Experiences with Audio Research LS-2B

I would just like to hear from Audiogoners who have had experiences with the ARC LS2B, either Mk. I or II.
Thanks for your info.
The LS-2B on the used market ($700-950) is an outstanding value for the money. I've had one which I've kept through several different amp changes in my work system. It is a hybrid design using a single 6922 tube. It is very sensitive to tube changes and consequently will sound better with a good tube in there. I've tried many varieties and have come up with some fairly obvious conclusions: Favorites are Siemens CCa's, followed closely by Telefunkens (also the A-frame version), then Mullards. I've also tried Amperex (70's version - OK) and Sovtek (awful). My buddy has an LS2B that he's using the Soviet-made Rocket tubes (I think they are 6H30's...is that right?) and he says they sound great and he had rolled them against a Siemens A-frame I'd loaned him. I have yet to hear those tubes myself. My LS-2B has been modified by Steve Huntley at Great Northern Sound http://www.greatnorthernsound.com. I had him do his Standard mod on my unit which I've wrote about in other threads. In short, it is worth EVERY PENNY and brings the performance up to a markedly higher level - I've directly A/B'd mine against my friends stock unit with all other parameters identical and we both agreed immediately on that point. Steve also offers a "Reference" mod at about twice the price. My bet is that it would be worth considering as well, but is twice the price of the standard mod. Still, the stock unit remains an excellent sounding pre and is definitely worth it's asking price. Steve (Huntley) worked for ARC for many years, then went to WADIA and now has his own company, GNS. In my conversation with him on the phone he opined that the LS-2B was already one of the best pre's ARC made short of their Reference line. I've used it with several different amps and synergy was excellent with all but one. At home I have 300B SET amps and with those amps it tended to sound too cold and analytical...it took away some of the air and magic that I am used to with those amps (I otherwise use a Cary SLP-50A with those amps which is an excellent match, and is an all-tube design - stone simple with two 6cg7 tubes....a real sleeper of a pre-amp IMO). With everything else I've paired the LS-2B with it has matched up well. Those amps are: Mesa Baron, Quicksilver Silver 90's, Quicksilver EL34 Triode prototypes, Pass Labs Aleph 5, and Quicksilver Mini-Mites. Needless to say I am also a big fan of Quicksilver products. The LS-2B has the option of using a balanced "Direct" input (there is only one, so you can only run a single source this way, or swap out the interconnects if you wanted to run a different source), which bypasses some of the circuitry and gives the signal a more direct route to the output. I have found this does give you a definite, albeit marginal improvement with added clarity and focus. All of the other input options are strictly RCA's, while it has both RCA outputs and two pairs of balanced outputs (hence the "B" in the model designation).

Hope that helps.
I do not mean to undercut Jax here at all and yet I have a much different experience with the LS2B MK II. If you are buying this because of all the rave reviews you read from the great ARC preamps (SP6, SP8, SP10) that preceded the LS2, you will be disappointed that the LS2 does not have the strengths of these older models. The LS2 was very much part of ARC's dry, analytical and uninvolving period. Finally ARC got back on track with the outstanding LS5....only to return to the analytical sound with the LS15 & 22.

And whether or not the LS2 has balanced inputs or outputs, it is not a truly balanced product. This did not occur until the LS5 came along. The LS2 has extra stages of circuitry, phase splitters and summer amps to support balanced cabling. Who wants extra circuit stages for this?

As a long time owner of the SP10 and then the LS5, and big fan of ARC for almost 20 years, the LS2 was hands down the biggest disappointment to me in their line. Musical it was not....pure and simple.

So before you buy one and go through all the cost to upgrade it with 3rd party companies, keep your eyes out for an LS5 in the $1500-2000 range or look to other companies for preamps. The LS5 MK III is outstanding on the used market.
Having no experience with preamps at $1000 or less, hopefully others here can give you ideas on other products to consider. Actually I saw a CJ Premier 10 line stage for right around $1k and this is an awesome value. Best of luck to you.

