I have had a chance to hear this at my dealer that had it on display at RMAF last fall. It is a nice piece but at 30K
I have come as close as I ever will. Unless I win the Powerball of course. It was playing thru Vandersteen 7's
and a very impressive music maker it is!
What happened to the Reference 6, 7, 8, and 9?
My guess is the Reference 6, 7, 8, and 9 will show up as single chassis preamps. The dual chassis preamps will be numbered 10 and up.
Uh, I wonder if I could trade my pickup straight across for this new sonic marvel? This hobby is becoming way to expensive.
It must be hard to solder the parts together when you're chuckling.
["We have learned a few things in the last 2-1/2 years, and the improvements are immediately apparent. Included are critically chosen new components, proprietary custom-made capacitors, wiring, and new connectors that cumulatively provide a level of performance never before achieved. Key design traits remain"]
Capacitors, wiring, and new connectors? Really, that's it?
I don't have anything against this company or its success. I'm sure they've been one of this industries oldest mainstays for a good reason. I find their marketing and product ramping intervals at the very least, interesting. I'm thankful I'm not drawn to their house sound.
There should be some really sweet deals coming up this year on pre-owned Ref Anniversary models. I'm starting to save my scratch right now for one.
Vicdamone, 100% agree....
Plus at that price tag only wealthier guys can afford this kind of gear,
I am very please with my harbeth/luxman combo,
No looking for upgrades, I guess we all have to find a sanity moment and realize that the hobby is about the music at least for me it is!
Electroslacker, you're killing me! LOL!
What is this, their 5th "reference" in the past 5 years?
Progress can come at a furious pace when one starts at such a low initial reference point.
No thanks, I will wait for the Reference 20 MKII, which should be available sometime next year for $50K
I consider the ARC sound to be analytical as opposed to musical. When people hear "more" with ARC electronics they assume that means better, but I'm not sure. ARC is "clinical" as opposed to musical, according to my sensibilities. Although I can't afford that particular preamp, I'm not sure I would buy ARC, even if I could afford it.
I'll have to admit, I love Audio Research preamps & cd players. My experience outside of AR is extremely limited, and I really haven't been interested in looking elsewhere. Maybe I should broaden my horizons.
I probably should not have been so glib. I have heard AR gear in a wide range of systems and I generally did not like the lean sound of their linestages. But, this could have been more a matter of system matching. I did hear a few nice systems using the Reference 3 and 5, so, to be specific, I don't like any of their linestages below the Reference 3.
"Lean Sound"? What the heck did you hook their linestages up to and with Larryi? They are big, warm side of neutral and dynamic...never lean.
when you have capital you can crank out innovation like crazy, and with a big box business and huge retail network distribution to the marketplace is instant. Innovation is the lifeblood of any business but it can get to the over the top point. The real marketing question is how to keep current customers in the family so they don't get discouraged after shelling out hard earned dough for a Reference piece before the latest best.
The margins are really long on a 30k piece, but I would guess though you need the volume from the middle of your line to keep growing and taking share from the competition. I am sure they are smart and have done plenty of research, maybe more of us change and upgrade, like changing socks, than I realize. I know I have become more interested in small box companies that build with passion for the hobby (which comes with risk also) no beefy customer service in some cases and shaky longevity. But the price point is also usually worth the risk/reward. I don't mean to imply ARC is not passionate about their business - it is just a big business in this industry and staying on top requires a different set of rules. There are lots of choices out there. Just my two cents - I do own one ARC piece that I like alot.
I cannot afford to buy the Reference products new, but when they come up for sale on the used market several years later they are good buys. Frome $25k new, the Ref Anniversary is now down to $14k on the used market. In a couple of years, I will be able to afford one...and it will still be a great preamp.
My Ref3 is eight years old and it still brings tears to my eyes when I play it. I have no doubt that the Ref Anniversary that I buy in two years will be a stellar preamp.
Mitch, nice! Doesn't sound like you need it! How do you know it will bring you closer to the music than you already are! Sounds like you have made it...congrats!
Thanks for the kind words Pops. I'm certainly content with my current preamp, but the curiosity of the Ref5 SE and the Ref Anniversary is driving me nuts!
