To bad no responses on this the whole year... These are two integrated amps now on my list. They are very different, one being tubed and one bing solid state, but I too wonder how they compare...
Tube meister, did you end up with either?
Agreed! From what i've read the VAC ranks near the best current intergrated amps(Alef-Dartzeel-Gryphon-Vitus-ect...). Many prefer the class A Luxman 590 over the Accuphase.
I *think* many prefer the Luxman 590AX over the Accuphase E-560 is due to cost. The 560 is considerably more expensive... But yes. the Sigma 160i seems to be very well received at every mention.
How much warmth do these three amps have? Which has the most and which has the "best" bass?
New improved E-560, the Accuphase E-600 should be good and worth checking out.
A most timely thread for me to observe as I'm in the market for an integrated amplifier such as the VAC Sigma 160i. My Salk Signature Soundscape 8's are rated at 87db sensitivity and a fairly flat 4 ohm load.
My research so far tells me that the Luxman, Pass Labs and Accuphase are all fine integrateds but lean towards the warmer side of things. The VAC is supposedly quite neutral and provides plenty of grunt to be able to provide deep textured bass and dynamics, while keeping the airy finessed highs that good tube amps offer.
I hear ya Beatlebum, but most I have run into or read just purchases one without hearing the others but say they are very happy. I have been trying to get a good read on these offerings for a couple months. What little is out there is inconclusive on the sound character front --other than VAC. One can find good explanations of their sound.
I left a message at an Accuphase dealer in Chicago a few days ago... not heard back yet. Not that great for business when someone is calling from another state asking about the most expensive integrated a company makes...and no call back!
Was emailing with Kevin of VAC too. At least I thought I was... No response to my second message now.
Good way to whittle it down to Luxman I suppose... Actually this is not the first time this has happened to me. I dont know what I am doing wrong but BPT and a few things sold through Tweek Geek got taken off my list last year due to not responding to queries...and in this economy. Whatever!
Kevin may be hard to get ahold of because he's so focused on product design and quality. But when you do get ahold of him in "realtime" communication, on the phone (or in person), it's worth your while. And email chains can be hard to keep going with some folks (guilty, here).
Do you want the head guy at an audio company to act more like the head audio/engineering geek, or the lead salesman?
I sold my VAC pre and don't currently own any VAC gear, but the (factory modded/upgraded, so not quite the average unit) VAC Sigma 160i at my friend's shop sounds so ridiculously good -- neutral, musical, effortlessly non-fatiguing (paired with Magico S1) -- it occasionally makes me think twice...and I've got 200lbs of tube amp with 60lbs of tube preamp at home. I've be very surprised to find better sound than the 160i in a similar package.
Also, while I like my current line stage at least as much as my prior Renaissance III, I'm still reeling from the loss of the latter's built-in phono stage. If you have vinyl, those VAC built-in phonos superb.
I did personally speak with Kevin Hayes at VAC last week. A very pleasant and informative fellow. Not pushy and wished me well in my integrated amp auditions/searches and he hoped to be welcoming me to the VAC family soon. Don't hesitate to call him.
Thanks for your thoughts and comments regarding your experiences with VAC gear. I've spoken with a couple of other owners and they echo your impressions.
Thanks for the coments about Kevin and about the 160i as well. I have actually heard nothing but good things about Kevin. And to be honest, my second email to him might of been rather pedestrian and more sales related, but I was also curious about a past integrated and how it would compare to the 160i.
I hope to try to hear the 160i somewhere this winter... I will give the accuphase dealer a second try also.
One more post in praise of Kevin, VAC and the 160i. I took a client to the RMAF last year and into 1 of the 2 rooms where VAC was present. He was so impressed with the the 160i that with a bit of my help, HE BOUGHT THE ENTIRE ROOM!! VAC's 160i demo room from the RMAF last year now resides in his basement. He is ridiculously pleased.
I have owned VAC products for over 10 years now and don't anticipate ever changing. Their support is unmatched, IMO and their midranges are as good as it gets. Bulletproof construction, amazing sound, incredible support - what more could anyone realistically expect? You can do a lot worse than a VAC 160i, and at its price-point, it is very doubtful you can exceed, or even match it, no matter how hard you look. Kevin is also one of the truly "good guys" in high-end audio and I am proud to call him a friend.
