Does the ARC LS 26/27 have a more tube-like sound than the BAT in general? What about soundstage, sense of attack, tonality, bass, etc...?
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I recently purchased an LS 26 for my bedroom system. It replaced a Jolida Fusion and was a big improvement, more detail and dynamics and a very noticeable improvement in the bass region. I've been wanting to swap it out with my Modwright LS 100 in my main system to see how it sounds there, but haven't had time to do so yet. The LS 27 is supposed to be even better than the LS 27. I would not describe the LS 26 as having an overly "tube-like" sound. Soundstage is a little hard to describe as it's in a small room, but I get a sense of the music being kind of "everywhere" with the LS 26.
No experience with the BAT.
Agree ARC preamps of today are more neutral than having a big tube sound of their past components. The latest ARC I’ve had in my system was a LS25 MKII, and it did nothing wrong and was very neutral but I found it cold compared to my previous ModWright preamp which I much preferred and moved up the ModWright chain.
I’ve listened to the current ARC preamps at local dealership and they’re very good so I don’t think you can go wrong with them. Can’t speak for the BAT but they always review well and have a loyal following.
Since you already have the Ref 110 I’m sure the ARC would be a safe bet. If you had a SS amp I’d think about other preamps but again nothing wrong with them on SS amps; just depends on what sounds right to you. I know many feel the ModWright LS36.5 sounds as good as the former ARC Ref preamps at much less cost so you might want to read up on that model as well. As big_greg mentioned the MW LS 100 is very good and has more of a tube sound than the LS36.5, the LS36.5 is a little more refined but again it’s all what you’re looking for. Also the LS100 has XLR input and output but I believe it’s just a single end with the jacks as the LS36.5 is balanced.
An ARC preamp seems like the logical choice. If I was going to have one ARC piece it would be a preamp. I have not heard the LS26. I spent a week or so with the LS27 when I was thinking of upgrading my LS25 mk2. I thought it was a sideways move. And in some ways preferred my LS25 mk2. I would look at one of the ARC Ref preamps, a Ref 3 or ultimately a Ref 5se. The Ref 5se is in a completely different league than the LS27. And the Ref 110 with the Ref 5se is a spectacular combination.
I have not heard the ModWright 36.5. Most of their dealers are in the pacific northwest. I wouldn't mind hearing one. But with only one balanced input, it would not be a good fit in my system.
The new MW LS 300 has two balanced inputs and outputs. Currently the one balanced input on my LS36.5 is enough but if I ever added a balanced phono preamp I’d probably just have to hear what component clearly deserves it.
My LS36.5 is the one box version. I’ve thought about sending it to Dan for the DM upgrade adding the separate power supply but it sounds so nice I just don’t have the urge. If I ever do I’d probably see if a used LS300 comes up for sale and go that route instead, but I’m very happy with it and probably upgrade something else first.
I purchased my LS36.5 direct from Dan as I don’t have a dealer anywhere nearby. I never asked him if I didn’t like it if I could return it, but Dan’s so easy to work with I bet he would if I covered the shipping.
Thanks for the feedback so far. I can't afford the Ref Series preamps right now so that's why I'm around $3k or below. The BAT VK31SE I wouldn't consider it really tubey but musical and relatively neutral. Of course this is my opinion. Would love to know how it compares to lets say LS27 in overall presentation.
I have never had any BAT equipment. I do own the Audio Research ls27 and it is a great preamp. It is not overly tubby at all, but it has a great midrange and I think it would be a great match for your Ref 110, which I have heard.
I once owned a VT100 MKIII power amp and as others have said the ref series is in another league, but I understand your plight and made the choice for the ls27 from a ls17se. ARC stuff works really well together. Good luck with whatever you choose and keep us posted.