ARC LS26 versus Cary SLP-05

I am trying to figure out a preamp for a system that I am putting together. While I know I may have to do some selling and swapping to get the right fit, I am trying to minimize the amount of that I have to do. Here is the system: Magnepan 20.1 (on order), Cary 500MB (500w/ch solid state monoblocks), Cary 306 Professional SACD/CD player, and amp tbd. I have a local ARC dealer (from whom I am buying the Maggies) who can arrange an in house tryout for an ARC LS17 as he has that in stock, but not the 26 which seems like is universally praised. I do like the sound of the LS17 as I heard it being fed by a dcs stack ($50,000!). Anyway, I listen to primarily classical (all sorts) with some jazz thrown in. I have extensive experience in live classical music performance (as a participant) and value sound that is musical, lifelike, not harsh in the highs, and with a realistic soundstage (one of the main attractions of the maggies). Price seems about equal for these two units on the used market. I could buy a Cary, audition an LS17, and sell the Cary if I liked the ARC better, but then I would feel guilty not buying from the ARC dealer and, of course, then the LS26 would be more $$. Anyway, thanks for any thoughts.
I do appreciate the ethical stance. I also understand business. Business as it pertains to audio system building and the synergy one seeks in the doing. Dealers too should be aware of that aspect and I believe they are. Doubtless too, NO SALE is disappointing in any event.

Honesty is the key. Try the thing, and be 100% honest up front and thru the demo, with the dealer, the preamps, and yourself. If it's a money matter indeed, you likely already have your answer. meaning you can do one, but maybe not the other... well, it's simpler, huh?

Integrity in business dealings on both behalfs won't take either party far wrong if at all.

An/or if $$$ isn't the main thing here, take the longer route by getting the lesser priced Cary in andd compare the two with the nod going to the actual performance champ. If not the Cary, sell it later.

Not knowing right off which costs what, I'd say something in the Cary line should provide some degree of built in synergy, without giving the matter much thought.

...and there are other preamps that I believe will do well too, although you seem to have settled on these as your now favs.

Good luck.
Short and Sweet...LS26 and never look back.
Just fyi: there is an LS26 or two available now on Audiogon for around $4,000. There is a Cary SLP-05 also available for $4,000. The LS17 ARC lists for $4,000 new. ARC Reference 3 is just over $6,000 used on Audiogon and a bit more than I want to spend, I think.
LS26 for sure:)
get the LS-26. I auditioned the 17, 26 and ref 3 and while I would have dearly loved the ref 3 the LS-26 won out do to budget restraints. My buddies and I felt the 26 was well worth the extra money over the 17.
What will prevent me from buying less than the LS26 is the beautiful front panel. It's similar to the Ref3 which I like very much. I know the panel has nothing to do with the sound but I like ergonomics and aesthetics too. The LS26 and Ref3 have those plus great sound in spades.
Both of them are great preamplifier, and have their own house sound. I had a chance to compare LS-17 and Cary SLP-98 "A" to "B", and found ARC sound a little bit dry and analytical to my taste, Cary is more sweet. I ended up with Cary SLP-05 from Audiogon.
I'd suggest to find a way to audition both (not necessarily in your house).
I can not give you advice about money and your dealing with dealers.
BTW, what did you do with your EAD? My Ovation in the attic now.
Well, I actually have two EAD's, an Ovation and a Noble Electronics modded classic Signature with a gold front. I am debating which EAD to sell and the other will be upstairs with the surround sound five channel (Vienna Acoustics Beethoven mains)and TV setup. The Ovation is less good sonically, but it uses conventional remote options and thus it can be programmed into our universal remote. The Signature uses the old heavy black remote that for whatever reason cannot be programmed into a universal remote. My wife likes the convenience of the universal remote, and for HT, the sound is less crucial than for stereo. I really think that the Signature is a terrific sounding unit and makes for a nearly ideal combination HT/stereo piece. Still, it will not process anything higher than DTS and HDCD formats and has no analog pass throughs to allow SACD resolution or the new DD/DTS formats either. Thus, while a classic unit, it is a bit limiting since I want to explore SACD, 24/96 and 24/192 audio and cannot do that on the EAD. I will compare the EAD Signature with the new units on red label to see how it holds up. Do you know Greg Palma at Noble Electronics? He is a great guy and a fabulous resource for all things EAD.
1 more cheer for the LS26, "Hip Hip....."
Given the acclaim here for the LS26. I would ask how many of those proponents for it use it with SS amps, as your intention is to do just that?

I'm sure not ragging here on the mentions, just bringing this up as none have said they pair their 26 with SS + panels.

