Soundstage Ultra Audio gave a glowing review of the Reference 5. Here are extracts:
Most important, the Ref 5 re-created the most realistic soundstage I’ve ever heard in my reference system. Not only were instruments solidly locked into place in three dimensions, they re-created a realistic sense of depth, substance, and height.
In the refined arena in which the Ref 5 plays, it is the ability of a component to convey fine detail while remaining relaxed and engrossing that I find to be the magic dust that separates the exceptional from the stolid. Microphonic detail with macrodynamic rhythm, pace, and timbral accuracy -- the Ref 5 had it all. On its own, the sound of ARC’s preamplifier was so complete and balanced across the board that I was able to take the full measure of its nuances only in comparisons.
The ARC Reference 5 is a beguiling performer that created the deepest, most organic, most compelling soundstage of any preamp I’ve had in my system. Never less than musically engaging, the Ref 5 was so quiet, capable, and easy to enjoy that I could forget about the glowing tubes inside (but for the need to toggle it on and off)
This amp is fantastic and quite similar to the Ref 5 SE.
On the condition scale below - it is not one owner or store demo, but the condition is about perfect I think.