Audio Research Ref 10 vs 40th Anniversary preamp

I was wondering what the difference in the sound between the Ref 10 and the 40th ? Not much wrote about that. I btw have the Ref 6 but never heard the 10 or the 40th. 
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I’d give a call to Randy at Optimal Enchantment in Santa Monica and ask him. He sold me my Ref 40 and now sells lots of Ref 10s. I suspect the answer is that they sound similar but that the Ref 10 delivers more of the same ... now I suspect we’re waiting for the Ref 50 in a year or two 😉
folkfreak......Ive had the Ref 5se and now the Ref 6... There is a night and day differ between them. Im wondering if the Ref 6 is closer to more of the Ref 40 anniv. 
There was always a night and day differ between their endless Reference etc. Products.
What does Reference mean? Their Reference?
Or a Reference among comeptitors? (Well, hardly)
Probably it is time to think about a Manufacturer who can do something right the first time.

"There was always a night and day differ between their endless Reference etc. Products...Probably it is time to think about a Manufacturer who can do something right the first time."

This is obviously not the way it works or otherwise you would still be driving Ford Model T’s and the electric starter and air conditioning would never have been invented and you would be expressing you ill-informed "opinion" with a quill pen on parchment and posting it to "Pony Express"!
While I have considered moving to the Ref 10 (and the Ref 10 phono) what puts me off is the complexity that's been added in both of these components relative to the Ref 40 -- complexity that to me brings no value. What I'm talking about is all of the microprocessor controlled touch screen -- for me this and all the functionality it brings are of absolutely no value and not something I'd want to pay for. I'd much rather invest in the core amplification circuitry and if I was in the market for an upgrade would lean more towards the top of the line VAC for example

Anyway for the time being the Ref 40 is still working well for me -- just swapped out all the tubes, not because they had failed but just a sense that at 2000 hours+ they were getting tired -- which they were, surprising how this gradual insidious diminution of performance builds up, a strict program of preventative tube exchange is a must
clearthink.... I totally agree with you.                                                                  folkfreak .....Have you ever heard the Ref 6 ? Im just curious if it is closer to the Ref 40 th or the Ref 40th closer to the Ref 10. I t would be nice to hear from folks who actually heard all 3 .
I’ve heard the REF 3, 5, 5SE, 6, 40 and 10.  To my ears on the same system, the 10 was slightly better than the 40. At this level there aren’t jaw dropping differences between components.  I’d take the 40 in a heartbeat.  The 10 was more open.  

Also there is most definitely not a major difference between the 5SE and the 6.  The six is a better unit but not “oh my God”. Much like the difference between the 3 and 5.  
I really like the 10.  I currently own a 6. As I said, the 40 is amazing, but between the 10 and 40 if I had to choose, I’d take the 10.
Save yourselves 15k$ and buy a Luxman C900u. It sounds as good as the Ref10.
minorl......... Ive had the 5se and now the 6.. On my system there was a " Oh My God " difference between the two. If it was not i would of never spent the extra money.To me it was money well spent to hear a Oh My God difference. I am very satisfied with the 6 .But was also very curious about how the 6 compared to the 40th, and the 40th to the 10. I guess folks will have different opinions on their own systems and ears.  
I had the good fortune (I guess) to have the REF 3, 5 at the same time to listen to.  No big difference for me to “justify” buying the 5. Especially with new tubes in the 3.  

So I waited.  I then bought a REF5SE because I heard it before and also compared it to the 3.  Big difference in the same system (mine).  Then a few weeks later I found out about the Auduo Research trade in-trade up program where the give you 75% of MSR for the trade in unit. Mathematically it was a no brainer.  I traded in the REF 5SE for more than I paid for it and also got a very good price for the 5 because it was a reviewer demo unit.  It had 24 hours on the unit.  In my system, a direct A/B comparison between the 5SE and the 6 was much like the difference between the 3 and the 5.  There was a slight difference but not jaw dropping.  

Same was was true for the 40 and the 10. Although to me more between the 40 and 10.  

A lot lot depends on two things to me.  If one can do a direct A/B comparison in the same system at the same time changing nothing but the unit, with the same music, matching levels first and the listening.  That is really the only real way to compare fairly. 

Any other way us dependent on memory and if one didn’t listen on the same system and (matching levels first) there would be too many variables. I play music on one unit first and establish a listening level.  Then I insert a white noise test disc and measure the respective level.  Then, I switch units and play the white noice source again and adjust the level until it matches the other level.  Then I play the music and listen.  I don’t change anything else, cables, source, equipment, etc. same room, etc.  
if the price was good, I’d take a 40 any day.  Same is true for a 10.  I heard a system in Santa Monica. With a 10 pre, 10 phono, 250SE amps, vandersteen 7 speakers . And stupidly expensive basis turntable, etc.  and in all my years in this, that was the first time that a system completely disappeared.  

