Audio Research SP 17: Elevating Sound Quality to Unprecedented Heights


In the world of audio enthusiasts, the quest for high-quality sound amplification is a never-ending pursuit. Whether it’s for enjoying music, immersing oneself in movies, or creating a captivating audio experience, having a reliable and powerful amplifier is essential. Today, we delve into the realm of hifi sound amplifiers to explore the capabilities of the Audio Research SP 17.

The Audio Research SP 17 amplifier is designed to deliver exceptional audio performance while offering a range of features that make it a versatile and valuable addition to any audio setup. With its sleek design and robust construction, this amplifier promises to elevate your listening experience to new heights.

In this comprehensive review, we will delve into the technical specifications, design and construction, functionality, sound characteristics, sound performance, advantages, value for money, and ultimately provide a conclusion on whether the Audio Research SP 17 lives up to its reputation as an outstanding amplifier in the market.

Join us as we embark on an exploration of the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier and discover how it can enhance your audio journey.

Technical Specifications

The Audio Research SP 17 amplifier is a stereo preamplifier that offers impressive technical specifications to enhance your audio experience.

With a power consumption of 39 watts, this amplifier delivers sufficient power for your audio needs. Its compact dimensions of 132mm height, 480mm width, and 254mm depth make it suitable for various setups. Weighing just 5.7 kg, it is also lightweight and easy to handle.

The SP 17 features a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of 104 dB, ensuring a high-quality audio output with minimal background noise. This allows for clear and immersive sound reproduction. Additionally, the total harmonic distortion (THD) of only 0.005% ensures accurate sound reproduction without any noticeable distortion.

This amplifier offers versatile connectivity options with its six RCA input ports, allowing you to connect multiple audio sources simultaneously. It also provides three RCA output ports for connecting to external devices such as power amplifiers or recorders. The SP 17 supports both MM and MC phono cartridges, making it compatible with a wide range of turntables.

In terms of frequency response, the SP 17 covers a wide range from 1 Hz to 80,000 Hz, ensuring accurate reproduction of both low and high-frequency sounds. This allows you to enjoy the full spectrum of your music with exceptional clarity and detail.

Furthermore, the amplifier has an impedance that allows for compatibility with various types of speakers and headphones. Its impedance matching capabilities ensure optimal performance regardless of the connected audio equipment.

Overall, the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier offers impressive technical specifications that contribute to its exceptional sound quality and versatility in audio connectivity. Whether you are a music enthusiast or an audiophile, this amplifier is designed to deliver an immersive listening experience with its powerful performance and wide frequency response range.

Design and Construction

The Audio Research SP 17 amplifier boasts a sleek and elegant design that is reminiscent of its predecessor, the SP16. It features a 19” front panel with a large display and user-friendly knobs. The silver color adds a touch of sophistication to any audio setup.

In terms of construction, the SP 17 is built with high-quality materials that ensure durability and longevity. The chassis is sturdy and well-built, providing a solid foundation for the internal components. The attention to detail in the construction is evident, with clean lines and precise craftsmanship.

One notable design feature of the SP 17 is its efficient cooling system. The amplifier is equipped with strategically placed ventilation slots and heat sinks, allowing for optimal heat dissipation during prolonged use. This ensures that the amplifier remains cool even during demanding audio sessions, preventing overheating and potential damage to the internal components.

Furthermore, the SP 17 incorporates design elements that minimize interference and noise. The internal layout is carefully designed to reduce signal degradation and crosstalk between different components. This results in a cleaner and more accurate audio reproduction, allowing for an immersive listening experience.

The connectors and switches on the SP 17 are of exceptional quality. The RCA inputs and outputs are robust and provide a secure connection, minimizing signal loss. The switches have a satisfying tactile feel and are designed to be durable, ensuring reliable performance over time.

Overall, the design and construction of the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier exemplify the brand’s commitment to excellence. From its visually appealing exterior to its well-engineered internal components, every aspect of this amplifier has been carefully considered to deliver exceptional audio performance.


The Audio Research SP 17 amplifier offers a wide range of functionality, making it a versatile option for audio enthusiasts. With its multiple inputs and outputs, it provides seamless connectivity options for various audio sources, including CD players, computers, smartphones, and more.

The amplifier features a fully unbalanced circuitry with five sets of stereo inputs, as well as a pass-through channel for processors with single gain. Additionally, it includes two unbalanced stereo outputs, a record output, and a 12V trigger output. This allows for easy integration into any audio setup.

One notable feature of the SP 17 is its comprehensive remote control functionality. The included full-function remote control allows users to conveniently adjust settings and switch between different inputs without leaving their listening position. This adds to the overall convenience and ease of use of the amplifier.

Furthermore, the SP 17 offers balance controls and tone adjustments, allowing users to fine-tune the sound according to their preferences. Whether you prefer a warmer or brighter sound signature, this amplifier provides the flexibility to tailor the audio output to your liking.

