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  1. #1
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    ARC REF6SE Review

    Audio Research Reference 6SE line preamplifier | Stereophile.com

    This preamp in my opinion gets you really close to the REF10 in terms of performance. This isn’t a small upgrade in terms of Sonic gains.


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    "We can hear everything we measure, but we can't measure everything we hear. Let your ears be your guide."

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  2. #2
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    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Unfortunately this is one of the worst written reviews I have read in Stereophile. Honestly I am surprised that it was published.
    Buddy

  3. #3

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Audio 1 View Post
    Unfortunately this is one of the worst written reviews I have read in Stereophile. Honestly I am surprised that it was published.
    And I thought it was me. I agree 100% with Audio 1. It seemed like the reviewer could only get the Ref 6SE to perform when he tricked and tweaked it up.

    So, ... my new Ref 6SE should be shipped to me this week. The Ref 6SE replaces my Ref 6. After the new unit breaks in, I will share comments. I have no intention of tricking and tweaking the Ref 6SE up. It will be a play and listen exercise. To be honest, I am somewhat dubious that the hype around upgraded caps and wires will make all that much of a difference, ... but I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

    I will report back soon.

    BIF
    System description: VPI Classic "2.7" (basic Classic turntable plinth, with Classic 3 tone arm base and SS wand; upgraded stock Classic 600 rpm motor for 300 rpm motor); Lyra Kleos cartridge; VPI periphery ring and SS clamp; 35 pound maple TT slab base; ARC PH-8 phono pre; ARC Ref 6 linestage; ARC Ref CD-8 CD player; ARC Ref 150 SE power amp; Paradigm Signature 8 (v3)speakers w/ BE dome tweeters; Kimber Hero I/Cs; Kimber speaker cables.

  4. #4

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Bifwynne View Post
    And I thought it was me. I agree 100% with Audio 1. It seemed like the reviewer could only get the Ref 6SE to perform when he tricked and tweaked it up.

    So, ... my new Ref 6SE should be shipped to me this week. The Ref 6SE replaces my Ref 6. After the new unit breaks in, I will share comments. I have no intention of tricking and tweaking the Ref 6SE up. It will be a play and listen exercise. To be honest, I am somewhat dubious that the hype around upgraded caps and wires will make all that much of a difference, ... but I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.

    I will report back soon.

    BIF
    My Ref 6SE was delivered a few days ago. I only have 10 hours on it. Was streaming music with the volume turned down. At this point, so early in, all I can say is that the sound is changing and it is "getting interesting." Clearly different from the Ref 6, ... just not sure where it will wind up.

    I'll post more comments as the Ref 6SE breaks in. I suspect it will not begin settle down until I rack up at least 50 to 100 hours of play.
    System description: VPI Classic "2.7" (basic Classic turntable plinth, with Classic 3 tone arm base and SS wand; upgraded stock Classic 600 rpm motor for 300 rpm motor); Lyra Kleos cartridge; VPI periphery ring and SS clamp; 35 pound maple TT slab base; ARC PH-8 phono pre; ARC Ref 6 linestage; ARC Ref CD-8 CD player; ARC Ref 150 SE power amp; Paradigm Signature 8 (v3)speakers w/ BE dome tweeters; Kimber Hero I/Cs; Kimber speaker cables.

  5. #5
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    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Bifwynne View Post
    My Ref 6SE was delivered a few days ago. I only have 10 hours on it. Was streaming music with the volume turned down. At this point, so early in, all I can say is that the sound is changing and it is "getting interesting." Clearly different from the Ref 6, ... just not sure where it will wind up.

    I'll post more comments as the Ref 6SE breaks in. I suspect it will not begin settle down until I rack up at least 50 to 100 hours of play.
    Buddy of mine who pops on here now and then upgraded his 6 to the SE and loves it saying it’s not a subtle difference.

    Hope you get the same from it!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    Source Analog: Kuzma Stabi R w/4point 11 arm | Kuzma 50 Cartridge
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    Power and Isolation: Audio-Ultra Home & Room Power Foundation Performance Package with StromTank S1000 | HRS









  6. #6

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by UltraFast69 View Post
    Buddy of mine who pops on here now and then upgraded his 6 to the SE and loves it saying it’s not a subtle difference.

    Hope you get the same from it!


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    UltraFast69, ... I racked up over 100 hours of play time on my ARC Ref 6SE. Yes, ... it sounds great and brings a lot more of everything out of the music. I hear details that I missed before. Soundstage is deeper and more 3D. Low end is much tighter.

