Boeing to shed 2,500 workers in initial phase of voluntary layoffs: report

Boeing will announce this week that it will shed about 2,500 workers in its first phase of voluntary layoffs due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, union officials told The Wall Street Journal.

Union officials told the newspaper that the first round of layoffs will focus on the Seattle-area commercial airplanes population and could be announced as early as Friday.

About 1,300 members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace applied for the voluntary layoff package and were accepted, a union official told The Hill. About 1,200 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers also accepted the layoffs.

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The engineering union told the Journal that some applications from employees working on defense programs or with critical skills were denied.

Last month, company executives announced that Boeing planned to reduce its global workforce by about 10 percent, including cutting jobs in its services arm and central corporate offices.

Boeing will reduce the production of its 787 twin-aisle jets by half and only develop limited numbers of its 737 Max jet in the quarter as it waits for clearance to fly the planes after two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Suppliers to Boeing’s factories in Seattle have already cut employees, state employment records show, according to the newspaper. Boeing’s competitor Airbus SE has dropped production by a third, and General Electric has laid off thousands. 

A Boeing spokesperson said the first round of layoffs will be the “largest segment” of “several thousand remaining layoffs” in the upcoming months.

The layoffs align with a growing trend among companies around the world, as the coronavirus has thrown a wrench into their financial expectations for the year. This is the first major job reduction in Boeing since 2017 when the company participated in a cost-cutting drive, according to the newspaper.

–This report was updated at 12:33 p.m.

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Overnight Health Care: Health officials eye emerging hotspots | CDC cautions against relying on antibody tests for back to work decisions | Fauci says no evidence for hydroxychloroquine

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care.

The number of American deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 100,000 this evening, an incomprehensible number, but one that is also likely lower than the actual death toll.

Health officials are warily eyeing new hotspots across the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) said nobody should be making major decisions based on antibody test results, and infectious diseases expert Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned The battle of COVID in the ‘quiet war’ on China Dolphins owner: ‘We’re planning to have fans in the stadium’ MORE said the evidence shows hydroxychloroquine doesn’t work as a coronavirus treatment. 

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We’ll start with the spread of the virus:

Health officials nervously eye emerging hotspots

While some officials are talking about how to avoid a second wave of infections, the virus is still spreading across the country.

So where are the next hot spots for coronavirus emerging? While the number of new coronavirus cases is declining in New York, Seattle and other focal points of the first wave of cases, models are predicting that cases could skyrocket in the next two weeks in cities like Houston, Dallas, Nashville, Tenn., and Memphis, Tenn., creating new epicenters.

Modelers are also watching suburban areas like Fairfax County in Virginia, and areas around Minneapolis, Phoenix and Omaha, Neb. 

“We think there’s a storm out there, there’s the potential for a storm. We’re not sure if it’s going to land on shore,” said David Rubin, director of the PolicyLab at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, whose models show the impending surges. “The next two to three weeks are going to be really important.”

Read more here.

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CDC: Antibody tests should not be used for decisions on returning to work 

Don’t think you can go back to work just because you had a positive antibody test, the CDC says.  

Antibody tests that determine if someone has had the coronavirus in the past should not be used for making decisions about people returning to work, the agency says in new guidance.

The CDC raised concerns with the accuracy of the tests and said that even if someone has antibodies indicating they have already had the virus, it is unclear how long immunity from the virus lasts or how durable it is.

The guidance comes as a note of warning, given that some have expressed hope that antibody testing could help pave the way for certain people to return to work if they test positive and are shown to have already had the virus.

Read more here

Fauci: No evidence hydroxychloroquine is effective at treating coronavirus

There’s no evidence that shows the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is effective at treating COVID-19, Anthony Fauci said Wednesday.

“Clearly the scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it,” Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor, said during a CNN interview. 

Fauci said evidence also shows the drug can cause severe irregular heart rhythms.

The pronouncements mark Fauci’s strongest warnings yet against the drug and puts him at odds with President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally MORE, who has embraced hydroxychloroquine as a “game changer” and a “miracle.” Earlier this month, Trump even said he had been taking hydroxychloroquine, in combination with zinc, as a way to prevent getting COVID-19.

Read more here.

