Congratulations on a fine review and an excellent system.
I'll bet it sounds incredible. I currently have a VAC Avatar Super driving Verity Parsifal Encore's and the sound is very good. I'm sure yours is on a whole new level though.
Enjoy the music Vac man,
Thanks so much VacMan, I've been waiting to hear your impressions. I've owned the 70/70mk3 and loved it. I now know what amp I'm saving up for... :)
Very nice review, Vac_man, and thanks for taking the time to post this review. I am glad to hear that this new Phi 300 amp has eased your anxieties from selling your beloved Ren. 70/70. I hope to upgrade my Musicblocs to the PHI series in the near future. Enjoy the music.
A superb review and serious system- I'm a little jealous- at least we share the same equipment rack :-) enjoy!
Thanks for such an insightful and thoughtful review. It is obvious you are now at a new level of enjoyment, which is tremendous.
Do you think you might next try the Phi 2.0 preamp? I have one and love it, though I'm not using the phono stage.
I'm also using Virtual Dynamics Revelation bi-wired speaker cables with pretty amazing results - they take a long time to fully break in (over 800 hours), but once they get there, the sound is incredible. Just something you might want to try, if you get the itch. I'm also using Elrod's Statement on my current amp, and power conditioner, with much better results than I got with the EPS-3 Signature. Quieter, faster, tighter, deeper bass and better overall dynamics. I'm offering these suggestions as a bit of a "give-back" to you for your excellent review, which we all greatly appreciate.
Thanks again and congratulations on owning what could be one of the best tube amps made.
You have penned an excellent, well thought-out, descriptive review that hopefully will bring many more buyers to the wonderful world of VAC equipment. My prayer for Kevin Hayes is audiophiles will purchase this amp solely based on your review. Great job VAC Man!
Do you know if the new 160 Musicblocs share some of the sound quality of the Phi 300?
Thanks for the well done review. I have a 70/70 mklll-s, so your comparisons are interesting. I look forward to hearing this new amp.
Does the new Phi 300 have a seperate chassis for the power supply like the 110/110?
It'll be interesting to see if Kevin will be coming out with a Phi 150 using the same circut but 4 less power tubes.
I own the phi Beta integrated and feel too with out a doubt it is the best amp/preamp / gear I have ever owned. I have owned several other tube brand gear but the VAC stands out and the phi gear is Kevin's best to date. Great review, enjoy!
In e-mails from Kevin and looking at the VAC website, I would think that the Standard 160 would share a sonic signature with the PHI 300 as the 160 circuit was derived from the technology on the PHI 300. Kevin did tell me that my Auricle Musicblocs' circuit was derived from the PHI 110. He also mentioned that the amp section of the most recent Avatar Super is almost identical to the Auricle Musicbloc, both containing new technology using the Triode Beam, KT88 tubes. You might e-mail Kevin to hear it straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
Vac Man indeed! Great review and a great system. I'd love to spin my favorite tunes on that rig- I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.
Enjoy your substantial- and worthwhile- investment my friend.
KW6- My conversations with Kevin lead me to believe that although the 160 Musicblocks share SOME of the characteristics with the Phi 300, the 300 is actually in a whole different league. This is due in large part to some additional mods Kevin made to the Phi 300 amps before they shipped. He apparently wouldn't ship them until he did a few more tweaks to get the piece "just right". Although I haven't yet heard one, I imagine I will before the year is out.
I agree with Sherod - Kevin will have the best answer to your question - the above is just from my recollection of conversations with him to figure out which would fit my needs the best.
I think it's obvious that the PHI line will be superior overall. That's why you have to pay more to get the best. For poor folks like myself, I'm temporarily happy with VAC's lesser lines that at least have some of the "trickle-down" technology derived from the new PHI line.
Thank you for the responses!
Has anybody heard the new Musicbloc Standard 160? I know Kevin Hayes thinks they are really good. Any speculation as to whether they would they drive the heinously difficult Shahinian Obelisks?
