Should I consider the newer Audio Research pre & power amps, when I play records not CD's


I worked in and owned upper end audio stores back in the 1970's. (McIntosh B&O Magnepan, etc) I have been pretty much out of audio for the past 30 years. In my old age, I want to play the records I have saved (many MFSL & Japanese virgin vinyl) I kept my B&O linear 4002 W/mmc20CL cart. and it still works and I have newer B&W 804 speakers. I am going to get a new table of better quality. I have always wanted an Audio Research tube amp and Preamp. I am considering the LS 26 or LS17SE Preamp and older D90/115 or newer VS 115 or the Ref 75SE. I am in my 60's and my hearing is not as good as it was, plus I am lost with all the digital technology. (just started using a smart phone) I just wanted to get opinions spending $4000 on older ARC or bite the bullet and spend in the $7000 up. Is it worth spending the money for the new equipment when I am only playing records. 
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They do not sound the same. That's the real problem.

The newer one's are significantly warmer without being juicy compared to the original AR.

I would go by your ears. Listen to Conrad Johnson, Cary and Prima Luna as well.

Best,


Erik
Thank you for the response. Thank you regarding the phono stage. So, even if it says phono I may have to use a separate phono preamp? New is out of the question but a few years old used might be within range. I just sold my Conrad Johnson pre amp and my Dynaco ST 50. The Dynaco sounded great but no enough power. 
The LS26 and the LS17 are line stage only. Most preamps made in the last twenty years are line stage only. There are some that have phono,but not Audio-Research.
I second the suggestion that you consider PrimaLuna.  I've owned a DiaLogue Premium Integrated for three years and have been very happy with it.  I also listen to a lot of LPs and have a separate phono stage (Eastern Electric tube model) hooked up to the amp.

I bought the amp from Upscale Audio (Kevin Deal) - very knowledgeable 
and helpful. The money you save with a PrimaLuna could be applied towards a higher end TT/cartridge.  In my case I have a Rega P9 with RB1000 mated to a wonderful Ortofon Jubilee cart. Very happy with the performance.



The Audio Research SP-20 preamp includes a phono stage (and DAC, I believe).
I'd also look at a McIntosh C22 tube preamp w/phono.
Welcome back! 
" I am considering the LS 26 or LS17SE Preamp and older D90/115 or newer VS 115 or the Ref 75SE."

If you must have ARC tube amp and preamp, Find a good used VT-100 (Mk 1, 2 or 3 are all OK.), and take the rest of the money and buy the best preamp you can afford.
I appreciate the help very much. I never realized I was so far out of date. I listened to ARC years ago but could not afford it. I am not dead set on ARC and am now realizing there are great companies out there, producing a high quality products. Why do you need DACs and what are some good phono preamps?
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 Listen to everything you can. Make a long term plan. Synergy is very important. You can have an excellent sounding piece of equipment, but if it is not a good match for your other pieces. It will just sound mediocre. Also do you want the up keep of a tube amp? There is expense in replacing the output tubes every 2000 to 3000 hours.

 Audio Research is some excellent gear. I have owned it since the late 1980's. But like any company some pieces are better than others. The amps made a major change in 1988 with the Classic series. A more modern sounding higher resolution tube amp. These amps can still hold there own against more modern Audio Research tube amps as well as most others. If I was going to choose the best bang for the money ARC amp it would be a Ref 110. An truly excellent sounding amp that can be found used for a really good price. It can run KT120 tubes and has an hours meter. If you don't want to deal with having to replace tubes. I would go with a Pass amp. Some of the best sounding solid state amps I have ever heard.

 For a line stage I would go with an LS25 mk2, Ref 2 mk2 or Ref 3. The Ref 5se is significantly better but used would still be twice the price. They will all mate well either either ARC or Pass.  A phono preamp really depends on the type of cart. For MM a PH5 is a nice sounding Audio Research phono pre. A PH7 if you are thinking MC. Audio Research has always been known for excellent preamps.

 You need to at least listen to Audio Research before making a decision. They make some of the finest sounding gear in the world. I have owned their gear off and on since the late 1980's. I have moved away from them a few times but always ended up coming back after a short time.

  
I also have always wanted an Audio Research Preamp (well, maybe not always, but at least since 1974 or so).  I finally decide to just do it, and my used LS25 MkII arrived 2 days ago.

