Opinions on Audio Research LS17 & LS26

Geting ready to purchase new preamp. Interested on opinions/experiences with ARC LS17 & LS26. Thanks.
I demo'd the ARC 300.2 amp and ARC LS26 preamp in my system (Ayre CX7e CD player; ARC PH5 Phono preamp; Linn LP12/Ittok LVII/Lyra Argo/Lingo; Wilson Audio Sophia Series II loudspeakers; Shunyata Hydra 4; various cables including AQ speaker cables and Cardas Cross XLR interconnects). The LS26 is a wonderful preamp and will be the next one that I purchase when I can afford to do so. It is a champ at soundstaging, is very neutral in my system with no sonic signatures of its own, & pardon the cliche, it just gets out of the way of the music. I cannot speak to the LS17 because my dealer did not have one in stock.

In addition, I also found the folks at ARC wonderful to deal with. In particular, Leonard was always helpful and accessible whenever I had any questions.

As always, the best way to know for sure is to demo the preamp with your system to ensure there is system synergy with the rest of your gear. Best of luck with your purchase!
I have a Ls26 and a 300.2 ,a cd mk3 and the very revealing, proac 1SC's. The LS 26 is incredable.A hugh wide and tall soundstage. no coloration .Does everthing better than anything I've heard before.
I have a LS26 and love it. This is a somewhat different sound from Audio Research products.The 26 is very close to the Ref, just a tad bit smaller in its presentation. This is the best buy in their new line IMO. This is a great leap ahead from their past preamps. The new line is the most organic sounding,lots of air, massive soundstage, as deep as it is wide, which just floats into your space. I really enjoy the decay, which just goes on and on and creats an effortless, carefree, relaxed feel.
As I understand, the 17 sounds the same, again just smaller and with a few less features. I have not heard the 17.
Efner, very nice system and room! I bet it sounds incredible.

We recently purchased a new Audio Research LS26 from a highly recommended dealer in Austin, Texas (Mark Lyon of Audio System). The amp now has almost 100 hours booked. Out of the box, the LS26 superceded the demo of a LS25MKII that we had for almost a month (courtesy of Goodwin's High End in Waltham, Ma...thank you, Paul. We did purchase the demo 150.2 from Goodwin's). Please allow me to emphasize that the LS26 was the superior preamp choice in our room and with equipment, without investing the more dollars required by the highend Classe or Audio Research (Reference 3). Actual performance may vary depending on equipment synergy and room dynamics, as many here at audiogon are aware.

With almost 100 hours on the LS26, it is without reservation that we state that it is a brilliant preamp. A formal review will follow after 200 hours. For your reference, associated equipment include:

Audio Research 150.2 amp -- demo, purchased in Feb. 2007 (Goodwin's)

Wilson Audio Sophia Series 2 loudspeakers -- demo, purchased 10/2006 local dealer

Audio Research Phono Preamp PH5 -- purchased August 2006

Late model purchase of Linn LP 12 Sondek/Cirkus/Trampolin turntable

Linn LVII tonearm -- purchased used from local dealer

Lyra Argo i Cartridge -- purchased new from local dealer (late 05/ early 06)

Linn Lingo PS -- purchased new from local dealer (late 05/early 06)

Cardas Cross XLR interconnect, 1.0 m -- demo, purchased from local dealer

Cardas Golden Cross XLR -- demo -- purchased early 2007, 1.0m

Cardas Golden Reference Power Cable -- demo -- purchased 2007, 6 ft

TG Audio SLVR Power Cable, 5 ft., originally purchased new from manufacturer (while Bob Crump was alive)

Shunyata Hydra 4 Power Conditioning

We highly recommend the Audio Research LS26 preamp for all of those in the market for a new preamp. It supercedes many that we demo'd including many name brands (McIntosh, Audio Research LS25MKII, Classe, etc).

Mcrheist, could you please mention how the LS26 was better than 25MkII? In what way? thanks a lot
I too own an LS-26 and am totally smitten with it.

It does everything that has been mentioned above... it's fast, it's dynamic and it has just the right amount of warmth in the mid-range. It's my first experience with tubes... as I always thought I would have to trade speed and pace - for warmth. This simply is not true with the 26 - it gives you the best of both worlds.

I don't have any experience with any other ARC products - so I can't compare it to the 25 but it's a brilliant pre-amp.

My system contains:
Linn Unidisk 1.1 (source)
Meridian 861 (processor)
Levinson 336 (amp)
Aerial 10T's (speakers)

I highly recommend the 26.

