Vitus Audio

High-End Amplifiers, Preamps, Phonos, CD players & DACs - Manufactured in Denmark - AMPLIFIER of the YEAR AWARDS
"leading edge technology" enables Vitus Audio to make some of the Best Hi-Fi products in the world.

Vitus Audio is a Multi Award winning Ultra High End Amplifier manufacturer based in Denmark. Company established in 1995 by Hans Ole Vitus. Vitus Audio manufacturers world class electronics and considered amongst the very best amplifier makers on the market today. Vitus is specialising in both pure class-A and class-AB amplification design to bring listener's experience as close as possible to a real music. In 2012 "Ultra-Audio" chose Vitus electronics to join The Worlds Best Audio System”

Vitus Audio can comfortably consider themselves part of a very small select group of manufacturers who create solid state equipment which performs at the very highest level. The very first encounter with this Danish high-end brand was both revelatory and strangely comforting, like discovering an amplifier that had been specifically built for you and you only, exactly fulfilling everything that you had always been searching for.

The unique headline and what makes this company’s products stand out even within the small exclusive club mentioned above, is that Vitus seems to marry the sonic advantages of both transistor and valve designs but at the same time incorporate none of their ills and hence sound like neither of them. This means power, grip, purity, focus, precision and incredible dynamics, but at the same time a fatigue-free and unanalytical performance devoid of high frequency glare or any nagging sense of sterility; one that can be enjoyed for hours on end and which widens the music collection rather than selectively narrows it. Like the best tube designs it also means richness, texture, flow, warmth, a deliciously layered and palpable 3d presentation with extremely fine levels of detail but at the same time, music which is free from the vices of valves: grain, euphonies, colouration, blur and inaccuracy. Above all, beyond the audiophile jargon, Vitus is a supremely natural and rewarding experience offering an extremely truthful and insightful connection to the artist.Consistently in demos it has proven that it seems to possess all the characteristics which most people are seeking from their music.

Beyond the actual sound, the elegant aesthetics and the exceptional build, Vitus is a young company who are most definitely ‘in the moment’" and moving swiftly with the times. The product range is very clever, answering the questions and demands of today’s trends and habits with much  added flexibility, functionality and convenience. No holds barred Integrated amplifiers, DAC/Preamplifiers in a single box, plug-in Phono and Dac modules which install directly into expansion slots. Hans Ole Vitus is thinking carefully about his customers and about the future.

The Reference Series:
We wanted to bring the magic of our products to a much wider audience, so we set about bringing the 'Reference Series' back to life. While more affordable, each product in this series is no less impressive in it's ability to deliver music so convincingly. Vitus begin with their Reference series, which compares to many high-end series 

The Signature Series:
Our 'Signature Series' to this day continues to capture the very essence of music in ways that few others can. Stealing the hearts of many a reviewer and music lover alike, we are very proud to put our name to this series.

The Masterpiece Series:
Our greatest work to date, we think it is only fitting to call our new series, the 'Masterpiece Series'. It has been the most intensive development project we have ever undertaken and the discoveries we made have been nothing short of astounding. Now the very fortunate among you will be able to experience your music like never before! Each product in the Masterpiece Series is destined to become a true reference, a sought after classic and collectors piece in it's own right for many years to come.

The Design Studio Series (to be introduced soon):
Our ultra cost-no-object series delivers the music lover an unheard level of realism and performance in a beautifully elegant structure. It really has to be experienced to be believed. Available on request only.

After just a few years working with his own hi-fi equipment, building his own speakers, burning of his amps and learning as much as possible about hi-fi equipment, Hans Ole began his studies to become an electronic engineer. Hans Ole spent all his spare time and money on building his own hi-fi products and modifying other manufactures equipment during his studies.


After graduation back in 1990 Hans Ole worked for different electronic companies for several years, before joining Texas instruments in 1998 as Area Sales Manager for Denmark and Norway. His responsibility was covering not only technical sales, but just as important giving customers an in-depth technical understanding of the different solutions TI could provide, and on top of this - technical seminars and workshops.

The 6 years he spent at Texas Instruments gave Hans Ole a priceless deep technical knowledge and experience with making "leading edge technology" and communicating the pros and cons of different solutions. It's these many years of working professionally with electronics, the lifelong interest in building hi-fi and Hans Ole'sdedication that enables Vitus Audio to make some of the best hi-fi products in the world.

Hans Ole's passion for hi-fi is fuelled by his love for music, as a teenager he played drums in a rock'n roll band and mainly listened to the same type of music, before he turned his attention to karate. He was trained by the internationally acclaimed sensei Raffi Liven, and with his usual determination Hans Ole did well in both local and international tournaments.

But since the establishment of Vitus Audio in 1995 Hans Ole has focussed all his spare time on developing the Brand and the first products. Over the years Hans Ole has mellowed a little, Rock'n roll and Karate has been replaced by any type of music on good quality recordings and perhaps even a glass of red wine on the couch.

Featured

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Reviews

Awards

Videos

Featured

VS 01 CD RCD101
NZ$ 17,995.00 (incl. GST)
COMMENT FROM LOTUS HIFI:
Beautifully designed, built and finished, this piece of Nordic audio art aims at offering pride of...
VS 13 AP SL 103
Price on application
The SL-102 replacement has arrived. After spending a very long time developing its bigger brother, the new Master 2-chassis MP-L201 extreme linestage, it was clear that a serious look at a...
VS 16 AI SIA 025
Price on application
SUMMARY: when I think of this class of gear, I have this picture of the Chairman of Bentley Motors in mind, sitting so calmly and coolly in his $10k suit on an overstuffed leather sofa, sporting a...
Hi folks, having lived with my Vitus SIA-025 for a while, I thought it was time to post a review....
VS 21 AM SM 011
Price on application
"The Vitus Audio SM-011 Mono Amps are state-of-the-art amps made in Denmark and are among the best I’ve ever heard.  The Vitus built quality is superb.  The SM-011s are 400-watt amps...
Technical keywords: (per. channel)1. 1.4KVA UI transformers with <2% loss="" p="">2. 240....
EXTENDED REVIEW: Everything Hans-Ole Vitus makes is heavy. Really heavy. Break-your-back heavy. But...

All Products

CD / SACD / Blu-ray & Multi-Format Players

VS 01 CD RCD101
NZ$ 17,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
COMMENT FROM LOTUS HIFI:
Beautifully designed, built and finished, this piece of Nordic audio art aims at offering pride of...
VS 12 CD SCD 025
Price on application
The SCD-025 is raising the bar once again: Initially the main reason for making an upgrade to the SCD-010, what the markets request for USB interface. With the platform of the SCD-010, it was not...
VS 28 CD MP T201
Price on application
The Masterpiece Series has in fact been on our internal road map for some years, but was not supposed to be introduced until 2011. However as the number of requests from the market increased, we...

DACs

VS 02 DAC RD100
NZ$ 14,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The RD-100 is the latest addition to our Reference Series of products. This DAC / PREAMP however is not your ordinary DAC. It features true analog inputs and a volume control. The RD-100 also uses...
1 x USB input1 x Toslink optical input2 x RCA SPDIF inputs2 x AES SPDIF inputs1 x RCA analog input1...
Recently, I got a little frisky with the amplifiers in the Bat Cave and decided to just line them...
DACs
VS 29 DAC MPD201
Price on application
The Masterpiece Series has in fact been on our internal road map for some years, but was not supposed to be introduced until 2011. However as the number of requests from the market...
DACs

Preamplifiers & Line-stages

VS 03 AP RL102
NZ$ 15,995.01 ea (incl. GST)
The new RL-101, is an evolutionary upgraded version of the original RL-100. However the new RL-101 does not use a battery power supply, as the technology we have developed for our Signature and...
Entry Level?!
VS 13 AP SL 103
Price on application
The SL-102 replacement has arrived. After spending a very long time developing its bigger brother, the new Master 2-chassis MP-L201 extreme linestage, it was clear that a serious look at a...
VS 31 AP MPL201
Price on application
The Masterpiece Series has in fact been on our internal road map for some years, but was not supposed to be introduced until 2011. However as the number of requests from the market increased, we...

Phono Stages

VS 05 PS RP102
NZ$ 18,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The RP-102, is our one of our latest additions to the Reference Series (Aug 2016 release). In 2004 Roy Gregory at HiFi+ reviewed the RP and RL-100. He was more than thrilled with the performance of...
EXTENDED REVIEW: The down-side of hitting a grand slam the first time at bat is that fans expect it...
Phono Stages
VS 05 PS RP102
NZ$ 18,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Phono Stages
VS 14 PS SP 103
Price on application
Starting from scratch! - The SP-102 replacement has arrived. After spending a very long time developing the new two chassis MP-P201 extreme phonostage, it was clear that a serious look at a...
Phono Stages
VS 32 PS MP P201
Price on application
The Masterpiece Series has in fact been on our internal road map for some years, but was not supposed to be introduced until 2011. However as the number of requests from the market increased, we...
EXTENDED REVIEW:  massive, two-box beauty from Denmark costs US$60,000 (excl sales tax...
Phono Stages

Integrated amplifiers

VS 06 AI RI100
NZ$ 17,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Reference Series, was the first series ever introduced by Vitus Audio, back in 2003. The initial two products were the very well reviewed and awarded battery power supplied: RP-100...
EXTENDED REVIEW: I first met Hans Ole Vitus, the President and Chief Designer of Vitus Audio, at...
Integrated amplifiers
VS 06 AI RI100 D
NZ$ 3,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
The new RI-100 Internal DAC module is now ready. Releasd at Munich and now available to RI-100 owners. This will now make the RI-100 Class AB 300wpc integrated a fully fledged one box music solution...
Integrated amplifiers
VS 16 AI SIA 025
Price on application
SUMMARY: when I think of this class of gear, I have this picture of the Chairman of Bentley Motors in mind, sitting so calmly and coolly in his $10k suit on an overstuffed leather sofa, sporting a...
Hi folks, having lived with my Vitus SIA-025 for a while, I thought it was time to post a review....
Integrated amplifiers
VS 35 AI MP I201
Price on application
Introducing the - Masterpiece - MP-I201 One of the first things we were told, when we introduced the ideas behind the MP-I201, was - “Mission Impossible” - but for the Vitus Audio team of...
Integrated amplifiers

Power amplifiers (Stereo & Mono)

VS 09 AS RS100
NZ$ 17,495.00 ea (incl. GST)
The Reference Series, was the first series ever introduced by Vitus Audio, back in 2003. Even though the Reference Series represent our entry level products, they incorporate many specialist/...
Recently, I got a little frisky with the amplifiers in the Bat Cave and decided to just line them...
VS 18 AS SS 025
Price on application
Pedigree: The SS-010 was introduced back in 2007. I has received multiple awards based on fantastic reviews world wide. Today it is still one of our most popular products. The SS- 010 was replaced...
VS 19 AS SS 103
Price on application
For those who want the very best in performance the SS-103 is our statement stereo power amplifier. A completely no-compromise design, this amplifier will take on the very finest products from around...
EXTENDED REVIEW: Vitus Audio hails from Denmark. It is no surprise whatsoever as for last few...
VS 21 AM SM 011
Price on application
"The Vitus Audio SM-011 Mono Amps are state-of-the-art amps made in Denmark and are among the best I’ve ever heard.  The Vitus built quality is superb.  The SM-011s are 400-watt amps...
Technical keywords: (per. channel)1. 1.4KVA UI transformers with <2% loss="" p="">2. 240....
EXTENDED REVIEW: Everything Hans-Ole Vitus makes is heavy. Really heavy. Break-your-back heavy. But...
VS 22 AM SM 103
Price on application
There was only one way to improve on the incredible performance of the statement SS-102 - give each channel its own separate chassis and dedicated power supply and selected components. Which is...
VS 34 AS MP S201
Price on application
Introducing the - Masterpiece - MP-S201 One of the first things we were told, when we introduced the ideas behind the MP-S201, was - “Mission Impossible” - but for the Vitus Audio team of...
Technical keywords:1. 4.5KVA UI transformers with <2% loss2. 1.200.000uF capacitor bank3. Zero...
VS 36 AM MP M201
Price on application
"All of this adds up to some of the most cutting-edge amplifier and preamplifier designs the world has to offer. Extreme? Yes -- but then, that’s what The World’s Best Audio System is all about, and...

Reviews

It is, in every sense, a “reference class” component,
Scott Hull

It’s hard not to be impressed with Hans-Ole Vitus of Vitus Audio — he’s a bear of a man and has a personality to match. It’s also, perhaps, a mark of that personality that his entry level lineup is called “Reference”. It’s like he’s saying — “Yes, I understand what you mean by that word and this product line is every bit as good as the very best that you’ve ever heard. That’s where I start. And of course, I take it quite a bit farther than that.” The RS-100 is a 300wpc Class A/B amplifier (his more expensive amps are usually Class A) and weighs enough that it earned itself  a dolly [sigh].

It is, in every sense, a “reference class” component, and one that starts a long chain of uncomfortable “what if” explorations that lead (inexorably) into components that cost more than a condo. Ahem. Vitus Audio is a great reason to be rich, if you ask me. Sign me up!

Vitus does seem to have a “sound” — one that is both harmonically rich and extraordinarily refined, but not exactly invisible. With the Maggies, the Vitus sounded a tad gentle “up top”, which made me wonder if they were backed off just a bit. No matter — this speaker is a bit forward as it is, so this was a superlative pairing. Strings just sailed and the 300 watts were more than enough to cause the panels to figuratively explode with sound — stunning bass, blistering transients, a holographic midrange …. Oh, my. Of the bunch, the Vitus seemed to take all the edges and polish them, presenting an organically high-resolution image. It was like a characteristic cherry-picker — bass like the Veritas, midrange like the Odyssey, sound-stage like the Red Wine, and speed like the Job. With the airiest treble of the bunch sitting on top of the presentation like a big, fat, juicy cherry.

Moving the Vitus over to the Tekton speakers seemed a bit absurd, but of course I did it anyway. Tonally, the Vitus added a bit more refinement over the Odyssey. It also presented with bit more meat on the bone than the PassLabs and significantly more than the Veritas and vastly more than the Job. Punch down low was on par with the Pass, if a bit less than the Veritas.

All in all, this was a glorious romp. No, no one is ever going to pair this amp with either of these loudspeakers — that’s clear. But that’s not to say that the amp can’t get dirty and sling a side of beef around like a pro. It can. But it can then brush off the tux and sit down to table at Downton Abbey like it was born to it.

With the Vitus Audio RS-100, I would offer that this is an incredibly musical amplifier and one that pretty much does everything not only well, but at a true reference level. It’s frighteningly good, but it isn’t invisible in the way that the Pass Labs is — there is a “house sound”, one with texture and a good degree of saturation, not quite a Class A presentation and no obvious “thickness”, like say what a tube may introduce. With the right speakers, I found it intoxicating. If I were in the market for an amp and $15k was what I could spend, I might be done. Pretty much for forever. 

Vitus Audio RL-101 Reference Series Linestage - "The DNA of Spectacular"
David Thomas

REVIEW SUMMARY: I had high expectations for what this linestage could do with live music, particularly jazz, and baby, did it deliver. I played one of my favorite live discs, Patricia Barber Live: A Fortnight In France [Blue Note]. Track three, “Crash,” is a dynamic tune that features Barber’s drummer Eric Montzka. The RL-101 draws the most from his play with its ability to deliver pace, detail and clearly defined performers within the soundstage. Track 8, “Norwegian Wood,” highlights the uniqueness of Barber’s voice and again plays to this linestage’s strengths. Not only is the breathy quality of her voice captured well, but so too is the feeling and atmosphere of the venue, Chicago’s legendary Green Mill Jazz Club.

Clearly the competition for the RL-101 is not the RI-100, it’s every other linestage on the market. And in its price range there is a ton of competition, but I can’t imagine a linestage that the RL-101 wouldn’t compare favourably to, save for another of the other Vitus products. Despite being part of their "entry-level" product line make no mistake, this is a reference quality product. You simply have to consider the company that the line is part of. It’s like buying the least expensive Bentley. It’s still a Bentley. Highly recommended.

Entry Level?!
Hans Ole Vitus has made quite a reputation for himself with a variety of gorgeously built, thoughtfully designed and very expensive audio products. Earlier this year I wrote a review of the fabulous RI-100, 300-watt integrated amp, the first new offering from his “Reference Series” product line. Also part of this product line is the RS-100 stereo amp, RCD-100 CD player, and the subject of this review the $12k RL-101 linestage. All of the Reference Series components cost between $11k and $13k and believe it or not, this comprises the company’s entry level product line! I shit you not!

Having said that, in the universe that is high-end audio, these products do have the look, sound, and build quality of what we audiophiles typically refer to as a “reference quality” high-end equipment. But if the products in this line represent the designer’s “entry level” effort, then what the heck must the products in Vitus’ “Signature,” “Masterpiece,” and “Design Studio Series,” sound like and cost? We got a clue in 2010 when Vitus rocked the audiophile world with the stunning $60,000.00 MP-P201 dual chassis phonostage and its similarly priced sibling the MP-L201 linestage. Those products are probably best off in more well-heeled hands than mine, so I’ll stick with the (relatively) affordable products in the Reference Series. This brings me to the RL-101.

About the component
This is my fourth review of a product from this Danish company so I’ll forego all the yadda-yadda about the history of the company and its founder. In short, it’s a Denmark based company, run by a brilliant designer with fanatical attention to detail, who definitely believes in cost-no-object products. He’s also one of the coolest people you can talk to in this industry and I heartily recommend seeking him out at the many audio shows he attends.

As I mentioned, I had reviewed the RI-100 integrated amp and was so taken with it that it is now part of my main review system. Using an integrated amp the quality of the RI-100 gives me the inherent advantage of being able to use it in a simple single amp setup, or using its high-quality balanced (XLR) preamp outputs, can also be used in a more complex multi-amp setup such as the one I employ with the Magnepan MG20 loudspeakers that I’ve added to my main system. But despite how good the preamp section of the RI-100 is (and it is good) I know that there are most likely to be some sonic enhancements to be had from a dedicated linestage that isn’t sharing any power supplies or circuitry with an amplifier. So when Hans Ole offered to send me the new RL-101, I jumped at the chance.

The RL-101 (which is descended from an earlier Vitus design called the RL-100) is every bit a Vitus component, loaded with premium quality parts and gorgeous internal and external construction. The only obvious difference between the RL-101 (or the rest of the Reference Series products) and the other Vitus lines is the use of a heavy gauge metal chassis instead of the precision cut slabs of aluminum used on the more expensive designs. The front panel is like other Vitus product with nicely sculpted lines, slightly recessed soft-touch control buttons, and a black acrylic LED display down the middle. The rear panel is also identical to most other Vitus units and appears to use the same high-quality RCA and XLR connectors.

Inside, the RL-101 is based on a modular construction, which makes it upgrade friendly since the owner only needs to switch out modules in order to take advantage of Vitus’ sound enhancing technologies. The volume control is a relay based technology used even on the more expensive lines and uses only one fixed resistor is in series with the signal at any volume step. It also has both unbalanced (RCA) and Balanced (XLR) inputs and outputs for optimal flexibility with your system.

The review sample I was sent had a high-gloss white painted finish. It was gorgeous to look at, though in a way it also reminded a little of a futuristic kitchen appliance. Vitus now has the ability to paint its products in numerous colors so visually integrating these components into your home’s décor is now easier.

If I had to quibble about anything with this unit, it would have to be the use of the Apple remote control. If you have other Apple devices that use a similar remote, like the iPod, iMac or in my case Apple TV, you may have issues with one remote controlling two devices simultaneously. There is a way that you can code each remote to work only with its device, but even then, you may find yourself hitting buttons numerous times in order to get a function to work. Every time I hit the button to increase the volume on the RL-101 (same for the RI-100), a light would flash on the Apple TV device but the volume stayed the same. I basically had to cover up the Apple TV whenever I wanted to operate some linestage functions. Frankly, I was surprised that Vitus decided to go with this remote. Not that it’s a bad remote. It’s elegantly styled and fine to use with Apple products, but in our remote control-essential world, I would expect a $12K linestage to come with a more substantial remote like Vitus’ own RC-010 remote which comes standard with the other Vitus product lines. Admittedly, this may only be a small annoyance but still worth pointing out.

System setup

As I mentioned earlier, I made some major changes to my reference system setup by adding a pair of the venerable Magnepan MG20s to my system. I still have great love for my Escalante Fremonts, which have been part of my reference system for nearly seven years, but I’ve always considered the Maggies a special kind of speaker. So when an opportunity came along for me to bring them to Casa del Thomas…

These Maggies by-pass the standard Maggie crossover and utilizes the excellent Bryston 10b Electronic crossover. This meant that I had to use four channels of amplification. Unfortunately, the RI-100 cannot be used as a stand-alone stereo amp so after testing out a few other candidates, I wound up utilizing a pair of Bel Canto Ref 1000 mono amps for the low frequencies and M300s for the upper frequencies.

The RL-101 would replace the RI-100 whose linestage section I had been using for preamp purposes. I use a TEAC UD H01 DAC to provide the digital signal from an OPPO Digital DV-980H Universal Disc Player and an Apple TV device which streams music from my iTunes account. The system was connected with my reference Entreq Konstantin and the new Apollo cables and cables from relative newcomer, M&G Audio.

Listening 

In order to get the proper attitude, I first spent a solid day and a half listening to my system in its usual configuration, utilizing the preamp outputs of the RI-100 going into the Bryston crossover, etc., etc. Then finally I installed the RL-101 and began my listening to the same tracks I had the day before.

The first song I played was Melody Gardot’s “Baby I’m A Fool” from her My One and Only Thrill CD [Verve]. Music flowed from the Maggies exquisitely. Her soft and smoky voice filled the room. It was as I had grown accustomed to hearing it in my system with the RI-100 except now there was slightly greater definition to her voice and the instruments. The RL-101 gave the music more life while maintaining its natural character. Violins continued to sound like string instruments instead of a synthesizers like they do in a lesser system. Depth and width of the soundstage seemed more expansive but not overblown. Track 6, “Our Love is Easy,” was another song that came to life through the RL-101 in much the same way. What really caught me was the richness of the silent pauses. I mean it was orchestra hall quiet. So much so that once she resumed playing the piano it was delightfully startling.

The next disc was James Taylor’s brilliantly re-mastered self-titled album, James Taylor [Apple Records]. Track two, “Something’s Wrong,” begins with an acoustic guitar intro that is nothing short of spine tingling. Songs like this are why I love this hobby so. Especially when his mellifluous voice just pours out of my speakers. The RL-101 renders this music with all of the nuance, snap, and instrumental subtlety that makes listening to acoustic music such a joy. The sound was tight in a natural – not constrained – way. Track nine, “Night Owl,” opens with horns that are airy and resonant. The sonic spectrum sounds real from the upper frequencies to the deepest bass, making for fuller sounding music.

I had high expectations for what this linestage could do with live music, particularly jazz, and baby, did it deliver. I played one of my favorite live discs, Patricia Barber Live: A Fortnight In France [Blue Note]. Track three, “Crash,” is a dynamic tune that features Barber’s drummer Eric Montzka. The RL-101 draws the most from his play with its ability to deliver pace, detail and clearly defined performers within the soundstage. Track 8, “Norwegian Wood,” highlights the uniqueness of Barber’s voice and again plays to this linestage’s strengths. Not only is the breathy quality of her voice captured well, but so too is the feeling and atmosphere of the venue, Chicago’s legendary Green Mill Jazz Club.

Compare and Conclude

The RL-101 did for my system what I thought it would do once it replaced the RI-100. I got a slightly wider, deeper soundstage with instruments and vocals that were better rendered and defined. But that’s not to say that the RI-100 is a slouch, no, not at all. Overall, the RI-100 held its own; never sounding too far off from the RL-101 and it comes with a beefy 300 watt amp. That is more a testament to the design prowess of Hans Ole Vitus. He simply can’t help himself. Even when trying to design to a specific price point, he creates reference quality products such as these.

Clearly the competition for the RL-101 is not the RI-100, it’s every other linestage on the market. And in its price range there is a ton of competition, but I can’t imagine a linestage that the RL-101 wouldn’t compare favourably to, save for another of the other Vitus products. Despite being part of their "entry-level" product line make no mistake, this is a reference quality product. You simply have to consider the company that the line is part of. It’s like buying the least expensive Bentley. It’s still a Bentley. Highly recommended.
.........David Thomas

MOVING FROM NAIM TO VITUS
LOTUS HIFI COMMENTRY

SUMMARY: Like many people I started my Hifi journey with Naim back in the late 1980’s. A 62/140 which later saw the addition of a hicap, a 250 and then a move to SBL’s and a CDi. Its my belief that everyone should try a Naim system at some point. The chaps from Salisbury have a very singular approach, a very unique house sound and whatever finer points devotees and detractors may argue over, one thing is for sure and that’s the Naim sound involves you, gets the foot tapping and keeps you interested.

The other obvious thing is that Naim ownership can be a lot fun too. Slowly climbing the upgrade ladder to the full on 500 series is inherently aspirational and can be a satisfying journey on many levels, a seemingly endless series of materialistic ‘fixes’ as you go from hicap to supercap, 250 to 300 to 500. On a final note, Naim equipment is also well built with great reliability, very good resale value and a large, friendly and helpful user base into which one can dive in and be a part of. When it comes to owning expensive things and all the responsibility that entails, in my opinion these facets are just as important as the actual sonics.

Life After Naim ?
But what about those people who finally reached the top of the tree but are now looking to progress to something which gives them even more ? What about those people who reached the top and maybe felt that things didn’t live up to their expectations ? What about those people who simply grew out of the Naim methodology, the myriad of boxes and custom interconnects, the unwieldy burndies, the acute setup demands, the need for flawless mains and the constant nagging feeling of needing to upgrade or add yet another box or powerline ? And finally, what about those customers whose ears simply grew older, who now are looking for a more refined, more sophisticated and totally fatigue free sound which embraces 100% of your music collection – even those appallingly brittle and harsh Coldplay CD’s – a sound which does all of this, yet also, crucially, loses none of that involvement or sense of dynamics and aliveness which we all crave ?

Well scratch your head no more because over the last 12 months I have provided the perfect answer to many such Naim fans by moving them into Vitus systems and writing this guide will hopefully save me repeating myself on a weekly basis over the telephone to new customers looking for that magic ‘next thing’. Many of the customers who’ve upgraded with me had been die hard Naim devotees for decades and many of them had steadily upgraded and tweaked their rigs to an within an inch of their lives to achieve the limit of their absolute potential (including one with over £20,000 of Vertere+Sarum+Entreq accessories). This Danish highend brand seems to have a unique knack of fulfilling the pre-existing expectations which Naim owners have about musical involvement but then is also able to bring a whole other range of previously ‘untasted’ delights to the table.

What about all those other expensive brands ?

You are probably now thinking ‘why Vitus’ and acknowledging that there are in fact many other alternative brands out there which are surely also viable choices ? Well it’s a good observation but there’s an equally good response to it. In my experience a good proportion of what’s out there in UK’s highend shops simply does not really retain the Naim involvement factor either because its too soft and languid in sound or does not place timing, dynamics and drive high on the agenda. Nothing really wrong with that of course, it’s a different sound and one that many people favour but it won’t appeal to a Naim user. So with maybe 50% of widely available gear discarded, of the rest, most of these brands fall into the category of being a little bit different from Naim but not necessarily much better yet also possibly sporting worse residuals, a smaller user base and maybe poorer after sales and a more precarious retail infrastructure. So really, breaking it down, that just leaves a small handful of UK available brands which offer a sound significantly desirable over Naim but then of these, many are either ridiculously expensive, boutique in the extreme (6 month plus lead times, endless model changes, near impossible to sell on etc.), unnervingly unreliable (think several months to fix with an accompanying invoice of telephone digit proportions) or prone to eye watering depreciation when you’re finally sick of it playing up all the time.

On that last point then, and before we even get into how Vitus sounds it’s important to realise that here is a brand which is fresh, young and thriving, driven by love of music rather than bean-counters, and very dedicated and helpful towards its distributers, retailers and customers. The extremely talented people at its helm are here for the duration and becoming stronger every year in terms of reputation, product catalogue and out and out market presence and they are represented worldwide by some of the best, most professional outfits in the business. Next, you need to know about build quality and reliability which are in short as good as it gets. I have yet to have any piece of Vitus develop any kind of fault and the craftsmanship and finish of the boxes has to been seen in the flesh to be believed. Lastly, the brand has an almost unique level of consistency across its designs and is creating modern feature-laden equipment very much with the future of Hifi in mind. Such is the brilliance of Ole Vitus that the cd players, DACs and phono stages are as stunning as the amplifiers. No awkward mixture of superstars and clangers here then.

The Vitus ladder

So how does it sound from the point of a view of a Naim user ? Well first of all you should know that the Vitus ladder is a much much taller one than the Naim ladder and not only that but its bottom rung, the ‘reference range’ begins at a performance level above where Naims 500 series ends. In addition, this ‘reference range’ with trickle down technology from the top of the line flagship gear, packs a huge amount of value into its price. Yes you heard that right, we are talking about a CD player/DAC and a single box integrated amp .

So whilst a quick scan of the full Vitus catalogue and their signature and masterpiece ranges (£110,0000 power amps, £45,000 phono stages etc.) may elicit short sharp intakes of breath, the real world truth is that the lower tier equipment is actually incredible value for the performance you get and part exchanging a secondhand Naim system for a new Vitus one invariably results in a cash neutral deal or at worst, one requiring only a small input of additional funding. It’s also worth bearing in mind that against new Vitus I give very good prices for traded in Naim, probably as good or if not better than you could get yourself.

Despite the relatively low admission price, it must be said though that should you want to one day climb the Vitus ladder then you have a long and very exciting future ahead of you; the ceiling of this Danish brand is so high that it could take decades to reach its outer limit and without question, it will take you to a place occupied only by the very best solid state equipment in the world.

The Vitus sound ?

Moving onto the sound and what you can expect, I am going to first refer you to a very long thread on the popular Naim forum. This ongoing discussion has been populated by many music lovers who have made the switch and their language and their own personal descriptions of their journey are really rather useful. Here are a few excerpts, the first from a NDS/555/552/500 owners impression after a first listen:

When Shanks came for that first demo he typified how most Naim owners react when first hearing Vitus. The first thing you will notice is that the whole presentation is very different. Every track seems a touch more laid back and less excited, the bassline seems less prominent and a lot of sounds in the midrange that were always quite forward in the soundstage and quite strong in volume levels seem less aggressive and less conspicuous in the overall mix. The other big thing is that the whole sound is not a thin wall obviously emanating from the speakers but it has a completely three dimensional and layered “walk-around” physicality, left to right and front to back seemingly divorced from the speakers. The music actually occupies real space in the room and sounds can even seem to come from behind you as well as outside of the side walls or way beyond the back wall behind the speakers. 

I have performed many dozens of demos to Naim owners and the initial shock of the Vitus presentation in truth only really lasts for 3 or 4 tracks. It’s around about then that you start to focus more on the much greater levels of transparency and fine detail and a completely new sense of realism (helped greatly by that 3d imaging and palpability which flat-earthers were always taught to trivialise and disregard !). This is a very refined, pure and grainless sound. The overall rendition sounds very very sophisticated. It has richness and a wet kind of lushness, a luxuriant expanse of sound which immediately feels highly pleasurable to bathe in. Somewhat refreshingly, the treble also seems to have a complete absence of hardness, harshness, shrillness or glare yet it is not soft or rolled off in any way either. It also sounds so fundamentally correct in pitch and tone, no pinching, no brightness, no metallic sheen, no constriction of any particular frequency; a piece of solo piano played through a Vitus system for the first time can almost be a revelatory experience.

Quite quickly the penny drops and people realise that this new Vitus presentation is largely the way it is because you are getting a much more neutral, faithful and transparent reproduction of the music. The holographic imaging, the very exquisite fine expression, the long decay of notes, these are all things that are on the disc and have always been there; the amp isn’t creating these things but rather, as an ultra low distortion design, it is doing nothing which robs the sound of these properties so you get to hear them fully intact out the other side. In a curious way, over the course of only one album or so, Naim owners find that the Vitus sound is actually teaching them things about about the Naim sound and what a Naim amp does that they never really could appreciate before. This is an observation that I have heard quite a number of times in my demo room.

The ever present bass kick that you were used to in your Naim system is now conspicuously absent. This is because a Vitus amp strives to have a completely flat and neutral frequency response, neither enhancing or diminishing any part of the spectrum. So Vitus bass, whilst not having that same exaggerated punch, actually goes lower, has more shape, more definition, more texture and just a lot more information about the particular instrument responsible for the bass. In a similar vein, vocals and instruments that you expected to be louder and more forward seem less pronounced and in a different place in the overall mix but you know that what you are hearing now is closer to the actual recording and it all makes for a sound that is supremely natural and non-fatiguing. This more natural handling of energies and respective volumes of frequencies allows subtler dynamic shadings to reveal themselves and fine detail and harmonics around vocals and midrange instruments that you have never experienced before are now present right in front of you, seemingly hanging suspended in a physical space. Quite simply, the sense of ‘in the room’ realism of a Vitus system is endlessly pleasurable.

To illustrate this last point further allow me to tell you about a very illuminating demo of the Vitus RI100 integrated amp which I once performed for a Naim owner who was also a professional pianist. For the first 3 tracks he simply remarked how different and natural everything sounded but then for the 4th track he played a solo piano piece which he was currently learning to play himself and he sat there shaking his head and eventually stopped the track halfway through to tell me how amazed he was. For the first time ever, he said he could hear the pianist making very very small and difficult expressions of volume change in certain phrases and this was giving him a new insight into the skill and artistry of the performer and the piece itself. He proclaimed that he would now go home and assimilate this into his own learning and also chalk up a new found deeper respect for the pianist on that CD. Let’s just say that by the time the 5th track was over I had sold him the amplifier and a month or so later when he came to upgrade his CDS3 he ended up with the Vitus RCD-101 cd player as well.

