Home Theater Review


Audio Research LS25 Preamp Reviewed

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Let's backtrack a mo', before you accuse me of using synecdoche where it's inappropriate. Leaving aside that space considerations do not allow us to cover the hundreds of aspects of sound which we ought to address, there's consolation to be found in the school of thought which argues that 'you can't have one without the other'. Ergo, if imaging is spot-on, then so must be tonal accuracy. If the bass is convincing, then so should be the midband. But we know it ain't so, and it's possible to have an amp with amazing bass and dire treble, or great stage width and little depth. So we choose our preferences, the areas where we can put up with some anomalies and others where we can't abide a single digression. For me, it's gotta be lifelike vocals, non-oppressive bass and non-aggravating treble, with everything else almost secondary in its ability to charm or repel.

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With the LS25, I was struck first by the way it conveyed all of the textures in male voices, at the same time imparting the crystal clarity of a counterpoint in the form of a female vocalist. Assorted duets (think: Ella and Stachmo) conduct this test with unerring focus, far easier than moving from a Willy De Ville to an Emmylou Harris recording, for example, both of which are likely to have completely different sonic traits imparted at the recording stage.

Not only did the LS25 juggle successfully the juxtaposed textures, it maintained the spaces, the positioning and the air around the performers. Every little vocal tic came through clearly, with sibilance sounding lifelike rather than reptilian. And when it came to conveying sheer majesty, the power scale available from the LS25 made Ryko's soundtrack of seem positively, uh, devout.

What this unit gives up to the Ref 1 is impossible for me to quantify, for at no time did I suffer the sort of pangs of deprivation which accompany the reviewing of a lesser item. It was not like following a Krell KAV300i with a NAD 3020 descendant, or listening to some undistinguished Britbox after a bout with the SLAMMs. Rather, the LS25 is to the Ref 1 what Sevruga is to Beluga: both so damned good that you couldn't care less about forming a pecking order.

But a 4000 savings...now that's something else entirely.

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