New Audio Research Reference 150 SE

I just heard from my AR dealer that a new Reference 150 SE that uses KT150s will start shipping out in early March. Did I miss this on another forum or is this new news? This might explain why they have not endorsed using the KT 150s in the current Reference lineup.
95b7d011 18b9 4c6b a660 6cd990e7c2a2jonandfamily
I believe that ARC also have plans to offer an upgrade service for current non SE Ref150 owners, via their dealer network, latest figure banded about = $3,000 including a set of ARC tested KT150's.
Sent a note to Kal for info. Waiting to hear back.

I wonder how much better the SE version will sound.
P.S. Just checked ARC's webs site and the ARCDB web site. So far, no mention of an SE version. Of course, the web sites might not be up to date.
P.S.S. did a general web search. No information identified yet.
Your sure you don't mean the new GS150, which use the KT150 tubes ?

Like this one :-)
AR GS150

Good Listening

Well Well, I feel compelled to thrust an ice pick thought my left testicle just in case I am either dreaming or hallucinating.

An unequivocal responce from Obfuscation Central !!!!!

" I received the following from Kalvin at ARC

"Audio Research will announce new SE versions of the REF75, 150 and Ref 250 in March that will take advantage of the improved sound of the KT150.

Also, SE upgrades for existing REF 75, 150 and 250 amplifiers will also be announced. Factory upgrades will be made available as our supplies of the KT150 increase "
Kal responded. ARC will be making a formal announcement within a month or two.

The plan is to upgrade the ARC Ref 75, 150 and 250. Kal was a bit unclear what the changes will be other than the SE upgrades will include KT-150 tubes and misc circuit and component changes.
Tsushima1 .... I think it was you who said that the cost for a Ref 150 SE upgrade would be roughly $3000. If so, more than half the value would represents tubes ($1600, or 8 x $200/per tube). The other half ... who the heck knows.

Kal said he did not think changing out power or output trannies was part of the SE upgrade. Just other "proprietary" parts and circuit changes. I am dubious that ARC would try and stuff any more power supply caps into the chassis ... not enough real estate left.

Kal said that the SE upgrades will be available soon. Perhaps more details will be forthcoming.
Spoke to Kal today. He told me it was ok to put KT-150s into the Ref 150. Hallelujah ... Moschiach has arrived.

But wait ... there's more. The cost to upgrade the Ref 150 to the SE grade is $5000. Of course, that includes all new tubes --- KT-150s and 6H30s.

Kal said the objective of the SE upgrade is to tune the amp to take full advantage of the benefits of the KT-150 tube. Kal added that the improvement is on the order of going from the Ref 5 to the Ref 5 SE.

Five grand is a lot of scratch! The Ref 5 SE upgrade was only $2500.
P.S. Kal commented that the Ref 150 SE will make Maggie 3.7i speakers sound heavenly.
Geez, I bet it will be $10k for a pair of Ref 250's. That's too much scratch......
$10k can buy you a pretty darn good integrated. Tube or SS.
I wonder what the price of a new Ref 75, 150, 250 SE will be.

I'm glad i haven't replaced my good old trusty Classic 120's with a Ref 75 or 150 now that i can get a MUCH improved SE version.
If the KT150's work in the 75, 150 and 250 and they do, why do you need modifications to make the change optimal? I suspect most of the benefit is in the tubes themselves and they are cheaper to buy at Upscale Audio. You would need some brave soul to compare a cooking version of one of the ref series amps, that amp with KT150 tubes and a factory modified SE version.

It does sound a great deal of money to me, but it seems to explain why ARC has refused to say if the 150 tubes will work in the Reference series amps, for the last year. Sorry if this offends you ARC fans out there and I do love my Ref 75, but the company's main aim does seem to be to wring the last bit of cash out of loyal customers, they can.
David ... I ask myself the same question. I have about 50 to 75 hours on my KT-150s. Yes ... they sound better than the KT-120s, but not good enough IMO to justify the cost of $100 per tube.

I may be among the first group of schmucks to spring for the SE upgrade, but I feel like a schmuck for even considering the investment.

And btw, $5000 for tubes and "proprietary" parts, ... I hope they throw the snake oil in too.

