Audio Research Ref 1 compared to Ref 2 mkII

Has anyone compared these preamps? I am looking to replace my Rowland Capri with a tube preamp and considering an Audio Research pre. I am using a Pass 250.5 amp.

These are very different sounding preamps. The Ref 2 mk2 was the first Ref preamp to use the 6h30 tube and is more neutral sounding. The Ref 1 uses 6922 tubes and has more of a classic tube sounding but is still not tubey. Preamps have come a long way in the last 20 years or so, far more than amps. I would go with the Ref 2 mk2 if it were me. But I really like the more detailed and neutral sound of the 6h30.

I have heard the Ref 5se with .8 Pass amps and it was a nice match. Pass makes some excellent equipment.
You say that preamps have come a long way in the last 20 years. Would I be better off looking into a newer lower end AR pre then an older top model? I want to stay under 4000 used.

over the last (3) years I have had the pleasure of spending time w/ the ARC pre-amps. I must say that considering you own a Pass Labs power amp, I would not use any pre less than a Ref3 or Ref3 SE (if available). The real money and listening pay-off would be the ARC Ref5 SE. Yes, even if you have to save your pennies for awhile, this is the best, killer pre-amp for your power amp!

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
There is no such thing as a REF3 SE. There is however an LE (Limited Edition) version of the REF3. Approximately 22 such units were produced at the end of the REF3 production just prior to the introduction of the REF5.
Half the units produced were 230V destined for the European/Asian markets leaving only a handful available for the North American market.
No other model in the entire ARC line since 1970 has had fewer units produced than this one. In my opinion, this is the most "prized" piece of audio gear Bill Johnson has ever released to market. He sold ARC shortly thereafter.

The Ref 2 mk2 is still a very nice preamp, don't get me wrong. But there have been a lot of Ref preamps since then. Audio Research has released the Ref 3, 3LE, 5, Anniversary Edition, 10 and 5se. all have been an improvement to one degree or another, some huge. It is only when you compare one of the earlier preamps to the current 5se or 10 do you realize just how huge the difference is.

You could probably find a Ref 3 for around $4000. or slightly more. That would be the sweet spot for price performance. The differences between the 3 and 5 are small. The difference between the 5 and 5se is much bigger. I also like the Ref 3 a little better than the LS27. The Ref preamps have tube power supplies which I think makes a difference.

Don't listen to the Ref 5se or you will just be unhappy or much poorer. It is one of the finest preamps in the world. I made that mistake and now own one. It replaced a Ref 3 which replaced an LS25 mk2.
How is the bass on the AR preamps? I had a LS22 quite a while back and really liked it but it lacked a bit on the low end.
Does anyone have an opinion on the bass output on the AR preamps. Due to my experience with the LS22 I am a little worried about trying another one of their preamps. I assume the newer ones are better in that area.