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Audio Research Reference 3
4 Reviews
rating  5 of 5
MSRP 
Description: <ul> <li>Switches controlling Power</li> <li>Processor input</li> <li>long-tailed pair input stage</li> <li>Dynamic swing that is breathtaking</li> </ul>


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Reviews 1 - 4 (4 Reviews Total)

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Justlisten2 a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: December 22, 2007

Bottom Line:   
I'll cut to the chase, this is the best preamp I've ever listened to, by far. It doesn't sound tubey, but it doesn't sound like SS either. It is incredibly quiet like SS, I've never heard a tube preamp this quiet. It's sound is clean, fast and clrystal clear, yet with no edginess or grain at all, totally relaxed in it's presentation. Music is neither thrust out at you or obscured in any way.
It really is hard to describe, as it doesn't really seem like it's doing anything at all. Compared to my previous favorite preamp, the BAT VK-51SE, the ARC Ref 3 is quicker, quieter and more transparent. The BAT was more dynamic sounding mainly because of it's fatter, more abundant bass response. The Ref 3 does deep bass, make no mistake about it, but the bass is tighter and faster than the BAT's.
If your system is lean and you need more musical weight, you may prefer the BAT preamp.

No pice of gear is perfect for all systems and tastes, but this is a preamp that I feel I can live with for a long, long time, and that's saying something for me. I have owned at least a dozen preamps in the last 3 years. With the Ref 3, I am finally off the merry-go-round.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Price Paid:    $10000.00



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by blue_starfish a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: May 4, 2007

Bottom Line:   
A great musical pre-amp and fantastic value for money. It has everything I want in a pre. Quiet, dynamic, coherent, fast and times rhythms well with harmonic richness and timbre.

I did not think that a valve pre will be able to match or beat my classic Exposre 9/14 combo in PRaT, but it did! I was very pleasantly surprised.

This is a keeper. Although I will be upgrading my phono (Pass Labs Xono), power amp (Goldmund SR) and speakers (Living Voice Avatar) , this pre along with my turntable (SME 30) will be the base for future upgrades.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2005

Price Paid:    $10000.00

Purchased At:   Singapore



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by swsmusic30 a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: June 17, 2006

Bottom Line:   
After 4 or 5 years witha Reference 2 (all tube design), it took some time to get used too. The volume control is way better, and the display which can be turned off, is top notch. The sound is detail and tube like at the same time, but not lush like the reference 2. I am very happy with the reference 3, totally it is an improvement over it's predecessor.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2004



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Gary Selken a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: October 18, 2005

Bottom Line:   
Neither brighter nor darker, neither fuller nor leaner than the Mark Levinson "No.32 Reference Preamplifier" I am leaving behind, the Audio Research "Reference 3" simply seems to be a wide-open conduit that allows the source to control the amplifiers unimpeded. Instruments, vocals, soundstage, dynamics, all are much more real and involving than I have ever heard by a wide margin. Yes, you can control the volume, balance, source, polarity and record outputs from either balanced or single-ended inputs and outputs, and there is gain above unity, although I have yet to approach it. Pretty damn impressive, I think! The music always draws you in: you don’t need to listen to audiophile recordings to be won over by this preamp. Recordings always sound improved, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. So many layers of electronic masking have been removed that hitherto unintelligible lyrics are clear, noises have resolved themselves into identifiable instruments, and vocals and instruments have moved from their normal confines to gain clear boundaries, bloom, breath, and believability.

Occasionally but rarely one comes across a component which renews the dream of truly recreating the sound of live music from a recording. This is such a component.

System:

Mark Levinson No. 31.5 (transport), No. 360S (DAC), No. 33 (power amplifiers)
SOTA Star Saphire, SME V, Sumiko "Sho"
Rowland "Consummate" phono stage
Magnum Dynalab "Etude" tuner
Cardas "Golden Reference" cable & interconnects
Magnepan MG20.1 loudspeakers

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2005

Price Paid:    $10000.00

Purchased At:   Audio Systems




Reviews 1 - 4 (4 Reviews Total)

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