So what about the jewel in the crown, the Naim PRaT ? Naim’s pacey, foot-tappey sense of ‘boogie’. Most demos get to a point early on where this gets tested out because ultimately it’s the Naim USP and what brings people to Naim in the first place and keeps them there. Whilst the Vitus sound does not have the same driving leading edge and propulsive thrust of Naim, it will at this early stage of the demo seem at least as involving and enjoyable, carrying rhythms with great skill and allowing the music to flow along in a most arresting manner. It will also be apparent that it’s giving you a whole other palette off things to enjoy rather than just ‘PRaT’ and this is making the whole listening experience more rewarding and compelling. It will force you to question if musical enjoyment begins and end with just ‘PRaT’ and make you perhaps ponder on the notion that if you want real, if you want special, if you want something greater, then you will have to embrace a much richer, wider and more mature presentational menu which goes significantly beyond just pace, rhythm and timing.

Truth be told, Vitus equipment times incredibly well but just in a different way to Naim. No frequency is augmented to highlight the tune or rhythm. Notes are not truncated, squeezed together or made razor sharp to give the impression of greater togetherness and taughtness. Instead, notes are allowed the time and space to begin, mature and decay and fit together naturally and beautifully. So whilst some tracks over that first encounter may appear to sound a little slower and perhaps less ‘exciting’, the coherency and the way it all fits together is more complete, more musically meaningful and more truthful to how the music would sound if it were played in front of you for real. You are no longer listening to an Amp but to the fruits of the artist as they were intended by him or her. In my experience, it takes people a very very short space of time (days at most) to wean themselves off the Naim sense of added excitement and speed and not one of my customers who bought themselves a Vitus system ever regretted it or sat there wishing they had a little more “Boogie factor”. No, Vitus has pace, drive, massive massive slam, stunning levels of grip and incredible timing all in a supremely natural and invisible way and it’s the main reason why this migration between brands is so easy accomplished and becoming pretty much a weekly occurrence in my demo room here.

Shank’s point on transients/dynamics perhaps requires some expansion. What I find from my customers initial encounters is that at first they think the music is little more polite, a touch more laid back but that is only because the ‘rest pose’ of the Vitus is more neutral and honest. When customers then try a Symphony or something with lots of crescendos and dynamics what they immediately discover is that when the music actually calls for it, when it’s on the recording, the sound is actually a lot MORE dynamic with greater extension, far bigger reserves of energy and at the point of big dynamic swings instruments never seem to run out of apportioned energy and the imaging, tone, texture and fidelity of each note does not degrade and collapse to the point of spoiling the sense of performance and realism. In short, Vitus amps are very low distortion designs with ultra clean power supplies and signal grounds, they have huge bandwidth and masses of sheer grunt. The dynamics and the unbridled sense of vitality you hear is not the result of a fixed design decision where everything by default sounds more punchy and forward all of the time, but this is real dynamics when it’s in the music and faithfully telegraphed by the amp to the speakers on account of the lack of constraint on transparency, bandwidth or current.

Making the move

So in one sense, any move from Naim to Vitus first involves a shift in perspective or awareness. You are not going to hear ‘supercharged Naim’ but something entirely different. It takes a very short period of time though to click into this new frame of reference and understand what the two different manufacturers do and why. After that, in every single case I have found that people’s emotional migration is fast, fully committed and resolute. Such is the magnitude of change and realisation that they have experienced that over the lead time period, after the home demo ends and whilst waiting for their new equipment to ship from Denmark, very few wish to temporarily reinstate their old systems. A well setup Vitus system is simply an emotional experience of enormous depth, joy, and insight into the artist and one that can sustain itself free from fatigue for very long periods of time. The topography of a Vitus system also means that it does not incessantly yearn for the next upgrade or the next tonal tweak but it is a truly fit and forget approach, designed to disappear from the music and from ones mind pretty much for good.

The Vitus range, an overview

Before I sign off I wish to just to give a very brief overview of the range and what you can expect as a Naim owner. In terms of amps in the UK we focus mainly on the two integrated amps as they pack so much value into one unit. Forget that its one box and don’t imagine that the included linestage is anything but true highend.

So the reference level integrated amp is the multi award winning RI-100. The Signature level Class A integrated is the SIA-025. If you want better than that then you have to go to a separate preamp and you are looking at the SL-102 and SS-025 power amp or the SL-102 linestage with the SS-011 mono blocks. Although the last two options are more commensurate in price to a Naim 500 setup, they simply aren’t necessary and almost 100% of Naim fans who I have moved over have gone for the RI-100 or SIA-025 as far as amps are concerned.

As far as digital sources go, at the reference level we have the RCD-101 cd player/DAC and then the RD-100 DAC/pre. The RCD-101 will function as a pure DAC with multiple inputs for a streamer, bluray, sky etc. and it also has an excellent transport for spinning CD’s or SACD. At £7990 it’s an absolute bargain, especially when you consider that I have had several CD555, NDS and KDS owners move into these. The RD-100 is very similar sonically but also has a fully functioning preamp with analogue inputs and no transport so if you are streaming only then it makes more sense. As it has it’s own linestage you mate it with the RS-100 power amp (which is essentially an RI-100 but without the preamp section and a little cheaper).

Moving onto the Signature digital you have the recently upgraded Mk2 SCD-025 CD player/DAC (£18,500). This is an incredible one box machine and even in mk1 guise Chris Thomas of Hifi+ magazine hailed it as the best single box digital he’d ever heard. Coming from the Naim camp or even something like the Linn Klimax DS gear, the SCD will be a very big jump. Such is the magnitude of its ability that for out and out musicality it will arguably even give a DCS Vivaldi setup a fairly hard time.

Streamers, cables, phonostages and speakers ?

As far as streaming is concerned all the Vitus DACs have a myriad of inputs from USB to AES and SPDIF so you can easily stream from something cost effective like a PC, Mac mini, laptop. If you have an existing Unitiserve, Sneaky/Majik DS, or a streamer from the likes of Logitech, Bryston etc. then this will also fit it just fine but do bear in mind that all these solutions will add their own character into the sound to a certain extent. To do the Vitus full justice there is no other product I would recommend other than an Antipodes DX music server (with ROON / TIDAL integration) which is quickly establishing itself as all dominating as far as the high end community is concerned.

Recommended and proven cables and interconnects go from TelluriumQ . A popular choice is to have one Sig and one Ref component so say the SCD into the RI100 

A quick word for Vinyl guys. If moving to Vitus we would also advocate switching to a suitable phono stage as well to match if you don’t already have one. Popular phonos found in Naim setups like the Superline or Urika will be ok as a stop gap but ultimately be holding things back a bit and moving to a much more transparent and resolving stage that will also preserve those fine details, spatial and textural nuances that the Vitus will thrive on will pay handsome dividends. The phono stage is a highly critical point in the chain and any constriction here can never be reversed further down the line.

Finally what about speakers ?

Well Vitus will generally work with any speaker and both integrateds will drive almost any design you care to mention regardless of sensitivity. In a perfect world it likes a highly transparent, neutral and even design with matching sensibilities in my travels I have noted great success with all sorts of brands (Avalon, Pmc, Wilson, Sonus Faber, dynaudio, Totem, magico, Raidho, ATC, Audiovector, Naim, Spendor, Harbeth, B&W, Kef, Linn). In many ways, because of the refined treble and the excellent grip and resolving power in the lower frequencies, Vitus is often a wonderful anti-dote for less than perfect designs, speakers which have tricky tweeters prone to raggedness or brightness for example or models which have a pronounced bass boost or are too loose and undefined in the bass. The top end on a Focal for example is something quite special with a Vitus amp and the B&W 802 Diamond series is like a totally different speaker plugged into say an SIA-025 etc. Designs that stray a little toward a drier, more clinical sound will also benefit hugely from the Vitus’s rich and fluid delivery (e.g. Magico, ATC).

That just about wraps things up. If you’d like to know even more then follow the links down below, especially my Vitus blog where I go into each component in more depth. As always simple get in touch to arrange a demo or extended home loan or a swift quotation of all your part exchanges. I hope you enjoyed reading at least some of this article and I tried my very best to convey things exactly as you will find them if you do come exploring.

you should get a serious listen to it even if you were thinking of separates. It is that good. The Vitus SIA-025 is really about musical connection and emotional involvement those special experiences really are beyond words
Chris Thomas.

SUMMARY: The Vitus’ appeal for me has got nothing whatsoever to do with the weight of the bass, its extension or exactly how much of it there is. It also has nothing to do with the usual hi-fi terminology and the vocabulary that most use to differentiate between equipment. The SIA-025 is about showing you the music and bringing you performance insight in a totally accessible way. Get the system right and it will find you sitting in your chair, closing your eyes, letting the music grab you emotionally to take you somewhere else. 

If the price looks steep for a 25 watt integrated amplifier I think that you should still get a serious listen to it even if you were thinking of separates. It is that good. The Vitus SIA-025 is really about musical connection and emotional involvement and that is quite a compliment for any piece of equipment because those special experiences really are beyond words.+

EXTENDED REVIEW: Tempus certainly does fugit. I was amazed to discover that it is now over five years since I reviewed the Vitus SS-010. This was a 25 watt Class A power amplifier with a built-in volume control, allowing it to be configured as a rudimentary two-source integrated amplifier, or a stand-alone power amplifier. One of my most abiding memories though is of its incomprehensible weight for such a relatively small unit that required a two-man lift for safety. But that Vitus was a marvellous amplifier; beautifully composed, tonally quite rich, with realistic control and a rhythmic flow that was totally alluring. In Class A mode (it was switchable through A/B to A), it could be extremely sweet and rather beautiful sounding and Hans Ole Vitus’ legendary and almost obsessive devotion to transformer technologies bestowed the amplifier with some stunning musical capabilities.

While resolution was of a high order, it ultimately lacked a sense of super focused and highly detailed articulation. To achieve this and move its performance into the super-amp league you really had to electronically disconnect its pre section to use it as a power amplifier alongside a dedicated high-end preamplifier. Then, of course, system synergy became a more critical issue if you were considering anything outside the Vitus range. But I loved it as an integrated for its simplicity and fantastic musical cohesion although to Vitus himself it was always primarily a power amplifier with a volume control – and let’s face it – he was its designer. 

These days the whole Vitus family of electronics has grown into a more complete proposition with three individual ranges and a custom-built fourth tier on the way. I am very glad to report that, although itself discontinued, the genesis of the SS-010 continues and its spiritual successor is the SIA 025 (stereo integrated amplifier) and if I thought the previous amplifier was good then this continuously proved nothing short of sensational, especially for a single-box component. This is from the Signature range of products and though it may look like the SS-010 at first glance, a quick check of the back panel shows that this is a completely integrated design.

The colossal UI transformers (UI indicates the shape of the unit) that have always constituted a large part of both the weight and the sound of Vitus amplifiers are its beating heart. Hans Ole employs them more like a surgeon’s scalpel than a tree-feller’s axe. The one in the SIA-025 is capable of delivering precise and wonderfully accurate doses of perfectly allotted dynamic power throughout the bandwidth. This gives it great appeal and prevents it straying anywhere near the path of clinically detailed amplification that is trodden by so much high-end audio these days. In a time where the cliché has been somewhat over-used, it truly is an amplifier you can listen to all day, providing the rest of the system is up to the task.

There are now a full five inputs with three of them being balanced XLR and the remaining two are single-ended RCA sockets. The speaker connections are the superb standard Vitus types (perhaps my favourites), allowing for 4mm or spade connections quickly and efficiently, without the need for additional tools. I am happy that Vitus has done away with the old Phillips Pronto unit in favour of a custom made all metal rechargeable design that works from anywhere in the room and doesn’t require line-of-sight. This is probably rarer than you might think and a constant bugbear of mine. The angle of acceptance has been enormously increased making the control of volume, change of input or the class switching operation easy and consistent. When you switch the amplifier on or take it out of standby it automatically defaults to Class A/B so switching is something you will need to do every time. But, I do believe this to be one of, if not the best remote control I have ever used and it needs recharging extremely infrequently. 

The front window display though is not as accessible. As you can’t actually read it very easily, if at all, from across the room and especially if you are way off axis, then its usefulness in these situations is questionable. But you will certainly need it when you are in front of the unit engaged in the initial set up of all the parameters, through the menu system. From here you can access the inputs, turn off those you are not using, name them, select their sensitivity etc, and you can change the brightness of the display and other parameters. 

I have been told that most people, including 12 year-olds can master the menu within a few seconds, but I still don’t like it. I have been caught in sections that I can’t get out of on a few occasions. Now I know that Fraser and Mark at Kog, the UK importers, will be laughing when they read this and Vitus himself will be shaking his head while muttering Danish expletives, so let me apologise to them here and now. I operate many menu systems and like them to be simple and intuitive. No sooner do I think I have it when I push the wrong button and off I go again. I shall move on with my head hung in shame. 

I have lived with the SIA-025 now for several months of listening. I have used three different CD players, a turntable set-up and four sets of stand mount speakers ranging from the truly diminutive Kiso, through the beautifully balanced Lindemann BL-10, a pair of Raidho’s classy Eben C1.1 and Focal’s powerful Diablo Utopias. Cable looms varied too, between Vitus’ own Andromeda and a couple of Nordost set-ups and I even got a couple of weeks with Crystal’s flagship cables, Absolute Dream. One thing that shone out through these changes was the SIA-025’s stunning consistency and ability to do its “thing” regardless – and its “thing” is considerable.

In Class A/B the amplifier can deliver 100 watts of power into each channel but for sheer quality it has to be shifted into Class A mode. It’s the absolute essence of the SIA-025 for me. From stand-by, straight into Class A I would say that you are looking at a half hour before it really begins to sing and then it just seems to keep getting better. Even after a solid afternoon and evening’s listening I would swear that the amplifier was growing more fluid, textural and resolute with better dynamic contrasts, tonal shading and the delicacy of its musical message just seems to become more profound. At this point I feel compelled to add that a set of four Stillpoints Ultra SS resonance control devices sat under this amplifier offer one of the biggest musical bangs for your buck and I see them as a mandatory inclusion

Now, I am more than big on system synergy as a concept for musical contentment. But I must admit that, to some extent, the Vitus tends to buck that trend by being excellent in just about every situation I put it in. Its musical attributes seem unhindered regardless of what speakers it was driving and through which cable loom. It maintains a feeling of total relaxation and ease and perhaps even more surprisingly, it never loses its impeccable tonal balance and this is no small feat. I must say that my listening was done in a smallish room and the speakers were all high quality stand-mount models so I cannot speak for fuller-range systems operating in large rooms, perhaps with inefficient speakers. But. Although that 25-watt Class A figure might be enough to dissuade many from even considering it, I would warn against being too hasty in writing it off as underpowered.

Perhaps I can mention Melody Gardot’s new album The Absence at this point. This new release has a decidedly Latino feel, but it’s the way that Melody uses her voice that gives it a very special flavour. Yes, she has a great way with lyrics and her phrasing is certainly wonderfully relaxed but producer Heitor Peirera has done a fantastic job in giving her a beautiful and totally sympathetic opportunity to express the songs. He has understood what she, as an artist, is capable of and constructed a musical stage for her to open herself and her feelings into the music. Cleverly placing her close to the microphone he uses the sound of her lips shaping the words as a seductive textural palette which makes us lean forward to hear the nuance and the tiny dynamic shadings he incorporates wash the music with subtle colours that fit the mood of each song so wonderfully. It reveals a master-class in production and a lesson as to what a producer brings to a performance and why their true value is so often under-rated. The SIA-025 is absolutely marvellous in communicating this level of expression and performance. It seduces us with its uncanny ability to show each individual element in its full glory, yet maintain such a tremendous sense of cohesion that extends right through its explicit feeling of rhythmic flow and movement, to an alluring confidence in the way it allows the music to breathe. That it can do this without employing the iron-fist grip or dissembled bandwidth that encourages us to think in terms of bass, middle and top is, for me, one of its greatest qualities. It is also one of the things that keep bringing you back for more, as it seems to include you in the story and makes you want to hear more of it.

Listening to the track ‘Night Sweats’ from Larry Carlton’s Sapphire Blue album just reinforces the very special feeling of close confidence that the SIA-025’s way with music brings to a system. If The Absence utilises space and the darkness between for atmosphere, then this is a full-blown production, full of power, scale and presence, tonal contrasts and focus. I love the way the beautifully played bluesy, walking bass is established as a rock solid bedrock for the vamped Hammond organ, with its percussive leading edge to sit back off the beat with the drummer. The way the Vitus deals with the rhythm section and its fake suggestion of looseness is certainly critical. But it’s when the rich pushed horn stabs change the emphasis of the tempo, suggesting a shuffle that you begin to understand where this amplifier can take you musically. It is so magnificently composed and lucid but has such fast, but relaxed control of the leading edge of notes.

The Vitus’ appeal for me has got nothing whatsoever to do with the weight of the bass, its extension or exactly how much of it there is. It also has nothing to do with the usual hi-fi terminology and the vocabulary that most use to differentiate between equipment. The SIA-025 is about showing you the music and bringing you performance insight in a totally accessible way. Get the system right and it will find you sitting in your chair, closing your eyes, letting the music grab you emotionally to take you somewhere else. 

If the price looks steep for a 25 watt class A (150w class AB) integrated amplifier I think that you should still get a serious listen to it even if you were thinking of separates. It is that good. The Vitus SIA-025 is really about musical connection and emotional involvement and that is quite a compliment for any piece of equipment because those special experiences really are beyond words.+

when I think of this class of gear, I have this picture of the Chairman of Bentley Motors in mind, sitting so calmly and coolly in his $10k suit on an overstuffed leather sofa, sporting a Mona Lisa smile that says “Whatever, dude. You have no idea.”

SUMMARY: As far as I’m concerned, this is state of the art and it’s easily the best I’ve been able to spend time with. To really dive deep into these waters will require way more investment than I’ve currently made. May ever make? Who knows. But my goodness that was one fine honey of an amp.

EXTENDED REVIEW: A wise man once said that the race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but that is the way to bet. Can I get an "ahem"? Sorry, couldn't help myself. Audio's high-end is simply littered with silly little aphorisms. Like this gem: "you don't need to spend a lot to get a lot."

Now this is true — and obviously so. Unpacking the idea a bit, there are a lot of value plays out there. Products that punch above their weight. They’re great finds, when you stumble on them, and they’re fun to write about, when I stumble upon them. But they’re analogies. Turns of phrase. All of these expressions are attempting to make a reference to a “something else”, a product or service that is simply beyond the ken of the average man, some approximation of which is now, finally, within your feeble reach. We can hem and haw about how much value the less expensive product brings to the table, but value in comparison to what? Something else. Something we wish we could afford.

But when we do, when we finally hit the “high-end”, well, that’s when we stop and turn around. You look back at all that clamoring for attention, all that struggle for meaning, all that value — and then you face forward, to this guy, and you get it.

Value, smell-you, who cares.

There are products in audio’s high-end that make me shake my head in wonder at the wild audacity the manufacturer must have to offer such an absurdity and slap their name on it.

There are also products that make me snap my fingers impatiently and say, to a room empty of anyone able to do anything at all about it, “Anybody seen the Lotto Fairy? Bitch stood me up, again.

Vitus Audio falls into that latter category. And when I think of this class of gear, I have this picture of the Chairman of Bentley Motors in mind, sitting so calmly and coolly in his $10k suit on an overstuffed leather sofa, sporting a Mona Lisa smile that says “Whatever, dude. You have no idea.”

Dude. You have no idea.

The Voice That Is

I met Doug White of The Voice That Is a couple of years back and for whatever reason, we just got along. After years of being gobsmacked by his audio show demos, chatting about the industry, its characters and it’s flaws, I’m proud to think of Doug as a friend. He’s also this site’s first sponsor, and for that, I’ll always owe him a bit of a debt.

If you’ve never met him, or heard about his boutique shop outside of Philadelphia, let me make the intros. Most importantly, I have to tell you that he’s a consultant, and he takes that pretty seriously. That’s factored in to the service he offers, the products he carries, and the prices he charges. To him, it’s all of a piece — and that is worth something. If that sounds a bit old-school in today’s net-forum info feeding frenzy, well, it ought to. I seriously, honestly and abjectly wish there were more like him. Apparently, there used to be, but … well, Doug is certainly the rarity these days.

All that said, hanging out with Doug is a pleasure. The Doug (I think I’m just going to call him that from now on) has access some of the finest audio jewelry being made — I mean, seriously — he has TIDAL Sunrays in his house. Helloooooo. Yeah.

I wanna be The Doug when I grow up.

Vitus Audio

Anyway, one of the few brands The Doug carries — he’s terrifically picky — is Vitus Audio. And for reasons that still are somewhat mysterious to me, he sent me his demo SIA-025 integrated amp for a few weeks around RMAF this year. To say I was a little excited by the offer doesn’t quite cover it.

Like many of the things that come through, this wasn’t to be an extended visit. Just a teaser. A mere taste. Holding things like this longer, I’d be able to do much more of course, but that wasn’t the point. This is a working piece, part of a real demo system that just happened to be down for a few weeks. I got lucky, and you get a mini review.

The Vitus Audio SIA-025 is US$27,000 (excl sales tax). That’s a lot for an integrated. Hell, it’s a lot period. For reference, this is the same as a brand new Toyota FJ Cruiser. That’s something! Now, I only mention this as a point of reference, and not as a comment on the 99% or anything remotely political. It’s just that sometimes, we lose track of what these numbers actually mean. So, yes, $27k is a lot of money. And like I said at the outset, this product is not an attempt to be a value play. There is nothing about this that says to me that the designer attempted to cut costs, “find a cheaper way”, or otherwise make the product affordable, reasonably priced, or put within reach of the Everyman. Vitus Audio has other products that attack that market — this, from their Signature Line of offerings, isn’t one of those. Nah, this one goes after a different market (see Bentley CEO, above). Said another way, this product is what you get when you tell a designer to stop worrying about “common” concerns of price and performance trade offs and just go for it. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it! But it’s interesting, nonetheless, to see what a creative artist like Hans Ole-Vitus can come up with once the gloves are off.

And what a pretty little monster the SIA-025 is. Take the remote. On second thought, don’t touch it. Ever. Yeah, it’s that kind of remote. It has an oddly pleasant weight, a metallic solidity that feels good in the hand. The display is elegant — and no, it’s not some iPod ripoff. There’s nothing so gauche as a touch screen. Who needs color — it’s a remote. When you’re ready, you pick the remote up, and the display turns on magically. It tells you what you need to know, you do your thing, the screen reflects that act, pauses, and then goes to sleep, awaiting your next need. Move your hand again, and the display comes back on. Neat trick. Pushing the firm little buttons yields a mild clicking of the relays in the amp to let you know something is happening. The whole experience is relaxing, sensual, engaging, and will put you at your ease.

The case reeks of elegance and class. The big cooling fins are black and contained. All surfaces are refined, beveled, smooth. Buttons are perfectly leveled to the surface they’re found on and click to a satisfying end when they travel. Connectors are all recessed, with space around them, and finely fitted out. The display is modest, legible, and again, elegant. I actually found myself saying that word, ‘elegant’, like a mantra. The only thing inelegant? The heft — 100lbs is no joke in a package this compact. You won’t believe how dense this thing is by looking at it and it caught me totally by surprise. I managed to heave it atop a Symposium Ultra platform, popped a couple of Skelaxin, and then I just left it there for the duration. Whew.

Okay, so back-busting aside, the spec sheet for the VA SIA-025 claims it puts out something like 25wpc in Class A mode; in Class A/B, this moves to 100wpc. I suspect that what this means is that there’s always 100wpc available before the amp starts the climb up toward distortion/exhaustion, but that only the first 25 are Class A (when that option/mode is selected). This is important only in that there never seemed to be only 25wpc on tap, even when it was cranking away in Class A — I seriously could not get this amp to kerfluffle. I hooked it in to friendly speakers, because that’s all I really have here, but I got no indication that there was a bottom to the well of power the amp was able to draw from. YMMV, but I’m willing to bet that this 25wpc will go a lot farther than you might be expecting it to. Just saying.

My favorite pairing was with a pair of Clearwave 7R loudspeakers. These stand mounts feature a RAAL-ribbon tweeter and an Accuton mid/bass driver. I’ll have a lot more to say about these loudspeakers soon, but let me offer that the cabinets are all bespoke as shit — the pairing here was, actually, quite the (visual and aural) feast and I was so distracted I don’t think I took a single picture that entire week. Sorry. But there is a thing that VA gear seems to have with ceramic loudspeakers that is mesmerizing. Not sure precisely why, or what’s going on, but the two go together like peas and carrots. Err … okay, like caviar and water crackers? Whatever. I found it intoxicating.

Loudspeakers from Fritz Frequencies and Joseph Audio, both falling into that mid-80 dB range that low-power amps ought to be nervous of, and I simply could not get the SIA-025 to even break a sweat much less show her ass. I played shit music — like a CD rip of Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” (what a crying shame that CD is). I played my go-to Stockfisch audiophile cuts like Chris Jones and “The Cricket Song” “Roadhouses & Automobiles” and 24bit/176kHz files of La Segunda from MA-Recordings. I played Copland, Cash, Rush and Professor Longhair (and a few hundred others). I had a blast.

The sound, as compared to the other bits in the chain, was a subtle thing to tease out. I ended up scribbling things like “tube amp” to describe the mid range. Through the various transducers, vocals were rich and rounded in a way that reminded me of a certain 300b-based SET from Borer Control. “Articulate” described the mid-bass and on down. “Finessed” captured the treble. But the truth is, none of this approaches what I heard. It was more than “I didn’t have a complaint”. Far more. I was transported.

If I had to file an affidavit, complaining about something, I suppose I’d say that both the monos from Pass Labs and the huge hunk of metal from Plinius had deeper bass. As a card-carrying bass freak, that’s important to me. On stand mount loudspeakers, of course, this isn’t all that much of an issue, but the eFicion F300s do drop cleanly below 30Hz, so I heard it.

I want to say that the amp is warm, and perhaps a bit smooth — some of my 80’s rock didn’t suck nearly as bad as I seemed to remember it sucking. But detail retrieval was excellent, so not sure what’s up with that. More time would have been helpful. Another time, another place, another set of speakers … which reminds me. I have something I’m not going to tell you till after New Years. Heh heh.

Some closing comments:

  • It’s built like a tank. From Bentley Motors. Be nice to it, but if you can’t, it won’t care.
  • This amp falls is the middle of the VA lineup. There’s some less expensive Class A/B gear in the Reference Line and some much more expensive gear in the Master Line. Looking over the amp, my thought about the Master Line is this: you’ve got to be freakin’ kidding me. Bah. I’m going to go be a hermit somewhere. I can’t take this.
  • There’s a computer in there. There’s gotta be. The sheer number of options and tweaks you can do to the way this thing works reminds me of a surround-sound processor. Takes time to learn, but the rewards are worth it.
  • The SIA-025 does come with its own power cord. And it’s fantastic. Yes, I tried others. Why bother.
  • I’m told that the monoblock versions of this amp (the SM-010) have insanely good bass response. Which is … awesome? Hmm. I’m not sure I needed to know anything more about a US$45k pair of amps that I really never, ever, want to see anywhere near my house. I refuse to even talk about the US$75k SM-110 — I just don’t want to know. Go away. I am not doing another re-fi. Sorry. La la la la laaaa! My fingers are in my ears! I can’t hear you!

Anyway, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — when the Lotto Fairy does finally show up, I’m calling The Doug. And if she visits you first, you suck. If she visits you first and you don’t call The Doug? You’re an idiot.

As far as I’m concerned, this is state of the art and it’s easily the best I’ve been able to spend time with. To really dive deep into these waters will require way more investment than I’ve currently made. May ever make? Who knows. But my goodness that was one fine honey of an amp.

This combination of power, musicality and system flexibility is rare - the RI-100 represents a flat-out steal and my choice for, "Most Wanted Component Award! "
David Thomas

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Vitus Audio RI-100 is a scary good performer. Forget any references to “entry level” or “price points”. Those terms are only relative to Vitus’ own Signature and Masterpiece Series components, which frankly, exist on a much different level from most other companies’ components anyway. The RI-100’s linestage is as good as any I’ve had in house in a while. It worked surprisingly well with the Classe CA-M600 mono amps and to my ears, outperformed the highly praised XLH preamp. As an integrated amp, its 300 watts got every ounce of performance out of both the Fremonts and Sapphires. Soundstaging was fantastic, and the musicality and imaging were spot on, adding a tremendous sense of realism to my listening sessions. There was no segment of its performance that I felt was significantly lacking, and I suspect over time will get even better. This combination of power, musicality and system flexibility is rare. And while its price tag is hardly cheap, given its stellar lineage, the RI-100 represents a flat-out steal and my choice for 2011's Most Wanted Component Award! Adding the optional DAC and phonostage has the potential to make this the amp that redefines the genre. .
Enthusiastically recommended!

EXTENDED REVIEW: I first met Hans Ole Vitus, the President and Chief Designer of Vitus Audio, at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was making his first appearance at a U.S. audio show and was demonstrating his massively built and priced SM-100 mono amps ($45,000/pair). They were part of a system that also included the Electrocompaniet EMC-1UP CD player, Sound Lab Ultimate-1 loudspeakers, and Argento Audio cabling. Unfortunately, Vitus’ own RL-100 Linestage ($22,000) and RP-100 Phono Stage ($19,000) were held up in customs at the time of my visit. The system sounded like it looked – big, bold and beautiful. It completely dominated the room, physically and sonically.

I found Vitus himself to be very engaging and approachable for someone who built components that are obviously not for the average Joe audiophile like me. I would imagine that Vitus’ usual clients are people who have agents or rule countries, and those types of designers tend to be rather stuffy and elitist. But just the opposite was true. Vitus was very much a “regular guy” who just happened to built incredibly gorgeous sounding audio components. He was new to the U.S. market, so he treated everyone he met with warmth and humor. Of course it probably didn’t hurt that I enthused at great length about the rare beauty of his work. For those who have never seen Vitus Audio equipment in person, think of great European architecture… this is better.

The following year Vitus was back at the CES but this time with a new component that I was genuinely excited about, the SS-010. The SS-010 was essentially a 25 watt, pure Class-A integrated amp that could accommodate a single pair of balanced (XLR) or unbalanced (RCA) inputs and had a built-in volume control. I was excited because the amp only cost $12,000. Color me silly, but if Mercedes Benz announced a new car that only cost $12k, I know a lot of folks who’d be downright giddy. What’s more, Vitus told me that he was planning to develop a more affordable line of products that would be priced at around the $10,000 price point (each) as sort of an entry level into the real high-end. But just a few short years later, the cost of the SS-010 jumped up to $20,000 and the “entry level” preamp and amp that was coming turned into the ($25,000) SL-010 linestage and ($50,000/pair) SM-010 mono amps that I raved about back in January of 2010.

Bear in mind that in no way am I saying that the Vitus components are not worth the money being asked for them. The level of build is bullet-proof, the sonics are amazing, and the aesthetics are off the chain. It’s just that… man, Vitus! When will this guy ever build something that more people can afford?!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Vitus Audio RI-100 Integrated amplifier.

About the Amp

The RI-100 is the first new product available from the company’s “Reference Series” components. The Reference Series represents Vitus’ attempt to build products that maintain the company’s high standards for music reproduction but at a more affordable price point. The RI-100 is a 300 watt RMS (into 8 Ohm) integrated amp that features three balanced and two unbalanced inputs. One of the unbalanced inputs doubles as the input for the optional phonostage. You also get a set of unbalanced outputs which allows you to use the RI-100 as a stand-alone preamp. You can even add another amp for a biamp configuration. Another option is a built-in DAC that makes this potentially a completely self contained audio system. The amplifier is 300 watts RMS of Class-AB power, which should be more than enough to drive almost any speaker.

At 17” wide x 7.5” high and 18.5” deep, and weighing in at a monstrous 88 lbs, the RI-100 is an absolute beast. A peek inside shows the massive toroidal transformer and the same fanatical dedication to craftsmanship and use of the highest quality parts, that are the hallmark of all Vitus products. The faceplate bears the unmistakable resemblance to all other products in the Vitus family. The left side features three flush mounted buttons that allow you to select the “Input”, put the system in “MENU” mode, and toggle the system in and out of “Standby” mode. In Menu mode you can alter the settings of the RI-100 and in Standby mode the controls deactivated. The RI-100 does not shut down in Standby mode in order to maintain the optimal operating temperature.

The right side has the buttons that allows you to control the volume level and put the system in “MUTE”. All system functions (and there are many) are visible on an LED display in the center of the faceplate. The chassis, while not made of the customary thick slabs of sculpted aluminum found on other Vitus amps, is still very substantial and extremely well made. It has slots strategically cut into the top and sides to help dissipate heat. The rear of the chassis features the source component inputs, balanced preamp output and some very substantial speaker terminals. There is also a terminal for the phono/Earth ground and a A/C mains connection. Just below the A/C is a receptacle which houses a pair of mains fuses; one fuse protects that amp and the other is a spare. This turned out to be a pretty thoughtful design touch because within a couple of weeks of using the amp I actually did blow the mains fuse. Changing the fuse only took a couple of minutes and I was back in business.

An Apple remote control is included for the primary operation of the RI-100. The same remote can be used for other Vitus Audio Reference Series components such as the soon to be available RS-100 stereo amp and RCD-100 CD player. You’ll have to take care to pair the remotes properly to their devices, especially if you already have other Apple products which utilize the same remote. This was a problem that I had as my Apple TV remote would simultaneously control my TV and accidentally shut off the amp mid song. Not good. Luckily, Vitus provides one of the most detailed and comprehensive owners manuals that I’ve ever seen. So this issue was easily remedied.

