Audio Research comparison

I'd still like to get an un-biased comparison of the old Audio Research Power Amps: VT100 MkII, VT200, REF300 and the newer solid state input versions. I have heard opinions, but they have all been self serving. So I'd like to hear from someone who has really compared the two designs. Also I'm interested in the comparison of the new pre-amp designs with the older ones LS-25 Ref2 with the MkIIs.
There is no comparison. The newest versions which use the "super tube", are in a different league. Sonically they are much more accurate, much quieter and much faster.

The difference is even bigger in the preamps, when it comes to the REF2 and the REF2 MKII. There was a mid bass bloat which seems to have disappeared as well as a lowered noise floor.
i recently went with a couple guys from this site and did an a/b with the LS25, LS25mkII and the ref2mkII.

the ref2mkII is in a whole different universe. Amazing.

No one liked the LS25mkI. Very thin, weak bass...the LS25mkII was a SUPER improvement, more involving, better bass, the music just had more mass with a deeper soundstage and all were impressed. i came close to love but i only had eyes for the ref2mkII after she showed her stuff.

if you do a search of arc 24 bat 50 you'll find the thread.

hope that helps
Hi Kublakhan,

Does the AR Ref. MK II pre use a single gain stage with no cathode follower like the BAT VK-50SE pre?

the only arc preamp that was made without a cathode follower was the SP12 from the 80s.

in the demo we did out here 4 of the 6 of us preferred the arc ref2mkII to the BAT50se but we were listening on a pair of arc300s. apparently there's synergy when using the bat pre with the bat amp so maybe the comparison wasn't a fair one. they're both amazing preamps however and if you're offering, i'll accept either. :)
This thread demonstrates, again, how subjective and system dependent component evaluations in this hobby can be. I own both the LS25 MKI and VT100 MKII versions. I am using NOS tubes in my LS25. I have heard the new version with the FET low level input and 6H30 tubes. Technically, the VT100 MKIII my be better than the MKII, however I found the MKII version to be more musically satisfyiing: to wit, more liquidity and a sweeter top end. In so far as the LS25 MKII is concerned, I think the MKI with the NOS (6H23) equals the MKII version in terms of technical competence but exceeds it in terms of musicality. My observations were replicated by a friend who also had the opportunity to try all the iterations in his home system.
gmorris, was your friend using nos tubes on his ls25? anyway, of course it's all subjective and component dependent - this is what we all stew about in our sleep/lack of.
anyway we listened to the ls25mkI through a pair of arc300s. perhaps this brought out something unusual in the LS25. and changing the tubes should of course make a difference. as far as the vt100mkII vs mkIII i've heard many people say they prefer the mkII. i have the mkII but haven't yet heard the mkIII so i can't comment.
Yes, he was using the NOS 6H23 in both the LS25 MKI and VT100 MKII. Also, He had the LS25 MKII and the VT100 MKIII and liked neither. He claimed that "the magic was missing." He feels strongly that the older versions, with the NOS, were better sounding.

Incidentally, the LS25 MKI with the NOS 6H23 sounds like a different preamp. It became much more powerful, dynamic and robust,with greater slam in the midbass and lower bass. Also, there was greater transparency and richness in the midrange, with a wider and deeper soundstage. In summary, every musical parameter improved, without any downside.
I see people speaking of the LS25 MK1 and LS25 MKII. I have the Original LS25. Was there a MK1 and Then MKII. I can only Find LS25 and LS25 MKII Information I have been trying several Tubes. Mostly 6922 and ECC88. I have tested several tubes on a tube tester I have and find the philps 6922 test the closest and can get perfect matched 4 set tubes. Sound wise they seem smooth. To me they sound better that the Audio Research Factory tubes. Has anyone else tried these. Thanks Bob
gmorris - How much and where can I find the NOS 6H23 tubes.

Thanks, Jim
This thread is one of the main examples why I've never ever purchased new Audio Research gear. Depreciation on audio gear is bad enough without a company upgrading their components as often as ARC. It seemed the VT100 Mk II was barely out 16 months before there was a Mk III release. I know ARC produces some nice gear, but I much prefer a company like BAT that doesn't rip the customer by discontinuing this years purchase in a matter of months! BAT even refers to ARC in a slight way on their website, suggesting they aren't like the company that throws constant upgrades at the consumer in an effort to generate more business. BAT doesn't word it like that specifically, but the reader gets the drift. BAT's components go through revisions and modifications too, but their company philosophy is much different than ARC. Rather than promote a MK II or III change, they simply integrate the change into product currently shipping. This philosophy is geared toward the customer, not against him/her. Not to say ARC is against their customer base, as I know they are always very helpful on the phone, but they certainly could learn a thing or two from BAT regarding protecting the consumers purchase from accelerated depreciation. Again, nothing against ARC other than they definitely have alienated at least one potential customer by featuring far too many upgrades in too short of a time span.

In regards to the LS-25 and VT-100 debate, I agree with Gmorris about the 6H23 tubes from Kevin Deal @ Upscale Audio. For the money, this is by far the best upgrade to the LS-25 (original version). In fact, I was all ready to send my LS-25 in for the MKII upgrade until I put the 6H23 tubes in. The other thing that should be known is the fact that my LS-25 is modified with signature infinicaps (hot rods). I did a side by side comparison with my pre-amp both at the dealer and at home, and 4 audiophile friends preferred my LS-25 (with the mods and 6h23 tubes) to the MKII. The dealer admitted that they were suprised at this comparison results, but agreed when they heard the comparison. I also agree that the VT100MK2 and original version both sound better with the 6H23 tubes than the VT100MKIII. Again the comparison was with my VT100 original version, modified with the signature infinicaps, several resistor changes, and misc. mods here and there.