Wow.  Optimal enchantment in Santa Monica .  

Oh yeah, I’d take a 10 any day. 

minorl,  please clarify.  Which unit did you trade in?  What unit did you buy?  I own a Ref 5SE and have been thinking about the Ref 6.  Just curious if ARC would do a trade up my Ref 5SE to the Ref 6 and how much they would charge.


I currently have the Ref5SE and Ref6 and agree that the difference is fairly large.
monorl ....  I had just bought a used Ref 5SE without ever hearing a 5se,Just going by the reviews on line and posts and threads from here on AG. I had it about 2-3 weeks and really liked it alot. And then my ARC dealer let me bring home the 6 to listen to it on my system for a few days.The first time i heard a cd with the 6 on my system i was floored. It was a very big difference from the 5SE , a Wow difference on my system and my ears. I had to have it . I am just talking about me and my system and ears. I am not doubting you what you heard but only am saying what i heard. I have no regrets what so ever of selling my 5SE for a brand new 6 thats how much i loved it and wanted it after hearing it compared to the 5SE on my system so much that i didnt even want a used one. I wanted a brand new black 6 but my ARC dealer said that ARC had no black ones in stock and it had to be made for me. I could of gotten the natural color right away but i chose to wait to have the black one built as that was my first color choice. As a matter of fact im still waiting for ARC to finish it. Its been about 2 and a half weeks now , hopefully about another week or so i will have it. 
Bifwynne, I traded in the REF 5SE for a 6.  Couldn’t pass up the deal Audio Research offered.  I don’t believe the trade in/up program is still ongoing.  But when it was in effect, they gave me 75% of MSR price. 

Tattoo.... no doubt you heared what you did. Congratulations, I do consider the REF 6 to be outstanding.  I’m sort of waiting for a REF 10 at a price I can’t wskj away from.  Not there yet.  However, when Audio Research comes out with the next REF unit above the 10, people will sell their 10s to get the newer unit and maybe I could afford it then.  

There’s no discernable difference in the basic circuit besides the microelectronics. The output film caps and the original PS 6550C tubes used are different. There’s a noticeable difference in sonics between the REF40’s SED Winged "C" 6550C and the REF10’s Sovtek WEs with the former being a little warmer and a touch more laid back and the latter emphasizing the leading edge and a little more upfront. Can’t speak to the caps, but I’m sure they’re likely the rest of the difference. I prefer the SED winged Cs, but you may like the current tube and maybe the REF10 better. I actually like the Sovteks better in the REF10 phono than the SED Winged Cs but neither are my favorite. Go figure.
Run dont walk and listen to the Coincident Line Stage
it will sound more transparent,open and as dynamic as the Ref 10.
Unlike AR, Coincident is made with point to point wiring no circuit boards, no capacitors in the signal path, Direct Heated Triode 101 tubes and seperate 45 lb. power supply.

As above,Optimal Enchantment (great name for an Audio shop) is a Hallmark for retail brick-and-mortar that has been around for a long time. I can remember their ads in Stereophile / TAS back in the 1990's. Good to read that these guys are alive and well.Happy Listening!
Just traded in my ARC Ref 5SE for a ARC Ref 6 today.  Here are my reactions, …  FWIW.  

Is the Ref 6 a better sounding unit than the Ref 5SE?  IMO, yes.  Here's why.  First off, bass is tighter, but not in an exaggerated sense.  Just better low end and midrange detail.  The sound stage is more open.  I get a sense that there's less clutter to the imaging and a more coherent presentation of the musical performance.  To my old ears, it is a palpable difference.  To die for?  No.  But to appreciate and enjoy?  Yes. 

That said, do I think the Ref 5SE is a sonic slouch?  Absolutely not!  Both units share similar ARC house sound characteristics.  But the Ref 6 does tease out more detail and a better sense of a uniform sound stage with few gaps.  

I surmise that the Ref 10 and Ref 40 are of similar genre to the Ref 6, ... just more of the same.  Admittedly, I have never heard the Ref 10 or Ref 40, but generously assume (based on member comments) that they are a cut above the Ref 6.

As I listen to more source material, I will add more comments if I think worth passing along.   



Was wondering if any of you guys could tell me what you think a good price on a ARC 40th Anniversary pre is?

At what price is it too much and am I better off just moving to a newer ARC pre model?

Is it better or as good as a 6? They seem to be around same price as a 6?

Trying to decide on a non tuby tube pre for a pair of Pass Labs XA-160.8 mono's driving Magico S5 MK II's. Thanks  
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@fsmithjack re real world pricing I just sold my Ref 40 for $10.5k, I’d say under $11k you are getting a fair price. Only pay above that for a dealer piece with warranty. My piece had new tubes and other extras as well.