Related: Fauci says second wave of coronavirus infections is ‘not inevitable’: ‘We can prevent this’

Medicaid providers increasingly frustrated by delays in COVID-19 funding

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Health care providers that primarily treat the poor, children and people with disabilities are getting left out of the COVID-19 aid being issued by the Trump administration, frustrating advocates who worry about the future of the Medicaid safety net.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided $72 billion to help hospitals and clinics stay afloat during the pandemic, but Medicaid providers — including mental health and substance use clinics, disability care providers and children’s doctors — have seen very little of that money.

Instead, most of the funding has gone to providers participating in Medicare, the federal health care program for seniors. Providers that primarily serve the nation’s 70 million low-income Medicaid patients have been left out of the funding equation.

“It’s just astonishing to me that we’re last in line right now, having to fight and beg to be included and not to be overlooked,” said Shannon McCracken, vice president of government relations for ANCOR, a trade association representing community disability providers that are almost completely funded by Medicaid.

Why it matters: Some Medicaid providers serve very vulnerable populations and don’t have enough cash to make it through the next month. Meanwhile, millions more Americans are expected to enroll in Medicaid as they lose their job-based health coverage. 

Read more here. 

What we’re reading

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump falsely blames Obama for pricey drugs (Associated Press)

A month after reopening, Georgia coronavirus cases continue slow and steady (CNN)

Some countries have brought new cases down to nearly zero. How did they do it? (NPR)  

Moderna executives have cashed out $89M in shares this year, as stock price has soared on vaccine hopes (Stat News

State by state

As Washington D.C. weighs reopening, African Americans in the nation’s capital brace for the worst (Time)

N.J. more at risk for second wave of coronavirus cases than other states, Murphy says (NJ.com)

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California surpasses 100,000 total coronavirus cases (Mercury News

Op-eds in The Hill

The battle of COVID in the ‘quiet war’ on China

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Trump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally MORE on Tuesday evening urged House Republicans to vote against a surveillance bill that will be brought to the floor this week after lawmakers reached an agreement to vote on a key provision.

“I hope all Republican House Members vote NO on FISA until such time as our Country is able to determine how and why the greatest political, criminal, and subversive scandal in USA history took place!” Trump tweeted, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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Trump’s tweet comes after months of speculation about whether he would support the bill and less than a day before it is scheduled to get a vote on the House floor Wednesday, throwing an eleventh-hour curveball into its path.

The Senate approved legislation in a bipartisan vote earlier this month reauthorizing three expired surveillance programs under the USA Freedom Act, a 2015 intelligence reform law.

The initial version of the bill, which passed the House in a 278-136 vote in March, included some changes to the FISA court as part of a deal backed by Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrTrump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers This week: Surveillance fight sets early test for House’s proxy voting Trump sides with religious leaders in fight against governors MORE and supported by some of Trump’s biggest allies, including Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanTrump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers FBI director stuck in the middle with ‘Obamagate’ Merger moratorium takes center stage in antitrust debate MORE (R-Ohio) and Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Trump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers Speculation swirls about next Supreme Court vacancy MORE (R-S.C.).

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But the Senate included new legal protections for some FISA warrant applications in a win for civil liberties-minded lawmakers, and the amended bill passed 80-16, forcing it to go back to the House for a second vote. The Justice Department opposed the changes, saying that they would “unacceptably degrade” the U.S. government’s ability to carry out surveillance.

Trump’s tweet Tuesday came hours after House leaders agreed to consider an amendment that would tighten the limits on the FBI’s ability to access Americans’ web browsing history. A similar provision was defeated by one vote in the Senate, where senators who would have supported it were absent, putting pressure on House leadership to revive it.

But in another potential setback for the bill, Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenMcCarthy urges Democrats to pull surveillance bill FISA ‘reform’: Groundhog Day edition Medicaid providers increasingly frustrated by delays in COVID-19 funding MORE (D-Ore.), who helped spearhead the Senate amendment, said Tuesday night that he could not support the House version from Reps. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill McCarthy urges Democrats to pull surveillance bill FISA ‘reform’: Groundhog Day edition MORE (D-Calif.) and Warren DavidsonWarren Earl DavidsonMcCarthy urges Democrats to pull surveillance bill Key Senate Democrat withdraws support from House measure on web browsing data Trump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers MORE (R-Ohio). Wyden pointed to a statement by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffMcCarthy urges Democrats to pull surveillance bill Key Senate Democrat withdraws support from House measure on web browsing data Trump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers MORE (D-Calif.), who appeared to interpret the House amendment as only preventing warrantless collection under the program when the order specifically targets an American.

