As with all things audio there are people who love Audio Research and there are those who don't. In an overall sense it is good stuff. Very well made, service is readily available for the occasional tune up or update, and it holds it's value well. There are lots of threads on the various pieces if you are looking for specifics. I would say you can't go wrong with most of their products!
I currently own Audio Research and Krell systems. One for stereo music only, the other for 7.1 HT. I agree with Pmotz that each has its plusses and minuses, but that you can't go wrong with either.
If I HAD to give up one, I would probably give up the Audio Research. But only because I watch so many concerts and movies. But, if I DID have to give one up, did you ever see a grown man cry?
ARC generally has a less "tubey" sound than most other tube gear, meaning less inherent "warmth" to the sound, instead a more "neutral" balance. I personally find this a good thing, but others don't. The classic example is CJ vs ARC, totally different presentations, and sound quite similar to their faceplates (CJ warm and golden, ARC conforming more to their longstanding moniker "high resolution"). It depends on what kind of sound you are aiming for. If you are used to SS gear, ARC is an easier transition into tube gear than many other brands will be. On an equivalent dollar basis, I personally would take the latest generation of ARC gear (either tube or SS) over Krell any day, so you can tell that IMO it's pretty good.
Thanks for the responses. I really need to get out and listen to as many tube systems as I can. I tend to prefer high resolution and weight but I am also looking for smooth and sweet. I love the speed,resolution and weight of the Krell gear but it is very detailed and unforgiving. Maybe my tastes are changing as I get older but I still like to rock n roll, on occasion.
To cross over to becoming a 'jar-head'; a tube guy is quite amazing. I have told this story elsewhere in A'gon, but I re-visit it. I had gone to a McIntosh dealer in the hopes of getting a domonstration of the SS 6-channel system. i was sold and ready to buy. then the salesman put on the new McIntosh 2102 tube amp and I was sure he had changed speakers on me. the differance was shocking.
I now own a 2102. I love it. This is not to say McIntosh rules (well, it does...heh, heh), but you are right to look to tubes. My wife says my system now sounds more 'woody'. this is a compliment. Of course, I hide the receipts....
Back in the 70s ARC used to be the number one manufacturer of tube gear, but nowadays there are a lot of great companies that make tube gear; Cary is one of them.
And, what´s about the combination between AR preamp and Krell amplifier. Does anybody have expierence on that?
I was recomended that option by my local dealer and would like any opinion.
The ARC 100.2 is way more musical than the similarly priced Krells and would be a much better choice IMO. If you want more than 100 wpc, though, you have to look elsewhere.
I am thinking of adding a tube pre (AR?) with the Krell amps and going from there. That may be a solution. I have heard good things about the AR ref 2 mk II. Any thoughts?
The Hovland is a great match to Krell amps in my experience.
Audio research has always been excellent gear, and the manufacturer backs its products.
There are always small cottage industry companies which claim to be magical, but I think that is part of the lust we have as we search for the Grail.
If you own Krell, the AR gear is definitely a step forward IMHO, based on many hours of experience with both. Krell sounds almost industrial, versus musical, again IMHO. If you want real questions about products call Dave Gordon, Sales Manager at AR, and tell him Larry Staples told you to call. He is an old friend and a great guy who really shoots straight.
Best Regards, and good luck in your search.
Larry R. Staples
Another response to this reaction you gave about mixing gear. In other incarnations of my life I used great tubed preamps with solid state amps. That can be the best of both worlds in some cases, and is a function of input/output compatability. Ask Dave Gordon, as I mentioned earlier, and he can give you the true skinny.
Larry R. Staples
I have Wp 7s on a VT 100 MK II fed by PS Audio Powerplant 600 w/MW II. It's big and clean. Some say one of the best tube amps. I listen at about 85db and the volume knob rarely above 9AM... 10AM would give 90-95db on some CDs. Don't know 'taper' of the pot behind the knob, but there seems to be plenty of there there even if a logarithmic taper wired for max action early in turn.