I sold it because I came to find the ARC house sound overly warm, lush and colored and that was a poor fit with my new speakers. I switched to the VTL 7.5III which is much more transparent and clean sounding. The Ref 40 sounded nice, but it definitely had a sound ...
fun thread, I have spent a considerable amount of listening time and every now and the. $ with Randy at Optimal. He is always in top echelon of ARC dealers in USA.

I have a REF5se up on Ayre blocks with a NOS Tungsol coke bottle 6550..... yowsa....

when I eventually get the wandering ear the VTL, VAC, et al will be on my list for sure, along w current ARc offerings...who knows, maybe Vandersteen will debut the long rumored preamp to match his wonderful high pass amplifiers...

fun !!!
Hello everyone and happy new year. I’m on a hunt for a new preamp. Changing things over from my hybrid AV/Stereo to strictly 2 channel. Trying to decide on the following:

ARC ref 10
Dag Momentum

Found a dealer demo ref 10 unit with warranty.  One owner reported that Ref 10 is a bit aggressive esp in the treble and at it wasn’t musical. I’d love to get confirmation. 

The CJ GAT 2 has received rave reviews. Only drawback is that it has only RCA inputs.  Is this a deal breaker if your system is balanced. 
The Momentum has some operating issues with the tone control which can be fixed($). 
Rest of my system

focal utopia evo
pacific bal dac
sonore signature/SGC Nas
krell 403 E amp (to be upgraded to monos)
You have selected my 3 favorite preamps. 
 I must disagree with anyone who would say that the Ref 10 is aggressive in the treble or not musical. I find the treble to be spot on. ARC tends to make a large wide and presentation from a front row perspective. This presentation tends to be dramatic (but not inaccurate)-- sort of like technicolor. To me, it is very alluring.
CJ is very true to life, sweet with a mid row presentation and a bit less slam than ARC.
 The DAG is among the best solid state preamplifiers on the market and will be more transparent than either of the tube preamps, but with less liquidity or, for want of a better phrase--je ne sais quoi.
Take what I say with a grain of salt because anyone who favors pure solid state will go with the DAG. But I am also a fan of a tubed pre with a ss amp  If you want to run balanced interconnects, the CJ is a no go as it only uses single ended to my understanding.
Hope this helps.
My vote is for the Audio Research Reference 10 preamp which works extremely well with any solid state power amplifiers (the best of both world)...I have personally compared all three preamplifiers in my system and ended up with the Audio Research.  The Ref 10 is the end game preamplifier...and it is so much fun to own especially when you could roll some tubes and get a different taste!
Ref 10 for sure.  Have 1300 hours on mine.  Its wonderful.  Never heard any aggressive treble.  Its very musical. My friend was listening to the system while I was testing tubes for his ARC vintage preamp.  Said was sweet airy, excellent depth and width.  He loved it.
New REF6SE is said to close the gap to the REF10 and might be worth a listen.
Randy at Optimal is just a gem, give him a call.
@folkfreak what new speakers ? I have heard the VTL sing with Vandersteen 7 in San Diego
I think one had better be sure to replace tubes in the tube regulated power supply in the Ann 40  on a very regular basis...or be prepared for repairs that can get costly! Personally, I would take a pass on a design that utilizes tube regulation.
@tomic601 I changed from Magico Q3s to M3s -- the latter are much more even and rounded sounding and in combination with the ARC house sound was a bit too lush and enveloping -- the VTL was a better fit -- see my system description if you want more info
As barrysandy said above... If you compare the 40 and 10 side-by-side, the circuits are identical down to every trace and part.  The tube choices don't really matter much because you can easily put your favorite 6550 in the power supply and 6H30s in the audio circuit (I like NOS for both).  The different output coupling caps could explain some of the sonic difference, but there may be other improvements brought about by changes in wire, connectors, circuit board material, or other things that are hard to see.   

The Ref 40 and 10 are much more similar to each other than they are to the Ref 6 or it's predecessors due to the larger, more sophisticated, power supplies and complete dual-mono circuits throughout.  The 40 and the 10 have separate transformers for each channel, separate sets of regulator tubes per channel and separate 6H30 tubes for each phase of the balanced signal.  The Ref 6 shares transformers and power supply tubes between channels and shares 6H30 tubes between + and - phases of the balanced signal path.  It also shares one chassis and one main board for both power supply and audio circuit.

I own a 40 and haven't heard the 10 in my own system to compare directly, but I did have a Ref 6 for a few weeks and it's a great sounding preamp.  It's not as complete, 3-dimensional or effortless sounding as my 40 but it did offer a bit more transparency at high frequencies.  My understanding is that the 10 sounds like the 40 with some additional transparency. 
All the mention ARC preamps track tube hours, I keep a log when as advised I roll in replacement, the the NOS Tung Sol 6550 as recommended by Andy at Vintage tube in Michigan is a spectacular upgrade to the 5se at least in my system.