“It is now clear that there is no agreement with the House Intelligence Committee to enact true protections for Americans rights against dragnet collection of online activity, which is why I must oppose this amendment, along with the underlying bill, and urge the House to vote on the original Wyden-Daines amendment,” Wyden said in a statement. 

Trump has long alleged that FISA was abused by the FBI to improperly surveil members of his 2016 campaign and undermine his White House bid. The president suggested in March that he was considering vetoing legislation under consideration by the Senate renewing the surveillance powers; that was a different version than the bill that ultimately passed by the upper chamber earlier in May.

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Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrump urges GOP to vote against bill reauthorizing surveillance powers Sunday shows preview: States begin to reopen even as some areas in US see case counts increase Congress headed toward unemployment showdown MORE (R-Ky.), who voted against the legislation in the Senate, has been urging Trump to oppose the bill, but he, like many of his GOP colleagues, acknowledged earlier this month that he didn’t know where Trump would come down.

“Whether or not he’ll actually get involved … that’s the real question on this, and I don’t know how it will come down,” Paul said ahead of the Senate’s vote. 

A Justice Department inspector general investigation completed last year faulted the FBI for errors and omissions in surveillance applications used to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page as part of the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference.

The internal watchdog review did not find evidence that agents were motivated by bias in their decisions to open investigations into Trump campaign associates, however, undermining a key talking point of Trump and his GOP allies.

Graham is doing a deep dive into the FBI investigation, including the FISA court and the Page warrant applications. He’s hoping to release a report on his findings by October, before the election, and to potentially offer additional FISA-related legislation. 

 

“We’re going to investigate the investigators and try to find out how Hurricane Crossfire got off the rails,” Graham said earlier this month.  

Tal Axelrod contributed.

Updated: 9:25 p.m.

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More Americans say they are getting takeout, using curbside pickup: Gallup

More Americans say they are getting takeout from restaurants and are using curbside pickup from stores amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, according to a Gallup poll released Tuesday.

The poll found that takeout and curbside pickup remains at the top of the list of low-contact services Americans report using amid the pandemic and has seen a large reported uptick in usage from surveys taken by Gallup in late March.

Forty-four percent of Americans said they have picked up takeout from a restaurant in recent weeks, according to the poll conducted May 11-17, which is an 18 point increase from the 26 percent of Americans who said the same in a poll conducted March 23-April 5. 

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Similarly, 36 percent of Americans said they used curbside pickup at a store in the latest poll, which is 17 points higher than the 19 percent of Americans who said the same in the late March poll. 

The poll also found that 27 percent of Americans said they had a virtual visit with a doctor, a 15 point uptick since the March poll, and 23 percent said they had food from a restaurant delivered, a 10 point increase from March.

The number of Americans who said they had groceries or medical supplies delivered was only slightly higher than in March, at 14 percent compared to 11 percent, as did those who reported having medicine or medical supplies delivered, at 9 percent compared to 4 percent. 

The results come as many states are starting to lift restrictions to varying degrees put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Still, across the country dine-in services and shopping remain limited with most states placing restrictions on the capacity businesses can serve even in areas where such businesses are allowed to reopen. 

The Gallup poll is based on self-administered web surveys conducted from May 11-17 with a random sample of 4,117 adults that are members of the Gallup Panel. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Minnesota Catholic diocese to pay $22.5M to sexual assault victims, file for bankruptcy

The Diocese of Saint Cloud, Minn., has agreed to pay victims of past clerical sexual abuse $22.5 million and file for bankruptcy, making it the fifth of the state’s six Catholic dioceses to take such a step if the settlement is approved.

The agreement will settle claims made against more than 40 priests by about 70 plaintiffs, with the allegations dating back to the 1950s, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. While many of the accused priests have since died, at least one was still in active ministry in Elk River as recently as 2015, according to the newspaper.

The agreement would also require the diocese to turn over its files on the accused priests.

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“Every single survivor with whom we worked has felt some measure of recovery of power by having come forward to share secrets,” attorney Jeff Anderson said in a statement.

“We believe they have made the community safer because of it, and they have been a part of a massive cleanup of a massive coverup in the Diocese of St. Cloud. It has been a journey born of great tribulation,” he added.

“I am particularly grateful to the survivors of abuse for their courage in coming forward and sharing their experiences, and I again apologize on behalf of the Church for the harm they suffered,” Saint Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler said in a statement. “I remain committed to assist in the healing of all those who have been hurt, and I hope this is another step in that direction.”