Sam, I have the Phi 220 monoblocks with 220 watts a side and they handled my Wilson MAXX extremely well for a tube amp. Recently, I bought the Zu Definitions and considered selling the 220's as I don't need as much power now. Kevin told me the 160's would give me greater punch in the low end than even my 220's and still much of the sonic benefits of the Phi 220's with a little less resolution. Talk to Kevin, he is always straight with you and will give you his best idea on what to do.
Excellent, substantive review, Vac Man! I'd also be interested to read your observations regarding the Lohengrins. I've heard them at CES but in less than ideal conditions. Can you draw a comparison to either the Parsifal Encores - which I've owned and enjoyed for over five years - or the Sarastros?
All in all, a very impressive system.
Does anyone know if the Phi amps use circuit boards? The Renaissance amps are point-to-point wired.
Kevin is now up to the Phi 300.1 which I ordered several weeks ago, in part due to your glowing review. Since you haven't posted here for a while, I was wondering how your Phi is doing after 11 months - I'm hoping it sounds even better. I am also interested in talking to you about your Lohengrins - please send me an e-mail if you'd like.
Fplanner2000, I would be interested in your impression(s) of your new Phi 300. I would imagine that you'll fall in love with its performance. Perhaps you could start a new thread with your own review. I would look forward to that. Enjoy your new amp.
The Phi 300 is doing well after almost a year of use, mostly sporadic at least over the last 3 or 4 months as I have been very busy at work. Initially, I did not like the rounded design and preferred the more angular appearance of the Ren Sig series, but I have to say that the rounded design has really grown on me. The new 300.1 has the more angular look that I earlier liked, but now I'm not so sure I would prefer that over the look of the 300. I understand that the circuitry is the same -- maybe some layout changes -- and definitely a change in terms of the enclosure. I'd be eager to hear how the 300.1 compares to the 300 in terms of performance. And, of course, I'd be eager to hear how your 300.1 sounds after you have had a chance for it to settle in. It's hard for me to imagine how the performance of the 300 could be bettered -- it's that good.
After about 8 months with my 300.1, all I can say is WOW! It has done everything I have asked of it without breaking a sweat. It sounds neither tubey nor solid-state - it just sounds like the music. I am so pleased with this amp that I've set out to bring the rest of my system up to its level, to the extent my funds will allow. So....
Several months ago I acquired a pair of VSA VR-7se's by being at the right place at the right time and have been breaking them in along with re-cabling my whole system with Synergistic Research. This is obviously a work in progress, but the sound so far has been astounding, again anchored by the 300.1.
The 300.1 is lightening fast when the music calls for it, as well as incredibly dynamic, but not artificially so. The musicality, soundstaging and bass response are the best I've heard. The bass is tight, accurate, fast, full but not ponderously heavy - much better than my McCormack DNA-500, which surprised me. The mids are just breathtaking, as you might expect from VAC's top amp. The highs are extended, airy and very pleasing to the ear - there is no artificiality or edginess anywhere. The best compliment is probably that it just gets out of the way of the music. The VAC really allows you to hear into the music like no other amp I've ever heard - I concur with others who have said it just "does everything right". If you like VAC, you owe it to yourself to hear/audition this amp - it will probably rock your world, as it has done mine.
P.S. - There is apparently a tremendous synergy between VAC and VSA - I am the fortunate beneficiary of this and am loving every minute of it. The SR cabling also appears to be a great match with my system.
P.P.S. - I have found my system takes at least 15 minutes before the tubes get sufficiently charged where you'll want to start listening - come back 1 hour later and the sound improves dramatically. There is probably some interaction here between my VAC Phi preamp's tubes and the Class A tube output of my source as well, but I'm thinking the main reason is the warm-up for the 300.1. Believe me, it is WELL worth the wait!!
