Any Audio Research unit in your price range should mate very well.IF I remember the mk1 does have both se and bal inputs?
15 responses Add your response
Unless you are planning on upgrading the VT100 to Mk II status, I would look for a fuller sounding pre-amp in the upper bass/lower mids than the LS-2. This of course depends on the rest of your system/room make-up. The MK II upgrade makes the VT-100 a totally different amp IMO. Much better bass and slam and fuller mid range. The LS-2 is also a little light in these areas as well IMO. Have not heard the LS-7 or LS-9. Have seen a couple of Sonic Frontiers SFL-2's out there for about $1250. If you can find one in good working order, that pre-amp is much fuller in the upper bass and offers much greater resolution and soundstaging than the LS-2. Can be a little bright in the treble depending on cabling and other system components though but no more so than the LS-2. The SFL-2 is still a lot of pre-amp for the price. Maybe Kevin Deal can find you one in good working order? Good luck.
Most of the posts above seem to be firmly in the Audio Research camp, and while these are good preamps there are others you should consider that are in your price range. The LS2B was a good preamp in its day, but it has been easily surpassed. Understand that the only difference between a LS2 and an LS2B is the option of a balanced input on the LS2B where all of the inputs on the LS2 are single ended. Both models have both balanced and single ended outputs. I have owned the LS2B and the balanced input is not its strong point. I found using the single ended input with an Accuphase CD player to sound better. This may have just been the case with the Accuphase, but I've been told by others who have a good bit of experience with the LS2B that the balanced input is not so good. I have also been told, but have no personal experience, that the difference between a MKI and a MKII is subtle and the better used value is the MKI. The best used buy would be the LS2 for around $500-600. A LS2B MKI is worth a bit more but, not much. There are a ton of these out there and they tend to be hard to sell used so keep that in mind if you decide to try one. That said, I would recommend you try something other than an Audio Research preamp. In your price range I believe there are much more musical sounding preamps that will go well with your amp. If you can live without balanced output (and you most certainly can)I would recommend and Audible Illusions Modulus 3 or 3A. The 3A is an improvement worth the extra money and can be had for close to your limit, maybe slightly more. The 3s are currently going for around $700. I've owned both of these models and the LS2 just cannot compete. The midrange is some of the best you will hear regardless of price. Another option would be a Sonic Frontiers SFL-1 Signature version. These go fast when they come up so keep your eyes open. Probably around $700. The non signature version can be had for even less ($400-500)and would also be a good choice. The SFL-2 will cost you more (maybe $1200 or a bit more)and is a beautiful preamp for the money. The Sonic Frontiers Line 1 is more current and also in your price range. This is a fully balanced preamp and has a nice remote and a great headphone output. It would be worth a call to Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio to find out more about the differences in the Sonic Frontiers preamps. You should also consider the Rogue 66 and the Blue Circle BC21. The Rogue 66 is very popular and a great buy so these will also go fast used. If you can find an original Joule Electra LA-100 for around $1000 this may be the best choice of all, but they are in high demand. This would be without remote control and an early serial # at this price. Then there is Conrad Johnson (PV10 or PV12)for a more traditional tube sound. I could go on, but the point is there are many good choices besides Audio Research that are worth your serious consideration. Take your time and read as many reviews as you can. Perhaps you can even get one of these to try in your system. All of these (with the exception of the LS2B) are easy to resell on Audigon if it's not what you want or you just want to try different things. Good luck and have fun with it. If you decide you really want an LS2B the guy who bought mine would like to sell and I could put you in touch with him.
Demar, the Audio Research LS 9 ans LS 3 are both Solid state units and within you range, Some of the other units mentioned are hybred designs that don't use many tubes, the LS 1 only uses one 6922. If you are interested in phono at all the SP 9III and SP 14 are great choices and within your budget, the 9 uses two 6922 and the 14 uses one. Audio Research pre amps work very well with Audio Research amps. There is a synergy there.Some of the others might be great too but you can be pretty safe in my experience matching ARC to ARC.
I read so much here about the LS2. I too am a huge ARC fan but this product was such a disappointment. After having enjoyed so much incredible musical enjoyment from the SP8 and SP10 preamps, to finally hear the LS2 years later was such a huge step backward. Yes, frequency extremes and resolution were improved with the LS2, but the musical presentation was gone....what a major disappointment. And the exact same was found to be true for the SFL-2. So much for Stereophile Class A ratings!
The VT100 is a very very fine amp. Putting an LS2 with it would be a major waste. You limit your budget to under $1k which ultimately means your investment in the VT100 will not be realized. I feel it makes more sense to hold on to what you have rather than compromise on something too early. Save more money so you can get a more appropropriate preamp.
Of all I have read above, the Audible Illusions and other non-ARC recommendations make the most sense. Even the LS15 does not have the ability to show the VT100's potential. Nor does the LS22. Only when you step up to the LS5 will that magic appear as it was with the older SP series....no, not the SP14! And after hearing the LS3 briefly in the same system as the LS2, this too had such a 2-dimensional presentation.
Mixing CJ with ARC products result in not the best of both but a lack of synergy. But I would clearly give a Counterpoint preamp, the SA3000 a serious consideration as the AI Mod 3. Otherwise, you could be quite shocked at what an older SP8 might do for you. Having ARC upgrade caps and other components in that could quite possibly knock a lot of new products out of contention.
If I were you, I'd save another $800-1200 and keep my eyes out for a used LS5. I owned a MK II for 6 years and loved it. I now own the MK III and this fortunately has all the previous version's incredible musicality but removes the upper frequency sibilance and edgyness that made it less than perfect.
Best of luck to you.
I have owned the LS2 and LS2b: and VT100 andVT100 MKII, among other other ARC preamps and amps. The LS2 linestage is a large and significant sonic improvement from the preceding SP14 phono/line stage preamp...especially in transparency. Unfortunately, the Sovtek tube is a limiting factor in its sound. If digital is your source,a small investment in a Siemens 7308 or Amperex 7308 can make a very significant improvement in the LS2 preamp. The Audible Illusions is a very good sounding unit, but requires 4 6922/7308 type tubes.
If you want to go cheap, the passive adcom 750 is very good with this amp.
In general, tube preamps are much better than solid state with this amp. I use a vk-5i with my mk2. I find that it is as good as the ref1 I previously owned. Different, but in the same general league sonically.
Of all the preamps I have heard with it, bat vk-50SE/vk30SE are the best.
Some of the lower line arc preamps the ls2 and ls16 ) are not the most impressive. They lacked transparency and energy. I heard them mated with solid state amps which may have been the problem.