    For the sake of full disclosure, the transport in my 9 year old (not counting the former owner's use) ARC CD-8 started to glitch out. I reluctantly decided to replace the CD-8 with an ARC Ref CD 9SE because repairs to the CD-8 transport would not have been cost effective.

    So, ... yes, I hear significant SQ improvements across the board. My dilemna is I can't tell which unit (i.e., the Ref 6 or Ref CD-9) accounts for the SQ improvements. But taken together, the 2 units sound fantastic; clear improvement over my legacy Ref 6 and CD-8.

    I will post more comments if there is more to report as break-in continues.
    System description: VPI Classic "2.7" (basic Classic turntable plinth, with Classic 3 tone arm base and SS wand; upgraded stock Classic 600 rpm motor for 300 rpm motor); Lyra Kleos cartridge; VPI periphery ring and SS clamp; 35 pound maple TT slab base; ARC PH-8 phono pre; ARC Ref 6 linestage; ARC Ref CD-8 CD player; ARC Ref 150 SE power amp; Paradigm Signature 8 (v3)speakers w/ BE dome tweeters; Kimber Hero I/Cs; Kimber speaker cables.

  7. #7
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    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    I thought the same thing and thought I was missing something. Agree. Surprising.
    Linn LP 12/ Ekos/ Lingo/ Krystal/ Keel/ Auralic/ Ayre QA9/ ARC Ref 6 + 3 SE/ ARC REF75 SE/ Sonus Faber Amati Anniversario

  8. #8
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    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    I just upgraded to SE on my Ref 6. I’ll add that the difference is clear. The most stringing observation so far is that it sounds “quicker” — a couple of times the music attack had me almost jumping out of my seat. Whether the change is worth the cost and hassle is of course a personal decision. I missed me Ref 6 during the upgrade but ARC turned it around quickly for me. I’d do it again.
    Linn LP 12/ Ekos/ Lingo/ Krystal/ Keel/ Auralic/ Ayre QA9/ ARC Ref 6 + 3 SE/ ARC REF75 SE/ Sonus Faber Amati Anniversario

  9. #9
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    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    The REF6SE (and REF3SE phono) are two substantial upgrades REF6/REF3 owners can make. If buying new, these two products really get you eerily close to their REF10 siblings. It reminds me of the REF5 to REF5SE upgrade, but frankly, even more of a significant improvement.
    My Systems: http://www.audioshark.org/showthread...481#post158481

    "We can hear everything we measure, but we can't measure everything we hear. Let your ears be your guide."

    Dealer for: Aqua Hi-Fi, Audio Research, Aurender, AudioQuest Cables & Power Products, Avantgarde Acoustics, Avid HiFi, Ayre Acoustics, Berkeley Audio Design, Boulder Amplifiers, Bowers & Wilkins (B&W), Bryston, Chord, EMM Labs, Esoteric, FirstWatt, Focal Headphones, Furutech, Fyne Audio Loudspeakers, GigaFoil, Gryphon Audio, Harbeth Loudspeakers, Hegel, HiFi Man, ISO Acoustics, Keces Power Supplies, Kuzma Turntables, Lumin, Luxman, Magico Loudspeakers, MBL Speakers & Electronics, MSB Technologies, MySonicLabs Phono Cartridges, Naim Audio, Ortofon, Pass Labs, Quadraspire, Rega Turntables and Electronics, Shunyata Research, SimAudio, Stein Music Products, Stillpoints, VAC, Vicoustics, Viva Audio, Vivid Audio Loudspeakers, VPI Industries, WireWorld Cables.

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  10. #10
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    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    It takes so long to burn in the ARC preamps. My REF10 took 600 hours before it even started sounding good. At 1,000 hours I heard no further improvement, just exquisite!

    Ken
    "No summit worth climbing is easily attained."
    --------------------------------------------
    Source: MSB Select II DAC with Two Mono Powerbases, Femto 33 Clock, Renderer V2 Digital Input Module and Roon Nucleus Plus
    Amps: Vandersteen M7-HPA Mono Amps
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    Power: Two AudioQuest Niagara 5000’s with AudioQuest Dragon and Hurricane Power Cords

  11. #11

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Alpinist View Post
    It takes so long to burn in the ARC preamps. My REF10 took 600 hours before it even started sounding good. At 1,000 hours I heard no further improvement, just exquisite!

    Ken
    I bought the Ref 5SE brand new and later upgraded to a brand new Ref 6. Both the Ref 5SE and the Ref 6 sounded really good right out of the box. Now of course both came with a yellow piece of paper that said it would take 600 hours for the units to burn in so this settles in people's minds and they think their new preamp isn't really going to sound good until it hits 600 hours. I talked to Dave Gordon from ARC about the long burn in and I told him it doesn't take 600 hours to break in from my experience. Dave agreed and said they should change the 600 hour piece of paper. I don't know if that ever happened.