In summary, If you are not a tweeker, then the LS-25MKII and the VT100MKIII are probably the best sounding out of the LS-25/VT-100 combo. If you have Electronics Engineering Technician abilities, a good soldering iron, NOS Tubes, then I will confidently say all bets are off that the latest revisions sound best. Keep in mind, there are not NOS equivalents for 6H30... What you buy is the best it will ever sound. If you are talking about ARC REF components -- that is a whole different ball game... for the better. The REF2MKII is a lovely pre-amp, and is awesome mated with the Ref 300 amps. ARC made the revision to the new circuit topology purely for Manufacturability, borrowing from the REF technology to make the sound better to justify cost increases... Just a rumor I have heard from more than one source...
When I made the original post, I kind of suspected that there might be a split on this. By the way I believe that the VT100 mkII was around for a lot longer than 16 months. I'll probably keep my Ref2 preamp and VT200 amp for now. I'll have to do a really long listening session to get a handle on which "sound" I like better. Thanks for all the good feedback.

AR does a very poor job of providing uselful info on the very many products it has sold over the years. Just try to get some info on all the different preamps and linestages from their website. It ain't there.
In defense of ARC, I have had my SP8MkII and D115MkII for
over 16 years. When I needed help they were there for parts,
service and advice. Yes, they are infamous for their
upgrade pathways, in particular, the SP6(I lost count how many),but the newer models have faired much better. Besides, ARC is always at the edge of technologies, so what would you
expect?? Let's see if BAT lasts for over 30 years before
making judgements.
I have a pair of the new REF 300 MKII's. These units are FAR better than the original 300's, and in my opinion any of the 600 versions. The changes, including a change in tubes, makes this one of the best sounding tube amps out there. Haven't heard the ss AR's. AR does seem to have a propensity to frequently upgrade models, I can see how this may irritate some, but in the case of the 300MKII, what they've done is certainly an improvement.
I understand that there is a VT200 MK2 available. Has anyone auditioned one? How does it compare to the original VT200?

The orginal LS25 is the MKI.


A RefII and VT200 is an awesome combo. Why would you want to upgade?
Another approach to ARC's philosophy....when making substantial upgrades they keep the customer informed, whereas with BAT you do not know which iteration of their product you are purchasing. Does this not make ARC's products easier to price on the resale market ?

I have an SP9 Mk II, which I have owned (trouble-free) for the last 10 years, and am lusting over the VT100.
Well I am probably going to get some heat for the following comments but feel I am entitled to make them since I am a BIG ARC fan and have owned and still do several of their products.

I believe they are on the cutting edge of tube designs. I ALSO believe that their continual upgrading is more about making changes in sound than real changes in sonic performance. Certainly their Reference products (which I have heard) represent an inprovement over their previous products. My guess is that their upgrades are very calculated and designed to keep their customers always wanting for the latest and "best". But in reality many of their upgrades are less improvements than differences. Just one man's opinion, but then again there is quite a variety of opinion on this matter as noted above. I mean the LS-5 is a great sounding pre-amp and an older design. Is there any in their stable other than their reference models maybe, that are better? Playing to the neurosis of audiophiles is my take.
The reason I have been considering upgrading my Ref2 VT200 combo is because there has been a lot of hype about how good the upgraded models are. I like the all tube gear and wanted an idea of how adding solid state inputs to their products would affect the sound. I'm sure there is improved bass and better dynamics, but is the sound really better? If they only changed the tubes, I would probably just do the upgrade, but adding transistors, I have to do some serious listening before I make any upgrades.

My take is this: if you "upgrade" you will enjoy your music less. The enjoyment of the musical experience is the bottom line of this hobby to me. Try the 6H23 NOS in your preamp and you never feel the need to "upgrade"

Good luck.
I know I'm a little off the course of this tread but... I have been thinking of selling my Ayre V3 and moveing over to the VT100 Mk1. For the reason that I have Maggie 1.6's and they really come alive with tubes. It would also be a better match for my Audible Illusions M3A and at this time I can not layout more money for the latest generation of ARC products. I have been speaking to dealers and they have been giving me every reason under the sun not to go with the Mk 1, and at least start with the Mk2. My thinking is to get the Mk1 and in a year have it upgraded to the Mk2. At this point after selling my Ayre (which is an amp I will have a hard time parting with) it will basically cost me no outlay of cash. I would love to hear from Mk1 owners out there and there experience with this amp and those who have compared the two. Thanks in advance. Gary
I've gone from the one,two and now the three.Been an AR user since the SP3 and my opinion is let you're ears be the judge....My advice to you Gmele if it means anything,go for the two and later if you like upgrade to the three.The difference from the one to the two is not minor.It is a major improvement and taking that even further is the three.Good luck........
One positive aspect of ARC upgrades, at least for those in the mood to buy, is the way the bottom dropped out of the market on VT100 MkII's. This is an *insane* value purchased used. Contrary to a previous post, a dealer in my area told me that there was no warning regarding the release of the MkIII -- and this guy is a long time ARC dealer.