Tube pre-amp upgrade from Mcintosh C2300

If I want to upgrade my Mac C2300 tube pre, should I just move up within Mac line to Mac C500T or try an audio research Ref 5 or a Shindo Monbrison? Has anyone compared those?

My source is Linn Akurate DS player, amps are Mac MC402 and MC275, speaker is Wilson audio Sophia 2 with transparent Ultra cables.
I personnaly have a LS26 pre amp with a MC402 and it sounds very good. However I have been wanting to upgrade as well and I really am leaning toward the C500T. I was looking at maybe a Audio Research LS27 or even the Ref 5 now that there are some used poppong up here on AG. But I am a die hard Mcintosh guy and really want to try the C500T. I haven't read any reviews on it, but the C1000 gets pretty good press. How have you liked your C2300? I had considered that when I bought the LS26 but at the time really wanted to try something different.
I have a Ref 3, and have heard the Ref 5 and LS27. I did not hear enough difference from my Ref 3 with either, especially the LS27, to motivate me to upgrade. I have owned the Aurieges, heard the Monbrison, and own a Masseto. If you do not need balanced or remote capabilities, the Monbrison is a far more musical preamp than the Ref 5 or LS27. All IMHO, of course. And the Monbrison includes a superb phono stage.
Have you tried any tube upgrades in the C2300? I have a friend that has a MC402 with a C2200, and he did some tube upgrades with very good results.
I've found C2300 is very responsive to tube rolling. So like Tls49 suggests, that would be a good first step. Still, every poster I've read who has moved to the C500T from the C2300 has reported substantial improvement. Most reports, though, specify using balanced outputs. If you're all SE, the improvement might not be so great, I don't know. In my system, RCA out sounds more liquid than XLR from the C2300.
The Ref 3 and 5 are also great, maybe a little better detail and definition. You will need awesome source material, speakers and amps to benefit from that upgrade. its a high cost vs value upgrade
Idealy, I should go listen to all those good pre-amps and see which one is better for me, but it is hard for me to do it.

Lots of people say Mac C2300+ MC402 is a combo made in heaven. C2300 is a good pre-tube, but I don't feel heaven yet.

Mac C500T is fully balanced design with seperate power supply. A dealer who sells both Mac and ARC perfer the transparency of the ARC. Shindo is a very popular boutique brand and has come across my mind for several years. I never have any Japanese high end audio gear and I always admire their craftsmanship, precision engineer and dedication.

Tube rolling is an option. It might work on Macs, but not too much on ARC and Shindo. Tube rolling is like trying different cables and I am a little tired of changing cables.
Tube rolling - let me save you some time. For the C2300 get some Psvane Treasures from Grant Fidleity (Ian Grant) OR some Gold Lion reissues (Jim McShane). I must have tried 10 different sets of tubes (Amperex, Mullard, Telefunken, Mazda, Sovtek, etc.) and the best have been the two mentioned above. The C2300 is a great preamp and using with your MC402 should lend great results. I use mine with a MC252 and looking fwd to upgrading to the MC402 (if I can find a NIB leftover) or MC452. Don't give up on the Mc. Tubes will require some burn in time - be patient.
You'll have to roll the C500T if you want the best out it. If you don't want to tube roll, and ARC and Shindo don't need it, audition those two brands, choose one, and be done. Sounds like you've pretty much answered your own question.
It is very hard for me to audition the Mac C500, ARC Ref 5 and Shindo Monbrison. That is why I want other people’s input.
Yxlei, I'm with you - I am tired of changing cables too - I am so done with that. Good luck with your decision on a new preamp, I am about 1 year behind you.
I put late '50's vintage RCA's in my c2300....WOW!!!
Other top class tube preamps include TRON, LAMM, EAR. I bought a TRON having heard the others.
Just a update. Without being able to audition, I bought a Mac C500T. I almost bought a Shindo Monbrison, then I was told about the quality and reliability problems with some shindo owner. I saw inside pics of brand new Monbrison with bad soldering, cheap parts, different brand of tubes used on both channel and etc..

Maybe ARC ref5 sounds better, but Mac C500T is a safe bet for me without audition them because for sure it have good synergy with my Mac power amps.

Just as other people mentioned, I noticed a big improvement from C2300 to C500T. C2300 leave me unsettled and want more while C500T make me settled. Human voice from C500T is more clean, relax and effortless. You also get bigger soundstage, better image and more weight. Overall, with separate power design and fully balanced, C500T is in a different league than C2300. For Mac, too bad you have to get almost their top of line pre-amp to enjoy the effortless music.
Shindo quality is amazing,I have never heard about cheap anything.That pre has been reviewed with pictures showing the inside with only fantastic opinions of the quality along with the parts used.I have to question if the person didn't try to tube roll.
Tube rolling is an option. It might work on Macs, but not too much on ARC and Shindo. Tube rolling is like trying different cables and I am a little tired of changing cables.
Yxlei (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
Isn't changing preamps the same as changing cables? Each has their own sonic characteristics.

My brother has a Mcintosh C2200 and with stock tubes, it was muffled, veiled, lacking dynamics ... HORRIBLE! After he replaced the cheapo Chinese tubes with Telefunken ribbed plates, we can't believe it was the same animal. Sound was open, dynamic, transparent ...