VITUS Reference RI-101 Integrated amp 300/600w

VS 06 AI RI101
NZ$ 23,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Vitus Audio

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

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Analog Audio’s Thoughts On The Vitus Reference RI-100 -
"Vitus Audio represents the “cream of the crop” in the audio industry. It is impossible to find a comment or review on any product that is negative in any way. We know Vitus products are great. The question is simply “is it worth that much money?”. In the past that was a very reasonable question to ask. The Masterpiece and Statement series of products are breathtaking and set the standard for all others to compare against, but at a cost. With the introduction of the Reference series, Hans-Ole Vitus has introduced a line of products that not only sound fantastic, they offer much more down-to-earth prices.

One of the main things we wanted to achieve with this upgrade – after the original RI-100 has been on the market for about 8 years – was primarily to bring the sound a bit closer to the SIA-025 “sound” if you like, and then even of a few technical aspects – like the resolution of the volume control – a bit further!

The overall design of the RI-101 is the same as the original RI-100, so the main power supply is identical, the output stage ditto. But that’s also there the similarity stops. Everything around the input stage in the power amplifier section is new and significantly updated.

Even though this does not show directly when comparing the boards, there are many differences. That being said, the main upgrade is to be found in the preamplifier section of the RI-101. The wish for lowering the noise level further to enhance the level of resolution and “blackness” meant designing a completely balanced preamplifier stage, powered by a much more complex and lower noise regulated power supply.

On top of this, we integrated the much higher resolution volume control known from our SL-103 and MP-L201 in a newer implementation which physically could actually be fitted into the available space.

All this being said, the RI-101 is still a very different beast than the SIA-025, which has become an icon product and will remain always in our product portfolio. (no the new, soon to be introduced SIA-030 is not a replacement of the SIA-025 – it’s a bigger brother) While all signature and masterpiece products are our “usual” Class A amps with own level of musical emotions, the new Reference Series products are getting a bit closer, but still remaining a typical high biased Class AB product series.

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 Phonostage & RL-100 Linestage

Even though the Reference Series represent our 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 battery power supply is 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.

Once you have heard the performance of this amplifier, we are convinced you will agree. The RI-100 is the first new product in the Reference Series. It is a fully integrated amplifier, which includes an optional phonostage and dac. In it's full configuration, the RI-100 will act as a standalone control center, which takes both analog and digital sources of any kind. It also incorporates a full bypass function for use with external surround processors.

Although the RI-100 does not have our usual class A mode, it's class AB setting is adjusted for maintaining the same musical performance as our class A amplifiers.

VOLUME CONTROL:
The topology of the volume control used in the RI-100 is very different compared to the “standard”. The RI-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 potentiometers. 

Specifications

Reviews

Awards

Videos

Specifications

Rated Output Power: 2 x 300W (RMS into 8 Ohm) Class A/B
Frequency Response: DC to +500KHz
Signal to Noise Ratio: > 100dB
THD+ Noise: Better than 0,01%
Input Sensitivity: with volume set @ 0dB / RCA = 2, 6 / XLR 5,2V RMS
Input Impedance: RCA = 22KΩ / XLR = 22K Ω
Slew Rate: > 35V/ μs
Power Consumption (RMS): Standby: < 3W, Class AB (no load): 90W
Dimensions 435W x 195H x 470D mm
Weight: 40Kg 

Reviews

the Vitus Audio RI-101 is a stupendous sonic performer, excelling at the vividness and life of music while sustaining its tonal beauty, midrange purity. It comfortably places itself among the top integrated amplifiers
Edgar Kramer

SUMMARY: The RI-101 will pick up the baton from its predecessor and power-up to the vanguard of integrated amplifier design with a thoroughly superior performance envelope. It is a superbly built component both in and out, it is elegant in style and enjoys a high pedigree value mixed with pride of ownership. In addition, it offers high versatility, should you choose the excellent DAC module. 
But most importantly of all, could not fault its audio qthe Vitus Audio RI-101 is a stupendous sonic performer, excelling at the vividness and life of music while sustaining its tonal beauty, midrange purity and exerting tight-fisted control over its prodigious output in terms of dynamics and its low frequencies output. It comfortably places itself among the top integrated amplifiers I’ve experienced. Iualities and I’m confident it provides a healthy measure of the company’s bigger Class-A power amplifier brethren. Along with a handful of ultimate integrated amplifiers, the Vitus Audio RI-101 commands a recalibration of what an integrated amplifier is capable of achieving in terms of performance. Consequently, it would make for a thoroughly satisfying entry into the ranks of the very best amplification available.
Hans-Ole Vitus, you’ve created Bragi the amplifier’s Norse God of eloquence and patron of the minstrels

