Audio Research SP17 or Modwright LS100?


I just joined this forum hoping to receive guidance. I can usually understand the basics since I have been into HT/Stereo since 1998 so talking to me should be fine as I understand some of the technical stuff when it comes to equipment but am no pro.

I have always been on a journey in the audiophile world and recently got a pm from another forum stating that a preamp is a waste of money in comparison to a decent AVR because science basically dictates that in DBT, one cannot hear a difference and in reality there is such a small difference that the human ear would not be able to discern. It might be true and it might be placebo that I am hearing but I like the tube sound especially the guitar. I play a little myself and loved "Hotel California". I don't know the number of times I have listened to this but its too much to count.

I am one of those members that have an HT setup with projector but always listen to music in 2 channel. I know I have to eat my cake and eat it too. It's 70% music and 30%movies/tv.

I have PSB Imagine T2 with the AVR being Marantz SR6007, Parasound Halo A21 amp, source is NAD c546BEE and tried out to preamps. I prefer the sound a slight better with ARC but prefer the volume control on Modwright. I know both come with remotes but sometimes I prefer the tactile feel. My equipment is not the greatest compared to some here but I try to balance my equipment as well as the setup in the room. Can anyone please give input as it would be appreciated.

Sorry for the long post as I wanted to describe myself and my intentions here in this forum.
"I have always been on a journey in the audiophile world and recently got a pm from another forum stating that a preamp is a waste of money in comparison to a decent AVR because science basically dictates that in DBT, one cannot hear a difference and in reality there is such a small difference that the human ear would not be able to discern."

The best advice I can give you is to ignore that statement. It's meaningless. Anyone can say anything. Who cares. People bring up DBT's all the time and I always ask the same question. "Can I see the test so I can read it for myself?" Not one time did anyone ever show me where I can see the test for myself. Who knows what they tested? Or even if there is a test at all.

I would say you are doing everything the right way. You're listening to the preamps in your own system and forming your own opinion. If there's a better way to do it, I don't know. In the end, for me, the deciding factor would be sound quality. I know what you are talking about with the volume control working better in the one preamp than the other. I would still pick it if the sound was better.
Thanks for your input, I always read magazines and great forums like this. Then I always try the equipment out with the dealers in which I formed the relationships with to make my own judgements but this comment actually made me think because I can't actually know for sure if it is placebo. Switching from the Marantz to the pre, there is obviously a difference because of the tube but was told that it is only a colored sound.

I did notice with guitar sounds that they are more pronounced and I don't know the audiophile terminology but its like as if a veil was lifted from the sound. I am leaning towards the ARC SP17 a bit for the sound but just don't like the volume control.

I have made my decision for sure after listening that I will purchase a tube pre and narrowed it down to these two. I also listened to the Cary SLP 03 and prefer these other two. I also listened to the Parasound P7 which is a SS pre but again came back to these two. I have been listening for the last 2 weeks and just want to come to a decision.
You've been listening since 1988, that's 25 years and plenty of time to have figured out what you like. Your ears are by far the best determinant, plain and simple. Trust yourself and go with what connects and involves you most while listening to the music you enjoy. It only gets confusing when you stray from that principle and listen to what others say that they prefer. This is a personal endeavor and selfish but in a good context of selfishness, you must please yourself and this will lead to contentment. I'm confident that you'll make the right choice.
-Great advice, Dad. Paradoxically, the more you get into this interest with reviews & opinions the more clouded can your assessments become. Try to ignore the price tags and just purely listen. "Only by keeping it simple can the most complex be defined." -Ahh, I think I'm starting to understand Buddism. Seriously though, I recently experienced that "enlightenment" is possible. A friend who has, by his own admission, blown through $25k worth of equipment, now loves his $1500 speakers. - Don't ask what kind of speaker or you'll miss the point (gee, this is sounding Buddist, eh Grasshopper?). Instead, listen for qualities, such as tone, darkness, detail, transparency, harmonics. They will lead you in your "right" direction.
Thanks guys, ultimately I make the decision from my own judgements as I discussed earlier that is why I ask suggestions and read magazines because I am not perfect and maybe have missed something. I do understand that more opinions could cloud my judgement but I go through everything before I make my final decision.

