I am looking for a second hand preamp to my SONY SCD-555ES player(moded European model with balanced outputs), ARC CL-120 amps(balanced), Proac One Sc speakers set up.

I have two offers: ARC LS5 MKIII and LS25MKII for roughly the same price.

Would need the help of those who had the chance to compare these preamps or owned them.

Any comment would be welcomed!

Since I've never heard, much less owned, either piece you should take my comments as hear-say (or heresy, if you prefer). I believe the general feeling is that the LS-5 is one of the all time greats from ARC. Bear in mind that it has XLR (balanced) inputs and outputs ONLY. If you need RCA ins/outs in the future, this could be a problem as it's not as simple as using adapters. Leonard at ARC can explain why.
Definitely LS5.
Since you have balanced components already, I would take the LS5. You could then get a hold of some 7308/6922 tubes to replace the Sovteks, assuming that is what you're getting.

If you want to continue spending like the rest of us, you can send the unit to Steve Huntley at GNS & he can replace the power cord with an EIC plug.

There's no end to it.

LS-5 Mklll yes!yes! definately. Especially the Mklll. Go balanced. Get yourself the Siemens 7308 gold pins and boy your set! I'm envious man!
I was a happy and proud owner of the LS5 II / III for almost 8 years. It's good to hear my old LS5 III is being enjoyed so much, Steve. Sounds like you have had it modified and retubed. Very cool. And Ken, no need to be envious, get to it and get one for yourself! You should have done this before all the amps and speaker swaps. And after the LS5, the PH2 is even more the impressive phono stage and an absolute steal at recent used prices of $750! I do not know of a better line/phono combination for the $$ than this. And throw in a VT130 and woo hooo, the magic can be breathtaking.
John - I own the LS5 MKII, how would you describe the difference between the MKII and MKIII versions?

Thanks, Ken
I also owned many ARC pre amps. Hands down the LS-5MKlll, I almost sold it to get the Reference One until I did a in home comparison. The LS-5 is one of the best pre amps ARC has ever made.
LS5 great musical piece

LS25 isn't in the same league

I have lols of experience with the SP-10, LS5 II and III as well as comparing these to the Ref1 which was quite a disappointment .... you would think such a higher priced model would bring on even greater refinements but it simply was not there.

As I understand from going to the ARC dealer back in 97 to hear my then II vs the newer III, the III was a result of the efforts of the Ref1. But time after time, at the dealer and at another person's house who had the Ref1 and and LS5 III on loan, the LS5 III just had more emotional impact. And it had incredible resolution as did the Ref1.

The II vs III comparison at the dealer made it very clear the II had greater resolution. I remember hearing subtle differences in a singer's tone with the III that were hard to hear with the II. And the III had a more coherent tonal balance while the II tended to bring the upper freqs a little more forward. But the sonic signatures were much the same. This was 97.

In 2001, I contacted a local (Minneapolis) audiophile who was selling his III. I had the II at this time. He brought the III over. We let the units warm up for an hour or so and switched back and forth. The exaggerated sibilance of the II became apparent...almost to a point of an annoyance once the smooth and natural top end of the III had been heard. The II did seem to have a little more extension and definition in the extreme lower frequencies. The mids were virtually identical....that awesome LS5 and SP-10 signature. I ultimatel bought his III and sold my II.

The $1500 that ARC charged for II to III upgrades back in the late 90s I simply could not justify. But today, the price difference tends to be $500 on the used market which I think is a great value. But with II's going for $1700-1800 these days, there is no other value in an ARC line stage that comes close. Don't even bother with the 15, 16, 22 as none of these have the magical ambience and harmonic richness quality of the LS5.

I have since changed to the BAT 31SE which had a whole slew of refinements over the LS5 III. But I will always remember the LS5/PH2 as the greatest value in a preamp that I ever owned.

The other product that you may want to listen to is the BAT VK5i. I never had a chance to A/B this with the LS5 but always wanted to.

I am using the ARC PH2, LS25MKI and the VT100MKII. The combination (using NOS 6H23 Sovtek tubes) is very satisfying. I agree with Jafox that the PH2 is an excellent phono stage that is not well known because it is completely balanced. I bought the PH2 new for about $2500 nine years ago and I have no desire to "upgrade".