Mitch, I'm a big ARC fan. But let me help out with a little perspective. I used to own the Ref 3 and I liked it a lot. But upgrade fever kicked in and ARC ballyhooed (sp?) the new revolutionary Ref 5 as being in a different league than the Ref 3.
I picked up a used Ref 5 for a good price. In my humble opinion, my reaction is it's a little drier than the Ref 3. Maybe bass is a touch tighter. But are we talking "different league" or change measured in "tweaks"? I think the later.
I used to own the PH-7 phono pre too. ARC came out with the PH-8 which was "cut out of the same sonic cloth" as the Ref Phono 2. For the life of me, I'm not getting it.
Ok, last chance. Perhaps foolishly, my Ref 5 is scheduled for the factory SE upgrade at the end of the month. I've read comments that say it will take the Ref 5 to 85+% the way to the Ref Anniversary. We'll see.
I'll report back after the upgrade breaks in. In the meantime, hold your dough. I predict the Ref 3 will be a classic for years to come.
I bought the ph 5 from a dealer when I got back into vinyl and damn if the ph 7 didn't come out within a couple of months - although 4k higher, thanks Bifwynne for reminding me about the ph8 - I had forgotten that one!
I hate to break this to yall, there are some purchase audio components NOT just for the sound. Yep, it's TRUE. I know many simply NEEDS the status of ownership and equates the latest and most expensive to the best.
Companies llke ARC, VAC ... are opportunistic to capitalize on this behavior. As long as there are demand, they will supply them with the products and LAUGHING all the way to the bank.
I'm as guilty as most falling in this trap and working building a system at a REASONABLE (to me) price. Cables are easy but the rest have been a CHALLENGE.
The only AR preamps I've heard and owned were the SP-11 and the LS3. I liked them both, and AR has every right to market and price as they like, but it seems like they are playing some type of Catch-the-new-Best thing, dangling something even better every six to nine months.
Can there really be 21 levels of better (not counting SE additions) in a linestage since my LS3? Does adding an SE option to a Ref 5 really get you 85% to an Anniversary Edition? For something rather basic like a linestage that is basically using the same technology over the last decades, how can there be $20,000 worth of better guts and engineering costs between a Ref3 at (gasp) $10,000 and a Ref10 at $30,000. Feels like a bubble.
Of course, the answer is that they can sell them and people want them, so it's all in ones perspective, passion, level of belief, and tax bracket.
Pops, if you can pick up a used PH-7, I think you will be quite happy. I spent serious bucks to move up to the PH-8. I am not convinced the PH-8 is leagues better than the PH-7. I'm not even sure the PH-8 is even better than the PH-7 -- yikes, heresy!
Hey Bif, your perspective was just the cure for my upgradeitis. Thank you. Funny thing is, I'm sure my system sounds good, and I really enjoy it. But those doggone Audio Research factory product descriptions of their latest and newest Reference offerings always subliminally always make me wonder 'what if'.
HiFi News in the UK reviewed the unit in the latest March edition. Ken Kessler who reviewed it is an ARC fan and uses a Ref 5. He was pretty enthusiastic and felt it to be the best Pre he has heard. The magazine is as reliable as magazines, with the commercial pressures on them, ever get, bur still $30000.
Nomenclature becomes a problem, just how many reference units can you have, without debasing the term. Perhaps "universe Reference" or "Lord High Executioner Pre amp"
"...we received hundreds of requests to keep [Reference Anniversary] in the lineup, but that would not have been fair to original owners."
Really? So you decided to remake another RA using "better" parts and claim it to be "clearly better". Yes ARC, you really have been "fair" to the original owners of RA.
Companies like these are just taking advantage of their loyal customers, coming up with one "reference" after another to make a profit at their customers expense. If this is their business practice, I rather not partake in their products.
Personally, I have no problem with ARC releasing new Reference products whenever they like.
Automakers release new/updated products every year.. I see no difference.
The older ARC products continue to function just fine with every new release, and they also support them better than just about any other company in the industry.
If you don't want to stay on the bleeding edge just step off the upgrade merry-go-round. I did a while ago and am still very happy with my aging products. :)
I concur with Dracule 1, if they really wanted to be fair an Anniversary SE, with the upgrade available to the original owners, would be the way to go. Doing what they've done will depreciate the Anniverary which is hard to quantify as fair.
