To Pete Roth,

I don’t know what prompted me to think about this. I never contemplated stepping up to the price level of an [Audio Research] LS27. But then I noticed the list price was only $3000 difference and if I sold some of my headphones and things, which I hardly ever use, I could bridge the gap. I’ve done so and I am almost there. My dealer will let me trade it in for a small, acceptable loss on my LS17.

At first I was excited but the last couple of days I've gotten a little bit of cold feet thinking about $7000 for a preamp. I just wanted to get your opinion if you think this is a good step. I do like my LS17, and the LS27 also gets very good reviews. It’s been suggested that I look for a deal on a used Reference 5, which would be a much bigger jump. But I think even with a good deal that will cost me quite a bit more and I have to go through the trouble of selling my LS17 and taking a bigger loss. Anyway, I guess I am rambling as I tend to do.

My other equipment is: Bryson 4B SST2, VPI Classic 1 with ring and weight, Dynavector XX2 MKII, Simaudio 310LP and 320S for the phono stage, Stello DA220 MKII DAC, Magnepan 1.7 with Mye Stands, Cambridge 640C V2 CD player, and Philips 963SA for SACD playback. I also have a Benchmark DAC1 USB in my home office for headphone use.

Thanks for any advice you can offer.


While I have only passing, direct experience with the LS17 and LS27, I have found them both to be solid choices. Based upon my listening, there are worthy performance gains to be had with the more expensive unit. However, I believe the suggestion you received to look for a good-condition Reference 5 on the used market is extremely sound. I reviewed the Ref 5 several years ago in Ultra Audio and simply loved the lifelike, natural presentation it offered. In several ways that preamplifier exceeded the performance of my long-term reference, the Ayre KX-R. While I returned the Ref 5 to Audio Research with mild regret, when the “SE” version of the Ref 5 was released just over a year ago (largely bridging the performance gap between the Ref 5 and the now-legendary Reference Anniversary), I jumped at the chance to purchase one as the centerpiece of my home-based Reference System (having relocated my solid-state KX-R to my Compact Reference System). I’m so glad that I did. The Ref 5 SE is very much a true reference component, but I am scheduled to receive Audio Research’s new statement preamplifier, the two-chassis Ref 10. It will be interesting to see how much farther Audio Research has been able to push the performance envelope (at $30,000, though, it had better be quite far indeed, diminishing returns notwithstanding).

By looking for a Ref 5 (or optimally a Ref 5 SE) on the used marketplace, most of the depreciation will have already occurred, and while you may take a bit of a loss on your LS17, your investment in the Audio Research Reference-level solution should be largely protected for many, many years. I know this much -- I would much rather have a used Ref 5/5 SE than a new LS27. Let us know how you proceed. . . . Pete Roth