I personally do not like the tonal balance of the LS25MKII. It is not as liquid sounding (musical) as the LS5MKIII or the LS25MKI. The LS25MKII is a hybrid design that uses both FETs and the 6H30 tubes.

I would recommend either the LS5MKIII or the LS25MKI (with 6H23 Sovtek tubes). Please note, however, that the LS5 is all balanced whereas the LS25 will accomodqte both RCA and XLR connections.
I also like LS5, still have LS5II playing at my home. On the contray as John, I did try BAT 31SE but keep LS5. Maybe LS5 is better match to my system, and I like sound to be a little warm. BAT just remind me too much of a ss.
Gee wiz John..give a guy a break. I was only adding my $.02 fwiw to be of help.I didn't know the "ARC audio geru" was watching!! Yikes!....LOL...kidding JA! Hope your well John!

Anyway..I think my "envy" is really only enthusiasium for a perspective buyer of some very nice equipment and knowing the joy that ARC offerings bring to a system. I deeply respect your comments and advice because you have had the opportunity to "in home" many fine components over the years. But, please dont worry about me, I am very happy now that I've made some changes in amps and speakers and my modded LS 15 with the NOS tubes, and run balanced sounds very, very, good. Perhaps the stock unit is not quite as musical and liquid..I would agree. But many stock units can be brought to life with the right massaging. Yes.. the LS5Mk3 is better( now only marginally though if at all in my case) I heard so much improvement over stock that I swore they tore out and replaced everything!...but, at the time, my situation was not right to go out and get the LS5 and change all my gear, and connects to true balanced designs. can trust the post made here regarding the comments of the LS5...All this hoopla should give you proof how good the LS5Mk3 really is..Listen to Jafox, as he has spent extensive time and man hours comparing various pieces, many of the ARC components he has personally owned. His ears can be trusted

Yes, I also support JA's opinions.

Thanks again for the LS5, John.

Thanks all of you for the valuable comments, now I know which way to go... :>)

Yes- the way to go: LS5 mk3 or LS25 mk1.
Ken Ken Ken...Kehut, you're so funny. I'm warning you, if you take an LS5 home, you're gonna smile....until you have to have to pay for it....but you will keep it!

Bluefin: Yes, absolutely system synergy is important here. I think of the LS5 as a front row presentation whereas the 31SE is more middle of the theatre. It's really all what you like and how it balances with other components. Just be careful with Cardas Golden Cross here: it is addicting at first, but it can be too much of a good thing quickly and much detail is lost.

At the time I changed from LS5 III to 31SE, I had the BAT 10 phono, ARC CL150s and Counterpoint NPS400 driving Talon Khorus and/or Maggie 3.5s. The LS5 was not a very good match with the CL150s as the combination made the presentation a bit too forward. The VT130 is much better balanced than the CL150s in this regard. The NPS400 has even great tonal balance than the VT130 but it gives up some of that awesome harmonic richness of the VT130. It really is about fine tuning the system and not too focused on any one link for long.

Comparing the 31SE to the LS5 III at home and at a dealer, in both cases, the 31SE had so much more extension in the lowest octave. And there was an incredible coherency across the entire band with the 31SE.

When I went to the BAT dealer, he demoed a jazz track where we could hear a string bassist slowly going up and down the register...with the 31SE you could hear a few extra notes at the bottom vs with the LS5 III. I was greatly impressed by this. He did another demo of an old jazz track where you could hear tape hiss as background noise. With the 31SE, that band of hiss went fully across the speakers which made it easier to tune out. With the LS5 III, the hiss was very much more localized at the speakers and at a higher level which made it not so easy to tune out. Coherency, smoothness and naturalness are words that come to mind with the 31SE. As for ambience, bloom, 3D, decay, etc., all the great strengths of the LS5, the 31SE sacrificed none of these in either of the 2 systems. I never felt like I was listening to a solid state preamp like the LS2, 15, 22, etc., make me feel.

It's so cool to hear how everyone here is so happy with the sound of their systems.