The availability of operating modes such as mute and direct access codes further enhances the functionality of the SP 17. These modes enable quick and efficient control over the amplifier’s performance, offering seamless switching between different sources and enabling instant sound muting when needed.

Overall, the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier excels in terms of functionality by providing extensive connectivity options, balance controls, tone adjustments, and convenient operating modes. Its versatile design ensures compatibility with various audio sources while allowing users to personalize their listening experience.

Sound Characteristics

The Audio Research SP 17 amplifier delivers exceptional sound characteristics that will captivate any audiophile. With its impressive performance, it offers a remarkable listening experience across various music genres.

One of the standout features of the SP 17 is its ability to reproduce intricate details with precision. The amplifier excels in capturing subtle nuances and textures within the music, allowing listeners to appreciate the depth and complexity of their favorite recordings. Instruments are rendered with remarkable clarity, ensuring that each note is distinct and well-defined.

The SP 17 also boasts excellent instrument separation, creating a wide and immersive soundstage. This allows for a more realistic and engaging listening experience, as each instrument occupies its own space within the mix. Whether it’s a symphony orchestra or a small jazz ensemble, the amplifier effortlessly reproduces the spatial cues necessary for an accurate sonic representation.

In terms of bass response, the SP 17 delivers a tight and controlled low-end reproduction. The amplifier ensures that bass frequencies are impactful without overpowering or muddying the overall sound. This level of control allows for a balanced and well-rounded audio presentation across all genres.

The treble clarity of the SP 17 is equally impressive. High frequencies are reproduced with exceptional detail and smoothness, adding sparkle and airiness to the music. The amplifier strikes a perfect balance between revealing fine details in cymbals or high-pitched vocals while maintaining a natural tonal balance.

When it comes to different music genres, the SP 17 adapts effortlessly to each style. From classical compositions to rock anthems, this amplifier brings out the best in every genre by faithfully reproducing the intended sound signature. It showcases the delicate dynamics of classical pieces while delivering the energy and impact required for rock or electronic music.

Overall, the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier offers an exceptional sound experience characterized by its attention to detail, instrument separation, controlled bass response, treble clarity, and versatility across various music genres. It is a testament to Audio Research’s commitment to delivering high-quality audio equipment that satisfies even the most discerning audiophiles.

Sound Performance

The Audio Research SP 17 amplifier delivers an exceptional sound performance that is sure to captivate any audiophile. With its advanced technology and meticulous engineering, this amplifier truly shines in its ability to faithfully reproduce audio signals with utmost clarity, dynamics, and tonal balance.

When it comes to clarity, the SP 17 excels in bringing out the finest details in music. Each instrument and vocal is rendered with remarkable precision, allowing the listener to fully immerse themselves in the intricacies of the recording. The amplifier’s low noise floor ensures that even the subtlest nuances are preserved, resulting in a truly transparent and lifelike audio experience.

In terms of dynamics, the SP 17 exhibits an impressive range that effortlessly handles both delicate passages and explosive crescendos. The amplifier effortlessly conveys the full emotional impact of a musical performance, capturing every rise and fall with finesse. Whether it’s a soft whisper or a thunderous drumbeat, the SP 17 delivers with remarkable control and authority.

One of the standout qualities of this amplifier is its exceptional tonal balance across different frequency ranges. The lows are deep and well-defined, providing a solid foundation for the music without overpowering other elements. The midrange is rich and warm, allowing vocals and instruments to shine through with natural timbre and presence. The highs are extended and detailed, adding sparkle and airiness to the overall soundstage without ever becoming harsh or fatiguing.

The SP 17’s ability to handle complex musical passages with ease is truly commendable. Regardless of genre or recording quality, this amplifier effortlessly unravels layers of instrumentation, ensuring each instrument occupies its rightful place within the mix. The separation between instruments is outstanding, creating a spacious soundstage where every element can be clearly discerned.

Overall, the sound performance of Audio Research SP 17 is nothing short of exceptional. Its ability to faithfully reproduce audio signals with clarity, dynamics, and tonal balance is a testament to the craftsmanship and dedication of Audio Research. Whether you’re listening to classical symphonies, jazz ensembles, or rock anthems, the SP 17 will elevate your listening experience to new heights.


The Audio Research SP 17 amplifier offers several notable advantages that set it apart from its competitors in the market. Firstly, its relatively affordable price point allows users to experience many of the benefits found in more expensive Audio Research models. This makes it an attractive option for audiophiles seeking high-quality audio performance without breaking the bank.

In terms of design and construction, the SP 17 features a sleek and elegant appearance, reminiscent of its predecessor, the SP 16. The 19” front panel with a large display and knobs exudes a sense of sophistication. The amplifier also boasts a fully unbalanced circuitry with five sets of stereo inputs, as well as a pass-through channel for processors with single gain. Additionally, it offers two unbalanced stereo outputs, a record output, a 12V trigger output, and a fully functional remote control.

