Are you speaking of the one that replaced the also new
Vac phi 220 monos.
Vac phi 220 monos.
Fjn04: It's Kevin's newest, state-of-the art Amp and is supposed to be incredible. I'm not sure that it "replaces" anything, however. That would probably be a subjective call. I know its been shipping 2-3 weeks now and I'd really like to hear from someone who's got one (if they're not too busy listening to the music.........)
Yes, this amp replaces the Phi 220 mono which I own. Kevin mentioned this new design has incredible musicality, but more punch in the low end. I'd love to hear it. I have loved my 220's; Kevin builds beautiful sounding tube equipment but without the syrupy coloration common to many other manufacturers.
Hifimaniac: Thanks for the response. I've never heard Kevin really "gush" about anything and he was like a little kid describing this new amp. I also have the Phi 2.0 preamp, Velodyne DD-15, Billy Bags rack and Sistrum amp stand. Using WHisper Legacy speakers, VD Revelation cabling and combination of Elrod Statement PCs on amp (DNA-500) and EG Epiphany X on sources (APL-modded 3910)(Sansui modded TU-9900). No vinyl (I'd be broke!!)
Thanks again for the responses - hopefully as others acquire this new amp, they will weigh in here.
I am expecting to receive a Phi 300 this week. It will replace a VAC Ren Sig 70/70 (VAC made less than 30 of them), which has been a fantastic amp. I'll use it with a VAC Ren Sig Mk II preamp, and it will drive Verity Audio Lohengrin speakers. I'll let you know how it compares to the Ren Sig 70/70 as soon as I have had a chance to listen to it. By the way, know anyone who would be interested in an immaculate Ren Sig 70/70 that has just come back from VAC?
I think that the reason Kevin is gushing like a little kid is because with the new Phi products, he has broken ground with new technology that brings the listener that much closer to the real event. I recently bought the new Auricle Musicbloc mono amps. Why? Because that's all I could afford. Oh, how I wish I could own the new Phi 300 monos, but someday, maybe. I e-mailed Kevin asking him some questions about tube rolling, how the amp will match with my speakers, etc. He was quick to respond and answered all my questions to my satisfaction. Really nice guy. He even gave me a big welcome to the VAC family. He did try to get me to move up to the Musicbloc Standard 160. I believe the 160 have some of the technology used in the PHI line. But as with Fplanner2000, Kevin too was gushing a little bit about his new line. If it all sounds as good as it looks, the new PHI product line should be pretty special.
I am glad I own the Phi 2.0 Pre amp and the Phi 220 mono amps. I have been in sonic heaven. Kevin's equipment is the first tube equipment to really grab me and draw me in. I had been a die hard Krell owner for years and had listened to all the usual suspect in the tube world, but VAC was the first I had heard that made me want to dump my solid state quickly. It has the best of solid state dynamics with the musicality, bloom around the notes and 3D presentation of tubes. Built like a tank too. He needs to get more credit and recognition...I guess he's too humble to toot his own horn like so many designers in high end audio do.
I wanted to follow-up with Maril555 regarding the VAC Auricle Musicblocs. I am very happy with their performance. They power my Reference 3A Dulcet mini-monitors with plenty of volume and their sound is exquisitely pure, clean and musical. They are so clean that they tell you right off which speaker cables they like best. I have tried three different brands and prefer the AZ Satori, bi-wired. My preamp is the new Audio Horizons TP 2.0n, which has plenty of gain, so it is a very good match. One if the things I like about the VAC Auricles is they have a very tiny footprint(only 6" wide) so they fit very nicely in my narrow shelves. Also, keeping them powered all day, they run just slightly warm, not too hot, for an all-tube amp. I'm very pleased with the VAC Auricle, however, if I can save some money, I would like to upgrade to the VAC 160 Monos.
Fplanner2000, I received the Phi 300 on Fri, April 21, unpacked it on Saturday and then set it up on Sunday. I ran it for 12 hours, and then this past weekend, I ran it for another 20-25 hours. So I have about 35 hours of time on it, which is far too little to give a meaningful assessment (150-200 hours of break-in is really needed).
