Review on AricAudio Motherlode MKII preamplifier

The Stereo Times review on the AricAudio Motherlode MKII preamplifier just went live on the website this morning. I have received numerous inquires regarding this review after posting a thread regarding how superlative Aric’s new reference preamplifier in it’s performance across all sonic parameters. The ML MKII will compete with any line-stage, regardless of price, and I purchased it to use it in my different systems. For the details, regarding my conclusions, take a look at the review. I also put it on the Stereo Times list for "2020 Most recommended components of the year".
Nice writeup TJ. I will put Aric Audio on the short list when I am ready to look at new tube components.
@teajay Good job. In the future I would have liked for some comparisons to other linestages to put things into perspective... for example your Coda 07x which I believe you also really loved.
Agree with @smodtactical, a direct comparison with the LTA preamp would of been helpful, since it was(is) your tube reference.  For somebody looking at the LTA preamp to purchase, your review was lacking in any real help in evaluating preamps.

Just ordered the Motherlode II preamp with upgraded caps.  It'll be a few weeks before it arrives, however, I am itching to hear it.  Lord knows I do not need another preamp - yet, I could not resist another one to drop in my rotation.


Let us know what you think. Did you compare with the Motherlode XL and what improvements did Aric say the better caps will bring?

The XL is fully balanced.  I did not need that as my Zavfino interconnects are RCA.  The upgraded caps are supposed to provide a blacker background for sure.  

Enjoy !    I am all for independent amp builders.    You get a lot for your money. 

The Motherlode delivers! I can say with confidence that a preamp cull is in your future, as you will not want to take it out of rotation. 

@rocray I hope that I love it! @laaudionut I have been listening to my system and it sounds great. But like a true audiophile or audiophool, I am chasing even better sonics. Go figure.

@jaymark : Which caps are being offered for the upgrade? Did you ask about transformer upgrades as well? Thanks. Jeff

@yoby We agreed to build this one as the Motherlode XL (with the Clarity TC600 filter caps and Takman resistors), but simply are omitting the fully balanced I/Os as they are not needed for his system. The power transformer is a low DCR toroidal, rated for over 4Xs the preamp’s current draw, I don’t offer an upgrade for the power transformer. Best regards, Aric

@aricaudio : Have you experimented with the new VCap ODAM caps at all? Thanks for your reply.

Hi Yoby,  yes I have used the Odams a few times and they sound good, but are not my favorite…it could just be a synergy thing, but I just never really loved them. I much prefer the Miflex KPCU or Jupiter Copper coils to them as I find them more involving and rich.  Cheers, Aric

My motherlode has been shipped and will arrive on Thursday.  It will be inserted into my reference system within an hour of arrival at my address.  More to come.

Is that your ML II that Aric just posted on his Facebook Page?! You are going to love it...I am looking forward to your thoughts once it has settled in.


So I hooked up my newly arrived MotherLode II last evening and listened a bit.  Then I let it play overnight and listened a bit this morning before going to work.  My first impressions are overwhelmingly positive.  This is a very special preamp.  It was inserted into my reference system for a modded Supratek 6SN7 preamp that is a helluva piece of kit.  

The ML is clean with near crystalline clarity, nice imaging and good low end.  Relative to the awesome Supratek, it initially does not have quite the low end heft.  However, the ML is more extended on the top end.  Overtime the bass noticeably improved and some initial upper end hardness was gone.  The soundstage has opened up a bit.  The ML has a touch more clarity than the Supratek.

Obviously more break-in time is needed.  I will say though that the ML preamp appears to live up to its high billing.  I am most pleased with it even though it is currently breaking in.  Aric Kimball has been very easy to work with as he has been an Uber responsive communicator.  The preamp was superbly packed and has the look and feel of high quality equipment.

I am going to very much enjoy this journey of breaking it in.

Nice review Teajay. Was good to see you still have the Tektons in your stable. They do let upstream changes manifest themselves, don’t they? A number of reviewers change their "references" so often it makes one wonder. Glad you have not fallen into that camp.

So with about 50 hours of playtime the MLII has erased any of the previously mentioned shortcomings.  The low end and midbass have filled in nicely, the clarity has even ratcheted up a notch, tone colors are in full bloom and there is zero edge to the very extended treble.  

This is the best preamp I have ever owned. It is, for me, the GOAT.  Highly recommended.  I might try some different tubes -already put in Linlai 6SN7s - however it is really hard to fathom getting incremental performance from its current level.