You don't state a cost limit, but they do make an outboard phono stage, ase well as a new SP series with a phono stage (SP-20?), so check their web site.  There is also a 3rd party site listing the entire product history if you want to buy used.

I don't use records anymore so was only interested in line stages (LS-x).

Early on, they had knobs and very nice switches and ARC has always had a lot of control functionality as well as a very detailed rendering with a bit of extra mid-range (euphonic) but never a fat, bloomey sound.  They have always aimed to be the best.

My LS-25 has the switches along the bottom (which all trigger relays), but the knob rotation for control is gone.  Instead, you twist the knob and hold it to change volume, balance, etc.  I don't like that as well, but it does get rid of the pots and their SQ problems.

The LS-26 and newer SP-x preamps have a clock to monitor tube usage, and a display panel (where the LS25 has LEDs in an arc to show volume settings, etc.)

I agree you will need to do some extensive listening to decide which has the sound you like best, as well as evaluating control functionality and the longevity of the company, since a long warranty is of no value if a co. goes out of business.  Indeed, even paid repairs can be an issue.
BTW, you will want to read up on the new benchmark amp - it includes some new technology to reduce crossover distortion and is said by Stereophile to match amps 5x its price.  You also don't have to worry about the cost of new tubes every year or so.

A tube pre-amp with a quality SS amp may be all the tubeyness you need...
Should I consider the newer Audio Research pre & power amps, when I play records not CD’s
YES!!! ARC is better than ever ... Life is short and you only live once so go for it IF you can afford it. I’m in the camp who ever goes with the most toys, WINS!!!

You don’t want to be a miserable over the hill bastard with Adcom, Jolida ... and spent 24/7 trolling " Synergistic Red Fuse " thread. GL!
Years ago in the store we had plenty of time to test different products. Our technician got an ARC SP3A and a D 76. We were able to compare it to most of the McIntosh line of tube amps and other solid state equipment. I fell in love with the ARC sound then. I had to sell the stores to care for my father and my second love "1940's 78 RPM Wurlitzer jukeboxes" kept me sane while taking care for him with Altimeters. All the jukeboxes have mono tube amps (6L6-5U4) type amps and all need restoration. (new caps and tubes) I have looked at the Ref 110 most are over $5000. I like the idea of the VT-100 in the $2500 range and going for a very good preamp and phono preamp. The reviews on the LS17se and the LS 25 & 26 are pretty good. Probably a dumb question but can a regular CD player be plugged into a Line Stage preamp without a DAC. The use of a DAC is confusing. 
" The use of a DAC is confusing."

A CD player has 2 main parts; the transport and the DAC. You put the CD into the tray and the laser reads the info off the disk. Thats a transport. The digital signal is then sent to the dac (digital to analog converter). The dac's job is to convert the signal from digital to analog. You can't listen to music while its digital (its just a bunch of 1's and 0's). Once its analog, the signal gets sent to the preamp just like any other component (tape player, reel to reel, radio, etc), and you listen to it.

Instead of having a dac built in as part of a CD player, you can also buy them as stand alone components. Currently, the main reason you buy a stand alone dac, is so you can plug a computer into it. This allows you to use a computer as a source for playing music.

That's just the basics as to what a dac does, but like everything in audio, there are differences. Price, parts quality, design theory, .... and the list goes on.

" Probably a dumb question but can a regular CD player be plugged into a Line Stage preamp without a DAC."

Yes. But remember, you must have a dac in order to listen to any kind of digital source. In this case, you would use the dac inside the CD player. A line stage is a preamp that doesn't have a phono input. You can only plug line level sources into it. In reality, every type of component other than a turntable is a line level source. For phono, if you don't have it as an input on your preamp, you use an external phono stage. The phono stage itself is a line level component. 

Here's a link to a very useful resource. Its a journal that's broken up into several issues. I can't think of any other reference that comes close to matching it. They also review several ARC components. I believe the VT-100's in it. Just start with issue one.

http://vandersteen.com/audio-perfectionist-journal
I don’t own, but have always admired, Audio Research equipment. I have read many passionate reviews about the virtues of ARC, so I tend to believe them. Their vintage gear is pricey, but easier to liquidate when the upgrade bug hits. I see an ARC SP-11 here on Audiogon that has been sitting for some time now. The seller has feedback so that can’t be it. These used to sell the first day. Considering the price of the newer "Reference" series preamps, any idea why this hasn’t sold? Is it considered a gamble to buy used tube equipment, even ARC? I'm just curious and no, I’m not the seller!
" Considering the price of the newer "Reference" series preamps, any idea why this hasn’t sold? Is it considered a gamble to buy used tube equipment, even ARC?"