My experience is with 30SE not 31SE, sorry for the error. BAT is a very good preamp, in several ways it is better than LS5. Bass is better control, I think, that's why John hear better image across spectrum on the demo. Overall it is more transparent and has very refined top end and bass control is top notch for a tube gear. LS5 is more bloom and lush in the middle frequency, and I am a middle freq guy and not care so much about details or air. I prefer that warm sound of LS-5 or SP-10, to me this is the "tube sound". I did not mean BAT sound like a bad ss, but I mean a good ss. Just different flavor, I will compare BAT xxSE to the highly regarded C-J ART-I (ss) or Accuphase top end preamp. Many good ss preamp sounds awesome too.
I have the LS5MKIII - and when I originally auditioned it against the Ref 1 (home demo) thought the 5 was much more soulful. Had Steve at GNS put in IEC for aftermarket cords and had ARC put Infinicaps in. Suspect it'll be a legacy piece of gear I keep for a long long time. DO wish it had remote and have had occasions to wish for rca ins and outs too, but, for 99% of the time, it's love.

Best Regards,

Hi Bob,

What power amp do you partner with the your LS5-MKIII?
I am wonder if my CL's will match it.

Also did you replace standard factory tubes to some NOS tubes?

Hey bluefin, thanks for the clarification. Oh yes, I agree with your findings on the 30SE. It is in fact the 30SE that I started with when I traded the LS5 III to another memeber here, Steve.

When I received the 30SE, all of the incredible three dimensionality I had for years with the LS5 III was gone.
And Steve had told me this was an issue with him but he had heard rumors that the 31SE resolved this problem. This was indeed right as I knew I would upgrade to 31SE once I heard the side-by-side comparison of the 30SE vs 31SE at the BAT dealer.

The 30SE indeed has a severe rolloff on the top. Not only does this take away the extention in the upper frequencies, but it also takes away so much of the harmonic richness that models like the LS5 show through so well. But the 31SE resolves this issue very well. So if you ever get a chance, just out of curiosity, take your LS5 to a BAT dealer and have a listen to the two.


John described the transaction as it occured and both of us ended up winners.

If I didn't have an ARC amp, I would have kept the 30se & had it converted to the 31se. I made the switch to the LS5 because of the percieved synergy with a balanced ARC amp. Now that I have ProAc speakers (R 3.8's) the synergy really shines through. I wish I had a 31se to compare to, unfortunatley there aren't any BAT dealers in the Chicago area.

As far as the GNS upgrade, I had an EIC installed and I'm using a Cardas Golden Reference PC, had the power supply beefed up & have Cardas Caps. I'm using Siemens 7308's or
Telefunkens. I'd like to try the Tungrsram ECC88's since they are more reasonably priced and I've seen them pop up on Audiogon recently. I'm using a set of them in a BAT P10 phono and they have exceptional low noise.

CSABA, sorry if some of us got off on a tangent, but you started great thread.

Steve- I used Tungsrams in my LS15 for about a year.In a word...detail,detail and more detail. VERY transparent tube with excellent bass. BUT... They are not as sweet and warm in mids and highs. I put Siemens gold pin 7308's recently and feel they offer the better balance without losing detail and transparency. At the price of what the Tungs are going for though, they are worth trying for sure. But I feel they are not in the league with the
Thanks Ken.

I also use the Seimens 7308 as driver tubes in my amp. They were the richest sounding as compared to Amperex and the telefunkens.
Hi, I had LS-15 before and thought the mid sounds better after infi-cap upgrade, and remember to put in SIEMENS tubes(try bugle boy if you want warm sound LS15). The bass is not as full and musical as LS5. BAT 30SE's bass is not as loud but a good control. AT some point, I have LS-15, LS5, and BAT 30SE at home. LS5 and early LS-15 came out before this power cable thing, so change it to IEC for experimenting power cable would be fun. That's my next plan. One good (yet bad?) thing about 6922 is that there are so many different brands you can try.
BAT you can try different cable even their web site said no difference (to my ears they are less sensitive to power cable than LS15, but I won't say no difference).

John, thanks I will audit 31SE if having chance. LS25-II has a astonishing bass (I hear once in dealer place), and it seems quicker and share some charater with BAT (they all use 6H30 I think, maybe I am wrong). The gear then is so different from mine, so I can't comment too much without living with LS25 for some time.