ARC SP9 MK2 tubes

I have just upgraded, or thought I did, from a Counterpoint SA3 running through a B&K PT3 series 2 pre into a B&K Ref 4420 amp. I replaced the Counterpoint and B&K pre with a ARC SP 9 mk 2. Speakers are Vandersteen 2CE Signatures. CD is the Adcom 600. TT is a Thorens 160 with a Linn Basik arm and Goldring 1012 cartridge.

I really liked the warmth and lack of grain when I ran the Counterpont through the B&K. I used the loudness switch on to gain bass as my room does not yield solid bass response.

When I put the ARC in its place last night, the sound changed quite a bit. When playing te CD I detect some grain and hardness but the imaging and detail are good. Since the ARC has no tone controls, the highs seem to roll off a bit so I will probably increase the highs on the speakers a bit. The tubes are "Grand Dragon" which I guess must be Chinese tubes. Never heard of them.

For you ARC 9 users, what tubes have worked for you and has anyone heard of Grand Dragon Tubes.

I am thinking maybe the B&K and ARC are not a good match. I experienced similar results when I ran a Sunfire reference pre through the B&K. Do B&K amps only sound good with B&K Preamps?

Looking for advice and opinions..

I am using EH 6922s in my SP9 MKII - I think that is the way to go.
The ARC, while not anywheres near state of the art, is a step above the B&K. I had one several years ago, used some Hewlett Packard labelled NOS 6DJ8s with Vandy 2Cis. Never thought they were grainy or hard. Try some NOS tubes; maybe some used but test new to save some $.

Thanks for the feedback. Is it also possible that my B&K reference 4420 is holding back the performance of the ARC? I am considering looking at a used McCormack DNA .5 or 1?


If you can get a pair of Tungsram 6922's (red print) give these a try. I found them to really open up my old SP-9MkII pre amp. I used EH 6922 and they were smoother than the stock Sovteks for sure. The Tungsrams are very transparent and have very deep and tight bass. They are a real sleeper of a tube.Lots of depth, air and detail. I liked them so much, Im still using a pair in my current LS25 pre, pass on the yellow print 6dj8 version, as they are not as good sounding IMO. :) Ken
I currently have Amperex Bugle Boys in my ARC SP9 MKII. Very happy with the results. Highs out to there, deep, tight bass, no tube rush. I also had good luck with a pair of NOS AEG 6922 that worked well.
Eagle- IMO, the DNA 0.5 is a great audio bargain (although that is not a news flash by any means. In my system, it worked with the SP9 MK2, and also worked when I went up the ladder with a BAT VK3i (which I also think has a great price/performance ratio). If your speakers/room do not demand the higher power, the 0.5 is somewhat smoother, and of course can be upgraded by SMcAudio to very much world class performance.
Thanks for the responses so far. Another problem that I found is that the Phono section of this pre is louder at the same gain level as my CD player. All other combos the opposite is true. What experience has anyone else owning the SP9 MK2 had?
The Sp9 MKII has a really high gain in the phono stage of 67 db. It's been my experience thus far that low output MC carts have more than enough gain available to them. A HO moving coil or MM cart may have too much gain unless you open the unit up and swap out a resistor on the bottom of the unit. The stock change only results in a drop of 6 db.

If you use a HO MC cart, you may find that the stepped volume contol does not offer enough change in the percieved volume. One setting not being loud enough, the next click being too loud. One option would be to have the volume modded away from a stepped unit to a continual type.
Well, purchased a pair of Amperex NOS USN-CEP's from a reputable company that had test result and guarantees. Prior I had those grand dragons and they sounded dry, the voices were nasal and the bass was too tight. With the Amperex, the warmth came back, the voices sounded natural and the music had some pace to it. Amazing the difference that two little "light bulbs" make in the sound..... Highly recommend.....