Which ARC ref linestage to try: Ref3, Ref5, Ref5SE? HATE forward sounding systems
I presently am driving a PS Audio 300 class D amp with a CJ premiere 16LS2 and really really like the sound. I have always preferred solid state fed by a nice tube amp. One of the things that are remarkable (to my ears anyway) is that my system not only excels with well recorded material…poor quality recordings sound great too. I can listen indefinitely without fatigue.
Obviously, I like fuller, lush sound (which some might criticize as too euphonic (I make no apologies, that’s what I like)). I DESPISE forward sounding, edgy, systems. With the advancements made, I’m thinking detail and warmth are not mutually exclusive and that ARC may have pulled off the balance with one of these? I like big, deep, recessed soundstages.
This is my hobby so sometimes I like to change things up. I would like to try one of the ARC refs as I’m hoping they can deliver what I like but maybe with some improvements (e.g maybe more natural/real sounding?) I have read all the reviews and many comparisons multiple times. I know that the 5se allegedly blows away the 5 etc. blah blah. I don’t care how impressive something sounds initially…I need long term satisfaction. I gotta think that these refs have different sound signatures, right?
I am asking owners and people with first hand experience to provide feedback re. which of these is least forward and analytical and might give me what I already have…but with additional detail, realism, etc.?
P.S. To proactively address the obvious…. Why not just try a newer CJ? I’m not a fan of the newer CJ single triode linestages ONLY because of the single triode design (I had an ET3 and really liked the sound…however, the single triode is driven very hard in that design…and it ate tubes (they became noisy quickly and regularly)). The more rugged tubes didn’t sound as good to me so, don’t want to go there again.