ARC SP-8 to SP-17?

The appearance of a couple of SP-17s (and at least one LS-17) for sale over the past month made me day-dream a bit (until I get my taxes paid, this is probably all that I can do for now!). I'm using an SP-8 pre amp, re-tubed and re-capped by ARC in 2009, driving an ARC 150.2. What I wonder is whether swapping the older pre amp for the newer one would be a real improvement, or a very minor improvement, or a lateral. While the obvious test would be to try it, that isn't easy to arrange. The route which seems to be a more likely improvement would be to go for an LS17 plus something like a PH5 phono stage, but that is quite a bit more costly. Any thoughts from you ARC users out there?

You are going to get replies on both sides. There is no way for you to know which you prefer unless you compare them. I would suggest that you borrow a SP17 or LS17 from a dealer. The other option would be to take your SP8 to a dealer and compare them.

I owned a SP8 many years ago along with a couple of other ARC preamps. I think that ARC's recent preamps, especially the one using the 6H30 tube are a huge improvement. When I traded my LS2 for a LS25 mk2 I was amazed at what a huge improvement there was.
Lostbears: Thanks for the quick reply! To get one idea "off the table," I eliminated borrowing a newer pre amp (SP17 or LS17) from my dealer, or taking my SP8 in to the dealer, because my objective would be to buy the component used (after all, this is Audiogon!). So taking up his time, knowing that he won't get the sale is, to me, unethical. (When I knew I would be giving him business, as when I bought my Magneplanars, I of course used as much of his demo time as I could.)
Agree with Lostbears. I used to own the SP-17 and switched it out for the Ref3. As I'm sure you know, the SP-17 is not an LS-17, but minus the phono stage. They are different units. ARC refers to the LS-17 as a "Baby Ref 3." If you go the LS-17 route, you may want to try to swing the few extra bucks it will cost to get into a used PH-7 Phono Pre. The PH-7 is much improved over the PH-5. I also own the PH-7 and love it!

Not to mess with your head too much, but it may be worth a call to ARC to speak with Calvin. He's a real nice guy and may be able to advise you how to get the most bang for your buck. For example, your 150.2 amp is a Class T SS amp that ARC discontinued in 2006. Cal may suggest (??) that part of your upgrade include changing out the amp and going a little cheaper on the pre. Just a suggestion. Good luck.
I will chime in with a very different response to the ones above. The SP-8 was ARC's first preamp that brought on awesome 3D and body to the instruments and harmonics that was simply not heard before. This carried on with the SP-10 but unfortunately went downhill until the LS5 came along in 1994. Sadly, only a handful of ARC lines stages or preamps have continued on with this performance over the years.

Comparing an LS2 to an LS25 and thinking the performance improvement was due to the newer tube or newer technology, well, it's not that easy? Why? Because the LS2 was just about ARC's flattest line stage ever. It and the LS15 sound like broken toys when put up against the LS5.

As for the LS16/17 series, marketing hype aside, if you want to retain the 3D strengths of the SP-8, you're going to have to go for an LS5 or LS25, Ref 2 on up. Finding a tweaked/modified older unit, maybe by GNSC, could be your ticket to keep what you have with the SP-8 and get some new refinements such as more coverage at the frequency extremes and better low-level resolution.

Also, if money is an issue, put all you have in the line stage or preamp and keep the amp you have if it mates well with your speakers. There are many many good amps out there. I can not say the same about line stages/preamps.

If you are not in bed with ARC, look into good deals on used BAT products as well. In many cases, BAT products beat ARC at their own game.
Palewin, I can't argue with Jafox. His memory and experience with the SP-8 goes back further than my experience with ARC. Probably showing my age here, but I used to own a Crown IC 150 Pre and DC 300 amp in my first rig - back in the early 70s when Crown was the state of the art in direct coupled SS.

However, based on my readings, I recall that the SP-11 was considered to be a classic in its time. Can't vouch for it, but check out the reviews on the web. You might be able to get a used SP-11 for a good price and have it checked out by ARC. FWIW, I see that a broken SP-11 just sold for $890. Heck, if it cost $500 to fix -- what a bargain.

As I said, I used to own the SP-17. Also owned the SP-16. I really liked them both. Can't say the units played in 3D because I didn't use my 3D movie glasses when I listened to my rig, but maybe Jafox is right -- just wear 3D glasses next time you listen to your rig. Haha

Jokes aside, and no disrespect intended to Jafox, I would still call Calvin at ARC. I have worked with him and Leonard before him. They are straight shooters and won't steer you wrong, IMHO.
First go for the PH5, then move on to the SP17 if needed.
I like my SP17 I recommend it and the pricer LS25 which need a phono section

If your in NYC come by for a demo. Its mated with an LP12 too.
A few lines to defend the LS-2.
When mated with a CEC drive, Theta DAC, ARC VT-120 and Dunlavy SC-IV.2 (all Dunlavy wire), made heavenly music.
No way anything could shame it.