Audio Research Ref 6 SE

Hi , was told today that Audio Research Ref 6 SE is about to get released with first shipment scheduled by the end of December/ early January, if anyone has more information about specs please share , I emailed AR support waiting for response with details but they confirmed about Ref 6 SE release . I was about to purchase one so would be interested to see what got upgraded or how much will current Ref 6 will drop in price ..,
I would also agree with 9rw.1992 seems to be a magical year because this also was the year that I obtained  my first ARC product.As far as their reliability is concerned I have only had one failure due to  the product.That was a blown rectifier diode on my D400mkII and it cost $75 to repair.(1998) I recently did something really dumb and shorted a triac out  while cleaning my Ref tube amp with it plugged in but switch off.I shipped it to ARC and when they got it they emailed me and told me they did not think the box would make the return back (110 miles) and promptly added $230 to my bill.I sent them a nasty email saying there was nothing wrong with the box.I never got a response. They later claimed  that the email was automatically sent and they did not see my email until later.My point-$130/hr,really inflated repair part and tube prices.and 5 weeks wait time. In spite of this I am still an ARC user and co-dependant and if I buy another pre or power amp(used of course) it will probably be ARC but I hope I will never have to have have it serviced. P.S. ARC did give me the option of picking the amp up at the factory to save the cost of a new box and I took them up on the offer and also saved about $70 on shipping.
If you've assembled a system with offsetting products, like a warm speaker with bright cables, then you might have bad results when you choose a replacement in that system.
Upgrades need to slap you in the face for the better, or don't spend the money! 
Most equipment gets better over time, it's something we live with. I'll bet the SE is better. The 7 will probably be even better in a few years. In the meantime I will go home, enjoy some music, and relax, whatever is in my system.
Good to hear that Stereo Exchange took care of you.
I owned an  used Arc ref 5 se for a few months before upping it to the a brand new ref 6. Big difference in sound. Wondering how much better will the ref 6se sound compares to the 6. I am kinda disappointed Arc came out with a ref 6se so soon. It makes me think that these are not Ref preamps if they upgrade so often. Don’t make sense. It almost makes me think as soon as a new Ref model comes out they are working on another new Ref model to replace the last one. And it’s only about money. 
01-06-2020 12:47pmNo thanks. I will wait for a Reference 45 SE MK III due out in a few years.
opus111 don’t you mean in a few months?  
The question I would like an answer to is; just who is designing the circuits and "improvements" now that Ward Fiebiger died in 2017? I suspect that McIntosh Group fka Fine Sounds SPA is simply playing "design by committee" with a group of far less talented and individual-visioned engineers who also assist with Wadia and McIntosh product development. The case work of the Ref 6 was the first hint of this and then came the obnoxious (in the eyes of the beholder) power meters of the 160 M and S products. So, is there a truly talented engineer dedicated to ARC products who is developing real advances in circuit design or not? If so, who is he or her? And btw, I am no EE but the basic circuit layout and components inside the Ref 6SE as shown on the website look identical to those of the Ref 6.
fsonicsmith. I too was looking at the info and photo of the new Ref 6 se on the Arc website. If u enlarge the pic of the Ref 6 se u will notice that it is of a pic the Ref 6 and not a pic of the new Ref 6 se. 
It says Ref 6 on both front and back of unit pics. So in my opinion that is not a pic of the new Ref 6 se. 
Ha! I was actually referencing the shot of the interior circuit layout which you need to scroll to view. But then again, it too is likely just a holdover of the previous Ref 6 photos. Wouldn't it be nice if ARC were more transparent about what your 3,000 clams buys? Ain't gonna happen. And the factory no longer answers questions. They refer you to the dealer. And the dealer is clueless. I speak from personal experience. But let me say again-I am not upset or put-off. It is just the way things are now with ARC. If you buy from a tiny producer like Quicksilver, Atmasphere, Don Sachs, et. al. you get information but you don't enjoy the benefits of economies of scale that a larger producer can provide. There is an inherent question there; does an ARC really pass along the benefits of economies of scale or are they 100% pocketed by ARC?
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"...why were ARC using totally inferior and poor quality capacitors, internal wiring and other parts in the first place??"
My thoughts precisely :)
They are now working on the latest and greatest Ref 7 right now. I really should of just went and bought a used Ref 10. I really seriously regret that I didn’t. 
"...why were ARC using totally inferior and poor quality capacitors, internal wiring and other parts in the first place??"
My thoughts precisely :)

Ditto :-)   Same with Auto companies ... new model every few years.  They can't make a PERFECT car?   What a scam plus FORCE me to upgrade.   No Choice!!!