Listening to an amp and preamp

Most of my listening was done using the OPPO Digital DV-980H Universal Disc Player as a transport connected to the coaxial digital input of the Citypulse Audio DA-2.03e USB DAC. Analog was courtesy of the wonderful new George Warren Precision Sound turntable and arm, and a Benz Micro Ace cartridge feeding a Clearaudio Smartphono phonostage. Amplification was a Soaring Audio SLC-A300 and a pair of the excellent new Classe Audio CA-M600 mono amps that I reviewed back in October. My long time reference speakers are the Escalante Design Fremonts and I also had the Dynaudio Sapphires on hand. The system was connected with the stunning Hemmingway Audio Prime Signature MK II cables, accept the digital cable which was the Entreq Audio Konstantin.

I used the RI-100 both as an integrated amp and as a preamp by utilizing its balanced preamp outputs into the Classe monos. After the usual two weeks of break-in I finally got down to some serious listening.

I began with one of my favorite vinyl discs, the 45-RPM pressing of Patricia Barber’s Café Blue [Mobile Fidelity MFSL 3-45002]. This is an album whose songs should be familiar to most audiophiles, but the level of detail that is pulled from this 45-RPM version is amazing. From the start of the opening track, “What A Shame” it is obvious that the RI-100 is something special. Driving the Dynaudio Sapphires, the RI-100 rendered this song with loads of soundstage detail. The space occupied by Barber’s piano was prominent, as was the holographic quality of her smoky vocal. The wonderful bass line throughout this song has natural depth and resonance and sounds like its coming from an acoustic instrument and not a synthesizer as it sometimes can.

“Ode To Billy Joe” (side three, track three) is another tune that contains a really cool bass line, but it also is accentuated with finger-snaps that really popped through the Sapphires. This was the coolest this song has ever sounded to me. Next, it was on to the most dynamic song from this album, “Nardis” (side five, track one). It features piano and percussion solos that are must hears for evaluating any audio component, which is probably why you hear it so much at the various high-end shows. Rhythm, pace and speed all blossom through the RI-100, drawing you deeper into the performance of the musicians. They all seem to be occupying realistic spaces within the soundstage, giving the recording a “live” feel. 

The RI-100’s 300 watts RMS are the most powerful sounding I’ve heard from an integrated amp since I spent a few weeks with the legendary ASR Emitter II Exclusive ($24,900). The ASR is a 280 watt, four-chassis monster that was in a class by itself for reference quality integrated amps. It now has company. The RI-100 should add enough power and finesse to a system to satisfy even the most power hungry audio enthusiasts. Vitus has always had a knack for building amps that perform far beyond their stated power specs, and the RI-100 is no different.

All this and a preamp too!

When I saw that the amp came with a set of balanced preamp outputs I got more than a little excited. I knew that the lineage of the RI-100’s preamp section had to be based on great linestages like the RL-100 and SL-010. I connected the RI-100’s outputs to the Classe Audio CA-M600 mono amps. To be honest, there was hardly a noticeable difference. The overall focus of musical instruments on some of the more demanding songs that I listened to may have been a bit tighter using the Classe amps but not by much. I was greatly impressed with just how well this preamp section meshed with these amps.

When I listened to “I Wish” from Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life [Tamla T18-84062] I was floored. The horn section on this song in the hands of mediocre electronics can be offensively bright. But the Vitus/Classe combination made it sound splendidly musical. You can easily sense the air and brassy nature of this song and it makes the performance so much more engaging.

I was so surprised by the RI-100’s linestage performance that I felt the need to compare it to another linestage, so I borrowed an XLH SL-11XS ($5,000) linestage from my brother and installed it with the Classe amps. Listening first to “I Wish” again I noticed right away that the soundstage did not sound quite as open as it did with the Vitus. And though the XLH did not add any harshness or brightness to the song, especially the horn section, it also didn’t sound quite as dynamic as the Vitus. Wanting to hear something a little more contemporary, I played “Stop The World” from Maxwell’sBlacksummer’s Night CD [Columbia CK 89142]. The neo-soul singer’s voice can sometimes sound a bit nasal, but it was rendered with fullness and body when I heard it through the Vitus/Classe combo. The XLH/Classe combo also did a good job of fleshing out this unique male vocal. But I would have to say that with the Vitus, the whole performance, including the musicians’ performances sounded more full-bodied and true. Overall, this is one of the finest performing linestages in an integrated amp I’ve heard.

An Unfinished Symphony

For some strange reason I seem to have come across a lot of great integrated amps over the years. Among them are the Vitus Audio SS-010, Audio Analogue Maestro Duecento, ASR Emitter II Exclusive and Behold Gentle G-192. So while the prospect of getting a new Vitus Audio integrated amp in for review was certainly exciting, what really got me fired up was getting an amp, which also had a built-in phono stage and DAC. Earlier this year, Vitus unleashed the mind-blowing, two-chassis, $60,000-plus “Masterpiece Series” MP-201 phono preamp. I couldn’t help but think that if somehow the RI-100’s phono stage had any of the DNA of the MP-201, that it could distinguish itself from all other integrateds. And when you add on the built-in DAC as well, you’re not just talking about a potential world beater, you’re talking about a WORLD RULER! What’s that you say? A bit too dramatic? Okay, I’ll back it down a bit, but you get my drift.

But sadly, the DAC and phono-stage options were not available at the time (now avaibale) I received my review sample. Thankfully, Vitus has assured me that once they are available that I’ll be able to do a follow-up review. So I’ve got that going for me.

Conclusion

The Vitus Audio RI-100 is a scary good performer. Forget any references to “entry level” or “price points”. Those terms are only relative to Vitus’ own Signature and Masterpiece Series components, which frankly, exist on a much different level from most other companies’ components anyway. The RI-100’s linestage is as good as any I’ve had in house in a while. It worked surprisingly well with the Classe CA-M600 mono amps and to my ears, outperformed the highly praised XLH preamp.

As an integrated amp, its 300 watts got every ounce of performance out of both the Fremonts and Sapphires. Soundstaging was fantastic, and the musicality and imaging were spot on, adding a tremendous sense of realism to my listening sessions. There was no segment of its performance that I felt was significantly lacking, and I suspect over time will get even better. This combination of power, musicality and system flexibility is rare. And while its price tag is hardly cheap, given its stellar lineage, the RI-100 represents a flat-out steal and my choice for 2011's Most Wanted Component Award! Adding the optional DAC and phonostage has the potential to make this the amp that redefines the genre.

Enthusiastically recommended!

..... David Thomas

It currently has few challengers, and none that I have yet heard can surpass it. An alpha amp if ever there was one.
Neil Gader

REVIEW SUMMARY: The Reference Series RI-100, on balance, gives away little to its highfalutin’ pure Class A Signature Series siblings. They both present music with astounding presence and energy. Both are fluid and articulate..... by the same token the RI-100 powers through the broader swaths of large-scale symphonies and power rock in a way that makes other amps seem a bit submissive. It’s virtually unrivalled in its breathtakingly tight-fisted low-octave reproduction......if you’re seeking orchestral levels in a large space with only a moderately sensitive loudspeaker, the RI-100 would brilliantly fill the bill. 
The RI-100 will fulfill its destiny—filling those empty red-sealed slots on its back panel— when the optional DAC and phono modules become available. Said to be retrofittable in the field, this will be a first for Vitus Audio, and I intend to report on these developments when they hit the market sometime in 2013. However, even as a “basic” linestage integrated the Vitus Audio RI-100 has carved out a unique segment in the high end—what could be termed “entry level elite.” It currently has few challengers, and none that I have yet heard can surpass it. An alpha amp if ever there was one. More to come on this one soon.

EXTENDED REVIEW: The word “entry-level” covers a vast swath of price points in the high end. For Vitus Audio, a premium maker of electronics from Denmark, its Reference Series, which includes the RI-100, is a $13k entry-level product—Vitus’ bottom rung. It’s beneath the Signature Series, Vitus’ pure Class A fully balanced designs, and even further down the ladder from the heady, damn-the-torpedoes, dual-chassis Masterpiece Series. The RI-100 is vivid confirmation of the Paul Simon lyric, “One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.”

The Reference RI-100 linestage integrated is not my first date with a Vitus Audio amp. In Issue 218, I reviewed the Signature Series SIA-025, a marvellous Class A linestage integrated and, at a vertiginous $25k, the most expensive one I’ve reviewed to date. So it would be natural to assume that the RI-100 at roughly half the price would be a big step down. Not by a long shot.

At its core, the RI-100 is essentially the Vitus Audio RS- 100 solid-state stereo amplifier with the addition of a linestage preamp. It outputs a stout 300Wpc RMS into 8 ohms. Cosmetics are minimalist but the amp is built to endure. It shares both the chassis and the massive aluminium faceplate and pushbutton controls of the RS; however, unlike the Signature and Masterpiece components, the rear casing is prosaic sheet metal, a nonmagnetic aluminium rather than the thick slabs of steel and aluminium of the pricier products. The expansive back panel houses a pair of unbalanced RCA and a trio of balanced XLR inputs, plus a preamp output.

Controls, memory functions, and assorted connectivity can all be optimised via menu-driven software from the front panel or remote control. The latter is an Apple remote, not the fully featured rechargeable masterpiece that the uptown Signature Series offers. Since it’s an off-the-shelf device, the user needs to pair the remote to the RI-100 (unless you like triggering other Apple-compatible devices elsewhere in the house). Like the pricier models the precision volume control is relay-based and employs only a single resistor in series with the signal at any given time. Still, ergonomics are a little clunky and the display too small for my taste. Personally I like spinning a heavy volume wheel and seeing the results via a large set of fluorescent numerals.

I asked company president Hans Ole Vitus about the key differences between Reference RI-100 and the previously reviewed SIA-025. He stated that the output stage is identical to the SIA-025, but with some topology differences in the input module. The transformer is a more traditional EI-core rather than the Signature’s custom UI-core. Parts quality and matching of internal components, while stringent in the Reference Series, reaches an ever-higher threshold in the fully balanced Signature Series. The crucial difference, as mentioned earlier, is output stage operation—Class AB for Reference Series and Class A for Signature.

s powerful as the RI-100 is, brute force is not the sonic element that stands out—at least not all the time. From day one, what really struck home was the lack of an electronic signature throughout the frequency spectrum. There was no glaze smudging transients, or any dry powdery whiteness over the treble. The RI-100 was supernaturally quiet. I’d describe its character as relaxed but ready. Sure there was impressive transient speed that seamlessly integrated with a rich tonality. But the RI-100 was not euphonic in the classic tube sense of the word, nor was it etched or pushy like less-desirable solid-state. In comparison to some other amps I’m familiar with, its top end would have seemed a tad warm and reserved at first, except for the amount of sheer musicality that poured forth, especially on violin recordings like those featuring Arturo Delmoni [JMR] or Anne-Sophie Mutter [DG]. The RI-100 delicately presented the upper register of the violin as sweetly contained aggression, which is the most concise way I can describe what a violin sounds like at full tilt.

The Vitus conveyed a chesty centre of gravity on recordings from the lower mids on down, zeroing in on the substance and weight of brass sections and capturing the full body of a featured saxophone on recordings like Sonny Rollins’ Way Out West. I could pick out with utter clarity the surprising minutiae that humanise a performance—whether it was a creaky piano bench or a rustle of clothing or the flutter of sheet music being turned.

But the RI-100 was also a sleeping giant that could summon a sledgehammer of energy at any instant. As I listened to the bass drum and tympani exchanges of Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man[Reference Recordings] I felt that I was finally realising the unrestricted dynamic and visceral potential of this recording. There was more deep-seated rumble, sustain, air, and decay. And this translated into greater insight into the nature of the recording itself.

It also reproduced the delicate world of space and ambience around the music like few amplifiers I’ve experienced. This amp fixed a musical image in a precise position without sacrificing the distinct ambient space that instrument was occupying. It also teased out high-frequency information, harmonics, accurate sibilance, and leading-edge transient cues, and did so with a soft touch. The string sections of Appalachian Spring had buoyancy and a lack of strident edge that on more than one occasion had me recollecting the flawless treble performance of the pure Class A SIA-025.

There are people who will look at an integrated amplifier like the Vitus Audio RI-100 and ask, “What am I going to do with three hundred watts per channel?” My stock reply is, “Eightythree.” As in 83dB, the sensitivity of my long-standing reference compact loudspeakers, the ATC SCM20SL. Every amp that has come through my listening room in recent years has had to deal with this two-way sealed-box compact and its death-defyingly low sensitivity. (Seems to me, when a rating dips this low it should become an “insensitivity” rating.) If you consider that every 3dB decrease in loudspeaker sensitivity requires double the amplifier power to achieve the same sound-pressure level, you’ll realise just how much loudspeaker sensitivity dictates the need for amplifier power.

The ATC will not do bottom octave bass, but driven with the right amplification it is extremely articulate, as it rolls off into the 40Hz range. How does this apply to the RI-100? Marc Cohn’s track “True Companion” [Atlantic] has a bass drum (likely augmented in the studio) that’s softly struck at the end of each verse. I’ve heard this track hundreds of times on a countless number of amplifiers. Systems have a hard time reproducing the extension and detail of this moment, but the RI-100, likely summoning a healthy heaping of its 300 watts, provided more detail and sustain from this cue that these speakers have ever reproduced before.

What constitutes authentic bass reproduction in a system always involves strong personal preferences. The question of control and grip cuts both ways. On the one hand, I expect to hear the resonant sustain and gradual decay of bass information, but if it’s not balanced against a controlled attack the illusion of realism dissolves like so much smoke. By the same token, too much grip can choke off sustain and decay. For example, during Jennifer Warnes’ “Way Down Deep” [Private] I’ve heard the talking drum played by percussionist Paulinho Da Costa run the gamut from flat and tuneless to fat and loose. With the RI-100 I felt I was hearing an ideal balance of transient impact, drum skin flutter, and voicing shifts.

The Reference Series RI-100, on balance, gives away little to its highfalutin’ pure Class A Signature Series siblings. They both present music with astounding presence and energy. Both are fluid and articulate. But the Class A SIA-025 has a riper tonality, and a micro-presence that expresses the smallest dynamic gradients and image clusters (orchestral section layering and choral groups come to mind) in a way the larger amp can’t quite match. By the same token the RI-100 powers through the broader swaths of large-scale symphonies and power rock in a way that makes other amps seem a bit submissive. It’s virtually unrivalled in its breathtakingly tight-fisted low-octave reproduction, but it won’t quite offer up the fullest breath of soundstage dimensionality like the superb Vitus SIA-025.

So which one is for you? The answer depends most heavily on the choice of loudspeaker, the size of the room, and to a lesser extent your own listening bias. For example, if you’re seeking orchestral levels in a large space with only a moderately sensitive loudspeaker, the RI-100 would brilliantly fill the bill. But perhaps your tastes run more to smaller-scale music such as soloists and chamber groups, and you also have a high-sensitivity loudspeaker. In such a case, the SIA-025 could be the better choice.

However, this story isn’t over. The RI-100 will fulfill its destiny—filling those empty red-sealed slots on its back panel— when the optional DAC and phono modules become available. Said to be retrofittable in the field, this will be a first for Vitus Audio, and I intend to report on these developments when they hit the market sometime in 2013. However, even as a “basic” linestage integrated the Vitus Audio RI-100 has carved out a unique segment in the high end—what could be termed “entry level elite.” It currently has few challengers, and none that I have yet heard can surpass it. An alpha amp if ever there was one. More to come on this one soon.

……….Neil Gader

the Vitus Audio RI-100 brings us so close to what a preamp-power amp system of similar power provides that one must consider it to be "The Bargain of the Century".
Alberto Pascual

REVIEW SUMMARY: The bass and mid-bass this integrated provides possibly are of the best quality I might have ever seen in devices of this level. The spread is huge, getting down to the very hell without any problem. It is able to bring my Watt & Puppy 7 to the limits of what they are capable of achieving. If that was not enough, the bass itself has an unusual intensity and density, and to crown it all, the device provides the lower part of the sound spectrum an articulation which reveals any detail with an accuracy I’ve only heard in very few other electronics. There are no serious concessions in the bass. Dynamics and control in spades, building a rhythmic base that fits feisty rock music as much as the most subtle or ethereal classical music we can think of; simply delicious.

The middle is another of its strengths. The voices appear on the scene, with an incredible presence, very natural and perfectly articulated. They have strength, with a very sharp transition, but without ever losing their very human character. I find it impossible to see any noticeable colour, maybe a slightly warm character, but it never makes us thing we are hearing the same sound over and over again. Each voice has its own personality. Similarly, in the case of stringed instruments, they all have the naturalness that occurs when heard live while maintaining the inflection, tonality and texture that enriches each instrument and tell them apart.

The treble is good, totally real, and it perfectly fulfils its function. It provides all the information that occurs in the sound event at any time without attracting attention to it. I do not appreciate any kind of aggression that might be disturbing, causing distraction or ruining the listening. And of course all the information available on the recording, which is extracted from the source, is transmitted to the speakers. This device does not cut a bit at the top of the sound spectrum either. And it does it all with an ease that just amazes me.

The dynamics are exemplary and they reveal unusual strength and control for a device of this kind. Transients are wild without losing accuracy or rave in dramatic moments. The strength in this case is not accompanied by a lack of delicacy. In this case, both coexist in a balance that humanises the listening. It is as if the device had the ability to feel and treat each track with the most adequate sensitivity. It is able to provide the right level of emotion to each interpretation, discerning whether it is subtlety, violence, passion, drama or relaxation that is needed. It is amazing the ability to convey the sound message this integrated has. And all this, without any doubt, thanks to the great ability the Vitus has to manage both macro-and micro-dynamics for any type of recording. It could be described somehow as the iron hand in a velvet glove.

EXTENDED REVIEW: It seems I’m getting a taste for reviewing integrated amplifiers. I must admit they did not interest me much partly due to my being used to the preamp-power amp configuration. But because of the many tests I have been doing to some electronics of this kind I guess I will have to reconsider my opinion about these devices.

This time our guest is a stylish Dane, the Reference RI-100 integrated amplifier. Surprisingly, Vitus Audio refers to the most basic devices out of their catalogue as “Reference Series” which they consider “High End”. But this is only the first rung on a four level ladder. Next comes the “Signature Series” with the epithet “Extreme”, then “Masterpiece Series” considered “Supreme” and, finally, absolute madness, the “Design Studio Series” rated “Platinum”. One cannot but smile at these names which are, are least, curious. Yet, they give us a hint about this company’s attitude and the way they do things there, devoted as they are to total and absolute excellence.

The Vitus Audio got in my home thanks to Jorge Castellano from Alma Audio. This young company from Madrid has kindly handed over the device to us so that I can have the chance to write the following lines for you. My sincere thanks for providing the RI-100 for the time required for a thorough and elaborate review.

Going into detail 

The Vitus RI-100 does not look like a massive device at all. Now, things are different if one decides to take it in their valiant arms. The surprise is huge as its pretty average size makes it hard for anyone to anticipate the force required to move the 40 kg this burly Dane weights

I used the integrated amplifier with my Wadia player, using Audioquest interconnect cables and Element 47 cables for the speakers, and the first thing I notice is its appearance. It has a sleek front and a chassis whose finish I reckon well below its category. It shows an impeccable first-class finish both in the front and in the back where all the connectors are neatly located. Thanks to its considerable weight, the IR-100 is almost anchored to the surface where it has been placed, in this case almost crushing my CD player which is just under it.

At first it does not seem to get very hot but in the following days I would find that, indeed, the Vitus gets reasonably warm, especially on the sides, and especially at the end of a demanding audition. Nothing to worry about; you can definitely touch it without risk of burning your hand in the attempt.

As usual -and I’m starting to get used to it- this device was ready to amaze me. I had heard Vitus Audio Electronics before and I obviously had a slight idea of what I could expect. The truth is that this is one of those occasions when you realize how important it is to hear a device under controlled conditions. To be aware of the influence of the environment on the device in question is for me the only way to know the true value of it. Everything else is just an illusion that cannot even get us closer to the reality. Why do I say this? Easy, I had always heard Vitus electronics in environments that were hostile to me and in which I had no prior experience. I certainly wanted to hear something from the Danish firm on totally controlled sound equipment. What better occasion than this!

The Sound 

Despite being the most basic Vitus amplifier I think it keeps up, untouched, the imprint of the sound of the brand. It is an integrated amplifier that fully represents the way this company understands music. We might think that it does so at a smaller scale than its more expensive brothers but we would be wrong! Our guest sounds just as I thought the famous Danish brand should sound; based, of course, on my previous auditions and, above all, allowing it to fill my room without complexes.

The bass and mid-bass this integrated provides possibly are of the best quality I might have ever seen in devices of this level. The spread is huge, getting down to the very hell without any problem. It is able to bring my Watt & Puppy 7 to the limits of what they are capable of achieving. If that was not enough, the bass itself has an unusual intensity and density, and to crown it all, the device provides the lower part of the sound spectrum an articulation which reveals any detail with an accuracy I’ve only heard in very few other electronics. There are no serious concessions in the bass. Dynamics and control in spades, building a rhythmic base that fits feisty rock music as much as the most subtle or ethereal classical music we can think of; simply delicious.

The middle is another of its strengths. The voices appear on the scene, with an incredible presence, very natural and perfectly articulated. They have strength, with a very sharp transition, but without ever losing their very human character. I find it impossible to see any noticeable colour, maybe a slightly warm character, but it never makes us thing we are hearing the same sound over and over again. Each voice has its own personality. Similarly, in the case of stringed instruments, they all have the naturalness that occurs when heard live while maintaining the inflection, tonality and texture that enriches each instrument and tell them apart.

The treble is good, totally real, and it perfectly fulfils its function. It provides all the information that occurs in the sound event at any time without attracting attention to it. I do not appreciate any kind of aggression that might be disturbing, causing distraction or ruining the listening. And of course all the information available on the recording, which is extracted from the source, is transmitted to the speakers. This device does not cut a bit at the top of the sound spectrum either. And it does it all with an ease that just amazes me.

The soundstage is not bad at all to be an integrated. It produces a very correct height although, maybe, a little narrower than my whole system. A little bit of depth is lost too, but nothing to bother or distract me at all. Perhaps, with some discs with too much information, and only exceptionally, there is some blurring that causes a slight loss of information. Really one of the few “flaws” I can find.

The dynamics are exemplary and they reveal unusual strength and control for a device of this kind. Transients are wild without losing accuracy or rave in dramatic moments. The strength in this case is not accompanied by a lack of delicacy. In this case, both coexist in a balance that humanises the listening. It is as if the device had the ability to feel and treat each track with the most adequate sensitivity. It is able to provide the right level of emotion to each interpretation, discerning whether it is subtlety, violence, passion, drama or relaxation that is needed. It is amazing the ability to convey the sound message this integrated has. And all this, without any doubt, thanks to the great ability the Vitus has to manage both macro-and micro-dynamics for any type of recording. It could be described somehow as the iron hand in a velvet glove.

Who could forget these days? 

It was not easy at all to let this integrated leave my home, but I obviously had to. Nevertheless, it left me very satisfied indeed. When it comes to summarize, in the case of this device I do not really know where to start, as it sound is so round and complete as I expected.

Being it a wonderful device, if anything stands out that is the bass. I have really been very impressed with the way in which the RI-100 manages the bottom of the sound spectrum. The authority, profusion of resources and articulation, reproducing the deepest frequencies, is so great you cannot believe it is an integrated you are hearing, honestly, I do not really expect anything like this to come knocking on my door often. What a power!

In addition, everything else is extremely round and adequate, pleasant and powerful middle, precise treble without being incisive, balanced scene and unrestricted dynamics. Could I ask for more? Well, I think so. If it was in my hands, and given the difficult economic situation, I would ask for a more affordable price, not only for this device but for many others too.

And this leads us to consider the following: Yes, oh yes! It’s expensive! But in return the Vitus Audio RI-100 brings us so close to what a preamp-power amp system of similar power provides that one, at times, must consider whether this is a high-priced integrated amplifier or otherwise the bargain of the century. Personally I prefer to think the latter, because for a few days I have been gifted with an amazingly good sound and that, in most cases, allowed me to enjoy the music without missing my set of pre-amp and mono power amplifiers; definitely a real achievement and not at all insignificant.

My most sincere congratulations to Vitus Audio for this music device, the importer for for lending me such an object of desire. Honestly, it is great to test devices like this if only to relive the musical experience again and get transported back to those moments of enjoyment as I write the review. That good is the IR-100. What more can be said?

……Alberto Pascual

to many, the RI-100 will present a neat one-box solution that eschews component clutter and additional expensive interconnecting cables while rewarding with superb solid-state sound.
Edgar Kramer

REVIEW SUMMARY: The power output available on tap resulted in a stress-free, effortless sound that at no time exhibited signs of struggle. This amp will drive just about anything with assurance.

The vocal range is perhaps the most important—and some say the most difficult— part of the spectrum to re-create faithfully. The RI-100 sailed through all-manners of vocal tracks. Male or female, from Diana Krall to Chris Jones, the Vitus did an outstanding job of presenting a vocalist in the room. The Vitus’ sound signature, with its inherent marginal warmth, portrayed voices with body, presence and in a solid three-dimensional image. This carried through to acoustic guitar where the cavity of the instrument and the string’s reaction to the pluck of nail and skin had equal solidity in tone and spatially. And for a solid-state amp, the RI-100 pulled a great trick: it provided all the detail you’d imagine would be in the pits and bits (or grooves) without becoming hard or glassy. This it would do at all volume settings right up to the limits of its rating, the speakers’ integrity, and the health of my ears.

The RI-100 excelled at resolving multi-layer strands while retaining the minutiae of detail, especially in the mids and highs. The track builds to a point where a short crescendo snaps out of the quiet. Again the Vitus handled the startling transient with uncompressed dynamic range and a terrifi c sense or air and space in the choral female voice section that follows. What’s more, Browne’s voice is imparted with a warmth and fullness that takes away most of the sibilance that can plague this track in some systems.

The Vitus’ extraordinary resolution passed on the full scale of the recording to the speakers, creating a massive soundstage laterally and fore and aft.

For a company that specialises in the über high-end—its flagship mono amps have been chosen as this year’s amplification of choice at webzine Ultra Audio’s ‘The World’s Best Audio System 2012’—the RI-100 has been conceptualised as an entry point with a generous taste of the fare that resides in Vitus’ upper tiers. At the price of admission is still considerable but, to many, the RI-100 will present a neat one-box solution that eschews component clutter and additional expensive interconnecting cables while rewarding with superb solid-state sound. If this be a stepping stone into the Vitus sound, I’d have to say that, yes....

EXTENDED REVIEW: The area of the audio industry that has defiantly laughed in the face of the gloom and doom of the GFC, quite perplexingly, is the high-end audio niche. Over the last few years, a plethora of companies has been reaching ever-higher, like salmon swimming upstream against the economic tide, into stratospheric costs of acquisition. I mean, in the last three or four years, CES has been a virtual spawning ground for all-manner of over $50K speakers, amplifiers—and even source components. All vie for distributor and media attention.

And while low- to mid-level audio specialists cut costs and scramble to maintain market share, many of these high-end niche companies seem to grow and prosper. Ergo, a few years ago, outside of their native countries, few in the industry had heard of such high-priced offerings from names such as Behold, CH Precision, Constellation Audio, Soulution, TAD (consumer), Technical Brain, or ZenSati… to name just a few. Industry pioneers such as Dan D’Agostino and Mark Levinson have swelled the über high-end ranks with their respective new endeavours D’Agostino Master Audio Systems and Daniel Hertz. Even stalwart brands are launching new products above their previous flagship price points: Boulder, KEF, Luxman and Sonus Faber being cases in point. And don’t get me started on expensive cables…

Denmark’s Vitus Audio is a company that has been making superb products that easily fi t the criteria of exclusivity. Founder and chief designer Hans-Ole Vitus launched his company in 2003 and has been steadily raising its profile within the high-end industry by way of delivering products of outstanding sonic and design quality, by having an almost ubiquitous major show presence, and by presenting a persona that, as affable as it is, is fi rmly grounded in engineering and science.

Vitus has also managed a neat trick—no doubt aided by a strong Danish tradition in design excellence—in that its products are aesthetically extremely simple, yet they’re easily recognisable as a Vitus product. 

There’s no mistaking the elegance and beauty of the designs for anyone else’s— they could not possibly be any visually simpler, yet confoundedly, they’re totally and beautifully distinctive.

The RI-100 is a bit of a powerhouse and departs from Vitus’ other amplification products in that, unlike its Class-A stable mates, this integrated amp is said to be free of any capacitors in the signal path. Reflecting other Vitus design philosophies, the RI-100 employs zero global feedback and is what Vitus calls ‘a true balanced design’.

Size is everything when it comes to an amplifier’s power supply so to that end the main custom transformer is a substantial 1.4kVA while a capacitor bank of 120,000µF is used per channel. Vitus says this combo delivers 300-watts per side into 8Ω. Input options are by way of two RCA unbalanced and three XLR balanced. An unbalanced RCA output can feed a subwoofer while balanced XLR outputs can be used to feed a separate power amp while using the RI-100 preamp stage. High quality speaker binding posts are used and allow easy hand tightening over spades while also accommodating the use of banana terminations. The rear panel features two slots which can be filled with optional DAC and phono stage modules. In the case of the latter, the second RCA input becomes the phono input while a ground terminal is also provided. A central IEC mains power socket rounds out the connectivity

The Vitus, as I made clear, is certainly an elegant-looking product. The function controls, fi t and finish, and machined from-solid front panel are top notch stuff, although the U-shaped panel that forms the top and sides is of rather standard finish, albeit formed from quite heavy gauge steel. Centred between the large aluminium slabs on the front panel is a black acrylic window which provides amber readouts of input used, volume level and more. Banks of three fl ush buttons on either side provide access to various functions. On the left hand side you can select input, go into the RI-100’s menu and switch the amp in and out of standby. The other side’s bank addresses volume up and down and mute. Finally, an Apple remote control replicates most of the fascia’s functions and, coincidentally, provides an aesthetic and indeed very practical solution. The RI-100 weighs in at a substantial 42kg.

VITALLY VITUS 

The RI-100 was presented with the not-insubstantial duty of driving my reference Wilson Audio Sasha W/P. And drive them well it did. The Vitus came through with a vitality and spring-in-its-midrange-step that drove the music along. This meant that rock, for example, was handled with dynamic and transient attack dexterity. The experience was also enhanced by a bass register that was certainly generous and bloomy (this was tested with two very different speakers and in different rooms). Consequently, with rock and some jazz, the bass-full sound brought excitement and body to what can sometimes be lean recordings in these genres. Bass-heavy productions, however, could go the other way and have the whole sonic meal a tad overcooked. But as they say, your mileage may vary; hook-up somewhat lean ancillaries and the Vitus will impart glorious flesh-in-the-bone sustenance. Like all quality audio, the key is in the synergy.

The RI-100’s midrange and top-end were outstanding and up with the very best of solid-state amplification. The brief, I believe, was to emulate as closely as possible the Class-A sound of Vitus’ upper echelon amplification with an ‘entry-level’ Class-AB design. Not having compared the company’s two product classes, I am unable to comment other than to say that the resolute and organic sound qualities of Class-A can be said to be present in the RI-100.

The vocal range is perhaps the most important—and some say the most difficult— part of the spectrum to re-create faithfully. The RI-100 sailed through all-manners of vocal tracks. Male or female, from Diana Krall to Chris Jones, the Vitus did an outstanding job of presenting a vocalist in the room. The Vitus’ sound signature, with its inherent marginal warmth, portrayed voices with body, presence and in a solid three-dimensional image. This carried through to acoustic guitar where the cavity of the instrument and the string’s reaction to the pluck of nail and skin had equal solidity in tone and spatially. And for a solid-state amp, the RI-100 pulled a great trick: it provided all the detail you’d imagine would be in the pits and bits (or grooves) without becoming hard or glassy. This it would do at all volume settings right up to the limits of its rating, the speakers’ integrity, and the health of my ears.

Of course, the power output available on tap resulted in a stress-free, effortless sound that at no time exhibited signs of struggle. This amp will drive just about anything with assurance.

An all-round great test disc is Jackson Browne’s The Naked Ride Home, especially the tribute track Sergio Leone. It starts with low level instrumental layers that can test system and component resolution. The RI-100 excelled at resolving multi-layer strands while retaining the minutiae of detail, especially in the mids and highs. The track builds to a point where a short crescendo snaps out of the quiet. Again the Vitus handled the startling transient with uncompressed dynamic range and a terrifi c sense or air and space in the choral female voice section that follows. What’s more, Browne’s voice is imparted with a warmth and fullness that takes away most of the sibilance that can plague this track in some systems.

A similar story prevails with Ani Di Franco’s Amazing Grace from the live CD Living in Clip. The recording engineers managed to capture an enormous ambience in this track and when a system is resolving well the illusion of being in a massive arena is uncanny. The Vitus’ extraordinary resolution passed on the full scale of the recording to the speakers, creating a massive soundstage laterally and fore and aft.

CONCLUSION

For a company that specialises in the über high-end—its flagship mono amps have been chosen as this year’s amplification of choice at webzine Ultra Audio’s ‘The World’s Best Audio System 2012’—the RI-100 has been conceptualised as an entry point with a generous taste of the fare that resides in Vitus’ upper tiers. At the price of admission is still considerable but, to many, the RI-100 will present a neat one-box solution that eschews component clutter and additional expensive interconnecting cables while rewarding with superb solid-state sound. If this be a stepping stone into the Vitus sound, I’d have to say that, yes....

