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  1. #1
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    Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Hello all. As any good audiophile I’m off on the quest to do some improvement to try to reach audio nirvana. This time my gaze is to the ARC Ref Phono 10 Pre. Last year I added the Ref 10 Line Pre to my system and like everyone reported in the thread dedicated to it, the performance has been totally stupendous and satisfying. Unfortunately that kind of performance puts a light on other pieces like my ARc Ref Phono 2 that, while is great, is no where near the league of the Ref 10 line Pre.

    There seems to be little discussion or reviews on the Ref Phono 10 that I can find to get a sense of its performance. There is plenty of talk on the Ref 6SE phono. I’d rather not make an intermediate stop if the Phono 10 is markedly better. (I’m trying to get the retirement system in place before I make the final move and can still replace the cash spent for equipment). I’ve learned to be leery about equipment that there is little press about. If any of you have experiences to share, good or bad, it will be welcome reading!

    Olskool


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    ARC Ref 210 Mono's, ARC Ref 5SE, ARC Ref Phono2, NordostTyr1interconnects, NAD M5 CD/SACD, Linn LP12, Ekos 1, Booplinth, Lyra Delos cart, Kore, HRS1 Isolation table, Pioneer RT-707 Reel, Wilson Sophia, Nordost Tyr speaker cables, Kubala Sosna Emotion Interconnects / Power Cable, QB4 conditioner, StillPoint SS Isolation, StillPoint Aperatures, Nordost Power cables, ASC Tube Traps

  2. #2
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    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Correction, I should have said there is plenty of talk about the Ref Phono 3 and 3 SE. sorry


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    ARC Ref 210 Mono's, ARC Ref 5SE, ARC Ref Phono2, NordostTyr1interconnects, NAD M5 CD/SACD, Linn LP12, Ekos 1, Booplinth, Lyra Delos cart, Kore, HRS1 Isolation table, Pioneer RT-707 Reel, Wilson Sophia, Nordost Tyr speaker cables, Kubala Sosna Emotion Interconnects / Power Cable, QB4 conditioner, StillPoint SS Isolation, StillPoint Aperatures, Nordost Power cables, ASC Tube Traps

  3. #3
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    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Hey Larry! The Ref 10 Phono Pre is one of the best in the market. Certainly look forward to comments on the comparison between the Ref 10 and 3SE.

    PS - May be worth updating your system components in the profile section.
    _______________

    Mike

  4. #4

    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    REF 10 Phono, in my opinion, damned by faint praise. I strongly considered the REF10 phono, but at that price point there is a lot of competition. In considering a new phono stage, I also asked myself if perhaps the same number of tubes as the REF10 line-stage was maybe overkill for a phono stage? I was coming from a SS Einstein phono, considered and nearly bought an Ypsilon, also considered D’agostino when, in discussions, it was suggested I might miss the speed of the solid state Einstein. I heard the big Vitus too, excellent but the price put it way out of my league. Ultimately, I decided for a phono amp a more minimalist approach was likely better... that signal is so small and delicate. The Ypsilon, very highly regarded, and the phono-stage I decided on (CS Port) both use a small C3g tube developed as a telephone repeater—extremely linear with exceptionally low distortion. I heard the CS Port at Mike Lavigne’s place up in Seattle this time last year along with the Etsuro Gold cartridge and was stunned, but sorting out the phono stage contribution in that rig not possible unless directly comparing. Then I spoke with Mik @ Unique Audio in the UK (the analog guru) and he suggested the CS Port was an exceptional value and outstanding phono stage and that it paired extremely well with the Etsuro cartridge. It did not hurt the price was less than half the REF10.

    I know I’m hyping the CS Port, and as you state little has been said about it in the press it is a young company in Japan. But I like the more austere design approach vs big all things to all people approach. And it gives up nothing in speed or dynamics to a solid state design. So thats my real comment—a complex or simple circuit for a phono stage... I might suggest the simple circuit has a better chance of preserving the delicacy and nuance of that tiny signal coming from the cartridge.
    —Bob V.

    My system: Etsuro Gold cartridge(mg) , AMG v12 turntable with ‘12JT turbo’ tonearm, LFD phono cable, CS Port C3EQ, dCS Rossini, Audio Research Ref10 pre, Audio Research REF 160M, Wilson Alexia speakers. Transparent Ref MM2 & Gen5 signal cables, Shunyata SigmaNR, AlphaNR,
    Zitron Python power cables. Shunyata Hydra Triton v3, Stillpoints. HRS. Acoustic environment optimized by Dr. Bonnie Schnitta of SoundSense.

  5. #5

    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Quote Originally Posted by Bobvin View Post
    REF 10 Phono, in my opinion, damned by faint praise. I strongly considered the REF10 phono, but at that price point there is a lot of competition. ...
    Bob, ...I see that you own the ARC Ref 10 linestage and Ref 160M monos. Why not consider the ARC Ref Phono 3SE. Just swapped out my ARC PH-8 for the Ref Phono3SE. Major improvement. Another plus is the synergy; you would be all ARC up and down. Do you have a CD player or DAC?
    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 phono 3SE ; ARC Ref 6SE linestage; ARC Ref CD-9SE CD player; ARC Ref 150 SE power amp; Paradigm Signature 8 (v3)speakers w/ BE dome tweeters; Kimber Hero I/Cs; Kimber speaker cables.