I plan to report on it further when it is further along in the break-in process, but my preliminary reactions are: (1) it is extremely fast, (2) it handles bass better than any solid-state amp I have ever heard, and (3) its ability to project a holographic soundstage is developing as the break-in progresses. My Ren Sig 70/70 delivered a beautifully layered holographic soundstage, and I would expect the Phi 300 to equal if not exceed that. Where the Phi 300 will better the 70/70, though, is in the transient attacks and in the ability to handle lower bass. My speakers are the Verity Lohengrins, which are very fast and which can handle lower bass down to 15 Hz before rolling off.
I think the Phi 300 is going to be an exceptional performer once it is fully broken in. I'll report on it in another few weeks or so after I have 100 hours on it. So far, though, I am very pleased with it, and based on what I have heard to date in the early break-in process, I suspect that Kevin Hayes has every reason to be truly excited about this product.
If you are in the NY metro area and want to listen to it, just let me know.
Congratulations Vac_man. I see that you sold your VAC Ren 70/70. I know it's probably a little early yet to give us a status on your new Phi 300, but a quick report on its sound would be nice. Assuming all else is the same in your system, do you hear a difference for the better over your Ren 70/70?
I didn't get out of the home theater, but I replaced Theta Dreadnaught II with BAT- 75SE for front channels and Butler 5150 for the rest.
Now I'm thinking about changing my analog multichannel preamp (McIntosh C-45) with a quality two-channel preamp and pre-pro for the surrounds.
Some people are of a strong opinion that built-in decoding in DVD player run into analog preamp is inferior to dedicated processor (for movies).
Hello Fplanner2000, It's my fault that this thread got off track for a moment. I'm sure we're all waiting in eager anticipation for Vac_man to give us his impressions of the Phi 300. He just sold his Ren. Sig. 70/70's , so hopefully soon he'll post his impressions. I'm surprised that no one else has come in with information. Surely there are more new Phi 300 owners out there. Let's hear your impressions. Enquiring minds want to know.
I have posted a review of the Phi 300 here on Audiogon at http://forum.audiogon.com/cgi-bin/frr.pl?ramps&1148154313&read&3&zzlVac_man&&. Sorry that it took so long, but I wanted to make sure that the amp had enough playing time for a meaningful evaluation.
Thank you Vac_man for an excellent review. You seem to be empirically confirming the exact same feelings I got from Kevin Hayes when I enquired about this amp. As you know, he is very modest about his products, but he also mentioned the word "revolutionary" in our conversations. That definitely got my attention, as did your insightful review. It is definitely making it tougher for me not to pull the trigger on one, especially since I already have the Phi 2.0 preamp, which I love.
Other Phi 300 amp owners, please chime in with your own opinions of this new amp. Thanks again vac_man for a really in-depth review. I am definitely jealous at this point.
The Vac Phi 300 is awesome in every way. The Phi 300 is the 3rd $15,000.00 tube amp I have owned. The prior two were the Mcintosh 2000, and the Sonic Frontiers Power 3's. Both are inferior to the Vac, neither does one thing better than the Vac 300. For me component changes often offer some compromise in some area, this one did not.
As for the sound of the Vac. I will compare the sound of the Vac to the Mcintosh 2000. Since the Mac was better then the Sonic Frontiers Power 3's., and a good amp, just not PHI 300 good.
The Vac combines the best of tubes and the best of solid state. It presents the midrage with natural tone, it is not lush nor stark. It is just natural and right. I can't give it a better compliment than that. The Mcintosh had good tone, but it was a little soft, and it could not do "wood tones" well. Also, the Mac's bass presentation was "rubbery" sounding. In a word the Mcintosh lacked "snap".
The Vac's presents images with a natural air, transparency and scale. The dimensionality is presented as naturally, as the recording allows.
The Vac's bass performance is best to be compared to solid sate. It has "snap" and, it controls deep bass, and best of all is tuneful. Solid state amps I have heard in my system recently include the Dartzeel and a Krell 400. The Vac's bass control was as good as the Krells, at any volumes I listen at, and better then the Dartzeel at all volumes.
This amp has found a permanent home. The amp is "right" from top to bottom, the clsest thing to perfect I have every heard in any amp. Don't listen to one unless you are prepared to buy one. It would be hard to live without once you have heard it.