The diocese disclosed the names of 33 priests credibly accused of abuse in 2014, and the names of another 27 emerged due to new lawsuits and information. The diocese first announced it would file for bankruptcy in 2018.

Minnesota lawmakers in 2013 passed the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which suspended the statute of limitations for abuse claims for three years and allowed about 800 plaintiffs to file claims of clerical abuse.

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Grassley: White House 'failed to address' if there was a 'good reason' for IG firings

Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGrassley: White House ‘failed to address’ if there was a ‘good reason’ for IG firings GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill State Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo’s political ambitions MORE (R-Iowa) said Tuesday that the White House “failed to address” if President TrumpDonald John TrumpJustice says it will recommend Trump veto FISA bill Fauci: Nominating conventions may be able to go on as planned Poll: Biden leads Trump by 11 points nationally MORE had a “good reason” to fire top watchdogs for the State Department and the intelligence community.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone responded on Tuesday to two letters from Grassley on the firings of Inspectors General (IG) Steve Linick and Michael Atkinson, saying that Trump “acted within his constitutional and statutory authority.” 

But Grassley, who has long spearheaded inspector general legislation, said Congress has “made it clear” that if an IG is going to be fired “there ought to be a good reason.” 

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“The White House Counsel’s response failed to address this requirement, which Congress clearly stated in statute and accompanying reports. I don’t dispute the president’s authority under the Constitution, but without sufficient explanation, it’s fair to question the president’s rationale for removing an inspector general,” Grassley said.

Grassley added that without stating a good reason, “the American people will be left speculating whether political or self interests are to blame. That’s not good for the presidency or government accountability.” 

Trump sent shockwaves through Washington earlier this year when he announced he was firing Atkinson, who last year handled the whistleblower complaint at the center of the House impeachment inquiry as part of his job as the intelligence community’s top watchdog.

Atkinson’s firing sparked a letter from Grassley and seven other senators pushing for Trump to give a more detailed reason for the decision. 

Grassley sent a separate letter to the administration this month over Linick’s firing. Trump has said he fired Linick because Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoGrassley: White House ‘failed to address’ if there was a ‘good reason’ for IG firings Overnight Defense: Pentagon watchdog sidelined by Trump resigns | Plan would reportedly bring troops in Afghanistan back by Election Day | Third service member dies from COVID-19 Ex-Pompeo staffers asked to sign letter against ‘smear campaign’ MORE asked him to — an explanation Cipollone reiterated in his letter this week.

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“As the Secretary of State has said publicly about his Department’s inspector general, the President exercised this authority at the Secretary’s recommendation,” he wrote to Grassley. 

Republicans have demanded a fuller explanation for Linick’s firing amid reports that he was investigating whether Pompeo used staff to carry out personal errands, though none have endorsed legislation to make it harder to fire an IG. Pompeo has said he was unaware of the investigation. 

And Grassley has publicly broken with Trump over government watchdogs in recent months.

He sent Trump a letter in April urging him to walk back a signing statement from a mammoth coronavirus package passed in March, warning that he was “concerned” it could “negatively impact the ability of IGs to independently communicate with Congress.”

“Read broadly, this interpretation could be cited as authority to unduly strip IGs of their fundamental ability to timely report waste, fraud, abuse, and misconduct in government programs to Congress. Such authority is vital to their role in securing government transparency and efficiency, and is a critical role that all IGs routinely perform,” Grassley wrote at the time.

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Trump raised concerns in the signing statement about a provision requiring the inspector general for pandemic recovery to inform Congress if another department makes an unreasonable refusal to hand over information.

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“I do not understand, and my Administration will not treat, this provision as permitting the SIGPR to issue reports to the Congress without the presidential supervision required,” Trump wrote, referring to the special inspector general for pandemic recovery. 

Grassley also told The Hill earlier this month, and reiterated in his statement on Tuesday, that he is working on legislation to block political appointees from within a department from being named as acting inspectors general. 

Grassley said the letter from Cipollone did not address the “glaring conflict of interest” putting a political appointee in the position would create.   

“I’ve made clear that acting inspectors general should not be political appointees in order to preserve the independence required of the office, and I’m working with colleagues on legislation to codify this principle,” Grassley said. 

Audio Research LS5 preamplifier & BL2 input controller

From the front, the LS5 looks identical to Audio Research’s popular LS2: two knobs on either side of the Audio Research nameplate, and a row of toggle switches along the bottom. But that’s where the similarities end; the LS5 is a completely different animal from the LS2, or even the balanced LS2B.


