LS-25 mkII, the only thing better is the reference 3 and LS-26. I did not mention the reference 2 mkII because the 26 is better and around the same price.
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The LS-10 is a killer linestage. It is the best solid state pre AR ever made, hands down. Sold for $5k new, can be had for about $2k today, but they only resurface a couple of times a year here on the 'Gon. Pitch black background that is downright spooky. I've owned it on three separate occasions. I kept going back to it....only the Ref3 kept me from buying it again. You don't hear much about it here on the 'Gon, but it is a real winner.
I owned the ARC LS25, Ref 2 MKI and MKII and the LS26 as well as the Ref 3. Overall, the original LS25 with the 6922 tubes was the most natural sounding of them all. The LS25MKII was less involving as well upon demo vs the original. Many high end preamp designers have revisited the 6922 sound and have agreed it to be a more musical tube vs the 6H30...curse you Victor!!
I've used several models of ARC Linestages. Started with LS-1, then LS-3, then LS-2B Mk II. My current linestage is the LS-25 Mk I with GNSC Ref mod. I had the LS-2B Mk II for 8 years prior to the LS-25. The LS-2B is simply not in the same league as the LS-25. The LS-25 has more clarity, more extensions at both ends, and bigger and better defined soundstages.
We had compared mine against a friend's Ref 2 Mk II. It was a coin toss. The Ref 2 was better in certain areas, while the modded LS-25 excelled at other areas. The price of buying a used LS-25 and getting it modded by GNSC was about the same two years ago as buying a used Ref 2 Mk II. The benefit of the LS-25 was that I would be able to roll other NOS tubes to change/improve the sound. During the comparison, I was using a quad of Siemens Falcon 6922s that came with the mod. I personally like Amperex tubes better. I think if I had some Amperex tubes in there, the outcome would have been different, as some of the attributes that we had discussed during the comparison sounded more like characteristics of the Siemens tubes rather than the linestage itself.
Hi, i have had a LS16 MKI and PH3SE modded by GNSC with wonderful sonic results. Both are now packed away in a closet somewhere. I since have had a Ref2 MKI & Ref Phono modded by GNSC to my spec's with Amperex 7308 PQ white label tubes. RCA 6L6GC Blackplate and Phillips Miniwatts metal base GZ34 in the power supply. Sonically stunning. A friend wanted to trade his Ref3 and PH7 for my modded Ref2 & Ref Phono. I said no.