… Edgar Kramer

The Q7 Loudspeakers and RI-100 Integrated Amplifier - An Unusual Match Made in Heaven
Robert Youman

REVIEW SUMMARY: Did I mention that bass performance is as good as it gets? The RI-100 can handle the most demanding low frequencies with an iron grip, Texture and slam is the best. Let me be clear, the sound is not lean! If you love a certain amount of warmth and additional bloom to your bass, look elsewhere. No overhang, no mid bass hump—just a vivid articulate presentation that will make you believe.

Highs and mids are wonderfully fleshed out without excessive bite or grain. Strings, woodwinds, and female vocals are always a tough challenge. I have never heard better on vinyl, 

Soundstage is vast and extensive beyond the speakers when the music calls for it. You will not find any manipulation or false dimensions as you listen deep into the recording venue. Imaging is consistently superb and almost holographic with the very best recordings. You don't have to lean into the music to see and hear these variables, just sit back and absorb.

The XA160.5 plays it close, but it cannot keep up with the RI-100 in terms of transparency and transient speed when driving the Q7s, I am talking at all frequencies here.....the XA160.5 lacks the bass slam and depth of the RI-100. 

The Krell Evolution 400e mono blocks ($24,000) rated at 400 watts into 8 ohms is an interesting comparison. However, matched up with the Q7s, I still found the RI-100 to have a slightly more refined and natural presentation in the highs and the mids. Micro and macro dynamics were just more realistic.

For the first time, I have a true sense of the musical power and undercurrent needed from the orchestra to make you feel like you are experiencing close to the real thing. Driven by the RI-100, the Q7s have the unique ability to move so much air and with such immediacy and information, that you will be blown away by the experience. Finally we can just converge into the music and forget about the equipment. Isn't this the goal for all of us?

The synergy (between Vitus RI-100 & Q7s) is both bewitching and brilliant. We talk about discrete things like specifications, technology and response, but these two have simply brought tremendous satisfaction and joy into my listening room. A seductive assault on the senses? Yes! An emotional connection with reality? Yes!

I was recently invited out for some sailing along the Chicago lakefront on a beautiful clear sunny day. We were just a mile or two out, cruising on a Bob Perry design Baba 30 Sailboat (30 feet long) which I am told is one of the finest ever for "bluewater" enjoyment. I know little about sailing, but I knew this was something special the moment we stepped aboard and set out to Lake Michigan.

Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Quality, craftsmanship, and performance are things you can usually understand and feel, even with no specific knowledge or experience. As a comparison, I often see this with non-audiophile friends when they hear a superbly set up audio system for the first time. You can see it in their eyes, their smiles, and sometimes even in their tapping toes.

If you have never seen a major city skyline from the lake or ocean side perspective, you are missing something quite spectacular. At 5 or 6 knots, the feeling is like an explosion to your senses—and I mean all of your senses!

The Chicago skyline view is extensive, many miles from north to south. Parks, bridges, marinas, and building after building of world-class architecture that never seems to end. The blue shades of water and sky provide a framework around the brick, steel, and glass of every color imaginable. It takes your breath away.

Beyond the incredible visionary impact, the sounds, and even the smells, are overwhelming. You can hear the rustle of people and cars at this distance. Boats of every size and domain along with the many sweeping seagulls in the sky set an aural background that whirls around you. The fresh lake air and streaming wind off the bow opens up your eyes and nostrils in excitement.

Yes, this was quite a memorable day. Hopefully I have not described a feeling that is too over-the-top (my apologies upfront for the drama), but this is the closest thing that I can compare to my experience with the Magico Q7 speakers and Vitus Audio RI-100 integrated amplifier. I will reiterate later in detail, but let's just get the cat out of the bag upfront. The sound with these two components working in tandem was an absolute amazing assault on the senses.

The aural landscape was vast, sensational, and breathtaking—almost overpowering on certain music. The emotional connection was like nothing else I have experienced for two-channel audio. For the very best recordings, the experience, at times, seemed real.

You can please sit down now, or stop screaming at me, or both. Yes, I used the word "real." I need not apologize. In this case, it is appropriate. Again, sorry for the drama.

Review System

Magico Q7 Speakers
Vitus RI-100 Integrated Amp (w/phono stage)
Playback Designs MPS-5 CD/SACD/DAC
VPI Aries Extended Turntable
VPI 12.6 Memorial Tonearm
Van den Hul Frog Cartridge
Kubala Sosana Elation Power Cords, Interconnects and Speaker Cable
Synergistic Audio Element CTS Power Cords, Interconnects and Speaker Cable
MIT SL-Matrix50 Interconnects and SL-Matrix90 Speaker Cable
Synergistic Research PowerCell10 MKIII Power Conditioner
Magico QPod Footers

Set Up

I would be remiss if I did not give a big shout out and thank you to the folks at both Vitus Audio and Magico. Though always traveling the world, or on rare occasions located at headquarters in Denmark, Hans-Ole Vitus was extremely responsive with email and setup advice almost daily. His helpful suggestions and honesty were much appreciated. This man also has quite a sense of humor. Check it out if you ever have an opportunity at one of the major shows.

Alon Wolf, Irv Gross, and Dave Shakleton from Magico were also there at every turn (literally). There was some question about getting these 750 pound beasts into my basement listening room. Alon gave me his personal assurance. "If you can get them through the door—it can be done." My wife looked away and hid her eyes at the first turn on the staircase, and all I could think of was that famous Antoine de Saint-Exupery line, "What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step." One hour later, and with the steady hands of four 300 pound piano movers (two were wearing Green Bay Packer tee shirts), the Q7s were safely in place.

I also must thank Mick Survance at Quintessence Audio located in Morton Grove, Illinois. Mick has helped me set up several systems over many, many years. "In Mick's Ears I Trust" should be framed and posted on my wall. I have said it before, you can buy through the Internet, but are you really saving money? In the end, a good dealer with years of experience can help you avoid poor choices, endless swapping, and much frustration. Component selection for ultimate synergy is both science and art. I have found that proper speaker setup can be a revelation in the right hands.

"Yeoman" Of The Guards - Protecting the Crown Jewels

The Q7s were not difficult to set up. Mick and Irv were very patient, and followed a true time tested process. After starting with some basic room dimensions and placement, out came the tape measure and the laser. By ear, one speaker at a time was repositioned for best bass response and rake angle. Lastly, both gentlemen used their favorite music tracks to make final tweaks.

All I can say is thank goodness for Teflon furniture moving pads. With smiles from ear to ear, they pointed to my listening chair and asked me to sit and take a listen. The speakers were located further into the back corners, further apart and closer to the back walls than I would have guessed. I never felt inclined to reposition them differently. It was magic from the beginning.

Bottom line: these folks care. They are proud of their products. They want things to sound their very best. They want their customers to be happy. It's that simple. Thanks guys!

Caveat Emptor

System synergy and personal taste are critical when evaluating high-end audio products. This review is based on my subjective requirements, my subjective ears, and my specific system and listening room. These combinations of components are only a few data points of many that exist out there. For further insight into my personal biases, check out the "Meet the Writers" section of Positive Feedback. Please consider my comments and analysis appropriately.

Consolidation & Simplicity

Sacrilegious Thoughts
When I told several audiophile friends about the sound that was flowing from this review system, the reaction was consistently curious, troubled, and in awe—all at the same time. Knowing my sometimes unfair and discriminating ears, and my benchmarks from past systems, they all wanted to come over as soon as possible for a listen. The descriptors that I was using had never come from my lips before. However, wasn't this sacrilegious? Wasn't the configuration of this system in direct contradiction to common audiophile logic? Why was I ignoring the so called fundamental laws of proper component selection and system investment?

How dare I use an integrated amp with speakers like the Magico Q7s? Even the RI-100 with all its royal lineage as a Vitus Audio product could not possibly be appropriate! Separates are a must! From an investment perspective, is there not a golden rule that you should always spread your money as evenly as possible between all your components: speakers, amplification, wire, resonance, etc.? If not, basic principles dictate that the best of each will not be realized.

Well folks, I am not really known as an out of the box thinker, but in this case I say "forgetta about it" as Tony Soprano might proclaim. The rules do not apply. Call me a rebel, or even slightly misguided, but I sometimes enjoy breaking the rules when I can find a logical and reasonable way to do it!

Would the Q7s ($185,000) sound better with a preamp and big mono block amplifiers from Vitus, Constellation, Solution, or VAC—an investment in the $100K range or more? Maybe. Well, probably. The Catch 22 is that I have never heard these combinations in my system or in my listening room. I have heard these products at shows with other speakers, and they are all superb, but until I get that opportunity I am more than just pleased with the RI-100 ($16,000 with phono stage). Considering the law of diminishing returns at these prices and the quality of sound that I have experienced, how much more could I possibly realise for the money? This system is so rewarding and satisfying as is, I cannot imagine anything much better. Still sacrilegious you say? Maybe. Read on.

If you have kept up with my reviews over the years, you know I am very much into integrated amplifiers. If you can find something that performs like the RI-100 you can save on interconnects, power cords, and resonance devices. You can use these funds to upgrade your other components (including wire and resonance), or just leave it in the bank for other priorities—not a bad thing at all. You do lose some flexibility to tweak the sound presentation without a separate preamp and amplifier from different manufacturers, but I like the whole concept of one vision and one voicing behind the design. Also, you have no worries about how the interconnects between both, and the power cords for both, might be altering the final output.

I love the clean look of one box solutions with minimum wire and platforms. My wife also supports this philosophy. Don't forget that for most families, the wife or significant other typically has an equal vote if not the power of attorney for the big decisions. Maybe that only applies to my family. Maybe not.

Now don't scream foul. There are many potential models out there. As just one example, I would guess that for this level of investment, you might just find the following number of boxes in a typical two channel system:

two speakers
two subwoofers
two monoblock amplifiers
preamp
preamp power supply
CD/SACD/transport
DAC
DAC power supply
laptop
two hard drives for music files and backup
phono preamp
phono preamp power supply
turntable
turntable synchronous drive
power conditioning and distribution center

I'm not even going count up the resonance platforms, speaker cable, interconnects, and power cords for all. I understand that many components do not have stand alone power supplies, but at this price level it is not uncommon. Subwoofers are not loved by all, but I have seen more and more in some very sophisticated systems. When used, two subwoofers are almost the norm these days. It's also not unusual to see a couple pairs of optional front ends from the list above—separate CD and SACD players, two turntables, etc. All I can say is OUCH! My wife's comments are unprintable for this family periodical.

I kind of like the looks and sound of this current configuration under review. Check out the pictures below. One pair of speakers that handle the entire frequency spectrum like the Q7s. One integrated amp like the RI-100. A one box CD/SACD/DAC solution like the Playback Designs MPS-5.

If I fall in love with any new wire products or resonance control devices, I will not have to go nuts worrying about purchasing them for the entire system (each box). Or, grinding away thinking about that one $3K power cord that I did not have the funds to implement and match to the rest of the system.

I can't quite give up yet on my turntable as it still warms my soul like nothing else. As discussed below, the RI-100 now has an optional integrated phono stage (one less box). However, the day may come that if the budget or space will not allow, I can be a very happy camper with only one digital front end. I say this based on the amazing killer sound emanating from several new DACs, DSD, and double DSD music files that are now hitting the market. This includes the Playback Designs MPS-5 with the latest software upgrade that I am using for this review. I know. I know. Yowzer! Even more sacrilegious words!

Have an open mind and some long term vision! I recently enjoyed a wonderful presentation by Peter McGrath at Audio Consultants in Libertyville, Illinois. Thanks to Simon Zreczny and his crew for hosting such an enlightening event. Mr. McGrath never fails to entertain and delight. He was using a simple laptop music server and all Ayre components driving a pair of the new Wilson Audio Alexia speakers. His DSD files of Nat King Cole, Elton John, and especially Bill Evans (the exquisite Waltz with Debbierecording) were absolutely sensational. I felt closer to the master tapes than ever before.

Now settle down please. Stop throwing those tomatoes and cabbages on stage! Bottom line—if simplifying and finding a superb performer like the RI-100 allows you to afford and own speakers like the Q7s, I say go for it. There, I've said it. I feel much better.

Vitus Audio RI-100 Integrated Amplifier

The RI-100 is without compromise from any possible perspective or listening criteria. Remember now, that's just my humble opinion based on my listening biases. It provides some of the most neutral, detailed, and transparent sound that I have heard in my listening room. The RI-100 is lightning-quick. There is no edge or whiteness along for the ride as with many solid state designs. Timbre, pitch, and tone are spot on. There is no romance—all artificial harmonics are stripped away, and you are left with the real thing.

Did I mention that bass performance is as good as it gets? The RI-100 can handle the most demanding low frequencies with an iron grip, and the Q7s are the perfect vehicle to prove it. At 88 pounds, 300 watts per channel into 8 ohms, and 600 watts per channel into 4 ohms, the RI-100 is a beast and has power to burn. Texture and slam is the best. Let me be clear, the sound is not lean! If you love a certain amount of warmth and additional bloom to your bass, look elsewhere. No overhang, no mid bass hump—just a vivid articulate presentation that will make you believe.

Highs and mids are wonderfully fleshed out without excessive bite or grain. Strings, woodwinds, and female vocals are always a tough challenge. I have never heard better on vinyl, SACDs, and 192 files. Even well recorded CDs can raise the hair on the back of your neck as Yo Yo Ma, John Coltrane, or Sarah Vaughn work their way into a frenzy. Like no other amplifier I have experienced, piano recordings finally have the correct weight, timbre, and inner density.

Soundstage is vast and extensive beyond the speakers when the music calls for it. You will not find any manipulation or false dimensions as you listen deep into the recording venue. Imaging is consistently superb and almost holographic with the very best recordings. You don't have to lean into the music to see and hear these variables, just sit back and absorb.

Comparisons

To my ears, and compared to other impressive amplifiers that have graced my listening room, the RI-100 still stands tall and strong, if not without peer, when paired with the Q7s. With what I had on hand during this review, and with help from friends, I was able to evaluate three additional amplifiers. All are well respected high performing products and might match better with your own listening biases. The Q7s are an excellent tool for evaluating and comparing these combinations—the best evaluating tool that I have experienced. Every small change in the system could easily be heard and differentiated.

As insinuated earlier, I hope that I may have the opportunity to hear the Q7s down the road with some of those products with MSRPs that make your head spin. Having said that, many of the amplifiers discussed below, and the sound that they can provide, are very familiar to most Positive Feedback readers. Synergy realised with the Q7s can still be informative and educational.

The Pass Labs XA160.5 mono blocks ($22,000) have that signature.The XA160.5 plays it close, but it cannot keep up with the RI-100 in terms of transparency and transient speed when driving the Q7s, I am talking at all frequencies here. Matched with the Pass Labs XP-20 preamp ($8600), the XA160.5 lacks the bass slam and depth of the RI-100. 

Paired with the Pass Labs XP-20 preamp, the Krell Evolution 400e mono blocks ($24,000) rated at 400 watts into 8 ohms is an interesting comparison. However, matched up with the Q7s, I still found the RI-100 to have a slightly more refined and natural presentation in the highs and the mids. Micro and macro dynamics were just more realistic.

RI-100 Phono Stage

The RI-100 has been out for some time now, but the new player in the ball game is the optional integrated phono stage. Even at $1000, this phono stage cannot be considered an afterthought. Nothing is from Vitus Audio.

Overall gain is 65dB which suits well for most moving magnet (MM) cartridges, and many high output moving coil (MC) cartridges. Cartridges with at least .50 mV of output are recommended for proper compatibility. There is no switching for MM and MC settings, but specific impedance loads can be custom ordered and set at the factory, or delivered off the shelf at 100 ohms.

I use a Van den Hull Frog MC cartridge with a relatively high output of .85 mV. It was a piece of cake for the RI-100. I have used the Frog at many different settings depending on the phono stage. Yes, I wish I could play with the impedance, but at this price I was happy to get as much quality and investment into the actual circuit design.

Based on my past experience, guidance from Hans-Ole, and discussions with my friends at VPI Industries (always a good source for advice on anything analog and they have considerable experience with all VdH cartridges), I had the factory set the impedance load at 1000 ohms.

What do you get for your $1000? Again, not much of a cash outlay compared to the other equipment in this system, but I would call this option an absolute steal! We are not talking here about the Vitus Audio MP-P201 phono stage ($60,000), yet the level of transparency and natural bloom is outstanding at all frequencies. Bass seemed just slightly truncated if at all, but highs were exciting with plenty of life and proper harmonics. Soundstage and imaging were impressive.

If like me you want to eliminate boxes, or if you are seeking some additional flexibility until investing more later, this is a no brainer.

Magico Q7 Speakers

My focus here is on the sound. I will not go into all the extraordinary specifications and design choices for the Magico Q7 speakers. The Q7s are an engineering marvel. Please see the graphic below and the Magico website for additional details. Needless to say, the Q7s are an aesthetic and technical tour de force.

You can take the first four paragraphs above for the RI-100 and paste them in right here. Well, rather than have you back track, I am actually going to do that for you. My apologies for the redundancy, but these two products speak the same language. Just want to reaffirm the point about synergy.

The Magico Q7 speakers are without compromise from any possible perspective or listening criteria. They can provide some of the most neutral, detailed, and transparent sound that I have heard in my listening room. The Q7s are lightning quick. There is no edge or whiteness along for the ride. Timbre, pitch, and tone is spot on. There is no romance—all artificial harmonics are stripped away, and you are left with the real thing.

When driven by the right equipment, the Q7s can handle the most demanding low frequencies with an iron grip. Texture and slam is the best. Let me be clear, the sound is not lean. If you love a certain amount of warmth and additional bloom to your bass, look elsewhere. No overhang, no mid bass hump—just a vivid articulate presentation that will make you believe.

Highs and mids are wonderfully fleshed out without excessive bite or grain. Strings, woodwinds, and female vocals are always a tough challenge. I have never heard better on vinyl, SACDs, and 192 files. Even well recorded CDs can raise the hair on the back of your neck as Yo Yo Ma, John Coltrane, or Sarah Vaughn work their way into a frenzy. Like no other transducer that I have experienced, piano recordings finally have the correct weight, timbre, and inner density.

Soundstage is vast and extensive beyond the speakers when the music calls for it. You will not find any manipulation or false dimensions as you listen deep into the recording venue. Imaging is consistently superb and almost holographic with the very best recordings. You don't have to lean into the music to see and hear these variables, just sit back and absorb.

The biggest compliment that I can give the Q7 speakers is that they are like chameleons. They have no limitations as far as my ears can tell, they reflect whatever is handed off. Matched with components based on your specific listening biases, you can build a killer system that will satisfy your personal taste and needs like never before. In my case, the RI-100 fits the bill nicely.

Talk about dynamic punch and thunder! Trumpets have the correct amount of blat and aggression without edge. You can clearly hear the reedy woody smack and jump factor on clarinets and saxophones. Violin and viola are easy to differentiate—even on digital recordings. You can sense the bow skating along the strings and rosin floating in the air on acoustic bass. There is never any confusion when listening to steel versus nylon strings on acoustic guitar.

Music

Musica Nuda - Petra Magoni & Ferruccio Spinetti (CD)
I know that many who regularly attend the big audio shows will probably sneer, but this recording can be very revealing and useful. Lately, it seems like every show demonstration either begins or ends with this CD. Since so many are familiar, the hope is that you can relate to what I am trying to communicate and how special the RI-100 and Q7 combination can be.

This is basically a closely miked recording of an acoustic bass player and female vocalist. There is a wonderful flair and entertainment to the delivery. All of the tracks are covers of hits from various rock bands, soul singers and even movie soundtracks.

I find the sound of this CD to be right on the fence for that "musical" vs. "truth to the source" discussion. If your system is just slightly analytical, you will feel the pain as acoustic bass and vocals kick in on certain passages.

Track one is "Eleanor Rigby" by the Beatles. From the first note, the sound quality will surprise and startle you. Ferrucio bangs away at his acoustic bass with some amazing sizzle and authority. There are plenty of thrilling dynamic shifts as the performance rattles through your listening room. I have never heard bass reproduced like this before. So much speed. So much detail. Tight! Tight! Tight! Yet never analytical with just the right amount of bloom and weight.

When Petra ramps up at the end of the song, the words "all the lonely people, where do they all come from?" are repeated over and over again until a brilliant vocal crescendo reaches its peak. Despite all the drama, with the Q7 and RI-100, her voice is just as natural and flowing as running water.

This is not always the case. More often than not, I have been forced to leave a listening room while this CD was playing—even with many cost no object systems. Not this time. I stayed glued to my chair and my smile never left either!

Duke Ellington – Dukes Big 4 (CD)
This is one of my go to CDs for evaluating piano reproduction. Duke Ellington in a small group session is something special. This one took place in 1973 at the tender age of 74 on the Pablo label. The JVC XRCD release is my favourite version of many available.

Despite the advance of father time, Duke was still swinging with the best back in the 1970s. The quartet also includes Joe Pass on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Louis Bellson on drums. Produced by Norman Granz and engineered by Val Valentin, this was an all-star team from virtually any perspective. Track 4, "Prelude to a Kiss" is the highlight of the session and is considered by many as one of the classic compositions of the jazz era.

There is a tremendous amount of ambiance and air to this recording. The RI-100 and Q7s lock in the recording venue, the musicians, and the instruments like no other combination that I have experienced. The speakers disappear and you can feel the joy and sweat and the concentration of all four. These folks are having a blast and thank gosh Granz and Valentin were there to capture it. Glorious!

You have heard it before. Piano is extremely difficult to record and reproduce correctly. There is a certain amount of articulation, impact and realistic timbre that is needed to get it right. No problem here with our dynamic duo. In this case, we also get an almost holographic view into the body of the instrument and the location of the key board as Ellington gracefully and melodically strides through the keys.

There is a sweetness to the rhythm section that belies digital recordings. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of power and drive that also comes through, but you don't need to consciously seek out any spatial queues or inflections, they spontaneously roll off the stage as if the genuine thing was right there before you.

Rimsky-Korsakov: Scheherazade – Fritz Reiner: Conductor - Chicago Symphony Orchestra (LP)

The Classic Records 45 rpm two record set of this recording is a joy to behold. Long an audiophile classic on 33 rpm vinyl, you just might think that you are hearing it for the first time.

The 45 rpm format, the RI-100, and the Q7s will throw a soundstage at you well beyond the speakers and in all directions. Violins and double bass light up the sound stage and make you squirm in delight. Woodwinds and brass are dazzling and colourful. My favourite instruments here are harp and flute—imaging and tone are superb as they enter and exit the score. For me, there is no other RCA Living Stereo recording that can compete. The seduction and majesty of the CSO is overwhelming.

I have listened to the CSO at Orchestral Hall, Medinah Temple, and Ravinia. Obviously, never with Reiner and this particular orchestra, but will Georg Solti in the 1990s do? There is something beguiling about hearing a world class group of musicians like this up close and personal. An appropriate amount of foundation and weight never seems to come through in a big orchestral symphony—whether it be on CD or vinyl. I'd love to hear a DSD version. Mr. McGrath (Wilson Audio) and Mr. Kassem (Acoustic Sounds)—are you listening?

For the first time, I have a true sense of the musical power and undercurrent needed from the orchestra to make you feel like you are experiencing close to the real thing. Driven by the RI-100, the Q7s have the unique ability to move so much air and with such immediacy and information, that you will be blown away by the experience. Finally we can just converge into the music and forget about the equipment. Isn't this the goal for all of us?

Wire & Power Conditioning

I have to be relatively brief here as I have not had the time yet to fully evaluate new products from Synergistic Research and MIT, delivered just before deadline. As mentioned earlier, the good news is that the RI-100 and Q7 allow you to see and hear into every small change in the system like a Carl Zeiss camera lens. Experimenting with wire can be a very instructive exercise.

For the last three years, my standard for speaker cable, interconnects, and power cords have been the Kubala Sosna Elation. There was never any reason to change, though I have auditioned several other high end products. The Elation is still my benchmark for midrange performance—a combination of natural harmonics and resolution that has not been surpassed (though possibly equaled—see below). Yet, on the frequency extremes and for soundstage and imaging, we may have some new contenders, which is a surprise. The Elation is that good.

The new MIT SL-Matrix products are not your father's MIT. It's always impressive when top of the line technology finds its way to other price points in the portfolio. In this case we steal some thunder from MIT Oracle product development. First impressions indicate that I may have a new standard for bass performance. This is probably no surprise, as MIT has always been known for this quality, but what struck me is the level of unleashed sweeping mids and highs that I now hear. Stay tuned.

Like above, the Synergistic Research Element CTS products utilise trickle down technology from their flagship Galileo designs. At all frequencies, there is so much new information flowing into the listening room now that I find it difficult to take it all in. Active shielding is not new, but these folks have found a practical way to implement it with outstanding results. This stuff easily passes the goose bump test and enhances the RI-100/Q7 combination even further. A full review is in the works.

What has been a true revelation so far is the Synergistic Research Powercell 10 SE MKIII. I have not had good success with power conditioning products in the past. All definitely change the sound in one way or another. For some variables there is improvement. For others, not so much—maybe even a step back. My experience has been that in every case there just seems to be something wrong. The Powercell does not impede anything, but sorts out all the edge, smear, and distortion that I was never even aware of. It does it in a very natural and holistic way. It does this for everything that I plug into it. You know that I don't like to add boxes to the system. I cannot ignore what this box is doing. Be patient. I can't wait to get my impressions down on paper.

Summary

Well, this has been a very long adventure—six months in the making. As you can tell, I am quite enamoured with the Magico Q7 speakers and Vitus Audio RI-100 integrated amplifier. From my perspective, the synergy is both bewitching and brilliant. We talk about discrete things like specifications, technology and response, but these two have simply brought tremendous satisfaction and joy into my listening room. A seductive assault on the senses? Yes! An emotional connection with reality? Yes! Has this commitment to seek the truth finally been realised? Well, we shall see. The journey never ends. Don't you just love this hobby?

.......Robert Youman

RCD-100 created a truly huge sound, powerful and clean too, and it stayed clean even as the sound built up to that chorus where it everything is turned up to 11. The background vocals stayed clear and distinct, while the bass reached subterranean depths
Steve Harrris

REVIEW SUMMARY:  Listening to Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section [Contemporary/ Original Jazz Classics] I found that the Vitus gave a very neutral, clean presentation of this great small group recording. At the bottom end, you felt that Paul Chambers’ bass was full and rounded but with good definition, while in the midrange it captured Pepper’s complex saxophone sound, shifting moment by moment from confidence to an edgy nervousness – almost to hesitancy sometimes, before returning to magnificently powerful and fluid phrasing. 

I spent a lot of time listening to Patrica Barber’s 1999 album Companion [Blue Note 7243 5 22963 2 3], recorded live on her home turf at the Green Mill in Chicago with an audibly appreciative audience. On Barber’s dynamically challenging version of Bill Withers’ ‘Use Me’ the RCD-100 gave the full weight to Michael Arnopol’s bass, and highlighted the interplay between John McLean’s guitar and Barber’s voice.

Naturally, I also turned to Radio 3’s HD internet streaming, first catching up with the Nash Ensemble at LSO St Luke’s, with the Haydn ‘Gypsy Rondo’ piano trio. With the Vitus DAC, the streamed audio certainly captured the sometimes almost glutinous acoustic of St Luke’s, while the detail and clarity of sound here made it intriguing to wonder about the occasional ‘noises off’ that could be heard. More important, though, there was a fine presentation of the instrumentalists, with the piano sounding full and rounded, while violin and cello were tangibly realistic

Beautifully designed, built and finished, this piece of Nordic audio art aims at offering pride of ownership as well as faultless performance. With its USB input as well as S/PDIF, the RCD-100 offers a high-quality DAC function for digital sources including hi-res, but majors on simple elegance rather than facilities. It faces very strong competition at this elevated price level but has an appeal all of its own.

Cool Scandinavian style and purist electronics design inside make this high-end player/DAC an enticing contender. Can it deliver sound to match that high price tag? 

Back in 2003, Vitus Audio’s first products were its Reference Series RP-100 Phonostage and RL-100 Linestage, using battery power supplies. After that, Vitus went on to introduce its ambitious Signature Series, including balanced and unbalanced line preamplifiers, a phono stage, mono and stereo power amplifiers, and the SCD-010 CD player. This player used a Philips CDPro2LF drive, ‘stripped down to its basic mechanical and electronic parts and totally rebuilt,’ and was said to give a lower level of errors in reading the disc. 

Later, Vitus moved onwards and upwards with a no-holds-barred CD transport and DAC combination, the MP-T201 and MP-D201, in its Masterpiece series. But to provide a less costly option, Vitus also then revived its Reference Series, starting with the RI-100 integrated amplifier announced in 2010. 

ENTRY LEVEL? 

Now, as a companion to that model, comes the RCD-100 CD player reviewed here. As far as Vitus is concerned, this is an entry level model, but from a UK viewpoint, it’s firmly in the category of audiophile exotica. But as you’d expect from a new high-end CD player in 2012, the RCD-100 also functions as a DAC.

‘The RCD-100 is designed as a DAC with a drive,’ says Hans Ole Vitus, ‘so even though we have spent a large portion of the budget on modifying the drive itself, we have spent most of our engineering on the digital and analogue stages of the player. As for the USB interface, we have also focused on sound quality, and hence this interface is not plug and play – drivers are needed.’ 

Inside, the RCD-100 has a simpler chassis than the SCD-010, and no longer uses clock and sample-rate modules from Anagram. But it is still based on a heavily modified Sony SACD drive, using a combination of different materials for damping purposes. There is no damping between the drive and the main chassis however, so the platform or support on which the unit is placed will have an impact on sound quality when playing CDs.

Performance apart, those classy, understated looks will win most people over immediately. In this case the two fascia pieces are finished in a matte grey slate colour, which gives the impression of an almost grainless natural stone. 

This player is a completely manual top-loader. You slide the cover open, put on the disc and add the metal puck, fitted with six soft feet. As you move the lid through its last half-inch of travel to the closed position, a switch activates the transport and will start reading the CD’s Table of Contents, the display indication changing from ‘Open’ to ‘Reading,’ then briefly showing the number of tracks.

In fact, although that central glass panel runs almost the height of the fascia, the display itself only consists of a single line near the top, with the remote receiver ‘eye’ concealed in the centre and the elegant illuminated ‘VA’ logo providing a neat footnote below. It’s pretty minimalist, but it can indicate status and track times as well as menu functions.

BUTTON PUSHING

Either side of the display are arrays of three buttons, which provide basic transport operations and also give access to the setup menu. In ‘normal’ mode, ie, when just playing a disc, you can use the bottom left button to come out of Standby, then press the top one for Play. If the disc is already loaded, it will take about 6 seconds from pressing Play until the music starts. From closing the cover, it’s around 12.

On the right, the buttons straightforwardly provide Stop, Next track and Previous track. However, to use the RCD-100 as a DAC, for example, you need to enter ‘Menu mode’ by pressing the middle left button. Then the buttons above and below become up and down keys to scroll through the menu choices, which appear in the display. Menu options include switching inputs and outputs, digital volume control and display brightness. 

Beautiful as they are, the buttons are rather small and are also recessed slightly. They’re fine if you have slim, artistic fingers, but less pleasing if your digits resemble bananas rather than bhindi [okra]. 

This would hardly matter if the player could be driven entirely from the remote control. But although the Philips RC5-based handset will give you all the transport functions, it doesn’t duplicate the menu controls. So to change inputs or outputs, you need to use the front panel controls, and switching from the CD drive input to USB input, for example, will take half a dozen keystrokes.

BIG SPACES

Since the RCD-100 offers both balanced and unbalanced outputs, I first settled down to try both, using a CD copy of White EP from the Canadian duo Give [http//give. bandcamp.com, now only available as a download]. Playing the vibrantly recorded ‘Disappearing’ again and again, I found it nearly impossible to distinguish between the two modes. Which is probably as it should be, when using normal-length interconnects.

Although the RCD-100 can’t play SACD, I enjoyed listening to the CD layer on Rebecca Pidgeon’s The Raven [Chesky SACD329]. On the opening ‘Kalerka’ the player seemed to bring out the mellow warmth in the vocal, rather than the sheen at the top, while the accompaniment rolled on nicely. It was particularly telling on the title track, where the singer’s lovely yearning vocal quality is so well counterpointed by the string group.

With one of the several audiophile CD versions of Muddy Waters: Folk Singer [Discovery HDRCD 1001] the Vitus happily gave you the big space of the recording, as Muddy seemingly makes full use of the big echoey sound to create this recording’s unique atmosphere. And on ‘My Captain’ it was great to hear the interplay as the young Buddy Guy’s guitar accompanies and solos against the singer’s deep down rhythm part on the lower strings. Later you can hear the roles reverse with Guy playing rhythm figures under the scarifying sound of Muddy’s bottleneck playing.

Moving on to female vocal in a modern production, I put on Gwyneth Herbert’s Clangers And Mash [NaimEdge naimCD137]. On ‘Perfect Fit (Original)’ Gwyneth’s engaging vocal had warmth and intimacy; the handclaps were believable and catchy, while the ‘boingy’ bass drum had just the right weight and power. Actually the Vitus player did a great job on the album’s closing track, the plaintive unaccompanied vocal of ‘Midnight Oil’, especially in the final moments where you hear Gwyneth’s solitary footsteps crossing the stage and leaving the scene

For ‘Rolling In The Deep’ from Adele’s 21, the RCD-100 created a truly huge sound, powerful and clean too, and it stayed clean even as the sound built up to that chorus where it seems that everything is turned up to 11. Even the background vocals stayed clear and distinct, while the bass reached subterranean depths.

Listening to Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section [Contemporary/ Original Jazz Classics] I found that the Vitus gave a very neutral, clean presentation of this great small group recording. At the bottom end, you felt that Paul Chambers’ bass was full and rounded but with good definition, while in the midrange it captured Pepper’s complex saxophone sound, shifting moment by moment from confidence to an edgy nervousness – almost to hesitancy sometimes, before returning to magnificently powerful and fluid phrasing. 