For starters, the LS5 is fully balanced from input to output. To understand the difference between a preamp with balanced inputs and outputs and a truly balanced preamp like the LS5, let’s look at how most balanced input and output preamps process a balanced input, using the LS2B as an example.


Although the LS2B has balanced inputs and outputs, the input signal is converted to single-ended by a differential amplifier at the input. The preamp then handles the internal signal as single-ended, with one gain stage per channel and one volume-control element per channel. The single-ended signal is then converted back to balanced with a phase splitter just before the output jacks. This technique adds two active stages to the signal path.


By contrast, a fully balanced preamplifier like the LS5 handles the signal differentially from input to output—no differential amplifier or phase splitter. This method requires double the circuitry: a gain path for each phase of the balanced signal, and a four-element volume control (± left channel, ± right channel). Moreover, the noise, distortion, and gain must be identical between the two phases. Any difference between the phases will become part of the signal. The advantages of a preamplifier being truly balanced are the elimination of two active stages (the differential amplifier at the input and the phase splitter at the output) and the fact that any noise or distortion common to both phases of the balanced signal will cancel when combined.


The LS5 has six pairs of balanced inputs, two pairs of balanced main output jacks, and one balanced tape loop. The front panel has an input selector switch, volume control, and four toggle switches. A green LED indicates when the unit is turned on, dimming when the LS5 is muted by a front-panel toggle switch, or is in automatic mute when the unit is first turned on.


One of the toggle switches selects the amount of gain provided by the LS5—either 12dB or 30dB. If you’re used to using the LS2, you could be in for a surprise when using the LS5; the LS5’s gain selector switch is in the same location as the LS2’s mute switch. It’s easy to throw the LS5’s gain switch thinking you’re muting the signal. Instead, the switch adds another 18dB of gain. Yeeow.


My initial auditioning suggested that the LS5 sounded better in the 30dB position, so that’s what I used for subsequent listening. This was a little too much gain for high-output source components. For example, the Sonic Frontiers SFD-2 digital processor’s maximum output level of 6.65V (RMS with a full-scale digital signal, balanced) forced me to use the LS5’s volume control around the 9 o’clock position.


Unlike all Audio Research preamps made in the past ten years, the LS5 is a pure tubed design. Though there are transistors and op-amps inside the LS5, these are not in the main audio signal path, apart from one FET in series with the audio signal, used as part of the gain switching.


The input stage consists of both halves of a Sovtek 6922 (a 6DJ8 dual triode), followed by both halves of a 12BH7A dual triode. The output driver is half of a 12BH7A, capacitively coupled (with high-quality MIT caps) to the output jack. This circuit is repeated for the other half of the balanced signal. In all, the LS5 uses ten tubes (four 6922s, six 12BH7As, footnote 1).


The impressive power supply fills the entire left-hand side of the chassis. A toroidal transformer is mounted vertically, supplying five bridge rectifiers from separate secondary windings. The 290V B+ supply uses discrete regulation, with Rel-Cap and Wonder Cap capacitors.


The LS5’s build quality is excellent. Between the extensive power supply and circuitry using ten vacuum tubes, the LS5 is jampacked with components. As you might expect, it runs quite warm.


BL2 input controller
The fully balanced LS5 has no single-ended inputs. Audio Research believed that the LS5’s fully balanced design would be compromised by including single-ended inputs in the same chassis. Consequently, they designed the companion BL2 balanced line driver to convert single-ended source signals to balanced. If your system has any single-ended source components, you’ll need the BL2 as a companion to the LS5.


The BL2 is a slim chassis about half the height of Audio Research’s preamps. The BL2 looks and functions just like a preamplifier, but with only 6dB of gain and no volume control. Seven pairs of single-ended inputs are provided, along with one balanced output and two unbalanced tape outputs.


Inside, the circuit uses JFETs at the input/phase-splitter stage, followed by an LT1223 op-amp for each phase of the balanced signal. The output line driver consists of a complementary pair of bipolar transistors, again one pair for each phase of the balanced signal. The circuit is direct-coupled, with DC offset trimmed out.


The power supply generates ±20V for the BL2’s gain stages. A combination of IC and discrete regulation is employed, with FETs used as the series pass transistors on the ±20V rails. The power supply uses WIMA caps for the audio circuitry supply, and electrolytics for the timer, mute, and other housekeeping circuits. The circuit and power supply are quite simple and don’t take up much real estate; the BL2 has a fairly simple task.