While ARC can advance the SOTA, as they see it, at whatever cost the market will bear, unless you're ultra rich and don't worry about bang for the buck, buying a new REF 10 at 30K is insane. In 12-18 months you'll take a 10K depreciation hit. Ultra expensive gear takes a really big hit, dollar and percentage wise. Look at used Wilson speakers.
To be completely honest, I'm actually happy there are people in this hobby with the ears to appreciate the difference, coupled with the means to buy ultra expensive gear. It allows me to plod along with my LS27 until I can pick up a Ref 10 or Anniversary once they've fully depreciated.
I owned an SP11mk2 years ago. I bought it new, at a good price, owned it for five years and only lost about $1000 when I sold it. The true ownership cost, purchase price verses used price, of SOTA today is vastly more painful.
Thanks Bifwynne, I am sure the ph7 is a step up but I have lost my appetite to move up the ARC line - can't buy into the constant churning of new and improved...
I would guess that we disagree with what is "neutral" sound. I have heard AR gear in numerous system, though not my own, and as I have mentioned above, I don't really like their linestages below the Reference 3. I am with Orpheus that the sound can be characterized as "analytical." This is a matter of personal preference. These days, a lot of gear deliver a similar sound, so it appears to be a preference of some audiophiles.
This is a more general comment about ARC. I was always a big fan of theirs with alot of respect for their equipment. My father owned their gear since the company started in the early 70's. A few examples of what I have onwed through the years (not at the same time of course) are VSi55, Dual 79, D52B, D300, VT60, SP5, LS3B, etc. All very fine pieces of equipment in my opinion. Their own arrogance on the phone (I won't mention names) is what put me against them. When I had a VT60 I enjoyed the amp, but when I called with questions, the person on the other end of the line basically said the amp was no good and criticized it (their own product). As a rule of thumb, I was always taught not to criticize former products your company made - it is bad business. But I guess if you criticize your old gear and convince the customer it is no good, that is one way to force it into obsolescence.
How I understand it from several people who have worked there is that the ARC internal company policy is a 90-day product release schedule. IOW every 90 days there is supposed to be a new product replacing an existing product somewhere in the lineup.
AR has 22 products. Replacing four products a year puts them right at a five year update for each existing product if the schedule Atmasphere mentions is adhered to. That sounds very sensible to me.
I will just plod along with my used REF2 MKII
One day I will sell it and upgrade to a used ref3, maybe even a ref5 if its further down the road.
I listen mostly to rock though, and from what I have read the Ref2 was on the bass heavy side, so I worry that getting rid of it might be the wrong direction in my situation?
No_money, .....when the time comes that you can swing the Ref3, get it. It is head and shoulders over the Ref2 Mk2. You will love it. I had the Ref2 Mk2 and loved it...once I got the Ref3, it was a game changer, and I'm still surprised at how good it is. No worries, you will still get your bass in spades.
That's great to hear from someone who has had both pre's. thanks!
That's great news, I'm going to run out right now and purchase two of them, and then anxiously await the release of their next latest and greatest reference model
Ralph (Atmasphere), I wonder if the 90 day policy is the result of new ownership? Seems to me that a well thought out product takes time to design, test and roll-out. And a really good product should have staying power with a long shelf life.
For example, my amp, the VS-115, has been in the current line-up since 08 or 09. It's time may be up soon. As an fyi, some dealers and ARC fans previously commented that the VS-115 was nipping at the heals of the "old" Ref 110. I think I'll stick to the VS-115 for a while longer. It's a great amp - a real workhorse.
I also own the Ref CD-8 which was also released in 08 or 09. Just got discontinued for the Ref CD-9, which costs $16K. The CD-9 has flexible input capabilities that I don't care about. I think the DAC may be the same as the CD-8, except ARC told me that its upsampling algorithm is greatly improved and the sound is in "another league" compared to the CD-8. I'm sticking to the CD-8 for now.
As I mentioned above, I'm gonna do the Ref 5 SE upgrade later this month. No surprise, it's also in "another league" compared to the old Ref 5, may 85+% of the Ref 40.
Boy oh boy, I'm concerned that ARC may run out of leagues.