That preamp sounds so different from the Ref series, it might as well be a different brand. Also, its not balanced like most ARC gear, and vintage peramps aren't as desirable as vintage amps. (From a SQ POV, not as a collector)

 I have seen Ref 110 amps going for just over $3500 to a little over $4000. $5000. is high. Browse HiFishark.com. I have owned both a VT100 and VT100 mk3. as well as the Ref 110.  Both are OK amps but not exceptional. The Ref 110 is exceptional. It is also much easier to bias, has a tube hours meter and can run KT 120 tubes. KT 120 tubes will last much longer than 6550s in the Ref 110.  I have owned a lot of Audio Research equipment. If I were looking for an exceptional used ARC amp, my favorites are a Classic 60, a V70, basically a balanced Classic 60. And the Ref 110.  But biasing the Classic 60 / V70 is a pain. Also if you get something too old, you have to think about replacing caps and may need it gone through.


 I really love the LS 25 mk2. I have compared it head to head with an LS27. I was no impressed with the LS27 and thought it not worth the upgrade. It took a Ref 5se to convince me that I needed to upgrade. Both the Ref 2 mk2 and Ref 3 are also much better than the LS25 mk2. Keep in mind that mk2 is very important as they use 6H30 tubes. I really like the Ref preamps because they use tubes in the power supply. I think this makes a big difference.  

 You may also want to consider a Fosgate Signature phono stage A very nice sounding phono stage. All tube and highly configurable for both MM and MC. They go for around 1200 used but can sometimes be hard to find.




How reliable are ARC Pre-amps?
Thanks everyone for the help. I read a few hours a day to try to update myself. There are not any dealers close so I have to do the research. What about the VS 115 w/KT-120's and Ref 75 & 75SE compared to the Ref 110?

 Both the Ref 75 and Ref 75se are a bit better. It is a matter of power. For my Sonus Faber Elipsa SE speakers, I felt the Ref 150 had tighter more well defined bass than the Ref 75. I am sure that is because of the extra power. I really wanted to prefer the Ref 75 because of the meters. BTW the Ref 75 can run KT 150 tubes without a problem.

 I have not heard the VS 115 in a long time. But I don't remember it being better than the Ref 110. Surely not in the same league as the Ref 75 or 75se. Both the Ref 75se and 150se are very impressive. If you mate one of them with a Ref 5se, you would have a system that would be very hard to beat. 


There are a few ref Ref 75/75se for sale is was why I asked. The 75 uses 4 KT 120's and the SE uses 4 KT 150's. I know most people like the ARC with the metal front. I like the open tube VS 115 style, also. There is one for sale with (8) KT 120's instead of the 6550's and the reviews on that amp seem pretty good. I see the Ref 110 uses 8 6550's, also. I have B & W 804's that require at least 50 watts of power. I would think the 75 would be OK but the 110 or 115 might be a little better.
I have 100's of albums on my computer.  I am finding that using a good DAC (ARC DAC8 etc.) this music will sound pretty good. Is this correct? If so what other DACs are pretty good? With technology growing like it is, am I better getting a good newer DAC.
Just curious did you upgrade to the Ref 5 SE from the LS15? The Ref 5SE is pretty expensive. I shouldn't think so much about the price. I have people buy 1940's jukeboxes that play 78 records and spend $10,000 or more.
Thank you for taking the time to help me out.
TonyKay, the SP-11 is not one of the legendary ARC classics, hence it's lack of sale. It replaced the SP-10, which IS one of the classics. The SP-11 suffers from the subtly "white/dry" sound of the early ARC tube/ss hybrids, the SP-10 has an old-fashioned tube sound---lush, soft, sweet. Neither is as transparent and uncolored as newer ARC pre's, which can be had for less $ than the SP-10 and -11.

