Modding my ARC Ref Anniversary

ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#1
Got my Ref Ann 10 years ago. It barely broke in when 3 Nichicon electrolytic caps leaked right onto the PCB. I was livid. What?! A preamp with $25K price tag barely survived 1 year of its operation? I scrutinized the parts the unit was assembled of and was horrified how much junk was in it. That's how I made my decision to mod the crap out of this unit. It took me a very long time - almost 7 years to complete the project gradually, in stages. Instead of writing sheets and sheets, I'd rather let the pictures do the talking...

So, let's start with the unit in stock, just like I received it from ARC's factory... PS first...
 

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ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#2
PS after modding (top view):
1. All Nichicon electrolytic caps were raplaced with Mundordf, Audio Note (including Kaisei), Jensen and Elna Silmic II.
2. 100% of REL-CAP and 95% of Wima were replaced with Audyn True Copper Max, Jupiter Copper Foil and Duelund Tinned Copper Foil Precision.
3. All the wiring was done with AQ PSC+ solid-core conductors extracted from AQ NRG 1.5 power cables.
4. All soldering was done with AQ silver solder.
5. Factory power inlet and fuse holder were replaced with Furutech FI-33 NCF and Soviet military copper fuse holder with silver plating.
 

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LL21

Well-Known Member
Dec 26, 2010
11,675
565
658
#3
Congrats...very impressive! I am no techie...so my question: how does it sound? Enjoy!
 

Audiophile Bill

Well-Known Member
Mar 23, 2015
3,021
1,641
420
UK
#4
Hi. Great work but did you not return it under warranty after the initial failure? Looks like you spent quite a lot of money in parts here.
 
Apr 11, 2018
27
10
8
#5
I am a user of Ref5SE and had issue so I sent e mail from their web site and the screen said the message sent. But no response from them. This is not the first time.
 

marty

Well-Known Member
Apr 20, 2010
1,815
1,031
585
United States
#6
I won't bother to go through my list of ARC field failures except to say, now you know why I left ARC long ago!

But what you've done is very impressive. Takes balls and commitment. I salute you. If this was a 7 year project, what did you do in the interim for sound?
 

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
2,133
1,396
535
Hong Kong
#7
Got my Ref Ann 10 years ago. It barely broke in when 3 Nichicon electrolytic caps leaked right onto the PCB. I was livid. What?! A preamp with $25K price tag barely survived 1 year of its operation? I scrutinized the parts the unit was assembled of and was horrified how much junk was in it. That's how I made my decision to mod the crap out of this unit. It took me a very long time - almost 7 years to complete the project gradually, in stages. Instead of writing sheets and sheets, I'd rather let the pictures do the talking...
So, let's start with the unit in stock, just like I received it from ARC's factory... PS first...
Hello ayreman,
Very impressive work!

I was once a 40Anniv Preamp user too.
When it was launched 10 years ago, it was undoubtedly one of the best tube preamps in the market.
But time moves on and its successor Ref10 is rather disappointing because there are only minimal fine-tunings.

Please share with us your 7-year journey more.
How do your mods affect the sound/performance?

Many thanks!
 

Folsom

VIP/Donor
Oct 26, 2015
5,166
895
325
Eastern WA
#8
Clean job.

If the wire doesn’t have silver in it, silver solder is pointless.

I have another mod you could do.... :)
 

TLi

Well-Known Member
May 27, 2016
185
226
128
#9
Impressive modification. Congratulation.

I have ARC Ref40 before and use Ref10 now. I found changing the 6550 tubes to Tung Sol black plate bring very large improvement.

Since so much resource and effort has been made to improve your Ref40, you should consider changing the tubes too.
 
Likes: CKKeung

CKKeung

Well-Known Member
Jun 18, 2011
2,133
1,396
535
Hong Kong
#10
Impressive modification. Congratulation.
I have ARC Ref40 before and use Ref10 now. I found changing the 6550 tubes to Tung Sol black plate bring very large improvement.
Yes, I did so when I owned a 40Anniv.
NOS 6550 (black plate, grey plate ...etc) all are significantly better than the nowadays newly made 6550.
 

Sablon Audio

Industry Expert, VIP Donor
May 22, 2015
925
539
328
#11
Yes, I did so when I owned a 40Anniv.
NOS 6550 (black plate, grey plate ...etc) all are significantly better than the nowadays newly made 6550.
Absolutely agree CKK and the TS solid black plates sound better than the later greys.
 
Likes: CKKeung

Sablon Audio

Industry Expert, VIP Donor
May 22, 2015
925
539
328
#12
Kudos to you Ayreman for having the cojones to both attempt such an ambitious project on an expensive donor and also the perseverance to see it through. Feel free to drop me a PM if you want some more ideas.
 
Last edited:

ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#13
PS after modding (bottom view). Compare with factory state (see above post #1).
 

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ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#14
This is what my engineer had to custom-build to install at the bottom of the PS.
 

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ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#15
As I mentioned earlier, only PSC+ solid-core conductors were used as hook-up wire in this project. And they all came from AQ NRG 1.5 and NRG-5 power cables (see pics attached).
 

Attachments

Likes: CKKeung

ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#16
Congrats...very impressive! I am no techie...so my question: how does it sound? Enjoy!
Like no other preamp can or will from factory. Looking back... everything we buy from manufacturer is a raw billet with potential to me. Then you have to roll up your sleeves and get down to work. This approach, however, only applies to those, who are addicted to best!;)
 

ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#17
Hi. Great work but did you not return it under warranty after the initial failure?
And what would be the point of doing that? To get 3 brand new Nichicons in the unit? :rolleyes: Looking back... I'm almost glad those Nichicons leaked! That was a good kick in the but and a perfect wake-up call.:cool:
 

Golum

Well-Known Member
Jun 7, 2018
789
799
110
Lausanne, CH
#18
:eek::eek::eek::eek::eek: what a work man - respect!!
And as everybody else asked - do you have any notes what each stage of mod brought to the table SQ wise?
BTW - as I can see all your gear is hard core modded - based on what you choose your donors?

Cheers and keep up feeding those pics...
 

ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#19
If this was a 7 year project, what did you do in the interim for sound?
Modding everything else in my system, of course! Speakers, subs, power amps - everything is modded to more or less the same standard as the preamp.
 

ayreman

Well-Known Member
Jan 2, 2017
190
52
93
Ukraine
#20
I have another mod you could do.... :)
Fire away! I am open to new ideas. As long as they have been tried and tested, of course!
 

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