EXTENDED REVIEW: It’s the ‘Golden Age’ of the integrated amplifier. Just sayin’. Why? Catch a web wave to any of the major high-end electronics manufacturers and you’ll see what I mean. Me? I’ve had a number of integrated amplifiers in-house over the last couple of years that have unquestionably taken the entire category to an unprecedented level of all-round quality to rival that of many preamplifier and power amplifier combos. Take a look through recent SoundStage! Australia review pages too, to see many-a-shining example. Valve-, solid state-based and hybrid, austere and extravagant… even Johnny Strabler-leather-clad. A state-of-the-art integrated enjoys the fruits of contemporary advanced engineering allowing the implementation of superior power supplies and the adoption of higher-grade transformer designs. Further, manufacturing sophistication has resulted in finer, tighter tolerance chassis construction and the development of modular architecture, expanding the functionality horizons of the humble ‘integrated’.

So now, the integrated amplifier has morphed into somewhat of a hub of sonic activity. Enter the DAC, streamer and phono stage modular plug-ins that we are seeing being incorporated into these designs. Even streamers are being in-built in some offerings. The RI-101, Vitus’ latest take on the top-shelf Class-A/B integrated amplifier, adopts these ideas in a brand new modular design that offers optional modules to cater to most system requirements.

Vitus Vitality in Design

I’m actually quite familiar with the RI-101’s predecessor, the RI-100, which I formally reviewed some years ago. The last-gen model was a solid performer which impressed with its music-reproducing capabilities even if, in the context of my system, it displayed a tad too much weight in the bass tied in with a subtly dark character preventing ultimate accuracy. The differences between it and the new RI-101 are quite startling. Much has changed as far as the circuit is concerned and Vitus Audio Founder Hans-Ole Vitus has spun quite the magic here. But first let’s unpack RI-101’s impressive suite of capabilities.

The RI-101 maintains the signature aesthetic of Vitus Audio components, a definite look and refined style that carries across the entire span of products. You won’t mistake a Vitus Audio item for any other manufacturer’s – and that’s a great thing when it comes to building an industrial design ethos that identifies the brand, its maker and the cachet that comes with owning an exclusive product. The company’s products have a pure simplicity in style – to me, reminiscent of Swiss design – that is almost unassuming. It’s a chiselled design language with parables of solid machined aluminium slabs, embellished with an impeccable anodised finish and accented with a slender smoked acrylic vertical display window… it all adds up to elegance.

As simple as the RI-101’s fascia presents to the world, the same cannot be said of the rear panel where there are plenty of connecting options arranged in thoughtful symmetry. There are three balanced XLR and two unbalanced RCA inputs and a balanced XLR line output which provides a bi-amping or power amplifier upgrade (Vitus Audio offers a number of superb options here). No phono stage is available for the RI-101 at this stage. Finally, the digital inputs include S/PDIF coaxial and AES/EBU (via XLR) options while at the other end of the amplifier on the left hand side are Ethernet RJ45 socket and USB sockets. Chunky speaker binding posts flank the input/output bays with the phono stage’s grounding post being of the same excellent quality. AC input is via the ubiquitous IEC socket. A Peter Garrett-reminiscent hand decal (Midnight Oil fans will know what I mean) proudly announces “Handcrafted in Denmark”.

The hefty dual-plate fascia features subtle shallow-indent buttons for volume control, input switching, amplifier muting, standby/activation and menu navigation. Although basic-looking, a small metal Apple-style remote control provides reasonable functionality and feature accessibility. A classy amber display shows numerals and lettering in order to keep you informed on the amplifier’s status while featuring a ‘VA’ logo as a corporate accent. I enjoyed the low level relay-clicking sound that emanated from within the chassis upon turn-on and when adjusting volume level – it provides a sense of technical confirmation that all is well within. Call me obsessive… Just my thing.

Vitus Audio’s rating of the RI-101 is specified as 300 watts per channel into 8 ohms. That’s plentiful and most likely a conservative rating. The new amplifier uses a more efficient and somewhat improved version of the 1KVA transformer used previously. The main power supply capacitance totals 432,000 micro-farads (216,000 per channel) plus the design also uses a number of additional smaller capacitors around the circuit. A capacitor bank of this magnitude promises tight speaker control and good dynamic potential.

