I like my LS-25 Mk II - you might listen to an Ayre
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Yeah lots of ARC used options in your price range would no doubt be good options. One other that has recently piqued my interest is Linear Tube Audio. They now have a remote version of their preamp at half your price range new, and I think they offer in-home trials that would be great at least for perspective if nothing else. Another good option would be VAC, but they’re pretty tough to find used in your price range.
I’d hesitate to recommend a solid state pre. I just think you’re used to the tubed sound, and although there are certainly some great solid state pres out there that may indeed help in the bass area there may be other trade-offs that might not be worth it. Plus there are so many great tubed options out there. FWIW and best of luck.
If you want used, my BAT VK51SE originally sold for $9k, but I see them go for just about your $3500 budget. It would have nice synergy w/your amp. I've considered replacing it a couple of times and just couldn't find anything that suited me more without spending a boatload. The solid metal remote, mono switch, polarity switch, programmable name display, and programmable volume for each input all combine to make it very convenient. I always like to think of myself as someone who won't sacrifice sound quality for convenience, but I must admit these features are useful and nice to have.
If buying new, I strongly suggest checking out Backert Labs preamps. They sound amazing, are a tube roller's dream and offer great value. If I ever make a change, that's the first brand I will consider. Cheers,
I decided to go with some convenience factors as well just to reduce the amount of "boxes" all connected up!
Went with a McIntosh C48. which has yet to arrive so hopefully not a bad choice, but this will allow me to get rid of the phono preamp, the headphone amp and to plug the digital inputs from the tv and the Vault direct into the Mac rather than going through the Esoteric.
Sometimes it cannot all just be purely what is the best sound but a compromise as well.
Hopefully the sound will not be a compromise but will soon know!
I use a premium streaming service DEEZER, 16/48 and vinyl but most of my content is from DEEZER. I listen to old and new hard and prog rock. My system also consists of a older class D Rotel amplifier and B&W 600 series towers. My goal was to upgraded some components to take the edge off at higher volumes and add tube qualities to the sound. I added a Wadia 321 DAC and upgraded my preamp to a Rogue Audio RP-1. I am pretty satisfied with the results. I like the Tube/ Class D combination at this point. Maybe go full tube someday. Rogue also makes an RP-5 that comes in at about $3,500, it’s the next step up in the line from the RP-1. I like the people at Rogue. They answer the phone if you call them and gladly talk about the product. The only thing I don’t like is the remote does not turn on the unit and it does not work with my Furman on/off switch. There are lots of youtube vids about their stuff and reviews out there. Here is the chief designer Mark Obrien talking at Wilson Audio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lSaMkzqTiA. PS Audio just came out with a new DAC/Preamp combo for $1,500 and I think they have or had a trial program going (solid state option). http://www.psaudio.com/products/stellar-gain-cell-dac/. I have never had any of their equipment other than power cords but their shop is just down the street from my house and they are really nice folks as well and when I called them to talk about the products they invited me down for a tour which I thought was cool.
Thank you everybody for your valuable input.
Yes I was drawn to another ARC like an ls26 or 27 but with the feature set of the C48 filling EVERYTHING i needed I gave it a whirl.
And what a whirl, already have it set up to my liking and yes I am liking it a lot.
Definitely tube like, warm, not sterile and plays MY music just how I like it.
The phono stage is particularly impressive for a built in one, better than the seperate phono pre I was using previously.
Time to stop spending money for a while......
You are correct, the ARC LS2B IS an excellent preamp and one I have enjoyed for near on 4 years but it was time for a change and convenience.
The ARC is now for sale right here for much less than I paid so hopefully somebody will snap it up, enjoy it as much as I did and get themselves a very good buy in the process!
Had quite a few hours with the C48 now and can sum up a little better.
Life with the LS2 was good but cd fed through its balanced inputs always sounded just a little forward, bright and aggressive, not terrible but compared to vinyl fed through rca it was very noticeable. The vinyl always sounded rich and warm and highly detailed.
Well the c48 manages to pull that off with every different input whether it is cd through balanced, vinyl through rca or the bluesound vault2 through digital coax. Everything sounds very warm and natural, very highly detailed and one track in particular I was listening to last night by Rush ,with my eyes closed ,startled me as it sounded like Geddy was singing to me personally over my right shoulder!
So far I am of the impression that the C48 is doing what a good preamp should and that is imparting negligible sonic influences on the actual music.
Combine that with all the convenience factors of built in phono, headphones and 4 digital inputs and I would say I have just what I was looking for.
Oh and the remote, keep my backside in the sofa now!
The arc ls2 only has one tube and yes it was fairly new and a big improvement over the old one.
i tried both dig inputs through the cd player and through the c48 but stuck with the c48 as just about every input whether digital, rca or balanced sounded very very similar, whereas there was a noticeable difference on the older arc depending on whether rca or balanced input.
Not saying the c48 is the last word in sound but for me with the convenience of the digital inputs(5 in total) two sets of xlr ins and rca inputs, plus mm and mc phono inputs and a headphone out...and a remote that also controls my mvp851....
well just a lot of convenience factors that were also very hard to ignore there!