    Based on personal experience, a much bigger concern than fretting over burn in is not waiting until the 6550 in the power supply reaches 2,000 hours before you replace it in accordance with the owner's manual. I was told that I should replace them at 1,000 hours. When they blow, they make a spectacular noise with a big flash of light and they take out some parts on the circuit board adjacent to the 6550. Having paid for a round trip to ship my Ref 6 back to ARC plus parts and labor, I'm a firm believer in replacing the 6550s in my Ref 3 phono and Ref 6 line stage when they hit the 1,000 mark. The good news of sending my Ref 6 back is that I received an upgrade to the sensitivity of the remote control and I was given a new thicker top cover which is now standard. The original covers could/would sag from the heat of the 6550. My top cover on the Ref 5SE sagged. When it did, I would just flip it over and the heat would pull the cover back to being flat. That never happened with my Ref 6, but I'm glad to have a new thicker top cover.
    Micro Seiki SX-8000 air bearing table, SME 312s arm, SME 3012R arn, Dynavector XV-1s cartridge, Lyra Etna SL cartridge, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 2 track R2R, Ampex 350 tape repros, Roon Nucleus Plus music server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6, ARC Ref 75 with KT-150s, JBL 4345 speakers, Viero Equilibro Level 3 speaker cables, and Definitive Technology Ref subs.

  12. #12

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by mep View Post
    I bought the Ref 5SE brand new and later upgraded to a brand new Ref 6. Both the Ref 5SE and the Ref 6 sounded really good right out of the box. Now of course both came with a yellow piece of paper that said it would take 600 hours for the units to burn in so this settles in people's minds and they think their new preamp isn't really going to sound good until it hits 600 hours. I talked to Dave Gordon from ARC about the long burn in and I told him it doesn't take 600 hours to break in from my experience. Dave agreed and said they should change the 600 hour piece of paper. I don't know if that ever happened.

    Based on personal experience, a much bigger concern than fretting over burn in is not waiting until the 6550 in the power supply reaches 2,000 hours before you replace it in accordance with the owner's manual. I was told that I should replace them at 1,000 hours. When they blow, they make a spectacular noise with a big flash of light and they take out some parts on the circuit board adjacent to the 6550. Having paid for a round trip to ship my Ref 6 back to ARC plus parts and labor, I'm a firm believer in replacing the 6550s in my Ref 3 phono and Ref 6 line stage when they hit the 1,000 mark.
    Mep,

    So how many hours do think break-in takes. Based on reviews and some ARC buzz, I think a lot (maybe most??) of break-in occurs at the 100 hour mark. Not sure how much more after that. What is your opinion?

    Also, your advice regarding the 6550 power supply tube is very important. I must confess that in all the years I owned a Ref 5SE, Ref 6 (before SE upgrade), and Ref CD-8, I would replace the 6550 tube around the 2000 hour mark, ... maybe a few hundred hours less. Never have I heard or thankfully experienced a catastrophic blow out in the power supply section. That said, when I owned the VS-115, the 6550 power supply tubes blew a couple of times and took out a bias resister.

    Did someone from ARC advise you to replace the 6550s at the 1000 hour mark? Your post implies that a 6550 blew on your watch. Is that so?

    Thanks

    Bruce
    System description: VPI Classic "2.7" (basic Classic turntable plinth, with Classic 3 tone arm base and SS wand; upgraded stock Classic 600 rpm motor for 300 rpm motor); Lyra Kleos cartridge; VPI periphery ring and SS clamp; 35 pound maple TT slab base; ARC PH-8 phono pre; ARC Ref 6 linestage; ARC Ref CD-8 CD player; ARC Ref 150 SE power amp; Paradigm Signature 8 (v3)speakers w/ BE dome tweeters; Kimber Hero I/Cs; Kimber speaker cables.