Listening with a colleague to the first track ‘You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,’ we both laughed in delight at Philly Joe Jones’s incredible four-bar breaks. It was interesting to compare this with the same track played on a Naim CD3, which had an altogether more rough-hewn sound.

RADIO STREAMING

Fortunately, the RCD-100’s USB input is capable of handling 96kHz and 192kHz hi-res data. An impressive example was Dean Peer’s 2010 album Airborne [available in 24-bit/96kHz WAV form from www. deanpeer.com]. The mega-bassist’s incredible harmonics and huge sound came over really well.

Then I spent a lot of time listening to Patrica Barber’s 1999 album Companion [Blue Note 7243 5 22963 2 3], recorded live on her home turf at the Green Mill in Chicago with an audibly appreciative audience. On Barber’s dynamically challenging version of Bill Withers’ ‘Use Me’ the RCD-100 gave the full weight to Michael Arnopol’s bass, and highlighted the interplay between John McLean’s guitar and Barber’s voice.

Naturally, I also turned to Radio 3’s HD internet streaming, first catching up with the Nash Ensemble at LSO St Luke’s, with the Haydn ‘Gypsy Rondo’ piano trio. With the Vitus DAC, the streamed audio certainly captured the sometimes almost glutinous acoustic of St Luke’s, while the detail and clarity of sound here made it intriguing to wonder about the occasional ‘noises off’ that could be heard. More important, though, there was a fine presentation of the instrumentalists, with the piano sounding full and rounded, while violin and cello were tangibly realistic

It was fascinating, thanks to the BBC iPlayer, to be able to contrast this sound with that of pianist Nikolai Lugansky in the Wigmore Hall, and with the Britten Sinfonia in the more artificial-sounding grandeur of the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Then, with the Ulster and RTE Orchestras ‘together in the Ulster Hall’, playing Korngold and RimskyKorsakov, I was swept away. 
..... Steve Harris

You need to hear Vitus Audio's MP-P201. You need to hear it even if you haven't got the US$60k (excl sales tax) just so you know what awaits you, should you strike it rich.
Michael Fremer

REVIEW SUMMARY: Nor did such a degree of delineation sound artificial. It sounded as natural as when I hear the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall, with imaging, sound staging, and depth just as easily audible—not as compartmentalised musical workstations, but as part of an organic whole that some skeptics claim doesn't exist when you hear symphonic music live. It does.

The Vitus MP-P201's speed, transparency, three-dimensionality, frequency extension, rhythmic ability, musical grip, and any other parameter you could name—with the exception of what only tubes can do—took the overall sound to a new, exalted level. That Shostakovich performance sounded as convincingly "live" as I've ever heard from a recording.

EXTENDED REVIEW massive, two-box beauty from Denmark costs US$60,000 (excl sales tax) , and I wish I could tell you it wasn't really better in most ways than the already outlandishly priced and sonically superb Boulder 2008, but I can't.

No one spends this kind of money on a phono preamp unless its appearance and functionality are commensurate with its sound, and in the MP-P201 they are—even if there's only the RIAA curve, and no Mono button. However, what will get wealthy enthusiasts to drain $60k from their bank accounts will be the Vitus's unmistakably astonishing sound. Plug it in, play it, and compare it with whatever you own, and unless you are a confirmed tube-a-holic, if you've got the krone, prepare to shell out. Designer Hans-Ole Vitus claims that this method has already sold more than a few units of his mundanely named product.

The Vitus includes switchable, independently configurable balanced and single-ended inputs and a single balanced output. Pushbuttons select and save input sensitivity (125–500µV for MC) and loading for each input, the name of which can be selected from a list of 10 popular cartridge brands—or, in Text mode, you can enter your own.

Vitus offers a choice of four dealer-installed modules for resistive loading, only one of which can be installed at a time. Each includes 16 different resistances,. Two are MC only, and two offer both low impedance loading and 47k ohms, for those who have MC and MM cartridges. No alternate capacitive loadings are offered, but really—how many buyers will use an MM cartridge with a US$60,000 (excl sales tax) phono preamp?

Oh, No!

In direct comparisons with the Boulder 2008, the Vitus MP-P201 produced more of everything that anyone would want to hear from a solid-state phono preamp—and for twice the price but with considerably less functionality, it had better well! The first late evening I spent with it had me yelling, loudly and often, to no one in particular, "Are you f***ing kidding me?"

Just when I thought the dynamic and spatial potentials of an LP had been fully expressed, just when I thought the resolution of inner detail of the other top contenders I've heard had revealed all that was engraved in the grooves of some overly familiar vinyl, the Vitus proved me so wrong. Even casual listeners—such as my skeptical next-door neighbor, who visits periodically to hear the latest insanity—exclaimed profanely when he heard his requests through the Vitus.

Often, great amplifiers are described as "gripping" and "holding" the loudspeakers. The Vitus MP-P201 did that to the signal coming from the cartridge as no other phono preamp has in my experience. That effect rippled through the signal chain, improving the performance of everything it touched, and finally tightening its grip on the speakers themselves. It wasn't at all subtle—as a visiting speaker manufacturer heard the other day. Nor did it sound too mechanical or dry or "electronic"—though again, if you primarily value the continuousness and flow of tubes, while you'll be respectful of what the MP-P201 achieves, you might not be as impressed as I was.

The MP-P201's dynamic presentation at both ends of the scale was nothing short of ridiculous. Its bass extension, control, and weight were granitic. Its ability to tonally and spatially retrieve and resolve instruments and voices within a narrow frequency band produced a constant barrage of new information from some very familiar recordings.

Unexpected voices and instruments appeared in three-dimensional space from the most familiar recordings. These familiar recordings are almost part of my DNA, so suddenly hearing something completely new and obvious produced many "WTF" moments. Even after having sat mesmerised by that Shostakovich LP through both Boulders, hearing it now through the Vitus MP-P201 was yet another revelation of what's possible from vinyl playback specifically, and from musical reproduction in the home in general. The Vitus drew a line in the sand of its soundstage that produced images of the fronts of orchestras way back in space, with an unprecedented solidity and certainty of location. Every aspect of the spatial picture was equally solid and convincing, including the front-to-back layering of orchestral sections—even though this Melodiya/EMI is a very distant recording.

If you can look yourself in the eye and spend US$60,000 (excl sales tax)  on a phono preamp, you need to hear Vitus Audio's MP-P201. You need to hear it even if you haven't got the US$60k—just so you know what awaits you, should you strike it rich.
....... Michael Fremer

For a hand-made amplifier of this quality I assure you that the asking price is not excessive. I think it is a great product – in many ways the most impressive I’ve heard since the Connoisseur, which is praise indeed
Chris Thomas

REVIEW SUMMARY: configured as an integrated amplifier it is superb and as a power amplifier with the volume control disconnected it is just as impressive, only now its ultimate quality will also be dictated by the partnering pre-amplifier. I used it with the Lyra Connoisseur 4.2L SE line-stage and it was mighty. Ideally I would have liked a bit more gain and Vitus tells me that all production models to follow will indeed be more sensitive. But the transparency, separation and dynamic freedom that this combination produces mean that the music takes on new fascination and becomes even more beguiling. Working with the Lyra’s increased resolution I loved its ability to unravel intense and complex passages of music without ever dropping a stitch and it can be compelling and even hypnotic in its relentless and unerring sense of rhythmic drive and precision. The bandwidth increases and so does the amplifiers sense of control. The bass is now more persuasive than ever with improved pitch and leading-edge impact and as the midband spreads deeper and deeper that extra high frequency articulation and tonal layering and texture give the music a sense of unprocessed reality that is rare and tremendously enjoyable. Just when you think you have its measure it will surprise you by illustrating a new slant on musical pieces that you have heard a hundred times before. You will hear a melody line or a tempo change and new possibilities and instrumental relationships will open up. With the Lyra Connoisseur hook it into the SS-010 and you have something that sounds so musically natural and powerful that you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away. I suppose the power rating might be inadequate for those with larger rooms or exceptionally inefficient speakers but I reckon it will still be enough for most. And there are those for whom two inputs will not be sufficient. But its possibilities are appealing. You could use it, with complete satisfaction, as an integrated amplifier and set up like this it comprehensively crushes most pre/power opposition, even at twice its price.

EXTENDED REVIEW: It is no mean feat to jump two-footed into designing and manufacturing audio equipment. The two-channel market seems to be bursting at the seams despite the prophets of doom constantly telling us that it is forever shrinking. But to take that leap with your sights set firmly on the high-end and to have the conviction and belief that you have something genuinely new to offer is something else completely. Hans Ole Vitus, or just plain Vitus as he likes to be known, originally founded his company back in 1995 and was joined by longterm associate Anders Grove (who had been running cable manufacturer Argento) about a decade later. Vitus themselves describe Anders as “the weird inventor type” and that’s probably not a bad description of a man who apparently once constructed a speaker membrane from Quails eggs. That’s certainly weird enough for me. 

Vitus is based in Denmark, where the company design and hand-build several very interesting and expensive audio electronics and some equally serious cabling named Andromeda. Back in Issue 29 RG reviewed the battery powered RP 100 phono and RL-100 linestages from their Audio Statement series of products and was lost in admiration for what he was hearing. Now Vitus have produced a fascinating new amplifier in their Signature series and I have been fortunate enough to have been using it for the past couple of months and I have to confess that I too am smitten by the way their products make music. This amplifier, the SS-010, is a lot more affordable than the Audio Statement products and its unusual configuration is likely to broaden customer interest even more. 

So, is the SS-010 an integrated amplifier or a power amplifier with a volume control? Vitus himself reckons the latter because that was how it was originally designed, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story as it can function as both. In integrated guise it is limited to only two inputs (but that will be enough for most people) while the power amplifier section is only 25 watts. Not enough I hear you say. But wait and read on as this amplifier proves conclusively that not all watts are made equal and if this is really 25 watts, then that’s about all I need anyway. 

You want to know what this little Vitus is all about? Then try and pick it up by yourself, all 35 Kg of it. You can do it, but I’d advise you not to. Enlist the help of a friend because inside that beautifully constructed case is the heart of this design, a transformer that (relatively speaking) must be the biggest I have ever encountered given the size of the component itself. Behind the use of that particular UI 1400KVA unit (UI denotes the complex shape of the transformer core) lies a story in itself as Hans Ole Vitus has some firm and unconventional ideas on the subject, having spent literally years researching and experimenting with every possible transformer technology available. Despite being used in a number of high-end designs, Vitus dislikes toroidal transformers and believes that the only advantages they offer are those of small size and lower cost, factors that are of no concern in the manufacture of his amplifiers. The custom Vitus transformers, it is claimed, offer the level of stability and clarity that they are looking for and do away with the need for external power conditioners. They have low capacitive mains coupling, low magnetic radiation and very low voltage drop. Far from being another manufacturer talking up his own products his philosophy and intention is clear. He takes tremendous pride in using the best materials available, regardless of the costs involved, and this strict policy applies to every part of each design and that transformer is just one element of this thinking. 

The SS-010 has two inputs, one balanced and the other single-ended and either can be used as a pre-in when the unit is electronically configured as a power amplifier. This is achieved, as are all the other functions, through the very neat menu system which is accessed via the front panel buttons or the remote control unit. This particular amplifier was supplied with a Phillips Pronto unit that had been pre-programmed to operate the entire Vitus range, as the dedicated version was not yet available. When it does arrive I hope it will provide a broader window of acceptance than the Phillips, as you need to be virtually head-on to the unit to get it to accept commands. However, I fear not as the IR receiver is in the recessed portion of the front panel. The illuminated display offers you the ability to name each input, brighten or dim the display, select the distance between volume steps, bypass the pre-amp section completely (to use as a power amplifier) and to select whether the power amplifier operates in class A or A/B. When you power the amplifier from its standby state it defaults to the A/B setting which sounds very good indeed, but it performs appreciably better in pure class A, also achievable via a single input on the remote control.

In either output condition the power rating is 25 watts into 8 Ohms, only the quiescent current is changed. It takes about an hour or so after switching before it heats up and you will hear the amplifier in its full class A glory. Vitus have cleverly included the A/B setting for non-critical listening and to use as an alternative to the standby function to avoid completely powering down, to save on electricity consumption. I mention A/B as being for non-critical listening but in doing so I probably sell it short as it is no mean achiever in this mode, but the main reason to buy the SS-010 is for it sheer seamless top to bottom musical fluency and beauty as a class A amplifier. This is its whole raison d’etre.

Vitus tells me that one of the speakers he used for developing the SS-010 was the Focal/JMlabs Micro Utopia Be, which coincidentally is the speaker I use at home*. So, it came as no surprise that through these speakers the tonal balance is just about as perfect as I have heard. I should add here that almost all the listening was done with a full Nordost Valhalla loom that was later substituted for a while by the Andromeda interconnect and speaker cables. But given the lengthy run-in times the Andromeda obviously need I decided to eliminate this as yet unknown quantity from the equation for the moment and review them as a separate item at a future date. It should be noted here that all Vitus amplifiers are internally wired with Andromeda. I also don’t want you to think that you have to use Vitus’ own cables, superb as they promise to be, to achieve such great results.

At the centre of this amplifier’s musical brilliance there is an inky black sense of tranquillity from which all music flows. An unforced, unprocessed stream of musical information of such stability and strength that its ability to deal with any tonal or rhythmic conundrum you may ask of it seems almost limitless. It has superb control but not that solid-state artificial, iron-fist grip that characterises so many high-end designs but a naturally structured ease and real world instrumental architecture. 

This is helped enormously by an effortlessly large acoustic with tremendous depth, considerable useable bandwidth and truly rock-solid, unwavering multi-dimensional imaging. No single part suffers in comparison to any other, as this amplifier is as good at very high frequencies as it is at the opposite end of the scale. Musically it is as seamless as I have heard and is more colourful and textural than anything other than the very best designs available. But it is the way in which it manages to incorporate all these areas of technical excellence into such rhythmic concentration and sense of movement and progression that really sets it apart. To talk about what it does and how it does it one really needs to quantify it in musical terms as the Vitus is one of those select few products that just lets the music happen without either forcing or squeezing it out, nor providing a bottleneck to the quite wonderful flow of rhythmic subtleties and micro dynamics and shifts. 

It is almost unbelievably smooth but don’t let this fool you into believing that it is dynamically shy or remotely soft in nature. It is fast, dramatic, powerful and edgy when the music demands and can swing convincing transients, yet remain totally in control all the while. It’s that custom-made transformer again, which seems able to deliver precise amounts of power with absolute precision to any part of the bandwidth when and where it is needed. 

Resolution, is generally excellent too. It never sounds overtly or clinically detailed but the closer you look, the more nuanced and subtle the music EQUIPMENT REVIEW * As an interesting sub plot to this review I discovered that Vitus actually offer a series of modifications to the Micro centred around re-wiring the entire speaker with Andromeda cable and I may well report on this intriguing prospect over the coming months. 38 EQUIPMENT REVIEW seems to be. I am always looking for audio systems that let me step deeper and deeper into the music and its structures and building blocks. I have an endless fascination with musicians and their relationships with their instruments. For me, it is the quality of the playing that really counts and the way in which musicians illustrate their own personalities in the shape of colour and tone through their amalgamation of taste, feel and technique. The Vitus brings all those things together in such an accessible and focussed way that it somehow seems to enhance the pure beauty of music to a point where the equipment is merely a tool and the music itself is the message. As I said, it just opens the window and lets the music happen with no sense of the mechanics of reproduction getting in the way. 

So, configured as an integrated amplifier it is superb and as a power amplifier with the volume control disconnected it is just as impressive, only now its ultimate quality will also be dictated by the partnering pre-amplifier. I used it with the Lyra Connoisseur 4.2L SE line-stage and it was mighty. Ideally I would have liked a bit more gain and Vitus tells me that all production models to follow will indeed be more sensitive. But the transparency, separation and dynamic freedom that this combination produces mean that the music takes on new fascination and becomes even more beguiling. Working with the Lyra’s increased resolution I loved its ability to unravel intense and complex passages of music without ever dropping a stitch and it can be compelling and even hypnotic in its relentless and unerring sense of rhythmic drive and precision. The bandwidth increases and so does the amplifiers sense of control. The bass is now more persuasive than ever with improved pitch and leading-edge impact and as the midband spreads deeper and deeper that extra high frequency articulation and tonal layering and texture give the music a sense of unprocessed reality that is rare and tremendously enjoyable. Just when you think you have its measure it will surprise you by illustrating a new slant on musical pieces that you have heard a hundred times before. You will hear a melody line or a tempo change and new possibilities and instrumental relationships will open up. With the Lyra Connoisseur hook it into the SS-010 and you have something that sounds so musically natural and powerful that you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away. I suppose the power rating might be inadequate for those with larger rooms or exceptionally inefficient speakers but I reckon it will still be enough for most. And there are those for whom two inputs will not be sufficient. But its possibilities are appealing. You could use it, with complete satisfaction, as an integrated amplifier and set up like this it comprehensively crushes most pre/power opposition, even at twice its price. 

Then, at a later date, add a separate pre-amplifier (I’m sure there will be a suitable model from the Signature series soon) with no redundancy. I would strongly encourage you to seek out a Vitus distributor. For a hand-made amplifier of this quality I assure you that the asking price is not excessive. I think it is a great product – in many ways the most impressive I’ve heard since the Connoisseur, which is praise indeed
.........
Chris Thomas

The Vitus Audio SS-010 amplifier is not just highly recommended it embodies the spirit of this webzine’s highest honour, a “Most Wanted Component” award.
Dave Thomas

REVIEW SUMMARY: Let’s understand something here. The Vitus Audio equipment is not your run-of-the-mill high-end audio gear. Hans Ole Vitus has built equipment that is aesthetically, functionally and sonically superior to most of what represents the high-end. I purposely did not dwell on any technological aspects of this amp because in my opinion, when you’re spending this kind of money on equipment of this quality, only the emotional impact of the music it provides is of any relevance. Besides, if you really want to talk specs, give Vitus a call or shoot him an email. He is one of the most down-to-earth persons I’ve met in this industry. Believe me, there are many designers out there who make so-called high-end components who act as though their proverbial “poo-poo” is without aroma. This is not the case with Vitus.

And I’m not kidding when I say that this stuff will dramatically improve the visual appeal of your listening room. It’s just that well built. In fact, when my girlfriend first saw the Vitus amp she turned and asked, “why can’t all of your stereo stuff look like this?” But more importantly, it will heighten your appreciation for the very nature of music and particularly live music. Publisher Clement Perry, often speaks of a state of mind he calls “Audio Hell,” where reviewers reside when they become exposed to gear that lifts them to a state of euphoria and then destroys them when they are forced to come to grips with the fact that they can never possess the gear that they love. As I prepare to ship the SS-010 back to Denmark, I know where it is that I will be residing for the next few months … psychologically anyway. The Vitus Audio SS-010 amplifier is not just highly recommended it embodies the spirit of this webzine’s highest honour, a “Most Wanted Component” award.

EXTENDED REVIEW: I’ve grown accustomed to big beefy amps providing the muscle that flows through my music system. For years I called the huge Electrocompaniet Nemo 600-watt mono amps my reference, and for most of this past year the Nemos were supplanted by the even bigger BAT VK1000s. My rather large (20’ x 26’) listening room has always made good use of mega powered amps, and Heaven knows that my Escalante Fremonts, with their direct coupled dual 12” woofers, really enjoy being driven by the big boys. So when the opportunity to spend some time with an amp from Vitus Audio came up, I was excited to say the least. After all, nothing embodies big, bold, beautiful power amps like the designs of Hans Ole Vitus.

In the beginning …
I first saw the Vitus gear at the 2004 CES. I was immediately struck by their massive beauty and gorgeous sound, powering a room-dominating pair of Sound Lab Ultimate-1s. The quality of the metalwork and the attention to aesthetics and functionality were unlike anything I had ever seen. The whole system was linked together by the equally impressive cables designed by Anders Grove who at the time was with Argento Audio. I kept thinking that the Rowlands, Krells, and Halcros of the world were going to be put on notice and that the Vitus gear would soon be ascending to the top of the US audio marketplace.

But a year went by and I was back at CES and back in the Vitus room and I realized that during the past year I had heard nothing about Vitus Audio. I hadn’t heard about dealerships lining up to have a chance to carry this stunning line of products. There was no Vitus dealer in my hometown of Chicago. And even stranger, I hadn’t seen any reviews in the “major” publications proclaiming Vitus’ gear to be among the best money could buy, which is certainly what I thought of them.

I asked the main man himself, Hans Ole Vitus, “what happened?” He went on to tell me all about the dark side of the business and some of the pitfalls of not having good enough representation and the politics of audiophile journalism. I won’t go into the details of this but I’m sure that many of you can read between the lines.

Fast forward another year and Vitus was back for the 2006 CES, but things were a little different. First, Vitus Audio has taken over distribution of their products in the U.S. and, Focus Audio, one of the few loudspeaker manufacturers whose design aesthetics are comparable to Vitus’ are handling distribution in Canada. Vitus already has dealers in New York and Los Angeles and may soon have dealers in Florida and - be still my beating heart – Chicago! Second, gone were the trademark Argento Audio cables that Vitus demoed with in the previous shows. Anders Grove the original designer of the Argento cables was now producing the new Vitus Audio “Andromeda” line of cables. And third, there was a new prototype of a smaller, more “affordable” amp called the SS-010.

The SS-010

The SS-010 is the smallest amp in the Vitus line even though it weighs a whopping 77 lbs! Its smaller size may prove to be more of an attribute than a disclaimer compared to the other Vitus amps, the SS-101 stereo amp and SM-101 mono amps which are nearly twice its size. But don’t let the fact that the SS-010 is smaller in stature compared to its siblings fool you, it is in no way a small amp. In fact, though rumored to produce only 25-watts per channel, the specifications listed on the Vitus website describe the power output as “Enough!” They ain’t kiddin’ folks. This baby is a flat out beast! I mean when I replaced the gargantuan BAT amps with this unit it was like David giving Goliath an ass-whippin’. The soundstage was more open, the images clearer and more focused, and the biggest shock of all was that the bass was actually better defined and deeper.

But wait, there’s more!

Not only is the SS-010 a wonderful stand alone stereo amp, it can also be used as an integrated amp, meaning that you don’t even need a preamp to use it. The unit offers two line level inputs: one balanced (XLR) and one unbalanced (RCA). Volume level and input can be selected from the front faceplate or via remote control. I did not have a remote to use during this review so I won’t comment on its use.

As an integrated amp I’d have to say that the SS-010 is by far the best sounding one I’ve ever heard. But the fact is this unit was actually designed to be an amplifier with volume control capability that also gives you the flexibility of using preamps with balanced or unbalanced outputs. So I did most of my listening with my Classé digital front end going through a BAT VK31SE preamp and into the balanced input of the Vitus amp.

As I said before, the openness of the soundstage was one of the first things that I noticed when I put the Vitus amp into my system. This was extremely apparent on the first live recording that I listened to, Kenny Loggins’ Outside: From the Redwoods [Sony]. As you can tell from the title, this entertaining concert recording took place at an outdoor concert venue amongst the redwood trees of Northern California. The Vitus amp helped to re-create the spaciousness of the surroundings while still rendering the fine details of the music. The ninth track, “Love Will Follow,” is a duet with R&B singer Shanice. Her mellifluous voice oozes out over the audience and does not come across as breathy or splashy. Instead, her and Loggins’ vocals are rendered with body and texture, which gives substance to the lyrics.

Another of my fave live discs is Kurt Elling’s Live In Chicago[Blue Note]. I love this disc like I love deep-dish pizza, and considering that I come from Chicago, that means I love it a lot … a whole lot. To borrow from ESPN’s Stuart Scott, Elling’s voice is “as cool as the other side of the pillow,” and his rendering of the classic “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is simply mesmerizing. This is where the SS-010’s ability to throw a believable stage is important. This amp accurately reproduces the scale and detail of the performers and their instruments with the ambience of live space. The tempo changes on track five, “Night Dream” are also handled particularly well with this amp. The dynamics of the drum and piano solos are rendered flawlessly. And speaking of dynamic piano, it doesn’t get any better than Ahmad Jamal on Live At The Montreal Jazz Festival 1985 [Atlantic]. “Yellow Fellow,” the fifteen minute long opening track is a true test of system dynamics, and the Vitus gives this in spades. Of particular note was the rapid-fire percussion work of Seldon Newton. The Vitus amp seemed to give this performance a shot of energy.

But easily the most striking facet of the SS-010’s performance was its stunning bass performance. One of my favorite discs for testing a system’s bass is Michel Jonasz' two-disc live concert, “la fabuleuse histoire de Mister Swing” [WEA 2292-42338-2 II]. The track "La Temps Passe" is a showcase for some deeply layered synthesizers and misseur Jonasz’ decidedly pop vocal styling. The synthesizers often drop down to levels only detectable by the inhabitants of Dante’s Inferno (now that’s deep). But the Vitus amp allows the tones to keep their musical character. In other words, the bass sounds like its part of a piece of music and not just simply the residue of what was supposed to be music. That’s pretty damned impressive for a 25 watter folks.

Conclusion

Let’s understand something here. The Vitus Audio equipment is not your run-of-the-mill high-end audio gear. Hans Ole Vitus has built equipment that is aesthetically, functionally and sonically superior to most of what represents the high-end. I purposely did not dwell on any technological aspects of this amp because in my opinion, when you’re spending this kind of money on equipment of this quality, only the emotional impact of the music it provides is of any relevance. Besides, if you really want to talk specs, give Vitus a call or shoot him an email. He is one of the most down-to-earth persons I’ve met in this industry. Believe me, there are many designers out there who make so-called high-end components who act as though their proverbial “poo-poo” is without aroma. This is not the case with Vitus.

And I’m not kidding when I say that this stuff will dramatically improve the visual appeal of your listening room. It’s just that well built. In fact, when my girlfriend first saw the Vitus amp she turned and asked, “why can’t all of your stereo stuff look like this?” But more importantly, it will heighten your appreciation for the very nature of music and particularly live music. Publisher Clement Perry, often speaks of a state of mind he calls “Audio Hell,” where reviewers reside when they become exposed to gear that lifts them to a state of euphoria and then destroys them when they are forced to come to grips with the fact that they can never possess the gear that they love. As I prepare to ship the SS-010 back to Denmark, I know where it is that I will be residing for the next few months … psychologically anyway. The Vitus Audio SS-010 amplifier is not just highly recommended it embodies the spirit of this webzine’s highest honour, a “Most Wanted Component” award.
..........Dave Thomas

This is something I like as real sounds are always very dense and layered textures though they may appear being simple.
AUDIOROM

REVIEW SUMMARY: My impression is that of tonal richness that is to the extent of being dense. This is something I like as real sounds are always very dense and layered textures though they may appear being simple. Yet our audiophile ears prefer “clean” sound which is (too far often) totally incomplete sound. I am not against cleanliness as long as it means transparency. In Vitus Audio SS-102 I was receiving both – richness and transparency.

The sound of the SS-102. It is dense, harmonically rich and very fluid. It is the type of sound you would never associate with the words ‘transistor’ or ‘solid state’. Yet, it also lacks the lushness and (sometimes) infidelity of the tubes. The sonic picture painted by the Vitus is smoothly precise, contoured, very well timed and extraordinarily dynamic. It comes as no surprise that the Vitus SS-102 is at home with especially classical music, where it can deliver both size and drama
The amplifier could provide plentiful detail retrieval with harmonic richness which is a killer combination. From top to bottom, as I witnessed with double bass in Mother and Child.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Vitus Audio hails from Denmark. It is no surprise whatsoever as for last few decades it seems that coming from Denmark is a basic prerequisite for success in high end audio. As once Dynaudio put it, the winter is long and dark so people in Denmark are building audio gear to entertain themselves.

The man behind Vitus, Hans Ole Vitus, has been around in the high profile audio business for the last 10 years. While initially his amps earned reputation of being “excellent but unaffordable”, through years, with high end audio prices breaking through sky, they actually have got to appear value based.

The SS-102 sits on the top of their Signature Syereo Power amp range. It has 2 line inputs, single-ended and balanced, one pair each.

The Vitus SS-102 can operate in class A (up to 2x50W) or in class A/B (up to 2x100W) into 8 ohms. The manufacturer does not give away too much details on the SS-102’s inner topology. The amp should benefit – like other Vitus Audio’s designs – from absence of negative feedback. According to Hans Ole any type of feedback implies phase errors that consequently smear the sound. .

Another specialty of Vitus Audio is using UI-core transformers instead of toroid transformers. According to Vitus Audio UI-core transformers provide needed stability, low radiation, low voltage drop and clarity plus they eliminate the need for additional power conditioners. 

Dense and real

When MJ dropped by for a listen, he commented in the following way:

My impression is that of tonal richness that is to the extent of being dense. This is something I like as real sounds are always very dense and layered textures though they may appear being simple. Yet our audiophile ears prefer “clean” sound which is (too far often) totally incomplete sound. I am not against cleanliness as long as it means transparency. In Vitus Audio SS-102 I was receiving both – richness and transparency.

This pretty well characterises the sound of the SS-102. It is dense, harmonically rich and very fluid. It is the type of sound you would never associate with the words ‘transistor’ or ‘solid state’. Yet, it also lacks the lushness and (sometimes) infidelity of the tubes. The sonic picture painted by the Vitus is smoothly precise, contoured, very well timed and extraordinarily dynamic. It comes as no surprise that the Vitus SS-102 is at home with especially classical music, where it can deliver both size and drama. On the other hand, I was positively surprised how the SS-102 handled less perfect recordings, like David Sylvian’s Secrets of The Beehive(Virgin/EMI 0846 3 63076 26).

The recording comes was released in 1987 and perfectly reflects the spirit of the age – the age when dynamics ruled and when the top end of recordings was tilted up to compensate for the loss induced by tape recorders. The track named Orpheus features an unusual yet beautiful combination of flugelhorn and slide guitar at around 2´30 mark. The guitar is nicely highlighted through the SS-102, it is not difficult to visualise its plucked strings in front of you. The guitar triplet in When Poets Dreamed of Angels is similarly spicy: the upwards tilted mix made a base for ´audiophile´ type of sound, not unlike what Stockfisch Records are famous for, yet with twofold dynamics (I believe that someone should finally explain to Stockfisch that compression is not a good thing). The strings are fabulous through the SS-102, with fast transient attacks and long reverberant decays. Due to the darker and smooth character of the Vitus I would expect sluggish sound but opposite was in place. The amplifier could provide plentiful detail retrieval with harmonic richness which is a killer combination. From top to bottom, as I witnessed with double bass in Mother and Child.

A hardcore for the rich

The SS-102 craftsmanship is spectacular as is its minimalistic design. The sharp-cut fascia is clean aluminium-glass look with all six push buttons recessed. I liked the aesthetics of the logo and display that do not try to blind you in dark and give the amp a touch of luxury. The rest of the amp is a pretty brute-force industrial design, finned sides encased in monolithic oversized construction that is very rigid so that the amp could be carried around by grasping the lid’s handles. Actually, the SS-102 is probably the bulkiest (31 x 44 x 61 cm) and the heaviest (85kg) Power amplifier I have ever touched.

 This offering of Vitus RS100 & RD100 is not only sonically inspired, it’s got ‘value’ written all over it.
Scot Hull

There’s this theoretical threshold that products hit, a knee in the arc along the price-performance curve, when you start wondering about the wisdom of spending more. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but for this pair of loudspeakers, I think this Vitus pairing might be it. Yes, I can most definitely spend more. There’s quite a bit to choose from out there ....but in terms of value, I have yet to find a match with them as lively and as engaging as the reference-quality sound I got from the Reference line from Vitus Audio. And that solution also included a DAC. And that’s interesting.

Recently, I got a little frisky with the amplifiers in the Bat Cave and decided to just line them up and point them at some loudspeakers, the Tekton SEAS Pendragon and the Magnepan MG 3.7. Both of these speakers boast serious performance for the price, which to me, pretty much sums up what I mean by “value”.

In that review, compared the Vitus Audio RS-100, a 100lb Class A/B stereo amplifier, to a set of other amps, both more and less expensive, and watched it kick some serious patootie all over the dance floor. The closest rival, a Pass Labs XA-100.5 mono block pair, I rated pretty much on par, if for rather different reasons. I’ll come back to that (and add a bit more to that mix besides), but for now, let’s take a second and say hello again to the gear from Denmark.

How I dug myself a hole
Doug White of The Voice That Is is a gentleman. That’s it. There’s really nothing to add here, so I will anyway — he’s respectful, firm in his convictions, provides clear and unassailable value to his clients and is both entertaining and actually helpful. He’s exactly what you want in an audio dealer, and he’s actually refused to sell things to me. Wait, what? No, seriously — it was the right call. His goal is long-term business, and while short-term gains are nice, his keeping me from doing dumb things is probably what keeps me asking for his opinion. I wish there were more dealers like him out there.

That isn’t to say, however, that Doug isn’t a salesman at heart. He most definitely is. And in one of his sneakiest, slipperiest moves, Doug loaned me a $30k Vitus Audio integrated amplifier, the SIA-025, about 18 months ago. You know. Just because. He said he was going on a trip or something. “Its just going to be sitting locked up in storage and”, he said with a verbal shrug, “if you could use it, maybe you’d find that interesting?” Ha! I was totally on to his clever games, so I obviously said “yes”, though the term “blurted” might have been more apt. Anyway, I still had a great time with his amp. 

The SIA-025 was one of the first Summit-Fi products I’d ever gotten to spend any significant time with, and that visit remains one of my fondest “audio memories”. The pairing of that unit with a Clearwave 7R stand mount loudspeaker was heavenly — Accuton drivers with RAAL tweeter, driven by VA, was what “they” mean when they talk about “system synergy”. My conclusion at the end of that visit was “Holy Cow”, and my only reservation was that the bass impact could have been more forceful. Oh, that and the price. Pfft. Details.