The attached review compares the LS26 with the LS25MKII, as well as other ARC older preamps. I believe this reviewer hits the nail on the head:


Hope this answers your question. If not, please provide more specific questions and I will be more than happy to respond.
I've read the review. Thanks.
All three ARC preamps, the LS17, LS26 and REF3, sound like they are cut from the same cloth because they are.

The LS17 sounds very much like a smaller version of the LS26. The 26 has a bit more weight, extension, dynamic impact and resolves a few more layers of detail.

This same thing can be said of the comparison between the LS26 and the REF3, but the REF also has the additional benefit of sounding just a bit more liquid and effortless than the other two models, both of which use only solid state devices in their supplies.

I am an ARC dealer.
I found that DrHIFI review to be more geared toward comparing/contrasting the LS26 and the LS15, not the LS25MKII. I don't mean to pick apart that fine review, but really, there just isn't much substance to go on, as far as compare/contrasts to the 25/2. Ultimately what MCRHEIST did is the number one way to go: direct comparison in your own room with your own familiar "stuff". Buying based on reviews is risky business, which I am certainly guilty of ;)
Dpac996, I agree. I think the comparison of LS-15 to LS-26 is meaningless. LS-15 is 3 generations older and 1 model down in a product line. LS-26 should have been compared to LS-25MkII instead of LS-15.

BTW, there's going to be a review of LS-17 soon by soundstage.com
Should be interesting to read.
I recently compared my LS-15 (with attached power cord) which had high-end NOS tubes in it with the LS-26 in the dealer's showroom. The LS-26 had a better more focused soundstage and a quieter background which allowed for better microdynamics. The only thing I preferred on my LS-15 was that it had more of a lush (rich/warm) sound (the tubes?) which made the LS-26 sound slightly sterile in comparison. In the end, I decided that the improvement the LS-26 provided was not worth the price. I may look into sending my LS-15 to GNSC for upgrades.
Ackman00, Interesting comparison between the 2 preamps. I wonder what the dealer thought about it.

As a side note...if your LS-15 has captive power cord, it probably also has the yellow REL caps. Replacing the REL caps with TRT Dynamicaps was a huge improvement in my LS-15. I also had the IEC installed to try the aftermarket cords.
LS-15 is a fine preamp, but you can definitely take it several notches higher with an upgrade.
Agree Audphile1. I too replaced the stock infini's with TRT's and the preamp was far more transparent/neutral. This was a good thing in the context of my system. The LS15 with the EH6922's and new dual tube dampers from arc, plus the TRT's IMHO,take this pre into the "high value" category.
Audphile1, thanks for tip on replacing the caps - do you know where they can be purchased? The audio dealer I visited (Stereo Design in San Diego) has a very low key approach - they let me listen to whatever I want and don't "push" any of their products. They know they carry great stuff and just want me to be happy with whatever I choose - so they did not care that I was not going to pull the trigger and purchase the LS-26. They probably figure I'll eventually purchase one of their other products at some other time (and they are probably right).
Dpac996, I regret I didn't change out the power supply caps on the LS-15 though. I should have replaced those Nichicon caps with some Black Gates. Could have been even better!

Ackman00, see www.percyaudio.com
I purchased capacitors from this website. Michael is a pleasure to deal with. If you are going to purchase TRT caps, I recommend you also investigate the possibility of changing the power supply caps to BlackGates. But the TRT Dynamicaps along should bring a very nice improvement.
I think this upgrade is totally worth it. Improvements across the board, especially comparing to the REL caps ARC used in this pre.
Wow...I just purchased an ls26 - hooked up with a classe dr-25, NAD M5 (the new masters series product, which in itself, is an amazing piece), b&w 801s strung together with transparent ultra mm interconnects and speaker cable throughout, and rounded out with the amazing transparent power isolator 4 (with transparent power cables throughout). My first impression of the ls26 was nothing short of spectacular (right out of the box, i might add!). The breadth and depth of the soundstage is nothing short of...well, 'live'. It is truly a wonderous piece of gear. I should add that the addition of the PI-4 power isolator added a great deal to the configuration in terms of wholly eliminating all extraneous 'noise'...I was somewhat doubtful of the impact which a line conditioner could have upon the sound, but the Transparent product is nothing short of stunning.
Pixette246, what was your preamp before the LS-26?
Congratulations! I share your opinion of the LS-26... wait until it gets about 250 hours on it!!!
The best recommendation that I can offer in order to understand the difference between a LS25MKII and a LS26: demo both pieces of gear in your own environment. Just as soon as I offer one attribute of one piece of equipment over the other, someone will post here that they never experienced that with this particular piece of equipment. And for good reason. All systems depend on synergy. And, in my particular system and room, the LS26 was far superior and worth the additional dollar investment. You may have a totally different experience or your expectations my not be the same as mine.

