Aric Audio's Motherlode II line-stage keep me up all last night

I received for review Aric Kimball’s new flagship line-stage the Motherlode II on Wednesday morning of this week. This beautifully built two piece (the massive power supply has its own chassis) went into one of my systems to burn-in/settle-in until I had a chance to have a lengthy listening session to get my first take on its performance. That turned out to be yesterday starting around six in the early evening. Well, I was so mesmerized by its performance I did not go to bed until four in the morning!

I have had the pleasure to review four different Aric Audio pieces in the past. Aric designs and builds some of the finest tube based amplifiers and line-stages on the market today for amazingly reasonable prices. Besides, he is totally "good people" with the strong suite of offering his customers first rate support of their Aric Audio purchase. He went "full monty" with the Motherlode II regarding parts quality, a short list of some of these are Khozmo volume control, Vishay resistors, special high-end caps, dual torodal power transformers, dual chokes, and a very innovative way to drive the pair of 6SN7 tubes to perform at their ultimate performance level.

Why was I up all night listening to this line-stage? It would have to be one of the most quiet/transparent tube based preamplifiers I have ever had in-house for review. This allowed all the micro-details to be easily heard. The overall speed, dynamics, aliveness it brought to the system were at the level of the finest tube or solid state line-stages regarding delivering the PRAT of the music being played. The Motherlode II created a large layered and realistic sound-stage with 3D imaging and air around each individual player. My favorite 6SN7 tube are NOS TungSol 1940’s Black Glass oval plates. When I put these tubes into the Motherlode II I heard the beautiful timbres and tonality that these tubes have to offer clearly coming through in the production of the music.

If you are looking for a tube based line-stage that will give you reference level performance in the price range right around $5000, take a look at Aric Audio’s website for all the details regarding the innovative design and the specific parts that are used in this piece. This linestage is a "killer" performer. This will be a fun and a total pleasure to continue to evaluate the Motherlode II and in the near future write my review on it.

Sorry guys,

For my typo in the title, it should be kept not keep! For some reason I could not correct it after the thread went up. But, I did share that I got very little sleep last night, so that's my excuse!
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@teajay I just wanted to thank you kindly for the nice words posted! I'm very stoked that you're digging the ML II thus far, and since you received a "fresh" build, I believe it will continue to open up even more in further hours. Best wishes! Aric
Spent another 15 to 20 hours listening to the ML II preamplifier this weekend. My cursory take on it has just being totally reaffirmed. As quiet as any Solid State line-stage I have ever had in-house. It rivals the speed and slam of my David Berning based ZOTL curcuit piece, and with the right 6SN7’s, for my taste 1940’s TungSol NOS Black Glass oval plate, produces both holographic imaging and a purity of tonality which is beautiful. It’s overall effortless and liquidity allows you to totally relax into the music.

I agree with rh67 that the pre-amplifier's physical appearance is quite attractive. Also, the remote control is very well built and its precise control of the volume allows you to get to the "sweet spot" very easily.
As the owner of the original Motherlode Preamp, this is bittersweet news indeed! However, I am far from surprised that Aric is building upon the foundation of his already legendary tube gear. I continue to be in awe of my Motherlode, and will have the slightest bit of envy for those who end up with the Lode II in their system.

Hey Laaudionote,

Your Motherlode is still a great preamplifier! You should give Aric a call so he can share with you what he has discovered to improve the overall performance of the ML to the ML II. Possibly, he could upgrade yours to the present generation.
The Stereo Times list of 2020 "MOST WANTED COMPONENTS" has just gone up on the website today. It includes the Motherlode MK-II preamplifier. The full review has been submitted and should be posted in the next few weeks. Congrats to Aric for receiving the award and building a great reference line-stage. By the way, I bought the demo piece, I did not want it to leave my house!
Hi Teajay, Thanks for the kind words and the heads up on the ML II "making the cut"! I'm really excited that you love the unit and am very appreciative of your willingness to give it a listen at the onset. Part of what brought this model to fruition was your critique of some of my earlier designs, which pushed me to set the bar higher! Best regards, Aric
Congrats Aric... a great, and well deserved, outcome from everything I've read about you and your products.
Teejay, how would you compare this Aric Audio preamp with the SS Coda FET 07x that you have also recently evaluated?
Sounds like an amazing unit, congratulations to Aric.  I would be curious how this compares to the Don Sachs linestage.
Thanks all for the very kind words, I really appreciate it and enjoy building these units. With a little bit of feedback from @teajay it's really helped me towards "getting it right". Best wishes, Aric
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In the last several months you have offered rave reviews of three preamps: The LTA MicroZOTL Reference, the Coda FET 07x, and now the Aric Audio Motherlode MK-II.

