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audio research sp-12 anyone?

Discussion in 'Tube Audio' started by legal eagle, Aug 19, 2007.

  1. legal eagle

    legal eagle Sound Hound

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    On my way to Hell, for sure.
    Anybody know anything about this preamp? Can't find any good info about it. :scratch2:
     

     

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  2. Bluelobster

    Bluelobster Well-Known Member

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    809
  3. legal eagle

    legal eagle Sound Hound

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    1,756
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    On my way to Hell, for sure.
    Thanks - but i saw that, and about 5 other minor posts - but that's it!!!:thumbsdn:
     
  4. dividebytube

    dividebytube Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    611
    Location:
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Funny - I had a conversation just last week about this preamp - no I've never heard one - but one of friends who is really into ARC was discussing this model. It was geared for budget buyers and had some of the circuit design of the SP10/11 - but minus the regulation. Never a popular version - I've never even seen one myself.
     
  5. legal eagle

    legal eagle Sound Hound

    Messages:
    1,756
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    On my way to Hell, for sure.
    Believe it or not, I bought one about two years ago for a sh#tload of $$$ (mint...manual, rack handles...), and never used it. Now that I am trying to figure out what to do with it, I can't find anything about it. Perhaps I'll just keep it. An Acoustic Research Tube Preamp can't be that bad, can it?! :beerchug::yippy:

    Come to think about it, Perhaps the fact I can't find anything about is means it's rare and who knows what...

    But there's got to be somebody on AK who knows!
     
  6. Bambi B

    Bambi B Member

    Messages:
    85
    Audio Research SP12

    legaleagel,

    The Audio Research SP12 was the contemporary of the SP8 and SP10, and was their "budget" preamplifier- I think it was about $800 less than an SP8- that's over 1/3 less-a significant proportion. It was also, with the SP10, the first 6DJ8 based Audio Research preamp.

    I heard the SP12 along side an SP8 in 1985 and there was no contest in terms of detail, naturalness, dynamics- I bought an SP8- and still have it. The SP8 has tubes in the power supply while I think the SP12 uses all 5- 6DJ8s for gain. Construction quality as usual for ARC was quite good, except I've never liked pushbuttons- and the SP12 has a whole row of them for input selection, tape and so on. I would check on the cost of the pushbuttons- they are plastic, have lights, and and are all 20+ years old. I'm certain ARC can supply them. Also, another reason I resisted the SP12 was that I remember it had 5 inputs including phono and tape- too close to minimum. In my current office system, which I use for recording, I use 5 of the 7 line stage inputs.

    The SP12 was not bad at all- to me it's prefereable to some of the softer C-J tube preamps of the era, but was just not refined and balanced top to bottom and could be a bit harsh on top with the bass a little boomy. It's just disappointing after hearing the superb SP8 . I don''t think many SP12s sold and while being not commonly offered, because of reputation, the pushbuttons, they are also not expensive. The last two I've seen sold were $450 and $525.

    Earluier this year, I thought of buying an SP12 to replace my solid state Audio Research LS3 in the office- it would be a way to use a big pile of NOS 6DJ8s I have, but I've decided to either go back to the trusty SP8 or buy an LS15.

    Personally, if you want vintage Audio Research, I'd opt for an SP3, a late SP6, or best of all, a late SP8. The sound of those is more refined, there's a following that will maintain or increase in value, and importantly, they are 12AX7 based- a much easier tube to live with and refine the sound with NOS. Unfortunately, NOS 6DJ8 family tube prices have gone insane. SP12's seem reasonably priced, but in my philosophy, the preamp is the "heart" of a system and I'd spend something more and go for the SP3, SP6, or SP8- and then keep it 20 years instead of changing again. - As preamps change slowly anyway-have the preamp be the "reference"- consistent element in the system.

    And the older all tube ARC preamps are great value for money- I believe my SP8 is worth close to it's purchase price after 22 years and therefore on paper has been a great preamp more or less for "free". -Now, there's a "budget" preamp for you!

    Cheers,

    Bambi B

    [ARC: SP8, SP10, LS3, D115, D130]
     

     

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  7. legal eagle

    legal eagle Sound Hound

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    On my way to Hell, for sure.
    NOW - THAT'S AN ANSWER! Thanks B. Like I said, I have the 12 collecting dust, so now I'll have to compare it to my Mc C-28 and decide which of them goes...:D Guess it's really a question of taste. Do you know of any info sources?
     
