Thank you for the private messages sent to be about this thread. I understand the need to keep past experiences and advice here in a more private manner.
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Not sure why there’s any need for secrecy. The ARC phono stages are great (I used to have a REF 2SE) but like all ARC pre amps relatively colored to the “musical” side of things. They make almost everything sound wonderful, sometimes realer than real. I changed mine for an obscure battery powered phono (see my system description) at 3x the cost of the ARCs which brings more dynamics and immediacy and a more precisely defined sound stage but I lost the flexibility and the romanticism of the Ref 2. I kept all the same cables. If you already own the ARC investing in footers is a good near term step. The Marigo mystery feet work wonders.
Thank you folkfreak for sharing your phono evolution. It seems like a lot of people are running with a high-performance MM-based phono stage and one of the latest generation of the top-tiered SUT's. I am now doing the same with the Hashimoto HM7 into the MM stage of the preamp I have had for 11 years now. The internal Sowter SUT's chosen by the preamp designer at the time are pretty good. But the HM7's take on another level of clarity, less smearing and a greater low-end extension. The Sowter's also have a slight upper-midrange "ringing" which can be a bit annoying on some music. But neither SUT emphasizes the lower-mids like you described with the ARC phono stage to give that romantic presentation.
The preamp's tube MM stage and it's tube power supply with tube rectifier helps to bring on some of the typical lush tube sound without going over board. But at times, I wish I had a little more of the tube sound with never-ending decays and super rich harmonics. I will take on a legendary phono stage soon that I hope will give that to me for those musical moments where the last word in detail is second to the utmost in "musicality". Always depends on the mood and music to be played.
As for some people here not wanting to contribute directly to such a thread, I can fully understand. I don't see is as secrecy. They are willing to offer information to a member here without having to answer to everyone else as to what, how, why, etc., they did this or that, or feel obligated to answer private messages. And again, I appreciate the messages I got as they confirmed my own experiences and the path I am looking to continue.
Oh, and yes yes, the Marigo mystery feet. For the last few years, I have had them on my radar to try. You reminded me to consider this with the upcoming phono stage and under the preamp.