Listening to the LS5
I’ve used Audio Research preamps nearly continuously for the past three years and greatly enjoy their straightforward layout, ease of use, and quality feel of the controls. The LS5 continues this tradition.


When I put the LS5 in my system in place of the LS2B, I didn’t expect much of a change in the sound; the LS2B is an excellent preamplifier. It was immediately obvious, however, that the LS5 was a significant step up over the LS2B.


First, the LS5 had a much warmer, richer, more full-bodied sound compared to the LS2B. The entire bottom end was bigger, with a tremendous sense of bloom in the bass. The LS2, by comparison, was leaner and drier, with less air. This isn’t to say the LS5 was tubey or overly ripe; instead, the LS5 revealed more of the space and bloom in recordings (when called for), with a fuller rendering. Bass extension was also deeper, with a greater sense of weight and power.


The LS5’s treble was a significant improvement over the LS2B’s. The latter’s slightly whitish grain was replaced by the LS5’s liquidity and smoothness. The all-tubed LS5 was outstanding at presenting instrumental timbre without grain or etch. This contributed to the LS5’s less analytical-sounding rendering. Despite being smoother, more relaxed, and less up-front in the treble, the LS5 revealed a full measure of musical detail.


I also liked the LS5’s more laid-back perspective. The music was less forward—particularly in the mids—and set back behind the loudspeakers. The LS5 put more distance between listener and music, giving a feeling of ease and relaxation. Although the LS5’s perspective was easygoing, music had a sense of palpability, life, and immediacy—a rare combination.


The LS5’s soundstaging was spectacular—transparent, deep, layered, and infused with a beautiful sense of bloom. This is another quality that set the LS5 apart from the LS2B: the LS5 had a much greater sense of spaciousness, air, transparency, and bloom. The impression of individual instruments hanging in space was extraordinary. I heard none of the thickness and congestion sometimes heard from even high-priced preamps. Images were clearly delineated and focused, yet not in an analytical way. What made the LS5’s soundstage truly special, however, was its sense of air surrounding instrumental outlines. This bloom infused the music with a feeling of realness; the LS5’s presentation was the antithesis of sterile, canned, or “hi-fi”—the music had space to breathe and come to life.


Longer-term listening, particularly in comparison with the new $3495 Sonic Frontiers SFL-2 [currently under review by Russ Novak—Ed.] revealed the LS5 still to have a very slight whitish quality to the upper mids and treble. Nevertheless, I found the LS5’s combination of qualities—liquid mids, smooth treble, warm bass, slightly laid-back perspective, and wonderful openness—musically addictive. The LS5 also excelled at preserving the differences in perspective on different recordings.


Listening to the BL2
Evaluating the BL2 was a challenge. Had I simply run the balanced outputs of a digital processor into the LS5, and the unbalanced outputs into the LS5 via the BL2, I’d have ended up comparing the processor’s balanced and unbalanced outputs (and an additional run of interconnect) more than the BL2. To resolve this quandary, I compared the unbalanced outputs of the SFD-2 processor and the Vendetta, feeding the BL2/LS5 to the Sonic Frontiers SFL-2. (I used the ARC-supplied balanced interconnect between the BL2 and the LS5.) With a good feel for the differences between the LS5 and SFL-2 in balanced mode, this comparison would highlight the BL2’s effect on the sound.


I found the BL2 fairly neutral, although it did add a slight brightness to the sound. The treble lost some of its purity, sounding more forward and a little coarse. The fine layer of grain was marginal, but audible when compared to the purity of the LS5 on its own. The sound was a little drier, and some of the bloom was gone. Some of the LS5’s liquidity was diminished, and the presentation was more analytical and less relaxed. The BL2 made the LS5 sound a little more like the LS2B than the LS5 by itself—but still significantly better than the LS2B.


Conclusions
The Audio Research LS5 preamplifier is a superbly musical product. It provides the best of what tubes can do without the euphonic colorations of some tubed preamps. In relation to Audio Research’s very successful LS2 and LS2B, the LS5 clearly operates at another level of performance (footnote 2).

Footnote 1: LS2 and LS2B owners can significantly improve the sound of these preamps by replacing the standard Chinese 6DJ8 with the excellent Sovtek 6922.


Footnote 2: As this issue went to press, we were informed by Audio Research that the LS5 has been upgraded. Robert Harley will be comparing the two generations of the LS5 in a Follow-Up.—John Atkinson