Comparing ARC, Lamm and Modwright Preamps

Hi folks,

I'm looking for a preamp in the ~$2k range, and models I'm considering are the ARC (LS16 or LS25), Lamm LL2 Dexlue, and Modwright SWL 9.0SE Signature Edition. From what I understand, these manufacturers have a sonic signature that is closer to neutral (which is what I'm generally looking for), rather than being syrupy.

My tastes are largely rock music (let's say Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac, etc.). Would anyone be able to describe the sonic signature of these three brands in a little more detail?
I can give you some insight to ARC & Lamm. I chose the Lamm LL2 deluxe a much livelier preamp with the stock tubes. Crystal clear dead quiet with tighter faster bass response than the ARC.

ARC pre's are also dead quiet but seemed just to flat sounding in my system.
ARC gear seems to sound best when paired with ARC amps & pre's together.
When you start mixing ARC with other manufacturers ARC seem to loose some of its magic.

I think both ARC and Lamm make some of the best american made gear in the world and I have nothing but respect for ARC. The best service department in audio much better than Mcintosh in the fact that ARC will service and have parts for anything they made from day one. Lamm service is excellent also but a much younger company when compared to ARC & Mac

Their preamps just didn't pair well with my vintage Mcintosh tube amps

Hope this helps

Don't the Lamm's controls, which maximize inconvenience, place it in a different category?
Lloydc, are you speaking out the lack of a remote, or something else?
I'm Assuming Rrolack is interested in sound characteristics between the three preamps. I can only give my experience with the Lamm & ARC.

I believe the Lamm gear is a more minimalist approach. The LL2 Deluxe version includes higher end capacitors. This could be the difference im hearing between the preamps

ARC chooses to include more comfort features like a remote digital readouts maybe more switching flexibility.

Each company decided to spend money in a completely opposite direction at the same price point

I piggy back a Manley Steelhead for the phono stage with the Lamm so I do gain more flexibility but at a cost.

Best way to decide is to go listen and touch each one. use the controls. You almost instinctively know which one is best suited for your needs and wants

I have a Modwright 9.0 SE Signature Truth (all the latest mods). It's very good with Rock. Just a pinch warm, good detail, speed, tone, soundstaging, etc. Quite "ballsy", IMHO.
If it's any consideration (regarding the sonic signature), I'd be pairing this tube pre with an SS amp. should make sure there is no impedance mismatch between the preamp you choose and the SS amp you are pairing it with. What SS amp will you be using? Do you have a chance to hear any of these preamps with your SS amp or no? No better way to determine than to hear for yourself with the equipment you will be using.

I can only speak to the ARC house sound (I have the full complement of Ref 3, Ref 110, and Ref CD7 and I can attest to the remarkable synergy when using ARC gear together). How best to describe ARC's most recent house sound? I agree that ARC is not tubey sounding. It is very neutral across the frequency spectrum. Very quiet for tube amplification. Highly resolving and transparent. Solid control of bass bins (again for tubes as you can get tighter and more controlled bass performance from SS). So these are all attributes that actually make ARC sound more SS-like than traditional tube amplification.

What I think ARC excels at is delivering timbral accuracy in the midrange, making instruments and vocals sound very lifelike. ARC gear also throws a 3D soundstage - wide and deep, immersing you in the music. There is no lush, syrupy euphonics here. If you are used to more traditional soft tube sound (all midrange and rounded highs and lows), than ARC's current sound is not for you. Some folks find ARC sound as lean or thinned out. I have not found this to be the case, but again I have not mixed and matched, but use all ARC gear so this may be an issue for others when they don't properly match ARC gear with the rest of their system.

Hope this helps (at least with one of the 3 brands).
Rrulack, I had the impression it had dual volume controls, one for each channel, and no remote. In other words, not only do you have to get up, getting the volume right requires diddling with two separate controls. A purist approach, but not for everyone.
I owned an ARC LS16 mkII driving Bryston power amps some years back. Tube rolling the 6922 inside gave it a good warm sound to offset the rather clinical presentation of the Bryston. In my upgrade itch, I auditioned the ModWright and later the Lamm. In my opinion, the ARC LS16 was bettered by the ModWright, which was bettered by the Lamms. Again, based on my tastes.
I may be late by couple of years but wanted to post my observations regardless.
I have had a modwright 9.0se (with the tube power supply upgrade), ARC LS26 and now the Lamm ll2.1. Unquestionably the Lamm is the best of the three. It has significantly better resolution. Soundstage depth is amazing and finally it has better bass extension and signficantly more definition in the lower frequencies. I also feel that listener fatigue is the least with the lamm during extended listening. I also felt that the modwright SQ was quite close to that of the ARC. So I would rank them as 1. Lamm 2. ARC 3. Modwright
I had a Modwright LS-100 and it was noticeably warmer than my ARC Reference 5SE or the CJ GAT that I put it alongside with at a friend's place for a shootout.

The LAMM IMHO is very similar to the ARC but I didn't go for it because of the lack of HT bypass.

The ARC isn't used with ARC gear but it does benefit greatly from a full balanced set up.