A/R Ref 2 Mk II any comments?

Has anyone heard the latest version of the Audio Research Reference 2 preamp? I am considering the purchase/upgrade to a tubed preamp but wasn't all that taken by the Ref 2 original version (preferred an older Ref 1, in audition) Would love to hear your comments....
The Ref 2 Mk II has a new signal path board (JFET inputs and four 6H30's I believe, instead of the previous version which used 8 6922's) and still uses tube rectification in the power supply, but the rectifier tubes are laid out differently than the original Ref 2, so they have obviously done some adjustment for the new signal path board. It looks like this is the preamp which combines he speed and bass extension/control of the Ref 1 with the larger soundstage of the original Ref 2. I personally preferred the Ref 1 (which I have) for its synergy in my system but am going to give the new Ref 2 Mk II a serious audition. As with all preamps (which are the soul of your system) I suggest listeners audition it and compare it with their current preamp, if you cant get an at home audition, call your dealer to arrange to bring your preamp to the store and hook it all up to components you have as well or something similar, the diffrerence between the preamps can give you a good idea what will happen in your system. Eventually, the technical merits of a component are really just the designers approach to getting the sound he/they prefer and hope you will too, or technobabble for those who enjoy that part of it, but how it sounds to you (and its reliability) are the most important factors, which can only be determined by auditioning. So get off the internet and into a store and work it out for yourself. Most importantly, have fun. Producing music is an art and so is reproducing music, you get to choose you colours, textures, etc. Me, I am going to warm up my amps now (the Ref 1 stays on 24/7) and spin a few records.
Arcmania: I am very impressed with your assessment. However, I am assuming you have not heard it. Am I correct? I personally think that ARC is playing catch-up with Balanced Audio Technology. I am very frustrated with ARCs policy to continuosly put out product that is not the current best, just to leave another opportunity to upgrade. For example, ARC made such a big deal with their VTM200 amps saying they were going to use the new "super tube" and it was so incredible that they were revamping their entire line. It turns out they never released the VTM200 with the super tubes. They will not be putting them in the VTMs for another year and a half (mark my words, it will be an upgrade in the near future). In the meantime, the super tubes are going into every other product they sell. ARC says that the dealers were mistaken in their communication of the VTM200 tubes. I just think they are just looking for the next way to stick it to the loyal ARC customers. They knew when they shipped them that they were not as good as the VT100 MKIII or the Reference 300 MK II.

While I do enjoy the ARC products, I have found better in the BAT lineup. I am using the BAT VK150SE monos in place of the VTM200s. I am also using the VK50SE in place of the Ref 2. I know the 6H30 tubes will improve the ARC equipment, however there are other factors involved. The ARCs still use the 6550 tubes which are not very musical while the BAT's use the 6C33 tubes that are also used in the wonderfull Lamm ML2 amps. There is much more current that runs through the BAT amps which may have something to do with the fact that they are the QUIETEST tube equipment I have ever heard. The only other product that I have heard with as low a noise floor is the Levinson Reference amps but they have no soul. The warranty is a REAL warranty - 5 years + 1 year on all tubes. ARC is 3 years with 90 days on the tubes. In my listening experience, there is no question... I will not buy ARC ever again!
Jtinn; I am sorry you are not having fun with ARC, but as long as you are happy with your sound, that is great. You are correct, that I have not heard the Ref 2 Mk II, my local dealer sold two before I could audition it, however, I have talked to the buyer of one of them, who previously owned both a Ref 1 and then a Ref 2, and since we are on the same wavelength regarding the changes in its character as opposed to our perception of the perfect sound, I am comfortable with my assesment of the Ref 2 Mk II's sound. Our dealer is ordering more and I will listen to it when it comes in. Both myself and yet another ARC listener found the sonic signature of the VT100 Mk III and the VTM200's to be very similar in the direction they went from the VT100 Mk II and the VT200 respectively, with the VTM200's obviously having more dynamics as well, for those who are looking for ARC amplifier info under this heading. As always, system synergy will make the new amplifiers work more for some than others, but personally, I cant wait to hear the Ref 300 Mk II's, a wonderful upgrade from my M300 MkII's. Have fun