Other core specifications include an input impedance of 16 komhs, a Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) of 0.04 percent at 100 watts at 1kHz, noise under 100dB, a Signal to Noise Ratio above 90dB and a frequency response extending past 800Khz.

Aside from my listening impressions below, after which I found the RI-101 to be a profoundly superior product to its predecessor and among the very, very best (as I’ll attempt to describe) I wanted to obtain some insights from the designer himself as to what his target improvements were in terms of the new amplifier:

One of the main things we wanted to achieve with this upgrade – after the original RI-100 had been on the market for about eight years – was primarily to bring the performance a bit closer to the SIA-025 “sound” if you like. And also take some technical aspects such as the resolution of the volume control a bit further. The overall design of the RI-101 is the same as the original RI-100, so the main power supply is identical, the output stage ditto. But that’s where the similarity stops. Everything around the input stage in the power amplifier section is new, and significantly updated. Even though this does not show directly when comparing the boards, there are many differences.

That being said, the main upgrade is to be found on the preamplifier section of the RI-101. The wish for lowering the noise level further to enhance the level to resolution and “blackness” meant designing a completely balanced preamplifier stage, powered by a much more complex and lower noise regulated power supply. On top of this, we integrated the much higher resolution volume control from our SL-103 and MP-L201 in a newer implementation which physically could actually be fitted into the available space. The RI-101 is still a very different beast to the SIA-025, which has become an icon product, and will always remain in our product portfolio. No, the new soon to be introduced SIA-030 is not a replacement of the SIA-025, it’s a bigger brother! While all signature and masterpiece products are our usual Class-A amps with their own level of musical emotions, the new Reference Series products are getting a bit closer, but still remaining a typical high-biased Class-A/B product series.

Given the soon-to-be-available Digital-to-Analogue Converter (DAC) module is a new design derived from higher-priced products up the Vitus Audio ladder, (the RI-100 DAC module is still current) I asked Vitus to describe some of the ideas behind its design:

The ‘old’ RI-100 DAC module is still available. The new RI-101 extended DAC/streamer module is again a completely new design. We use the ESS top chip in this DAC, initially based on our wish to fully support DoP, which only very few DAC chips do for real. Many consider this the best sounding DAC available, and equally as many find it a bit “digital and cold”. Regarding this, I personally stand somewhere in the middle. Obviously we created a design around the DAC which gave us the musicality we always strive for, seeking for all the emotions that music has, but is so often forgotten. Besides this, we use a very robust streaming technology around which we build-in our own technology for creating the best sound possible from streaming. In the RI-101 DAC module obviously with some space constraints which are further eliminated in the RD-101 DAC and future signature products. As for services, we will support Airplay, Roon, MQA, Tidal, Spotify, etc.

As hinted at earlier, the RI-101 exudes quality throughout. The review sample came in an impeccable dark grey finish (I’d guess officially classed as ‘Black’) which I found extremely attractive. Natural silver is also available. Obviously, the RI-101 can be purchased sans modules with either or both the phono stage (if and when available) and DAC modules being available for on-board addition at any stage of ownership.

A Kind of Magic

The RI-101 is packaged in a solid double box, is cushioned within high grade foam and is thoughtfully wrapped in a velour sleeve bearing the Vitus logo (subsequent to its installation, the sleeve may be useful as a dust-preventing measure). Included inside, and in a metal/tin protective case, is a USB stick containing the integrated’s manual and the drivers for the DAC. Connectivity is, of course, straightforward and I had the unit up and running within minutes. First, I fed my Totaldac’s balanced outputs to a RI-101 balanced input, with subsequent listening sessions devoted to the in-built DAC fed via S/PDIF coaxial cable from my CD transport.

I often start listening impressions with Curandero’s superbly produced Aras CD. It’s a natural recording featuring a variety of percussion instruments accompanying acoustic guitar and electric bass. The RI-101 immediately impressed with its sweet detail and natural tonality rendered on the guitar, the bouncy rhythm on the electric bass and the tight control applied to the percussion instruments. In fact, the words “naturalness” and “beautiful tonality” were underlined with heavy, motivated scores across my notepad. These particular strengths are usually associated with good valve equipment and are the domain of top-shelf solid state designs. Also heavily highlighted in my notes was the sentence “this amplifier will never sound harsh!”