Its amazing how those power supply tubes impact the circuits.  I have an Aesthetix IO loaded with NOS tubes.  I put cheap Sovtek 12AX7LPS from Jim McShane in the power supply but put NOS Mullard EL34 there also.  The difference from the Mullards is not minor.  For my REF10, will use original Winged C's when the time comes.  Honestly, at the ARC Ref level, doubt one can go wrong with picking any of their preamps. 
My buddy owns the 5SE and has a dealer demo ARC 6. In his system, I have a VERY hard time telling the difference between the two pre-amps. Perhaps a longer time with each would reveal the subtleties. He loves his 5SE and was hoping for more of the same from the 6, but "so far", he cannot justify the change. His Dealer is now suggesting the Ref 10.
I had the Ref 5se and really liked it. I demoed the ref 6 from my dealer and couldn’t believe the difference in the 2 of them.  The 6 was better in every way in my system. I sold the 5 se and had to buy the 6 brand new. 
I concur with tattooedtrackman.  I am on the list for the Ref 6 SE upgrade, which I am dubious will make much of a difference.  The main changes are the power supply caps are getting switched out and some of the wires too.  I look forward to being pleasantly surprised.
I've always liked the Audio Research house sound, and looking into the 10 pre - reading this thread has been really illuminating. Thanks to everyone for your impressions.

I remember listening to an Audio Research amp and pre for the first time, literally a day after they arrived at my local dealer, who had just started carrying the line.

I was less than impressed. The treble would occasionally leap up and bite, and the overall effect was wooly in the lower midband and bass. I left, surprised that they would charge that much for the pair, as frankly my own less pricey tube gear sounded far better.

Fast forward six months later, and I returned to the same dealer - and those ARC boxes were playing in the same room. They sounded completely different - absolutely beautiful, with an extended and sweet treble, and a new clarity to the mids and bass. I couldn't stop listening for at least 45 minutes - they were hooked up to Wilson Sabrinas and sounded perfect, without deviation, the entire time.

I asked a staff member what happened, and he smiled nonchalantly. "Oh, they just finally broke in - all the ARC stuff does that, to varying degrees." He told me to prepare for a good 500 hours of break-in time, and they will reward your patience. That is so true for this particular line - it is a profound night and day difference.
Well guys, I am back again, ... 1 year and a few months later, ... with some comments about the ARC Ref 6SE and the significance of break-in.  So, I finally swapped out my Ref 6 for the SE upgrade in the Fall of 2020.  I am happy to report that I am *very* pleasantly surprised and am *very*pleased. 

Right out of the box, ... the Ref 6SE sounded off.  Hard to describe. 

However, after 100 hours, I could start to hear real improvements in SQ.  The Ref 6SE sounded faster, better focus, better sound-stage, better imaging.  Bass was tighter too.  I recall listening to some jazz records and immediately noticed how tight the bass instrument sounded. Drum thwacks and cymbals ... really tight and clear. 

And all of these SQ improvements continued as I racked up more hours on the unit.  I have about 500 hours on my Ref 6SE now and it is pretty well broken in.  

As to bwright's comments and observations above, ... he is spot on.  Brand new ARC gears needs to break-in before one can really appreciate its quality and attributes.  In many ways, buying pre-owned ARC gear has an advantage:  the pre-owned unit should be broken and any kinks worked out.

It only shows ARC was selling a flawed and veiled Ref 6 before the SE upgrade...

And charging you 10k for that « flawed » non SE pre...
Respectfully, techno_dude,... I do not agree with your comment.  The Ref 6 is a wonderful preamp.  The SE upgrade made the Reg 6 sound better.  I understand that the changes consisted mostly of new caps and wire.  

ARC is constantly trying to improve its product line.  If upgrades to one component can be transferred to another product, ARC oftentimes will do that.  For example, ARC made SE improved its Ref 150 amp, the Ref 6 preamp and the Ref Phono 3.  

I own the Ref 150.  ARC did the SE upgrade several years ago.  The upgrade included changing out the KT-120 tubes for KT-150 tubes, plus other changes.  I can tell you that the SE upgrade significantly improved the SQ of my Ref 150.  Ditto re the Ref 6, which I used to own but had upgraded to the SE version.

Anyway, that is my opinion. 
i am still running my 5se, 5 k happy listening hours later…..put HRS Nimbus couplers under….


Any recommendation on wether to get the ref 6 to 6 SE upgrade for $3k or trade in the old ref 6 and get a new 6SE for $5500?