Experiences, good and bad, with VTL

Hi all,
I'm strongly considering VTL monos for my system. I'd like to hear from anybody about their experiences. Were they reliable? How often and how much was retubing? Most importantly, how did they sound, relative to other tube amps.

David Shapiro
If you waste your time with VTL, you will only kick yourself later. The amps WILL fail on you, and you WILL go nuts dealing with the company. If you must use high-powered tube amps because your speakers are grossly-inefficient, I think you will be happier with something along the lines of ARC, CJ, or even the new McIntosh. At least with these three, the amps are reliable as can be, and they keep strong resale value.

But you're still better off getting more efficient speakers and using more moderate-powered tube amps. IMO of course...
Could not disagree more with the previous feedback. No mention of the reader actually ever owning VTL. I own the 25 TT and they sound great with no reliability problems. They run my Reference 3As. Cost of retubing is around $100

A friend has owned the larger monoblocks for 6 years, runs original Martin Logan CLSs. No reliability problems.

These amps do have a particular voicing and that of course is very subjective. I spent over a year listening to different tube amps before deciding on them. Will they rock your world with high volume, no. Are they quite musical, open, detailed, yes. Good luck.
i have not owned any vtl products. i have listend to them on demos. i love the 25tt's (just not enough jucie). if found the vt85 (think that was the number) ok; probably would be alot better with nos tubes. i will say that i own rogue monos (better price point; much improved sound with tube swap). i have retubed them with nos tubes from vintage tube services. i found it intresting that vintage will warranty all his nos and used tubes on all gear except "vtl". fwiw.

Can anyone comment on the tube amps from Tube Research Labs? I know the company is technically not in business anymore. But in their day, they built an 800 and 400 watt triod amps. As I understand it, they built some monster amps.

Does anyone have actual user/owner or demo experiences?
I have owned VTL mono 125 power amps for over 5 years and have worked perfect. I have had no problems with short tube life with tubes from VTL but now use Tesla J/J EL34's and N.O.S. Telefunken 12AT7 thes are wonderful. I use a Cardas golden power cord and the amp loves them My interconnect is also a Cardas neutral ref. I drive Alon 5 with this amp and could not be more pleased with the sound . this is a very nice amp . marc
I have a VTL ST-150 for almost three years. It is the most musical & Powerful Amp I have every owned. They have blown resisters a couple of times , which is upsetting . But My VTL can Drive my Aerial 10t's Straight to Heaven ! From the shimmering highs... detailed midrange to Heavy Duty Bottom ! VTL makes great power amps!
Avnut. I have a lot of experience with Tube Research amps. I owned the GT 400 and a good friend owned the GT 300.

What do you want to hear from experienced users? Quality of sound, reliability?

On the thread topic, I have heard VTL in several situations, and several friends own them. I think they are a great product and am not aware of VTL having any more reliability problems than other high end / high power tube amps. All big tube amps will need some maintenance and tube replacement. It goes with the territory, but well worth it in my opinion.
Which models have you heard. I'm going to audition the 450 and may get the 750.

David Shapiro
I heard the 750 and the Wotan. The 750 was at a friends home in California. He was with Fi magazine before it went under. He had a very good system, Rockport turntable with Koetsu running into a Jadis pre, driving Soundlab M-1's.

The friend that used two pair of VTL's was a reviewer for Absolute Sound. We have spent enough time with each other to know what each hears and likes.

His combo of VTL 750 plus VTL Wotan bi amping the big Magneplaners was absolutely state of the art. He was using Purist and Cardas cable, Basis turntable with Graham arm, Aesthetix Io and Callisto phono and preamp.

Having owned many tube amps myself, my experience is that overall they are higher maintenance than equivalent transistor models. They deliver more music and therefore make up for the effort in my opinion.

The VTL delivers great sound. Two years ago I considered the VTL 750 for myself. This was to drive my Soundlab Ultimates. It turned out to be such a bad year financially that I could not afford them and instead bought Wolcotts Presence 220.

Still, It would be nice to do an A-B comparison in my own home, even though the Wolcott is delivering the best sound I have had to date.
I never want to hear a system like that Albert, 'cause i have a feeling it would be an incredibly impossible-to-pay-for act to follow. I have a pair of lowly VTL MB185 and I'm extreamly happy with them. Last year they survived a near lightning hit, plugged directly into the wall, with only a couple of tubes and fuses to show for it. Luck or durability?? One amp had an intermittant hum that came about when it was left idling for a long period of time. Toggle the power switch on either amp or the pre and it would go away. The VTL folks tried their best to help me diagnose it over the phone...it wasn't worth sending in till it failed we figured. It hasn't re-occurred in about 6 mo so who knows what was up there since i didn't change anything. The point of all that was the amps aren't perfect but the VTL people are very helpful. Bee, the person you would probably deal with in customer support, is pretty busy and it may take a bit to get through to her. I'm on my 3rd year with the tubes and they are starting to go a bit soft. The system is on probably about 20 hrs/wk ave.

