Amazing, amazing preamplifier! VAC actually uses it sometimes at audio shows to pair with equipment costing ten times as much.
I have not heard of any preamp (including ARC / Mac) that has such realistic voicing of instruments & such sweet vocals.
Does anyone own a VAC Renaissance mk5 SE Preamplifier?
IIRC when I asked VAC (a few years ago), there was no SE versus "standard" version of the 5. It’s all one version. The production Ren 5 ended up using the same Lundahl transformers as in the Master, so they deemed no need to make a separate SE version (like with the Signature IIa to IIa SE upgrade). The standalone Renaissance phono stage however, does have SE and "normal" versions. I’ve heard both of those and own the SE phono - the SE is a bit more detailed and neutral; the non-SE a bit more warm. I could live happily with either of the phonos, honestly. I guess it’s possible in the last year they’ve thrown a few of the nude resistors in a Ren V and called it "SE".
The Ren V line stage is good, really gorgeous midrange (yes - this is the star of a VAC preamp), but is a little soft on bass (IMO) and doesn’t match the dynamics, articulation and sheer presence of the Master. The Ren III (which I owned several years ago) also sounds quite good but has a lot of extra gain. Quite honestly I’m not sure it’s worth the upgrade from a III to 5 - though I’m relying on audio memory (sold the Ren III 10 years ago). If I’m sitting on a Ren III I’d rather save up for a Sig IIa SE or Master. The 5 feels more sidegrade-ish. I tried a Ren V against ARC Ref 6 (a couple times) and generally preferred the Ref 6. But yes, the VAC midrange is sweeter. Finally ended up with the Master. It’s a 100% perfect partner to the Master 300 amps, which are mind-bendingly good.
If you use the onboard phono stage (which is excellent), the Ren III and Ren 5 are the same 3-tube stage which is really good - but the Sig II and Master use a 6-tube stage (like the standalone Renaissance phono stage) which is spectacular. I was advised the standalone Ren SE phono is roughly equivalent to the Master’s onboard stage - some plusses in one column or the other.