo on the front panel. Under the cover are higher-performance proprietary output coupling caps that boost the performance of the Limited Edition beyond that of the original version.

It's unclear how many of those 25 units were sent to North American dealers.
Word is very few. Most went to Europe and Asia.

To the rest: If you think your ARC gear (whatever piece you own) sound amazing; think again. To put this into perspective, i just sold my modded PH3SE to a guy in California who had a stock PH3SE. He sent me an email yesterday. See below.

Hi Sly,

Just got the inputs loaded for 125 ohm (what the Shelter 90X likes) on the high level and have it playing now. Definitely and improvement in resolution and the extra gain isn't any noisier so the noise floor is much lower. I'm getting a small amount of hum but that's just working out the grounds and equipment placement.

I have had the following products modded by GNSC with excellent results: ARC sp-11(reference Mod),Wadia Dac 27(Statement mod),Wadia 270(SE & Statement mod). All done with superb workmanship, trust me you will not be disappointed.
Thanks everybody. Seems like there are alot of pros and cons to doing mods to expensive equipment. GNS sounds like they're a pretty reputable company. My concern is if there's aproblem down the road ARC will refuse to work on the unit. Does GNS do repair work on the non-modded parts of the unit. If anyone has had the unfortunate experience of having this happen, let me know.
GNSC warranty the work they do for one year and they can repair any amps and pre-amps ARC has ever produced. They will not perform mods or repairs on the CD players.
GNSC is not a backyard mickey mouse outfit. They have been in business for many years.
ARC will not refuse to work on a unit that has been modded by GNSC. There is a REF 1 GNSC modded for sale on Agon and the ad says that the unit was looked over by ARC and everything is in perfect working order.
No worries Ebe.
I can't really see buying a product that expensive and then turning it over to someone to hotrod. If the sound is not to your liking, move on and try some other gear. If a ten grand pre is so bad it needs to be sent out for mods, then imo, it must be really junk. Also, I would think the resale value would drop radically. Never buy used gear that has been modded. It is yours for life.
I agree with you. When a player is modded the flavor of the preamp is now changed from what the original designer wanted. This does not mean it will always be better. If you don't like this manufactures sound move on.
I agree with 6550c and Jwm 110%. It is time to move on and try something else.
6550c, I think you are missing the point or over simplifying matters. I like ARC products build qualities, etc., but not the house sound, which can be changed by installing different components, etc. Similarly with Wadia, nice machines but so tempremental and noisey, which can be fixed.
I don't care who the manufacturer is, most are built to a price, that goes for speakers, turntables, cartridges, etc.
By experts listening to them and modifying or tweeking, the product can be improved upon or changed to suit the specifications of the owner.
This logic does not buy with me. If you don't like the house sound of say an Audio Research Ref 5, try an Allnic or other brand at this price level. With the new component more liking to your taste you did not spend to modify, did not lose your warranty, and the value of the component remains on resale.
Those of you posting about modding do know that Steve Huntley worked for AR for years! He knows the product better than any of us ever could. Everytime I had a technical problem that Leonard couldn't answer guess who he would put on the phone to answer it? If the product is out of warranty you're going to pay for a repair anyway. Oh and just for the record AR has had plenty of send backs several times by me alone (Classic 120's) for not repairing the problem right the first time! They are good but not the end all with service. Let me add at least in the past they have been. Just because they built it initially doesn't mean it cannot be improved.Cars are another analogy of modifying with improved results. I don't see the naysayers bashing them? They (AR)have to cut production costs somewhere.
A few years back, someone posted the statement that "we're all as crazy as we can afford to be". I think it certainly applies when it comes to modding a $12k preamp. I certainly wouldn't do it....because I can't afford it. But who knows? If I had the bucks, I might take a shot at modding a unit.
In my humble opinion, replace the original ARC tubes by NOS tubes. Most remarkable improvement is the repalcement of the 6550 by a Tungsol Blackplate 6550. See discussion on audiogon
I hesitate to jump into the fray on this subject because I have not engaged GNSC to modify any Audio Research products for me. I have, however, engaged GNSC to modify a Wadia 861 to the Reference, then SE and Statement levels, a Resolution Audio Opus 21 (Reference level mod), a pair of Luxman MB3045 power amps, an Aesthetix IO and Spendor LS3/5as. Obviously, I like working with GNSC and have achieved great results from the work Steve and his crew have performed. At the same time, I understand how others might not find that the mod route is the way to go. Let me explain.

If you find a component, either new or used, that sounds exactly like you want it to sound and you have no reasonable belief that it can be upgraded, you have answered the question of whether you should engage GNSC. If, on the other hand, you are relentlessly seeking to improve upon your sound, you can take either a new component that Steve is comfortable modifying and engage in dialogue with him regarding what his mods do to the sound. Steve is articulate and capable of describing what you can expect from his Standard, Reference and Statement mods. He is also able to adapt somewhat depending upon your tastes and variations among components. In my case, we have debated different capacitors to use in the IO. In all cases, I have found that my perceptions of the modified component have matched the descriptions that Steve provided before undertaking the mod. From a business perspective, Steve is unlikely to last long in his trade if he describes one outcome to his customers but provides them with components that differ from his descriptions and Steve has been at this for many years.

Getting a mod from GNSC implies a very different relationship between the audiophile and the person either selling a component or a service. For me, I prefer to engage in the discussion, get down to the details of what I like and don't like in my sound and to discuss the ways that Steve can improve on the sound. In at least two instances, Steve has declined to modify components for me, saying that he is either not comfortable working on that manufacturer's piece or believes that the component sounds good as is and that he has little to add. I am sure that Steve is concerned about revenues but he has not demonstrated to me that he cares more about revenues than creating a good result.

I understand why Audio Research may prefer that no one modify their components. As a manufacturer, getting customers to move on to their newer components is what keeps them in business. Likewise, they do not really want to endorse having third parties improve upon products of which they are justifiably proud. ARC has produced some components that maybe should not be modified and left as they are, though replacing some components in the chassis may be necessary for amps and preamps built in the 1970's and 1980's just to maintain the products and, secondarily, to improve their sound.

Audio Research has produced some fantastic components that may remain at or very near the levels of performance of the newest ARC gear after GNSC modifies those components. In some cases, older ARC gear modified by GNSC after dialogue with Steve may suit the preferences of the owner to an even greater degree than new gear might. Of course, your mileage may vary.

I have never experienced a problem with GNSC supporting gear sold to me, though I have not really experienced many substantive problems with the gear they modified for me. I have met with Steve and he has shown me the work performed and it appears to be of the highest quality, so I have no reason to believe that GNSC modified gear is any less reliable than unmodified gear and have experience demonstrating that he will resolve any issue that might arise. Put otherwise, I do not believe that Steve's mods "hot rod" components in a way that pushes things to limits that encourage better sound at the expense of short service lives or susceptibility to component failure.

I don't think that there is a "one size fits all" answer when it comes to modding. Those who believe that they should purchase a stock component that absolutely meets their needs should follow that path. Similarly, those people who buy used gear, have older gear or even have new gear that they want to shape pursuant to dialogue with GNSC may find that relationship rewarding and the modified components to their liking. As for me, I can't recommend GNSC and Steve highly enough but I also can't say that engaging him will suit everyone or every component subject to modification. I can testify, however, that Steve is careful, articulate, responsible and honest in what he has done for me and that those who want to modify their gear are extremely unlikely to find their experience with GNSC a disappointment.