Audio Research SP14 Preamplifiers

4.13/5 (8 Reviews) MSRP : $2995.00


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Reviews 1 - 5 (8 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Joshua Feldman a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: January 18, 2002

Bottom Line:   
System used with includes
Amp: AR Classic 60, running with VT90 tubes for 70wpc
Speakers: ProAc Response 2 2
Cable MIT 330/750 shotgun (mostly)
TT Roksan Xerxes, ET2 w/ Wisa pump & surge tank, Monster Sigma Genesis 2000
Digital FE: Phillips 850 w/ PS Audio 1200.

OK - this is a killer preamp and a great buy on the used market. It's one of the few high end products I bought new however, back in '92. It's been there ever since. I had been using an Audiolab 8000 with Dynaco ST70 IIs in a bi-amped configuration with the ProAcs. I knew the ProAcs could give me more in the way of clarity, presence, and dynamics, but I thought the Dynaco bi-amp setup would stay. I was wrong. Anyway, I was comparing the SP14 with the CJ PV9, Counterpoint SA-3k, and Audible Illusions Modulus3. I'll quickly sum up my conclusions:

Audible Illusions unit was line stage only. I was seduced by the incredible line stage performace but was put off by buying a separate phono preamp when I really was using phono exclusively at the time. I've since regretted this decision as I fell in love with digital shortly thereafter. The Modulus is a killer preamp at a great price and I've often looked back and regretted not buying it.
Counterpoint - really sweet. Seemed a little "honeyed". I was looking for honesty and the SP14 struck me as more neutral.
CJ PV9 - lush. This is a beautiful pre-amp. I found the sound perhaps a little too lush. I also wasn't in love with the champagne cosmetics. I know that shouldn't matter. The line stage on this unit may be a tad better than the SP14 - warmer, less analytical. This was a tight call though.
AR SP14. The phono section is utterly revealing, but warm and alive. Ten years later without a retube, this is still the case. The line stage is neutral and smooth. It sounds like total honesty and has great dynamics. In direct head-to-head, it is a tiny bit less immediate than the Audible Illusions. There's a bit of reserve. Not glazed or hooded or anything like that. When you're alone with the SP14 you'd swear it was the last word in immediate, uncolored, and honest. But in the same room ten seconds later, it might be a tad more "polite" than the very best line stages (such as the AR LS15).

Does the line stage ruin anything? No way. In day to day it's totally awesome. It never fails to be musically satisfying. The fact is, on the used market it's worth the price as a phone head amp exclusively - feed the tape loop into a better line stage if you want and it's still money well spent. I've found that, as descriminating as I am, I can very comfortably live with the line stage. It is musical, neutral, and honest. In my system it's engaging and dynamic as well. The fact that it was once bested (in the line stage only - the phone section really took the cake in all my comparisons) doesn't diminish all the joy I experience when using it. You will not go wrong with this one. Try to find one in black.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   Pre 1995

Price Paid:    $2995.00

Purchased At:   Stereo Exchange, NY



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Kent a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: April 18, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I would have to disagree with the review posted by Steve. The SP-14 is a brutually neutral unit capable of producing a large well defined sound stage with images that seem to float in mid-air. Revealing and extremely detailed(maybe to detailed). You may like the euphonic sound of the Mac, but the SP-14 is just as musical. I question the views of your list of friends. I admire the work that Steve Hoffman does at DCC; some of the most fantastic vinyl I have heard. But he has had some real turkeys, and they do confuse me. Tom Port; well I have bought many records over the years from Tom and have been quite pleased. But his recommendations on sonic quality is generally way off the mark. The SP-14 is extremely revealing of other components in the chain; it will show the weaknesses in glaring detail. The MAC would be much more forgiving. And a Yamaha C-4? Pure junk, not even in the same league! A lot of folks don't care for ARC gear, and that's OK. Everyone should have a system that brings them musical enjoyment. But I cannot seriously entertain comments that state that Japanese solid state junk is superior to ARC gear. They are, and have been the reference standard for more than a generation producing high-quality reference standard equipment. Reference standards are not always the best, simply the standard by which others are judged. The original Quad comes to mind. May not be your cup-of-tea but it is still the standard by which all other speakers are judged, even newer Quads.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   Pre 1995



Overall Rating:2
Value Rating:2
Submitted by Stephen a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: April 3, 2001

Bottom Line:   
This is in response to J_P. I am not in love with euphonic sounds, only sounds which approximate the recording. My friends who agree with me are Steve Hoffman of DCC (he wouldn't touch an AR unless it were the 10b), Robert Pincus of Cisco Music, Tom Port of Better Records and acquaintence mastering engineer Kevin Grey. Bernie Grundman is another great mastering engineer who seeks musicality over "detailed truth." AR equipment is overdesigned and lacks musicality, its just that simple (but they are reliable). I have since changed speakers with greater resolution and dynamics. I perform with the LA Jewish Symphony. I know what sound and music should sound like, especially when using our own recordings. Try a McIntosch MC 30 just to get a grip on the mid-range area of music; its very sweet, euphonic, but its also MUSICAL. This response is just for your information and nothing personal. Learning to listen better will result in better choices in equipment (not always more expensive equipment).