I trust your ears because we seem to hear similar things. The Tekton Ulfberht was a revelation to me, and I was shocked how much improvement I got when swapping out the Parasound JC2 for the LTA MicroZOTL Reference preamp.

I was disappointed in reading your latest review in Stereo Times that you made no reference whatever to the Coda FET 07x on which you heaped such heavy praise just a couple of months ago. Given that one is tubed and the other is SS I would have thought that a direct comparison between the two would have been highly informative and useful for consumers.
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I recently purchased an Aric Audio Motherlode II preamp to use in a system with Pass Labs 60.8 amps and Tannoy Kingdom Royal speakers. My sources vary from vinyl to CDs to streaming. I have been in the hobby for a very long time and have owned many preamps, many more expensive than the Motherlode II, but I must say this is my favorite. There is a good review on Stereotimes by the person who started this thread. Aric, the man behind the product, is great to work with and I could not be more pleased with the whole process of working with him. 
@jake18aa - congrats, you hit the Motherlode :)! Seriously though, congrats on your Aric preamp, and I couldn’t agree with you more! I have an upgraded, kicked up Aric Special 6SN7 preamp that gets pretty close to the Motherlode II, and it’s an end-game preamp for me and my ears. Spectacular! 

Howdy folks, I wanted to again say Thanks! - and also, wanted to post that I have the parts en route to relaunch the Special 6SN7 preamp with all of the upgrades that Mark1 has incorporated into his. It will be added to the website once time frees up to complete the build- probably 3 weeks or so. The price point will be a bit higher, but still well below the Motherlode II. On that note, I will be relaunching the Transcend 6SN7 linestage just after that, which will punch well above it's weight, and fill in the gap between the Unlimited II and Special 6SN7 for any who may have interest. Best wishes, Aric
Just ordered a Motherload 2 from Aric.  Obviously can’t comment on sound quality yet, but he has been great to deal with.  Extremely responsive to my many emails, both before and after purchase!  Customer service as good as I’ve ever seen. Ted
As someone who has worked with Aric before and owns the ORIGINAL Motherlode, I still cannot be more pleased with my work of audio art! As all other components in my system have come and gone, The Lode sits in the same place as it did when I placed it there nearly four years ago. Aric is a rare asset in our esoteric community!

I hope that Jake and Ted enjoy their new gear as much as I continue to do so!
It’s been a while since I hooked up my Motherload 2.  It is amazing!  I can only compare it to 3 other preamps,

NBS 6h30.  ML is as linear and dynamic, but somehow softer(?) natural(?)
Primaluna Diologue.  ML provides greater separation, clarity.
Pass XP12.   ML much more dynamic, present.
Motherload is as quiet as any of the above, its dead quiet with my 99db sensitive speakers.
the adjustable gain 5-30db(?) is a great feature that allows any amp pairing, the remote is simple and feels good in your hand, not a cheesy plastic thing. And, it is beautiful. I have mine on top of cabinet and it is a beautiful piece.
Aric is great and easy to work with, everything went according to the schedule he provided.
i would encourage anybody to at least investigate his products, he shows pics of insides on website so you can see the engineering.  It’s a great product, check him out!
It’s no surprise around this place that I am a big fan of Aric.  I recently began my search for a “forever “ preamp.  A new Motherload was definitely way out of budget.  I had narrowed my search to an AricAudio Transcend 6sn7  linestage, or  Supratek Chardonnay.  While deciding which direction to go,last night a used Very lightly used Motherload II came up for sale at the absolute very top of my budget. I pulled the trigger and should have it on Tuesday. I’m really looking forward to getting this in my main system.  
I just received my lightly used Motherlode II. I've got about 30 minutes on it and,WOW! The build quality is exceptional. The sound quality is simply stunning,and my F5 isn't even fully warmed up yet! More impressions to come............
@rocray that's great news, and I'm very glad to hear you found a lightly used ML II that fit into the budget you had set! 
For anyone that would like to check out some of my current builds, or to see what's under the hood on my products, I have a new Facebook page at the link below which I would like to invite you to! The link is here:
I’ve had the Motherlode II in my main system for eleven days. Wow! This pairs so wonderfully with the First Watt F5. The texture,the layers,the soundstage, all incredible. I was looking for an endgame preamp,and I truly believe I’ve found it. Once the temp cools down,I’ll be putting my FW J2 back in the main system. I’m certain this will also be a great match.  
     This is my first taste of a 6sn7 tubed pre. It came from the seller with a pair of Ken Rad 6sn7’s from Brent Jesse. At this point,I really don’t see a need to try rolling anything else. Mildly stated,I am one happy camper! 