“...Same with Auto companies ... new model every few years...”

Not a valid analogy, in my opinion. Even aside from cosmetic/design changes, auto industry tends to make specific and measurable advances in technology which can result in improvements ranging from better user experience to fuel consumption, etc. A company like ARC that charges uber dollars for their products can and should pick the best components out there, e.g. capacitors, resistors, transformers, etc., from the get go and price their products accordingly. There’s an entire thread just talking about how different capacitors can positivity affect the sound quality and some of the options listed cost in the excess of $500 just for a single capacitor. I’m willing to bet ARC engineers/designers are quite aware of these options but rather stay with making incremental improvements at the expense of owners having to constantly upgrade their products. A bit disingenuous in my opinion.
You can't measure capacitors, resistors, transformers, wires ...for improvements and advancements?   No specfications?
should pick the best components out there, e.g. capacitors, resistors, transformers, etc., from the get go
Best is not indefinite.   ie: best in 1960 probably not best in 2020?
I do agree not all upgrades and new models are improvements.  ie.  Ref 3 to Ref 5 not good ROI.    I had my ARC Ref250 unofficially upgraded by ARC to SE and major SQ improvement still rolling KT120.   Then another jump in performance with KT150.  They only replaced passive components capacitors, resistors, wire ...

Every time ARC announces upgrade, same set of character whining and probably with ZERO ARC experience.
Every time ARC announces upgrade, same set of character whining and probably with ZERO ARC experience.
Why would you say this? Do you think the OP of this thread does not really have an ARC preamp? Or are you implying that those of us who do not own an ARC product give a gnat’s a** what happens at ARC?


  The OP DOESNT have a Arc Pre-amp...he was thinking about buying one. Reading comprehension anybody???

I always thought that a company's "reference series" of products was their best effort.   It would appear that this is not the case with ARC.  As soon as ARC releases a new Ref X component it is followed up with a SE model which implies they could have done better. From a marketing standpoint, it would make more sense to release the standard model along with the SE model at the same time allowing the consumer to make an informed choice at time of purchase.
I have Reference 250 non-SE that I purchased new from an authorized dealer where I have purchased most of my system from for forever.  The unit with KT120 tubes is a stunning sounding unit being used with ARC and Pass preamps. Love it with lots of superlatives.  Not necessary to upgrade to the SE version and pricier tubes. So I didnt care about SE, knew there would be one eventually.  BTW, I went to purchase a 10 hour new vintage Crown tape deck off of Craigslist Minneapolis. Drove from Chicago. Turned out the seller was Wade Fieberger.  Never heard of him until he told me he worked for ARC and designed my amps.  Was ecstatic. Had many ARC pieces over my time and was ignorant.  Fantastic guy, allowed me to spend a gracious 3 hours in his house showing me his "stash", talking about my amps, ARC history etc.  Was a great time except after 2 hours when we went from his house to his garage to view his components, realized left my wife sitting in the car in the driveway for 2 hours. Not a happy camper but she enjoyed the last hour of the visit.  Great loss as a person and designer.  Purchased the tape deck.  True story.
... As soon as ARC releases a new Ref X component it is followed up with a SE model ... it would make more sense to release the standard model along with the SE model at the same time ...
That simply isn't true. Several years typically separate the release of the original model and its SE version.


The OP DOESNT have a Arc Pre-amp...he was thinking about buying one. Reading comprehension anybody???

Settle down RIAA, substitute in 9wr and tattoedtrackman for "OP" and you get to the same place.

I’ll let the reading comprehension remark slide, noting that Millercarbon throws it around also. Kind of puts you two on a higher plane than the rest of us.
@testpilot You gals have problem with BEST.  Again, what's best today might not best tomorrow.
IE  BEST effort building REF250 w/KT120.  After testing KT150 for several years, release REF250SE to maximize KT150 in BEST effort.   Same set of clowns WHINING..
Also, if you're happy nobody is forcing you to upgrade.   I'm happy with REF250SE and no interest in REF260M.   If I need triode power, got my CAT JL7.
Purchase the upgrade or not, that is totally up to you.  I don't see a problem here.  Other than Audio Research or dealers should let potential customers know in advance that new products or upgrades are coming, or that the product you are considering purchasing is going to be discontinued.

