Tube Pre-Amp: Audio Research or McIntosh

I am looking to add a tube pre amp to my HT system and utilize the 2 channel pass thru. Current Pre-Pro and solid state amps are McIntosh. But I am looking to enhance the 2 channel sound for Lp's and CD's.
So looking at Audio Research LS17 or LS26 vs. McIntosh C2200 or C2300. If budget permits possibly ARC Ref3 vs. Mc
C500. But most likely the LS vs. 22/2300
Anyone ever make comparison between these models? Or any suggestions of other brands would be welcomed as well.
I use the Audio Research LS26. Some people think the LS26 is an upgraded LS25. The LS26 is totaly different, a 25 cannot be converted to a 26. The sound of the LS26 is much closer to the Ref3, some reviewers feel the LS26 gives 90% of the performance of the Ref3. Should be used with tube amp and tube Phono,you would expect it`s sound to be honest,and it is, not a band-aid to cover the sins of SS. this should come as a surprise to you, but I would go with Audio Research. If you can afford it, buy the LS26 over the LS17. A Ref3 would be SWEET!!!
I am biased and I have only ever heard the Mcintosh pre in its own set up, but the Audio Research Ref3 is one of the finest tube pre amps there is.

Maybe you could find an ARC ref2 mrk2 which is a lovely sounding pre too and may fit your budget. I have never been convinced by the lower ARC pre amps, but maybe only because I heard the higher in the range ARC gear first.
I've owneed them both and found that the LS26 is in another class all together from the MC2200
I had a McIntosh 7270 amp hooked to a Cary SLP98 preamp. Great sound, then I went all tubes with a CaryV12R amp. At least give the Cary Preamp a listen. You may be in for a big surprise!