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   Pre 1995

Price Paid:    $3000.00

Purchased At:   Absolute Audio



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Richard Loh a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: September 2, 2000

Bottom Line:   
I agree with Jp. The SP14 is a great buy in the used market with an excellent line stage and a great phono stage.

The best part of the SP14 is its ability to produce the micro-details that my recent buy of CAT SL Mk2 failed to deliver (the CAT is about 3 times the price in used market and 2 times the price when new - just this fact makes it worth your while to grap the next piece available piece !).

While the CAT deliver emotions and warm to vocal and has excellent transparency (MUSICALITY?? of tube), the SP14 has the capability to produce a wide and very well-balanced soundstage and presence to all music which I believe it due to the micro-details.

When music travels thru' the slightly ajar door of my small music room , there is no doubt that there it is amplified music but sounds just like any amplified music in a concert, pub or nightclub i.e. real (ACCURACY?? of SS).

Except for orchestra and isolated pub gig, where have you heard music that did not get amplified thru' mike and electronics?? My preference is clear.

While having compared the CAT in a slightly negative light against the SP14 (CAT lovers, love to hear your comments), I do suspect that my opinion will change if my music room get larger. The SP14 may sound thin (or lean) and lack coherence when driven loud while I suspect that the CAT is highly regarded by audiophile with large listening room at a higher volume that what I do with my small room.

Associated Equipment:
Wadia23 CD Player (Siltech IC)
SP14/CAT SL-1 Mk2
CEC ST930 with Dynavector DV10X4 Cartridge
Audio Analyse A9 (AQ Diamond IC)
McIntosh MC2205 (JPS Superconductor IC)
Alon 4 Speakers (Cardas Golden Cross and AQ Midnight)
Assortment of power cords, isolators and line conditioners

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1995

Price Paid:    $1000.00

Purchased At:   Used market



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by J p a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: June 25, 2000

Bottom Line:   
Simply put, a superb piece of equipment in the Audio Researc line! Exquisite phone section that is hybrid. The line section is very good, but something seems missing compared to the phono section. The line stage is all solid state, so perhaps a tube in that stage would have helped.

I do not agree at all with Stephen's review below. Perhaps he has fallen in love with the "euphonic" tube type sound and does not like the reality of the SP-14. It reveals your system for what it is, and imparts very little. Don't get me wrong on the line stage, it too is good, but the phono section is just so good. Of course, my taste is for Lp's so that could make the difference to these ears.

I have tried the SP-14 with several different amps, and I like it best with hybrids. Harvey Rosenberg's Moscode amp is my current favorite, and my personal reference (and yes, I am biased towards hybrid gear).

I think the product year was 1989, but don't have my manual handy to confirm this.

Recorded examples:

Pink Floyd Meddle Harvest (British pressing)

Hear Roger Waters lips part very clearly and cleanly just before the vocal track on Echoes. Hear Rick Wright's secondary organ line right after the electronic section ends
It is recorded very low, but it comes through very clearly with the 14.

Casino Royale Colgems COSO-5005

Ah, Dusty's low, sensuous purr comes through sweetly with the 14. You can almost hear the walls of the chamber as she sings. The Getz like tenor (who is that playing sax on this?) has the velvety smoothness of this style of player, glissing between the notes like a boat on a quiet river.
The loud passages are very clean, telling you why this album is so very special to audiophiles.

Mavis Rivers It's a Good Day Delos (cd)

My very favorite cd for sound, and Mavis swings hard with her son and his band. This might be the airiest cd I have ever heard, clearly done in an audiophile miking pattern. This is one of those cd's that sounds good on any system, but on a good one, everything just comes to life. Ths small group is full of energy and verve, backing up Mavis exquisitely. The 14 gives it energy and pace, opening up the soundstage even more than others.

Responses encouraged!

Associated equipment:
NYAL Moscode 300 amp, JVC 1050 cd (modified), Magnepan IIB
speakers, Nakamich BX-300 cassette deck, NAD 4300 tuner, Sota Sapphire turntable with van den hull one MC cartridge on a MMT tonearm, Monster M-1 speaker cable and M-1000 interconnects.

thanks!

Jp
pjaizz@hotmail.com

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1995




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