A year ago, I took the plunge and purchased a new phono pre-amp, the VTPH-2A. I'd read numerous posts on this forum about how special it is, head and shoulders above the rest. I'd also read that Keith Herron is the definition of quality, in terms of knowledge, customer service, and being real as a human being. I'll be as objective as I can be: everything that was stated is 100% true. I've easily spent hundreds of hours spinning up vinyl with the VTPH-2A and nearly every time my comment to myself is, "damn that's good." Many audiophiles would fret about the synergy with other system components. My opinion is that it would be an overachiever in any system that endeavors to produce fine music. With respect to Keith, I contacted him not for technical support or customer service, but to let him know how pleased I was with my purchase. His response was so gracious, I felt like I was talking to a friend or good neighbor. Definitely someone honest and worth doing business with. I want to close this post by thanking the folks on the forum for sharing experience and what you know. I live a very rural life and don't travel much. Opportunities to critique a variety of equipment at shows or audio shops are virtually nonexistent for me. Audiogon has been an excellent place to narrow down the thousands of possible choices that I could never possibly pursue and sometimes get solid advice =)
That was pretty much my experience exactly. Kept reading comments and reviews, couldn't find anything locally worth buying, read a bunch more then finally called Keith. Never recommend anything but in-home audition but sometimes you just can't. Honestly, given the reviews and then after talking to Keith, just seemed like as close to a sure thing as you ever can get.
Since then I have called Keith a couple times. Yes one was just to tell him how happy I am! Hard to say which is his most impressive character trait, perfectionism or modesty. Either way just what you want in a builder.
Just a little fyi- building these things requires things like ordering rather large production runs of parts like the chassis which ties up a lot of capital. Not all that long ago he was at the decision point of maybe making the last VTPH-2A. I would have had nearly the last one made.
I mention this because in talking with Keith this came up and he decided to continue making these and that my Audiogon review was a factor. Now in no way am I taking credit. Rather this is to make the point there really are some people like Keith who are in this and doing it for more than the money.
My experience exactly. I felt like my small sale was as important to Keith as a large one would have been. A pure class act, except it’s no act. I sat and talked with him at the Irvine Hi-Fi Show in 2014, I believe it was, and found him to be a down-to-Earth, no-pretense kinda guy. Maybe it comes from being from the Midwest!
Like some other excellent hi-fi designers, Keith comes from the Pro Sound world. Tim deParavicini (EAR-Yoshino) does a lot of work in recording studios, as did David Manley (a friend of mine who owns a studio has a Manley tube mic pre-amp, and loves it). The number one priority in Pro Sound is reliability, so designers like they (Roger Modjeski of Music Reference is another) use parts over-rated for the voltage levels they have to withstand. Great sound is important, but so is hassle-free operation!
I had my VTPH 2 upgraded to the 2A and as good as it was it is exceptional now. Quite possible one of the finest phono-stages available irregardless of price and most certainly competitive with the top tier products. It would have been a shame had he quit offering the VTPH-2A.
I've purchased from the original owner a VTPH-2 that was just upgraded to the VTPH-2A and completely checked out by Keith. I'll be using an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze, really excited to hear this based on all your great reviews.
Does everyone here use it in the "infinite" loading setting? I am also getting 220 and 470 ohm plugs.
I use an AT-ART9 through the infinite load setting and it sounds brilliant. You'll almost certainly toy with different load plugs to see if there's any pleasant difference in sound. I did the same with my ART9 and just stayed with the infinite load.
It sounds as though you haven't fired up your VTPH-2A yet. Just a little friendly advice, set aside some serious listening time when it's ready to go. You'll listen to everything you're familiar with, then you'll start on the stack of vinyl that's collected dust for years. The VTPH-2A is good enough to create an addiction.
I have a VTPH2a & a VTSP3a and I have no desire to go any further. The detail, imaging and neutrality with an Allaerts MC1B is subperb. I believe to better this combination I would have spend a great deal more.
I just received my VTPH-2A yesterday and I’m completely blown away by the performance even early into break-in. I did notice the dynamics really begin to shine after the unit had been running about 45 minutes and kept getting better throughout the evening. Are you guys leaving your units running 24/7?
This is clearly a transformational piece of gear in my system and it’s distracting today wanting to get home to listen more! My interest is now completely piqued on the VTSP-360. Anybody running these together? I assume there would be some nice synergies.
It's almost impossible to gauge the difference between day 1 and day 101 by ear alone, but I do believe more detail/nuance is still on the way for you. Being blown away should continue for a long time. I haven't left my unit on 24/7. I too have noticed a slight improvement in sound after it runs for a while, but nowhere near 45 minutes. After a year and hundreds of hours of use, my VTPH-2A settles down in less than 10 minutes. Maybe a little break in time will help. three_easy_payments, I've got a hunch that either you or I will soon be telling the world just how great the VTSP-360 is as well. The VTPH-2A is as good as it gets and I can't imagine that Keith Herron would build something crappy to compliment any of his components. My heart beats a little faster when I think of adding the VTSP-360 to my system, but the smell of melting credit card slows it down. If you take the plunge and buy one, keep us all posted on what you think.
I wish I could comment on the VTSP-360--maybe someday. That said, I am running a VTSP-3A (R03) with my VTPH-2A. All I can say is I went through 3 ARC linestages and 2 Modwright linestages before I decided to bite the bullet and try Keith's. Glad I did--way better than anything else I have heard in my system. All the features you could want with none that you don't need. Dead quiet, totally reliable, never runs hot, sounds like heaven--impeccable timing, very resolving, musically engaging and uncolored. Really, every bit as good as the VTPH-2A just doesn't get the effusive praise for some reason. The only thing I would give mine up for is the 360--if someone wants to make me an offer on mine send me a PM. It is boxed in storage while our house is on the market for an upcoming move so now is the time to strike!
