Which amp to buy? ARC GS150 or Reference 150 SE?


So any thoughts on which sounds better? I like the meters on the ARC GS150 (easier for bias adjustments) but the Reference 150 has no meters. How much of a pain is it to bias the Ref 150? Do I need an external meter to bias the Ref 150?
Convert?fit=crop&h=128&rotate=exif&w=128joeinid
"I like the meters on the ARC GS150 (easier for bias adjustments) but the Reference 150 has no meters. How much of a pain is it to bias the Ref 150? Do I need an external meter to bias the Ref 150?"

Meters or no, always use a multimeter to set bias. Besides, how would you be able to use the front meters anyway? All the tubes are connected to them. I believe on the 150 you only set bias for half the number of tubes in the amp. One bias adjustment does 2 tubes. Regardless, just buy the amp that sounds the best. Setting bias is a simple matter, and there's really reason include the adjustment as part of your purchase decision.

More important is your choice of preamp. The Ref 150 only operates balanced so you want to make sure you match it with a preamp that will give you the best sound quality and no problems. Personally, if it was my system, I would use an ARC preamp.
Thank you Zd542. I appreciate your opinion.
At the level you are looking at, it's all good. ARC, however, has been around a long time and will be around in the future should you need servicing or take advantage of upgrades as they become available. Also, the GS series is just so good looking (personal opinion). Matched up with an ARC preamp of the same series and you are at the top of the audio world. You could spend more, and get less at this point.
Joeinid, what are you looking for in sound quality from the ARC components as opposed to your CJ gear? I'm getting restless myself and both brands interest me.
Thanks,
John
What speakers do you plan to use?
Hello Zd542,

My speakers are Sonus Faber Strads and Harbeth 40.1's. My Strads are my primary speakers and I swap in the 40.1's for variety. A friend wants my 40.1's and will probably sell them when he's ready. Future replacement speakers are unknown at this point.

Jamnesta,

Every time I go back to my Conrad Johnson gear, it makes me realize how good it sounds. I do like the variety of different gear, but never lived with ARC. A friend had it and it was great but can not comment on how it differed from my CJ gear because the systems were totally different. I do feel that my CJ gear is a touch sweeter, which I love. The ARC gear may be more of an experiment but have other friends that swear by it.
"Every time I go back to my Conrad Johnson gear, it makes me realize how good it sounds. I do like the variety of different gear, but never lived with ARC. A friend had it and it was great but can not comment on how it differed from my CJ gear because the systems were totally different. I do feel that my CJ gear is a touch sweeter, which I love. The ARC gear may be more of an experiment but have other friends that swear by it."

I've had several pieces from both brands and while they sound different from each other, both are excellent. For me personally, if I was to go with ARC, I would use a matching amp and preamp, or an amp with a fully balanced source with its own volume control, like my Wadia CD player.
Even though I use ARC products I can tell you that CJ products are a bit sweeter sounding. Whether that is good or bad depends upon the user.
My opinion is ARC is better with Stads as the Strads tend toward sweetness and don't need more. ARC is not sweet, but bloomy in the midrange. ARC is no longer slightly harsh and whitish in tone in the upper mids as it was known to be perhaps a decade or so ago.
Of course now that ARC and SF are under the same ownership (I am told that ARC now uses SF, among others, in its listening rooms), the synergies may increase.
That being said, Conrad Johnson makes great gear as well and has moved away from its thick, velvety, golden hued midrange of old (which came with a lack of extension in the frequency range) to become quite neutral and extended. Its close. Neither will disappoint.
Vac PHI 200 better sound then ARC.
03-17-15: Gpgr4blu
My opinion is ARC is better with Stads as the Strads tend toward sweetness and don't need more. ARC is not sweet, but bloomy in the midrange. ARC is no longer slightly harsh and whitish in tone in the upper mids as it was known to be perhaps a decade or so ago.
Of course now that ARC and SF are under the same ownership (I am told that ARC now uses SF, among others, in its listening rooms), the synergies may increase.
That being said, Conrad Johnson makes great gear as well and has moved away from its thick, velvety, golden hued midrange of old (which came with a lack of extension in the frequency range) to become quite neutral and extended. Its close. Neither will disappoint.
Well said!

03-18-15: Ebm
Vac PHI 200 better sound then ARC.
NOT to my ear!
Zd542,
I need to think the preamp choice. I believe you are correct. A proper preamp match with the ARC is mandatory.

Taters,
Thank you. I think that's why I naturally gravitated to Conrad Johnson. I could almost use more sweetness/warmth than I am getting now. I fell in love with my Strads after hearing them with McIntosh MC2301's. While I often think of that combo, I may be better off where I am.

Gpgr4blu,
I know more than a few dealers that swear by the ARC/Sonus Faber synergy, even before they became dealers for either.

Ebm,
I've owned a VAC preamp before and while it was nice (perhaps great), it never bowled me over like my GAT.

Thank you all so far for your thoughts and opinions. I am still on the fence but hope to hear from new GS and Ref SE owners soon.
I was not talking about preamp i said amp .Thanks
Thats great enjoy.