One significant advantage of the SP 17 is its improved circuitry compared to the SP 16. It utilizes low-noise J-FET transistors with PN junctions (J-FET) on the phono and line inputs instead of traditional 12AX7 tubes. These transistors provide high linearity and extended lifespan. The voltage regulator for the anode voltage is similar to that found in the LS17 and LS26 models, ensuring stable performance. The stepped volume control with 103 positions (compared to 70 in the SP 16) allows for precise volume adjustments, particularly crucial during low-volume listening sessions.

Furthermore, while the maximum input signal level for the SP 16 was limited to 3.5V, the SP 17 can handle signals up to 9V without risking overload. This increased flexibility enables users to connect various audio sources without concern.

When compared to other amplifiers in its price range, the Audio Research SP 17 stands out due to its expanded frequency range and reduced output impedance. These features allow for the use of longer cables and compatibility with amplifiers that have relatively low input impedance. The amplifier offers nearly the same level of gain in the linear circuitry as the SP 16, with only a slight decrease of 0.4 dB, while the phono equalizer boasts higher gain at 47 dB compared to 43.5 dB in the SP 16. Additionally, the SP 17 exhibits reduced noise levels by 9 dB in the linear circuitry and 11 dB in the phono equalizer, enabling the use of cartridge heads with signal levels below 1 mV.

Overall, the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier presents several advantages that make it a compelling choice for audio enthusiasts. Its affordable price, sleek design, improved circuitry, expanded frequency range, and reduced noise levels contribute to its appeal. When compared to other models in its price range, it stands out as a versatile and high-performing option.

Value for Money

The Audio Research SP 17 amplifier offers exceptional value for money, combining high-performance features with an attractive price point. With its impressive sound quality, robust construction, and advanced functionality, this amplifier provides a compelling proposition for both audiophiles and music enthusiasts.

In terms of performance, the SP 17 delivers outstanding audio reproduction with its wide frequency range of 1Hz to 80kHz. The low level of non-linear distortion at just 0.005% ensures that the sound remains accurate and true to the original recording. Additionally, the signal-to-noise ratio of 104dB guarantees a clean and noise-free listening experience.

The amplifier’s features further enhance its value proposition. With six RCA inputs and three RCA outputs, the SP 17 offers ample connectivity options for various audio sources and equipment. The inclusion of a built-in MM-MC phono stage allows for direct connection to turntables, catering to vinyl enthusiasts. The comprehensive remote control adds convenience by providing easy access to all functions from a distance.

Considering its technical specifications, design quality, and functionality, the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier is competitively priced. It offers similar performance characteristics as higher-priced models from Audio Research, making it an excellent choice for those seeking exceptional audio performance without breaking the bank.

Overall, the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier provides remarkable value for money. Its combination of high-quality sound reproduction, versatile features, and reasonable pricing make it an appealing option for discerning audio enthusiasts looking to elevate their listening experience without compromising on budget constraints.


In conclusion, the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier is an impressive piece of audio equipment that offers a range of features and exceptional sound performance. With its sleek design and solid construction, it is a visually appealing addition to any audio setup.

The technical specifications of the SP 17 are noteworthy, with a wide frequency range from 1 Hz to 80,000 Hz and a high signal-to-noise ratio of 104 dB. The low level of non-linear distortion at just 0.005% ensures accurate and detailed sound reproduction.

The functionality of the SP 17 is also commendable, with six RCA inputs and three RCA outputs providing ample connectivity options. The inclusion of a phono stage for MM-MC cartridges adds versatility for vinyl enthusiasts. The included remote control allows for convenient operation from a distance.

When it comes to sound characteristics, the SP 17 truly shines. The use of high-quality components such as J-FET transistors and long-lasting 6Н30 tubes results in exceptional clarity, detail, and musicality. The expanded frequency range and reduced output impedance allow for seamless integration with various audio systems.

In terms of sound performance, the SP 17 delivers an immersive listening experience. Whether you enjoy delicate classical compositions or energetic rock anthems, this amplifier reproduces every nuance with precision and depth. The improved signal-to-noise ratio contributes to a clean and quiet background, allowing the music to take center stage.

One of the notable advantages of the Audio Research SP 17 is its value for money. While it may not be the most affordable option on the market, it offers many features and performance capabilities typically found in higher-priced models from Audio Research. This makes it an attractive choice for audiophiles seeking exceptional audio quality without breaking the bank.

For potential buyers looking for a reliable and versatile amplifier that delivers outstanding sound performance, the Audio Research SP 17 is highly recommended. Its combination of technical excellence, functional design, and captivating sound characteristics make it a worthy investment for music enthusiasts.

In conclusion, the Audio Research SP 17 amplifier is a standout performer in its price range, offering an impressive array of features, exceptional sound quality, and excellent value for money. It is a reliable and versatile choice that will enhance any audio system and bring your music to life with its immersive and detailed sound reproduction.

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