VITUS Signature combo SL-103 Preamp & SM-011 200w Monoblocks - satin black

VS 01 SL103SM011
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 69,995.00 set (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 127,995.00 (incl. GST)
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Vitus Audio

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

Demo

OUR SHOWROOM DEMO VITUS SIGNATURE MONOBLOCK AMPS WITH MATCHING PREAMP IN EXCELENT CONDITION, NICELY RUN IN READY TO MAKE YOUR SPEAKERS SING AT THEIR BEST. 

The Vitus SM-001 & SL103 have received multiple awards and garnered fantastic reviews worldwide. ... the combination of the SM-011 and the SL-103 Preamplifier is the system to end all systems….… Audio Therapy UK 

VITUS SIGNATURE SERIES: 
Ready to step up? To raise the bar? If you are a Reference Series enthusiast, you already know our dedication to natural sound reproduction. Evolving to the Signature Series is like a beautiful caterpillar becoming an exquisite butterfly. It's an organic process. Music is art. To capture the real drama of a full-blown classical orchestra you need a system composed of artistic pieces with true high end intentions. The elements of the Vitus Audio Signature Series are able to paint a delicate, vast and colorful musical canvas without compromise. Quality comes not only from within. The way that the Signature Series products are machined is absolutely stunning. The elegant curves are a reminder of the hull of a yacht. The class and luxury is that of spacious, exclusive cabins. Sailing on the vast water gives you a sense of infinity, similar to the endless musical story that starts with the Vitus Audio Signature Series. Our Signature Series offer a true evolution in the world of high end. The range consists of 9 products. Feel free to explore them. Each of the Reference Series products offers integration, balance and incredible performance. Are you ready to begin a sensational journey?

SL-103 PREAMP: after spending a very long time developing its bigger brother, the new Master 2-chassis MP-L201 extreme linestage, it was clear that a serious look at a replacement for the SL-101 was needed.  

SM-011 MONOBLOCK AMPS: 
"The Vitus Audio SM-011 Mono Amps are state-of-the-art amps made in Denmark and are among the best I’ve ever heard.  The Vitus built quality is superb.  The SM-011s are 400-watt amps utilizing the intelligent Class-A biasing circuit shared by their top-of-the line “Masterpiece Series.”  The SM-011s possess an uncanny ability to combine transparency, resolution, and openness with textural density, and solidity"........Key Kim - STEREO TIMES

"Compared to Accuphase, I much prefer the Vitus"… Mike (audio forum)

"Vitus class A is my favorite SS amp. I have heard the Gryphon Mephisto, Colosseum, and Antileon Sig. The Vitus is extremely fluid, liquid, full bodied, dense, and nice tone"....Bonzo (audio forum). 

SM-011 MONOBLOCK AMPS are a class-A Mono Block Power amplifire is taking the SM-010 into a hole new level, like the SIA-025 did based on the SS-010. -  SEE MORE ONFO IN "READ MORE"

VITUS SL-103 PREAMP:
Vitus Audio SL-103 Balanced Preamplifier is based on brand new circuitry, which uses only matched transistors and super precision resistors to ensure optimal working conditions for the different stages of each module. This combined with a special coupling of each input stage, results in an ultra linear frequency response. The true balanced design, together with the local shunt regulated power supply, ensures an excellent signal to noise ratio, making it possible to reveal every micro detail in the recordings.

In the development of the MP-L201, we did not expect that the improvement in performance would be so dramatic, but all the hours of refining, even the smallest of parts, really paid off in an unimaginable way. As a result, the SL-103 is not an upgraded SL-102, it is a brand new design based on the technologies gained through the development of the MP-L201.

From market requests, we introduced an optional phonostage for building directly into the SL-103. This phonostage is based on the well reviewed RP-100, (please refer to the Reference Series on our web site under reviews), however without the battery supply. This phonostage has recently undergone a major redesign and delivers a performance very close to the original RP-100. In the SL-103, we spent many hours implementing the load setting system developed for the MP-P201, as well as adding MM/MC selection to the SL-103 menu system, so the RP-010 is a fully integrated part of the SL-103. As with our other linestages, a full bypass feature has been implemented. This allows external surround processors to take full control of the volume, when used in multichannel systems.

SM-011 MONOBLOCK AMPS:

PEDIGREE: 
The SS-010 was introduced back in 2007. I has received multiple awards based on fantastic reviews world wide. Today it is still one of our most popular products. The SS-010 was replaced with the SIA-025 in 2010 - which took the performance to a hole new level.

SM-010 was introduced in 2008, based on requests from the market to have an upgradability from the SS-010 to give more power for less efficient speakers. This gave the SS-010 musicality with more punch and dynamics.