 The Ref 75 shipped with KT120 tubes and the 75se uses KT 159 tubes. But you can use KT 150 tubes in the Ref 75. Like all the fairly recent ARC amps that have vertical tubes. 

 I am not that familiar with your speakers. But I have a feeling something like the Ref 150 will sound a little more open with more well defined base My Elipsa SE speakers are rated at 91 db  sensitivity and minimum 50 wpc. I preferred the Ref 150 to the 75. But the only real way to know for sure is to try them in your system. 

 I had 2 systems. I sold a Ref 2 mk2 to upgrade to a Ref 3. Then the deal for the Ref 3 fell through. I put the LS 25 mk2 from my other system in the main room while I looked for a new preamp. After not being impressed with a demo LS 27.  I took home a demo Ref 5se for the weekend. The next Tuesday morning I called my dealer and told him I did not want to return the Ref 5se. How much would he sell it to me for. The Ref 5se  was that good I did not want to let it out of my system. I had to also sell my beloved LS 25 mk2 to afford the Ref 5se. So now I only have the main system.

 If you have to compromise, I would compromise a bit on the amp. You can always upgrade later. The preamp will have more of an impact on your system. Used the Ref 5se is a real bargain. It is just an incredible oreamp. It is easily twice as good as the LS 27. 

 I also own a DAC8. I am thinking of moving from a computer to an Aurender streamer. Maybe one with a build in DAC. The DAC8 or DAC9 for that matter does not work that well with  Aurender (or Moon) streamers. The nice thing about the Aurender is that it has a 2 TB hard drive so you don't need a computer. You can just copy your music files to the hard drive.

The DAC8 requires software which does not seem to be one of ARC's strong suites. I also own a Ref CD7. The Ref CD7 is very noticeably better than the same CD ripped and played with a computer through my DAC8. The DAC8 sounds best through AES and worst with USB.

 You may want to browse  AudioAficionado.org They have an Audio Research section, B&W section and many other manufacturer specific sections. 


I looked up your speakers and they are extremely nice. I love the workmanship and the sound must be terrific. Leave it to the Italians. I have a Ducati motorcycle. I purchased the B&W speakers because I have always loved them and the price was very good. They disappear better than any speaker I have ever owned. They are 90DB SPL and 75w would be the bottom I would accept in power. The 110w or 115w would be a little better. I am not a loud loud listener. I will upgrade them to a better pair as time goes on. No matter how good the equipment is "the speakers are the most important."
How do you get from the computer to the DAC without using USB? Do you use a USB to AES/XLR?  If I understood you the computer audio is not as good as a CD even with the DAC8 or other DAC units?
LS25mk11 For sale on audio Mart hope the link works.
thttp://www.usaudiomart.com/details/649316600-fs-audio-research-ls25-mk-ii-pre-amplifier/images/13894...
 



 That is a fair price for a LS25 mk2. I sold mine for $2400  a little over 2 years ago. Ask if the remote works. Audio Research no longer has replacement remotes for the LS25 mk2. It is a wonderful sounding unit. And one of the last of the truly nice classic looking ARC preamps without a display screen. The Ref 5se is suppose to sound best with the display screen turned off. So I never got the whole point of the display screen.

 I use a cheap GUSTARD USB Converter to go from my computer to the DAC8. First keep in mind that the Ref CD7 has a better all tube DAC inside. The DAC8 is solid state. Also there are a lot of variables with computer audio. They are not built to play music. Computers are noisy (RF/EMI) and it takes work to get them to sound good.  The Aurender is a one piece unit with a hard drive that is built to play music. You don't need a computer. If I got one with a DAC, I could get rid of the DAC8, USB converter and extra cables.

 They are truly beautiful. I got a real super deal on my speakers. They were a dealer demo and less then a year old. I don't think they were completely broken in when I got them. I listened to them a few times and really loved them. They are not the type of speakers you bring home for the weekend on a whim. Then I read a review that said. Some speakers sound this way, other speakers sound that way. The Elipsa SE don't sound any way. They just sound like music. I totally agree, I can't see ever wanting to upgrade them.





