thougts on arc ref1--please advise

got a offer to buy a arc ref1 (was looking for a ls-25 mk1 or mk2)..

any insight into how it compares ?

any concerns to reliabilty ?

different versions ?


I have the Reference 1 for five years now. I love the preamplifier. you can always upgrade it to a reference 2 for a cost if that would interst you. The reference one is very quiet and has been a great preamp for me. I bought my unit used and it has worked perfectly. If you can get the reference series I would suggest to try to make this your aim.

Mike, why not bite the proverbial bullet and go for a Ref 3?
I hate to sound like a broken record, but the Ref1 simply never did it for me vs. the lower priced LS5 II and III. And this was universal of everyone I knew who owned the LS5 or who did direct auditions of both.

For the $3500 or so that the Ref1 is selling for these days, any number of models besides the LS5, e.g., the BAT 31SE or Aesthetix Calypso just to name two far exceed the Ref1 and LS5, and still cost less on the used market than the Ref1. Compared to the above mentioned models, I found the LS25 II rather analytical sounding. But the LS 25 MK I (which I did not hear) with it also using 6922 tubes like the LS5 might be a winner.

Never having heard the Ref2 I or II, this might be the model to consider if you ultimately want an ARC product. The Ref2 Mk I was the last to use the 6922 tubes and to many people, the opportunity to try various 6DJ8 and 6922 tubes makes for much flexibility here. The Mullard is an awesome tube no matter what component I have tried it in.

No matter what, if you really like the sound of the Ref1, before you commit your money, I strongly suggest you try an LS5 as this could save you $1500 or so and you too might prefer it.

thanks for the comebak...really appreciate it.

on a limited budget so a ref3 is more than i can afford...i just moved from a batvk30 and would like to get back to an arc....

i have heard really good things about a ls-5....since the ls-5 is older... would it require a cap replacement/upgrade ?
Can you give some insight as why "the BAT 31SE or Aesthetix Calypso just to name two far exceed the Ref1 and LS5"?
My yardstick is information retrieval relative to volume.
That is, how good does the unit sound at low to moderate levels.
Of course, accuracy at loud levels is important too, but this is easier to find, IMO.
Any info is welcome.
I owned the LS25 MK1 and enjoyed it. Bought a REF1-hated it. Put brand new tubes in it-still hated it. Now own a Calypso and loving it. But between the two, LS25 all the way.
Mikesinger: The LS5 II came out just a couple years before the Ref1 and the LS5 III about a year after the Ref1. This was all in the 1994-1997 time. All these models are pretty much in the same boat if there is a need/desire to change old capacitors or consider upgrading to any number of newer designs like Infinicaps, Auricaps, Black Gate, V-Cap, etc.

And rather than pay so much to have ARC upgrade such a unit, you can buy these yourself and do it. ARC circuit boards are very accessible for such work. And if you're not comfortable to do this, there are plenty of mod shops like Steve Huntley of Great Northern Sound.

Dweller - I think I have bored the A'gon world with my multitude of posts on the LS5, 31SE, Aesthetix preamps, etc., so please search the archives for my comments here. If you have specific questions that are not addressed in the archives, hopefully I can give you pinpoint answers as to why I went from the SP-10 -> LS5 -> 31SE -> Callisto Sig. Just send me an email.

Mike, I know of an ARC dealer who refused to give up his/her own LS5 Mk. 3 for a long time. . . past the Ref 1, past the Ref 2 Mk. 1. And only sold it when the Ref 2 Mk. 2 became available, and even then the difference was apparently not earthshattering. I havent heard the LS5 myself, yet everything seems to point to the fact that you would be highly unlikely to become unhappy with an LS5. Elsewhere on Audiogone there is a thread that discusses the sonic differences between Mk. 1, 2, and 3 of this model. Only caveat: LS5 is PURELY a symmetric balanced implementation. . . No RCA, none, zippo, nema, niente, nie, Keinen, aucun!
So, Guido.....

Are you saying that the LS 5 can't do RCA connections?


As far as I know, and I have spoken to Leonard at ARC just last week, that is correct. LS5 is symmetrically balanced and has only XLR connectors. You can probably use RCA through XLR2RCA converters. . . and YMMV., caveat emptor, we make no explicit nor implied warranties of fitness nor merchantability for this nor any other applications, offer not available in Iowa, external use only, keep refrigerated, etc. . .
thanks everyone for the help....really appreciate it...

btw, xlr only is preferred