ARC users please

I have been trying many different budget preamps just for the fun of it. I have stumbled upon a Audio Research SP7.
This thing sounds amazing. Any preamp under $1000.00 that I put in my system doesn't come close to the sound of the SP7.
Everything else I try sounds like it is in mono compared to the SP7. I don't know how to describe the difference. The sound is more alive and every instrument is in place.
My question, is this a signiture ARC sound ?
I have read good and bad reviews of the LS3. So I am not sure if I need to look for a certain model to upgrade to, but still keep that synergy in my system that I have now.
Thanks, Scott
Equipment is much like music: if it sounds good, it is good!
If memory serves me the SP7 is an older SS ARC pre-amp? ARC has never been known for its SS stuff, quite the contrary, the SP6 and the SP8 are both far, far, better preamps and would easily better the SP7 and can be found for $1000 or less depending on condition. The only ARC pre-amp which bears a 7 in its designation with which I am familar is the LS7, an excellent budget line stage tube amp which was discontinued. If all you need is a line stage, and you want ARC on a budget, this is a better selection than many of the later LS series which became increasingly more sterile.
I am using ARC LS2B in a solid state system. Also tried it with tube system. I'm very happy with sound. They can be had for $800 or less used.
The SP7 is an older solid state ARC preamp. I agree with Newbee, the SP6 and the SP8 are much better sounding. I have played around with the SP7 and I really wasn't impressed with it. I always found it very sterile sounding compared to ARC's tube offerings. From what I remember the SP7 dates from the early to middle 80's. Hope this helps
Hello Scott. Audio Research has made reference grade preamps for more than 3 decades, dating back to the early 1970's when they first introduced the SP-2, an all tubed unit with a phono stage. The all tubed SP-3 series was introduced in 1976 and this preamp literally turned the high end industry on it's ear and established ARC company as a bonified high end company offering refence grade equipment. However, the sp-7 has never been considered the ARC signature sound and never will be for that matter. The sp-7 was the last offering of ARC's venture into the solid state camp. It's circuitry was actually the 3rd revision of the original sp-4 first introduced in 1976 and followed with the sp-5 introduced in 1977. None of their solid state offerings were ever taken very seriously and they discontinued all of their solid state preamps ending with the SP-7. You didn't mention the other preamps under a $1000 you were comparing it to. The good thing here is any of the ARC solid state preamp can be had for under $300 buckeroos with a little searching. To be candid here....In comparison to any of their sp series tubed preamps of that era would be like comparing hamburger to fille mignon. The Original sp-3 series will stomp on the sp-7 in every way and is in a whole higher league sonically. As newbee correctly pointed out... the sp-8 can be found for under a $1000. If you liked the sound of the SP-7 you will soil your pants after the first few bars of music with the sp8 as well as the sp-6 and sp-3. Search any of them out and give em a listen.
Go to to find info on this and any other unit that ARC ever made.I don't agree with the comments expressed above regarding the ARC solid state pre-amps.I do own the LS3-B and love it.
Great site, thank you.
What is the difference between LS and SP besides the phono section ? In other words, is a SP 8 the same as a LS 8 ?
Do they use the same technology and sound the same except for not having a phono stage on the LS ?
Hello Scott. Yes, the SP designation offered an on board phono stage where LS is a line only. Although the number designation does not always correlate to the same preamp. Example.... The LS-5 line stage is basically the same topology as that of the line of the SP-8. Note:I believe the LS-5 has "balanced outs" only. The LS-5 is a terrific preamp and their most sought after line stage.It typically gets snapped up pretty quickly here or on the used market and the reason why the posters above are recommending the SP-8 series. You get the phono stage as a added bonus if your ever considering vinyl as a source.The phono stage alone is worth the price of admission as it's a great one.Hope this helps. cheers
The SS ARC preamp short lived because it wasn't as good as its tube ARC preamp. ARC decided to moved back to tube gear. The SP-10 and 11 MKIIs are much better and much sought after than 8/6/3. In our setups, they sound fuller and more musical than the LS-16 and 25s. Since we don't have any balanced equipments, we never tried the LS-5s.
Hello Chang. I would certainly concurr with your observations, I have owned an Sp-10 mk2 since it was first introduced and I personally believe it to be the finest preamp ARC ever produced [haven't heard the latest reference 3]and yes,it's in a whole higher leaugue than the sp-8. However,Scott was comparing preamps for under $1000. If you can find me another SP-10 for under a kilo buck I will buy every one you can find.
They seem to have made it very difficult to follow the model lines and what the sound like.
So here it is.
My system is this. Pair of Rogue Magnum 120's
Vandersteen 2C's
VPI Hw 19 TT w/ Grado Reference Sonata
All Discovery IC's
Apature Silver Speaker Cables
Graham Slee Era Gold phono stage
I listen to mostly vinyl, 60's and 70's rock.
What preamp do I want ?
Thanks, Scott
I really don't know what pre amp you want. Like Ecclectique, I have had a SP10II since it first came out and have no intent to part with it. If I didn't have it I would buy a used CAT or a MFA Lumi. But these are beyond your budget. My recommendation to you in the ARC line would be a later edition of the SP8. If you want to stay in really high end SS you might find a Threshold HL10e - it's a line stage, but since you already have a phono stage it could work for you. You should easily find one within your budget.
Enjoy your Rogue 120's.I got the M-150's in a separate system and closing on a deal for the Magnum 99 pre.A little over 1000$ for a used one though.We got the same musical taste I see.
Hey George.A Magnum 99? Now your talking, it's a real beauty and a great match with your amplifiers. I'm taking bets your love affair with the LS-3 will come to an end very quickly.