Go with all Herron Audio.  I haven't heard anything better.  IMO, VTPH-2 phono stage is as good as it gets, I haven't heard any line stage better than the Herron VTSP-3A (r03).  Amps are extremely good.  No coloration, no distortion.  Just the music.
 I have the house set up so I can run the Ipad thru the house or just the video system. I was thinking I wanted to keep the audio system separate and just play records but the more i read about streaming the music the more I want to go that way. I just have to educate myself how all this stuff works. I have read about the Aurender and also the Lumin. The Lumin D1 ($2000) with a DAC is less but does not store the music. The Aurender N100H does store the music. What is the difference other than storage? The Lumin A1 has gotten incredible reviews but at $7000 it is out of my price range.
I have decided on ARC equipment mainly for the sound but also the resale. I am sure over the next few years I will make changes and ARC seems to do well in the resale market. I had looked at Herron Audio and liked what I read but the resale aspect of it concerns me.

You're right.  There are few used Herron Audio components for sale even though there are thousands of units out there.  Could it be that the owners are so satisfied with them that they find few other components good enough to replace them?  What I've seen in the used market is that the few used Herron Audio components for sale appear to sell for a pretty high percentage of their original retail price, and they don't stay on the market long.  Even the 20+ year-old phono stages seem to hold their value and disappear quickly. 

But that's just my opinion.  And observation.   

 Both Aurender and Lumin get great reviews. My Audio Research dealer carries Aurender. I have not had a chance to hear the Lumin. After some research I have come to think that having a hard drive is important. A streamer that plays from a NAS, needs to be hard wired to the network so that it performs it's best. This is especially true with high resolution  (24 bit) files. Otherwise there can be errors and the music can sound choppy at times. 

 A streamer with a hard drive plays off the hard drive. So there is no "real time" performance problems. You can control the streamer from an Ipad. Plus having your music files also stored on the streamers internal hard drive is like another backup. 


If you want to stick with ARC, I'd go with an ARC-Classic 60 and an ARC REF-3 preamp. Take the CL-60 to a reliable tech and have him go through the amp to check the caps just to make sure they are operating at their full function. Also, have him remove the knuckle busting binding posts and swap them out for modern binding posts like the copper ones from Cardas. Use quality after market fuses in every thing ... fuses like Synergistic Research Blacks. 

Don't be fooled by the "paltry" 60 watts per side in the Classic 60.

If you want to go with one of ARC's reference series of amps, go with the REF-75 and change out the KT-120's for the KT-150's.  

Also as a final  note, with all of the cash I just saved you, get the AudioTechnica ART-9 cartridge and hear your old mono records (stereo too) sing. :-)

Frank
Thank you Frank for the thoughts. The first ARC amp I listened to was a  76/SP3 40 years ago and have wanted ARC ever since. I how have the money to get a few things on my Bucket list, but was amazed at how far out of touch I am. I restore old 1940's jukeboxes (state of the art in 1940) and all have tube amps, that have to have all the caps replaced and new tubes. The cartridge is like a nail (yes, a nail) and has to be upgraded. I don't think the 60 is enough power for me. I put the Ref 75 at the least I could use. If I upgrade my speakers, I could just get another one and biamp.    I would like to get a Ref 150 but the price is a little more than i want to put out.  After reading reviews on the Ref 2 and 3 and the recommendation from Lostbears I am going one of them.
Get an ARC pre-amp and a good SS amp (maybe the widely hailed Benchmark?).

I just bought a used ARC LS25 MkII and use it with a 20+ year old Sunfire amp on maggies.
I am just stuck on tubes. I love the warmness they offer. Yes a pain but I feel they are worth it. I love Magnepans an had a pair of the ARC Magneplanar Tympani's back in the 70 and loved them. They took up the hole room. They have come a long way over the years. 


Don’t underestimate the Classic 60. It punches way above it’s weight class. One of the reasons is that it use 4 6550 tubes per channel instead of 2. It is a magical sounding amp. It is not as detailed as later amps like the VT100. But it has a presence, a rightness that none of the VT100 models have. It is only the recent Ref series amps that really surpass the Classic and V series amps in a big way.

But because of it’s age you would need it gone through. At least the 4 large caps would need to be replaced. It is also not the easiest amp to bias. Then there is also the problem that a lot of modern cables won’t fit on the speaker strips. If you were to go that way I would strongly suggest the very late version that had balanced inputs or a V series amp. The V series is very similar to the Classic series but is balanced and came with KT90 tubes. 







