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System Synergy: Boy, Do I Love My Preamp

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by heyraz, Aug 20, 2018.

  1. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    1,875
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    Long Branch, NJ
    Have enjoyed my SoundValves VTP-101 Preamp for years and recently came across an AudioResearch LS7....so I had to try it. I wanted to hear if the LS7 would reveal something in the music my "Budget" preamp might be missing. I hoped the ARC would be an upgrade to "the next level".

    Not quite so. The sound was thin and lacking compared to my VTP-101.

    I gave the LS7 more than enough time to warm up and replaced the four Sovtek 6922's with Amperex USA 6922's (The ones with the gold pins and Orange "Q"). I played a variety of material from different sources but it had no "Thump", no "Heart", no midrange and no fun compared to my VTP. The LS7 was clear as hell but didn't suck me in. The sound wasn't full and engaging.

    To say I was underwhelmed is an understatement. Not once did I feel it in my gut.

    No doubt, the ARC LS7 is a fine preamp when matched with the right amp, just not mine (Fisher SA-300B).

    I chalk this experience up to a lack of system synergy.
     

     

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  2. nj pheonix

    nj pheonix AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Thanks for the review.
    I mentioned in another thread recently, I've had several very highly touted pieces pass through that I wanted to love. None were bad , just not keepers to me.
    I know how you feel.
     
  3. FONSguy

    FONSguy Super Member

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    2,523
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    I've found that even though it makes no sense, did you move your speakers around to see if THAT helped any†hing?
     
  4. onemug

    onemug AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Very well could be the 'synergy'. the LS7 is about 20 yrs old, do you know if it was operating in spec?
     
  5. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,875
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    I didn't move a thing and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have made a difference anyway.
    The tonal balance was so far off it made me wonder if there was an impedance mismatch between the LS7 and my power amp.
    The LS7 was clear and proper, it just sounded thin and dry compared to my VTP101. More "Solid State" sounding than I expected after having read this is one of ARC's "Tubier" sounding preamps.
    I streamed a few things Tidal->CCA->DAC and things were so-so, really nothing impressive. In fact, I thought perhaps the highs weren't as clear through the LS7. One of those "I thought the cymbal's were more prominent there" moments. So I spun something familiar, the newly remastered Sgt Pepper on my turntable and in fact Ringo's cymbal work just wasn't there thru the LS7. As clear as the LS7 was, the VTP101 was actually clearer. More importantly, the middle range, (the heart of the sound) and the bass weren't very impressive. It sounded like a fine Solid State preamp. Maybe that's what ARC was striving for when they designed it.

    Was it operating in spec? Good question. It wasn't distorting or anything like that, it just wasn't as engaging as my VTP101.

    I'll check the listed impedances for all of my equipment, maybe the LS7 would work better with a different amp. I'll also poke around the LS7 and check voltages.
     
  6. onemug

    onemug AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    The output impedance of the 7 is 200 ohms thanks to it's cathode follower. It should be compatible with most amps. It may just be not to your tastes but I would make sure it's operating as it is suppose to before you get rid of it.
     
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2018

     

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  7. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
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    It's positioned so I can easily insert it back into my system and compare it to my VTP.
    I have a box of 6DJ8/6922/7308 tubes to roll so I should be able rule out a bad tube or tubes.
    I'll check out the obvious things (bad tube(s), proper voltages) and see if any work has been done on this unit the next rainy day I'm off before I make any decisions.
    Thank you all for your suggestions.
     
  8. FONSguy

    FONSguy Super Member

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    2,523
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    I've found going from my Grace F9e as input to my preamp (DB Systems) to my Sony DVD being used as CD player needed a speaker toe-in/toe-out adjustment. Like I said, It doesn't make any sense, but...............
     
  9. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,875
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    What exactly did you notice?
     
  10. FONSguy

    FONSguy Super Member

    Messages:
    2,523
    Location:
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    Image shift. Grace F9 - speakers on axis. CD slightly toe in from on axis.
    With 3 different sets of LP and CD. Pink Floyd DSOTM, Elvis Costello Punch the Clock, and Nilsson Schmilsson.
     