I auditioned the Galileo 150 amp yesterday driving the Maggie 3.7's. The combination was heavenly. What really is impressive is that when I saw that the subwoofer was off, and all of that palpable bass was coming from the panels. The sound product is reference level in my opinion. If I only had the room for them, I would purchase the combo.
Tennisdoc, how big should a room be to take proper advantage for the 3.7s?
This was at an Audio Research Dealer's secondary room. Don't know the dimensions, but size of an ordinary living room.
02-26-15: Philb7777
Geez, I bet it will be $10k for a pair of Ref 250's. That's too much scratch......
Philb7777, you were close. Today Kal said $9k for upgrading Ref250 to SE which includes a new set of tubes. New Ref250SE is $34K. A $8K increase from Ref250. I guess a new set of tubes from ARC including KT150, 6h30 and 6550 is ~$4k so $5k for the upgrade. $2.5K per mono.

I have ~400 hours on my Ref250 now and it sounds amazing so decided no tube rolling or upgrade until tubes need replacing. For now I'm leaning towards upgrade route when it's time.

I'm with you. I have around 900 hours on my Ref 250's right now so in another 1,000 hours or so, I will start to contemplate this. Options include sticking with the KT 120's, foregoing the upgrade and ordering Kt 150's, or getting the full upgrade with any circuit changes that may be of additional benefit. $9 K is so much money though, this upgrade better be transformational. I certainly won't be the one to beta test it, so I looking forward over the next several months to see how this plays out.
I wonder if ARC intends to phase out the current Ref line and replace it with the SE version at the increased prices. Or perhaps the current Ref version stay and the new SE versions fill in the gap between the current Ref line and the G series.

I also wonder if ARC intends to fill out the G series line. Possibilities might include a GS-250 and GS-750.

Dunno ... of course. But it seems that ARC is going up-market.
Bifwynne ...

From one "schmuck" to another *lol* ... my new REF-75se is supposed to ship tomorrow. Should have it by Thursday. See the new thread I started on this issue.

Happy listening ...
@Oregonpapa ... looking forward to reading your comments. Did ARC tell how long the break-in period is?

Btw, I mentioned this above, but think it is worth repeating that Kal at ARC advised me that ARC has finally gotten around to blessing the KT-150 for use in the "regular" Ref 75 and Ref 150.

I bought 2 quads of KT-150s for my Ref 150 a couple of weeks ago. Yes, my amp sounds better. But 15% to 20% better might be a stretch.

Kal assured me that the SE version would make much better use of the KT-150s because revisions "tune" the amp to better match the KT-150s. Not sure what that means, but hearing is believing. I look forward to reading Oregonpapa's comments.
Why not wait for a Reference 150SE MKII? It should be out by the end of the year
Thanks Knghifi for the TAB link. I wonder if the SE version comes with a new fascia.

I'm holding judgment until I read some member comments and catch a review or two.
03-11-15: Opus111
Why not wait for a Reference 150SE MKII? It should be out by the end of the year
Nahhhhh ... life is too short. I hope they do offer a MKII so I can upgrade again after my SE upgrade.

I'm glad ARC offers upgrades. It's less expensive than replacing with something new.
Opus 111, you sure know the way ARC operates. It's called operation clean out your checkbook. I am not an ARC hater, in fact I own 2 of their pieces. I guess they can't go after new buyers because there aren't any. So they have to milk the owners they already have.
If manufacturers didn't offer upgrades or advance their craft with new models what we have to talk about or look forward to? Oh....there's always the music, LOL!
I have an old (1980's) ARC Classic 60 that I'm using as a spare while awaiting my new REF-75. The tech I use went completely through the CL-60 ... and its sounding fantastic. Very musical and lush. Three dimensional as all get out too. But compared to the REF-75 with the KT-150 tubes I just sold, its no contest. The CL-60 is kind of a cross between classic tube gear (warm & lush) and more modern gear. If you like movies done in Technicolor, you'd like the CL-60. And hey ... who doesn't like Technicolor movies? Remember the original of The Wizard of Oz? The REF-75, on the other hand, transcends tubes and solid state and just gets out of the way of the music. The REF-75 comes closer to NO AMP than any amp I've had in my system. To me, the ARC advancements are clearly dramatic improvements over the years ... and I for one am happy to follow the upgrade path.

I would expect the break-in time is comparable to the original REF-75. About 500 hours for total break in. Ugg. By the way, there is a break in period for those KT-150's you bought. I heard an initial improvement with my tube replacement too. Then they just kept improving through 100 hours of use.

The REF-75 didn't ship. I was expecting it to arrive today, but ARC is still waiting for the custom SE badges that go on the amps to clear customs. So ... maybe I'll have the amp by the end of next week. I hope.

Stay tuned ...
Oregonpapa ... yea ... keeping am eye on this thread. Very much looking forward to your early comments. Thanks for being an early guinea pig test subject. Try to stay objective. My upgrade will be almost twice the cost of yours and I'm kinda' relying on objective feedback.