  6. #6

    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Quote Originally Posted by Bifwynne View Post
    Bob, ...I see that you own the ARC Ref 10 linestage and Ref 160M monos. Why not consider the ARC Ref Phono 3SE. Just swapped out my ARC PH-8 for the Ref Phono3SE. Major improvement. Another plus is the synergy; you would be all ARC up and down. Do you have a CD player or DAC?
    I had heard the Ref Phono 3, not the SE, and felt it lacked a little bit of speed and transient attack compared to the dual-mono fully balanced Einstein stage I had been using. The SE might have improved on that? Now, that was also the one complaint Mikey Fremer had of the Einstein (which was one of his references back in the early 2000s) — that the Einstein added a wee-bit of emphasis to leading edge of transients. I am about to list my Einstein for sale—in my opinion it will make a lot of cartridges better only because that very tiny emphasis adds a bit of snap and liveliness that can be very attractive. It is a very good phono stage.

    I hear you though, a full ARC rig was tempting, particularly in that I wanted to add a tube in that position. But I came to trust the advice of the analog guru of the UK who also sells ARC... he is smitten with the CS Port components which are apparently creating a small stir in Japan. But for the fact my rig with Etsuro Gold(mg) cartridge, CS Port phono, and LFD phono cable has been transformed, I would have very strongly considered selling my REF10 linestage for the CS Port linestage.

    I do have a DAC, a dCS Rossini. I haven’t played anything digital now for a couple months; the analog side of my rig continues to have me gobsmacked. I had been jonesing to make a speaker change now that is calmed down as my Alexia are sounding better than ever before. The Etsuro Gold is amazing, and adding an LFD phono cable was the icing that let everything get through. These changes really upped the performance of my rig, but at a substantial expense (for me). I had also just upgraded my tonearm to the ‘turbo’ version of the AMG 12” arm. (My wife added up last years purchases and lets just say only some Christmas diamonds eased the pain!)
    —Bob V.

    My system: Etsuro Gold cartridge(mg) , AMG v12 turntable with ‘12JT turbo’ tonearm, LFD phono cable, CS Port C3EQ, dCS Rossini, Audio Research Ref10 pre, Audio Research REF 160M, Wilson Alexia speakers. Transparent Ref MM2 & Gen5 signal cables, Shunyata SigmaNR, AlphaNR,
    Zitron Python power cables. Shunyata Hydra Triton v3, Stillpoints. HRS. Acoustic environment optimized by Dr. Bonnie Schnitta of SoundSense.

  7. #7
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    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Thank you for your responses to my query. My system is comprised of a full ARC suite thus far and I’m trying to keep ARC synergy in my system. Primarily because I don’t want to get started down the rabbit hole of building out an entirely new suite with retirement just around the corner.

    The comment regarding the Ref Phono 3 was interesting. I understand it is a big improvement beyond the Phono 2 I currently operate for my vinyl front end, however I am concerned it won’t pull its weight against the rest of the ARC suite and the 3SE is still new, I think, with little info.

    I have been trying to edit my signature to update my system features without success using my iPAD. The main changes to note are the Ref 5SE has been changed to Ref 10. I have changed my speakers to Alexia I. So far I still have not been able to find much descriptive information about performance of the Phono 10. It may be that I will have to seek an alternative to ARC but I want to make that decision after determining to eliminate the ARC line of phono pre’s.

    Olskool


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    ARC Ref 210 Mono's, ARC Ref 5SE, ARC Ref Phono2, NordostTyr1interconnects, NAD M5 CD/SACD, Linn LP12, Ekos 1, Booplinth, Lyra Delos cart, Kore, HRS1 Isolation table, Pioneer RT-707 Reel, Wilson Sophia, Nordost Tyr speaker cables, Kubala Sosna Emotion Interconnects / Power Cable, QB4 conditioner, StillPoint SS Isolation, StillPoint Aperatures, Nordost Power cables, ASC Tube Traps

  8. #8
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    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Larry - Go to “Settings” and select “Edit Signature”.
    _______________

    Mike

  9. #9

    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Thought comment to Bob. Mike has said that the Ref 6SE is a hair's width in performance compared to the Ref 10. If you were to sell your Ref 10 and swap it for the Ref 6SE , you might have enough dough left over (or almost enough) to pick up the Ref Phono 3SE. Over the last year, I pieced together the full ARC SE suite: Ref 6SE, Ref CD-9SE, Ref Phono 3SE, and Ref 150SE. I am not disappointed.

