After a successful run of more than three years, and with the introduction of more advanced preamps like the LS25 and REF2, it was time for a successor to the LS15. This new model -- the LS16 Stereo Vacuum-Tube Preamplifier -- offers superior performance, greater flexibility and more intuitive controls.
Chassis size and appearance are almost identical to the previous LS15, with the same complement of balanced / single ended inputs and outputs. The only major operational change is that the "Direct" input path of the LS15 is now a single-ended, unity-gain processor pass-through, a feature also included on the LS25 and RE F2. Incorporation in a home theater while preserving great two-channel sound is easier than ever. Input selections have been relabelled to include CD BAL, Phono, Tuner, Aux SE and Aux BAL.
Two additional mechanical changes deserve mention. Toggle switches are now the bidirectional spring-loaded type used on the more costly LS25. And the microprocessor-controlled volume control is also the same as used on the LS25, with a total of 104 individual steps. Both of these changes add greater control flexibility and a higher-quality operational feel.
Inside the LS16, you will find a new Class A gain circuit using four 6922 twin triodes with our proprietary clear damping rings, plus greater energy storage, the latest Infinicaps and improved power-supply regulation. The result is a sonic presentation that goes way, way beyond the LS15! Highs are better defined with a finer grain structure and less electronic hash, the midrange is more pure and open, while bass control, extension and dynamics are vastly improved from the LS15. Overall, there is much greater musical and tonal coherence from top to bottom, while definition of musical structure is more vivid and natural.
Mine is an ARC LS 16 Mark II.
I was thinking to buy a LS 16 or LS 25 and eventually I bought a LS 16 Mark II because after careful study of the circuitry and parts used, I found LS 16 Mark II is almost a duplicate of its large brother LS 25 Mark II. Both preamp use two 6H30 tubes. The standard tubes come with the preamp are an ordinary black label Sovtek and I replaced them with Sovtek gold label, gold pins 6H30. The sound performance jumped up at least 1 level.
The sound of LS 16 Mark II indeed is very closed to LS 25 Mark II but just a very little less detail. The highs is a very very little less transparent.
If you can accept LS 16 Mark II, you save about $1500 which is the extra price for a LS 25 Mark II.
My power amp is a Jeff Rowland Model 8, the LS 16 Mark II works very well with the Model 8.
Besides the LS 16, I also have a SP-11 Mark II which is my collection for life.
I enjoy my present system very much, the only thing is my wife's protest that I spend too much time on the audio and leave her alone.
This is an outstanding preamp. The sound is resolved and dynamic. I've been in the hobby for 30 years and have owned many components. This one will stay in my system for years. The sound quality and build quality would be hard to surpass at twice the price so it stays. Zero problems and Audio Research has outstanding service if ever needed, which is unlikely. Bass to treble is excellent. Just a tad bit of tube warmth to make my SS amp sound perfect.
The unit purchased was an LS16MKII. It replaces (so far as the line stage is concerned), an SP9MKIII, although that unit continues to be used for phono amplification. I had also had available for use, over a period in excess of a month, of an LS 22, which I declined to purchase used from him, because it lacked a remote unit, and the six tubes had not been replaced since its acquisition in 1996. Furthermore, there seemed to be a dynamic imbalance that led it to project midrange, something that does not work well with my Audio Research VT 100 MKII, Linn AV 5140 combination. Furthermore, the highs on the LS22 seemed less than scintillating. The highs on the LS16MKII seem scintillating, and the treble range generally seems very open and delicate. There is a continuity in dynamic range from top to bottom that makes for a seemless sound that works well in the context of my system. The power transformer is much smaller than that in the LS22. The solid-state regulators render that difference irrelevant up to a point, but in this, as in all other such compromises, a point is sometimes reached. It is reached in very demanding CD's such as the Holly Cole Trio, Don't Smoke in Bed. The LS16MKII cannot produce the tactile bass that the LS22 produces on cuts like "I Can See Clearly Now." Nor are the attack and delay of instrumental resonances of the bass guitar produced as well. In addition, the Holly Cole's voice does not sound as nice. One has the feeling that the power supply regulation of the LS16MKII cannot handle the demands of the most demanding passages. This does not happen on most CD's or vinyl discs, however, where the bass sounds dry, neutral, dynamic, and controlled. Furthermore, dynamic shading is handled better on the LS16MKII than on the LS22 (and much better than in the line section of the SP9MKIII). This is illustrated by listening to almost any cut in the CD of the Sound of Music. In the wedding song, by the way, the organ peels out with an awesome sense of power; clearly the power supply regulation is up to that task. And the solid-state regulators appear to be very quiet, as reflected by the absence of extraneous noise from the signal. The LS16MIKK is particularly good in making multi-miked material sound clear, detailed and quiet rather than noisy; to a greater extent than did the LS22 (not to mention the SP9MKIII).
I was looking for a tube preamp that had good transparency and soundstage without sounding too warm or lush in the midrange. The LS16 is fairly neutral while still retaining a bit of that tube magic.
My system consists of: Cary 306/200 CD player, Audio Research LS16 preamp, Conrad-Johnson Premier 11a tube power amp, Thiel CS 1.5 speakers. In my opinion, the CJ power amps have more "soul" and are more musically engaging than the Audio Research power amps. I needed a somewhat neutral preamp to blend with the sweet CJ Premier 11a.
My previous preamps included the CJ PV14L and PV12, both good tube preamps with a nice sweet sound but combined with the CJ Premier 11a, I found them to roll off the extreme lows and highs a little more than I liked and the bass was slightly soft.
The Adcom GFP-750 is an outstanding solid state preamp with broader coverage in the bass and up high. It has better bass slam, goes deeper, and has better dynamics than any of the tube preamps described here including the Audio Research LS16. For my taste, the GFP-750 is slightly bright but this modest Adcom really rocks! It lacked the soundstage and air of the LS16 and it had no hint of that tube magic I really love. I'm keeping my GFP-750 and still use it sometimes. I find it well suited for very dynamic rock music but it's not nearly as refined as the Audio Research LS16.
The Audio Research LS16 is an outstanding preamp at a list price of $3000 U.S. It's fairly neutral without being boring or analytical with outstanding soundstage. It's a keeper!