Review: Audio Research LS-12 Preamplifier

Category: Preamps

I've owned my LS 12 for about 2 weeks now. Understand I've been a die hard Bryston fan of the BP-20 and 25 over the years, but this is a real eye opener for me.
I enjoy mostly jazz and classical recordings. I am a musician...a big band lead trumpeter and leader, so as I listen to music I not only listen to the sonics, but the nature in which the performers communicate the musical message through their phrasing.
The LS 12 is the most transparent 3D preamp I've ever heard. Huge realistically placed soundstage thet never seems to congest with whatever load I throw at it! Bryston's just in comparison hint at these attributes.
I hated giving up the 20 year warrantee, but the music and its realism are what count to me, and I'm VERY critical of my gear. Been an audio nut since age 16 with my 3020 integrated NAD. I'll bet you had one too! Wasn't that a killer?
Anyway, Audio Research is phasing this out so if you can grab it!! If you can't, there is a tube pre, the SP 16 that's supposed to be even better for less money.
If you are considering Bryston, Adcom, Krell etc, you owe Audio Research an audition for utmost listening pleasure. The LS 12 is on closeout pricing at some select dealers right now. The price is a steal! Bear in mind the LS 12 is a solid state pre that was meant to close the gap in solid state/tube sound. They did it! I find myself not being able to get up from my listening chair now as a recording plays...I've never done that.
Audio Research? Yes, most highly recommended for sonically incredible products! They most capture the emotion and true communication of a performance. -Brian.

Associated gear
Bryston 4B ST, Magnepan MG 12, MMF 7 turntable, MMF-25 CD player, Cardas Cross, Quadlink 5C, neutral reference Cables.

Similar products
Bryston BP-25, BP-20.
Yes Trumpetbri, right on the money!

I too love my LS-12. I made a review of this unit which I believed fell into the cracks at another site. Oh well, now at least I know that I am not tonally deaf! Coupled with a tube CD player, the preamp exhibits sonic brilliance!

My system: Odyssey Stratos Monoblocks, ML Ascents, Jolida JD100 modified, LS-12, Groneberg interconnects(will upgrade to TS premium series from Groneberg next week), PAD Museaus Rev C bi-wire, Aural Thrills Audio Power Cords(amps and preamp), Groneberg Ref. Quattro power cords(Ascents) DIY cable asylum power cord(CD player) and tos of Herbies audiolab vibrakillers.
Like Trumpetbri, I am enamored with the ARC LS-12, too. Rather than unnecessarily repeat what's already been expressed, I have just a few hopefully useful comments for those "in-the-market." This preamp is musical and unfatigueing, whether I'm listening to Mary Black, Los Lobos, Acoustic Alchemy or the Kronos Quartet. In addition, I found that when used with my ARC amp, balanced is THE way to go. Finally, that decadent remote control sure is nice!

System Components: ARC D130, SOTA Sapphire/Premier MMT/Blue Point Special, HK CDR 20, Sonic Frontiers SFD-1, Monarchy DIP, Sony SS-M3's & Audio Pro B2-70, TARA RSC air2 interconnects and MIT speaker cable, Adcom & Monster Cable power line controllers and AQ feets.
Others have said it lacks air, detail, treble extension, and ultimately, just sounds lackluster compared to a tube preamp.
Try an LS 5, whole different ballgame
I have to respond to the observations (?) made by Saxo. I purchased the LS12 as a replacement for a CJ-PV5, a classic tube unit that I enjoyed a love-hate relationship with for 15 years. My dealer graciously allowed me to take home both the LS12 & an ARC LS8MkII, which looked equally attractive to me as an option. What I heard were the inevitable sonic trade-offs, and I ultimately made my decision based on potentially lower solid-state up-keep costs over the long haul. I listened in my own system, and formed my own opinions. It is no secret that musical enjoyment is thoroughly subjective, and equipment choices can be and are highly system and taste dependent. Rather than pass on worthless "others have said..." flotsum, why not become informed yourself? It would serve those taking the time to read these reviews a great deal more.
I see nothing wrong with relaying to a prospective buyer the knowledge that some owners of the LS-12 found it had shortcomings they couldn't live with. As to Katkrazy's system dependent comment, the difference in what tubes provide is hearable in any system, if you have the ears to hear it.

If there are opinions that the LS-12 lacks air and extension and detailing in the highs, why would you want such information squelched? I as a buyer would prefer to hear of these opinions rather than not. Please refrain from trying to police and criticize what someone posts. You wouldn't like someone doing that to you.
ARC is a fine company I have an LS-7 , 4 6dj8's upgraded from an Adcom 565 pre. what a difference. But if your going for tube sound and ARC, go for a real tube line stage. They said the old LS-3 solid pre was great. So you have to compare. Im happy