Audio Research’s newest wonder the SP-20 Preamplifier / Phono stage / Headphone amplifier is finally here.
Available for pick up or installed in your home in Natural Silver or Black finishes.
We have Natural and Black finishes in stock at all times.
While the brand-new SP20 is certainly the latest member of the lineage, it’s different enough from its forebears to squash any sense of nostalgia. First, the line-stage circuit is thoroughly modern, derived from current Audio Research line stages and sharing many of the same parts, including coupling caps and wiring, of the Reference products. The phono stage also uses Audio Research’s tried-and-true hybrid circuit, with FETs providing the second boost in gain, which tops out at around 58dB, enough for anything but the very lowest low-output moving-coil cartridges, especially if you use the SP20 balanced, in which case you get a 6dB increase over the single-ended outputs.
Warren Gehl, Audio Research’s in-house listener, was on a jazz jag when I visited, so he and I put the SP20 through its paces with one after another of Music Matters’ Blue Note reissues. No objection from me — we ploughed through sides of close to a dozen different titles, a buffet of consequential jazz. Audio Research’s main listening room was itself reissued last year. The entire space was gutted and a new room-within-a-room was built in its place. It’s an even quieter space now and better able to support bass, because it’s not as lossy as the previous room. I know its sound well — that happens when you visit year after year — and I can say with confidence that the SP20 is pretty amazing, or, as Warren put it, it “approaches the sound of our Reference separates.” The headphone output was as pure and explosive as I’ve heard, and I suspect it will hold up against the priciest headphone-only amps, while offering line-stage and phono playback in the bargain.