VITUS Reference RCD-101 CD player/DAC/Streamer USB-92/192 DSD128 fully balanced

VS 01 CD RCD101
NZ$ 17,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Vitus Audio

"leading edge technology" enables Vitus Audio to make some of the Best Hi-Fi products in the world.

New

Even though the Reference Series represent our new entry level products, they incorporate many specialist/custom parts. This has proven an expensive but necessary must in order to keep our highly regarded musical performance - an area in which we refuse to compromise. While the original battery power supply is now history, the overall goal of the Reference Series remains unchanged - setting a new standard for sound quality at the price point. A bold, but for us - a true statement.

The RCD-101, is our one of our latest additions to the Reference Series.

It is a true balanced CD-player, transport & DAC, based on the technologies used in our famous RCD-100. As the Philips CDPro2LF was discontinued, we originally decided not to continue offering a CD-player in the Reference Series. However shortly after we announced to our partner network, that we would discontinue the RCD-100, we received an overwhelming number of requests to find a solution, and continue offering a Reference Series CD-player.

As replacement drive, we selected to use a Sony SACD drive and completely strip it, and heavily  rebuild it, like we have always done.

The drive is heavily modified to meet our demands for precision, leaving the error correction system with less work to do. This ensures optimal working conditions for the Sample Rate Conversion and DAC.

At the same time - we carefully selected a new USB interface which supports DSD and needs no drivers. But not only that, we completely overhauled all other electronics and optimised everything possible to maximise the resulting performance.

We also added an AES/EBU (XLR) digital input and output, in addition to the RCA I/O, which offers more flexibility when used as a DAC for other digital sources - for connecting multimedia players, PC/MAC or other digital sources.

The power supply is more powerful which results in greater dynamics and lower noise though multiple regulation stages.

Overall this new version of the RCD-100 - is just in a different league. The overall upgrades have resulted in a performance lift we did not anticipate - directly compared with our old SCD-010 - it’s a clear winner, and now offered with 2x DSD support.

Once you have heard the performance of this cd-player, we are convinced you will agree. The RCD-101 is the first digital product in the Reference Series. It is a fully integrated CD-player, Transport & DAC which includes the heavily modified Sony SACD Drive (replaces previousPhilips Pro Drive now unobtainable). The RCD-101 will act as a standalone DAC, which takes both standard SP-DIF (RCA delivered as standard - can be exchanged to XLR) and high quality USB 192khz/24bit signals. (driver needed)

COMMENT FROM LOTUS HIFI:
The all new RCD-101 CDP/DAC - 
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 believe 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 the inside photo. 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, edgey, 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 high-end device with a natural sound that will be synergistic and in harmony with the Vitus way of doing things. 

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 much greater 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, efforless and invisible, the RCD gets fairly close and you come away thinking what exceptional value for money it is.

That just about wraps things up. I hope i've been able to impart enough information on this beautiful box of tricks. If you'd like to know more or arrange a store demo or home loan then simply pick up the telephone or drop me an email.

Specifications

Reviews

Specifications

Product Type: Stereo Integrated CD-player / Transport / DAC  
INPUTS:
1x SPDIF (RCA) 
   Sensitivity 2VRMS
   Impedance = 75ohm
1x USB = type A/B
OUTPUTS:
1pr unbalanced (RCA)
   Sensitivity =  2VRMS
   Impedance = 75ohm
   Freq Response = +800kHz
1pr balanced (XLR)
   Sensitivity =  6VRMS
   Impedance = 75ohm
   Freq Response = +800kHz
   Signal to Noise ratio = >110dB
   THD + Noise = <0.01%
1x Digital RCA  
   Sensitivity =  2VRMS
   Impedance = 75ohm
   Freq Response = +800kHz
   Signal to Noise ratio = >110dB
   THD + Noise = <0.01%
   Freq Response = +800kHz
   Signal to Noise ratio = >110dB
   THD + Noise = <0.01%
DAC:
   92/192
   2xDSD
Dimensions: 180 x 435 x 380 mm (H x W x D)
Remote Controlled: Yes, remote control included    
Total Weight: 9 Kg

Reviews

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.

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.

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

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.