This was the last and best solid state preamp from Audio Research. It comes as close as possible to the sound of tubes with out the maintenance issues of tubes. Preamp has performed flawlessly for it's entire life. I gave it 7/10 for a tiny nick or two on the face that I didn't notice until I took a photo in daylight.
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From the ARC Database
Building on our thirty year tradition of designing electronics of the highest quality and value, Audio Research is pleased and very excited to introduce the LS12 stereo preamplifier, which bridges the usual gulf between solid-state and vacuum-tube sound, sonically outperforming the competition anywhere near its retail price.
The LS12 represents a major advance in solid-state circuit design in a non-stratospheric price range. Several circuit details and refinements have been implemented for the first time, with many others derived from more expensive siblings.
Physically and operationally the LS12 is identical to the LS16, with the same full-sized chassis and array of balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs. The LS12 uses the same microprocessor controls as the LS16 and LS25, including a 104 step volume control and bidirectional spring-loaded switches. There is also a single-ended, unity-gain processor pass-through, allowing the LS12 to be easily incorporated in a home theater system while preserving high quality two-channel music playback.
The fully-balanced, double-differential design is pure Class-A, utilizing all-FET circuits with unity-gain buffers between stages and a double-buffered output. Low-noise, critically matched high transconductance JFETs are used for all audio circuits, with local FET constant-current stabilization for each stage. The audio circuit is DC coupled throughout, with servo stabilization for low offset and subsonic control. Full muting protection is included for warmup stabilization and low-line voltage. Total gain is 18 dB balanced output, 12 dB via single-ended outputs.
The LS12's advanced-design power supplies use soft recovery rectifiers, highest grade "Muse" filter capacitors with our patented DEC (Decoupled Electrolytic Capacitor®) choke-decoupling, and a total of seven regulators. Mechanical vibration is carefully controlled with special Isodamp mounting for the power transformer and its own circuit board. Isodamp feet are used for the chassis. Like other Audio Research preamps, the LS12 has a removable IEC power cord, and it comes with the same remote control as the one supplied with the LS16.
All you really have to do is listen to the LS12 to appreciate what an outstanding value it provides. The LS12's sonics are remarkable from top to bottom, with startling transparency, resolution, dynamics and bass impact, speed, and control. The only blurring is the line between tube and solid-state sound: the LS12 presents soundstaging and "air" at which other solid-state preamps only hint.