Why did you switch from Audio Research Ref 3?

The Audio Research Ref 3 has garnered rave reviews from the
audiophile press. Many of us have changed from a Ref 3 to other Preamps. Why have you decided to make a change? What Preamp replaced the Ref 3 in your system?
Was the new component a better choice?
Most of the time it's not the sound that makes people make the change, just new eye candy.
I found the sound of the ARC Ref3 to be a bit flat and uninspired. There was a lack of dynamics and life to the music that I wanted to hear.

I prefer the Lamm L2 Reference to the ARC Ref3 in my system, which utilizes Pass Labs XA-60.5 amplifiers and Silverline Sonata III loudspeakers.

I expect the Ref3 sounds appreciably different with other amplifiers.
I switched from ARC Ref 3 to a Jeff Rowland Design Capri linestage. My decision was based on sonic/musical attributes alone. In spite of its diminutive size and much lower price point, after 500 to 700 hours of break in, I found Capri preferable to Ref 3 in the following areas: top to bottom frequency extension, linearity/precision, harmonic exposure, low level detail, macro and micro dynamics, delicacy of treble, authority, instrument separation, overall engaging musicality.
In *comparison, the music/musicians of the REF3 sounded somewhat 'lazy' and thus much less engaging. Also felt layers of veil (which I had not even noticed before was there) evaporated from between me and the performers. I would not have believed myself had someone told me that REF3 could be improved in such 'magnitude' until I heard and compared them first hand, in my, and few other different set-ups. The ARC REF3 was a satisfying pre-amp, however, I moved up to the FM Acoustics *FM266MKII, then recently the FM268.
Yes,I also had the REF 3 for a short duration,it is a very competent and impressive pre amp.Long story short,I was so intrigued by Guidocoronas favourable review of the Capri I bought one.Nice piece,it just didn't work well in my system which brings us to the "nut" of this hobby/obsession.It's all about harmony and synergy with your components.What works well for me, may not for you.I sold the REF 3 on the basis that the money could be better spent on amplification.My current pre amp is an Audio Horizons.
Markwatkiss said;

"It's all about harmony and synergy with your components.What works well for me, may not for you."

Well put and I fully agree, I still have my ARC REF3 and I'm fully enjoying it.

Bvdiman, FM Acoustics; never had the chance yet to hear but look forward to doing so in the near future but when I see the list prices I'm just amazed and shake my head saying that's crazy how can this be worth that much, that pre-amp you make reference to how much $80-90 thousand US dollars list. Is it 100 times better than your old Ref3. I have had some ultra expensive pces in my system and some were okay and some terrible but to date I have found once you get to a curtain level the differences are slight and usually just a personal preference. I have MBL 101E speakers, do you have any recomendations pre and amp (mono block preference do to set-up config) that would work well with them, line only no phono with this set-up.
Hoping not to steal this thread, I've been considering the ARC Ref 3, VTL 6.5, the Cary SLP-05, the ARC LS-26 and the McIntosh C2300 as I move to 2 channel only. The problem is no in my area carries any of these so I can't audition anything.

My main speakers are B&W 802D, my CD player is a Cary 303/300 (which I like the sound of) and the amp is a Spectron Musician III SE MK2 with V-Cap option for added liquidty. I listen to all types of music except for hard rock/rap.

I want to add a tube based preamp as it will go well with the IEC based Spectron but have no idea what to get. I read countless reviews here, on Stereophile and in other magazines and Audio review.

Does anyone have something close to a SS amp using a tube preamp with B&W dimaond series speakers and if so what would your recommendations be?

Thanks in advance.
Nick778, I would recommend starting a new thread with your question.

The VTL is the best of the bunch. Last pick would be Mac 2300 since it is not true balanced.
"It's all about harmony and synergy ..."

Especially the amplifier's input impedance. The Ref3 works best driving high impedance (100kOhms).
If you see my amp evolution post, believe me, I have tried the long, hard and winding ways to elude spending so much on insanely priced equipments myself. However, in the end just have to take my hat off and throw in the towel to the FMAs. Those lengthy trip not only left me very little time to enjoy music (more the equipments), they also ended up being 'costlier' too (factoring each amp trade-ins and cable swapping for the last 15yrs!).

Yes, enjoyment of music is also the reason I decided to take the plunge and go for the FM268. With their built-in linearizer, I can practically fine tune the thousands of off-the-rack popular recordings I have, and turn them to sounding almost audiophile quality. Well, that's where their real added value weighs in--for me. Though, that may not mean anything (considering money spent) were they not also at least twice better than their own FM266MKII.

I have stated previously the ARC REF3 is a satisfying (fine sounding) pre-amp, maybe it's just me gotten tired, looking and choosing gears to live with on longer term basis now. To exit the merry-go-round, and out of the numbering game many manufacturers like to play these days.

As for your MBL speakers, I've had no exposure (aside from reading their articles and glowing reviews) to qualify any comment or recommendation, sorry.
I hear of an imminent upgrade to the Ref 3...Is there any real info about this?
C_pasa, I have heard so but it's all a secret for now. Just look at how long the REF3 has been out now so it obvious sooner or later there will be a MK2 version or a whole new pre.
If the REF 3 upgrade is coming out (whether it be a MkII or the REF 4), the upcoming CES in January is a likely time for the unveiling.

11-29-08: Mtdking

The VTL is the best of the bunch. Last pick would be Mac 2300 since it is not true balanced.

why is balance important?