At CES the following year, I ran into Hans-Ole Vitus and told him how impressed I was with his integrated amp. Big smiles. I then told him that I thought that his baby needed a bit more grip on the “down low”. Serious-face. I remember him shrugging, as if to concede the point. Then, he leaned in and added, “It was what I could do with that form factor. You want bass? Check out the monos!” A big laugh and a wink followed that, with a clap on the shoulder that knocked the breath clear out of me. Did I mention that Hans is freakin’ huge?

The monos in question, sadly, retail for US$45,000 a pair. [Gulp]. While I’m sure Doug would have been happy to pocket the commission on that sale, he started waving his hands at me as soon as I started asking questions. “First, you need better speakers,” he said. “Amps come after that.”

Shortly thereafter, Doug got a line on a pair of TIDAL Audio Contriva Diacera SE loudspeakers, a pair that had suffered a “minor mishap” at a regional audio show, and offered to help me get them and get them reconditioned. These normally $65k speakers were (and are) way beyond my means, but I invested in them as statement pieces for a couple of reasons. One, because manufacturers don’t take would-be reviewers seriously if their personal references are clearly modest in price. Sad, but true. Two, because “real” audio magazines don’t take would-be reviewers seriously if their personal references are clearly modest in performance. Also sad; also true. I thought of the Contrivas, then, as table stakes. Two birds, one stone, and who needs to retire, anyway? Of course, the problem with table stakes is that they only get you in the game. Playing the game is a whole other proposition — and one the requires its own pile of chips.

The day my Contrivas showed up, I danced a little jig. Happy me! But a few weeks later, the System Building Project began in earnest.

System Building

One of the first projects I talked over with Robert Harley, editor-in-chief of The Absolute Sound, was a piece on my TIDAL loudspeakers. I spoke to Jonathan Valin, Summit-Fi expert and Editor-At-Large of TAS, about matching, synergy and expectations for ceramic-driver loudspeakers. He’s had some experience in this particular realm [cough]. But as a result of these conversations, I had plans. As part of those plans, I got a visit from a $50k Soulution 530 integrated and spent a month with that beast driving the daylights out of the big Contrivas. I’m still breathless, even though it’s been almost a year since that visit ended — I’ve never had sound like that before or since. The review that was supposed to fall out of that audition never happened, unfortunately, but my notes have lots of exclamation points. If nothing else, it reset my own personal barometer and threshold for “reference quality” — and that was invaluable. Even if it made me despair for my retirement plans. I mean, do I really need to budget for that? C’mon. Seriously?

When Hans-Ole offered to send me the matching pair of products out of his brand-new Reference Line, I was equal parts terrified and thrilled. Thrilled, because, Vitus = Awesome. Confused because $90k worth of gear hitting the house is clearly going to fubar my insurance policy. But if anyone was going to re-reset my “reference level”, this was the guy that could do that. My mouth started watering at the thought. Yes, I have problems. A natural state best described as “confused” is probably one of those problems.

Speaking of good words, ‘nonplussed’ is awesome. It means “surprised and confused so much that you are unsure how to react”. For example, when someone trots out the term ‘reference’, I’m usually inclined to think that they mean “superlative in every way”. In high-end audio, this would usually mean something that roughly translates as equal parts “absurd” and “awesome”. What it does not usually mean, at least to my rudimentary and admittedly limited grasp, is “entry-level”. When used this way, the natural reaction is to be … nonplussed. See? It’s a great word.

So, it turns out there are three levels of awesome coming out of Vitus Audio. There’s the ‘Master’ level — this is way past the point where I recognize landmarks, and all the prices are in the “if you need to ask …” category.

Then, there’s the ‘Signature’ level — this is the one I was familiar with (and mistakenly thought Hans-Ole was referencing). These are products that cost as much as a brand-new, fully kitted-out BMW, and anything in this category (or higher), I tend to call “Summit-Fi”. I want to be able to play here, but that’s not really possible. Kids, retirement, food — not to mention not actually having that kind of money — kind of limit my engagement with this level in ways I find fundamentally dissatisfactory.

But, it turns out, there’s really a market for products that are a bit more approachable. Who knew? Enter the Reference. And yes, Vitus means it — these products, while more affordable than the others, are all still related and all share the design aesthetic, the approach, and to a large extent, the house sound. $14,000 for a DAC and $14,000 for a power amp are not cheap, not by any measure, but coming from this particular vendor, you’d be forgiven if you started reaching for words like “bargain”.

But using the term ‘reference’ as your starting point? Nonplussed! I mean, what is he trying to say?

Unless ….
Oh. Right. Got it!
He’s just ballsy. Really, really ballsy.

First Touch

Am I the only one that fondles stereo equipment? It’s not like I put on frilly underwear or anything, but I really do like the way gear can feel. I like buttons, dials, switches and knobs and I like it when the design actually takes into account the feel and feedback that a well-made piece of machinery brings to the experience.

Vitus Audio, as a brand, is really into build quality. The Signature Series is uber-posh, with an extremely modern minimalist look and feel, all the while practically oozing sex pheromones into your listening space. And before you ask, no, I’ve never spent time with the Master Series gear, so I have no idea how quickly it’d have me making inappropriate comments or spontaneously complaining about how constricting my clothing was. We’ll just have to imagine that it would be quick. And yes, I meant that double-entendre, too. Lewd and self-deprecating. That’s how I roll.

The Reference Series shares the same understated modern look, and the retro LCD is still front and center, iconically set back from giant flanking aluminum face plates neatly bracketing it. The casework, however, is bent-metal and not custom-fit interlocked blocks. There’s a big drop in outlay between a $40k line stage and a $14k one and that’s got to come from somewhere. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the Reference build — no no no, not at all. That is, the touch-me level is down a bit.

The good news about the remote is that, if you’re absent minded, replacing one is now a rather trivial matter because the remote control for the RD-100 is actually one many of you have lying about from purchasing something from Apple Computers. Yep. The remote is a Apple do-jabber. If that sort of thing matters to you, my recommendation is to get the optional, radically upscale, $1k RC-010 remote control that is included with the line stages in both the Master and the Signature lines.

The chassis fascia have buttons flush-mounted into them for power and input selection, and the RD-100 has some more for setting the volume and navigating the surprisingly complex menu structure. These click with a satisfying give, but fetishists be aware that there are no knobs anywhere to be seen. Again, think “modern” and you’ll see the aesthetic shine through here.

Around back, there are remarkably robust binding posts for the speaker terminals. The XLR and RCA jacks are all superblylaid out, with clearly adequate spacing and discrete modular terminals. Both chassis have their own grounding post, too, but note that there are no ground-lift toggles.

My review units came with a standard matte black finish.

Covers blown

The RS-100 is a big, bad-ass stereo amplifier. The biasing is locked to Class A/B, unlike the user-selectable biasing on the Signature Line amplifiers. At full tilt, the amp is good for 300 watts into 8Ω and that doubles into 4Ω. This is a lot of juice, and the power-on sequence will likely make the lights dim. Like all Vitus gear, there are custom transformers and other secret-sauce bits in there, all beefing up to that 100lb curb weight. The input impedance on the amp is a healthy 100kΩ on either RCA or XLR input.

On the RD-100, it’s tempting to think of the unit in terms of being a DAC first and a preamp second (though I’m not sure this is the best way to think about it). Anyway, this might go a long way to explain why there’s only one balanced and one single-ended analog input — but there are five digital inputs: one USB, one Toslink, two RCA S/PDIF and two AES/EBU. All of these inputs are re-nameable inside the Menu. Interestingly, they’re also disable-able inside the Menu, too, and disabled inputs are skipped when cycling through.

The DAC on the RD-100 is 24bit/192kHz capable, which is a fine and dandy thing, but there is no DSD support. About that: like all Vitus electronics, the unit is fully modular, so should DSD take off or Hans-Ole decide to fiddle about, swapping out the DAC module is apparently straight forward. The USB input does require a driver (even for Macs), sadly, and that USB input (and driver) is sourced from M2Tech.

To me, the strength or weakness of a preamp (or a DAC masquerading as a preamp) lies squarely on top of the volume control. Here, the RD-100 gets a bit fancy:

The topology of the volume control used in the RD-100 is very different compared to the “standard”. The RD-100 uses a series of fixed resistor networks to control the volume. Relays are used to switch between the resistor networks. Across all volume steps, a fixed resistor is in series with the signal path. This gives the best performance possible. When you change volume, a different number of shunt resistors are used.

To prevent pop in the output, we have chosen to first add the new shunt resistors, and then wait a short time, before removing the unused shunt resistors at the new volume step. This will give a minor fall in volume before settling at the new volume step. It takes only very little time to get used to this type of operation of the volume, and it will give you superior sound quality over the traditional digital and analogue potentio meters. — (from RD100 manual)ool — and probably why it sounds so damn good. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Setup

For speakers, I used the Magnepan 3.7 panels and my current references, the TIDAL Contriva Diacera SE. For notes on the former, check out that discussion I referenced earlier; for the latter, read on.

I typically chose to set the speakers up with toe-in, and settled on an over-the-shoulder aim, with placement that kept the speakers at least 4′ off the front wall and 3′ off the side walls, with 8′ or more between the tweeters.

Room treatments included a full set of Monster Bass Traps.

Isolation platforms from Symposium Acoustics were used for all components.

My listening area is carpeted, unfortunately, and the pad sits directly on concrete. Not ideal. To help mitigate this, I set the speakers on custom-made Terrastone plinths, in large part so that the isolation footers on the speakers could achieve far better coupling than what the Berber carpet would allow. Generally speaking, this arrangement is dramatically superior to the directly-on-carpet placement, and brought the side benefit of placement adjustability since they were easy to slide about (FTW!).

Digital Audio Converter

I used the Vitus pair to drive my Magnepans and my Contrivas, primarily. For most of this tour, I was able to leverage DACs from Auralic, Berkley Audio and Light Harmonicc for comparison. Of the three I had on the bench, the Da Vinci from Light Harmonic made the deepest impression, and at $20k, that’s hardly out of line with expectations. The sound of the heavily-buffered, non-oversampling, non-upsampling R2R implementation is remarkably non-fatiguing, deeply detailed, and fully extended. An extended tour of that DAC is available at The Absolute Sound. Of the three, I own only the Berkeley Alpha (Series 2).

Berkeley Alpha USB

For comparing the various inputs on the RD-100, I used the Berkeley Audio Alpha USB to S/PDIF converter with a WyWires LiteSPD AES digital cable. This converter has been my go-to since it was released, and to my experience, has not been significantly bettered. Insertion into the digital chain typically results in a tighter, more focused low-end and an airier, more holographic mid-to-top end. Very few USB implementations have been able to match what I hear when using the Alpha USB (with either the BNC or AES digital connections), with typical shortcomings of transparency, grain or PRAT (pace, rhythm and timing). I purchased this device about 4 months prior to its launch and have been using it with increasing rarity since — the quality of direct-USB inputs has come a long way in the last two years, making this unit less and less necessary.

Tidal Audio Contriva Diacera SE

These are impressive loudspeakers. It’s probably best to just start there. They’re physically dominating simply due to their size, and have a level of finish that is unparalleled in my experience. I’ve seen a “piano finish” on a wood veneer before, but this is something beyond that. I will say that of all the gear I’ve ever owned or borrowed, this pair of speakers earns gasps, a whites-around-the-iris look, accompanied by spasmodically clenching hands. As I said, they’re impressive.

On the design side, this is a 3-way/4-driver full-range loudspeaker, so there is a separation of duties and full, clean extension down to the mid-20Hz region. The “Dia” in the speaker’s name tells you that the tweeter is diamond; the “cera” refers to the ceramics used everywhere else; all of the drivers are fully custom proprietary designs made by Accuton.  From what Doug tells me, the design process for all TIDAL speakers is thoroughly measurement-driven — a 180º deviation from the designer-chasing-sound approach I’ve found many designers to take. I’ve also been told that the speakers are an “easy” load, in that the impedance/phase response is a completely benign 4-6Ω throughout the response range. Minimum power recommended is a startlingly low 20 watts. On a whim, I thought I’d test this latter bit directly so I borrowed a 20 wpc S20 amplifier from Gary Dews at BorderPatrol. That paralleled 300b amp run into these speakers produced some truly lovely sound and also produced my first “eureka!” pairing for the System Building Project.

Sound

The sound of any given component is nearly impossible to tease out, as what you’re really hearing is the combination of efforts made by the system as a whole. I feel like I have to keep reiterating this as 1) it gets lost, and 2) it’s variable. What I attempted to do, then, was keep the variations to a minimum, swap in the new component and give it a listen and then swap back. Some very obvious downsides to this fast-switching means trying to keep the components on-song while not in use — and lugging 100lb amps to opposite ends of the house to accommodate this methodology and isolate two systems isn’t really feasible. So, instead, I just reversed the process — I used Amp A for a couple of hours to warm it up, swapped in Amp B, and swapped back. Then, I used Amp B for a couple of hours to warm it up, swapped in Amp A, and swapped back. These trials took a lot of time, obviously, but I’m sure you’re feelin’ me right about now.

There is, in my opinion, a “house sound” that Vitus Audio products tend to achieve: rich, detailed, sweet. That is, there’s a lot of texture to enjoy, and there’s very little “smoothing” that some reference amplifiers tend to indulge in; not here, there’s lots of detail on offer. The uppermost treble seems very clean and grain-free, but not perhaps as forward as some might prefer or expect. Here’s the design goals, as laid out by Vitus Audio:

Generally we’re after super neutral, super detailed and super dynamic reproduction without “loosing” the nerve in the music which often is a drawback of many high-end amplifiers. Our real strongholds are complete silence, unbelievable depth and width in the soundstage resulting in a far more open sound with higher resolution -you could say, closer to the artist. As a result of the above, our amps do not “focus” on any specific frequencies – i.e. no extension of top or bass, which of course results in high clarity of the midrange since it’s “naturally present”! — (from the RS-100 manual)

Let me offer that yes, taken on whole, Vitus Audio pairs extremely well with ceramic-driver loudspeakers. I was very satisfied with the overall impact and drive my system was able to realize. While the dynamics aren’t horn-like — I had the Vittora loudspeakers from Volti really give me a master-class on what that term actually means — but then, no dynamic speaker is.

What was on offer is one of the most detailed, tonally-rich and timbrally assured presentations I’ve ever been able to achieve, much less wallow around in. With that much power on tap, the big TIDALs were alive in a way that made it incredibly difficult to ignore them — this was not background music. Slam was terrific and well-recorded voices were nailed into place with a specificity you could see. Cue the goosebumps, folks, because this was clearly reference-class sound, regardless of how you intend that term. You’ll pardon the drool coming out of my gently swinging jaw, I trust.

Honestly, if I hadn’t had a pile of gear ready to play hot-swap with, I’m not sure I’d have bothered. The big speakers, paired with the “entry-level” Vitus electronics, were exhilarating. I found myself reaching back into the catalog, past all the jazz remasters and reissues, toward “comfort food”, like Zeppelin and Van Halen. Hey, that stuff has all been remastered, too, and in the latter case, it’s all available as a 24bit/192kHz download from HDTracks. So there. I don’t think many ceramic-driver detractors would really expect a whole lot from these loudspeakers when dipping into their classical music library, but the size of these speakers is not something to ignore. Big speakers = big sound, and here with the Vitus pair, this was cliché-city. Up went Coplands’ Fanfare For The Common Man and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Just because. Strain, compression, muddling? Hah. Get bent. This was stirring stuff, and I generally hate avoid Classical.

Okay, so what I’m gonna do in the next two subsections here is attempt to pull these components apart to try to asses their relative performance. On a objective scale, I’d put these four —  speakers+pre+amp+wire — as a solid 8 out of 10, clearly bettered only by some extraordinarily expensive components from Soulution and TIDAL (and from Vitus, interestingly), and clearly bettering than any other combination I’ve yet to try.

RS-100 Stereo Amplifier

The big amp is, well, big. Not Biggity Biggerstein from Biggersville, because my old Plinius SA-Reference was a good deal more awkward and bulky. Without the giant (sharp!) cooling fins that the Plinius sported (or that the Pass Labs XA-100.5 amps carry), the RS-100 is downright modest looking. Until you try to move it. Just note that Ibuprofen does not preventhernias, it just keeps them from hurting quite so much. Okay? Okay.

In the last assessment of the RS-100, I held that it was pretty much on par with the Pass amps, though that’s misleadingly over-generalized. When I pushed myself into a numerical rating system, I’d confidently given them the same scores, if for entirely different reasons. Lets talk about that now.

Both amps have a terrific sonic presentation. Take that as read. With the TIDAL speakers, the RS-100 is clearly more “linear” of the two, where “linear” gets taken as presenting clear extension in the down-low and up-high, with no “enhancements” in the mids. Into this load, the Vitus amp is coming close to 600 watts, vs the 200 watts from the Pass, and that extra power is audibly gripping in a wall-flexing kind of way. Slam goes way up, and overall system dynamics take a very healthy step forward. Give the RS-100 a ½ point for those categories.

Moving into the midrange, the amps also separated a bit, but I ultimately threw my hands up, relegating the difference to the Class A personality of the Pass Labs amps stepping in to provide a more engaging, if perhaps more forward, spin on that part of the presentation. It’s not a big difference, but it is noticeable. Voices, like Natalie Merchant on “Carnival” from the MoFi release of Tigerlilly, just took a subtle step closer to the listener. Give the Pass a ½ point for that.

Detail retrieval on the RS-100 was, by contrast, a few hairs more perceptible. The “cricket test“, a Chris Jones track that has some rather pointlessly entertaining evening fauna mixed somewhere down into the mix, always gets trotted out at some point in some listening session or another, and here, the RS-100 stepped back out in front. Another ½ point to the Vitus.

Alright, time to reset and step back. With these speakers, the two presentations were far more different than they were similar … unless we’re talking about every other amp. Which is why, when compared to the other amplifiers in the shoot-out, the numbers fell the way they did. They’re completely different and totally the same, by comparison. Helpful, right? Ha!

In the end, it comes down to matching and given the natural warmth of the TIDAL loudspeaker — something that may be unexpected given the driver complement — the Vitus Audio turned my crank just a bit harder. Change the speakers — say, moving to the Magnepan 3.7 panels — and that entire equation got reset.

Synergy is not very friendly to sweeping statements.

RD-100 as preamp

The RD-100 is a DAC, pure and simple. Except it’s also a preamp, pure and not-so-simple, especially given that the volume control array (discussed above) is quite complicated in execution, even if the result is a very simple, clean signal path. When used with an external DAC (or phono) hooked to one of the two analog inputs, the RD-100 was very simpatico with every other component — completely silent and completely transparent.

It wasn’t until I compared it to the XP-30 from Pass Labs that things snapped into a bit clearer focus. The $16,500 XP-30, in my view, is perhaps the most linear and transparent line stage I’ve come across. It does no favors, hides no flaws, and is the closest thing to a straight-wire component that I know of. This is sometimes a great thing, but paired with the Vitus RS-100, the resulting sound was a little too clean. I know folks that would get rather charged up by this, but I preferred the slightly warmer sound of the RD-100 in front.

Flipping things around, the XA100.5 amplifiers, fronted by the Vitus RD-100 preamp, were a little dull compared to the all-Pass system. Too much of a good thing? A matter of preference? Not sure, but the result was not really my cuppa. More teasing was definitely in order.

Vs. external DAC as preamp

Most computer audio folks will hold that a good digital volume control, where a DAC is used to turn things down from a baseline “unity” (100%) level of gain, is and will always be “the best way” to implement a volume control, that is, it is the least lossy way to preserve signal integrity and will routinely (and always) produce more transparent, and more strongly, “better sound” than any currently known alternative. Strong words, to be sure, but hey, this is audio’s high-end — strong words are part of the game.

Personally, I think there are challenges with this approach, including the required gradual destruction of the digital signal through “bit tossing” — attenuation in this approach is a matter of applying increasing levels of truncation to the bit stream representing the audio signal. Theoretically, this is inaudible, but practice tends to prove otherwise. What I’ve found is that by carefully matching the unity gain with “target listening volume”, small gradations in a digital domain are exactly as claimed: invisible. But when the swings down from unity are large (greater than 20dB, for example), that’s no longer true. Anyway, I brought out the big stealth fighter to see if it could shed some light on the whole volume control thing.

The $20k Da Vinci DAC was clearly designed by someone with serious issues, mostly relating to audio paranoia. I mean, sure it’s a great DAC and all, but it also sports one of the most transparent digital volume controls I’ve found, with a very wide band of sonically unintrusive attenuation available to the user. To set things up, I ran the Da Vinci into the RD-100 balanced input, and was more than a little gobsmacked. The system’s soundstage was achingly three-dimensional with fully analog-like liquidity and airiness. And no, I’m not using any of those terms lightly. Bass, a weakness I’ve found in most under-designed DACs, was equivalent to the Berkeley Alpha DAC, which puts it on par with world-class in terms of reach and physicality. Yum, yum, YUM.

Pulling the RD-100 and running the Da Vinci directly into the RS-100 in a DAC-direct configuration added more detail and an overall gain in transparency. I think this means we were at YUM+ at that point. But, teasing about, I found that this increase was mostly true at the higher volumes. For normal, regular use I actually preferred the Vitus in front of the Da Vinci (especially at “normal listening” levels), for better consistency and preserving more “roundness” in the presentation.

I suppose that makes me an “active pre” kind of guy, as this is pretty much exactly where a preamp wins over a DAC (or over any passive preamp) in my opinion. An active provides more “structural support” as the volume falls from unity (because it’s an amplifier, albeit a low-gain one), where on a DAC-based volume control (even a well designed one) performance seems to fall off rather precipitously. I’ll also admit that the ability to fold in an analog source into my listening routine is still high on my list of desired qualities.

RD-100 as a DAC

Shifting gears, I found my experience with the DAC portion of the Vitus pair to be a bit more problematic. I started with the USB input, because quite frankly, simplicity is almost always better and if I can wire my computer audio source directly without needing an outboard converter box and the associated wiring, I want to do that.

But after loading the appropriate M2Tech driver and restarting my server, the sound coming from the system was not as … involving? Something. Break-in and use did improve this some, but grain and transparency dramatically improved by switching over to the AES input, courtesy of the off-board Alpha USB, so I stuck with that approach for the rest of my time listening.

High-res files played back through the Alpha USB to the on-board DAC on the RD-100 had a level of resolution that was about average for today’s field, which is to say, really quite good. If you think that’s surprising, you haven’t been keeping up. The sweet spot for DAC performance these days seems to be right around the $3k mark, plus or minus, with increasingly minor improvements as you move farther up and away from that inflection point.

Case in point is the $3,500 Auralic Vega. I tend to think of this DAC as “He Who Commits No Sins”, which is a back-handed way of saying that I think the performance is consistent and still maintains an extremely high-level of quality. It’s ability to delve into DSD and double-rate DSD files is an incredibly handy tool, and it’s precisely here that the organic flow hits its highest stride, but compared apples-to-apples with PCM-only material, I found the Vega and the RD-100 to be distressingly hard to differentiate. Given that I consider the Vega to set an absurdly high bar in terms of value (in terms of over-performing for its price), hitting this target is very happy thing.

Turning to the rapidly-approaching-venerability $5k Berkeley Alpha Series 2 DAC. This DAC set records and won awards when it was released several years ago, and in the intervening time the DAC is usually only clearly bettered on Buzzword Bingo. Sonically, the DAC is a reference, most particularly for its exceptional handling of bass impact and texture. Running the Alpha into the balanced inputs on the RD-100, the only aspect where the Berkeley stepped out in front was in its sweet spot, the down-low, where it produced greater impact with deeper apparent reach. The RD-100, by contrast, was arguably more adept at weaving a more convincing portrayal, with greater midrange intimacy, more air, and a higher degree of detail retrieval.

This is about when the hamster wheel in my head began to spin rather furiously.

Conclusion

There’s this theoretical threshold that products hit, a knee in the arc along the price-performance curve, when you start wondering about the wisdom of spending more. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but for this pair of loudspeakers, I think this Vitus pairing might be it. Yes, I can most definitely spend more. There’s quite a bit to choose from out there and we don’t have to stray far to find it. For example, the Vitus Audio SIA-025 brought more organic mystery and life to the speakers than did the Reference pair, but it sacrificed both detail and bass to do it. Moving dramatically up-market, the Soulution integrated achieved a high water mark for performance with these loudspeakers, and that time completely reset my understanding of what the TIDAL speakers were capable of. But in terms of value, I have yet to find a match with them as lively and as engaging as the reference-quality sound I got from the Reference line from Vitus Audio. And that solution also included a DAC. And that’s interesting.

The RS-100 has one of the most non-intrusive Class A/B presentations I’ve heard, and with 600 watts into 4Ω, the amplifier has more than enough grunt to do anything and everything anyone ever wants it to. It’s a freakin’ beast. But it is also a Class A/B design and even with careful matching (recall the Purist Audio Design cables), it will never be as texturally rich as their Vitus Class A designs. That SIA-025 will remain one of the most thrilling amps I’ve heard, and if not for its lack of prodigious output, it might have been the game-ender for this Project. Extrapolating a bit, I’d venture that Hans-Ole’s first recommendation to me — to try his US$45k/pair SM-011 monos — was probably the best fit out of his lineup, based on my preferences and his design goals. But US$45k is … ahh … expensive. And then there’s that pesky issue about still needing a line stage … and a DAC.

Taking the RD-100 as line stage, I am very impressed. Given that its performance compared well to the clearly reference-quality US$16,500 line stage from Pass Labs, this presents as good value. Looking at the RD-100 as a US$14k preamp that includes a quality DAC sets off the fireworks. Most of us inveterate upgraders will look at a preamplifier, with its built-in phono or DAC, as something of a problem — upgrading one component may well require upgrading two. But given that the Vitus architecture is fully modular and upgradeable … ba da bing!

The fact that Vitus Audio decided to bring their Summit-Fi-based offerings to a wider audience speaks well of their business savvy and their dedication to the hobby as a whole. While I (and I’m probably not alone in this) wish I could play a bit more freely in the rarefied air that Vitus Audio is justifiably known for, I have to acknowledge that wishes aren’t typically cashed by my local bank branch. C’est la vie. But the fact that this line, their lowest-tier offer, is called “Reference”, a term usually used to refer to the top-tier performance most brands strive for, is equal parts revealing, hubris and simply dangerous. After a long look, I can only take this to mean that Vitus starts where others finish. Like I said, that’s ballsy. The fact that they back that ballsiness up … heh.

But products in this top-tier, this Summit-Fi level, really ought to come with warning stickers about how deep this particular rabbit hole goes. That said, I suspect that for the majority of you able to make that trip, most won’t ever need to. This offering is not only sonically inspired, it’s got ‘value’ written all over it.

The Vitus RP-101 stands up with the best we have auditioned regardless of price.
Paul Blizel

REVIEW SUMMARY: What does the Vitus Audio RP-101 sound like? If I had to choose one word was to describe it, the word would be seductive. The big soundstage and air combined with beautiful timbre makes you forget about stereos and just melt into the chair and enjoy the music. At this moment I am listening to the new Speakers Corner Decca reissue of “The Sleeping Beauty” and I find myself constantly sitting back and listening rather than pounding away at the keyboard. From the gorgeous strings to the brassy horns, the orchestra is presented with a very resolving, yet relaxed manner.

EXTENDED REVIEW: The down-side of hitting a grand slam the first time at bat is that fans expect it on each subsequent appearance. Back in the mid 2000’s, Vitus Audio scored big with the RP-100 phono stage. With technology borrowed from its big brothers the Signature and Masterpiece, the RP-100 was a battery powered phono stage with outstanding resolution, inky-black backgrounds and bass that most would kill for. Best of all, it was priced at about one third of the price of the Signature.  Can Vitus Audio knock another one out of the park with the new RP-101 phono stage?

 Under the Hood of the RP-101

The RP-101 shares the same chassis design as the Reference Line Stage (RL-101), CD Player (RC-100) and DAC/Line Stage (RD-100). Measuring 17 x 15 x 4 inches, it is a relatively small unit that will fit nicely into most racks. As opposed to the Signature and Masterpiece’s multi-piece non-magnetic alloy enclosure, the RP-101 uses a more traditional single piece enclosure to help reduce production costs. It should be noted that the front face does use the thick alloy to give the unit the traditional “Vitus look”. Fit and finish is impeccable and the use of uniformly sized hex-head cap screws makes service work a breeze.

As with all Vitus products, the RP-101 utilizes surface mount technology and as the pictures show, present a very tidy interior. A very unique feature of the RP-101 (and all Vitus products) is the use of daughter boards for easy field upgradeability. Essentially, all components on the main board serve to control or deliver and regulate voltage. All of the personality and audio circuits are found in the daughter boards making it a snap to upgrade the unit when improvements are made.  As seen in the pictures, the daughter boards are easily identified by the distinctive Vitus logo and placed in a manner that allows for quick change. Other components we found to be very well laid out and assembled with care. The bottom line is that the RP-101 protects the owner by providing an upgrade path that will ensure top shelf sound and service for a very long time.

Finally, rather than point-to-point soldering, the RP-101 uses surface mount technology and reliable aerospace snap connectors with wiring harnesses. The advantage is clear: a technician can take a unit apart in minutes simply by unsnapping a few wiring harnesses and removing a few hex head cap screws. Heaven forbid you have a problem, but it is clear that serviceability was a key concern during the design process.

We have been impressed with the build quality of Vitus products. They have led the market with their world-class engineering and design and we were happy to see many of those features make their way to the Reference line.

System Control of The RP-101

Like all Vitus Reference products, the RP-101 is remotely controlled with a standard Apple Remote Control (not included). Some have complained that the use of such an inexpensive remote control for a product of this caliber is wrong. I think those complaining have it backwards, the use of the Apple Remote is quite inventive.  If you have ever lost a remote control (I dare you to tell me you haven’t), you know how expensive they are to replace. Also, some of those controllers are a bit complex. On the RP-101 there are really only two buttons required for operation so use could not be easier. If you lose the remote, it will set you back $19 at the Apple store to replace. Simple and inexpensive. How could anyone argue with that? If you have more than one Apple product and are concerned about the remotes fighting with each other, Vitus includes a very simple pair and un-pair function in the menu quickly make everything play together nicely.

The RP-101 allows the user to quickly switch between the two inputs, MM/MC and cartridge loading. I really liked the ability to tweak load setting from my chair rather than playing with the equipment at the rack. The RP-101 also gives quite a long list of load settings making it much easier to dial in your cartridge. The phono stage uses a ladder style menu system that we found logical and easily navigated. Documentation for set-up and configuration is very well written and I was able to set the system up in minutes without any issues.

The Vitus Sound…

What does the Vitus Audio RP-101 sound like? If I had to choose one word was to describe it, the word would be seductive. The big soundstage and air combined with beautiful timbre makes you forget about stereos and just melt into the chair and enjoy the music. At this moment I am listening to the new Speakers Corner Decca reissue of “The Sleeping Beauty” and I find myself constantly sitting back and listening rather than pounding away at the keyboard. From the gorgeous strings to the brassy horns, the orchestra is presented with a very resolving, yet relaxed manner.  We are excited to get the Signature Phono Stage in-house to see how much further Vitus Audio can take this intoxicating sound. At over twice the price, we trust the Signature is going to deliver miracles.

Vitus RP-101 Summary

The RP-101 is a great phono stage but we did not expect for it to perform this well. The looks, configurability and most of all, the sound make the Vitus RP-101 an absolutely stellar product. Being so involved with vinyl, we have the opportunity to hear a lot of phone stages and  the Vitus RP-101 stands up with the best we have auditioned regardless of price. Remember, the Reference RP-101 is the entry-levelphono stage from Vitus Audio. Hans-Ole Vitus promises that if we like the Reference phono stage, the Signature and Masterpiece will knock our socks off. But for now, we will have to be satisfied with the Reference RP-101 and all of the great music it is delivers. It by no means is a compromised situation to be in. I could be happy for a long time with the Reference RP-101.

........Paul Blizel

Analog Audio’s Thoughts On The Vitus RL-101 Preamplifier:

Vitus Audio represents the best-of-the-best in the audio world, albeit at a substantial investment. We were excited to hear that Hans-Ole Vitus had redesigned the Reference series of products with the goal of offering his world class audio products at a more attractive price point. The Reference RL-101 demonstrates this commitment and delivers a very impressive line stage. Offering a similar personality to it’s bigger brother, the Signature SL-102, the RL-101 delivers the “Vitus sound” without requiring a second mortgage.

The RL-101′s specifications are very impressive yet Vitus tends to undersell them. For instance, Vitus states on its website that the Reference RL-101 is “simply an upgraded version of the RL-100″, yet it does not use the battery power supply found on the RL-100. Instead, Vitus Audio designed the power supply using technology developed for the upscale Signature and Masterpiece lines which offers much better performance. The RL-101 is more than a model upgrade. It is an evolutionary design brought about by years of experience. The RL-100 is a fantastic line stage. The RL-101 takes a leap forward in technology and performance.

The Reference RL-101 also incorporates Vitus Audio’s well-known relay based volume control system. It is designed so that only one resistor is in series with the signal at any volume. What does that mean to you? Quite simply, there is no change in circuitry at any volume and that guarantees the same sound quality at zero or 100 percent volume. Listen closely at low levels, you won’t believe the sound stage!

Like all Vitus products, the RL-101 is designed and built utilizing modules. Not only does it give the interior a nice efficient layout, it also allows owners to easily upgrade their unit when Vitus Audio releases improvements. No need to send the system to a service center, turn a couple of screws and you are ready to go with the latest and greatest. What other product offers an owner a lifetime of non-obsolescence?