Do auto manufacturers do this?  It is pretty much standard now that new year autos will be slightly different than the previous year autos.  Companies that sit on their laurels and don't improve go out-of-business.

Yes, with the new ownership, Audio Research is more dollar focused than customer focused.  

However, as long as you are happy with your equipment, where is the problem?  If you are more concerned with resale value, then you probably aren't into this for sound quality anyway.

As long as a signal goes through a wire or electrical equipment, there will be distortion and change.  It will never sound perfectly "real".   therefore, improvements to parts, equipment or engineering absolutely better happen to get closer to "real".

$3,000 for the upgrade from REF 6 to REF 6SE.  I would love to hear them side by side in the same system.  

Cars change almost every year.  speakers almost as often.  Cables, definitely.  I think Audio Research does this approximately every five years or so.

They are most certainly not the only one.

Take a step back, take a breath. relax.  it will be okay.  You won't have any problem selling your REF 6 for a good price.  

I assume the complainers have a HUGE problem
 with Sony, Denon, etc, for updating their products annually, as opposed to a minimum three year interval as ARC does, right?
i also assume they would be happier with many different versions of... lets say the ref1, as opposed to every ref1 being the same?
for me, I am very happy they continue to noticeably improve their products, and if they can be updated, offer that option!
 Understand from some that they want to jump off the upgrade cycle, but I must ask, are you still using the rest of the same equipment you used YEARS ago when the ref6 was introduced?
Same dac?  Speakers?
This is a dumb ass thread. Complaining about new models. Every tech company does this. Yes it sucks you bought yiur product a couple weeks b4 a new model. Happens all the time. Computers.. Cars... Damn near amything and everything gets a new model. New electronics become more affordable so they can afford to put things in new models. Lol the cost to upgrade to se is 3000g. Enjoy your ref 6 for few years. Or at least until wartanty is up. Then upgrade to get a extended wartanty... But hate to tell ya a new model will be released and youll want that newer model lol. Greed
We all deal with that deadly sin. But is the sound gonna be lightyears better. Highly doubt it. 
Speakers, amps, parts are all technically made the same way as it was in the early days. Hell tubes are old. And not going anywhere
Record players are the same as early days. Maybe the biggest increase yiu may get is in dacs since digital has become very analog sounding last ten years. But give me a break. There will always be a better model. Just give it time 😆
I currently have a arc ref 5 preamp and ref 75 amp
Love them. I asked arc if and when i upgrade to se models which one would make best difference. His advice. Keep amp the way it was and buy ref6se
And btw the biggest increase when upgradong products. I went from.. Started with parasound halo hap z1 for dac