 challenged the RI-101 with some more demanding fare, wanting to establish its powers of resolution, instrument separation, dynamic expression, etc. One of my go-to CDs for this is A Perfect Circle’s Thirteenth Step. “The Noose” showed the RI-101’s unwavering confidence with this complex material. The track starts with a muted, low-level intro and then surprises with a crisp attack of snare and bass (this before all hell breaks loose towards the song’s conclusion). The amplifier stood its ground by providing stellar transparency in the ‘muted’ intro. Precise instrumental separation was shown via the powerful snap of the snare, the depth of the bass and the tension of the underlying instruments which was all cleanly, crisply – yet smoothly – portrayed in a way that prolonged and maintained the intent of the song. The suddenness of the excellently-recorded drums cut through with tremendous dynamic attack while Maynard James Keenan’s vocals remained clearly discerned. This last continued through the onslaught of the closing minutes, Keenan’s words intelligible among the chaos of guitars and drums. Seldom have I heard this track so powerfully and movingly replayed.

Solo singer guitarist Harii was quite the pleasure. In his rendition of “Tenderly” from his The Healing Heart Vol. 2 album, Harii sits on a creaking stool as he words the song in close proximity to the microphone. In this low budget recording, the engineer has kept things simple, therefore capturing many nuances that are often overshadowed in the complexities of large scale productions. The RI-101’s generosity in providing extraordinary levels of micro-detail and tonal nuance was extraordinary and approached that of the very best power amplifiers at many times its price. Every nuance of Harii’s body shift, his back and forth sway towards and away from the microphone, every textural colour of voice and guitar was sweetly and realistically rendered with ‘body’ and presence. Truly captivating stuff. I found myself listening to the RI-101 for far longer into the evening than I normally do. Music I’m fondly familiar with was so enjoyable, satisfying… immersive.

Grandiose performances such as Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Beethoven’s Pastoral, Debussy’s La Mer, etc. were majestically produced in grandly spacious soundfields with accurate instrumental positioning. Soloists central and forward, the supporting strings behind and to the left, percussion the furthest rearwards and in smaller images yet with powerful verisimilitude, etc.

The DAC mirrored the amplifier’s performance perfectly. This is a highly developed module, not just an off-the-shelf tack-on for the sake of an improved features count. The design and its implementation has resulted in Vitus Audio providing, in my opinion, a worthy alternative in terms of musicality. The tonal qualities blend in with the amplifier’s own to provide faithful integrity to the host amp’s sonic signature. (As mentioned above, Vitus Audio is working on a new DAC module for release soon.)

Bass-heavy tracks such as Marian Hill’s “Deep” were quite devastating. The RI-101 handled the, umm… deep and over-enthused bass demands of the track with assurance and drive. This is tight, punchy and detailed bass that jumps from the mix while the amplifier simply thinks “Is this all you’ve got?” The Vitus just gives without compression or distortion of any kind. Simply put, this was phenomenal bass control akin to the best in solid state.

The brilliant 200 More Miles is a double CD of live performances by the Cowboy Junkies going back to the mid-1980s up until the mid-1990s. These are beautifully-produced sessions that, nevertheless, vary from very good to stellar in terms of sound quality. All are marvellous performances ranging from intimate venues with small audiences to large halls where the RI-101 did not retract from the music’s live performance vibe. It’s a case of excellent extension and control at the frequency extremes where, up top, Margo Timmins’ vocals ring out with gorgeous harmonic content well up into the highest frequencies and, down low, the bass guitar’s lowest notes provide a solid and accurate rhythm beat while, lower still, the bass frequencies provide truthful sonic cues of each of the venues’ dimensionality and acoustics. And when Jeff Bird’s harmonica cuts in on a number of tracks, the presence and detail – right down to the breathing technique – are astonishing.

Conclusion

What is it about the Danes? Excellence in engineering is in the water and/or blood it would seem. Some of the world’s most respected audio brands come from this highly sophisticated part of Europe. Manufacturers such as Gryphon Audio, Lyngdorf Audio, Densen Audio, iconic Bang & Olufsen and many more. Cable specialists ZenSati, Duelund and Argento Audio among many others. There are quintessential Nordic speaker makers Dynaudio, Jamo, DALI, even Raidho. Driver manufacturers abound too, with most of the world’s best speakers using Danish-designed (not always Danish-built, however) transducers from ScanSpeak, SEAS, Audio Technology, SB Acoustics and more. Really, a who’s who of high-end audio purveyors in every category, all concentrated in one of Europe’s smallest countries.