Finally, the RL-101 offers a number of single-ended and balanced inputs to meet your needs; we certainly haven’t run out of inputs yet. It isn’t a large unit measuring 4″ high by 17″ wide by 15″ deep, and we like that. It has a beautiful Scandinavian look and will fit nicely into almost any rack.

Like all Vitus products, we feel the Reference RL-101 is a winner. It is very competitively priced and offers the Vitus sound at less than half the price of its bigger brother. Although it is the starting point for Vitus Audio, it should be seriously considered for those looking to purchase their final line stage. It is really that good.

Vitus new SS-103 stereo power amp introduced at Munich High-End show

At the Munich Highend show 2016, the all new SS-103 signature stereo power amp from Vitus was certainly getting plenty of attention. This is a further development of the SS-102 which itself started life as the venerable SS-101 over 10 years ago now. The SS-103 incorporates trickle down technology and improvements from the £71,000 Masterpiece stereo amp and also has a few firsts up its sleeve as far as Vitus amplification goes.

The most important of these is the addition of a switchable mode which can be set to either ‘Classic Vitus’ for the rich, refined delivery that the brand is known for or a a new ‘Rock mode’ which will provide the listener with a faster, more dynamic and more forward presentation. Whilst both modes reportedly sounded superb at Munich, I am told that the Rock mode in particular was really something very special indeed and perhaps marks an exciting new pathway ahead for the brand. The SS-103 will definitely evolve into one of the superstars of the Vitus range and it marks a new heady level of performance for the signature class SS line. We look forward to playing with one in thge demo room

As with every product from Vitus Audio, the SS- 103 is designed to present you with a musical experience true to the performance, for generations to come.

With its modular design, future advancements in technology can easily be implemented with ease on site.

Featuring similar technology from our Masterpiece Stereo amplifier adding multiple sound- modes for enabling fine tuning performance to your liking, in your own room. We call these modes “Classic mode” and “Rock mode”. Classic mode gives you our classic preferences while rock mode gives you a more forward sound image. Adding kl. A and kl. AB to each sound mode, gives yet another level of fine tuning the final result to your personal preference.

With the latest revision of our custom trans- former, combined with the new power supply technology incorporated, it has a much more rigid and faster supply compared to its predeceedors.

This results in better control of lower frequencies, faster and more dynamic sound – and capable of driving the most difficult loads avail- able on the market today.

the RCD-101 can mean a door-to-door entry into the enjoyment that digital music offers both now and in the future.
Miguel Castro

SUMMARY: I'm not sure if the RCD-101 is a reader that can act as a DAC or a DAC that can be used as a compact disc player. But why put labels on such a complete product? Its operation in both cases is irreproachable, and although it shows a high price for a CD player or for an exclusive DAC, the ability to enjoy two products in one - and in the two cases of very high quality - RCD-101 in an article to take into account - and with a justified price - for any fan of demanding digital audio. We also have the added advantage of enjoying the quality of construction and the brand value that Vitus Audio brings to its products.

EXTENDED REVIEW: The entry range of all the big hi-fi companies, compose in my opinion their most important products, as they have the highest sales, establish a quality level of departure for their achievements that prestige and position the firm and perhaps Most importantly, if the customer ends up satisfied with his purchase, he gets loyalty to the brand and will return looking for a product of a superior range. Many important reasons, in which Vitus insurance has repaired not to neglect the products that make up the Reference Series and among which is the new RCD-101 model CD / DAC player.

The previous model of this series, the RCD-100, was already a complete success for the company. Unfortunately, when the Philips transporting mechanism, CDPro2LF, was no longer manufactured, Vitus Audio decided not to continue with a reader within its Reference series. The insistent requests of its distributors convinced the company to take out a new model of CD player, also having the possibility to act exclusively as DAC, was born the new RCD-101.

This new digital source uses a SACD reading mechanic from Sony, totally modified by Vitus to improve its performance minimising errors of reading. Pity that despite this, the RCD-101 is not able to play the format. There is no doubt that they chose this mechanic due to its high characteristics and reliability, although it penalises a little the speed in the reading of the discs. Other design modifications compared to the previous model are a power supply enhanced in power and silence, a new USB interface that supports DSD and does not need drivers, and have AES EBU digital input and output in addition to the RCA coaxial with which it already counted , Make this new model an important step ahead of its predecessor.

As for its construction, it maintains the usual standard of quality of the firm, characterised by a robust construction, solid and discreetly elegant. This model is completely finished in black and only the small central display, illuminated in yellow-orange color, breaks the aesthetics monochrome. The only point to criticise is the plastic remote control you use. I think that this product, although it belongs to its most affordable series, does not deserve neither for price nor for quality a command like the one I show in the photograph. Minor issue? It depends on our degree of demand.

Regarding its connectivity, the RCD-101 is quite well served. If you look at the digital inputs required for DAC operation, you have 1 RCA, 1 XLR and 1 USB (DSD). It also has a digital output XLR and RCA in case we want to use it as transport with another external DAC. As analog outputs, two pairs, one RCA and another XLR complete their equipment. As curiosity also has a grounding in its back.

Playing CD

What is the main function of such a complete and versatile device? From my point of view, and in agreement with the opinion of its distributors, the CD player function - despite the current boom of the new DAC - remains its main attraction. Of course, the option to operate as an exclusive DAC is so important that without it possibly the RCD-101 would lose almost all its interest as a possible purchase. Finally, the possibility of using the device as a transport happens to a secondary plane, daring me to venture that few of its owners will give that use. According to these premises, I will begin my analysis below as a CD player in the first place.

The sound of the electronic signature of the Danish firm has a personal seal, which we have heard consciously know and value. Well, because the RCD-101, despite being a product encompassed in the company's entry series, keeps its Vitus DNA intact, this being a guarantee of good sound. The taste of Vitus Audio in achieving all its products a corporeal sound, with a solid and low mid range and consistent, is reflected in the character of the RCD-101. In it we enjoy an admirable approach to analogical sound qualities, such as timbral realism, lack of aggressiveness and fingerprint in its sound, accompanied by a touch of softness that enveloped me from the first note heard. The listening comfort that this device transmits thanks to it is so high.

This absence of any hint of fatiguing aggressiveness is not caused by a limitation or reduction of its response in high frequencies, which we enjoy with excellent extension, aeration and detail. The real timbres of the metals of an orchestra will listen to them in all their splendour, with the necessary brilliance so that the music has all its liveliness, but without wanting to excel above the rest of frequencies. The high frequencies continue to enjoy the silky and human touch of the sound that characterises this product and the Vitus sound in general.

The middle frequencies are warm and fleshy, but not cloying or disproportionate by an excessive increase in their size. All instruments and voices retain the correct scale in their reproduction, neither appearing as spotlights and planes, but with a body and a 3D relief that allows us to almost visualise them in our room.

Performance at low frequencies is irreproachable, constituting the basis on which the sound of this player is erected absolutely convincingly.

Working as DAC

A good CD player that has a first level DAC is the dream of any fan of high fidelity updated to this new reality of listening to music that we live, and that every day is imposed irreparably. Whether we want it or not, and even if we resist a little more time, we will all end up with a good DAC and listening to content from a server or a music download platform - if possible in HR like Tidal.

Allow me to get off the subject, because this reminds me of the situation I am living now, with the first need that I am having to graduate my sight to read up close. How bad it is to get close to 45! My doctor has told me that even if he defends me now and I write these lines without glasses, why defer more buying something that is sure to need. This same your can extrapolate to a DAC. All of us who decide to listen to music in digital format will end up with a DAC in our system, and this Vitus RCD-101 can be the one that opens the horizon to us new ways to enjoy the music and at the same time we serve to not forget us Our beloved CD collection.

For this test, I used the EMM Labs TSDX Reference transport I routinely use to play CD and SACD and my Apple MacBook Pro computer to play music in high resolution, PCM and DSD formats.

CD-quality reproduction from the transport, connected with the Stealth Varidig Sextet balanced digital cable, provided a very different sound than the RCD-101 alone. This time the sound had less weight and force, we could say that it was less Vitus, of course not? The overall presentation became less physical and more ethereal, with a more open, but perhaps less real, sound. Can we say that the EMM Labs transport combo with DAC Vitus offered better sound than the latter alone? I dare not assert it, as I would not be able to say otherwise. In both cases the resulting sound quality was very high and the particular sound aesthetics of each listener could determine one thing or another, and it was already a success for the RCD-101 to maintain the type before a reference transport, why not say it, it costs more than him.

The reproduction of high resolution files from my Mac was very simple and pleasant. Having no need to download or install any previous drivers, turned this act into 100% PnP - connect the USB cable from the computer to your back entrance and ready. The computer recognised the first and after selecting it on output devices I started listening. As in any circumstance in our hobby, the quality of the recording to be played makes the difference, regardless of the audio format chosen. In addition the sound that our protagonist shows in CD quality is so satisfactory, that it is necessary to resort to very good recordings in high resolution so that we appreciate a significant improvement on him. In these circumstances the RCD-101 proves that it has a USB port fully optimised for music playback from a computer, and it is not a CD player with the possibility to operate as an occasional DAC. This apparatus was born with this vocation and its operation is irreproachable in all aspects. With good recordings in FLAC 24/96 format we appreciate an opening in the overwhelming sound scene, while showing the ability to present the highest resolution contained in these files in an always natural way.

Does it improve the sound by playing DSD files over 24 bit PCM? The answer is unfortunately not very clear, because we return to the "depends" imposed by the recording quality of the file that we listen to. Now, if we bother to look for those jewels in DSD format, there are, the RCD-101 is capable of breaking our schemes as to put before us the air that breathed musicians in our favourite concert or giving us an unknown dynamic in our system. Of course, in any case without any aggression or harshness.

CONCLUSIONS

I'm not sure if the RCD-101 is a reader that can act as a DAC or a DAC that can be used as a compact disc player. But why put labels on such a complete product? Its operation in both cases is irreproachable, and although it shows a high price for a CD player or for an exclusive DAC, the ability to enjoy two products in one - and in the two cases of very high quality - RCD-101 in an article to take into account - and with a justified price - for any fan of demanding digital audio. We also have the added advantage of enjoying the quality of construction and the brand value that Vitus Audio brings to its products.

Its sound like CD player is solid, corporeal and natural, approaching importantly to the analog sound. As exclusive DAC we find a slightly more neutral sound, but respecting the taste of the products of the Danish brand to eliminate any trace of aggressiveness in music. Capable of supporting both PCM format files up to 24/192 and DSD, the RCD-101 can mean a door-to-door entry into the enjoyment that digital music offers both now and in the future.

HEAVY METAL - Not Just Another Brick in the Audio Wall (review of previous SM-010 model - since replaced by SM-011)
Jeff Dorgay

SUMMARY: A pair of Vitus SM-010 amplifiers will present no compromise to your system no matter the quality of your other components. These behemoths may even inspire you to make a few improvements once you get used to their abilities. While the price is high, it’s commensurate with the level of build and sound quality. Think of the SM-010s as an ultimate audio destination—desert-island tracks optional.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Everything Hans-Ole Vitus makes is heavy. Really heavy. Break-your-back heavy. But those who possess the strength to lift his SM-010 monoblocks out of the boxes will be rewarded with fantastic sound. That said, it’s become very popular of late, at least in the United States, to take shots at the wealthy and, in particular, at luxury goods. So if the idea of a US$45k (excl sales tax) pair of amplifiers seems offensive, let fly the invective and take a pass.

While my bias leans towards vacuum-tube gear, the finest Class A solid-state amplifiers (like the recently reviewed Pass Labs XA160.5s) offer equal palpability and don’t require having to regularly forage for tubes. Heat is the only drawback to Class A units. They are power-hungry animals, but wildlife worth feeding.

Vitus gear not only feels powerful, it looks powerful just sitting on the rack. Also available with massive red-, gold-, or black-anodised front panels, our SM-010 review samples were anodised in a stunning shade of dark gray. I’d love to see more manufacturers adopt this trend. Apologies to the Oakland Raiders, but haven’t we had enough silver and black?

Beneath the SM-010’s top panel lurks a masterpiece of modern know-how—a tidy circuit layout revealing clean electrical and mechanical design. Top-grade parts are used throughout. An enormous power transformer, custom designed for Vitus, is a work of art in its own right—and not the usual toroid that exists in most other amplifiers. Individual amplifier boards, connected directly to the circuit boards to keep signal paths as short as possible, are to the left and right of the power supply.

A solitary XLR input, along with the standard IEC power connection and two speaker outputs to facilitate bi-wiring, makes it easy to integrate a pair of SM-101s into any system. These beasts can be used as 100-watt-per-channel amplifiers in Class-AB mode or 40-watts-per-channel amps in Class A mode. With every speaker, Class A mode yields enough power for all but the most intense listening.

Flick of the Switch

The SM-010s power up in AB mode but can easily be switched into Class A via the remote control or front panel. Yes, my inner Homer Simpson loves any adjustments that can be done from the comfort of a listening chair—it really does make the evaluation process easier. When switched to Class A, the change in the amplifiers’ performance is slightly more than subtle, acting as a tube amplifier does when switching from pentode to triode mode. Unlike all the tube amplifiers I’ve auditioned that offer this function (and make a loud ker-chunk sound when altering modes), the Vitus effortlessly and silently switches between A and AB, making sonic inspections all the more interesting. And while engaging triode mode with a vacuum-tube amplifier usually bestows more midrange lubricity, it comes at the expense of bass control. The SM-010s require no such sacrifice.

Again, like a tube amplifier, the SM-010 needs a solid hour or two for the slight initial haze to dissipate. While not green in practice, if you want to experience the best it has to offer (especially in Class A mode), leave the amps on for a day before you begin critical listening. However, prepare to see a bump in your electric bill the following month!

Listen to This

On “Hear My Train A-Comin’” from Jimi Hendrix’s recent Winterland compilation, the Vitus’ deliver the virtuoso’s distorted guitar in spades and Noel Redding’s bass playing in a way I’ve never experienced. Textures in the latter blend with the distortion, the mix growling as if emanating from the band’s vintage Ampeg amplifiers. Metallica’s so-called “Black Album” offers similar revelations when cranked up. The plucked bass line in “Nothing Else Matters” flaps my pants leg as it does at a Metallica concert. All six of my GamuT woofers work strenuously and, yet, stay controlled. I’ll trade all the string quartets in the world for five minutes of this experience, and the Vitus amplifiers grant my wishes. After a full day of seriously heavy music (that, admittedly, to the disappoint of editor Bob Gendron, did not include any St. Vitus albums), these amplifiers cannot be broken. Moreover, while they got extremely warm, their sonic character did not change.

Big solid-state power normally promises stout bass response, and the SM-010s prove no exception to the rule. Yet these amplifiers’ innate ability to unveil layer after layer of musical performances melts brain cells. If you have speakers as equally revealing as the SM-010s, you’re in for a fatigue-free experience—no matter how high or low the listening level.

Indeed, classical music aficionados will relish the delicacy with which the Vitus’ render string and wind instruments. My GamuT S9s feel like big headphones when I listen to the oboes in the Netherland Wind Ensemble’s Beethoven Wind Music. For me, texture and nuance are the chief characteristics that turn listening sessions into musical events. With the SM-010s in my system, I’m still going to great lengths to listen to records I’ve heard hundreds of times to see if I can mine new aural data.

Great amplifiers also magnify differences between mediocre recordings and standout efforts. Score another victory for the SM-010s. Used extensively in TONEAudio’s Pink Floyd coverage for Issue 40, the Vitus’ exposed subtle nuances between various Dark Side of the Moon pressings as if merely presented with apples and oranges.

Whether in AB or A mode, the SM-010s exhibit dead-quiet backgrounds with zero noise when used in conjunction with the equally silent Vitus preamplifier. When mated with my ARC REF 5 and REF PHONO 2, there’s a slight bit of tube rush—but nothing from the Vitus. This makes for a dynamic presentation, and contributes to the amplifiers always sounding much bigger than you’d expect 40-watt monoblocks to sound. They actually remind me of my favourite amplifiers from the 80s—Mark Levinson ML-2s—but boast healthier depth and detail.

The SM-010s also excel at precise acceleration and deceleration, never blurring transients. Vide, Morris Pert’s lightning-fast percussion runs in “The Poke,” from Brand X’s Masques. The amps’ perfect pace separates the percussion from the rapid-fire drumming, each keeping control of its own space. Such ability to instantaneously start and stop significantly contributes to the SM-010’s non-fatiguing sound.

Other Synergies

Partnered with my reference GamuT S9s, the SM-010s are in many ways the equal of my reference Burmester, Pass Labs, and ARC amps but, nonetheless, retain their own sonic signature. While each amplifier has its own virtues and near-faultless performance, the Vitus amplifiers thrive in their ability to resolve great detail without ever becoming fatiguing—even after full-day listening sessions.

While mixing and matching, I discovered a few synergies to be unmistakably good. For example, the B&W 802 Diamonds are completely different speakers when used in concert with the SM-010s. Normally, the 802 is very revealing and, when married to an amplifier that is either harsh or forward, mirrors the amp’s presentation. With the 802s, the Vitus sounds particularly tube-like in the upper registers, replete with the slam and control you expect from a powerful solid-state amplifier.

Heard through this combination, Keith Jarrett’s Shostakovich: 24 Preludes and Fugues, Op. 87 possesses extra depth and decay, sounding more realistic than I recall—especially on the opening “Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C Major.” While Shostakovich is traditionally a forceful composer, this piece assumes a wistful delicacy through lesser amplifiers, as Jarrett’s light touch becomes lifeless and flat. The ultimate test? Play the composition at the low volume it demands. The Vitus passes with proverbial flying colours.

B&Ws aside, the oddest albeit most interesting combination I experienced with the SM-010s occurred with the compact Penaudio Cenya speakers. Most people would not mate a US$45k (excl sales tax) pair of amplifiers with a US$4,000 pair of speakers, but hey, why not give it a try? The Cenyas sounded supercharged, disappearing in the room as never before, almost as if a subwoofer entered the equation.

Not Just Another Brick in the Audio Wall

Some audiophiles argue that speakers are everything to a system, while others, maintaining the garbage in/garbage out theory, believe the source the most important link in the chain. I feel every part is equally important. But I’ve also seen plenty of astonishing speakers and fantastic source components humbled when lacking proper amplification. Truth be told, I’ve heard modest speakers deliver performances I never thought possible when a standout amplifier drives them. So, at the end of the day, I’m an amplifier guy.

A pair of Vitus SM-010 amplifiers will present no compromise to your system no matter the quality of your other components. These behemoths may even inspire you to make a few improvements once you get used to their abilities. While the price is high, it’s commensurate with the level of build and sound quality. Think of the SM-010s as an ultimate audio destination—desert-island tracks optional.

THE ALL NEW RCD-101 CD/DAC

SUMMARY: The Vitus SCD is surely one of the greatest digital players available anywhere at any price but the Vitus RCD-101 at around only 43% of its cost, is simply way better than 43% of its performance. If the RCD were offered at a price strictly commensurate to its sonic comparison against the SCD then it would surely be around 70-80% of the cost, so approaching the £14,000-£15,000 mark. Listen to the two back to back and whilst the SCD is doing a lot more and sounds even more natural, effortless and invisible, the RCD-101 gets fairly close and you come away thinking what exceptional value for money it is.

EXTENDED REVIEW: the RCD-101 is one of Vitus newest units to the market which replaces the outgoing RCD-100 cd player. In true Vitus fashion, they have really gone to town on the update, leaving no stone unturned and going in and improving every single aspect of the design. So comprehensive was the final set of revisions that the RCD-101 not only trounces the older 100 model into a cocked hat, but it is also sonically superior to the previous Signature class cd/dac the SCD-010 which I used to retail for around the £15,000 mark.

Both the RCD-100 and SCD-010 were no slouches in their day and were very highly regarded against their competitors so that should give you some idea of the level of performance that this new first rung of the Vitus digital ladder provides.

Let’s take a closer look at ths innards. The discontinued Phillips CDPro2LF transport found in the old RCD-100 has been replaced by a Sony SACD unit which Vitus has completely stripped and rebuilt for greater precision and hence less requirement for error correction. The RCD-101 benefits from a new USB interface which supports DSD and is also driverless. Along with USB you have one AES/EBU input and one SPDIF input so plenty of options for adding a pc/mac, a dedicated streamer, digital TV, Sky, your bluray player etc. The RCD-101 is a true balanced cd player, transport and DAC and sports RCA and XLR analogue output as well as an SPDIF and AES/EBU digital output. Lastly, the RCD-101 has a much improved power supply over the older model resulting in greater dynamics and a lower noise floor.

In the Vitus tradition, this is a digital player which sounds very refined and natural. Out and out resolution and detail levels are very very high but it’s the complete picture of the music which dominates and the RCD-101 never sounds excessively detailed or bright. If the word ‘digital’ causes you to momentarily shudder at the thought of a source that might offend with a clinical, brittle, edgy, tiring presentation then the RCD-101 is the very opposite of that. In the biggest of cliches the sound is indeed very analogue like and you would be forgiven for thinking that you were listening to a very good turntable, perhaps a direct drive with exemplary pitch stability.

That said, whilst the RCD-101 has smoothness, warmth and refinement it does not achieve these by softening, abbreviating or rolling off. It simply does not commit one set of sins to avoid committing another set. This is a DAC that at the same time sounds extremely neutral and precise with excellent articulation and dynamics. There is bite to the edges of notes and very good focus to the sound staging. There is bags of precision and complex tracks unravel effortlessly but at the same time giving you the resolution and high articulation which can make many a cd player sound awkward with a tendency to trip over its own resolving power. The RCD-101 is proof that a warm over-ripe mellifluous tube Dac is not necessarily the way you should solve the pitfalls of the digital signal. It is also living proof that you can have precision, speed and extreme accuracy without straying into leanness and sterility and losing that strong sense of realism which we all chase.

As a Vitus piece, it goes without saying that the RCD is very dimensional with a layered 3d sound and tonal accuracy is absolutely superb. There is no pinching or accentuation of frequencies, solo piano for example has an incredibly real rendition and fine timbral and textural nuances are preserved and very well communicated especially for a unit at this sort of price point.

Scanning the marketplace and looking around at what else is available for £7990, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that in all likelihood, the RCD-100 is going to shock you a fair bit. I have sold a fair few of these since they came out and nearly every source they displaced was something that started life considerably more expensive. This is a very very high level source and all the cd/dac that most people will ever need in their entire lives. Please do not let the generous price or the fact that it is Vitus’s entry product mislead you into underestimating what this thing is capable of. There has been a lot of very expensive DACs and Streamers flood the marketplace in the last 6 years or so but for me, most don’t even get beyond that most basic of pitfalls of sounding mechanical, electronic and overly analytical.

Of course you can plug whatever preferred streaming device you choose into the back of the RCD and it can be seen as a pure dac with a transport thrown in for good measure. Whilst a basic pc or mac will get you up and running with streamed music immediately, I would ultimately recommend a highend device with a natural sound that will be synergistic and in harmony with the Vitus way of doing things. For the ultimate in functionality and sonics, I would offer you something from the Antipodes range of Music Servers / Streamers.

Much like the RI-100 vs. SIA-025 integrated amp comparison, I often get asked to compare the RCD-101 against its Signature elder brother the SCD-025. First of all, understand that the SCD-025 has just been upgraded to MK2 guise so is now well over twice the price of the RCD at £18,500. It is quite simply a phenomenal digital source. In the last few months I have had two customers trading £15k+ ultimate spec Linn LP12 turntables in to afford the SCD. Yes that’s right, they are pushing Vinyl to one side and trading in turntables that have been in the family for decades, all so they can put an SCD into their living room.

The SCD is surely one of the greatest digital players available anywhere at any price but the RCD-101 at around 43% of its cost, is simply not 43% of its performance. If the RCD were offered at a price strictly commensurate to its sonic comparison against the SCD then it would surely be around 70-80% of the cost, so approaching the £14,000-£15,000 mark. Listen to the two back to back and whilst the SCD is doing a lot more and sounds even more natural, effortless and invisible, the RCD gets fairly close and you come away thinking what exceptional value for money it is.

If someone is not prepared to change, I do not advise to take the Danes home to perform for each other, as even casual meeting may result in unplanned addition in your configuration. I've warned you,....
Jacek Pazio

I am glad, because from the first bars could be heard perfectly high class sound, which continues the process only positive deepened,

Opinion 1When a year ago I had the pleasure of first contact in our own backyard with the product commencing offer brand title, somewhere in the spirit of hoping for a quick continuation of the penetration of its very broad portfolio. Unfortunately, time passes quickly, and those plans somewhat stretched in time. However, given the fact that what is delayed is usually not flee, after a suitable amount of water in the Vistula and fruitful conversation with the Katowice distributor - RCM, it turned out that for the next performances to the editor arrived relatively recently introduced to the market monobloc, aided accessible for a long time preamplifier line. And when I first tested component (integrated amplifier RI-100) oscillating in the medium-price states generally understood High-End, was theoretically a good nucleus of playing the manufactories, the current configuration is already a very strong point of sounding offer - at least so says the manufacturer. So not extending too much, I invite you all to meet with monoblocks SM-011 and SL-102 preamplifier, produced by the Danish master full control over even the most demanding loudspeaker system, which is known to many lovers of Scandinavian sound brand Vitus Audio.

Looking at the test devices, we see a unification of the structure housing the line, which on the one hand slightly reduces production costs, on the other hand avoids the search for distinguishing the strength of the data components of visual frills. If something had time to reap praise for tranquility and simplicity, combined with the high quality of workmanship, it does not look as ekwilibrystycznych projects, which consequently may scare off seeking such a balance customers. Starting with a description of the terminals, you have to admit that the manufacturer as it used to be said on the site - "he did not regret the goods" as those falling dimensions in the size of the middle class audio structures are brim-filled feedstock material, they are very heavy. Can not see it, but disregard the weight can end up with sprained back or dropped to the ground while moving destination. Looking at the fronts, we see two patches of thick aluminum, overlapping centrally placed black acrylic plate, which was located three, according described, allowing all configurations of manipulators Button. These central dimmed window is largely a source of information about the state of the device during operation, but the producer in the care of recognition at the bottom all the time (even during a state of STANDBY) caresses us with her radiant glow amber logo. I warn czepialskich, it looks very discreetly. The sides because of work to choose from in Class A and AB were armed with solid heat sinks are on the upper level form a sort of elongated rectangular vertical windows. I must say honestly, this seemingly minor surgery project has a very large share in the positioning blocks in my ranking of aesthetics. Pictures do not fully reflect, but in real life it looks great. Back monoblocks because of one simple task - to strengthen the signal - has become a mainstay in the standard XLR inputs (the design is fully balanced) and RCA, rather broadly seeded a single speaker terminal and a power outlet. The preamplifier based on a similar monoblocks for housing is almost identical (including the front-front). The only differences can be found on the roof and sides of the unit, which now are smooth and very well-equipped rear panel. Looking at the back of the SL-102 - ki see countless, occupying the entire surface of the rows of inputs and outputs XLR and RCA, his amount of giving some space only integrated with the main switch to a power supply socket. For nothing more has no place to indicate that the master plan for the inner space made of 100 percent. And this is the appropriate concept of Mr. Ole Vitus. And if you surrender questioned punched full of guts relevant elements during transport quickly convinced about his error, because the 102-ka weight far behind the previously described endings power. Really the logistics advise to apply, because they damage the spine.

Because of the appearance of me at the same time excellent players and well-looking (of course, can be a matter of taste) columns native manufactories ARDENTO, I allowed myself - naturally after deeper acquainted with them in his own included - use them to test stoves in Denmark . Baffle with a whopping 18-inch bass speaker in spite of high efficiency are sometimes a challenge for amplifiers. It is true that their designers propel them to set a deal based on the bubble tube 300B theoretically it meets a need for them, however, sparring with a strong A -klasowym transistor useful to me in their subsequent deeper analysis during the test dream system, which is already planned. But returning to the heroes of the meeting from the stable Vitus'a, at the beginning I have to confirm the recommendations of the constructor of the permanent connection of the preamplifier to the power supply. State "Standby" the most important systems all the time leaves in full support of the current, which organoleptic can easily be verified by tapping the unused, but warm the device. But in this post-włączeniowym network laying process electronics, of course, the most important is the fact that the initial light "angularity play", which manifested limitation bulky bass and earthiness upper registers. But immediately I want to reassure all, such a state we have only a few days after the break-up of the device socket, which is normally operated in the kit is a fact jednorazowym-. Each subsequent launch, if the plug is not left port in the wall, it is no longer burdened with the mannerism. And when the 24-hour warm-up time came to specifics, I started my music horses. To take full advantage of the slow process of setting column, I put on Martin Stripling with his first album entitled "Marcin Teenager & Coloriage" . How to Polish standards, this item fluctuates in the upper states of quality both in terms of repertory, and performance, what often can experience on autumn Warsaw exhibition audio - a lot of exhibitors uses it for presentation equipment. Low murmurs bass, perfectly integrated into the track shimmering million sparks in the area elaborate przeszkadzajki and accordion in the hands of a virtuoso allow you to sink into melancholy game instrument frontman. This item plate at a glance showed the full potential of the proposal Ole Vitus. Exemplary control fiendishly low BASISK coming down - this you need experience, phenomenal resolution and perfect positioning of virtual sources, many can learn how it should be done. And when all of this throw in a deep stage without problems affecting some two meters away behind the columns against the wall, you can go ahead and finish the test. But not with me these numbers Bruner. Although it was not really fault anything, I persisted further in their search for defects Danes and switched to vocal with Jordi Savall. Here made itself felt illustrious class A, I chose when configuring the system - we have to choose even AB. The smoothness and homogeneity even in the slightest limited duration-reflective somewhere under the church vault human voices, giving the feeling of a full breath coming to my ears music. Of course it was a little warmer and more fleshy than in a typical transistor, but it was fully intended treatment, which after a few combinational movements with the buttons on the front can be corrected by going into said class AB, or one of the two to choose from rather provocatively named voice option: 007 and Rambo. However, due to my preferences larger decks smoothness, I preferred to continue with refined carving each note, measure than with their wyczynowością decay. So passed several discs feast music lover, until the time came for less meticulously refined label position and drive CDeka landed Coldplay album entitled " A Rush Of Blood To The Head" . I like this group from the beginning of the fun in music, but as it happens in rock recordings, cited material is not a masterpiece realizacyjnym, becoming rather a proposal to draw emotions only substantive charge. Nevertheless, several times through a test found in my system devices, even the album had its five minutes rank well played. Not that I want to especially over her torment, but fairly flat recorded music, the louder playing becomes very tiring. Not really energetic drums, dried guitar riffs and piercing my ears slim vocals can discourage even najzagorzalszego devotee. But as it turned out, the relief this position came selected my class - A little bit of softness, density and smoothness without degradation of freedom of generating sounds, given excellent results liftingowe. When the slightly weighted rate drums showed that it has a solid volume of the drum, strings of "paddles" changed the temperature of the sound and the singer's voice was a little honey lotion, once again insert the disc into the drive, I could include a full success. Reading the description as presented, you would think that it is enough to implement into your puzzle unsophisticated if only A- class wzmak and we nirvana. Unfortunately, life is brutal, as it has several times had the opportunity to taste this class in a bad topology, and I know that this desirable by many literka starting alphabet is only a foundation of well-constructed device. She can not squeeze the plates, but it is not a panacea in itself, because the most important is the ability of its implementation in the electrical system. Exemplary representative of such products is, of course, the main perpetrator of good music during this meeting the test, which is the title set pre - power from Denmark, as has shown that throughout this game with regarded as a role model class is not about simply pumped up the bass downforce midrange, or tempered upper registers, only adding them necessary to obtain good sound quality of color artifacts. Is the proposal was tested disadvantages? Of course, it was hard pieruńsko. But seriously, you really need to try to force it to surrender. The obvious is also the fact that such a loaded dose of a bulky set in some compilations can cause loss sought by lovers of hairsplitting sharpness virtual sources. If you look at the presentation of sound by the duo 011-ek, mind automatically comes to our aesthetics of a good lamp. And this is probably the main advantage of this transistor structure or power of low descending bass, full of information distribution diameter and shiny ether mountain, and everything spiced with the advantages of glass bubbles.

When I started this test, I hada lot of question marks - what will be the first impression that a meeting of the Integra was very neutralne- read, there was the proverbial often fałszującego perception of the whole "wow" ?, - as rolled steel variant of the amplifier ? - to end the fear of meeting my standards for a foul on bass speakers with a diameter bowl for bathing infants. After the rally musical admit, it was fantastic. The most interesting is the fact that this is not the last word Ole Vitus in the field of signal amplification. If we can listen at home other structures, time will tell. I am glad, because from the first bars could be heard perfectly high class sound, which continues the process only positive deepened, and not, as is often the case, drifted in unexpected and unwanted results for the final direction. If someone is not prepared to change, I do not advise to take the Danes home to perform for each other, as even casual meeting may result in unplanned addition in your configuration. I've warned you,.....

Jacek Pazio

the SIA-025 is it sounds like real music. It avoids straying into sterility or sounding analytical by offering up a nice balance of warmth, tonal purity, richness (body) and tube-like liquidity.
Bodhi.- owner
SUMMARY - This is a sublimely good integrated amp. I never thought i'd find an integrated which would convince me to dispose of my previous Boulder 1060/1010 combo, but the Vitus achieves that feat and sounds like very good high end separates. That revelation coincided with a wish to reduce my box count and change direction with my system. What I didn't realise at the time was how much of a sea change that would prove to be!

Hi folks, having lived with my Vitus SIA-025 for a while, I thought it was time to post a review.

Firstly the Vitus has wonderful Danish industrial design that is timeless. Everything about its design and attention to detail is excellent right down the the shipping materials and remote control (which is the best i've ever seen & is rechargeable).