I have promised myself a VAC amp some time, but I use integrated amps. Can anyone comment on the Phi Beta 300 amps performance against the 300 with a VAC pre amp. I know VAC don't offer an integrated at the moment, but I would be looking 2nd hand. I wonder how near the integrated gets to the Pre/power. Thanks
You may be confused - the Phi Beta is a preamp, not an integrated amp. From talking to VAC, nothing else they currently produce or have produced in the past touches the Phi 300.1 amp.
Vac had an integrated called the Beta, but apparently they discontinued it:
I stand corrected - thanks. That was an older model and I don't believe it incorporated any of the 300/300.1 architecture. K Hayes would know for sure.
The Phi Beta integrated amp was based on the then Phi Master control preamp and the Phi 110 amplifier circuitry. The new Phi 300 amps are a further evolution and improvement of Kevin's already great amps.
well vac man ...count me in!
about to be the very happy owner of two phi 300.1's and i can't wait!
I have the the Vac 70/70 Ren Signature amp, and based in large part upon this thread, upgraded to the Accustic Arts Dac, with Amperex tubes, and also the Stealth Sextet digital cable. I also added the Stealth Dream PC. All I can say is wow, this is amazing; the sound quality is now at a whole new level. All the descriptive terms like huge sounstage, holographic, coherence, etcetera apply.
My thought had been all along to upgrade to the Vac Phi 300.1 amplifier next, but now I am unsure about proceeding. I hate to tinker with anything that is working so well. I am really feeling some satisfication in the music I have not felt or heard in a long time. On the one hand I wonder how much better it could be, but there is always the question of synergy, and any change can be a little unpredictable.
Can anyone describe again the benefit of going from the Vac 70/70 to the Vac Phi 300 series?
I can only speak to the 300.1. It is a WOW! I would keep what you have and enjoy it for as long as you can - when you get the itch, the 300.1 will be waiting. My system now sounds incredible, having been tweaked by Albert von Schweickert last week during RMAF. Kevin H. was also over to give his input as well. He was suggesting I might change preamps to the Ren Sig, but I decided to keep my Phi 2.0 because I really like the detailed presentation it offers. The point here is to enjoy what you have - the grass on the other side may not necessarily be greener, just different.
Just got a 2nd 300.1, and am monoblocking them to drive VR-7SE's to new, uncharted sonic nirvana. The sound is just amazing - the 7's are really opening up now, especially the 10" bass drivers. I can truly appreciate my system as its "potential" is finally getting realized. Its incredible what the extra power/monoblocks have done for imaging, depth of soundstage, separation(obviously) and sheer "weight" of the presentation. My system just grew cajones and I couldn't be happier.
Re-tubed 6 months ago with VAC's newer KT-88's and getting a slightly more organic and airy presentation. In addition, they are dead quiet and supposed to be much more reliable than the previous iteration of KT-88s used by VAC. Curious to see if anyone has acquired the new 440s, VAC's newest statement amps and can offer an opinion.
Do you happen to know what the manufacturer of the new Kt88 tubes are? The previous manufacturer, which I have in my VAC Musicblocs, was Shuguang.
Sorry - I don't have the answer - that would be a Kevin/Brent question. It's a subtle improvement, but its there, at least in my system. Definitely worth a try, IMO, if you don't already have them.
I might try out a quad of them when I need a new group. I doubt Kevin would want to tell who the manufacturer is as he has the VAC logo placed on them. Those in the know about tubes can tell by its construction who the manufacturer is, though.
Kevin does not and never has struck me as being secretive about anything. I would ask he or Brent. I'm pretty sure they told me - I just don't remember (sigh - it stinks getting older... :-))
So what is the difference between the Vac Phi 300, Phi 300.1, and Phi 300.1a?
So what is the difference between the Vac Phi 300, Phi 300.1, and Phi 300.1a?
I asked Kevin several years ago and he said the main motivation for 300.1a is improving the methodology in building a more consistent product. 300.1 and 300.1a SHOULD sound the same but he admits there are reports they sound different in the field.
Ok that's good to know. Thanks!