Guys - great thread. I'm wondering if the 160i could drive my Magico S5's in a big room (45 x 15 with 12 foot ceilings). I love VAC gear. My friend brought his VAC 100/100 over (he paid $1500 for it) and I was beyond impressed. I'm sorry to say, it bettered my Classe CAM600's by a country mile.
I have also heard the Accuphase e-560 and it was excellent. Love the look. The build quality is amazing too.
But once I heard VAC, I can't get that sound out of my head. Sooooooo musical.
Hello All. Although it was a VERY tough choice, I finally went with the Accuphase E-560 because it is more
feature-laden and better suited to my system configuration.
Having said that, I feel that the VAC Sigma 160i is one of top two or three best sounding integrated amplifiers, along with the E-560.
IMHO, one really cannot go wrong with either choice.
Mbovaird - I would shoot Kevin an e-mail with your question.
TM - what's the rest of your system?
Great comments and insight from everyone. The Accuphase E-560 certainly looks interesting as well.I'm also wondering about the Gamut DI150 that looks great and is supposed to sound excellent. Powerful,detailed, transparent and ultra-fast is what I'm reading about the Gamut integrated.
So for now it's the following integrateds up for serious consideration:
VAC Sigma 160i
Gamut DI 150
VAC Sigma 160i
Jadis i35 or DA88
SS Class-A :
Accuphase E600 (although I prefer analog meters of old E560)
All mighty fine and musical integrated, worth a listen/compare prior to pulling the trigger. Goodluck.
Mulveling, any chance moving to Magico and VAC?
I can't speak for the other equipment mentioned but I can tell you that the Vac 160i is "FANTASTIC" and I love everything about it...
Has anyone gone from a Vac Avatar to the 160i? If so, how much improvement?
What do you think of your Melody AN845, in your second system, as compared to the 160i you listed to at your friends pace?
Having VAC in your main system but also owning the melody has interested me, since I am considering the 160i and a Melody integrated.
Are the Melody integrateds in the same league as the VAC?
Could you describe the sonic differences between VAC and Melody?
I have a Rowland Continuum S2 on the way for audition.
I guess I am a little biased since I own the VAC Sigma 160i. It has made me stop looking for amps, at least for now. Haha. It is just a fantastic amp. Not the classic tube sound, just supremely musical and no fatigue at all. It sounds great across the music spectrum. Nothing is emphasized, just fantastic. Buy one and you will not be disappointed.
Jriggy- Tough question. Hard to compare because they are in very different systems with different goals and I don;t own the 160i. I would say the 160i is capable of playing more different kinds of music, especially big band, orchestra and rock, without letting down anywhere on the quality. The Melody is more for quieter music with more emphasis on a bit of sweetness in the presentation. The 160i also has a much better bottom end the unbeatable VAC midrange.
I got the Mekody because I had never heard single-ended and was curious. It sounds great in my office, but I have the BIG Vac's at home and wouldn't ever switch... :-) Hope this helps.
Thanks for the response Fplanner2000.
That does help a little... I do not listen loud. Only around 9 0'clock on the dial (guessing in the 70 to 80 db range), but I do listen to rock and a deep and thorough low end is important to me.
I just wish the 160i was said to have a tilt to the warm side. If so, with everything else said about it, I would buy it in a heartbeat... Statements like 'the unbeatable VAC midrange' are tempting... But ultimately, I am looking for something with a little warmth and very smooth. Am just a little scared of getting something that will be to hot in the upper mids and treble for my ears --which are very sensitive to this. The VAC sounds perfect in every other respect.
The class A warmth of the Accuphase might do it. but then it will probably lack the tube midrange...
I would get the VAC - there is absolutely NONE of that hotness you are concerned about in the upper mids and treble. I repeat, NONE. You will LOVE this VAC piece - the tubes will impart that bit of warmth you are seeking, as well as the smoothness.
Sounds like a perfect fit to me - if you don't like it (unlikely), they sell very quickly here on Audiogon. My buddy with the 160i listens to opera with TEARS in his eyes at times due to the realism, warmth and organic nature of the performances thru his VAC.
it's highly unlikely as I remain very happy with big Tannoys & Rogue, and it's been that way for a long time now. So I don't have a strong motivation to make a big change. And as amazing as the Magico's engineering and beryllium tweeter are, the big Tannoys still do things a smaller speaker can't.
Not that it's a complete impossibility -- what I heard from the S1/VAC combo was awesome sound that I'd happily acquire if circumstances changed and I needed to go to a smaller, simpler system. Again, it really surprised the heck out of me. Though to be fair, in a downsize scenario I'd also thoroughly investigate Tannoy's new(ish) Definition 10A (though they're bigger and slightly more expensive than S1).