  13. #13

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    I had an ARC 40th anniversary preamp with the REF250 monos. The sound did not change considerably after the first 40-50 hours and I certainly lost track of it after that. 600 hrs is difficult to keep track of and my ears never picked up on anything significant anyways. I did not find the synergy I was looking for with that setup so I sold it to a friend with perhaps 300, maybe 400 hrs on the set. Shortly thereafter, one of the amps blew a fuse and it was not just a fuse... Some manufacturers drive their tubes pretty hard, I think ARC might be one of them?
    Serge

  14. #14

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Bifwynne View Post
    Mep,

    So how many hours do think break-in takes. Based on reviews and some ARC buzz, I think a lot (maybe most??) of break-in occurs at the 100 hour mark. Not sure how much more after that. What is your opinion?
    In my personal experience, all of my ARC gear sounded great out of the box and I never suffered any of the ups and downs some other people claim to hear during the break-in process. I personally don't think that past 100 hours that any miracles are going to arrive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bifwynne View Post
    Also, your advice regarding the 6550 power supply tube is very important. I must confess that in all the years I owned a Ref 5SE, Ref 6 (before SE upgrade), and Ref CD-8, I would replace the 6550 tube around the 2000 hour mark, ... maybe a few hundred hours less. Never have I heard or thankfully experienced a catastrophic blow out in the power supply section. That said, when I owned the VS-115, the 6550 power supply tubes blew a couple of times and took out a bias resister.

    Did someone from ARC advise you to replace the 6550s at the 1000 hour mark? Your post implies that a 6550 blew on your watch. Is that so?

    Thanks

    Bruce
    Yes, the 6550 in my Ref 6 blew in spectacular fashion. And yes, the tech at ARC that repaired my Ref 6 advised me to replace the 6550s used in the power supplies at 1,000 hours. I have to assume he came to that conclusion based on how many times he has had to repair gear because a 6550 blew before it hit 2,000 hours. I used to have my Ref 3 phono and Ref 6 sitting side by side on the same shelf on my rack. They put out a lot of BTUs together because each has a 6550 in the power supply.
    Micro Seiki SX-8000 air bearing table, SME 312s arm, SME 3012R arn, Dynavector XV-1s cartridge, Lyra Etna SL cartridge, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 2 track R2R, Ampex 350 tape repros, Roon Nucleus Plus music server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6, ARC Ref 75 with KT-150s, JBL 4345 speakers, Viero Equilibro Level 3 speaker cables, and Definitive Technology Ref subs.

  15. #15

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by mep View Post
    In my personal experience, all of my ARC gear sounded great out of the box and I never suffered any of the ups and downs some other people claim to hear during the break-in process. I personally don't think that past 100 hours that any miracles are going to arrive.

    Yes, the 6550 in my Ref 6 blew in spectacular fashion. And yes, the tech at ARC that repaired my Ref 6 advised me to replace the 6550s used in the power supplies at 1,000 hours. I have to assume he came to that conclusion based on how many times he has had to repair gear because a 6550 blew before it hit 2,000 hours. I used to have my Ref 3 phono and Ref 6 sitting side by side on the same shelf on my rack. They put out a lot of BTUs together because each has a 6550 in the power supply.
    Thanks Mep, ... this is definitely an important issue. Blown tubes ... happen all the time, but for me, never a 6550 PS tube. I will follow up on this issue. Heck, 6550 tubes ain't all that expensive. I'm cool switching the 6550 PS tubes out at 1000 hours.
    System description: VPI Classic "2.7" (basic Classic turntable plinth, with Classic 3 tone arm base and SS wand; upgraded stock Classic 600 rpm motor for 300 rpm motor); Lyra Kleos cartridge; VPI periphery ring and SS clamp; 35 pound maple TT slab base; ARC PH-8 phono pre; ARC Ref 6 linestage; ARC Ref CD-8 CD player; ARC Ref 150 SE power amp; Paradigm Signature 8 (v3)speakers w/ BE dome tweeters; Kimber Hero I/Cs; Kimber speaker cables.

  16. #16

    Re: ARC REF6SE Review

    Quote Originally Posted by Bifwynne View Post
    Thanks Mep, ... this is definitely an important issue. Blown tubes ... happen all the time, but for me, never a 6550 PS tube. I will follow up on this issue. Heck, 6550 tubes ain't all that expensive. I'm cool switching the 6550 PS tubes out at 1000 hours.
    Replacing the 6550 at 1,000 hours is much cheaper than just the cost of the round trip shipping. Never mind the cost of parts and labor. I also recommend buying the 6550 for the the power supply from ARC even though they are more expensive than other vendors. ARC knows the stress they are putting on the 6550 in the power supply and I’m sure they are testing and grading 6550s that will be used in the power supplies.
    Micro Seiki SX-8000 air bearing table, SME 312s arm, SME 3012R arn, Dynavector XV-1s cartridge, Lyra Etna SL cartridge, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 2 track R2R, Ampex 350 tape repros, Roon Nucleus Plus music server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6, ARC Ref 75 with KT-150s, JBL 4345 speakers, Viero Equilibro Level 3 speaker cables, and Definitive Technology Ref subs.

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ARC REF6SE Review

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