Solid State gives greater concussion on bass. Tubes are warmer. Find a dealer if you can... they have many dealers and will demo for you.
Give the Nagra VPA 845's a try on your 7's before you commit to anything. The sound runs in between that of the "high definition" ARC's and burnished euphonics of the C-J's. Dynamics up there with the Krells. A particularly syngergistic match with the Wilsons. I'm using them on Sophias and your speakers are more efficient.
Why not go in increments. You haven't specified which Krell you have, but why not go with best of breed. Certainly you will probably miss the control, slam, and overall ease and effortlessness of the Krell if you go to low powered tubes for amps, though you most certainly will make up for it in other areas, like naturalness, rounded more 3 dimensional images, etc. It's been my experience that with more (quality) tubes in your system you will experience a new dimension where you get less ss compression in the soundstage and start to hear more of what your WP7 I'm sure is capable of-rendering very believable images not only in a huge side to side stage but front to back with rounded, full form, and "action" as well as bloom and color. Be careful, since not all tubed equipment is created to the level of the Wilsons.
I have to say I stumbled upon a rather awesome combination, with Krell 750 monoblocks in my system last year, I decided to try out a tube preamp, the VTL 2.5, a rather inexpensive tubed preamp that I didn't expect much from. In fact, it completely and dramatically altered what I was hearing in my room with some very high end SS, and Dynaudio Temptations. In fact, many of the comments from above are helpful in relating what is possible once tubes enter your system.
If you go in steps, you can still benefit by keeping your amps, try a preamp (like ARC REf 2, VTL 7.5 or even 2.5, Hovland, Wyetech, and Atma-Sphere etc.) Obviously,the Krells are great amps and though sometimes not considered true high end are very true to what they are fed. Your WP while efficient have a rather rough impedance curve, so power does not hurt in that application.
Also be careful with certain preamps, like the ARC ref 2MkII which sounds almost like the Krell preamps and has a distinctly solid state signature, with some of the benefits of tubes. If you can keep SS devices out of your preamp, all the better. ARC recently introduced FET's to the input stage of that pre in its latest iteration, so again, tread carefully. Also, beware of very tubey sounding equipment as well. Some of the less well designed gear can tend to the overly warm, noisy, grainy, wooly euphonic, sweet (VTL 2.5, CJ,) while some of the newer more expensive pre's like CJ ART, Atmasphere, and the like have minimized much of the negative potential that tubes can bring to the table. The better tubed pre's sound clear, balanced and natural without being fat, slow and losing detail and speed.
Sorry to ramble. Feel free to email me if you want more specifics, as I've played around with Krell a lot and know where you're coming from. If you go with a tubed preamp and keep the Krell, stick with best of breed and have your cake and eat it too. If you want to go further, then take that step when you're ready.
I've spent a lot of time with AR products. I currently have a Ref Phono driving early model Ref 600's through a home brew passive Pre. I found this to be even better than the best Pre. I have also trialled both the Hovland and AR Ref Mk II and slightly preferred the AR, but both were veiled in comparison to my Passive setup. Mind you this only works because the Ref Phono has a very low OP impedance and you need a relatively high input impedance in your amps. Of course if you are running CD then that's another factor.
Bottom line? If you can run Passive Pre then you won't regret it, next best in my experience is AR Ref Mk II ...
However, you will get a HUGE improvement going to good tube amps, for starters real, musical, immediate, 3 dimensional sound (I originally had serious class A SS Monoblocks in the system). As good as they are even the AR Ref 600's are only half way to where you need to go but you don't need to spend a fortune (done that). I've modified the heck mine and improved them out of sight. First you need Chokes in your power supplies and then you have to triode strap the output tubes, the difference is day and night. If you want even better sound then you can't beat good DHT triode amps. I personally like 845's. I bought a pair of 2nd hand Chinese amps and rebuilt them (a cheap way out if you have some technical expertise). The power supplies, driver circuit and OP trannies are everything! Good Luck!