Interesting comments- I had a Vac Phi Beta and Luxman 590ax in my room on Zu Definition 4 speakers. I would say the Luxman was very, very warm and smooth compared with the Vac. The Lux was like butta' and I didn't like it one bit. On the other hand, the Phi Beta to me was a tad rolled off, go figure. I rolled lots of tubes in it as well (Psvane 12ax7s, Shuguang Black Treasure KT88s, etc).
I've also had the Phi 200 in my system compared with my McIntosh 601s at the time- I felt they sounded really similar, which surprised me. Bass was not tube-like fyi. I didn't get to roll tubes in that amp, however.
Perhaps this is just a long way to say that I couldn't get Vac and Zu to work right. I heard the Sigma 160i on Tads sound spectacular at an audio show, so I'm well disposed to Vac amps.
Interesting that you found the Luxman 590ax to be way overly warm. I have not read that about the unit in any reviews (I know, take all reviews with a grain of salt)... Is it possible that the FETs in the amp were not broken in yet. I had a Mosfet amp once and it took quite a while to 'wake up.'
Did you have any other warm character cables or gear involved as well???
Thanks, Just trying to get a barometer going.
Jriggy- The Luxman was a demo piece that On A Higher Note circulates around the country when requested. It definitely had lots of hours on it (and I ran it continuously for 5 days- a space heater!) as the dealer and I had scheduling issues. Two other audiophiles and myself thought similarly on sonics.
Zu speakers tend to favor a slightly warm amp, so I thought it would be a perfect match. That was not the case however. I have another Class A amp (Valvet) in the system currently that sounds much better. I was told to demo the Luxman AB integrated as it's less warm, but I wasn't really interested.
The other integrated you should probably audition is the Ayre. It sounds quite good on some systems. I think Ayre, Dartzeel, and Vac would be my audition. Dart imo is the best, but at 2x the price.
Thanks Keithr. Very helpful.
I have owned the VAC Sigma 160i with built in MC phono stage for about 2 years and continue to be impressed with its sound and build quality as well as the support of Kevin Hayes and company at VAC.
I find it to have a beguiling combination of the liquidity and dimensionality people like from tubes along with the resolution, drive and bass control that people typically associate with good solid state.
For me it is the cornerstone of a high quality, but simplified system and I would highly recommend an audition for anyone in the market for a great integrated at that price point.
I have not heard the Accuphase but I have heard the Luxman Class As, Pass Class A, older ARC Vsi50, various Mcintosh, older Ayre and many others, and still preferred the VAC by a pretty good margin for my tastes (classical, jazz, blues, acoustic, some rock, etc).
The new Ayre 5 series integrated has a nice sound as well and the Vitus at a higher price point is also a good sounding integrated that would be worth consideration.
I own the Vac 160i for about 6 months now. It is a fast and tight amp. A powerful tube integrated amp. Much more like a solid state IMHO.
I have another set of tube amp, the legendary BAT VK60 with ARC ls17 preamp. They just sound sweeeeeet and warm. sweeter and warmer than sigma but not as powerful as the Sigma.
If you have sensitive high db speakers like Tannoy, avantgarde, you can try BAT VK60 amp if you like speakers like magico s1, wilson or revel, VAC amp is a better choice.
Hello again all,
Just wanted to update my situation. I ended up buying the Rowland Continuum S2 and so far, I couldn't be happier! It seems like a very synergistic match with my Salk Soundscape 8's speakers. With RAAL tweeters mated with an Accuton midrange driver and two 8" woofers (along with passive radiators), the Soundscape 8's are fast and revealing. Think Magnepan 3.7's with more extended bass and a more visceral and dynamic presentation (and I am a big Magnepan fan BTW). The Rowland delivery is beautiful and extended with power aplenty. The Rowland iteration of Class D doesn't roll off the highs like some others I have heard nor does it present a "glassy/edgy" treble like some too. Bass is deep and rich, midrange is very nice although not quite on the level of my previous Pass Labs XA30.5 but close. I have never heard better dynamics in my system than I have now. Unlike the Pass, the Rowland has a better overall balanced presentation that is way less bloomier, and much more coherent. Imaging depth is incredible and the air around the musicians/performers is scary good. I've only got about 175 hours on it so I believe things will only get even better (if that's possible?).