Thanks for the comments coming from your reference point which seem quite on point to me given how likely similar the 3A and 360 are in design approach. This may be an irrational fear but my only hesitation is whether I'm giving up anything if I run the 360 into my fully differentially balanced amp given the fact the Herron doesn't offer balanced outputs. Thoughts?
Yeah, I will reach out to Keith to collect his thoughts. I have to say, adding the VTPH-2A has made me rethink the relative importance of the phono pre in the vinyl system. Compared to the other upgrades I've made along the way (TT and cartridge), the Herron pre has been by far the most transformational upgrade. It has me questioning whether I needed to do the other upgrading over the past year! For fun (at some point) I am going to put the old TT and cart incrementally back in and take notes on the sonic improvement each piece of gear has added. I suspect the VTPH-2A will "move the needle" (pun intended) the most in terms of measuring sonic bliss.
I fell in love with my VTPH-2A when it arrived in January and I'm still in love six months later. That's a really good omen because that almost never happens for me. It replaced an ARC PH-7. So now the big news - I pushed my limits of "affordable" and ordered the VTSP-360. I'm hoping it's less technical and more live than my ARC Ref-3, a decent amp in itself. Fingers crossed..
Appreciate the feedback on your experience with VTPH-2A. I have no doubts I will feel the same in 6 months. Keep us posted on your experience when the VTSP-360 arrives. I will be interested in seeing how you feel it performs against your ARC Ref-3. Right now the two line stages that interest me the most are the VTSP-360 and the Backert 1.3 Extreme - both are at about the exact same price point. I like the idea of the balanced outputs for the Backert but I wonder (being a tube guy) if Backert's two 12AU7 tubes will sounds tubey enough for me compared to Herron's four 6922s (I know other options are available). I also like that the VTSP-360 has 2 gain modes. I suspect the sonic signature between these two units is quite different yet appealing to different listeners.
There was a "woody" tonal character to the sound of my ARC PH3-SE, that evidently was there all along but that I never even noticed until the Herron went in and it disappeared. Only when it was gone did I notice. Even then when I did notice what hit me is the character of the missing sound was just the kind of thing you would readily associate with a speaker but never with anything to do with an electronic component like a phono stage. Yet there it was. Er, wasn’t.
As recounted in my review, the improvement the Herron made was so great that my wife noticed and remarked on it even through the door in another room while she was busy doing something else.
Keith's stuff tends to sound good right out of the box. From there it only gets better. A lot. And fast. I gave mine hardly any warm-up at all and as a result was rewarded with hearing it improve so fast it sounded different at the end of one song than it had at the beginning! I find all the best gear to be like this. Not that it happens often. Most gear is by definition not the best. All the really good stuff though, it sounds good right out of the box. This business of "needs 200 hours" is for the also-rans. Looking forward to your listening impressions of this new amp.
Only a few hours in now so way too soon but here are some first impressions on the 360 vs. Ref 3 before they fade away. The Ref 3 shows its strengths in timbre, bass and coherence. Vocals and instruments are what they actually sound like. It’s convincing. The 360 lacks refinement in that area (so far). The Ref 3 low bass is tight and articulate. I use Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day "Since I’ve Been Loving You" for well recorded low bass. The 360’s bass is big, fat and one note-ish on that same track. I’m ok with that. I’ve never met a 6922 (family) tube that didn’t get a LOT leaner and meaner by about 80 hours. While the Ref 3 adds a warm tone to the mids that can be pleasant, it muddles low range female vocals. The 360 has an illuminated midrange. I’m listening to Peter, Paul and Mary’s live "500 miles" at the moment and she’s very clear and sweet. That illumination also allows the 360 to articulate at a much lower volume. With the Ref 3 I’m constantly turning up the volume to hear vocals or instruments that homogenize into the background or don’t carry the weight that they should, as if they were improperly mixed. The 360 betters the Ref 3 in inner detail, depth, articulation, dynamics, and speed. The notes can start and stop so quickly that, at times, I’m dumbfounded. Music is driven from within as if it had a life of its own and it’s intoxicating. The Ref 3 is great for chamber music, The 360 rocks!
In case anyone is still following this thread I thought I'd pose a quick question to this group. My unit came configured with the two 12AX7 tubes and three 12AT7 tubes, thus providing 64dB gain in MC mode and 43dB gain in MM mode. It appears that you can simply roll 12AX7 tubes into the 2nd gain stage (replacing two of the 12AT7) in order to increase gain by 5dB - which is the alternative configuration that Keith provides. I just wrote Keith this morning asking this question but I wanted to see if any of you had a quick answer. I ended up recently moving into a line stage that provides 10dB less gain than my old one so reclaiming a bit of gain in my chain may be helpful.
I can confirm all the positive comments here about Keith and the VTPH-2a. Keith lives just 10 miles up the road from me, and when I ordered my VTPH-2 five years ago he delivered it to my house and hung out for several hours while we got everything dialed in and enjoyed playing some jazz in my collection. He has been back a couple times since too. Last summer he upgraded my unit to VTPH-2a spec, and I got to hear his system at his house. He is so humble and friendly, and a real pleasure to deal with.
Since I first got my unit the rest of the system has expanded to a nearly $100K (at retail) setup with almost most everything else improved. Now my phonostage represents less than 4% of the value of the whole system, but I still consider it end game. It's that good. I'm using it now with a Dynavector XV-1s.