Some very good advice here and that is why I narrowed down to the last 2 preamps because I wall all over the map with prices.

I was told by somebody that the tubes will degrade the sound by around 800-1000 hours but I take that advice with much heed because maybe that person is a little more sensitive in the ears or setup. I have been researching from the ARC website that the tubes are biased low and around 5000 hours. Another person said 10,000 hours so I know how to filter certain comments but always appreciate great feedback. Especially from more knowledgeable members here in this forum who have actually have experience from tube gear.

I have auditioned all my stuff at home before purchasing but got feedback from reviews and forum members with the exception to the sub because it was too damn heavy and listened a lot in the store.

Although any more feedback would be appreciated since I am in the auditioning is almost over.
Lots of sage advice so far. For whatever MY experience is worth (granted, probably not much due to our systems and ears being quite different), I have an A-21 amp driving a pair of old Thiel 3.6s. I had a used SP-17 on demo at home for a while and absolutely would have bought it if the dealer's price would have been more reasonable. I ended up with an SP-16, which I like a lot, but the SP-17 was a bit more open and refined sounding. The remote volume control was more sensitive than the SP-16's too.

Good luck with your search.
Hi Jonathan,

Nice, love your setup and I understand your past situation with the dealer not being more reasonable and notice they don't like to move that much. But I am patient and kept bringing him down. I bought a subwoofer from this dealer earlier too. But I use the subwoofer only for HT and sometimes SACD. Looks like there are mostly ARC comments so I can assume ARC probably has great customer service too.

Thanks for your input.
I would appreciate it if you would be more specific about the sonic differences of these two preamps. I use a Resolution Audio Opus 21 directly into a Parasound A21 (Dynaudio speakers), but am thinking about adding a tube preamp. I've heard the Cary SLP 03- smooth, quiet, but lacking enough high frequency extension for my taste- and more recently, a PrimaLuna Prologue 3 in my system, which had better soundstaging, dynamics, expression of instrument harmonics and treble extension, but less quiet and fine grained compared to the Cary unit, if my memory serves me well.
Hello, I don't do too well with words but I will give it a try. My speakers are pretty neutral
Sorry, I will try this again, the speakers I use are pretty neutral and with a smooth midrange.

The Modwright was the one I almost went for because I thought the midrange was still smooth and detailed. When listening the sound was nice and prefer this type of volume control. The only thing I can say was the trebles was a little noisy at louder volumes but not from the listening position only when I went up closer but this is a non issue. I really like this preamp and feel it had that rich and slightly warm sound that you get from tube just didn't know the terminology why I didn't like the treble areas so much.

I actually picked up the ARC SP17 with the phono stage and breakin in now. I went with this preamp because it had the tube sound but didn't really have the tube sound. This probably won't make sense to some but I am trying to say that the pre is really transparent but in a smooth sound and not sterile or forward. The upper regions are very clear and concise without being too forward and harsh. They also are more airy but clean . The mids are smooth but feel this pre added a little more detail. The lower regions were improved as well with more oomph and detail. High definition across all regions without getting too forward or muddy. I actually liked the sound from the Marantz AVR with my speakers but IMO got the similar smooth sound with all the high definition. It's like their was a veil lifted from the Marantz. The synergy I feel here is just effortless but very clean.

The only thing for me is getting used to the ARC volume control even with the remote, a lot must think I am weird but I don't like it. I need to get used to it but love the sound.
Thanks for the response. Enjoy your new preamp!
Welcome! Solo13.

I like the SP 17 as well. I especially like it paired w/ a Bryston power amp (3SST or 4SST).