The future is here:
With no upgradability, nor backwards compatibility needed, our design team had free hands to push the boundaries even further. With the SIA-025 in mind, a new platform was created that will satisfy a much broader audience. Keeping strict focus on our “musical engine”, we developed the next level of awesome in musical instruments - capable of driving any load to a full experienced concert level, without ever letting go of musicality.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Features

SM-011 MONOBLOCK AMPS:
Technical keywords: (per. channel)

1. 1.4KVA UI transformers with <2% loss="" p="">

2. 240.000uF capacitor bank

3. Zero global negative feedback

4. 2mm thick boards with 105um copper on all layers

5. Intelligent Class A bias secures optimal working conditions for the output stage at all times.

6. Module based for future upgradability

7. 200w @ 8ohm (RMS) w 1st 40w class-A (RMS) switchable - intelligent class-A bias, (same as Masterpiece series)
    400W @ 4ohm (RMS) w 1st 80w class-A (RMS) switchable - intelligent class-A bias, (same as Masterpiece series)

Specifications

SL-103 PREAMP:
Product Type: True balanced Linestage
Inputs:
2 x unbalanced (RCA)
3 x balanced (XLR)
Outputs:
2 x unbalanced (RCA)
2 x true balanced (XLR)
Internal Cabling: Andromeda by VA
Remote Controlled: Yes, RC-010 included
Dimensions: 135H x 435W x 402D mm
Total Weight: 24 Kg

SM-011 MONOBLOCK AMPS:
1. 1.4KVA UI transformers with <2% loss="" p="">
2. 240.000uF capacitor bank
3. Zero global negative feedback
4. 2mm thick boards with 105um copper on all layers
5. Intelligent Class A bias secures optimal working conditions for the outputstage at all time.
6. Modul based for future upgradability

INPUT: 1xXLR / 1xRCA
Sensitivity 1,3 VRMS / 1,3 VRMS
Impedance 10KΩ / 10KΩ
Slew rate 35V/ μs / 35V/ μs
OUTPUT: Speakers Available 2 sets for bi-wire
Impedance 75mΩ
POWER OUTPUT
200w @ 8ohm (RMS) w 1st 40w class-A (RMS) switchable - intelligent class-A bias, (same as Masterpiece series)
400W @ 4ohm (RMS) w 1st 80w class-A (RMS) switchable - intelligent class-A bias, (same as Masterpiece series)
Frequency response +800kHz
Signal to noise ratio < 110dB
THD + noise < 0,01% 
POWER CONSUMPTION (each)
Standby <1WRMS
Full Power ~250WRMS
DIMENSIONS (each)  130H x 435W x 430D mm
Weight 32kg ea

Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jacek Pazio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flick of the Switch

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

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

Listen to This

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Synergies

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

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

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

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

Not Just Another Brick in the Audio Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening in class-A/B

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

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

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

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

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

Listening in class-A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My take

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

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

Conclusions

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

It’s one of the most complete, most natural-sounding amplifiers I have heard. I would like to own a pair!
Daniel Barnum

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

NOTE _ THIS REVIEW ON PREVIOUS SM-010 MONOBLOCK (SINCE REPLACED BY THESE SM-011 MONOS

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

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

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

Vitus SM-010 inside

The SM-010 is very well built and, at 17"W x 5"H x 16.75"D, surprisingly heavy -- each one weighs 92 pounds, no doubt mostly because of the custom-made transformer that occupies about a third of its interior. Hans Ole Vitus told me that his transformers are a very important factor in the sound of his products. Another amp maker told me that transformer design is an art, and that the transformer makes or breaks an amplifier. Vitus must feel similarly -- he builds his own UI-core units. Also under the SM-010’s top plate, in addition to that heavy, expensive iron, are Sanken output transistors and what looks to be VA’s own internal wiring. Vitus has also clearly thought about clumsy audiophiles and children: The top and bottom plates wrap around the side-panel heatsinks, which helps tremendously when positioning the amps, or when children are navigating a maze of audio gear. The binding posts and XLR and RCA input connectors are of extremely high quality.

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

Listening in class-A/B

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

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

Vitus SM-010 rear

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

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

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

Listening in class-A

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

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

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

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

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

Vitus SM-010 front panel

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

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

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

My take

My main system has included several reference amps, but my favorite has been Tidal Audio’s Impact, a two-channel model ($26,000). I’ve learned that much of what audiophiles argue about are simply our preferences for a certain perspective on the music, and the Tidal reproduces music in a way that mirrors the way I prefer to listen to live music. At concerts, I prefer to sit mid-hall, where I’m able to get a better sonic overview of the event. I miss the overwhelming visceral impact of the bass and percussion one gets sitting close to the stage, but at my preferred seat I hear more musical nuances, and am able to hear the whole more clearly. Besides, I enjoy the unique acoustic properties of different venues. At a concert, the hall is as much a part of the musical experience as the music itself, and I want to experience it all. The Tidal Impact reproduces music so correctly in every aspect that I find it difficult to hear any fault in it. It is the best of all the current trendsetting amplifiers I’ve heard.

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

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

Conclusions

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

. . . Daniel Barnum