Audio Research SP16 annoying volume control

I have recently added a Audio Research SP16, the most annoying thing is the volume control.
The volume steps are not well calibrated and is either too quiet or too loud, there's not subtle ajustments, the volume just jumps to loud.
I have heard great things about Audio Research but I never expected this sort of design flaw on such an expensive piece of equipment. I am not happy at all.
Any other SP16 owners have this problem?
Is it happening in the lower part of the scale ?
Audio Research has a taper volume kit...or whatever they call it. It allows more steps at lower range so it doesn't get too loud too quick. And you can reduce gain of this preamp. Call ARC and talk to them. Reducing gain will solve that issue. It may also have a positive effect on overall noise floor of the preamp, have smoother highs and less forward mids, but at a possible expense of overall bass drive. bass may become a bit softer.

Mating a preamp with an amp, you need to consider several things, such as gain of preamp, gain of amp, amp sensitivity, preamp output impedance, amp input impedance.

What you're experiencing is not unusual. it isn't a design flaw of an ARC preamp. It's a simple mismatch between your preamp and your amp.
Hello Elberoth2
Yes its happening at the lower part of the scale, the volume increments seems to be one press, then 2 press, then 3 presses but its already loud at around the 3rd or 4th light.
I think the further up the scale then there are 4 presses to each light increment.
At the moment I am not using a ARC amp, so maybe its a mismatch of the gain of the amp or CD as Audphile1 points out.
But there are serveral reports from other users that the volume on the SP16 is not very adjustable at the lower volumes.
It just seems to me as a way to differentiate between the more expensive ARC gear, they have dumbed down the functionality which to me seems very stupid as they have marred what is otherwise a great piece of equipment.
I had similar issues with my ARC LS-15.
I swithced to LS-25 that has more volume steps and it helped, but the solution was delivered by adjustable gain of LS-25. I used it only on lower gain setting. That really helps. That's why I suggested lowering the output gain of your SP-16. Or get another preamp. One of the best volume controls I've seen on a preamp is on Sonic Frontiers. You really can not ask for a finer adjustment. I think it has 180 steps or close to that number anyway. You can fine tune that volume control. It's really nice.
The problem you identify is one I also experienced, mostly because I am using high efficiency speakers. There simply was not enough flexibility when listening to high output sources (i.e. CD's) at low volume levels. The good news is that it is an easy problem to solve. Send your unit back to ARC and have them do their "gain modification" which simply involves dropping a high quality resistor in whichever source you would like to shelve down the preamp output. I only did the CD input so the mod was called the "CD only gain modification". Now I have much more flexibility when setting the volume during CD playback, particularly at low listening levels. A secondary effect is that the volume is now matched for CD and LP playback. It cost around $60 if I remember correctly and they did a thorough check up on the whole unit while it was there.
My dad had the 16 then jumped a few steps and bought the Ref3, with efficient speakers it was an issue but was tamed by attenuators that shaved 9db off signal, some are a sonic compromise and some get pricey but have little to no negative affect..........Rothwell makes a model some like and some avoid but they are not pricey to try.
PS The Ref3 has a volume NOTHING like the 16,,,,,,,for $10K it better not!
Mating a preamp with an amp, you need to consider several things, such as gain of preamp, gain of amp, amp sensitivity, preamp output impedance, amp input impedance.

What Audiophile have said is very true (maybe with the exception of in/out impedances). I would also throw in a mix sensitivity of your speakers and output voltage of your CD player (I had this problem several years ago when I was using Theta Gen Va which had a generous, 6V output voltage).

To remedy the situation, you can (in general) do one of the following:

1. Reduce the output voltage of your CDP
2. Reduce gain of your preamp
3. Reduce gain of your amp
4. Reduce the sensitivity of your speakers

Reducing gain of your preamp seems to be the easiest thing to do (for example reducing sensitivity of your speakers would basicly mean that you would have to buy different speakers).
So if I match the pre-amp to a ARC power, then I presume that this would fix the problem?
Matching to an ARC amp will not necessarily fix the "problem". You either need to step down the output from the high level sources as I indicated above or buy one of their newer preamps, such as the SP17, LS17 or LS26 which have more steps (nearly double) in their volume control settings. Of course you could choose to leave things as they are and enjoy the music albeit without the ability to adjust the volume exactly as you like.
Or consider something like the Rothwell attenuators. Might be your cheapest solution. I haven't tried them, but heard good things about them. Search the discussions for Rothwell Attenuators. They might do the trick.
Kingmonkey88 - Had the same problem with an older SP8 that I had upgraded. Not enough options at the low end of the volume scale. Also had some of that problem with the LS15. This was with an ARC amp (and several other amps). I think Elberoth2 and others nailed it (and this is what I'm doing): Send the pre-amp in ane get the gain reduced. It's a bit of a pain, but worth it.
Audphile has a good suggestion, by far the easiest, cheapest way to deal with excess gain. I'm using a -10db. pair between my cd player and preamp with no audible degradation I can hear. It will give you finer incremental volume adjustments.
An ARC amp will not likely resolve this problem, as others have told you. I had the same problem with an ARC LS25MKII preamp with two different ARC solid state power amps (150.2 & 300.2). It was resolved when I purchased the newer ARC LS26 preamp.

It seems your most inexpensive option would be to send it back to ARC and have the gain modification done. My experience in dealing with ARC to resolve any equipment issues has been excellent.

Best of luck
I had the brand new SP16l for less than 2 weeks and I sold it at a big loss after ARC sent it back to me and the annoying abrupt level control did not get any better but worse. It is not the mismatch pre/amp issue. It is the flaw of the SP16 design. If your tolerant level is like mine, please do not send it back and wish for a good fix. It won't happen. Live with it or sell it.
so Andrew, are you saying tghat reducing gain is a waste of time and money and it won't help? interesting...
All I can say is the SP16L I owned came back from ARC with some modification and it did not show any improvement. As the matter of fact, it got worse that I ended up selling back to local dealer for much less than what I paid for. The SP16 has been replaced with the SP17 with a better volume control . Also, my speakers at that time were the Paradigm S2 v1 at 88DB at 6 ohm. I have to admitted that I did enjoy the sound of the SP16 / 4 BSST combo but I could not tolerate the hi-end product with designed flaw.
ARC should be held accountable for their silly gain control. This is not a mismatch between an amp and a pre-amp. I can just imagine how much they charge for their "volume taper kit". I'll bet a replacment attenuator is inexpensive and ARC should replace it for free. If they don't, track down an electronics repair shop in your area and have them do it.