if you can handle balanced inputs (or use cheater plugs)
the LS5 is fabulous
and you can team it up with a PH2 for an excellent phono stage


I had an ARC SP9MK2 which is a Hybrid using both tubes and SS and I have the Vandersteen 2CE sigs. I bought some good Amperex tubes and the unit sounded excellent. The phono stage had quite a bit of gain and that was the best phono section that I have heard to date. I have since sold it and bought a Tube Audio Design by Bizzy bee which also has a phono section. While the phono doesn't seem to sound as good as the ARC, the line stage is outstanding, better than the ARC with the Amperex tubes. You can get one new for about $700. I have no reason to change...

I had the Rogue 99 Magnum for a while. I didn't like it really. The sonics weren't too bad. Not what I was looking for. But, I just didn't like the 99 much at all.
How about Classe"
I owned the SP-5 had it modified to an SP-7. It was as they others have said not the same sounding as the SP-8 which my best friend had and we constantly compared. I then tried the SP-9 for awhile(okay 3 weeks) and traded up to the SP-14, which I really liked when I was usung a phono stage!

I'm now using an LS 25 MkII which I've really been happy with.IMHO the older designs are more"romantic" sounding but in all honesty to me they did need to be upgraded in some way to be great across the whole frequency range. Usually excelled in the Midrange and upper midrange but did not have the tight fast low end and extended highs that the newer units have. But then again they aren't perfect either;)
Okay, that is my point. SP-5,7,8,9 and 14 and then a 25.
How do you keep track of the good ones from the bad ones?
Most of the "Even" numbers are better than "Odd" ones.
: )
Ecclectique thanks.My 99 should be coming soon.Heard mostly good comments about the unit,some bad ones too.I'll see for myself.It will be my first tube pre.I was also looking at SLP-98L or First sound but $$$.The LS3B will definitely stay to keep company to my Mark Levinson 27.5.
Hi, Any one compare between Arc ls5 and the vk 3i they are both tubes pre? Just wonder if either of them will fix good in VTL delux 300. Any input will be very appreciated.
I heard alot people doing biamp??? How is that hook up? What is the advantage of it?. Thanks for any input.
A few years back Stereophile gave the LS9 a very positive review stating it was ARC's best solid state pre-amp to date. I never heard the unit but its ergonomics intrigue me; no balance contol, XLR and rca inputs and outputs, a rather purist design at a moderate price point.
Can anyone offer opinions on it?