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I don't agree with statements like "no contest" this type of hyperbole is gratuitous and really serves no meaningful benefit.
No doubt that you'll have admirers of both amplifiers and happy owners. These are expensive products and should be heard in person in order to make a realistic assessment of their merits. I don't believe that one will "blow away" the other. I do believe that with direct listening the opportunity exists to discern sonic characteristics that can result in an informed decision.
What speakers were in use with this audition? This can make a significant difference (some speakers are designed for solid state amplifier use). I hope you are able to hear the Ayon amplifier. I'm glad you made the effort to travel to hear the VAC. You are doing this the right way, nothing beats listening and trusting your ears.
Best of luck,
Vandersteen quattros were used. I was told they are a good pairing with the Vacs. For the Beck and Sanborn album and Keith Jarrett Koln concert the sound was good. It was the intro to Michael Jackson's Billy Jean that really lacked the umph in a big way with the VACs compared with the SS amps. Thanks for your ongoing interest. I'm making another road trip in few weeks to tweek the combo.
Jafant makes a very good point about particular music genre preferences. Electronica , Hip hop, pop and rock, actually any music emphasizing electronic bass may with certain speakers be better served with high current transistor amplifiers.
Ideally a comparison of the Ayon Ortho, ARC REF 250 and the big Pass Labs amplifier driving the Vandersteen Quattro would effectively sort this out. I’m generally speaking a tube guy but in some circumstances solid state is the better suited option. Sometimes SS amps with low output impedance (thus higher damping factor) are the solution. This can be manipulated by altering the amount of NFB (negative feedback) in the circuit. Increasing the level of NFB will decrease the output impedance of the amplifier.
I'm not sure what tabs were used but the stock KT 88's were in place. I did discuss a trial with KT 150's. I'll be back in a few weeks and ask the dealer to roll the 150's. Tomorrow I'm auditioning a local ARC GS 150 with a vinyl set up so I should have a good comparison using my vinyl standards. Unfortunately I wont have the Vandys at this dealership. Jafant must have sensed my tendencies-love guitar. The SS killed Al Dimeola's Alien chase on Arabian desert as well as the finger style Silent story in her eyes. Again, many thanks to all for joining me on this journey.
Compared to all other tube amps, I found the VAC 200 IQ to be the most balanced and have exceptional realism and punch when needed. It may be that tubes are not your thing - especially if you're looking for a tighter and more pronounced bass, which is the hallmark of great solid state. The other sonic qualities, I feel the VAC gives you and then some. Trying different speaker taps on the back of the VAC (don't go by speaker specs but by trial and error) and rolling the KT150s are all good suggestions. If the VAC doesn't then give you that bass punch you are looking for, I would definitely go solid state. Don't think any other tube amp will give it to imho. Keep us posted!
I think it was just old and tired. It was an old McInosh Mc 2002 which I kept on at all times. Came home and heard an awful buzzing sound. I wasn't sure what component was causing the racket until I hit the power button and everything was silent. Hit power again and blew the fuse in my PS 10. I'm a little bit wiser now. I'm sure Kevin will have a fix for your amp though. VAC seems to be an awesome company from what I can tell.
Thanks for the encouragement fischer. I talked with the dealer and we will roll the kt 150s in 2 weeks. Thanks for reminding me to experiment with the taps as well. I'm really interested to hear the difference the new tubes will make to the sound. You might be right though. I tend to listen to music with a large dynamic range and ss may be the ticket. Not ready to concede yet though! Charles has mentioned increasing NFB for the SS. I don't know how to do this, but the dealer who is quite knowledgeable should. Thanks for the tip
Keep us posted orthomead. Due to some health reasons, I may be forced to sell my 200 IQ. If you end up deciding on the VAC, feel free to message me. The other thing to make sure when you demo the VAC with the KT150s is that they've been burned in for at least 50 hours minimum. If you still don't feel the VAC doesn't do it, I would go solid state. But in my listening experience, anymore MORE bass presence than the VAC will be a bit unnatural and emphasized too much over the midrange. Balance has also been the focus in my search. The other thing to keep in mind are the other gear you demo it with - cartridge, preamp, digital components... Not sure that will have an impact but hard to isolate an amplifier in a demo from the rest of the system. In store demos or show demos are impossible to isolate one component out unfortunately. The down side of high end audio.
