arc ref5-se

I have been entertaining the idea of trying a ref5-se for awhile. I see a few around the $6500 range, but they sure don't seem to sell very fast.

I have an opportunity to get one for $6000. The unit is very clean with low hours.

I kinda feel this is a fair price. Any thoughts?


They have sold for less in the past, but with the way high end audio electronics prices are inflating due to material sourcing and supply chain issues, the used market seems to be inflating as well.

It seems to be a fair price for the unit.

I mean, sometimes low hours really is low hours. Not everyone is out to scam. Some of us hobbyists accumulate lots of gear and don't give certain pieces much use for a very long time¬†ūüėÖ

But the 5SE has lost a fair bit of market value since the 6 (and now 6SE) has been out for several years, and people seem to prefer the 6 by a lot. I definitely seem to recall units offered at 6500 sitting for a long time, even if minty. I sold my first Ref 6 for 8500 - probably well worth that $2K stretch. $6K seems OK if you don't want to stretch and really want to try it. 

Very nice preamp. HIfi shark will provide historical pricing. Recommend budgeting for tube replacement and service as there's no way of telling how many hours are on the Ref5 SE or how many owners its been through.

If you contact ARC and provide the S/N they can tell you the actual date of manufacture.

I would think so. I owned one for nearly ten years… I could have easily lived with it forever. I was upgrading my other equipment, so upgraded to the REF6se. Don’t worry about hours… they will last decades. You will have to replace the tubes occasionally… but these are real audiophile components made to last a lifetime.


I would jump on it, without hesitation. A screaming deal for the sound and quality.

@ghdprentice +1


True reference  components  a generation  away from new are still exceptional  many times the flavor is all that has changed. 

What are the tubes are in it? Are they the stock tubes? I bought an ARC preamp a few years ago and someone had replaced the original tubes with the cheapest Electro Harmonix tubes money can buy. 


I owned one for a few years and loved it. I sold it to return to Solid State and bought an Ayre KX-5 Twenty, realized I had made a mistake. Sold the Ayre and bought and still have an LS28SE and am happy again. By comparison the two are very close in performance and plan to keep this one. I am sure you will be happy with the performance of the REF5SE, it never left me wanting more. My issue was the heat and my limitations of placement. 

As far as the hours go, it is hard to say since they can be reset at anytime, unlike an odometer. Enjoy and I only used AR tubes, but they are hard to get right now.



The ARC REF5 SE is still a killer pre-amp. $6K is a good price. $5500 is even better.


Happy Listening!

Thank you all for your good hearted feedback.

 I started my audio journey in the early seventies with the likes of Optimus, SAE, Carver, ESS and so forth. Life happened and now at 63 years old with great hearing, I want to gently enter the other side of audio.

Now, my system is in my shop, I build cars as a semi retirement gig. So acoustically shitty, but it’s my shop, I’m okay with that for now.

So my shop tunes consists of Carver tfm 45, two tfm35x, m500t, c1 and c19 pre’s,all updated by Nelion audio. Auralic Altair, ENO filter, Furman with lift and smp and upgraded Forte III’s. Dedicated 10ga circuit.

 I know it’s not hi end but for in a clean shop environment it suits these ears pretty good. So thought I would Move up the ladder starting with the preamp.

The Ref5SE is an exceptional pre-amp. The albertsportis listing on Audiogon has been running on a loop for about the past 150 years. Don't go by that one. They come up on occasion and sell quickly.


glad you brought that up. I noticed it’s been for sale for a suspiciously long time.


Its been up off and on for like four years! I have a friend who tried to buy it quite a while ago..."oh it just sold". How many zombie ads are like this one?

Its been up off and on for like four years! I have a friend who tried to buy it quite a while ago..."oh it just sold". How many zombie ads are like this one?

I tried to buy a PS Audio P12 conditioner a couple years ago, and had to track him down on the phone to tell me he couldn‚Äôt sell it due to covid lockdown restrictions (no problems from other sellers at this time). I wonder how many of his listings are legitimately for sale, if any. He‚Äôs located in Chicago so let‚Äôs not continue down this thought experiment too far ūüėÖ

I've definitely noticed audiogon listing traffic / volume dwindling in the last several years¬†ūüė™

I wouldn't take to seriously what Albert has for sale. The same components consistently come up for sale.  Hate to say this but bait and switch tactics.  I purchased a preamp from him a couple years ago but since tried to reach him a couple other times for speakers that still come up for sale lol. So basically I've had good and bad luck with him.  


Original poster I sent you a PM about a REF5SE so not sure you saw it?