If you do not have the opportunity to demo, purchase used and sell if you are not pleased with the outcome.

Audphile1...the preamp I was using prior to the LS26 was a Classe DR 5 (or 15..can't rememeber the model number)..suffice to say, a world of difference (and, quite honestly, an unfair comparison!).

Does anyone have any experience with Transparent cable and power/line conditioners? I've seen many references in these threads related to product 'synergy'...one of the main reasons I've bought into the notion of using Transparent products end to end in my system is precisely for this reason....does this make sense or have I fallen victim to the marketing hype??

I just picked up a PB8 and a used REF2MKII. Sounds great in my system. Also using all Transparent MM except the balanced line from pre to amp is XL..... waiting for funds to upgrade that one. shunyata PC's through the rest of the system. I think Transparent goes great with Audio Research gear though.
i auditioned the ls17 ad ls26 side by side, same system :
wilson w/p #8; arc ref110, k5xe , transparent ultra mm cable + transparent intercons. room accoustics - somewhat damped [not my livingroom]

the ls17 performed nicely overall, but there was no compariso with the ls26. i found the differences somewhat substantial compared to the ls17, perhaps more so than davemitchell suggested . going with the ls17 is a big compromise, if you have very revealing speakers.

one thing i have learned in the last few months of itense equipment auditioning: , if other parts of your system arent up to a similar levels of sound reproduction, and you dont plan to upgrade the weakest links in the chain, then the differences afforded by the ls26 may not amount to much by the time the music comes thru the speakers ! it's as much an issue of real world budget as listening aims. that said, the ls26 was significantly better than the ls17 in my evolving system.

other: i listen to mostly classical music, much of it chamber music. conservatory trained. nuance is critical to me.

I have just taken an LS 26 instead of a LS 25MKII, and my opinion was in the negative: the bass is slow, very heavy. Then, I worked on cables and valves on getting a good improvement. I speak only for low range, medium-high on the 26 is better than 25; LS 26 - same of 25MKII - driving Nuforce 9SE V2 mono amps, with Magneplanar 1.6
I just broke in my Audio Research LS17 and it is amazingly good. I have had many so called reference preamps in my system but this unit is truely light years ahead of any preamp I have heard. These incude BAT, Cary, Audible and Mcintosh, Calypso (all tube units).Please do yourself a favor and seek this unit our (one with at least 200 hours on it) and listen. It is all about the music and it is the closest preamp I have heard to not having one at all and going directly into my amp from the CD player. It disappears and throws a stage like you have to experience. Micro detail, decay and imaging stage is incredible! I have no idea why this unit is not receiving glorious press or reviews not that they mean much these days. Our so called press is the best money can buy.
Well you must have a very unique system I can't fathom how an LS 17 can best a Calypso.
It doesn't depart any signature of its own. I am not saying that the Calypso is less of a product but this is (LS17) truly wire with gain. I always advocate that you must try everything with your own system before passing your thoughts along. Yes I have what I feel is a great system. If you have a Calypso try this unit. You may or may not agree with with me. But I am still stoked over the sound I currently have.
Has anyone tried to further improve the LS26? How about replacing the original ARC tube to NOS 6H30p DR ?
I did. The difference is big but the 6H30p DR in the LS26 will not please to every one. All depends on your other components. For a short story, if you feel there is some «slack» in your sound (specialy in the bass), the DR is for you. If you like the bass and the highs you already have, don't do it. The DR will tight the bass area and it's not a subtle move. The high frequency area is also tightened and you'll some times get the impression that something there is missing.

But like every tuning move you make, there will be a lot of recordings that you will like much better and others that will make you miss your previous setting. But all of them will be significantly different.

Generaly speaking, on symphony orchestra recordings, both tubes are good; for chamber classical music the DR is better because of its superior focus and tone contrast (amazing!); while small jazz band, I prefer the original Sovtech tubes for a more «live after midnight» sound effect.
Actually Mniquet I am changing tubes around as I write this. A little different scenario in that the amp is a REF5. I had a REF Anniversary for a year so I'm trying to narrow the gap. Tubes in it were Sovtek's dated 10-03, a batch known to have had issues. I'm playing with matched sets of 09-02's (better) 10-04, supposedly DR's, a pair of 85 DR's and a pair of 87 DR's. Just because there aren't enough variables I'm also playing with a 62 RCA 6550 coke bottle 6550 in the power supply. I find your comments about the characteristics of the modern vs the old DR's to be pretty spot on. Now, if I could control it from the remote.... The 10-03's were known to have a lot of problems both in outright failure and underperforming, sounding thin and bright. Seems to have been a production run issue. Anyway thanks for the confirmation.