Dlanselm: Thanks for your insights. Sounds like you are quite pleased. I know its a great looking amp as well - you might want to add a pic to your system when you get the chance. I appreciate your sharing your opinion on what sounds like a really great amp (altho I have yet to hear one). How long have you had it and how long was your break-in period?
Thanks and enjoy your system!
I've got mine in as well and am ecstatic at the beauty of this amp....the low end is full and tight and the mids and highs were always the strength of VAC gear to me and that is as good as ever on the 300.1
I have around 150 hours on mine so am expecting it to keep opening up and improving, wow what a delight this thing is....
I've had mine a little over a month and couldn't be happier. My speakers the VR 5 SE's are a little hard to drive on the bottom end. My previous amp the Phi 110 although great with the mids and high's fell short with the low end. I added a Spectron amp to drive the bottoms and that helped. I then knew what my speakers could do. Being a big fan of Vac, (I also have the Renaissance Signature Mk II pre.) I had to order the 300.1, The threads on this subject and speaking with Kevin also helped sway me. Right out of the box everything sounded great, the low end is as good or better than the Spectron's and the sound just keeps improving. Has anyone tried any different tubes or setting's? I have only used the 8 ohm tap and the Ultra Linear mode, I am waiting for it to fully break in before I try any changes.
So far, at about 70 hours, I am amazed at how much better my system sounds than with my prior amp, the McC DNA-500. The bass is actually a little deeper, a little faster and much more palpable than before. If I wasn't hearing it, I wouldn't believe it, since the DNA-500 is excellent in that area. My speakers are Legacy Whispers, with lots of bass drivers and relatively efficient(94). As far as mids and highs are concerned, there is a much greater sense of air around the instruments and much better imaging as well as depth of soundstage. To summarize so far - very fast, incredible bass reproduction, natural decay to instruments and voices - no coloration at all - you just hear the music as it was meant to be heard. This amp sounds like it is in a league of its own and its still not hardly broken in yet!(no, I haven't heard every amp and have no desire to hear others at this point). I can now better appreciate why Kevin was so enthusiastic in discussing the Phi 300 last year - he has really designed a great amp. I will post more impressions as the 300.1 breaks in.
I am using the 8 ohm taps and UL mode.
I'm not surprised whatsoever. My VAC Phi 110/110 was so much more musical and alive than a DNA-500 I heard in my system that it wasn't even close.
I almost always used my Phi 110/110 in the Ultriode/Zero negative feedback mode. It resulted in a 3D presentation that you could almost walk into. Why did I sell that amp again? :)
I don't know Tvad, but I'm glad you did cuz I've enjoyed the heck out of it since you sold it to me. I think it will arrive Tuesday with the new update. I'm very curious to see what the new design has to offer, but I'll admit I've been a little nervous because I really had little to nitpick with the amp to begin with. If it hadn't been for the 300 series owners and Kevin raving about the differences I would have never really considered it. We'll see...
How is the 300.1 sounding after 70 hours? My experience with the 300 was that the bass and the holographic imaging and soundstage really improved dramatically after about 60 or 70 hours. Just curious as to whether you are experiencing the same. Now you appreciate first hand why it is such an awesome amp.
Vac_man - Ive been out of town a lot over the past 7 weeks or so dealing with a family emergency and have been "unplugging" my system so the dog-sitters don't try to even touch my audio gear (if it doesn't lite up, there's no temptation to play with it, right?). Consequently, I haven't had much of an opportunity to break-in the amp. It seems I am always playing catch-up as it starts to get really nice and then its time to leave town again. Hopefully this traveling will let up soon so that I can spend some more time listening and enjoying. I will say that the bass has been very impressive so far, even with all the interruptions of the power supply. I'll be able to post additional impressions hopefully by month's end.
I've now had some time to break in my 300.1 and I am very impressed. In a nutshell, it just does everything extremely well. Its the most revealing, dynamic and musical amp I've ever heard. I haven't been able to hear what the amp and my gear can REALLY do due to the limitations of my prior speakers. That has recently changed, as I've sold my Whisper speakers and have a new pair of Von Schweickert VR-7SE's in my garage waiting to be uncrated and put into my system. Both Kevin at VAC and Albert at VS have agreed that this combination should be something very special, as they have sounded extremely well together at past shows in what can best be described as "challenging" rooms. I can't wait.......