I have found that over the years system synergy has a huge impact on your sound.  Make sure to take a holistic approach to your system, not just a "that's the best component". Unfortunately, only by a lot of work can you start to dial-in the synergy unless you copy completely a system that you have heard and liked.  I have had approximately 20 preamps (both tube and SS including an ARC SP-6b and an SP-10) and 30 amps (both Tube and SS including two D-115 mkii's and a VT200).  I listen to vinyl almost exclusively. I LOVE the flexibility of tube gear.  To warm, roll-in a brighter tube, to bright, get a warmer one).  Since you are focusing on vinyl, I would seriously consider the classic tube phono amps of the 80's. ARC SP-10 and SP-11 mentioned earlier as well as any CAT or Counterpoint. The phono stages were awesome and most can be had fairly inexpensively- by far the best price/performance. In my current set-up, I am taking the phono stage of a CAT out through the tape outputs to the line stage of a Doge 8.  Simply magnificent, much better than the CAT or Doge alone and better than the recent gear I have heard (although most listening sessions also introduce other variables (components) that I don't have a gauge on, so hard to make an educated assessment.  Also critically important are the tube choices for each- 60's Amperex 6922's for the phono input and 60's GE 12AT7's for the line stage.  But the bottom is, after a LOT of searching I am now happy with my system.   I have been focused on tube amplification for the last couple of decades and until recently my favorite has been my ARC D-115 with winged C power and the same 60's 6922 Amperex's. But I have now moved to a low power SET tube amp driving my M/T 8ohm loads and an ARC SS 100.2 driving the 4 ohm bass enclosure. Cost on all this was pretty reasonable (as if any of this is reasonable) of about $4k for used CAT and new Doge preamps with NOS tubes and $4k for the new SET and used SS amps.  Whatever you choose, enjoy the music.
one thing I forgot to mention regarding phono stages (and system synergy) is that almost all of the preamps I have heard require either an external or have an internal SUT to get the most out of a low output moving coil cartridge.  So, (in my biased listening preferences opinion) if you are going to get a cartridge that has an output < or = .5mv you are going to need an internal or external SUT.  The newer CAT's have them built in, not sure about the newer ARC's, but none of the 80's preamps have them.  The phono sections of all those will work, but for me they are too noisy and lack the preferred weight.  I currently use an EAR MC-4 with a Benz or accuphase LOMC (which I now prefer) or a koetsu SUT with a rosewood signature if I am listening mainly to vocals.
"only playing records" !!! Sumbuddy git a rope!

I owned the SP8 and 10 - loved them both, with Atma-Sphere tube amps and Bryston SS. Then the DIY bug bit, and I found myself too old to roll tubes.

If you must have tubes, consider Atma-Sphere. Their amps have no output transformers, so sound extraordinarily clean.

And since you are "only playing records" (gasp!), you must (repeat must) get something to clean them. Otherwise you will (1) wear away your stylus prematurely, costing serious money in your league and (2) never hear your records to anything near their potential. I use ultrasound - and it is not over the top for anyone with a $10,000 analogue front end.

Good luck!

You might look up various amps and gear on stereophile.com.  I've found their reviews to be really good.  They usually include some serious testing reports as well.  I always thought ARC was great gear, but I went for McIntosh instead.  For a digital music server, I recently bought a Bluesound Vault II.  It will digest your CDs into its hard drive and you can control it via an app on your tablet or smartphone.  It connects to your stereo amp, or preamp, over RCA, or digital coax, or fiber optic.  I have mine connected to my McIntosh C47 preamp via digital coax.  Amp is MC402 hooked to Wilson Sophias.  It's a great setup.
I am trying to get rid of, at least part of the rope. When I started my quest to play records again, I was not aware of the advances that had been made in digital music. I can remember the first time I compared a CD (2 by oversampling) to a record, it was like listening to AM radio. My experience now is only with an ipad using Bluetooth thru the system in my shop. I did dive into learning more about digital music and with the help of Lostbears started to understand the ins and outs of playing digital music. A streamer is on the have to have list, after reading everything regarding them. I still very much want to play records and well aware of keeping them in good condition. I have over 500 LP's and all are in rice paper sleeves, cleaned before and after use, and I take the static out before and after. Compared to Digital it is a pain. That being said, It is going to hard to beat listening to Pink Floyd, Dark Side, on MFSL UHQR, a glass of wine or Grand Mariner, except I have to get up and turn it over. Then after it is played, clean it and put it away and get out the album I want to hear next. I can see how it would be easy to get spoiled sitting in your listening chair with an Ipad to select what you want to hear. Not to mention a favorites list.