And of course, the makers of the subject of this World-First review, the exemplary Vitus Audio whose range of products have been gaining tremendous repute, for many years, throughout the industry. 

…Edgar Kramer - Editor-in-Chief

The VITUS RI-101 amp just sounds ‘right’ and gets my heartiest recommendation!
Guest Proshchay, 

Hi folks. I recently had the opportunity to audition the new Vitus Reference series Integrated amp at Absolute Hi End, and I brought my compendium with me. The intent of this write up is to convey my listening impressions of the RI-101 in a familiar room/setup, and in an unbiased fashion. Hence I’ve avoided reading EK’s review for Soundstage Australia up to this point, but posted a link below FYI.

Listening impressions -

The big Kronos tt was unfortunately out of action for my audition as there was no phono stage on hand. The new Aria Piccolo + server/steamer ably handled front end duties fed by the RI-101’s excellent optional Dac module. Apropos which, Hans Ole Vitus told me the new dac module is max 85% of the dac in the SCD-025Mk2, so...very good.

The original RI-100 never lacked for power, but was too bottom-up, lacked a little musicality and perhaps due to its tonal imbalance, was also dark sounding to my ears. I’m happy to say the RI-101 is a different animal. The new model sounds more resolving and is better balanced overall. It is also more neutral & natural sounding compared to its predecessor. Though it’s harmonic richness conveys just a touch of warmth.

Leading edges are smooth and extended. Dynamics are good. This amp sounds fast, yet has that essential Vitus DNA. I commented in another thread that the Vitus SM-102 mono’s sound more mid-Hall than say Soulution or Spectral which sounds more forward. On reflection, I think the RI-101 is the more even-handed amp.

Playing one of my Reference cd’s we ripped to the Aria - Anne Bisson ‘Blue Mind’ (UHQCD), piano had good tone and timbre. I think this amp is quieter than the RI-100. Sounds eminate from a black background within a well proportioned sound stage. 

Vocals are very good. Playing Sarah McLachlan ‘Surfacing’ (K2HD), there was an easy flow to the music. The new model sounds closer to the SIA-025. Playing the beautiful track ‘Angel’, Sarah’s haunting emotion and breathiness into the mic were captivating & drew me into the music. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Bass is very good! The RI-101 has plenty of power & never felt strained. I also got the impression it likes to work. Consequently I could drive the S3 Mk2’s to high SPL’s without inducing listener fatigue. Yoda would be smiling “Control, control...you must learn controooollll!” Nope, this amp’s got it down. Bass had good weight and was well controlled. 

In summary -

Even though I thought the previous model RI-100 offered good VFM given its prodigious power, build quality and Vitus house sound, hand on heart I could not recommend it. Clearly VA got the message and have invested a lot of R&D into not just addressing the RI-100’s flaws, but taking the sound of the new replacement model RI-101 audibly closer to the SIA-025. This amp just sounds ‘right’ and gets my heartiest recommendation!

The review system -  
- Magico S3 Mk2 speakers
- Vitus RI-101
- Aria Piccolo +
- Kronos Pro tt
- Taralabs Omega Evolution sc’s + Zero Evolution ic’s
- Critical Mass Systems QXK 4-shelf rack with Black sapphire shelves + Black Platinum top shelf.

From Vitus Audio - 
Vitus Audio has released its RI-101 Integrated amplifier, which Vitus claims that although being based on the now eight-year-old RI-100 is greatly improved, due to the use of a more efficient 1kVA transformer and a new input stage. ‘Although the printed circuit boards look almost the same, there are many differences,’ said Hans-Ole Vitus of Vitus Audio. ‘In order to lower the noise level below that of the RI-100, and to further enhance the level of resolution and blackness, we now use a completely balanced preamplifier stage, powered by a much more complex and lower-noise regulated power supply.’ Another change is the volume control, with the new RI-101 using the same high-resolution volume control used in the Vitus Audio SL-103 and MP-L201.

The optional DAC/Streamer module that available for the RI-101 is a completely new design for Vitus Audio. ‘We use the ESS top DAC chip in this DAC, initially based on our wish to fully support DoP, which only very few DAC chips do for real,’ Vitus told Australian Hi-Fi Magazine. ‘Many consider this the best sounding DAC available, and equally as many find it a bit ‘digital’ and ‘cold’: Personally, I stand somewhere in the middle. Obviously, we created a design around the DAC which gave us the musicality we always strive for, plus we use a very robust streaming technology that delivers the best sound possible from streaming, which we can do from Airplay, Roon, MQA, Tidal, Spotify and more.’

