It's one of the best preamps I have ever heard.
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Sonically, the LS12 is truly one of the best preamps ever made. No, it is does not have the best clarity (almost the best), detail (almost the best), dynamics (almost the best), midrange (almost the best), depth (very good), staging (very good), and low frequency extention (almost the best). However it has few peers and the peers that it does have are much much more expensive.
I have had mine for about 6 years now. Previous pre amp was a Threshold SL-10. Have listened to a number of pre amps over the years and there are very few that are as musical as the LS-12 and fewer yet that are more musical.I use the ARC PH3SE phono stage. What amazes me is the bottom octave. It is solid. So my comments differ a little bit from the above on the bass. I like this combo very very much. I will give SMC's line stage a chance sometime in the future but thats about it. Have always liked ARC pre amps over the years.
Bobgates, I can't think of anyone who would complain, especially if they were a hog in heaven.
Now, exploring opinions of those with long term experience with the unit is another story. There was one person who never owned the piece and reported hearsay from "other people" who had the piece.
Many opinions are formed without a proper break in, wrong impedence matching, or poor speaker placement. Some folks who are at the upper midfi level may experience a certain starter hi-end piece & may think it seems like God's gift to audio, when in fact it is just the at the doorstep to greatness.
One example of negative opinions without proper break in is the Cary 303/300 CD player. If folks go on only 1 or 2 opinions they can miss the boat on a good opportunity.
Conversely, some folks contribute to Audiogon Chats who have a business agenda hoping to lure folks to buy certain gear.
If you think the LS-12 is good AR solid state preamp, you should try the LS-10. I went up the chain with Audio Research preamps and the LS-12 is very good, but it is no match for the LS-10. I tried the LS-12 because it was newer....but it couldn't measure up.
The LS-10 rarely comes up for sale here on the 'Gon, but when they do, they normally go from $1600 to $2200.
....it is one killer solid state preamp. I've owned it on three separate ocasions....and I may buy it again for my 2nd system. The female vocals on it are so real that it is down right scary. Very nice layering of instruments and pitch-black background too.