I try to take the time to research each of the systems you'll have, mainly to educate myself. With most of the new stuff (mainly Digital) I have much to learn. 

Thank you for all the options. Any experience with Aurendar or Lumin streamers?
I see that I was preaching to the converted, Juke. Sorry about that.

We sold McIntosh at the store years ago. I actually went to the factory In NY. Showed us around for 2 days. What I remember the most is they took us all out to dinner and ordered for us. Out comes a piece of Prime Rib so big I though they were going to carve it. But noooo!!!!! I find out later it was called the McIntosh cut at the restaurant. I wounder if they still do that?  
I can't say I am converted but the older I get some things are just easier. I was so thankful the preamps had a remote. Learning about digital DAC and Streamers is very confusing, but I will figure it out. "I hope"
If you are looking at tube amplifiers I would consider the Bob Carver Corporation Crimson/Raven Mono Bloc 350. They have a 10 year guarantee on tubes. ARC has a 90 day guarantee. All the amplifiers are handmade with point to point wiring. The are approximately 1/3rd the cost of a "comparable" ARC. (Ref 250 SE that is a stereo amp also.) Note: The predecessor 305 had a wonderful review in TAS with REG I recall. I have auditioned this 350 amp with both the latest Carver ALS System as well as my SoundLabs U-1PX/Consummates. Very transparent. Because of his special design(s) the tubes don't even run hot! Also, you do not need to rewire a modern house like you do with the ARCs to run the 350s. The Carver is a final purchase unlike ARC. Why?  The ARC marketing plan is calculated to bring the audiophile, not the music lover in trolling for the next iteration much more frequently than their competitors - always new models, always trade-ins, always new reviews, - suckers. This true will all the brands under the holding company that owns McIntosh and ARC. I judge that by their actions, not their statements.

For a line preamp, right now I am auditioning a line of $2995-$8500 tube preamps that have some very innovative patents and design. They too are hand made in the USA and comprise mostly point to point wiring. Again we are speaking about the best value and best sound for the $

I might say I am not a "tube guy" or a "solid state guy," or a digital guy or an analog guy. Some people like various forms of music and music sources. If you want a swiss army knife of digital, get an OPPO 105D or 105 pre-owned. You can see my present reference system on audioasylum. Haven't had a chance to update it here.

I will be back after I audition the preamps with a further report.

As the far as the B&O goes I believe there are folks who refurbish these. After the hiatus you'll at least want to clean or preferably replace the belts. Soundsmith in NY, I think, has a line of replacement cartridges. As far as a phono preamp goes I use a solid state Pass product presently. They have excellent customer service. I would not hesitate to buy a pre-owned one. I personally like the lack of noise a well-engineered solid state phono preamp has versus a tube phono preamp, as a rule. I will experiment with the Pass as a phono stage the range of tube Line amps I am auditioning.  Finally, there is a feedback switch with on the Carver Mono Blocks so you can switch them from a "Modern" to a "Classic" sound. For speakers, with few exceptions, you can never have too much power. I like iconoclasts.
BTW, ARC uses a VPI turntable for their listening tests
I went thru the B&O (new caps, belts, and lub. It is a good table but I am going to keep it with the video system. I have beem looking at turntables and phono preamps. Vpi is high on the list and also Music Hall, Rega, and Thorens. I have not done any research on new cartridges. I have an older Denon 103D, Shure V15 Type lll, and an extra B&O mmc20cl I can use. I have always liked the Denon.
You may want to seriously consider a used ARC SP20 preamp.  This has a built in Phono preamp.  I just got one and I am very impressed with it.  This replaces my ARC LS2 which I have meaning to upgrade for a long time.  I considered the Ref 5SE but the SP20 comes with a Phono Preamp built in and is great value for the money especially if you can get it for a good price.  I have paired this with a Ref 75 which replaced my VT100 as well. 
By the way what was the name of your store in Pasadena?
I have looked at the VT 100 MKIII (it has XLR inputs) over the other 2 models and the Ref 75. What is your opinion on the 2 amps.