Upgraded to krell 2250 amp. Needed a preamp. So bought a jolida fusion preamp... Sounded great. Then bought denafrips pontus dac and realized it sounded better than my sony. 
Not by much... Biggest increase in sound for me was my arc ref 5 preamp. It humped up in soundstage. Just amazing. I went from krell kav 2250 to arc ref 75. Krell can hold its own. I didnt hear a jump. But wanted to make my room arc gear. I do think preamp is the best piece of gear you can buy... Behind speakers.
Im a focal guy. Started with electra 1007be bookshelfs. Sounded great but found some chorus 836v focals somewhat locally pretty cheap. I was astonished how much better it sounded with towers. So from that point on i upgraded thru the focal models. Went from chorus to aria 948. Really great speakers for the price and recently bought sopra 3. Dream speakers. And each time the sound got better. But best value was definatly the chorus and arias... Got them pretty cheap. Sopras cost a pretty penny. But were my endgame speakers. Biggest increase for me was the preamp... So maybe the SE upgrade is worth it. 
I hate to be a asshole but every tech, car manufacturer do this. Release newer models right after you paid retail for the older model
Youll be fine
Arc make the finest gear. Id say majority of the ppl on this forum would love to have your ref 6... Or my ref 5
These postings about ARC model revisions, frequency, and quality implications are the same as those of 5 and 10 years ago.   If you like the new "neutral" sound signature, which is much less "tube euphonic/romantic" than the ARC of the 70s-80s, you won't be disappointed with the quality of build and customer support. If you prefer the older gear sound, build, and looks, there is plenty available and ARC will service the vast majority of it. They aren't cheap, new or old, but they are still in business, unlike many others from 20-30s years ago, let alone 50 years. If you don't like ARC at all there are plenty of other choices in this hobby. I've owned various ARC gear since 1979 (SP6B/D52B) and some have been superb, others less so, and overall I would consider ARC to be mid-level high end both in terms of "the absolute sound" reproduction and build quality.  New ARC gear is expensive, but also mid level high end in the context of much of its competition. However their longevity. general consistency, and customer service are very uncommon in high end audio and those qualities, to my mind, compensate for their marketing hyperbole that has, unfortunately, become essential to remain economically viable.
Companies aren’t going to disclose to the general public when a new product is going to be launched for the reason retailers would not be able to sell remaining stock of the current model. This is especially true for retailers of hiend audio who have demo equipment and stock pieces they need to move before a new product is launched. Generally retailers of audio equipment are given 3-6 month headway
from the manufacturers that a product is about to be replaced and retailers will not disclose that info to anyone. Also, most products replaced are always followed by a 10-25% price increase. 
Yes I would love to hear about comparisons of the two, as well as the SE vs the Ref 10.
Got my REF6 back as a REF6SE last week.  Unfortunately, between the time I shipped it to them and when I got it back, there was a global pandemic (who saw that coming?  As a physician-scientist, I did.  Was bound to happen. TBH, this pandemic/virus is not even close to what I can imagine as a "worst-case scenario", we have an easy enemy-this time).

Anyway, the pandemic made my wonderful Manhattan apartment (17x24x11 listening room) no longer a good place to live, so my entire big system is in storage and I am staying at friends on Long Island, till I get vaccinated, or other preventative therapy.  Suffering through with a Roon Nucleus into KEF LS50W's, so don't need the preamp right now.
After demoing a Ref 6 the past couple of weeks, I decided I have to have one, so I just put in my order for a new Ref 6 SE. I can’t wait! I’ll post my findings in a few weeks.
I just remember that from the REF 5 to REF 5SE, to me, it wasn't enough of a sonic improvement to "justify" me purchasing the REF 5SE from the REF 5.  

However, there was enough of an improvement (just enough) for me to justify going from a REF 3 (with new tubes) to a REF 5SE.  I've heard the REF 3 (with new tubes), and REF 5 and REF 5SE and a REF 6 all in the same system at the same time.  That was fun.

I ended up purchasing a REF 5SE first, with the theory that I was going to sell my REF 3 to help purchase the REF 5SE.  Well, my Friendly neighborhood Audio Research Dealer (Optimal Enchantment) let me hear a REF 6 at the same time.  So, I sold my REF 3, traded in the REF 5SE (and received 75% of MSR for it) and all that went towards the REF 6.

I've just never heard a REF 6SE yet.  Don't know if it is "that much" better than a REF 6 for me to come out of pocket for $3000 for the upgrade to a REF 6SE.  I'm pretty darn happy with my REF 6, so time will tell.  It would be great to "borrow" a REF 6SE and do an A/B listening comparison with the REF 6.

Also, just to be clear, Audio Research absolutely did not use "inferior" parts in previous Reference series products.  They used the best their Engineers came up with at that time.

So, ... has anyone had a chance to compare the Ref 6 with the SE version.  Lots of crabbing above, but has anyone had a listen yet.

I am on the SE upgrade list.  Hoping to get my Ref 6 in late this month.