Btw, how much did you harvest on the "old" KT-150s? I gather you sold them. If so, on eBay or A'gon???

Thanks. I'm kinda' livin' the experience vicariously through you. :)
Bifwynne ...

On the "old" amp's KT-150s ... I sold the amp with the KT120's that the 150's replaced.Still some good mileage left in those 120's for the new owner. The KT-150's were very low mileage, and just broken in, so at $100.00 per pop, I thought it best to keep them for spares. In other words, when the tubes in the REF-75SE need replacement, I'm already set. I gave the buyer of the REF-75 a smokin' deal, so he was fine with the KT120's .... He's going to order a set of KT150's for himself, if he hasn't already done so. My philosophy in negotiations is for everyone to walk away from the table feeling like they got a fair shake. This is a far cry from those whose thinking is ... "I win, and you lose. I suspect from your posts that our thinking is similar.

I'll keep you posted on the new amp when it arrives. If my source can be believed, and I have ultimate faith in him, AND his ears, all I can say is ... get out your checkbook. *lol*

Take care ..
Bifwynne ...

Check your PMs.
Thanks Frank. I just answered your PM. Btw, I agree with the win-win deal scenario. Hope you get your new Ref 75 SE this week. Very interested in reading your comments.
My Ref 150 is at AR having the upgrade installed. I had a long talk with Kal who insisted that the upgrades to the Ref 75, and the Ref 150 were quite significant and apparent on first listening. I will report what I hear when the unit returns, should be within two weeks.
Herb ... add my name to the list. My Ref 150 was delivered to ARC yesterday for the SE upgrade. Kal said my amp would go into the queue and wait its turn for the upgrade.

Kal also said that there is only one tech dedicated to doing the SE upgrades, so it will likely take 2 weeks before my amp is completed. I'll report back when I get more news.

Looking forward to learning/experiencing for myself whether the SE upgrade is all that some have made it out to be.
I am just a few days ahead of you. I plan to call Kal next week to see if he can give me a projected completion date.
I just installed mine to replace a REF 75, it is a noticeable upgrade in almost every regard right out of the box (I do miss the meters though). I will report again once I have more hours on the unit.
I've been advised by Kal that my unit has been completed and tested and should be shipped back to me over the next few days.
Herb ... did you take delivery yet?? Anything to report?
Most likely Herb can't tear himself out of his listening chair to post. *lol*
Ref 150 SE update status: spoke with ARC on Friday. My amp is on the bench, waiting for some parts to be delivered to ARC. Fingers crossed that it might be finished and shipped on Monday or Tuesday and received before end of next week. Hope that is not wishful thinking.
I took delivery late this week, but have been out of town for the weekend. Sounded fine but listened for less than ten hours. Serious listening will begin tomorrow. Interesting that ARC decided to replace my outer carton and ship via a trucking company, feeling that this was safer. Shipping and the new box was at their cost. After I removed the heavy shrink wrap the new carton's damage during shipping was apparent (a dent on one side on top). However the amp was not damaged. Will report sound later this week.
Herb ...

It won't start coming into its own until 60-125 hours.

Looking forward to your assessment.
I begin the week with 11.2 hours. Sounds good, but of course I am expecting more, probably within the next two weeks.
Now at 13 hours I am willing to state that comparing the 150SE to my Bel Canto 1000Ms, which were in my system for the weeks when the 150 was missing, the difference is dramatic. More air, deeper and better control of bass, and a removal of additional veils between me, the listener, and the musicians,or less subtle distortion.
I first heard this dramatic improvement in the system when I installed the Ref 5SE preamp. Then came the 150 last year which moved the sonic presentation closer in all dimensions to a live presentation. I look forward in the days ahead, as I add playing time to the 150SE, to listen again to recordings not played since the 150 was last here.
Will continue to report as I listen
Herb, was it apparent to you if ARC changed out the power supply caps?
ARC is shipping my Ref 150 SE tomorrow. Hopefully, will get it on or before Friday.

Spoke to Kal today about the power supply caps. He said the SE version uses the same PS caps as the older Ref 150 (sans upgrade).

I'll share comments too as I rack up hours. Kal said break-in for an upgraded amp is about 125 hours, but it will sound pretty good out of the box.
I wish that I had taken a picture of the amp before it was shipped. Unfortunately I did not so I am not in a position to describe apparent changes in parts.
Late yesterday afternoon I played a cd that I played a few days ago using the Bel Canto amps. The presentation of that disc was more detailed through the Bel Cantos, so this may be an indication that the amp running 10-15 hours is far from what it will be capable of after 100-200 hours.
I will continue reporting what I hear.