How good is today ARC PH2?

Would like to get opinions on this pre phono (that would like to find out somewhere),as I'm an happy owner of a terrific,imo, ARC LS 5mk2 ref. mod. by GNSC, and the combo is "history".


I will chime in here as I owned the LS5 Mk II / PH2 combo for 6 years, which replaced an ARC SP-10 I owned for 8 years. I then changed to the LS5 MK III for one more year, and then moved onto BAT and Aesthetix products. The LS5/PH2 pair was phenomenol in the mid to late 90s, bringing on the magic of the SP-10 that none of the subsequent SP or LS series models had ... and also dramatically reducing the SP-10's weaknesses of poor frequency extreme performance, high noise level and mediocre-at-best line stage. But for me after hearing some of the newly refined products from BAT and Aesthetix I tired of the forward ARC sound I had enjoyed for so long. This was more due to the LS5 than the PH2. If you're interested in my comments on the LS5, you can search for those here in the archives. And since your question is more directed to the PH2, I will focus on that.

Of all the ARC products I owned, the PH2 was by far and away the most neutral. It does not have one ounce of forwardness or fatigue that can plague many ARC products from the late 80s to current. It has very good performance in the bass but is bettered by the BAT VK-P10 for example in the authority and weight of the lowest frequencies. This was a big strength of the BAT. PH2 resolution is excellent, top-end extension is very good, but the awesome decay of notes and ambience is significantly bettered by all-tubed units such as the Aesthetix Io. Surprisingly, the BAT VK-P10 only bettered the PH2 slightly in this regard. But the most important thing overall here is the neutral tonal balance of the PH2. There are no peaks or valleys in the frequency range to call attention to itself. This was one problem I had when I heard the PH3. At first listen, I liked the presence it brought but I quickly tired of it. A return to the PH2 brought everything back into perspective. Overall I would classify the PH2 as being somewhat mellow. With the forwardness of the LS5, they compliment each other extremely well. And when mated with the ARC VT130, the sound can be awesome. Unfortunately the DAC3 was not at all in the same class as these in my view.

The only other issue with the PH2 is that it only works well with cartridges around 1mv or more. Once you start heading lower with .8mv and .6mv, you run out of gain. The LS5 II's 30db gain helps much, but still, at 48db gain in the PH2, other units like the BAT VK-P10 and Aesthetix Io with their selectable gains from the 50s all the way up to 70s db, help a great deal with low output cartridges....and this was ultimately why I sold my PH2.

Hope this all helps.