  8. Bambi B

    Bambi B Member

    Messages:
    85
    Audio Research SP12

    legaleagel,

    I'm not too surprised there are few people that remember the Audio Research SP12- it fell through the cracks in terms of not being the typical ARC product at the time-and seemed to be the "odd man out". And at whatever it was new- $1,200 in 1985?- was still quite expensive. You probably have a fairly uncommon piece of gear.

    As for comparison with a McIntosh C28, It's probably best to hear it and the SP12 in the nearest proximity. I have to say that as much as I love McIntosh stuff, as compared to the superb tuners and amplifiers, I never felt the solid state preamps were their best designs. However, the tube preamp section of the MX110 - supposedly related to the C22 - is quite good and I could use an MX110 in good nick as a main system preamplifier. ( Plus, an MX110 has a fantastic tuner section- based on the MR67.)

    Without hearing either the SP12 nor a C28 for a long time, I would probably still lean towards the SP12, providing it had some reasonably good tubes in it- perhaps Amperex Bugle Boy or A-frame 6DJ8 's / ECC88 's in the first position phono and line stage spots. Those will have the most impact on the sound. Retubing an SP12 with 5 best NOS though could cost more than the preamp's value, but two good 6DJ8s should be reasonable.

    As you already have it, give the SP12 a go for awhile. I, for one would be interested to hear your impressions.

    - If it's been more than 6 months since it was run, clean the tube pins and bring the voltage up slowly on a variac to get the capacitors used to the idea of working for a living.

    You asked about information sources. Besides the Audio Research database site, I can only think there must have been a number of contemporary reviews- perhaps look into the archives of "Stereophile" who I think reviewed it. I seem to remember it was also reviewed in a couple of UK magazines at the time because it was the "affordable" Audio Research- ARC stuff in the UK used to cost in Pounds what it cost in the US in $$- I'll bet a new SP12 was the equivalent of $2200 plus in the UK.

    An interesting one- let us know what you think!

    Cheers,

    Bambi B

    [McIntosh: MX110, MC240, MR67, MR77 ]
     
  9. legal eagle

    legal eagle Sound Hound

    Messages:
    1,756
    Location:
    On my way to Hell, for sure.
    Thanks man,
    It'll probably be a long while before I get to test it - it is stored about 14 flight hours away...:tears:
     
  10. kcin

    kcin AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    457
    Location:
    Canada
    Sp 12

    Bambi is exactly right. The SP 12 is probably one of the most easily forgotten ARC tube preamps. I heard it almost 25 years ago when I decided on the SP 8 that I still own. It was built to a price point and and at the time anyone looking at ARC was an enthusiast and opted for the SP 6C or 6E(very rare) or SP 8 or for very big bucks the somewhat later SP 10.

    It looked nothing much like classic ARC with its cheap pushbuttons et al. But if you have it enjoy.. I agree with Bambi , for the period, ARC product construction still ran circles around the CJ stuff.

    Good Luck,

    Kcin
     
  11. JimJ[VT]

    JimJ[VT] Super Member

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    3,064
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    Hillsborough, NC
    I <3 my SP-9MKII.

    ARC is good :D
     

     

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  12. Giovanni68

    Giovanni68 New Member

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    17
    I am going to resurrect this very old thread since I have been offered and SP12 and would like to know if worth the pain, I own an SP9 which I bought from the same owner and not being a very sharp ear I am pretty sure I can't probably tell the difference also given the other rings of my audio chain (Gyrodec with AT3200XE, Sony CDP-X505ES, Aeron AP890 twin KT88 amp and JBL4311B) not being that sophisticated.

    I'd also like to know how much could it be worth to put an offer there just in case since I might buy it to resell to somebody who could enjoy it.

    Grazie
     
  13. Bob

    Bob AK Subscriber Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,269
    Location:
    West coast
    since these are very old, plan on spending $$$$$$$ to recap, re-tube, this unit. then
    when you get used to the sound, plan on more money for the next inevitable purchase
    up the ARC food chain.
     
  14. stanko

    stanko Hoarder Subscriber

    Messages:
    790
    Location:
    Oshkosh, WI
    SP6A is basically an SP3 without the tone section but with a massive power supply. I like them and they are cheap compared to an SP3 Disclaimer: I have three of each. I also had an SP8 and an SP10 MK II.
     
  15. Giovanni68

    Giovanni68 New Member

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    17
    I am pretty happy with my MKI version of the SP9 so I'd take the SP12 only as a very good bargain to eventually recap and sell it again, for sure not to use it as it would be a downgrade; would a couple hundred be a good bargain in the eventuality to sell it back to somebody else?
     

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