Wow !! This hobby(addiction?) sure is fun with such strong divergent views on the same equipment.While I am new to tubes,the LS 2B is my first foray into the tube world,I strongly endorse Jax2 that the LS 2B is outstanding value for money.Incidentally,if you scan some of the UK audio mags(eg. April issue of HiFI News,the LS 2B,is quoted at around sterling 1250 upwards ie $1600 or so.
A little over a month back I traded in a Bryston BP 25/4 BST for an ARC LS 2B and Bryston 14 BST, AFTER a week long home demo featuring both the LS 2B and the CJ PV10.While I admit that what works in my system may be anathema in a different system/musical context, on a straight A/B comparison,the LS 2B is miles ahead of the CJ 10 PV,notwithstanding a brilliant phono stage. I'll stick my neck out to the extent that the (circa 1995 ??)LS 2B mated with a monster ss power amp such as the Bryston 14 BST produces a more musical and realistic soundstage than the BP 25, with an almost vice like grip on the speakers(B&W CDM 9NTs).Strictly speaking I should add that the LS 2B came with a hugely expensive cable upgrade from a pair of $ 50 vdh/chord i/cs to >$1000 plus Cardas Golden Cross/Cross.
Net net,if you can find a LS 2 in working condition with or without balanced outputs(the B version), grab it as it represents outstanding value for money.
Not to get too carried away with the LS 2B,the couch potato in me misses the remote.Would appreciate views on remote tube preamps under $2500.
Happy listening.
Sunnyboy hit it right on the head: The potentials for differences in personal response to a given component or tweak can be as different as night and day. I've said it many times; it's all about synergy & personal preferences, combined with one's experience and expectations. Jafox (thanks for the preface, by the way, John) seems to have had a wider experience than me with other ARC components, whereas my experience is only with the one ARC pre (as well as with the GNS mod of that pre). Obviously we both are using the gear within distinctivly different systems/listening rooms, with likely very different preferences and expectations. Ultimately everything you read here is a generalization at best and should be taken with a bag full of salt (my own included). Your own ears are the very best guage of all, period! Anyone who tells you different is standing knee deep in manure! There are no aboslutes. Just like there are folks who do not recognize a great Zinfandel to be "superior" to wine dispensed from a box, there are those who hear no difference in listening to music through a boom box or a $50K system (perhaps they 'hear' a difference, but they just don't care, and or don't recognize that difference as being "superior"). It's all relative. Like Jafox, Steve Huntley also has much experience with ARC gear having worked there for many years. I emailed him recently to confirm that I'd quoted him correctly. He wrote back and did add that his favorite ARC pre's (non-reference) were the LS2B and the LS5, and that he prefers both with his mods. I can certainly agree with him on the LS2B, and have no doubt his mod of the LS5 would kick that pre up a notch. Jafox rightly does point out that he is comparing the LS5 at an average of twice the (used) cost of the LS2B, so I'm not surprised that the LS5 may indeed be a better pre in comparison, and do appreciate understanding what may be some of the reasons why (I am not saying that just because it cost more it does sound better, but I'd certainly expect it to, especially given that is from the same manufacturer and designed later). I still stand by my own (personal) experience that, for the price you pay on the used market, the LS2B does a damn fine job in my experience, and has mated well with a diversity of components. As I mentioned, with my 300B SET's I had the same experience of the LS2B as Jafox describes (cold, analytical, and not musical at all). But that has not been the case in the majority of other amps I've paired it off with. Also, the tube choice made a BIG difference in my experience. It may be interesting to note that the folks reviewing the LS2 on AudioReview are pretty happy with it too as it holds a 4.89/5 rating there with 9 reviews. Further mixed input can be found on AudioAsylum. Doing a search there you will find some opinions that fall more in line with what Jafox opines, and I do respect his point of view, BTW. I have not listened to all of the ARC gear he mentions so cannot comment on the comparisons he offers beyond this. You are right Sunnyboy; it's a good forum and offers a diversity of input that helps point you in the right general direction at best, but can just as easily be misleading. Ultimately your own ears will be the best judge.