As to the first poster who recommended ARC, CJ and Mac., I don't think here has spent much time with tube amps. THe ARC may be worth a listen though i though they were the most solid statey of the bunch, VTL included. The VTL had better mids and maybe a bit softer highs than the ARC VT100 II. I also use a 5.5 pre-amp and the sound from my system is dynamic, quite open and 3-d. The bass is nicely controlled though i do wish there was more (room? speakers??{dunlavy athenas} bigger amp?) The switchable triode/tetrode on the VTL is a nice feature. I'm finding myself wanting a big triode amp more and more each day.

The CJ gear i listened to was mushy in comparison...what anti tube folks talk about i would guess. I don't remember the model numbers. I also listened to a high end Mac set up through a pair of 801 nautilus speakers. something was really not working there either...enough so that i quit looking at either of those products. I can't imagine not loving a pair of 750's. if you buy them and don't like them i'd be glad to accept them as a donation

I own a pair of MB-100s and have been very happy with them. They power my Celestion SL700s with no problems. They have decent bass, a bit forward mid(but still very nice because my speakers are slightly too mellow) and nice upper end. For the money they are great. I have owned them for two years and have absolutely no problems with them.

Good luck with your search.
update i just put in some brimar 12AT7 black plate tubes made in 1958 they are a better than 1970's mullard box plate and about equal to but different than my telfunken right now i love em but will go back to the tele's to see if they really are better will post a follow up
Tube Research Labs is not out of business at all. I know because I am a dealer for them. So, im responding to rebut that. As a matter of fact they have just expanded to Cable Research Labs and they are making incredible leaps and bounds in that market now also. If you have any questions please feel free to call me for any more info @ 708-267-1588
I just picked myself up a pair of MB-185 Sig. mono's that are about four years old. I am the third owner, and was able to pick them up directly from the second owner, who had used them with no problems for a year. I put them in my system last weekend, and they only played for about 3 hours before they both went dead simultaneously. The weird thing is, it was the B+ fuses that I think blew, because the heater filaments still light up, but only an AC line/AC fuse event could explain them going at the same time. Since then, I've left two messages for Luke with no response, and although I've talked to Bea twice, she isn't up on the technical issues. She did tell me, however, that the B+ fuses, which are 1 amp, 250 volt, slo-blo types in my amps, are now in current production changed to 1.5 amp, 600 volt, fast-blo types. This is more in line with the fusing I've seen used on other fine tube amps. I really have a hard time understanding why, at VTL, only the company owner and president (Luke) is the one supposed to deal with customer technical support issues. He's obviously much too busy to give me kind of support I've always had available to me from Conrad-Johnson, for instance. I'm going to try to replace these fuses with 1.5 amp, 250 volt, fast-blo's for the time being, since new fuse holders are required to fit the higher voltage replacements, but I'm very curious what could have caused this to happen in the first place, and whether it will happen again. (BTW, the rest of the system works fine with my old amp, and no power line event was noticable at the time of the failure.) As for the sound, it's too early for me to have formed a real opinion, but they did seem big and powerful with good transparency, but somewhat dark and lacking in sparkle and air, and a little looser in the bass than I was expecting, but these may need fresh tubes. Anybody done the cap upgrade here?
Stay away from Vtl. I was the second owner of a Stereo 50/50 . When It was built they offered a "lifetime transferrable warranty"The first time the amp failed ( a popping noise) not only would they not honor their warranty but it cost $250 for new input caps.The second time it was a resistor that I replaced.Finally the right ouutput transformer failed. They wanted to charge me $400 for matched transformers.The irony is that the first time it failed I was auditioning a vtl 2.5 pre and St 85 amp. I would have bought them both if they had taken care of me.I bought a McIntosh pre and power instead. It was the best decision I've made in a long time. As for the Stereo 50,I sold it for parts/repair on ebay. VTL lost a customer for life!
Well, since this thread has popped up again, I should take the opportunity to update my above post. I finally talked at length with Luke Manley, and although he was cordial, he was not, let's say, the most forthcoming individual in his position I have ever spoken with at a comparable company. VTL's basic position seems to be, "Send us the amps, then we'll tell you what we think." Since I lack the original cartons, and live clear across the country, this is not what I hoping to hear first. He was grudging, at best, about offering any advice that could help me get the amps up and running again, wanting me to just send them to the factory. Since I hadn't yet properly auditioned them, I was, I think, understandably dissatisfied with this approach, not wanting to make a further large investment before getting a chance to really hear the things, so I declined his invitation.

My MB-185's happen to have been strangely modified by their first owner; he had someone (or himself, I really don't know) defeat their Triode/Tetrode switches, leaving them in permanent tetrode mode, with the switches removed and missing. Although I'm sure I would run them in this mode anyway, I would like to be able to restore the switches locally, just for originality's sake. VTL will give me absolutely NO assistance in accomplishing this, even (especially?) if I offer to purchase the new switches and/or diagrams from them. "Send them to us" is all I can get, at around $300 round-trip shipping, plus $120 for new cartons first, not including the actual repair and parts, and I'm sure many weeks of no amps. Most companies in my experience will sell parts and schematics no problem if needed; not VTL!

On a more positive note, I have installed 1.5a fuses in the 250v receptacles, along with doing a complete re-tube, and haven't had any more problems with shut-downs, and the amps now sound improved.
$60 each for cartons? that should tell you right there their attitude towards resales and customer service.