My unit is in for upgrade currently with ARC and should be complete on Monday. I will post photos and my preliminary thoughts/review once it returns. The cost is $795 and externally includes a new updated faceplate (says LS17SE of course) and includes the new round silver metal buttons. Internally the four coupling caps are replaced with the new proprietary Teflon coupling caps used in the recent LS27 and Ref 5 SE pre and Ref 2 SE phono models. Upgrades are done by appointment. After long consideration, I opted for this option over upgrading to the new LS27 or a used Ref 3 (as I couldn't find any that were reasonably priced or one owner with low enough hours IMHO). My LS17 only has about 200 hours on the clock, so rather than sell it and take a loss, I found the Signature Edition upgrade to be likely the most cost effective option in pairing with my new Ref 110 amp.
Hi Bavarian05 -
Curious, why were you looking to sell the LS17 after only 200 hours of listening? That just seems awful quick to want to get rid of the unit, unless you were not totally satisfied with the sonics.
does anyone know if the LS-26 is open for the same upgrade?
Sorry, I should have been more clear. The only reason I was considering an upgrade was to do justice to my recently purchased new ARC Ref 110 with KT-120's. I was not unhappy with the LS17 or its performance. I compared the LS17SE to the Ref 3 and while the size of the soundstage is definitely more spacious with the Ref 3, I found the sound to be very similiar in tonal quality. The ARC tagline of being cut from the same cloth is certainly true in my opinion. For me, taking into account the cost and the smaller size of my listening room, the SE upgrade seemed to make the most sense for me. Would I have liked a Ref 3? No question, as I would like to have had the balance control and tube hour counter, etc. but I couldn't justify the difference in cost for an older, used Ref 3 vs an upgraded relatively new LS17.
According to my coversations with ARC, they are only offering the SE upgrades to the LS17 linestage, the Ref 2 phonostage and the Ref 5 linestage only. The retail pricing will remain at $3995 for the LS17SE and the others have increased to $12,995. The SE models will all be standard models going forward. My understanding is that the Ref 2 and Ref 5 will include power supply upgrades along with the coupling cap upgrade, while the LS17 upgrade is only the new coupling caps. Hope this helps clarify.
Thanks Bavarian05, I completely understand.
In your opinion , what does the LS17SE do better than the standard LS17? understanding you have not heard it in the context of your own system yet?
Just curious to see if it has more bloom, is smoother, or more detail or maybe larger soundstage, etc....
thanks for the dope on the LS-26 not being the upgrade path. Guess when the time comes it will have to be a Ref 3 or maybe an LS-27...
This is very preliminary of course, as mine has maybe 5 total hours on the new caps. For lack of a better term, the sound is more fluid and "continuous" to my ears. I have not had enough time with different types of music yet, but with classical and jazz, it seems to have zero stridency with strings and the bottom edges of bass notes sound better defined. Transients on leading edges of strings seemed defined, yet smooth (if that makes any sense). It is not a night and day difference at this point, but certainly a noticable gain. I also really like the look of the new silver metal buttons with the black faceplate (subjective of course). A little more contemporary look. I am anxious for run in to occur, as by virtually all accounts, things will only improve over the next 300-600 hours with the new ARC Teflon caps.
I plan to update this thread as time goes on. My LS17SE has about 40 total hours of run in time since the SE upgrade was performed, and approx 250 total hours of run in on the unit as a whole. I am certainly not talented with words, so take this for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on listening in the context of my current system running fully balanced connections and includes ARC Ref 110 with KT-120's, B&W 805D's, Bryston BDP-1 and BDA-1 using Audioquest CV-8 and Columbia cabling. I'm very pleased with this upgrade. Soundstaging is deeper and more defined as you go farther back in the stage, though overall width at this point seems to be very slightly reduced. The general ARC large sound field is still present, and I assume this will improve and loosen up a bit as break in continues. The most pronounced change to my ears is the sheer density of tone and notes. I hesitate to caller it richer, as that can imply more tubey sound and that it certainly isn't. The entire range is more there and very rooted in space. The presence of singers and instruments has improved quite a bit over the standard LS17. For clarity, I was not aware this was even an issue or lacking at all until the SE upgrade came into play. Presence was always a strength of the standard unit in my opinion, and this upgrade has served to increase it by a good margin. The bass region has more authority also. Surprisingly, it almost sounds as if I added a subwoofer into the system. Again, it was not previously lacking in this department IMHO, but the density, definition and power in the lower octaves gives the impression and feel that bass improved and was increased. This is just my experience thus far. Hopefully this helps if anyone is considering the SE upgrade. As a point of reference, my Ref 110 has only 151 total time on the clock, so it also is still running in.
Thanks Bavarian05 - when you say it is more dense, but not richer. Is that maybe a blacker background and maybe a veil has been lifted somewhat?
Truthfully, I am not certain how to describe it. Richer would likely make sense, though in my experience, richer can be misconstrued to mean colored or having more bloom. It doesn't sound tubier and richer in the typical sense. The sound is more complete and is better defined, seeming to have a larger color pallete overall. This is perhaps an overstatement, but for lack of better analogy, its similiar in difference between 720p and 1080p. This could be due to or enhanced by a quieter background, though I dont really know how much coupling caps can effect the S/N ratio, etc. I dont want to speculate here, as my electrical knowledge doesn't run that deep. Overall it seems the colors are simply deeper and better defined. I hope this helps more than confuses. I will update again as I get more time logged with it.
As between Ref5se and 5, there is a greater palpability of all images. To the extent that prior ARC gear could be characterized as slightly on the lean side, the new caps fill in the boundaries of all images for a more natural and dynamic presentation. Images still "float" as before, but just a bit less so because the images are more rooted in their spaces. A very worthwhile tradeoff. I assume the differences described above apply to all ARC se upgrades which involve among other things-the new caps.
That was definitely a better explanation than I provided. Thank you for that. For clarity, the SE update to the Ref 2 and Ref 5 also include power supply upgrades and the cost is $2,500. The SE update to the LS17 only includes the new Teflon coupling caps and is $795. All three Signature Edition updates include the new faceplate and round metal buttons and are all performed factory direct.