Q. about ARC LS5; & running an all balanced system

I've been thinking of upgrading my pre-amp for a long time. I have a VTL TL2.5 now w/phono which I really like actually, but just have an itch to find out what a more expensive pre-amp would sound like in my system. I had been thinking of an ARC LS25 MkII, but reading comments of A'goners about the LS5 has got me leaning in that direction (hopefully a MKIII). Now, I know about the 10 tubes, & that it has only balanced connnections (neither seem like positives IMO, but not "deal-breakers" for me), & I've noted all the advice I could find about diff. kinds of tubes to use. Can anyone give me further info. on this unit, when it was produced, any dates of old reviews, pictures even--I've never even seen one. Does it have the older ARC cosmetics---black with white markings as I recall? And are they noisy at all?

Also, I don't have one single cable with XLR connections now. Has anyone gone to running an all balanced system from scratch w/o going broke on Interconnects? I read on one of the threads here that you can use less expensive balanced IC's (compared to SE IC's--there is less of a sonic difference between diff. bal. IC's?) & still get good results--any opinions on that? One good thing is that I don't have much of an investment in inter-connects yet anyway.

If I got one of these puppies (LS5) I might look for an ARC PH2 phono pre also. Originally, I was thinking of a PH3SE, but they're pricey & maybe a PH2 would do it for me.

Finally the rest of my system--Cary 303/200 (has balanced outs, I think), Fanfare tuner (ditto), ARC VT100 MkII, Rega P25 w/Benz Glider, alternating between Merlin TSM-M speakers & B&W M802SIII's.

Thanks in advance for any advice or info. on all this!
Hello Steve,

Look up several of my threads over the last few years as I have discussed extensively the LS5 which I owned (MK II and later III) along with the PH2 from 1995 to late 2002. I can cover my cable experiences with you in an email exchange. I tried so many and some worked well and others took away all of the LS5's magic. My favorites ended up being the Cardas Golden Cross, SilverAudio and then the NBS Statement. Also, just because a cable is balanced does not mean you can go with a lesser quality! Use the "wrong" cable from the LS5 to your amp, and you will lose much of what you paid for with the LS5.

The original LS5 came out in late 1993. It had 10 tubes but not all 6992s. In 1994 a Mk II version came out which used 10 6922s. Also some other tweaks were made to reduce the noise floor significantly. Then after the Ref1, the MK III followed which used the Ref1's audio circuitry. Many of us who had heard both much preferred the MK III. I think this came out in 1996-1997. The MK III went down to 8 tubes and thus no longer 30db gain but a choice of 12 or 18db set by the factory through resistor changes. And the MK III was a huge refinement as it removed the exaggerated sibilance on the top which made the MK II annoying once you heard the refined MK III. Check out the excellent Robert Harley review in Stereophile, August 1994 and a few followups when the MK II came out.

Concerning the PH2, I feel this was the most neutral product in the ARC line. The PH2 came out in 1992 following the single ended PH1 in 1991. It was so excellent. And with it also being fully balanced, it had a small following which was unfortunate. I tried the PH3 and it was so fatiguing in comparison. I never did try the PH3SE. And of course you will need a tonearm cable with XLR connectors with the PH2. This is no problem with many cable companies that make tonearm cables. Only thing with the PH2 was its 48db of gain which was not enough for my Koetsu Rosewood Sig's low output so I went with a BAT VKP10 phono stage...otherwise I would have never let go of the PH2. The BAT VKP10 too is excellent and does bring on a wee bit more harmonic richness but the PH2's dead silent background made it a resolution marvel.

So check out the many threads and then email me if you are interested in all the details. As you might read, I was a huge fan of the LS5/PH2 but ultimately I encountered the BAT VK31SE and have never looked back.

Hi, don't know if this will help much, but about a year ago I bought a LS2B demo for 700.00 on audiogon. This was rated stereophile class A a time ago. For me it replaced a classe pre amp and was a step up in transparency and midrange clarity, while maybe a touch softer in the bass. It has single ended and balanced in's and out's, with XLR direct for digital out, tape loop, and uses one 6DJ8 tube. I run single ended for now using B&W CDM 1 se's with classe power amp, AQ mammoth biwire.
Oh My! The LS2 never had any business as a Stereophile rated Class A product. So many of such ratings were pure nonsense and the LS2 was a clear example as was the LS3. At least they finally were honest with the LS22's B rating!

Sorry, but the LS2 is so far away from the LS5 caliber. Nobody would ever know they were from the same company. The LS2 is analytical and 2 dimensional while the LS5 brings on a level of musicality that is quite involving....takes you back to the early 80s of the SP8 and SP10. And no matter how many XLR connectors an LS2 has, only when the LS5 came along did a truly balanced line stage from ARC exist. The LS2 add additional circuit stages to achieve pseudo balanced inputs and outputs....but all the internals are single ended circuits.....seems so silly that this was ever done.

So Steve, take a listen to the LS2 just for the experience, but then try out the LS5 and you will know what I mean here.

Pretty much agree with Jafox regarding the LS5 pre. One of
the very best ARC ever made.

That being said, I prefer the mkII incarnation to the mkIII.
I've had my LS5mkII since mid-95 and passed on the mkIII
upgrade. I felt it too analytical with my big ARC D-400mkII
solid-state amps. It lost a lot of the bloom that I feel
makes the mkII version so special.

Maybe the mkIII is more synergistic with tube amps, the mkII
with solid-state? Not sure, but I don't think you can go
wrong either way.
LS5mk2- all tube/ss power supply
LS5mk3- hybrid tube/ ss power supply
Two different animals.
I own an LS 5 MKII and owned an LS 2 MK II
no contest - the LS5 is musical, resolving, engaging
the LS2 has a shrill high end and sounds constrained

ps you can get cheater plugs and run your rca interconnects with the plugs to the balanced connections(ARC or Radio Shack) of the preamp.

I would run balanced to your ARC amp, worth the extra cable