Reviving an old thread I came upon while reading about Aric’s preamps. I have the Custom 300B pset and couldn’t leave well enough alone. The amp sounds so good I thought to myself, how good would it sound with a kick ass preamp. So, I spoke to Aric and decided to go with the Super 6sn7 Line Stage. A few upgrades will be added and it should be done in a few weeks or so. Very psyched. 
Also wanted to add I recently put my Synthesis push pull back into the mix. I’m amazed having had a Rotel for 25 years, Synthesis tube amp and now a Aric Audio 300B how different they are. The Synthesis reminded me of what push pull has to offer. That “push”, more watts as well, just gives it that drive for rock and roll. But, after listening to the 300b, it’s the sound I want forever. The clarity, realism and effortless sound is so wonderful. I will add my impressions after listening to the preamp a bit. 

@earthbound Looking forward to your impressions of the latest version of your Super preamp. I own Aric's special, an early version of the Super. Planning on Aric upgrading some parts on it. 

Looking forward to seeing what it adds to the sound. Some want completely passive. I would like to think this will add dynamics or range. Who knows? I can’t imagine anything other than adding more goodness to something that already is great. 

@mesch : Which parts are you thinking about upgrading? Transformers, coupling caps, resistors? Thanks. Jeff

Hey yobi. Aric added quite a lot on the amp and I asked if it was a good idea to match upgrades. He suggested Jupiter copper foil caps, Clarity Cap TC capacitors and transformer. I’d have to go back to the amp notes to see which transformer he upgrades to. Also, the khozmo upgrade. 

@yoby I was going to have the variable gain control replaced with a resistor based one and upgrade capacitors and resistors.  

I believe Aric posted the amp with many of the updates on his Facebook page if you’re interested. 

I love mine. Have Linlai Globes in it. Check out my system page. I need more up-close photos of it.

I get an error message bugredmachine. I’d love know know your system. I have used the 6sn7 Linlai’s in the amp. Will be cool to hear the difference when shifted from amp to preamp. This will be my first tube preamp and I’ve read that tube rolling can have a significant impact on the overall sound. 

@bugredmachine: Awesome system! I also use an Adona rack. What shelves are those you have? I use upgraded ones from Marigo Audio, along with their upgraded sub-platform footers. Do you find that the Shakti stone that sits on your preamp transformer causes too much heat build up? I like what the Shaktis do for transformers but, I had overheating problems when used on my tube poiwer amps. Good listening. Jeff


I had a Sachs and really liked it, BUT, for the life of me I could not eliminate the noise it sent through the tweeters. I tried every trick in the book and eventually gave up. I had even wrapped it in Sapele Pommele veneer as I had enjoyed it so much at the start. I became frustrated over time when the linlai tubes were a rage and they would not play without horrific noise issues. Don guided me to make some internal adjustments but they failed to produce good results.

I sold it to a happy user in Florida and ordered a Motherlode 2 to pair with my Coda amp. Then I moved and the MOtherlode remained in the unopened box for months. I finally finished my new system in Tennessee and the Aric preamp is extremely quiet and as musical as the Sachs. I have no issues whatsoever and really like the fit and finish.

Aric was great to deal with and builds a very high quality unit. You will not be disappointed.

Still very,very pleased with my Motherlode II.  It pairs wonderfully with the two First Watt amps I run. (J2,and F5)  I have zero desire to replace it.  


I purchased many, and I mean many, butcherblock slabs over the years for isolation on the Adona racks and on the floor, etc. I just put small rubber bumpers or equivalent Vibrapods between the steel and wood. 

No heat build-up on my components, even the Coda at Class A runs cool to the touch. Over time I bought a bunch of the Shakti's and just throw them on for added absorption.

I'll tell you what fells, the biggest improvement I have every experienced is cabling. These JPS Aluminata cables have transformed my sound - eliminated electrical noise, increased bass output, and thrown the soundstage outside the speakers. Simply the best sound I have ever had. I'm looking for another Aluminata power cable as we speak.

@bugredmachine : So those shevles underneath the Motherlode II preamp are butcher block shelves that have been painted black?