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Audio Research SP16 Phono Stage Question

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Posted on August 23, 2012 at 18:31:53
AGolski
Audiophile

Posts: 33
Location: Ohio
Joined: November 29, 2005
Hi,
I posted this in the 'Tubes' Forum and it was suggested i might get some responses here..

I have this Audio Research preamp and while I am pleased with the sound of the phono section I am always wondering if there is something 'more' out there. How far up the external phono amp food chain would I need to go to get something better than what the SP16 has? Would it be ok to go solid state since it would run through the tubed line stage of the SP16? I have a Rega P25 with a Dynavector 20x2H cartridge. Would the Dynavector P75 mkII phono stage be an upgrade? How about the PS Audio GCPH? Thanks for any input!!

Alan

 

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RE: Audio Research SP16 Phono Stage Question, posted on August 24, 2012 at 03:56:42
andyr
Audiophile

Posts: 10704
Location: Melbourne
Joined: September 2, 2000
Wow! Lotta Qs!! :-))

"I have this Audio Research SP16 preamp". AIUI, a great preamp. :-))

"the phono section - is there something 'more' out there?" Undoubtedly ... but at what price! :-))

"Would it be OK to go solid state since it would run through the tubed line stage of the SP16?" Yes, IMO.

"Would the Dynavector P75 mkII phono stage be an upgrade?" Maybe! :-)) Being Dynavector, it should match very well with your cart ... whether it delivers a better sound in your system than the SP16, is unknown.

"How about the PS Audio GCPH?" I have not heard one ... but I have read of comparisons to other phono stage that I have heard. It didn't rate very well. :-((

Regards,

Andy

 

I'm in the same boat, posted on August 24, 2012 at 05:29:21
wawa2020
Audiophile

Posts: 288
Joined: October 25, 2002
I've had my SP16 for 4 years and like it a lot. If you haven't tried NOS tubes in both sections you should give that a try. In my experience good 5751's in the line stage and Amperex 12ax7's in phono take everything to another level.

That said I've just finished my slate lenco and am wondering what improvements a better phono stage might bring. I have been looking for a while and the P75MkII is a nice piece at its price but IMHO no match for the SP16 even with stock tubes.

If you are looking to significantly upgrade I think you need to look at the Rogue Ares or Manley Chinook or something in that range.

 

As a WAG-, posted on August 24, 2012 at 06:14:29
cdb
Audiophile

Posts: 2606
Joined: April 6, 2001
*if* I had a '16, I'd expect to start at around 1/2 of the '16s retail price - say $1500 - up to matching the full retail of $3k to better the ARCs phono section.

With the 12-series tubes, I'd explore that angle second, keeping in mind the *differences vs. *improvements rocky road. First, I'd replace the stock fuses with Hi-Fi Tuning Supremes.

It won't be cheap or easy to beat ARCs RIAA frequency response spec.

 

Have you identified what you want "more" of?, posted on August 24, 2012 at 07:01:51
CometCKO
Audiophile

Posts: 741
Joined: August 9, 2002
The ARC is a nice phono stage. To make a very substantial improvement will cost you quite a bit. And for what? What is it that you are looking for? Can you find a friend who will let you borrow a phono stage to see whether it does what you want?

I had and ARC SP16 some years ago. I have not compared side by side, but I believe the Aesthetix Rhea phono stage that I'm using now (bought used for about $2k) is a definite improvement, based on what is important to me. Most of that improvement is in the tone/timbre of the musical instruments and "palpability" of the singers/musicians. I'll bet on a pure specs basis there's little real improvement. And in some ways, the ARC was better (more incisive leading edge on transients, for instance).

Is this worth it to you? Or what else do you want your phono stage to do for you? Only you can make that judgement. For instance, I tried a Pass Labs Xono and really loved the clarity and pureness, but I felt that in my system it was a bit too bare harmonically. I wanted a more fleshed-out sound, which I've generally only heard with tube gear so far, although I believe that it can be had with solid state/hybrid/strain gauge, whatever. Less concerned about the design, and more concerned with how it sounds. If you know what kind of sound you are looking for, it may be easier for someone with more experience of different gear to help you find it!

Hope this helps...


"Knowing what you don't know is, in a sense, omniscience"

 

RE: Audio Research SP16 Phono Stage Question, posted on August 24, 2012 at 11:13:10
AGolski
Audiophile

Posts: 33
Location: Ohio
Joined: November 29, 2005
Thanks for all of the comments. I really appreciate it. It is shaping up like I can save my money and stick with my current phono stage. As I mentioned, I am not unhappy with it but I always have to wonder if it could be better. Thanks again!!

Alan

 

I own an Audio Research Sp-15 and love it's three tube phono stage., posted on August 24, 2012 at 16:02:12
My Audio Research Sp-15 is solid state except for the three tube phono section.
I now use a different preamp, but keep the SP-15 around just to use the phono stage in it. It's phono stage is very good.
I would have to spend $,2500. or so to better it.
I do not know how close the phono stage in the SP-16 is to my SP-15.. but it must be similar.

 

RE: I own an Audio Research Sp-15 and love it's three tube phono stage., posted on August 24, 2012 at 16:43:24
Paul Tobin
Audiophile

Posts: 1242
Joined: September 8, 2000
The SP15 uses 6922/E88CC tubes and, given the rest of the design, I suspect it makes use of FET's in supporting roles.
The SP16 is probably closer to the simple 3 tube 12AX7 circuit in the SP3 and SP6 preamps - which is probably not a bad thing.
I think the SP16's phono sounds quite good, but I much prefer the (modded) Cary PH302 I use with my SP16.

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Perhaps a turntable upgrade is in your future?, posted on August 24, 2012 at 19:20:16
I have an SP16 as well, with new ARC tubes, and it has been through a number of turntable/cartridge upgrades and has never failed to be fully revealing.

But, as you know, it's only as good as the source. You have a great cartridge, maybe the turntable needs a boost.

 

RE: I own an Audio Research Sp-15 and love it's three tube phono stage., posted on August 25, 2012 at 09:24:53
Alex M
Audiophile

Posts: 786
Location: Hampshire
Joined: February 9, 2001
The SP-15 is based on the hybrid SP-11, with the line stage of the latter (with three 6DJ8s) replaced by a FET circuit. I don't think its circuit is at all similar to that of the SP-16, despite the similar model numbers - it came out almost fifteen years later. I haven't seen the detailed schematic of the SP-16, but I suspect it is a much simpler design.

Alex

 

Thanks. nt, posted on August 26, 2012 at 17:09:08
.

 

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