ARC LS26 vs Ref 2 Mk 2

Hi all,

I am considering buying a tube preamp to replace my Krell KRC-HR. I tried out my friend's ARC LS5, and while impressed by it's dimensionality and inner detail, I found it to be a bit hazy compared to the Krell's inky black background.

I am considering either a brand new ARC LS26 or a used ARC Ref 2 Mk 2 for the same price. Home audition of the Ref 2 is not possible.

Could anyone with experience of both please share their opinions? Musicality is my number one priority.

Thanks in advance
No experience with the Ref2 but I have lived with the LS-26 for about 8 months and simply love it. The word "hazy" would not be used in the description of it.

Is there any way you can audition one?
Hi Mick,

I cannot really point you in one way or the other on these two choices. I would recommend that you listen if you can, obviously the LS-26 is your best opportunity there. The reason being that the LS-5 was based on the 6922 tube, which has many substitutions. The Ref 2 mk II and the LS-26 ar based on the 6H30 tube, which really have no substitution. So the haze that you found on the LS-5 could be related to the 6922 tubes (age, poor quality, etc). The LS-5 mk II/III have a great reputation to be sure, but tube choices are so important here. E-mail Audiogon member Jafox offline if you need more info here.

All of that being said, if it were me, I would probably go with the ARC Ref 2 mk II because of the tube power supply. As a 30 year 'audionut', and a owner of the ARC Ref 3, I firmly believe that the tubes in the power supply are just as important to attaining the 'tube sound' as the tubes in the output stage. Also, if it did not work for whatever reason, I could re-coup more of my investment on the Ref 2 mk II than a LS-26.

Happy hunting,


PS: The word 'hazy' absolutely cannot be connected to the Ref 3. I have a feeling that your friend's LS-5 may have had tube issues.
Presently I own the Ref 3 having previously owned the Ref 2 Mk ll (which BTW I loved). I never thought ARC would be able to improve upon the Ref 2 Mk ll which replaced my Krell KPS 25sc and before that the KRC-HR. All of these were great preamps.. Personally I don't believe that there is a better preamp than the Ref 3. However a very close runner up is the LS 26 which IMO is indeed a better preamp than the Ref 2 Mk ll. The LS 26 has much of the topology of the Ref 3 for 1/2 the price. If you were to never hear the LS 26 you would be very happy with the Ref 2 Mk ll but side by side for music the LS 26 would be the one that I would buy.

Thank you for your responses. I guess the most sensible option is the LS26 seeing as I can probably get a home audition when I'm ready to plonk down the cash.

Oneobgyn, I have just finished reading about your amazing journey, i.e the evolution of your system and the friendships made along the way. I wish I lived in your neck of the woods!

Did you hear the LS26 in your system? In what ways did you feel it bettered the Ref 2?

Also I'm curious as to what are your favourite go-to recordings and what in particular do you listen for in them

Thanks again to all of you
Kind Regards
Hi Mickey

I have been into this hobby for the past 35 years and have owned countless systems. For me honestly the journey is over and I have reached my destination. I am content with my system as it always continues to evoke a toe tapping experience. I heard the LS 26 vs the Ref 2 Mk ll at a dealer's listening room. To me there was better openess and soundstage with the LS 26. It very much resembles the Ref 3 at half the price.

I have countless go-to records when our audio club gets together for a listen. Well recorded music will always show off a system for either better or for worse. A very good friend of mine who started a high end audio store here in the SF Bay area always brought with several records when he went to client's homes to listen to their system. Each was a compilation of different music to highlight different aspects whether it be vocals, strings drums etc. He would always comment that by listening to so many systems the only thing which would remain constant is the music. Over the years I have produced several CD's which I take with me to other people's systems. If you send me a private e-mail with your address I would be happy to make you copies for your enjoyment. Bear in mind however that one man's passion is another man's poison. IOW we don't all like the same music. As to what I really find well recorded is anything on XRCD (latest being XRCD 24). IMO a well recorded XRCD disk usually always betters the same disk recorded in SACD. I always try to find these disks in the IMPORT version which you can get on, or places such as etc. If you are ever in this area I would be happy to have you over for a listen. This is a hobby where great friendships are made.
The Audio Research website states that the LS-26 out-performs the Ref2 Mk2.

I had the Ref2 Mk2 for a couple of years and it was can't go wrong with it. I'm sure if you chose the LS26, you'd love it too. Both units are a win win situation for you.

I now own the Ref3.

who are you kidding when you say your journey is over. I certainly hope you don't believe it !
My dad is waiting on his Ref 3 to be delivered, when talking to a friend he assumed my dad had the 26, but he owns the 16 now.
What was interesting is he claimed there are a few opinions that the 26 and Ref2 are pretty similar, he used the phrase "kissing cousins" at any rate that is one take I heard on the two.
I cant wait to visit my father to hear the leap that pre will provide in his system performace, it should be fun!
hi Mick,just bought a ref. 2 mk2....just installed Russian NOS tubes,and it is warming up as i's balanced to a Bryston 14bsst,Raysonic CD128,and PMC IB1's,
the eagles are on a Anthem D1 for a comparison.
i will let u know what i think.
Hi Mclsound,

Thanks to you, and to everyone who replied, for your input.
I ended up buying the LS26 about six weeks ago, and it is just fantastic. Absolutely a whole new level up from my old pre, the KRC-HR, in every possible way.

Given how how much better the ARC seems to be than the Krell, I'm very tempted now to explore the possibility of replacing my Krell power amp (FPB300) with a tube power amp. An obvious contender would be the ARC Ref110, but I might go with an older used ARC like the VT150, as that would save me some hard earned cash.

maybe the warmth of ARC and detail of Krell is a good combo to consider before you change.