  11. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,875
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    20180822_082416.jpg I got down on my knees in the sweet zone and moved around but didn't notice any difference in what I heard.
    It'll be a snap to swap the phono input from my VTP to the LS7 and use the same amp as I roll tubes to see if that's the problem. I found the schematic with voltages so I can test further if tube rolling doesn't change anything.
    I'll also spray the unsealed selector switch with Deoxit and blow any dust away.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2018

     

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  12. SPEC2man

    SPEC2man Are we there yet? Subscriber

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    I have similar experiences with various equipment over the years, in particularly preamplifiers. Some work for me and some don't. I wasn't able to link it to cost, which is sort of a blessing I suppose. I have noticed that new tubes (even NOS) take time to burn in and the first 100 hours can be unpleasant. That being said, I can tell in fairly short order if the piece is going to work out. I would give it the old "college try" and adjust speaker placement and music sources and material. If it's bought and paid for, you might want to put a few hundred hours on it before you pass final judgment. I started with a Yamaha back in the day, swapped it out for a Counterpoint and then a Mark Levinson No 28. I moved the system into a 5.1 and bought a Sunfire processor and then a Modwright SWL 9.0 SE. The Modwright was a huge step forward for me, made me see what I was missing. It became my benchmark and I held onto it. I'm running something different now but I still go back to the Modwright from time to time and it never disappoints. I have auditioned a few ARC preamps, my favorite was an LS25. My best friend had paired it with a Pass Labs amplifier and Dynaudio speakers. It was a hyper-revealing system. Super tight top end and one of the best digital systems I had ever heard. The bass was impactful but spot on and he never ran a sub. He had a modded Oppo 105 on the front end. I would send him SACDs just to hear the reviews. That combo was something spectacular and put my system to shame. He went through 3-4 preamps and settled on an ARC LS16 but then decided to jump to the 25 - I tried to talk him out of it but he was determined. The LS16 and LS25 were different animals. The LS25 did have solid state characteristics in his particular setup, in spite of being sold to him with the promise of a sweet midrange. It didn't soften up the midrange at all, it seemed to put everything right where it needed to be. I chalked it up to synergy ... when things fit, it's just magic. The LS25 is not really a fair comparison to the LS7 but I hear what you're saying about it seeming almost solid state.
     
  13. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,875
    Location:
    Long Branch, NJ
    That's been my experience too. The sound might improve with break-in, but the "sonic signature" of the component most always remains the same.
    I'll give it a shot, try my best...I have nothing to lose and I have other amps it may pair better with.
     
  14. SPEC2man

    SPEC2man Are we there yet? Subscriber

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    The good news is ARC equipment sells pretty easy and you have a good chance to hand it off if it just doesn't work out in your system.
     
  15. SoCal Sam

    SoCal Sam Lunatic Member

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    As long as you compared the candidates, your choice is valid. Budget can be better than high end. I prefer objective accuracy, even in my tubes so ship that AR off to me, lol.
     
  16. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,875
    Location:
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    Well, it's been more than a month and after some tube rolling I can't stop listening to the ARC LS7.
    A couple of Amperex USA 6299's (White Label 'PQ") in the first position, a Telefunken E88CC in the middle and a Mullard at the Cathode Follower position and the clarity and tone is breathtaking. Just fun to listen to.
    The Telefunken provided the "character" and the Mullard provided the "finish". (Sounds like I'm describing a glass of scotch).
    The clarity is what's most impressive, I never heard anything like it before.
    I glad I didn't rush to a decision, the ARC LS7 is a keeper.
     
    musichal, darkblue94 and tonyk like this.

     

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  17. dbxdx5

    dbxdx5 AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Glad you stuck with it. Do you prefer it to the SoundValves now?
     
  18. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    You know....I'm not 100% sure. I'm still trying different tubes and sources with the ARC.
    After I'm 100% I've gotten the most out of the ARC I'll swap back in the SoundValves and decide.
     
  19. bobins08

    bobins08 Loving the dream Subscriber

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    Way to keep digging. Rolling tubes us like swapping cartridges and can get tiring.

    I love my tube preamp and it is pretty much a custom design that flies under the radar.

    I settled on Amperex 7308’s. They might be the military standard version of yours.
     
  20. heyraz

    heyraz AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,875
    Location:
    Long Branch, NJ
    I spent a small fortune this year on every version of that tube I could get my hands on.
    The Made in USA Amperex 7308's were very neutral in my phono pre., a little too neutral in my line stage.
    They each have their own "character".

    I gotta keep moving things around till I'm fully satisfied.
     

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