    I surmise that you and Olskool may have more discriminating audio requirements than me and just want the very best of the best. And that is totally OK. But even so, you might want to think about whether the cost of squeezing out that last single digit percentage of improvement is practical if you can get almost to total Nirvana with a top end ARC SE suite.

    Just thinking put loud.

    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 phono 3SE ; ARC Ref 6SE linestage; ARC Ref CD-9SE CD player; ARC Ref 150 SE power amp; Paradigm Signature 8 (v3)speakers w/ BE dome tweeters; Kimber Hero I/Cs; Kimber speaker cables.

  10. #10
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    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Thanks Bfwynne, your point of view may just be totally on point! I’m just looking to find a review from someone with experience in the product itself.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    ARC Ref 210 Mono's, ARC Ref 5SE, ARC Ref Phono2, NordostTyr1interconnects, NAD M5 CD/SACD, Linn LP12, Ekos 1, Booplinth, Lyra Delos cart, Kore, HRS1 Isolation table, Pioneer RT-707 Reel, Wilson Sophia, Nordost Tyr speaker cables, Kubala Sosna Emotion Interconnects / Power Cable, QB4 conditioner, StillPoint SS Isolation, StillPoint Aperatures, Nordost Power cables, ASC Tube Traps

  11. #11

    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Quote Originally Posted by Bifwynne View Post
    Thought comment to Bob. Mike has said that the Ref 6SE is a hair's width in performance compared to the Ref 10. If you were to sell your Ref 10 and swap it for the Ref 6SE , you might have enough dough left over (or almost enough) to pick up the Ref Phono 3SE. Over the last year, I pieced together the full ARC SE suite: Ref 6SE, Ref CD-9SE, Ref Phono 3SE, and Ref 150SE. I am not disappointed.

    I surmise that you and Olskool may have more discriminating audio requirements than me and just want the very best of the best. And that is totally OK. But even so, you might want to think about whether the cost of squeezing out that last single digit percentage of improvement is practical if you can get almost to total Nirvana with a top end ARC SE suite.

    Just thinking put loud.

    BIF
    Totally with you BIF... as much as a loyalist to ARC as I have been over the years, I have come to learn other pieces can co-exist quite comfortably. It does force one to trust others, as things like phono stages are very difficult to audition, and there are many, many choices. Sticking with ARC ensures synergy no doubt, but in the case of the REF10 phono, I learned better performance was available for much less $$. And, the synergy with my system is remarkable, as is the Etsuro Gold(mg) cartridge. I was more concerned about investing in the cable between turntable and phono-stage, but to be certain this is probably the most important cable in an analog rig, carrying the tiny, minuscule signal. Screw that up and the investment in top end phono stage and cartridge is "money for nothing". Once I'd committed to the Etsuro, I was pretty much all in to harvest as much as possible, and the Etsuro just brings so much more to the table than my old Benz LPS, which is now whimpering in the corner having been kicked to the curb with a steel toed boot!
    —Bob V.

    My system: Etsuro Gold cartridge(mg) , AMG v12 turntable with ‘12JT turbo’ tonearm, LFD phono cable, CS Port C3EQ, dCS Rossini, Audio Research Ref10 pre, Audio Research REF 160M, Wilson Alexia speakers. Transparent Ref MM2 & Gen5 signal cables, Shunyata SigmaNR, AlphaNR,
    Zitron Python power cables. Shunyata Hydra Triton v3, Stillpoints. HRS. Acoustic environment optimized by Dr. Bonnie Schnitta of SoundSense.

  12. #12

    Re: Ref 10 Phono Pre

    Understood Bob.

    Maybe because I was an obtuse stereo groupie in the 70s, I spent tons of time in a super high-end boutique audio store listening to what was considered SOTA in gear in the day. The big roll-outs were early ARC gear, the Crown IC-150 pre and DC-300 amp. Speakers were Crown electrostats and Tympany panels. Lots of early Infiniti speakers too. But I never bought anything. Looking back, I am embarrassed that I wasted so much salesman time.

    So today, having learned my lesson, I buy gear that is well reviewed in the audio rags, and is spoken of well in the forums, and ultimately, I rely on trusted labels, like ARC. I do not spend time in so-called high-end brick and mortar stores.

    Anyway, my 2 cents worth experience is that the ARC Ref 6SE is a step-up over the ARC Ref 6. The Ref Phone 3SE is a major step-up over the ARC PH-8 (no surprise there). I realized a lot of bang for the buck when I upgraded my ARC Ref 150 to the SE model. And I think my ARC Ref CD-9SE does a better job than my old Ref CD-8. Just saying.

    Be well.

    BIF

    So, the breadth of my sonic experience is limited. That said, I notice that when I have made incremental steps up the ARC product line, I have never been disappointed.
    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 phono 3SE ; ARC Ref 6SE linestage; ARC Ref CD-9SE CD player; ARC Ref 150 SE power amp; Paradigm Signature 8 (v3)speakers w/ BE dome tweeters; Kimber Hero I/Cs; Kimber speaker cables.

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Ref 10 Phono Pre

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