For myself, the whole deal is a mix with a desired end result. If pure tube sound with speed and resolution are key for you, more so than full remote control functionality, I'd look for a Thor TA 1000 MK II for just over half of that $4K tag, or less, and as some have said, "Never look back". 4 tubes... outboard power supply... and remote vol. outstanding sound, regardless the genre, with SS or tube. Albeit without trying Maggies on the end, I can only speculate there, but it has tons of speed, and harmonic truth.

I found it superior to the Better CJ models, C5, C6, and Cary 05. I've not heard the AR. Functionality is limited. Mark Michelson had one and only traded for a sideways step by going with a VTL 7.5, saying the 7.5 wasn't truly better, just different, and had more remote functionality... source switching, phase, on/off...

Given the 7.5's entry fee and rep, that is saying something.

if truly balanced operation is desired and not psuedo balanced, the BAT vk51SE are super preamps according to the owners I've spoken with privately. it also is fully functioning via remote.

A VAC ren MK II or Jotis preamps could do well for you too. I've seen them in that range before.
I've just added an LS-26 to my system, running it into a 150.2. Simply fantastic. I would echo what has been said here and elsewhere--the LS-26 is a beautifully made, well designed, great sounding preamp. Having said that, I have found that pairing components from like manufacturers has it's benefits and so would advise you to look carefully at the Cary.
I am surprised by the landslide voting results thus far! I figured more would say that both are great but for "synergy" get the Cary or some such. Also, the 05 is Cary's top of the line compared to the LS26 which is one down from ARC's top. I guess that most feel that the LS26 really does represent a value for its price and can hang in there with the heavy weights. A reference 3 would be even better, I guess, but I think the price is a tad high for me. I have read that a new Reference model might be coming--perhaps at CES, but this is just conjecture. Perhaps I should hold off a couple of weeks and see as that might influence the market for second hand Ref 3's....
I was wondering how many of the LS26 fans have spent time comparing it to the Cary 05, and why they like the LS26 so much more?
I have heard the Cary in a Cary system and the music was very good.
I have an all-Cary front end (CD 306, SLP-05, CAD-211AE) and at times I have felt that the music has a bit too much "Cary-ness". I have managed to dry up the sound a bit by tube rolling, so the balance now is close to where I want it. Depending on the balance of your system, you may suffer the same problem if you get the SLP-05. You decide whether you want your system to have more of that Cary sound or less :)

By the way - are you running balanced I/C's? My system made a vast improvement going from RCA to XLR. So much more dynamic. I can't speak for the LS26, but if you get the SLP-05, make sure you run it balanced.

Cheers and Merry Xmas to you :)
Thanks for the comments, Amfibius. Yes, I fully intend to run balanced. It may, for reasons of WAF (or SAF) be necessary to run 15-25 feet from preamp to amps so I will definitely want to be running balanced. It may not, but I don't see any reason to not used balanced connectors.

Thanks and best wishes to you (and all) for a happy holiday season:)
LS-26 is a great value, and much easier to sell as well. I have tried SLP-98 in my system with Cary 500MB monos and found it too dark and muddy sounding. Interestingly, I also got large hum from the speakers (a ground loop of some sort ?) when running SLP-98 and 500MB in unbalanced mode. I have never got tris problem with my Ref 3 (unbalanced or balanced).

I have never had a chance to compare LS-26 vs SLP-05, but based on my limited expirience I would get LS-26 and keep the 500MB (they were outstanding driving both Audiostatic and Magnepans 3.6 in my system).
I think it really depends on what sound you are after. I have owned the ARC 26 and a Cary SLP-98 (have listened to the 05 but never lived with one).

The ARC is definetly more analytical and less "tube-like" than the Carys. The 98 is more of a classic tube sound with lots of bloom and warmth. The 05 would fall in the middle of the three. The Carys offer bigger soundstages in my experience.

Both are very well made and have nice features and I doubt you would be disappointed with either. Obviously you like the Cary house sound so that may help the decision... however as some have mentioned it may be too much of a good thing.

I think what you hear with the 17 would be a great indicator of what you will hear with the 26 so I would give it a try and see how you like it. If you like it, you will like the 26 even more.

Hope it helps a little...
I ended up picking up an ARC Reference 3. Sounds pretty great so far (system set up yesterday) with the only annoyance being that the display on the preamp is noisy (so I set it to be off). Thanks all for the helpful advice. I would love to try the Cary and will if the opportunity arises for a comparison, but for now I am content.
Now do yourself a favor, and replace the stock 6550 tube in the PS with NOS TungSol Black Plate from the 50s - the difference is not subtle !
Where and for how much can I get one of those magic tubes?:)