Info from those familiar with Audio Research

I'm interested in a used Audio Research preamp for a couple of reasons. One is their longstanding reputation for musically satisfying products, the other is the number of features they offer which are important to me. So I have a couple of general questions:

1. Newer models incorporate the 6H30 tube. I have no experience with it but I've read suggestions it may sound more "neutral" or even solid state-like than earlier models utilizing 12AX7 tubes which may have a warmer or more full-bodied sound. Can you comment on the overall sonics of each series?

2. Vinyl playback remains important to me so are any models, more recent than the SP-10, noted for their phono section more than others?

Thanks for any guidance.

You don't say what you currently own. That would give us a better idea of your tastes.

The SP20 is the current Audio Research preamp with phono.

Starting with the Ref 2 mk2 / LS25 mk2 / LS 16m mk2 Audio Research used the 6H30 tube instead of the 6922 tube. These preamps are more modern and neutral sounding with a bigger more 3D soundstage. I have owned both types over the years and really like the sound of the newer 6h30 preamps in general.

You also don't say what your budget is, so it is hard to make a recommendation. but you are probably better off with a separate phono stage. especially if you have a MC cart. I own a Ref 5se and use a Fosgate Signature phono stage.
Currently I have a Manley Jumbo Shrimp. I like the sonics of that but it is a line stage with minimal functions. I intend to have two arms/cartridges so there are advantages with a full preamp, then utilizing an outboard phono stage into Aux for the second arm. I'm not interested in an LS.

Budget is not yet specific (I'll be selling several items) so I was not asking about models in Q 1, just generalized sonics.
You might want to take a good hard look @ VAC - Especially the Ren. or Ren. Sig. with phono.
World class in every respect!

The recent Audio Research preamps with phono are the GS Pre, SP20 and the SP17. The SP20 is basically a LS27 with phono stage and different styling. As I said before the sound is more modern and detailed with a larger more 3D soundstage. They don't have that "classic" tube sound.

The SP10 is more romantic and sweet sounding. But less detailed. It has a following and can be pricey. It is also very dated. It was very good in it's day. But preamps have come a long way in the last 30 years. Far more then amps. I owned both an SP8 and a SP9 mk2 many years ago. I much prefer the more modern sounding preamps.

I know the Ref Phono 2 and Ref Phono 2se have 2 inputs so that they can handle 2 arms. That is probably my next upgrade.

As I said I own a Ref 5se. While not cheap, this is an incredible preamp. I have owned quite a few preamps and heard many more. There are few that sound as good even at over twice the price. Both the SP20 and LS27 don't even come close.
I owned an ARC SP-11 Mk 2 for many years. It was the first of ARC's hybrid tube/solid state preamps. I would call it more neutral than the SP-10, tending more to the solid state sound than the 10. It used 6DJ8 tubes, and had some ability to tailor the sound by having separate gain and volume controls that used the tube and solid state sections of the preamp--you could have a tubier sound or a more solid state sound by playing with these controls. The SP-11's phono stage was pretty good, and I recall it also had a mono switch and balance knob, which are things that I wish manufacturers had not done away with. While the SP-11 was at the top of the heap in its day, it is probably a bit dated by today's standards, though still a quality piece of equipment. Ultimately I gravitated towards Jadis and Shindo preamps, they had a more classic tube sound than the ARC that I preferred.

I would second the VAC Renaissance recommendation as a possible alternative to ARC, if you're looking for full-featured preamp with a more tube-like sound. I had one in my system while my Jadis JP80 was out for repairs and thought it was something special.
6H30 - modern, slightly cold, dry sound - no tube rolling

6dj8/6922 - tube rolling for your taste - much more choice - warmer classic sound
Excellent advice from Lostbears.

I agree, unless the OP wants to step up to separate components. If the OP goes the later route, a Ref 5 SE and Ref Phone 2 SE is a step-up, but the combo will cost some serious bucks ... even if bought preowned.