SLP-05, REF3, LS26, Mac C2300

I'm looking for a new/used preamp and am considering the above. Except for the C2300, there are no dealers within 300 miles that carry Cary or ARC. If you have any of the above preamps, can you describe the relative sound of it especially if you've owned more than one of the above.

The C2300 was nice but lack some definition and tight bass; it have serveral XLR outputs and inputs and a level/gain control which I liked. The SLP-05 only has one XLR input and output and no gain control. The ARC preamps of course have all XLR/RCA inputs and outputs; I prefer using XLR given I have some expensive Kimber KS-1136 interconnects.

My speakers are B&W 803D, Magnum Dyalab 609T XM tuner, Cary 306 Pro CD player, Spectron MK2 w/V-Cap option amp and Mont Blanc speaker cables.

I have a wide range of listening tastes.

Thanks in advance for helping me make this decision.

Btw, I have read various reviews but am also intetested in views from people that have owned or heard these preamps.
The C2300 will improve significantly in detail and bass punch once you replace the stock tubes with some nice NOS tubes like Mullard, Telefunken or Amperex. I tube-rolled my C2200 and it transformed it to an entirely different level of performance. The stock McIntosh tubes are mediocre, at best.
As a long time McIntosh guy I recently decided to add a tube pre-amp to my combo HT/2ch system. I wanted "unity gain" and considered the C2300 and if budget permitted the C500. I was told by a number of Mcintosh owners, dealers, etc., that the C2200 far exceeded the performance of the C2300. But the C2200 doesn't have unity gain. So I looked at BAT & VTL briefly and long story short I bought the LS26. My dealer and I discussed the benefits of the LS17 to the Ref3. He basically told me if the difference from where I was, with all solid state using a McIntosh MX135 as Pre-Pro for both HT and 2Ch, was measured in inches. The differences would be LS17 2", LS26 8" and Ref3 10" with 10" as max difference in that scenerio. So it was easy. 6K vs. 10K
and the C500 would be 12K. So I saved at least 4K and can tell you if you do search on LS26 that you will find where I had some issues with the LS26. First one was DOA second one (replacement) had a Mute relay that was faulty. But all is well and I don't see me changing pre-amps anytime soon. The LS26 offers the best value in sound for buck investment out there in my opinion. Sure, I would love to have a more expensive peice, but this was a great investment and works extremely well with my MC402 amp.
I will add thet both the dealer and Audio Research have been really responsive and good in keeping me in music through all of this. I would not hesitate to buy Audio Research again.
I'm a current owner of the Cary SLP-05. This is a wonderful preamp. Does timbres perfectly without excessive tubiness. I think its one of the best tubed pres one can hear. It does have individual channel gain trim pots - don't know where you heard otherwise. These can be used to adjust overall gain and/or to adjust channel balance as needed.
The ARC Ref 3 remains by far my very preferred tube preamplifier. I have compared it favorably with a number of tube base preamplifiers and prefer it for its linearity and exposure of harmonics over a variety of them. My selection process is discussed in one of my threads, with my actual listening experience starting at:
My Ref 3 is by the way equipped with the NOS variant of the 6H30 tubes, called the 6H30DR 'supertubes'". Guido
In my system, the ARC REF3 was easily bettered by a Lamm L2 Reference. The
comparison wasn't close. I sold the ARC within a week. The ARC was
purchased used. It was less than one year old, and it had 650 hours on it. The
amps were Pass Labs XA-60.5. Speakers were Silverline Sonata III.

The buyer of my Lamm L2 Reference did the exact same comparison, and he
also sold his ARC REF3.

I replaced the Lamm with a SMC Audio VRE-1.

I owned the LS26. I loved the midband - voices were magical. But I like a weighty, deep-reaching low bass, and the LS26 is audibly light in the low bass. The entry-level VTL 2.5 I had before, and the Krell KCT I replaced the LS26 with, went notably deeper. I wouldn't recommend the LS26 if you like a deep bottom end.