They don't make them like they used to...

Heard at a pal's place his 10 yr old ARC VT130 driving his just acquired B&W 802. My oh mine, sounds like audio nirvana to me. Borrowed it to try on my Hyperion 938s and that sound was the best I have heard in my system!

I have listened to several current offerings (VT100 Mk3, VS110) from ARC but the newer ones can't seem to match the old VT130 in terms of weight, warmth and smoothness! I have to say that the newer amps are more detailed and transparent but they sound too "audiophile" to me.

Is there any tube amps out there that sounds like the fabulous vintage VT130?

Ten years old is not really vintage. Vintage is more often gear from 70's, 60's, 50's, and perhaps early to mid 80's unless the definition has changed without my knowledge.

If there is agreement here then this opens the door wider for answers you may receive to your inquiry.

Yes, there is some extremely wonderful vintage tube gear that current equipment sometimes does not quite match up to on sound quality.
Celebrer makes an observation that I fully agree with. I have written many times on A'gon the phenomenol performance and value of the VT130 vs. virtually all other tube amps that I have heard and owned. This was a sleeper product if there ever was one. And its magazine review/rating meant so little as just about everything these days gets such high praise anyway. This amp, especially with KT88 tubes, conveys harmonic richness and bloom like no other amp that I have heard in this price range.

I regretted selling the VT130 and only did so in persuit of more driveability for Magnepan 3.x speakers. The ARC Classic series amps were so very analytical, uninvolving and downright fatiguing. Following the VT130/VT150 series, the VT100/200 amps were a little more neutral and more extended at the extremes, but these later amps did not have the magic. Amazingly enough, my favorite ARC line stage, the LS5, was of the same time as the VT130/VT150. These with the PH2 phono stage made a most musical system.

I have not heard the very latest ARC products, but I suspect the VT130/VT150 would hold their own to the newer amps and perhaps outperform the newer products in some key areas such as the ones you identify. If you like the VT130, the prize out there really is the VT150 pair. But you can buy a pair of VT130 amps on the used market for much less than the VT150 pair. This would be awesome for a higher efficiency speaker that would benefit from biamping.

While "vintage" doesn't seem quite appropriate for a ten year old product, I think the point is there appears to be a regression in sound. Newer gear doesn't sound as musical. I'm sure there are some folks that will say the "musical" piece is the one that is departing more from absolute neutrality, but this has been the arguement for tubes all along. They don't measure real well but they sure do convey the music. One point the Jafox makes that I would not agree with is "The ARC Classic series amps were so very analytical, uninvolving and downright fatiguing." He may feel this way but I sure don't. I have a Classic 60 and in no way would I say that it is fatiguing. I certainly won't say it's the best (since I haven't compared to many other amps, including the VT-130 which may be much better) but I sure could find many other amps (think solid state) that are far more fatiguing than the Classic 60. As alwyas, beauty is in the ear of the listener!
Pmotz: My comments on the Classic series were based directly to owning a CL60 for a year before I changed to the VT130. The CL60 is absolutely no match for the VT130 in terms of dimensionality, harmonics and bloom. I then changed to the CL150 monos hoping the extra power would benefit me with the Magnepans......BAD MOVE!!!!!!!!! Not only did the CL150 drive the Magnepans far worse as their "protection" circuit kicked in, but they were far more forward and unnatural sounding. Since I knew the VT130 was not a viable amp for these speakers, I tried the Counterpoint NPS400 which destroyed the CL150s instantly. For a stereo amp whose original cost was 1/3 these mono ARC amps, and for it to perform in ways the CL150s simply could not, was not an was an embarrassment. The top ratings given to the ARC Classic amps makes me wonder what amps they were ever put up against in the reviews. It took no time with the return to the Counterpoint to realize tonal coherency was back....and the forward fatigue of the CL150s was gone.

I have since moved onto Wolcott monos and then to CAT JL-3s which make the transformers in the ARC amps look like something done as a hobbyist amp.

We often have no idea the faults of something until we hear it against something else, and not always for more money. And then we realize it is darn tough to go back. I stand by my comments on the VT130 as it is in a whole different league than the CL60 or CL150s.


Can you give a comparison of the sound of the Wolcott monos with that of the VT130 since you have extensive experience with both?

The CAT, well, it's outta of my grasp...

John - Even based on your own experience I still can't agree that the Classic series is as analytical, uninvolving and downright fatiguing as you say they are. My system (Vandersteen 3A Signatures/ARC LS25MkII/Aries Extended/ARC PH2/Phillips 963) is not analytical or fatiguing, perhaps it could use some help in the involving department, though that is more of a room issue for me (too small, not enough room treatment). At this point we'll just agree to disagree, mainly since I have not heard the VT130 I cannot comment on that. If it is as good as you say then I've been missing a lot. I'll have to keep my eye out for one!
Celebrer: Interesting you ask about the Wolcotts as these amps were ultimately what I had been seeking for so many years with the Magnepans. The Counterpoint controlled the speakers incredibly well but lacked that awesome midrange presence and fullness of the VT130. I missed the VT130's magic but finally I had the control of these speakers that I had sought. But it was the sonics of the VT130 that made me continue my quest for the right amp for these speakers.....and I got darn lucky with the Wolcotts. I still have them and they are an older model. Much has been done to these amps in upgrades so I am sure I still have not heard their true potential. And I never went all out with Mullard EL34 tubes which I know are an incredible upgrade over Electro-Harmonix in other components I have used them.

The Wolcotts controlled the Maggies as well as the Counterpoint but with the Wolcotts came much of that midrange fullness once again. I was really quite the happy camper. I still recalled the extra bit of bloom with the KT88s in the VT130, but even the 6550s in the VT130 I would say had a slight edge over the Wolcotts in midrange richness. However, the Wolcotts brought on a low-end extension that was not quite there with the VT130.

I have thought about upgrading the Wolcotts as "back-up" amps when the CATs are down, but the Wolcotts sound pretty good already.....they just do not have the ultimate in clarity, resolution and dynamics of the CATs.

Pmotz: Keep in mind that my comments are relative and not an absolute. When I went from Hafler and Adcom ss amps to the CL60, there was a huge improvement....especially in the bass which surprised me as the CL60's rated output was far less than the other amps. And the overall benefits of more detail was quite dramatic. It was not until the VT130 came along that I heard, for the first time in my home, the true addictive power and magic of tubes to getting so involved in the music.