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

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. 

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

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.

My impressions of the Vitus RI-101 Integrated
Bodhi

Hi folks. I recently had the opportunity to audition the new Vitus Reference series Integrated amp and I brought my compendium with me. The intent of this write up is to convey my listening impressions of the RI-101 in a familiar room/setup, and in an unbiased fashion. Hence I’ve avoided reading EK’s review for Soundstage Australia up to this point, but posted a link below FYI. 

Listening impressions - 

The big Kronos tt was unfortunately out of action for my audition as there was no phono stage on hand. The new Aria Piccolo + server/steamer ably handled front end duties fed by the RI-101’s excellent optional Dac module. Apropos which, Hans Ole Vitus told me the new dac module is max 85% of the dac in the SCD-025Mk2, so...very good. 

The original RI-100 never lacked for power, but was too bottom-up, lacked a little musicality and perhaps due to its tonal imbalance, was also dark sounding to my ears. I’m happy to say the RI-101 is a different animal. The new model sounds more resolving and is better balanced overall. It is also more neutral & natural sounding compared to its predecessor. Though it’s harmonic richness conveys just a touch of warmth.

Leading edges are smooth and extended. Dynamics are good. This amp sounds fast, yet has that essential Vitus DNA. I commented in another thread that the Vitus SM-102 mono’s sound more mid-Hall than say Soulution or Spectral which sounds more forward. On reflection, I think the RI-101 is the more even-handed amp. 

Playing one of my Reference cd’s we ripped to the Aria - Anne Bisson ‘Blue Mind’ (UHQCD), piano had good tone and timbre. I think this amp is quieter than the RI-100. Sounds eminate from a black background within a well proportioned sound stage. 

Vocals are very good. Playing Sarah McLachlan ‘Surfacing’ (K2HD), there was an easy flow to the music. The new model sounds closer to the SIA-025. Playing the beautiful track ‘Angel’, Sarah’s haunting emotion and breathiness into the mic were captivating & drew me into the music. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

Bass is very good! The RI-101 has plenty of power & never felt strained. I also got the impression it likes to work. Consequently I could drive the S3 Mk2’s to high SPL’s without inducing listener fatigue. Yoda would be smiling “Control, control...you must learn controooollll!” Nope, this amp’s got it down. Bass had good weight and was well controlled. 

In summary -

Even though I thought the RI-100 offered good VFM given its prodigious power, build quality and Vitus house sound, hand on heart I could not recommend it. Clearly VA got the message and have invested a lot of R&D into not just addressing the RI-100’s flaws, but taking the sound of the RI-101 audibly closer to the SIA-025. This amp just sounds ‘right’ and gets my heartiest recommendation! For local pricing, contact Terry at Audioreference Co in Auckland.

The review system -  
- Magico S3 Mk2 speakers 
- Vitus RI-101
- Aria Piccolo + 
- Kronos Pro tt

From Vitus Audio - 
Vitus Audio has released its RI-101 Integrated amplifier, which Vitus claims that although being based on the now eight-year-old RI-100 is greatly improved, due to the use of a more efficient 1kVA transformer and a new input stage. ‘Although the printed circuit boards look almost the same, there are many differences,’ said Hans-Ole Vitus of Vitus Audio. ‘In order to lower the noise level below that of the RI-100, and to further enhance the level of resolution and blackness, we now use a completely balanced preamplifier stage, powered by a much more complex and lower-noise regulated power supply.’ Another change is the volume control, with the new RI-101 using the same high-resolution volume control used in the Vitus Audio SL-103 and MP-L201.

The optional DAC/Streamer module that available for the RI-101 is a completely new design for Vitus Audio. ‘We use the ESS top DAC chip in this DAC, initially based on our wish to fully support DoP, which only very few DAC chips do for real,’ Vitus told Australian Hi-Fi Magazine. ‘Many consider this the best sounding DAC available, and equally as many find it a bit ‘digital’ and ‘cold’: Personally, I stand somewhere in the middle. Obviously, we created a design around the DAC which gave us the musicality we always strive for, plus we use a very robust streaming technology that delivers the best sound possible from streaming, which we can do from Airplay, Roon, MQA, Tidal, Spotify and more.’

Awards

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

Videos

VITUS AUDIO RI-100 on Demo MAGICO V2 at Absolute Hi End