I picked up my new Ref 6 SE on Friday and after 50 hours it is starting to break in nicely, and I look forward to full break in after the advised 500 or so hours. I had a Ref 6 to demo about three months ago, so notwithstanding aural memory which can be short, the SE version comes across as having all the known great attributes of the older version while sounding more detailed, maybe a lot more detailed, plus cleaner with no veil whatsoever. All the music comes through in a most pleasing natural way. The tiniest nuances at the back of the orchestra come to light. To my ears, this is an absolutely spectacular preamp, definitely the best I've heard, and I'm saying that as I'm hearing the lower octaves start to flesh out more as the break in continues. I don't even want to mention the other brands I've had while raving about this one. I think ARC is delivering on what they've promised, in that the design and parts quality is so good now that we can really hear the magic of the all tube single gain stage. For perspective, I should mention some other parts of my system, which are important because they are particularly well matched to this preamp in terms of resolving power and being time and phase accurate, and not having global feedback just like the preamp: Vandersteen 5A Carbon speakers and M5-HPA amps, Audioquest William Tell Silver biwire cables, 3 feet long, and Audioquest Water balanced IC. In my opinion, the Ref 6 SE, while being expensive, is justified. I can't imagine what could be better.
A brief comment about my REF6, now upgraded to REF6SE preamp.  I wish it was a simple evaluation, but I have moved twice since I packed up the unit in January and sent it to ARC, and November when I unpacked and started setting up the system in a new location.  For the last months it has been impossible to tell if the upgrade had made much improvement, since the room is so different.  However, on Friday night, I came to realize that the REF6SE is a higher resolving preamp.  I started playing with inverting the signal on multiple live music recordings and it was much easier to hear the difference between the two phases and come to a conclusion about which i thought was better.  This was much more subtle with the REF6.  To me it seems a clear indication of an area the SE is better in.
Ref 6 versus Ref 6SE

ARC finally got around to getting me into the Ref 6SE.  I have over 250 hours on the unit as of the date of this posting.  Lots of change during the first 100 hours.   

My impressions: big improvement in SQ.  Imaging much better; more detail, ... hearing things in the source material that I never heard before; bass must tighter.

IMO, the upgrade is worth the price and aggravation of shipping stuff back and forth to/from ARC. 

I just recently purchased a REF 6 at an excellent price.  ARC does not come out with a new product every year, obviously, and every company tries to make improvements.  Otherwise, a company would make one product, and then never improve on it.  It would be the same 20 years ago and 20 years from now.  I don't know of any company that does that. Plus, there are always tweaks that one can do to bring an older model closer to a newer model, such as tube rolling, etc.  As for the REF 6 vs 6SE, the retail difference is $3K.  The upgrade cost is 3K.  So if you are driven to have the latest and greatest, you need only pay the differential.  That seems fair to me.  Plus, ARC products seem to retain Avery good price on the used market if you purchased used, and the demand is always there because it is a quality product.  So bottom line: just because ARC comes out with a new and improved design every 4 years or so, does not make it a bad company.

According to my retailer the upgrade cost has now risen to $3,500 plus shipping or you can trade in the Ref 6 and pay $6,500 plus shipping for a brand new Ref 6 SE or you can try selling your old unit and pay $18,000 with shipping included for a brand new 6 SE. No judging here, just an update as to price. 

Here's my report from two days of testing with four people, which includes myself: My initial impressions were that the Ref6SE was more laid back sounding and slightly smoother especially in the mids versus the Ref6, which had a more forward presentation in the mids.  However this was comparing 6n6p tubes in the Ref6 against the factory tubes in the Ref6SE.  

I tested with Person A on the next day, and he liked the Ref6SE better in every test and had no idea which unit was which.  He does not have an audiophile background, but played several instruments and was in the radio industry for quite some time.  He described the Ref6SE as "clearer."  

Person B and C had the same thoughts as each other and were also tested blind on the same day as Person A but in a separate session.  They thought the Ref6 with the factory tubes sounded the best.  Unlike Person A, Persons B and C thought the Ref6 was more transparent, but that the Ref6SE had more density.  They thought the Ref6SE sounded more tubey.  Interestingly, they suspected that they liked the Ref6SE better with the 6n6p tubes and the Ref6 better with the factory tubes, which I ended up testing after they left, but couldn't really notice any differences probably due to fatigue at that point.

Ultimately, we all agreed that the upgrade was not worth the cost, and I was not even sure if I could distinguish between the two if blind-tested once we used the same tubes.  Ideally, I like to test blind and sighted with short A/B comparisons and by listening to full albums and on multiple days and over a long period, but since this was a dealer demo, unfortunately, we didn't have the luxury of doing that.  I will also say that I know that components can yield different results in different systems but just wanted to provide my experience with the two preamps in my system as a data point for others.