The SIA-025 is a true balanced, dual mono, 25 Watt class A amp which uses an efficient Vitus-designed UI-core potted "floating" transformer with separate windings for the left & right channels. The preamplifier stage is adapted from the SL-102 and uses the same gain stages and one single "buffer" module.. so .. really good, whilst the output stage is drawn from the SM-010 mono amps. The Vitus in every respect is the best integrated amp i've owned by a fair margin.

This amp is very flexible and has 150 watts of class A/B power @ 8ohms which is perfect for background listening or for movies, but can also be switched over to class A mode for best sound. 

But all that build quality would be useless if it didn't sound good! The easiest way to describe the sound of the SIA-025 is it sounds like real music. It avoids straying into sterility or sounding analytical by offering up a nice balance of warmth, tonal purity, richness (body) and tube-like liquidity.

The Vitus has excellent resolution which reveals subtle, but important information in the music such as a bell chime in the background, or the light brush of a snare drum. It also has fast transients and can be delicate when the music calls for it. The treble is somewhat softened and the lower midrange slightly emphasised, giving the amp a sound resembling good vinyl. And the effect is cumulative as you add more Vitus components. In short, Vitus sounds best with other Vitus components. In saying that however, the SIA-025 is remarkably flexible. Not only because it can be switched between class A/B & class A, but also because this amp has the uncanny ability to sound good paired with a wide range of speakers and setups. It just "does its thing" and always produces great sound. Perhaps its ability to make average recordings sound very good extends to less than perfect speakers?

I also strongly agree with Chris Thomas's comments in his HiFi Plus in which he stated:

"From stand-by, straight into class A I would say that you are looking at a half hour before it really begins to sing and then it just seems to keep getting better. Even after a solid afternoon and evening's listening I would swear that the amplifier was growing more fluid, textural and resolute with better dynamic contrasts, tonal shading and the delicacy of its musical message just seems to become more profound."

As a side note, good isolation is very important to bring out the best sound from this amp. Notwithstanding the potted, floating transformer and anti-resonant chassis, stuffing so much gear into a modest sized chassis does create some resonance. Placing the amp on a solid rack with Stillpoints Ultra 5's and an Ultra LPI on top made a big difference which created a blacker background, improved bass & brought the sound stage into clearer focus. I now consider the Stillpoints mandatory with the Vitus Sig Series such has been the level of improvement.

But has it got balls? That is a question I get quite a bit. With "only" 25 watts class A power, on paper it doesn't look like this amp is capable of driving a full size speaker with a moderately difficult load. Let's look a bit deeper. Most of the amp's real estate (and 42kg weight) is taken up by a huge 1.4kVa Vitus-designed UI-core transformer. Most audiophile-grade toroidal transformers lose up to 25% voltage (both channels driven), however the Vitus loses max 1.5% voltage tested. It is also a very high current amp, meaning that 1.4kVa tranny feels more like a big 2kVA tranny. In practice I have found the SIA-025 drives my Magico S5's without breaking a sweat and at only 140hrs is already delivering deep bass and a nice, coherent sound stage. Of course once my amp and speakers reach 500hrs the bass and sound stage should open up even more & sound more resolving.

SUMMARY - This is a sublimely good integrated amp. I never thought i'd find an integrated which would convince me to dispose of my previous Boulder 1060/1010 combo, but the Vitus achieves that feat and sounds like very good high end separates. That revelation coincided with a wish to reduce my box count and change direction with my system. What I didn't realise at the time was how much of a sea change that would prove to be!

........Bodhi.

The transmission was dominated by serenity and maturity, which in any case should not be confused with slowdown and boredom, as both dynamics and emotional potential have not weakened but reached the level of which the silver discs could only dream of.
Marcin Olszewski

SUMMARY - Initial indulgence with which we watched before connecting to power on "small" Vitusy evolved in the course of listening in evident surprise passing well-deserved respect. Control coupled with musicality made him We forgot about the extremely compact SL - 102 & SM - 011 and focused on what's most important, after all - music. A music Vitusy played just delicious. Therefore, if you believe in the principle that you do not judge a book by its cover I strongly urge you to borrow a set of Vitus at least a week and in the comfort of your home system to verify its capabilities. There's a good chance that not only will appeal to you, but, and quite clearly would deal with many times greater, at least when it comes to the competition.

Opinion 2 - Taking into account the considerations of a purely logistical often happens that our editorial reaches several devices that reviews only a portion goes directly to the publication and the rest are written as if the drawer patiently waiting for their proverbial five minutes. The reason for this is extremely prosaic - the "monodystrybucyjna" series dedicated located in the portfolio of one distributor brands is not enough that fairly significantly affected the decline in the diversity of issues we deal with, as well as might suggest too much familiarity with specific with purveyors of all manner of equipment ointment on tests. Therefore, from the outset Sound Rebels are trying to shuffle as possible and diversify our proposals presented by stirring offer technologies and was the source of acquisition. Therefore, please, therefore, not surprising that the pictures show besides being the climax of this review electronics also baffle Ardento Alter 2, which does not have, even though their return as a test company set sooner or later occur. But back to the topic. Mentioned at the outset of the case related to the delivery I touched not without reason, because as long as the majority of enough budget range peacefully, well, with a small dose of confidence, you can entrust the solidity and professionalism of operating in our market, shipping companies so much transporting worth tens or hundreds of thousands cargo far wiser to take care of himself. Choosing therefore in the region of how our beautiful homeland, most distributors will predefine publishing plans for a few weeks ahead ... teen and within one course to provide input material until the next "Tour de Pologne". Do not drone longer invited to test the shared amplification Vitus Audio SL - 102 and SM - 011.

True, readers familiar with the offer of the Danish brand of can conclude that Hans Ole Vitus slowly moving away from massive blocks of its flagship products for poręczniejszych definitely not deviating dimensions of competition, equipment, however, is only part of the truth. I say the reason is quite prosaic - flagship have something stand out and apart from the obvious power and sound must also meet market expectations in terms of the so-called. perceived value and that increases in direct proportion to the body. Large maybe more, no matter there is no class, etc., Etc. In the case of Signature Series erected, above all, the sound and ergonomics, and this as we know it does not go hand in hand with aluminum cubes with side cirka ratio of about 50 cm. If you have a different opinion perfectly understand it, but as an experiment suggest to present their more beautiful halves first end Vitus MP-S201 and then the heroes of this review. Already? Well, exactly. Now we all know what are the chances of bringing in your own four corners of solutions truly uncompromising and how much less unfettered more space, but still pełnokrwistego High-End. 

Turning to the merits. Far-reaching unification within not only the line but also the entire portfolio does not give even the slightest chance of surprises. Made with a truly surgical precision with thick slabs of brushed aluminum housing makes a very solid impression, which is confirmed by the organoleptic test for the so-called. woodpecker, which is tapping in to verify the fit of individual components, and much less pleasant for the spine - for the transfer of nearly pięćdziesięciokilogramowych segments. The twin fronts preamplifier and ends with the surroundings communicate via displays hidden behind panels placed between the massive aluminum vertical inserts of Plexiglas and set in equal rows of three buttons on both sides of the "breakthrough." Thanks to them we are able to source selection, volume set, and getting to the main menu exactly as described in the manual. 

If the ends of the rear wall offer only what you need to offer, that is centrally located power outlet, located symmetrically double Furutech speaker terminals and an equally strong signal socket standard RCA / XLR is already at the preamplifier we are dealing with a truly Byzantine splendor. A center of symmetry is also integrated with the main switch and fuse the power outlet and from it spread out in two rows of input and output RCA (top) and XLR (bottom). Of course, everything is exactly as described and the configuration of the whole make by selecting the appropriate settings in the menu. Zero jumpers, switches and combining when we have a new element in the track. The only thing that does not exist and would be able, for example, is known. Densenów describing the outputs / inputs on the top, so that looking from the top you can make calls almost blindly.

Maybe it is obvious evidence, but for the sake of peace and recenzenckiego obligation, I would like the umpteenth time to recall that although the title set play from the start is not so much worth it, as you just have to be patient and to critical listening join after at least an hour of integration of electronics. By this time Vitusy manage to reach the correct operating temperature, that is, they do strongly warm and we have time to clean the head and soothe the troubled mind to sit in a chair without unnecessary psychological burden. Under no circumstances should a definitive statement with no certainty that playing at the moment the device does not have a proven at least a few days of being under shock, because what for what, but just for the uninterrupted supply of life-giving energy Danish electronics are extremely sensitive .

Because the test Vitusów moved around in parallel with a shared amplification Robert codes obvious, at least for us, was the use of the same repertoire, so please do not be surprised that reading this review, you can get the impression that somewhere like the order of the material used music. 

The wording of the Danish system is extremely dense, tangible, and that makes the reproduced material and actually plays it musicians from the first bars materialize in our listening room. What is important scale, the volume of sound is better not to judge the lumps devices themselves, as is so inadequate to the facts of what actually completely wrong. Vitusy for playing sound, not only large in terms of spatiality, which just large. In addition, after several attempts with different endings we came to the very constructive proposals that at least Alterami less and finesse is better, so the lion's share of their stay with us 11-ki worked not only in pure Class A, but also set the operating mode 007, which translates the culture of unbridled power offered in the mode ... Rambo. Issued on XRCD "Seven Days" Dadawy very skillfully solidified operating in the high register vocals, truly holographic ambient space, almost progressive melodic lines and completely incomprehensible text layer. The lowest bass rumblings ventured into rarely explored by our regions and the speed and precision of sound go hand in hand with a truly tubey homogeneity and saturation of colors. When the voice came from Timbaland, "Shock Value" powerful kick bass blew the membranes Ardento last dust particles. Slightly nasal vocals Nelly Furtado received a very nice shot of a woman's warmth and sensuality, which lost a lot of current in most cases radio-telephone accretions and become more human and less technical - plastic.

And just when touched evidently postproduction shortcomings should look at the rock yard and eg. For "Misplaced Childhood" Marillion, which even after the final mastering difficult to determine as the outstanding execution. 

Flat like anorexic model scene and cykająco - crisp sheets can spoil all the pleasure of listening. But this time, despite the evident and obvious technical shortcomings whole has become much more healthy "body." There is a living tissue filling contours and annoying percussion respectively dopalone golden glow finally started to play their proper role. 

With a more ambitious repertoire to mention quite confusing and not the easiest in the reception of "Beit" Masada (John Zorn, Dave Douglas, Greg Cohen, Joey Baron). Of course, in this type of music Jack poplątańce they are on the agenda, but personally, I prefer to look for complications in progresyjnych varieties of rock and after a similar experience in the Jazz reach for quite occasionally. But this time it was nice, very nice, because Vitusy showing a whole in a very homogeneous manner focused primarily on the emotional layer - the color that after przykuciu attention listener put it in the intricate twists and instrumental virtuosity involved in recording musicians. 

But just as in the case of Takumi true fairy-like spectacle of color, richness aliquot and literal organicity could speak only in the case of vinyl. Albums "The Tube Only Night Music" Tacet, "Time Out" The Dave Brubeck Quartet, the soundtrack of "The Cloud Atlas Sextet" and two releases in the series "The Berliner Direct To Disc Recordings" - die Tommys "Volume 1" and " March 28 "Elaizy meant that it was impossible to break away from the listening position. Only need to change the pages forced us to get up from the seat. What up to now, with digital sources seemed almost tangibility and materialization of musicians in our four corners, actually we only seemed. Only when (conventionally) black panel could properly assess the possibility of Scandinavian amplification. The transmission was dominated by serenity and maturity, which in any case should not be confused with slowdown and boredom, as both dynamics and emotional potential have not weakened but reached the level of which the silver discs could only dream of.

Initial indulgence with which we watched before connecting to power on "small" Vitusy evolved in the course of listening in evident surprise passing well-deserved respect. Control coupled with musicality made him We forgot about the extremely compact SL - 102 & SM - 011 and focused on what's most important, after all - music. A music Vitusy played just delicious. Therefore, if you believe in the principle that you do not judge a book by its cover I strongly urge you to borrow a set of Vitus at least a week and in the comfort of your home system to verify its capabilities. There's a good chance that not only will appeal to you, but, and quite clearly would deal with many times greater, at least when it comes to the competition. It should also be noted that with Hans Ole Vitus Watts are "a little" more calories, and they are closer to their "tube" brothers than those achieved with digital circuits. Like a little thing, but trust me on word that happen in this case makes it a colossal difference.
........Marcin Olszewski

SM-010's will give you a musical performance that will thrill you and give you great musical companionship for many years to come.
Trang chủ

SUMMARY: the words natural and real recur throughout my notes and this review. My listening sessions never lacked for anything, and I never wanted more. I always heard and enjoyed the music, not the electronics. I played everything I could get my hands on through the Vitus SM-010s, and they reproduced all of it beautifully. Could you ask for more? It’s one of the most complete, most natural-sounding amplifiers I have heard. I would like to own a pair!

EXTENDED REVIEW: Vitus Audio Signature SM-010 (now SM-011) Mono Amplifiers- the added power and true balanced configuration, gets you really close to the bigger SM-101 performance, but in a much smaller chassis. Matched with either the SL-010 or SL-102 (now SL-103) the SM-010's will give you a musical performance that will thrill you and give you great musical companionship for many years to come.

Choose the SM-010's if you are a current SS-010 owner and want to upgrade, or if the large SS-101/SM-101 simply take up too much space in your listening room. The SM-010 delivers the highest performance in what is a relatively small chassis.

Vitus Audio electronics have impressed me at every trade-show exhibit at which I’ve heard them. VA always shows its strengths and sonic character while allowing the associated loudspeakers, cables, and ancillaries to shine. Typically, I would saunter into the room, get a first impression of the sound, then anchor myself and thoroughly enjoy the music as I worked out fantastic schemes to get the Vitus gear into my system. Cost or logistics didn’t matter -- I had to have them. Luckily, I didn’t have to follow through on my plots; I got my wish, at least for as long as it takes me to prepare this review: I’m listening to Vitus Audio’s SM-010 (now SM-011) monoblock amplifiers in my home system.

Every expensive high-end audio component should be a complete package, and Hans Ole Vitus obviously considers this when designing his products. Should the owner of a Vitus SS-010 stereo amplifier require a little more power and the benefits of a monoblock, it can be converted into one SM-010 monoblock. The benefit, according to Vitus, is "the added power and true balanced configuration gets you really close to the SM-101 performance." Just buy a second SS-010, have it converted to mono, or simply another SM-010, and voilà: two Vitus SM-010 monos. 

Vitus Audio products are expensive; if an audio component costs as much as a car or a house, its buyer should enjoy its finish and build quality as well as its sound -- we audiophiles see and touch our hi-fi gear as much as we listen to it.
Like all VA products, the SM-010 (now SM-011) has a lovely case of bead-blasted aluminum with a slightly suede-like texture. Unlike the "here I am" glare of a mirror finish, its matte finish softly reflects light. Both the silver and black finishes are nice, but the unassuming nature of the finish and sweet, tactile feel of the SM-010 keeps engineering aficionados coming back for one more swipe of the finger. Sure, Vitus amps don’t need to be so luxurious, but if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be Vitus amps. When you buy Vitus, you buy luxury
and sound.

The SM-010 (now SM-011) is very well built and, at 17"Wx5"Hx16.75"D, surprisingly heavy -- each one weighs 92 pounds, no doubt mostly because of the custom-made transformer that occupies about a third of its interior.
Hans Ole Vitus told me that his transformers are a very important factor in the sound of his products. Another amp maker told me that transformer design is an art, and that the transformer makes or breaks an amplifier. Vitus must feel similarly -- he builds his own UI-core units.
Also under the SM-010’s top plate, in addition to that heavy, expensive iron, are Sanken output transistors and what looks to be VA’s own internal wiring. Vitus has also clearly thought about clumsy audiophiles and children: The top and bottom plates wrap around the side-panel heatsinks, which helps tremendously when positioning the amps, or when children are navigating a maze of audio gear. The binding posts and XLR and RCA input connectors are of extremely high quality.

The SM-010 (now SM-011) has two output modes: It produces 40W in pure class-A, or 100W in class-A/B, both into 8 ohms (SM-011 = 200w class-AB intelegent class-A biased). The amp runs on the warm side, but not ridiculously so. At startup, the SM-010 displays "Init" on its front-panel display. Then, after a few moments, it emits a click that tells you it’s ready for a signal. At this point, the amp is in class-AB mode. Using the display on the front panel, the user must navigate the menu to switch it to class-A. I let the amps warm up in class-A/B for an hour or so, then switched them to class-A for serious listening.

Listening in class-A/B

At startup, the Vitus SM-010s presented an accurate outline of the music, displaying every detail of the whole picture, from the softest background hum of a euphonic guitar-amp tube, to large orchestral blasts with their inherent nuances, despite lacking the full color saturation I heard when the system was warmed up and switched to class-A. In class-A/B, details and bass stood a bit separate from the music. However, it didn’t take long before the amps were in full song.

I listened twice to "America," from The Essential Simon and Garfunkel (CD, Columbia/Legacy C2K 90716). The first time, it sounded a bit cool and distant; the second time, everything was more fleshed out, real, and palpable. Next came an unexpected thrill. I cued up the title track of the Avishai Cohen Trio’s Gently Disturbed (CD, Razdaz RD4607). Cohen’s opening double-bass solo was slightly haunting, but the real treat came when drummer Mark Guiliana entered -- his drums sounded as if they were in the room with me. The SM-010s’ soundstaging was stunning. I could practically see the drums on their riser in the appropriate perspective, behind the rest of the band and slightly muted; the whole album has the feel of a dank, slightly cool jazz club full of stale cigarette smoke. "Forró en Curuipe," from jazz pianist Marcelo Zarvos’s Music Journal (CD, M•A Recordings M055A), opens quickly, with lots of detail and arresting nuance. The Vituses produced a natural, quick-sounding musical spectrum from top to bottom. In this track, the midrange and treble are pushed to the fore. However, without the Vituses’ speed, inner detail, and resolution, this track would fall apart into an incoherent mash. The big drums in this piece were a treat through the SM-010s, their sound decaying naturally into a hollow, cavernous acoustic that revealed their true size.

Listening to keyboardist David Lanz’s cover of Procol Harum’s "A Whiter Shade of Pale," from hisCristofori’s Dream (CD, Narada 46963), revealed the truthful nature of the SM-010s. The detail they revealed was such that I could tell if the drummer was using wood or plastic-tipped drumsticks. Some might question if this is a good thing, and why anyone should even care. When an accurate audio system reproduces the music’s texture, tone, intonation, nuance, decay, initial attack, and purity, it brings the listener closer to the artists’ original intent. The Vitus amps were able to do that without being overbearing, or making the details the stars of the show. 

Yet they were never too soft. For example, the sax in "Dancing Mist," from Masabumi Kikuchi’s Poo-Sun (CD, Universal Music UCCJ-4069), wasn’t hard or blatty, which could have indicated a lack of resolution. Instead, the treble was sweet, delicate, palpable, and appropriate, and the SM-010s reproduced the trumpet with a realistic sense of bite. There wasn’t too much or too little of anything -- it was much like listening to live, unamplified music. 

The SM-010’s midrange never drew attention to itself, yet was the keystone of the amp’s sound, producing a tonally pure picture of the music. Many fans of tubes find fault with solid-state amps, claiming that they just don’t sound like music. I disagree. The Vitus ampsgot that midrange richness often heard with tubes, but did so with solid-state clarity -- a wonderful feat. The SM-010’s midrange was just a touch to the warm side of neutral, yet riddled with details and depth. I listened to Vito Paternoster play the Bourée I and II of J.S. Bach’s Suite No.3 for Solo Cello (16/44.1 WAV, Magnatune): the midrange was rich, full of the cello’s harmonics. The decay and overtones of the recording venue came through in a way that was more comforting than obviously technically accurate. 

Listening in class-A

In class-A, the Vitus SM-010’s sound became more evolved, more enlightened, more open, dynamic, and rich -- in a word, more real. What struck me about the Vitus monos was that, no matter what I played through them, they always conveyed the music with appropriate realism.

I’ve spent some time in Korea. I love that nation’s pop music, probably more for the memories it conjures than for the quality of the recordings. Nevertheless, listening to Roo’Ra’s "Shin Jung Han’s Theme" (CD, WMCD-1007) brought me back to the streets of Korea in the mid-1990s. Korean pop seems to focus much more on the midrange and treble than do US pop recordings. Even when I was able to hunt down a high-end salon in Korea, I noticed that music was much more midrange-heavy than not. Through the SM-010s, the sung and rapped sections sounded detailed without being anemic, with the body and weight of real voices rather than the thin, less voluptuous midrange I hear from other amplifiers.

Do not listen to "Summer Breeze," from Emiliana Torrini’s Love in the Time of Science (CD, One Little Indian 221) -- it will melt you to your seat. Her voice is so beautiful and lifelike on this track, with no hint of sibilance or distortion as she vocalizes an over-enunciatedT sound, with its rush of air. I guess the best way to describe the sound of Torrini’s delicate voice is to liken this recording to the sound of my daughter’s voice, which is just as delicate. The Vitus amps revealed in Torrini’s voice exactly the same sweet, delicate, slightly shaky sound I hear when my daughter speaks to me. It doesn’t get much more lifelike. 

I never got the SM-010s to distort or clip. With every increase in volume, the sound became not just louder but more spacious. At all reasonable volumes, the sound did not change, from top to bottom of the audioband. The SM-010s let through only the sound from the upstream components -- or, preferably, the recording. The Vitus amps let me hear the signature style of each musician in each track without parsing the music into unintelligible sections of sound and forcing me to piece it all back together.

Some claim that Tidal Audio loudspeakers require lots of power. Not so, at least for my style of listening. I’ve run my Piano Ceras -- the hardest to drive of all Tidal models -- with all sorts of amplification, ranging from under-10Wpc tube amps to megawatt solid-state designs. At appropriate, below-clipping levels, the Tidals merely revealed the differences among these products. With the Vitus SM-010s in 40W class-A mode, I had more than enough power for the Piano Ceras. I never felt the need for more power, nor did I ever hear the amps distorting. My room is a bit too big for the Tidals -- you can expect only so much from a pair of 7" woofers each. At volumes appropriate for my room and the Piano Cera’s size -- i.e., peaks of 85-90dB -- neither amps nor speakers showed any sign of distress.

The Vitus SM-010 monos produced deep, natural, extended bass. The older Krell amps designed by Dan D’Agostino earned a reputation for their excellent bass. I thought they exaggerated the bass, separating it from the rest of the music. The Vitus monoblocks produced bass that was not a separate entity, but that underpinned the music’s vitality. Bass from the SM-010 monos was a smidgen on the wet side of natural. Instead of being dry and neutral, there was a perfect amount of dampness that made the bass sound right without overdoing it. For example, "Chant," from Fourplay’s Between the Sheets (CD, Warner Bros. 45340-2), opens with a large tom-tom stroke, followed by the bass line. Through my Piano Ceras, the bass on this cut was exemplary. I heard depth, the initial impact of stick against drumhead, and the rich tonality of the drum itself. In the past, I’ve heard this passage reproduced with a dry, lackluster quality that left the instrument sounding thin and dry. Instead, the Vitus-Tidal combo was extraordinary in reproducing the sound of a real drum, not just a neat facsimile. 

Realism, however, is not a product of bass extension and tonality alone. There must also be resolution, immediacy, and dynamic contrast. My favorite album for testing for all of this is Joël Grare’s Paris • Istanbul • Shanghai (CD, Alpha 523). "Kapsberger Forever" begins with a solo guitar; the impacts of the player’s fingers on the strings are very clearly defined. Around 2:30 into the track there is a snap, then the sounds of a flamenco dancer’s castanets and tapping of her shoes on the floor. The Vitus amps allowed the woody character of shoes on floor, and the resonance and decay of those sounds in the room, to fully flesh themselves out. The transient attacks of the stomps and percussion were immediate, sharp, and focused, but still holistic and part of the music. The reproduction of the acoustic of the recording venue was faithful to its actual setting, instead of the inky blackness of a studio recording. 

"Armory," from Daft Punk’s soundtrack album for the film Tron Legacy (CD, Walt Disney D000567202), produced some prodigious bass through the SM-010s. "Clockwork Apprentice," from Psycliq’s The Mathematician’s Riddle (16/44.1 WAV, Magnatune), came through with the wonderful rhythm, bass, power, and distortion that are parts of electronic music. The re-creation of the distortion, beats, and rhythm of "Cone Wars," from Kalotone’s Death of a Speaker (16/44.1 WAV, Magnatune), was astonishing. The soundstage was wide, deep, enveloping -- and entirely a product of the studio. The samples of real instruments were as real as I assume they can be; regardless, the whole thing had me grinning like an idiot more than worrying about the audiophile nuances. 

My take

My main system has included several reference amps, but my favorite has been Tidal Audio’s Impact, a two-channel model. Comparing the Vituses to the Tidal was difficult. Both seated me at my favorite location, in the middle of the hall, and offered very similar sonic perspectives. Both sounded what I call natural -- I was always able to discern the characteristic signature of each unique instrument. Natural doesn’t necessarily mean lively, but rather a recorded sound that is precisely similar to that of an actual instrument played live. The power of each of these amps was more than sufficient for all but the most extreme listening sessions and demanding loudspeakers. 

Where the amps diverged was in what I call "flesh tone." The Vitus SM-010s had a slightly more saturated flesh tone than the Tidal Impact. That increase in saturation affected the entire audioband, giving it a minuscule romantic tint that enhanced my listening. The Vitus offered a more personal flare that made the music slightly more engaging. The Tidal Impact let the music speak for itself with no help. Both amps were stunning. Both are reference amplifiers.

Conclusions

The words natural and real recur throughout my notes and this review. My listening sessions never lacked for anything, and I never wanted more. I always heard and enjoyed the music, not the electronics. I played everything I could get my hands on through the Vitus SM-010s, and they reproduced all of it beautifully. Could you ask for more? It’s one of the most complete, most natural-sounding amplifiers I have heard. I would like to own a pair!

Vitus Audio Update – High End Hi-Fi in Auckland
AshK

During a recent chat with Terry Humphries of Audio Reference, it was pointed out that he’s the local agent for Vitus Audio, which was news to me. I’ve always been fascinated by high-end hi-fi equipment, and Vitus has been on my long list of extra-interesting audio gear for a long time, not least of all for the clean design aesthetic that’s seen across the range.

For some reason, I’d completely lost track of its availability of New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to hear this brand because of its towering reputation, but as luck would have it, now that I know where to listen, I’m still based about eight hours flight from Audio Reference’s Auckland showroom. Perhaps one of my Witchdoctor colleagues will be more fortunate…
Who or what is a Vitus? Well, Vitus Audio is based in Denmark, and the company was established in 1995 by Hans Ole Vitus. Today, it’s safe to say that Vitus is considered to be one of the world’s premier amplifier and component makers. They definitely operate at the luxury end of the market but performance seems to be the priority, not bling or bells and whistles, which is an approach I wholeheartedly support. I stole this bit of information about the history of Vitus Audio from the company’s site:

“After just a few years working with his own hi-fi equipment, building his own speakers, burning of his amps and learning as much as possible about hi-fi equipment, Hans Ole began his studies to become an electronic engineer. Hans Ole spent all his spare time and money on building his own hi-fi products and modifying other manufactures equipment during his studies.

After graduation back in 1990 Hans Ole worked for different electronic companies for several years, before joining Texas instruments in 1998 as Area Sales Manager for Denmark and Norway. His responsibility was covering not only technical sales, but just as important giving customers an in-depth technical understanding of the different solutions TI could provide, and on top of this – technical seminars and workshops.

The six years he spent at Texas Instruments gave Hans Ole a priceless deep technical knowledge and experience with making “leading edge technology” and communicating the pros and cons of different solutions. It’s these many years of working professionally with electronics, the lifelong interest in building hi-fi and Hans Ole’s dedication that enables Vitus Audio to make some of the best hi-fi products in the world.

Hans Ole’s passion for hi-fi is fueled by his love for music, as a teenager he played drums in a rock’n roll band and mainly listened to the same type of music, before he turned his attention to karate. He was trained by the internationally acclaimed sensei Raffi Liven, and with his usual determination Hans Ole did well in both local and international tournaments.

But since the establishment of Vitus Audio in 1995 Hans Ole has focussed all his spare time on developing the Brand and the first products. Over the years Hans Ole has mellowed a little, Rock’n roll and Karate has been replaced by any type of music on good quality recordings and perhaps even a glass of red wine on the couch”.

RI-100 Reference Series Integrated Amplifier
Examples of the Reference range (which is the entry point into the Vitus product stable) are the RCD-101 CD player/DAC, the RP-102 phonostage, and the 300w class-AB RI-100 integrated amplifier. All three units are priced at $18,995, and that’s each! So climbing up the ladder from Reference Series (or High-End as per the Vitus site’s description), to Signature Series (Extreme) to Masterpiece Series (Supreme), and then to Design Studio Series (Super-Extreme?) must be steep indeed. But for well-heeled music lovers, this is an option that should at least be listened to.

What I didn't realise at the time was how much of a sea change that would prove to be!
Bodhi. (forum member)

REVIEW SUMMARY: this is a sublimely good integrated amp. I never thought i'd find an integrated which would convince me to dispose of my previous Boulder 1060/1010 combo, but the Vitus achieves that feat and sounds like very good high end separates. That revelation coincided with a wish to reduce my box count and change direction with my system. What I didn't realize at the time was how much of a sea change that would prove to be!

Hi folks, having lived with my Vitus SIA-025 for a while, I thought it was time to post a review. Firstly the Vitus has wonderful Danish industrial design that is timeless. Everything about its design and attention to detail is excellent right down the the shipping materials and remote control (which is the best i've ever seen & is rechargeable). The SIA-025 is a true balanced, dual mono, 25 Watt class A amp which uses an efficient Vitus-designed UI-core potted "floating" transformer with separate windings for the left & right channels. The preamplifier stage is adapted from the SL-102 and uses the same gain stages and one single "buffer" module.. so .. really good, whilst the output stage is drawn from the SM-010 mono amps. The Vitus in every respect is the best integrated amp i've owned by a fair margin.

This amp is very flexible and has 100 watts of class a/b power @8ohms which is perfect for background listening or for movies, but can also be switched over to class A mode for best sound. At power up the amp defaults to class a/b operation and a moderate volume level of -46db from memory which I like, though i've heard atleast one other audiophile state he'd prefer the amp default to class A. I personally like the factory settings however.

But all that build quality would be useless if it didn't sound good! The easiest way to describe the sound of the SIA-025 is it sounds like real music. It avoids straying into sterility or sounding analytical by offering up a nice balance of warmth, tonal purity, richness (body) and tube-like liquidity. The Vitus has excellent resolution which reveals subtle, but important information in the music such as a bell chime in the background, or the light brush of a snare drum. It also has fast transients and can be delicate when the music calls for it. The treble is somewhat softened and the lower midrange slightly emphasised, giving the amp a sound resembling good vinyl. And the effect is cumulative as you add more Vitus components. In short, Vitus sounds best with other Vitus components. In saying that however, the SIA-025 is remarkably flexible. Not only because it can be switched from class a/b to class a, but also because this amp has the uncanny ability to sound good paired with a range of speakers and setups. It just "does its thing" and always produces great sound. Perhaps its ability to make average recordings sound very good extends to less than perfect speakers?

I also strongly agree with Chris Thomas's comments in his HiFi Plus review in which he stated:
"From stand-by, straight into class A I would say that you are looking at a half hour before it really begins to sing and then it just seems to keep getting better. Even after a solid afternoon and evening's listening I would swear that the amplifier was growing more fluid, textural and resolute with better dynamic contrasts, tonal shading and the delicacy of its musical message just seems to become more profound."

As a side note, good isolation is very important to bring out the best sound from this amp. Notwithstanding the potted, floating transformer and anti-resonant chassis, stuffing so much gear into a modest sized chassis does create some resonance. Placing the amp on a solid rack with Stillpoints Ultra 5's and an Ultra LPI on top made a big difference which created a blacker background, improved bass & brought the sound stage into clearer focus. I now consider the Stillpoints mandatory with the Vitus Sig Series such has been the level of improvement.

But has it got balls? That is a question I get quite a bit. With "only" 25 watts class A power (Note - its still got the full 150w avaibale its just the 1st 25w are switched to run in class-A), on paper it doesn't look like this amp is capable of driving a full size speaker with a moderately difficult load. Let's look a bit deeper. Most of the amp's real estate (and 42kg weight) is taken up by a huge 1.4kVa Vitus-designed UI-core transformer. Most audiophile-grade toroidal transformers lose up to 25% voltage (both channels driven), however the Vitus loses max 1.5% voltage tested. It is also a very high current amp, meaning that 1.4kVa tranny feels more like a big 2kVA tranny. In practice I have found the SIA-025 drives my Magico S5's without breaking a sweat and at only 140hrs is already delivering deep bass and a nice, coherent sound stage. Of course once my amp and speakers reach 500hrs the bass and sound stage should open up even more & sound more resolving.

In summary, this is a sublimely good integrated amp. I never thought i'd find an integrated which would convince me to dispose of my previous Boulder 1060/1010 combo, but the Vitus achieves that feat and sounds like very good high end separates. That revelation coincided with a wish to reduce my box count and change direction with my system. What I didn't realise at the time was how much of a sea change that would prove to be!

Cheers,
Bodhi.

Awards

the RI-100 represents a flat-out steal and my choice for - "Most Wanted Component Award"

Videos

Interview with Hans-Ole Vitus PART 1

Interview with Hans-Ole Vitus PART 2

Interview with Hans-Ole Vitus PART 3

Interview with Hans-Ole Vitus PART 4

Interview with Hans-Ole Vitus PART 5

Interview with Hans-Ole Vitus PART 6