Any VAC Phi 30/30 Owner's?


I am the happy owner of a VAC Phi 30/30 amp, having stretched my budget when it came up on Audiogon a few months ago. This must be a rare piece, as I really haven't seen any posts by other owners. It's extremely refined and airy, but I suspect it's true potential is being masked by my Audible Illusions Mod 3a preamp. The speakers are Reynaud Trentes with Kimber Select KS-3035 cables. I'd like to upgrade the preamp but my budget is limited to the Modwright 9.0SE, Supratek Syrah or used Cary SLP-98P range. Are their any other VAC owners who could suggest a synergistic move within my budget of around $2,000? Would it be worth going to cheaper speaker cables to extend my available budget for electronics? I prefer a full function preamp, as I listen to vinyl.
How about a VAC Standard LE preamp?

Seems like it would be a synergestic match, no?

Thanks John:

I'm considering the VAC Standard LE also. I would think there would be synergy, although it seems there have been relatively few comments about the Stadard LE on this board. Some of the others have gotten alot more buzz. I don't know if that is significant as it seems that the newer product lines often gain more attention.

hey gary... i'm jealous of your phi 30/30. what shortcomings do you hear in your system? does it lean warm, cool, fast, slow, etc?
I agree that the pre is a weak link. Your sound quality is as good as the pre will let it be. A $10,000 amp is going to held back by a ?$2,000 pre. The VAC Standard pre is also not in the same league as your amp, but will work well. Keep in mind that VAC makes VERY GOOD amps that will work best with high quality pre-amps.
I agree - VAC Standard LE is the way to go.

As far as not being in the same league as your amp, don't believe everything you read. I had a Standard LE and it was right up there in dynamics, palpability, soundstage, etc. with a $10K Thor preamp in a head to head test about a year ago. It will probably sound great with your 30/30.

My best suggestion is to call Kevin Hayes at VAC, explain what you are trying to achieve, and follow his advice, if you can. He really knows his equipment and the synergies between the pieces.
Well, I'm really not thinking too much in terms of shortcomings with my present system, just looking to wring everything I can from it. I am hoping to improve the width and depth of my soundstage by replacing the Mod 3a though.

I've changed every component multiple times since re-entering this hobby last fall and discovering the joy of Audiogon. I've owned a couple of tube amps over the years, most recently a Cary V12r. In comparison, I find the Phi 30/30 to sound less warm, but extremely natural. Instrumental timbres are sometimes startlingly realistic, particularly acoustic instruments such as guitar, piano and drums. To my ears, the amp is surprisingly fast, particularly with percussion strikes and listening to vibraphones. Bass is not particularly deep in my system, but very musical and satisfying. The top end is detailed and extended, but also airy, and never shrill. Female vocals are palpably lush and real, as is midrange in general. There is a nice sense of space around each instrument Since I got my Trentes and the PHI 30/30 at the same time, it's hard to know what qualities to attribute to each component.

I like not having to bias the amp. It's also beautiful to look at. Having a young son, I also like that the tubes are enclosed. I suspect that my system would come more alive with a more powerful amp, but most of my listening is acoustic jazz, late at night, at relatively low volumes.
I would get the Dodd Audio reference linestage, or new battery powered. I have compared my reference to world class pre-amps, and prefer the dodd.
The VAC Standard LE is a good suggestion. I use a Lamm LL2 Deluxe with my VAC Phi 110/110. The LL2 Deluxe runs around $2500-$3000 used. Add another $500 for some NOS tubes.
Thanks everyone for the helpful advice. I have spoken with Kevin. He indicated that there has been very little feedback from PHI owners using other manufacturer's preamps. He recommended one of the Renaissance Series VAC preamps, if I could find a way to swing it.

711smilin: I've been following the buzz about the Dodd preamps, but I'm confused, are these actually shipping yet? How do you happen to have one?
Did Kevin happen to mention why they dropped the PHI pre amp?
Well the Renaissance Series is twice the price. I was limiting myself to your budget with my recommendation.

Double your budget and I'll recommend the Renaissance also.

No, we didn't discuss the PHI preamp. It's out of my price range, so there was no point. This is the first I've heard about it being discontinued.

Regarding the Renaissance series pre's. Yes, they're beyond my budget right now also. It's just that Kevin recommended them as a good match.

Tvad, how do you like the Lamm LL2 Deluxe with the PHI 110/110? I'm thinking about that vs. Modwright at the moment. If memory serves correct, from your previous posts, you preferred the LL2 to the 9.0SE. Could you say why?
Garyralph, for my taste the LL2 is simply more musical. The Modwright is very good, but it's very solid state sounding, IMO, and while the Lamm is not "tubey", it provides some flesh and soul to the music that the 9.0SE lacked. Also, the LL2 is like a chameleon with tube rolling. You can easily change the sound off the preamp by rolling combinations of 12AU7 and 6922 tubes. This is a great benefit that the LL2 provides, and that the Modwright does offer with as much flexibility.

The only caveat with the Lamm is that depending on the gain or input sensitivity of the VAC, you might have to send the LL2 to Lamm to have the output gain lowered. It's a simple thing for Lamm to do, and it costs around $85.

My VAC Phi has 35db gain in the Zero negative feedback mode. Your 30/30 may have a different gain structure.

Bottom line, is that I love the combo.
I have the reference linestage now, but, should have my battery powered in about 30 days, or so. I have pre-paid for it. I have compared, side by side, in my system with the Act 2, and blowtorch, and prefer the RLS of Gary's, cost not considered. Man oh man, whatabargain.
Thanks Tvad. I notice the LL2 has only 3 inputs, one of which is "direct,". I don't know what that means. Will it accomodate a CD player, tuner and phono preamp?
I notice the LL2 has only 3 inputs, one of which is "direct,". I don't know what that means. Will it accomodate a CD player, tuner and phono preamp?
Garyralph (Threads | Answers)
Actually, counting the tape input, the LL2 has four inputs. The Direct input bypasses some circuitry, and has a more direct path, therefore a cleaner sound. In practice, I don't hear the difference, but technically it should exist.

It will accomodate a CD, tuner and phono one other source.