Has anyone heard the new LS26? What are your thoughts?
Since no one else has responded I'll throw in my limited knowledge. I don't think this piece is a commercial reality yet. It does not show up on the ARC web site and I don't think they showed it at CES. The only place I have seen it is on the ARC Data Base (not affiliated with ARC). If someone knows this preamp is being sold please speak up!
Of course as soon as I say it isn't on the ARC web site it appears! Still doubt that anyone has bought this yet, but you never know!
Thanks, I was wondering how the LS26 stacks up to the Ref3.
Anyone heard the "Jr" yet?
For what it's worth, I bought an LS25mk2 last year after hearing the Ref3, even though I was guessing the LS26 was imminent. It came down a different sonic signature, and I know of others that prefer the LS25mk1 for similar reasons but in the other direction again from the LS25mk2. You may want to compare them before dropping the coin.
Ghunter, can you summarize the LS25 MKII vs. Ref3 sonic signatures? What are the strong/weak points of each? It would help many LS25 owners who might be considering a switch.
I had a Ref3 with a few hundred hours of burn-in on loan for a few days last year, a week after having the LS25mk2 on loan. My preamp at the time was the SP16L, but as stated above I now own the LS25mk2. Source was an ARC DAC-5, amp was an ARC VS110, speakers Totem Hawks.

The Ref3 just seemed an order of magnitude more detailed and precise, but the LS25mk2 had more warmth. I've heard similar comments be made about the LS25mk1 vs mk2 - that the mk1 is warmer and some people prefer it that way.

One feeling I got from the Ref3 was that of a mismatch with the rest of my gear. It's really tough to describe this, but the 25/2 just seemed to fit in much better with the signature of the rest of my chain. I would have given the Ref3 more serious consideration if I had the budget to drop another 20k into upgrades soon after, but that's a path I just didn't want to go down.

My advice to other LS25mk2 owners would be to consider the balance in your system and how the LS26 might change that. Go and listen to it, but be prepared to shift the rest of your system around a different sonic signature if that's the direction you want to move in.

This would be a much easier decision for someone wanting to move into ARC's midrange systems as they would probably already have multiple upgrade steps planned. The rumored replacement to the VT100 would probably be the best paired amp - I don't believe that the VS110 or VM220 would feel at home with the "new sound" given my experience.

For me, I will probably revisit the Ref3 in a year or two but only when I can hear it with a pair of Reference 210 power amps. I can't see moving sideways to the LS26, but I might be convinced to move the whole thing up to that next level. The problem there is that ARC doesn't seem to have anything in that next range - the Ref3/210 combo costs a whopping $30k! It's at that point that other alternatives will probably get auditioned first.

I hope that helps.
Good response Ghunter. I can relate to your last sentence as that was ultimately what I did with moving onto BAT, Aesthetix and CAT gear after being an ARC diehard for 15 years. And yes, such shifts can indeed require major changes elsewhere in the system.