Need advice/info on various used ARC phono preamps

I have a VTL 2.5TL pre-amp with the built in phono stage. It's the first really decent pre-amp, as well as phono stage, I've ever owned. My only gripe, really, with the phono stage of the VTL is that it's extremely noisy. However, I'm also thinking about upgrading the VTL to an ARC preamp like the LS25MKII--in which case I'd need to get a separate phono pre-amp anyway.

Can anyone give me their opinions on the various ARC phono pre-amps that I could realistically expect to find used? So far I've been thinking of a used PH3-SE which is sort of big bucks for me right now, or the PH3. How do those compare, & also would it be worth buying an earlier model for the right price? (The main reason I'm concentrating on ARC is that I have a VT100MkII which I really like--& I'm just on an ARC kick right now).

(Besides this ARC gear, the other choice I have in mind would be a used CAT w/the built in phono stage......)

Rest of my system: Rega P25/Benz Glider, VTL 2.5TL, ARC VT100MKII, Cary 303/200 CDP, B&W M802SIII's alternating with Merlin TSM-M's. Thanks in advance for any feedback!
You might try lower noise tubes in the phone section of your preamp. If you're sqeezed for cash right now. Also, have you tried the expressimo heavyweight on your rega arm? Ringmat for the platter? Some cheaper ways to really step up the sound.

Sorry, I can't comment on the ARC gear, I'm into BAT. I do think that matching helps, so maybe sticking with the ARC gear can help. Has for me with a different brand.

Good luck...
Hi Steve, we seem to have similar electronics....I have the PH 3SE and before that I had the regular PH 3 as a phono stage. Although the se version was better (a bit quiter, maybe more dynamics) there was not a HUGH difference. I have yet to upgrade my tubes in the SE and some members say good NOS tubes in that unit (I would think in the regular PH 3) makes a BIG difference. I am now deciding on which NOS tubes to get.
Good Luck...
Or you could go with an ARC "SP" pre with the built in Phono stage. They are quiet.
I had the VTL2.5 in my system with phono and found the phono stage quiet. I agree with the post about changing tubes. The phono section is quite sensitive to tubes and some NOS tubes may be better than the stock tubes that came with the VTL. Also if you are using a cartridge that requires more gain than the phono provides and you have to increase the volume it can cause tube noise. I also had a PH-3 with NOS tubes and found it more dynamnic and detailed than then the VTL. Good luck.

Just acquire the SP-9/2, change those Russian tubes, by NOS Valvo E-188CC.
AMAZING... with my Ortofon Jubilee/Pro-ject 6.9 table with last model Ringmat.


My ARC SP6 C1 has a reasonably good phono section. My issues with this preamp are: Not enough gain for low output MC cartridges (unless you want to use a head amp). The amp is really picky about tubes compared to other tubes units I have owned. The SP6 C1 uses 4 12ax7 tubes and 2 6dj8. The SP6, SP6b uses all 12ax7s. Some prefer the earlier units, but I find that the 6dj8 has a signal to noise ratio that is about 8 db better than the 12ax7s. I went through lots of tube rolling to find a good set of tubes that I am happy with -this makes a huge difference in sound quality like night and day. Their is muting circuit that can be troublesome on the SP6 (just google this on the web). Mine has been moded professionaly. They are good units and seem to hold their values between $600-800, (good bang for the buck). Issues aside, they are well built, sound good, have plenty of line level gain, they are fairly reliable for tube gear and you can still get parts /service (unlike a Counterpoint preamp I had years ago).