I used to own the Ref 3 and now the Ref 5. My companion amp is the ARC VS 115. The match is naturally terrific. I am sure if you read through the various OPs on the Forum, you will undoubtedly see many Ref 3 owners who swear by their non ARC-amp matches. And that might be worth researching. But as a general matter, I think matching the Ref 3 with any late model ARC SS or tube amp will result in a low risk-high benefit outcome. I don't know what your budget is, but as an FWI, the recently discontinued Ref 110 amp is on the used market at prices that represent, IMO, a great value.
I second the suggestion to look at ARC amps (although I am sure many others would also work fine). I have used an ARC VT 100 mk III with the Ref 3, and also a VTL ST-150 (not an ARC amp). Both worked well, but the VT 100 was a better match, and has balanced inputs, which are a plus.
The VT 100 mk III shows up regularly here on Audiogon.
I would suggest a ss amp to go with this pre. When I had a Ref 3 I used it with a Hovland Radia and it was fantastic. As always, system synergy is the main issue.
I have the Ref 3 paired up with the Ref 110. Assuming it works in your budget (used you should be able to get it in the $5-6Kish range), it is a very solid match.
LAMM hybrid might do it too.
I've heard ARC Ref pre's sound great in systems running off the top of my head, Krell Evo, CJ 350, Jadis JA 200 & BAT 75 aswell as ARC. It seems an amp that'll match well in many systems. That said system synergy is vital and I'd have thought the amp/speaker combo is probably more important than that of the pre/power?
I have a Ref 3 with Pass Labs 350.5 sounds good believe the XA .5 series would sound better if funds permit. Good Luck and Happy Holidays.
I have the "baby version" of the match you are proposing, in my case the ARC LS-17 paired with ARC's 150.2. I think they work very well together driving my Maggies. However, I'm sure you are aware that the 300.2 is one of ARC's first class D amplifiers, and there is a wide range of opinions about them. Based on my own experience I think the 150.2 and 300.2 sound fine (and in fact the Absolute Sound reviewer bought his review sample of the 300.2), but they were never meant to compete with ARC's own Reference Series tube amps, such as the Ref 110 (i.e. ARC themselves would maintain that the Ref series amps were of higher musical quality). The synergy is there, but you should listen for yourself.
ARC 300.2 can go well with reference 3?
Why isn't blue circle bc2 not working well? Is it because of the low gain (5.6dB) of the ARC reference 3?
I have a ref3 with Simaudio Moon W6's and the sound is great.
I have to agree with the Audio Research. The same design team will have created them both, with the same performance character that makes each one together, better than their separate performances.
Again, . . . I have to agree with Stringreen. I said the same above.
Whatever you go with, to get the most out of your preamp you will want an amplifier with a higher input impedance- 100K or so.
Ralph only speaks the truth...
When I had Ref3 hooked up to BAT 150SE, I lost bass weight. Problem was impedance matching as Ralph pointed out, Ref3 has a relative high output impedance. I am surprise to read Pass being mentioned here, Pass is known to have low input impedance among SS.
Safe bet is tube amp, but not all tube amps are created equal.
I have a great respect for this preamplifier. It introduced me to a new level of sonic pleasure.
I am combining the Ref 3 with a Pass Aleph 5 and am satisfied with the combo.
The Aleph 5 is a 60W solid-state, class A, single-ended amp. I prefer the sound of the Aleph 5 (or Aleph 3) over all the solid-state class AB and/or push-pull amplifiers I've heard. Midband purity is exceptional for a non-tube amplifier. I also own an Aleph 3 but it does not combine well with the Ref 3, maybe because I am using the Aleph 5's XLR connection which provides an higher gain (26dB over 20dB on the Aleph 3 that only has RCA inputs).
In the combo Ref 3/Aleph 5 there is some loss of bass control and definition, but just a little more than when pairing the Aleph 5 with solid-state pre-amplifiers (it's more an Aleph 5 limitation). On the other hand the Ref 3 provides much better soundstage, truly natural midband and correctness and realism of all instruments and voices. For instance, replacing the Ref 3 with an Aleph P, the sound loses all this magic and seems artificial.
Note that the Aleph 5 works particularly well with easy loads. This amp requires very carefully speaker matching. I would forget any hard loads. The speakers I am using in this setup have a sensitivity of 94dB and 6ohm nominal impedance. Source is Mark Levinson.
As commented here, probably there is no better match than the ARC VT100 mkIII or the Ref 110 (which I would like to try one day), especially on the low-end. However, these come along at a 5K price against 1.5K for the Aleph 5.
So, the Aleph 5 can be an interesting option if money is an object and speakers are easy to drive. An easy ticket for a magic midband.
If this thread is still active, then I re-repeat what I and other have said. The Ref 3 will sound best with a late model ARC amp, e.g., ARC VS-115 or the REF 110. I used to own the Ref 3 and now Ref 5) and still own the VS-115. It's a great combo.
This really depends on what speakers you are trying to drive.
Whatever amp it is, in addition to the high input impedance you will also want an amplifier with a balanced input. If the input of the amplifier is differential, so much the better.
I totally agree with Atmasphere's balanced/differential observations. That's how the Ref 3 shows its full potential.
However I am not so sure on the impedance-match limitation.
The Aleph 5 input is only 25Kohm balanced differential, quite bellow the 100Kohm suggested mark. It's a great match with my easy speakers. Magic midrange and great dynamics.
Additionaly, if you check Stereopile's measurements of the Ref 3, it is inferred the distortion is very low on loads above 10Kohm.
As stated before, the most common mismatch is power-amp/speakers.
A dealer is announcing a new Ref 75 power amp (only balanced inputs as usual in the Ref series). Although quite expensive, this may also be a great match.
Hello Raybanma , I 'm still using with my REF 3 two monoblocks BAT VK1000 , due to the fact in one unit two amps , they are used in biamp mode for my B&W 800 speakers.
The inputimp. of the BAT is a perfect match for the REF3 .The sound together REF3-BAT is for me a marriage
Greatings from the Netherlands Hans
On this topic I would value it if someone could advise me on the following amps as a match for my ref 3 pre. I have B&W 804 diamond speakers and am considering a used AR ref 110 or the new ref 75 or Pass labs XA 30.5.
It is only for my bedroom so I do not listen loud often. My main concern is if the Ref75 and XA30.5 will be able to drive the 804's sufficiently. Any other recommendations will be appreciated !