Las Vegas 2013: Reference 3A

Reference 3a has made a few changes to the lineup for 2013, and not necessarily willingly. Since Murata super tweeters are no longer being made, some changes were simply required. Swapping out for a Beryllium dome brought system performance up to 40kHz, so that was apparently an “easy” fix, and one that’s now found on the entire Ref3A line — whether that model originally carried a Murata or not. That’s the plus.

On the other hand, I’m a little dubious about the new Nextel finish on the loudspeakers that Tash Goka is so hot on — while I don’t doubt that it’ll reduce cabinet vibrations significantly, I’m nervous about his plans to phase out all veneers in favor of it. Honestly, the Nextel matte-grey finish just isn’t sexy.

On the gripping hand, I still don’t know what to make of the little Surreal Acoustic Lens sitting in the middle of the big mid/woofer. Yes, they are patented — so there’s something going on — and Tash says they “really are wondrous” in their ability to eliminate sound-muddying turbulence during driver excursion. All that said, they still look weird.

The proof is in the listening, of course, but my listening at the show was frustratingly inconclusive. The sound was merely “good”, while I was clearly expecting more of the fulsome lusciousness that I so fondly remembered from my time with other Ref3a offerings. Was it me? The room? Who knows. Audio shows are like that. Anyway, I’m very much looking forward to a rematch at the next show.

In addition to the new features common to the line (listed above), the new Nefes loudspeakers ($9,950/pair), with their un-Ref3a D’Appolito array of drivers, also marks a technological departure from models past — Bybee Purifiers have been dropped from the line. In its place (perhaps?), I did note references to the same “Magnetic Wave Guide” technology, from Rick Schultz’ Magnetic Innovations, that is found in the big Silver Circle Tchaik 6. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, was the cable loom from Rick’s High Fidelity Cables being used throughout the room.

Shown here with electronics from Copland, including a CTA 506 power amplifier ($6,500). This KT120-based tube amp is good for 90wpc, and leverages a pair of 6550 tubes for tube regulation. 4 and 8 ohms taps, an SNR > 100dB, an input impedance of 100k ohms, XLR and RCA inputs, and 57lbs of weight round out the features.

Copland’s CTA 305 preamplifier and CDA 825 CD player were also on display, as was a tiny DAC from exaSound. The e20 ($2,500) supports DSD 64 and DSD 128 files (over PCM), and PCM up to 32bits and 384kHz sampling, over an asynchronous USB, leveraging proprietary drivers. The little box features XLR and RCA outputs, a DAC-chip derived digital volume control and a headphone jack.

Reference 3a’s Tash Goka with the new Nefes loudspeaker


  1. And the beast was transcended through the beauty of it’s song. I saw the speaker, not too pretty I said, what will my wife think? She liked the looks ok, as to why I can not say. But do they play? Indeed they do and in lies their beauty, of song and music. Very special indeed!

  2. I agree with Joseph here. Who cares what they look like. What do you think the word Audiophile means? Why don’t all of you girly men just man up and get a man cave or dedicated listening room or are you too scared of your wives? Listen to yourselves, you sound like a bunch of fancy pants fairies. (not that there’s anything wrong with that) I actually like the new finish, it’s low profile and just gets out of the way and let’s you focus on the music which is what’s important.

  3. Well….I don’t know what to think of the gray nextel coating. If the speakers have quality parts and quality workmanship, I could live with the gray. The world is saturated with loudspeakers, beautiful veneer and under the veneer is crappy grade MDF and most likely not very good design. The marketing department takes up the slack and everyone convinces themselves their loudspeakers sound great, especially after buying megabuck cables and all the other snake oil that looks pretty.

  4. Please excuse me but I feel the need to romp right in here again with another thought about the brain fart that Ref. 3a seems to be going through.
    Those of us that own, or may be future owners of the “old” style Ref. speakers, with the gorgeous cabinet work, we can consider ourselves lucky. We are the “have’s”, blessed with the art of woodsmiths while the “have not’s” moor up their new models dressed in the luster of the 7th Fleet. All of this has the smell of another company long ago. Oddly enough, they too had chosen the same palet to adorn their fine speakers. While Apogee had bigger problems other than color, they faced the loosing battle of corporate maneuvers. After the frea, they laid dormant in a battlefield littered with empty red pens and grey cabinets. Walking away in the distance could be seen the corporate wolven dragging behind them their cloaks of Audiophile invisibility… The Audiophile community stood in the silence of what was considered “the best” as they choked on the “grey” smoke. So grey is not my best color choice for speakers. It would be a pity if Ref’s decision to do away with the beauty of old has a negative impact on sales… Even if it does mean a more technically correct product.

    OK I’ll. stop now.

  5. I think that I will take my (gloss red maple) DeCapo 3a-i’s out a have them “Rhino-coated” (along with my pickup bed). What on earth are they (Ref. 3a) thinking ? Outside of perhaps an armory, I can’t think of an environment that the new finish would fit into. I’m sure that divorces will be on the rise in 2013….. As well as the sale of Krylon.

    My .02 cents.
    Tubeears …. Colbert, Ga.

  6. As I expected, they look like something made by Genelec that you would expect to see in a studio control room. Put these in a dealer showroom next to a Sonus Faber, and the customer is going to walk out with the Sonus Faber.

  7. Yes very ugly.My Avantgarde Duo Omegas (2002 vintage) have the Nextel finish on the subs and it’s horrid. I am very fortunate to have my own man cave so WAF isn’t an issue.Current Avangardes are however much nicer to look at if you can get past the horns themselves.

  8. This is a wild guess, but I imagine Tash crammed this design down through the company, refusing any input from others. Or, none of his employees dared to question him, but behind his back his employees were probably grumbling to no end. This is the type of decision that would get you fired in some other company, if it were not for the fact that you were the boss.

  9. Sorry, try as I might, I just can’t get past the looks of these. They may sound great, but the aesthetics are inexcusable. These have to be some of the ugliest speakers made today, regardless of price.

  10. I think Dahlquist made some speakers covered in Nextel, real ugly even if it helps with diffractions.

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