ARC SP good is it really????

I know there was a recent thread regarding ARC SP 11 vs SP 10 and the consensus was that the 10 was better.

My question is can an Audio Research SP 10 compete with today's top contenders??? I am a vinyl person- so tell me - how good is this pre-amp compared to todays and how good is the phono section compared to, lets say, Lamm, Herron etc????


This is always an interesting thread. For whatever reason the price for an SP10 on the used market is in the $2k+ range and I simply do not know why.

I owned an SP10 for 8 years in the 80s. At the time I compared it to the SP11, MFA Luminescence(incredible bass!), Klyne, Spectral and CAT. For what I liked, the SP10 was the preferred unit because of its incredible dynamic contrasts and awesome midrange. But the frequency extremes and mediocre resolution were its weaknesses.

I tried many other products but continued to stay with the SP10 until the LS5/PH2 combination came out. Very few preamps existed that retained the SP10's midrange magic and also brought on a boat load of refinements. The LS5/PH2 did this incredibly. Forget about the LS2, LS3, LS15, etc.....they simply are not in the same league.

With the LS5 I could hear how poor the SP10's line stage truly was. And the PH2's vastly superior recovery of detail due to its lower noise floor and most likely superior parts, made for LP listening like I had missed with the SP10.

I have since passed on my LS5 and now use a BAT 31SE. And I sold the PH2 to go with the BAT VKP10. However, the PH2 is a phono stage I could have enjoyed forever. It was indeed a sleeper in the ARC line when it came to being outstanding.

So before you throw out $2k+ on a used SP10, jump on an LS5 in the $1500-1800 range. The MK III is so much nicer as it does away with the MK II's exaggerated sibilance but the MK III is in the $2200 range. I have seen PH2s in the $600-800 range and this is simply a steal. So for $3k here you can get a killer combination that the SP10 could never compete with.

Surely other enthusiasts can suggest other ways for you to spend $2-3k for a great preamp for both LP and CD enjoyment.

I wholeheartly agree with everything Jafox says, especially concerning the LS5, a great linestage indeed...BUT with proper mods I expect that the SP-10 can do it all at a reference level. Problem is at that point it may end up costing you 4K or more to realize.
I sold my SP10mk2 last year after owning it for over 10 years. I really enjoyed it. The very positive qualities you've heard about it are true, but so are the negatives. In stock condition, it lacks the clarity and frequency extremes of many current production preamps. I understand if you upgrade the parts (Great Northern Sound) it can compete with the best of today. I considered doing that. But you will pay a lot to do this and it would be difficult to recover the cost of upgrade if you sell it. I replaced it with a used Supratek Syrah which also has many fine qualites, plus the clarity and better frequency extremes.
I've owned the Cat Ultimate, Jadis DPMC, SP11, SP10 and now the Herron line stage and phone stage. I've listed these in the order of my preference. The main weakness of the SP10 is that to use the line stage, you have to take it out of by-pass mode which engages all of the front panel clap trap. The phono stage is still very competive with todays offerings while through the line stage, it lacks transparency and is somewhat grainy. The 10 is also demanding of tubes in four locations. It prefers noise free NOS in these locations. I debated (with myself) for a long time as to send the 10 to GNS or find a modern alternative. If it's any consequence, I do regret having to sell the 10 to help pay for the Herrons. That said, the Herron's are lovely and will enjoy them for years to come.
I owned a SP10, and it can not compare to MFA Luminescence or any of the Sonic Frontier Line series preamps or the older SFL-2.

And don't buy a tube preamp that needs a transformer or oil in paper caps to couple it's poorly designed output stage.

If you're a vinyl person and don't want to spend $10K, forget the tubes and look for a used Rowland preamp & phono stage. Then you can just listen to the music.
FWIW, I have SP10II and IMHO it's phono stage and mid-range bloom is worth the asking price. When I want to get better resolution or bottom end I just use a different line stage (an EAR 834L). I find that most modern full featured pre-amps to be somewhat clinical for my taste.