If the VAC doesn't then give you that bass punch you are looking for, I would definitely go solid state. Don't think any other tube amp will give it to imho.VAC is not the only company that produces tube amps. You can try running 2 200iq with KT150 in mono configuration, VTL, ARC and CAT.
If going with SS, Pass is probably down on my list for Vandersteens, I would demo Ayre, Hegel H30, D'Agastino ... something more neutral.
There has been a T+A buzz so would contact audiotroy for info/demo.
Today I compared the VAC 200iq with the kt 150's and the Pass x350.8. The Kt 150s are a HUGE game changer compared with the Kt88s. Bigger everything in a good way. More punch with crazy good mids and excellent imaging. The Pass had a definite advantage in the lows, but not a large one. The Pass was a little "harder" in the mids than the VAC. We were listening with a VAC tube preamp and Magicos using the 2-4 ohm tab. Will return shortly to compare the same set up with Focal sopra 3s. A tough choice so far, but the VAC with the kt150's seems to have a slight edge on the Pass. To address Al's question, my current speakers are my 20 yr old B&W bookshelf series which will be replaced when we sell our current house. God only knows when that will happen. So I guess I'm auditioning speakers somewhat as well at this time, although my budget only allows for an amp at this time.
Glad to hear your findings improved with the KT150s. Keep us posted - I sadly have to part with my VAC due to personal finances. It is truly a stunner - aesthetically and sonically. At 100+ watts, I can't imagine a speaker that it cannot drive well. Definitely seems like you're looking for the bass - the VAC plus the 150s will definitely give whatever you would need IMHO, plus a more beautiful midrange. The other thing to consider is changing out the stock quad of the 6SN7 Tung Sol driver tubes to NOS tubes - some NOS Sylvania 6sn7 would show a much bigger improvement in bass and other characteristics than the KT88s to KT150s. The 6sn7's are more sensitive to changes. The opportunities are endless with the VAC and can fine tune it to your liking, as opposed to the PASS Labs. Though PASS is still an excellent performer, not as flexible as the VAC.
In response to Peter, I believe the discrepancy between the KT 88s and the KT 150s is likely related to musical style preference. My understanding is the Kevin listens mostly to softer musical pieces which may favor the KT88s. My taste is more toward more dynamic pieces, leaning heavily on Jazz fusion, rock, and blues. The really amazing thing is the chameleon-like properties the VAC displays with these different tubes.
I found it surprising that some people still keep saying Ayon is from China. The fact is not entirely correct.
Ayon is an Austrian company. It’s top line models (CD2/CD3/CD5/S3/S5/Triton/Orthos/Crossfire/Sparks/Sunrise, etc) are all made in Austria.
However, in its early days, the budget, low end entry-level models (Orion, and possibly CD1, may be Spirit I) were *assembled* in China with the same Austrian parts in trickled down designs. Ayon pull the plug rather quickly, as QA issue and copyright infringement (remember Raysonic???) seem to be too big a baggage for Ayon to bear.
Not to digress too far. I owned my share of VAC and Ayon equipments. VAC is just better in terms of warm and lushness, but relatively less reliable / less tolerant than Ayon. I never had Ayon serviced nor it showing any temperament. A few VACs however, either died on me, or pick up weird ground noises / hums, or overheating tubes that need immediate action, or sound bad/weird if the power line isn't clean . Don’t get me wrong, when everything goes right, it’s hard to pick against VAC. Just make sure you have everything right to operate an VAC.