After I waste my dough on the SE upgrade, I'm gonna refocus on buying new CDs and LPs. Maybe a new carty too. Time to start listening to the music again and not the gear.
Bif, I have a feeling your dough on the upgrade won't be a waste. I'm sure it will be money well spent. Be sure to report back with your results after you've put it through its paces.
It is funny to read all the negative responses. Many manufacturers come out with the "latest and greatest" periodically. I mentioned in previous posts that manufacturers have to keep their name out there, and with the exception to the very poor and in my opinion totally inaccurate review of the DAC 8 in stereophile (I believe), new products keep coming out just to keep their names in the audio magazines, which won't review older products (even if they are still in production). At least that is my assessment. But, I have no problem with newer products coming out. Although in my opinion it does reduce the value of the previous products. I'm into this for the music and listening experience. I was told by many, including dealers I trust, that the REF 5 is not so much better than the REF 3 that it justified a purchase of the REF 5. However, they did tell me that the REF 5SE is that much better. I haven't heard it yet, but I will. But quite honestly, I'm very happy with my REF 3 sound in my system. Listening fatique does not exist and it is wonderful to sit and listen for extended periods of time. The same is true with my DAC 8. Before I purchased it, I compared it to top of the line DACs (including the DACs (two) that I owned) and it was better. So, if one isn't in the amp of the month club it really shouldn't be an issue with companies replacing or upgrading products periodically. As long as one is happy with their equipment.
I do not mind subtle updates or improvements to a current offering as long as the manufacture allows previous units to be updated at a reasonable cost. I like Atmospheres marketing and product development model whereby previous customer can elect to have their older units upgraded.
One of my customers had a Ref 3 for quite a while and recently replaced it with a Ref Anniversary. Is it better? Certainly, but I don't know if I'd call it night and day.
I too like manufacturers who offer upgrades when they make sense, not on a calendar basis, and available to most, hopefully all owners of previous versions, and a new warranty often is provided as well. Doing so adds genuine value to one's purchase and demonstrates respect for the customer.
Atmasphere is one of the few high end companies (if not the only company) that offers upgrades with warranty. That is why they have such a loyal following.
Atmasphere, here's some free business advice. Rebadge your MP-1 to MP-1 Signature and jack up the price to $50k. Tell them the design is based on 30 years of research ... blah blah BS. All you need is sell several annually for a nice profit and escape the cold winters of Minnesota.
I bet when they compare it to the MP-1, they will find it more organic, bass, detail ... Never underestimate power of the mind and placebo effect. LOL!!!!!
If you build them, they will come!
Wow, the negativity is amazing sometimes. Yes, some manufacturers do come out with new (updated, or latest and greatest) products very quickly. For many reasons. 1)Keeping their names out there so people would think they are on the cutting edge (even when sometimes they aren't. 2) for the many people that absolutely have to own the newest, latest and greatest (and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. who am I to judge them?) 3 for people that trust the products to th extent that would buy simply because the manufacturer updated or came out with something new. and many other reasons. The point is, what do I or should I care? it doesn't take away from my enjoyment of my equipment and music. Also, I don't know the internal politics or business ethics of Audio Research or any other manufacturer. Some have way more R&D staff than smaller companies and development newer circuitry also, where the smaller companies simply can't change their product lines that quickly. But, nobody is twisting my arm forcing me to go out and buy that product. Anyone that purchase a piece of equipment or car or house with the expectation that it will retain its value or that it would lose its value if another product is produced that replaces it, well that is going to happen sooner or later anyway. my opinion? enjoy what you have while you have it. Life is usually very short when you enjoy it and very long when you aren't. I prefer to try to enjoy life. More power to Audio Research, Atmasphere, and any others that take the leap to go out and try to produce something.
Bifwynne, now that you mention it, that was a policy that has been there for years. But who knows, it could have changed but how I understand it is that the new owners have not messed with the company.
Where is Steve Huntley (GNSC) when we need him.
For those who have had their ARC amps and preamps modded by him, there is no desire to get into the ongoing, never ending, new models upgrade journey.
The last piece of gear he's done for me was a REF3 LE and a REF Phono 2 and i have no desire to move to a REF5 SE or a REF 10 anytime soon.