VAC Signature MKIIa pre-amp

I wanted to share that I received my VAC pre. a few days ago, the fit and finish is top notch (I got mine in silver/chrome combo including a nice simple metal remote, not plastic like allot of others.

I have owned along with being very fortunate to have had many world class pre's in my set-ups over the years, ARC, MBL, VTL, JRD, DARTZEEL, BAT, to name a few and presently own a ARC REF3 and the VAC.

I will say in my own experience and placing this specific VAC pre-amp straight out of the box into my system had me saying "this is really nice, I am hearing huge positive sonics going on never mind the stage presence right across the entire spectrum and know from past experience that it will only continue during break-in process, this is a welcomed surprise and very nice!" This has never happened before, my last pre that I had for audition was the new ARC REF5 and in my set-up it did not offer such, it was well broken-in.

The VAC has now been in my set-up for a few days and on 24/7, all I can say is this sure is a whole new world and the differences are all very positive across the board, my MBL's are very happy!

I'll comment more when I have put some hours in.

Current set-up;

MBL 101E speakers
VAC pre as above mentioned with phono
Bryston 28 Squared mono blocks
Torus RM20, one for each mono block
MBL 1621a transport
Graham Phantom MKII arm
Dynavector XV-1s cart

Cables; Stealth through out, I have tried allot of others and I'm very happy with this product line, I find myself no longer looking I'm off the mari-go-round

-Two runs of Dream cables to the speakers for true bi-wire
-Indra's with latest connectors, XLR's through out
-Dream power cables through out
-Hyperphono for arm connection
-Sextet AES with latest XLR connectors

I have only been using my REDBOOK CD so far, I also have a Audia Flight One phono that I'll be able to compare to the one built-in the VAC pre. and have a couple others to compare but this will be farther in the fall time and I'm looking forward to it.

Hi Dev, I'm glad you finally got your VAC preamp and so far its sounds like you think its a keeper. Congrats! Based on are phone conversation you know I just bit the bullet and purchased the Concert Fidelity CF-080 preamp and am thrilled with its performance in my system.

Have fun.
My stuff is way less than yours, but i just bought a used VAC 'standard' from a fellow goN'er and await it's delivery. i am hoping for similar, though not as spectacular results from it.
Hi Dev,

I recommend you roll some choice NOS tubes after the unit burns-in for 400 hours. With the right tubes, you can probably get another 30-40% improvement in performance for less than 10% the unit's price.
Congratulations on the new pre. I bought a VAC Standard LE used last year and the upgrade to my entire system continues to make me smile everyday. After talking with Kevin Hayes at the Axpona show I changed the tubes to the VAC tested tubes and the sound is as good or better than the NOS tubes that had been placed into the pre before I owned it. The NOS tubes may have been at the end of their life but the synergy of the VAC tubes and the gear that was designed around them is audible. I look forward to your comments about the phono section.

Congrats Dev. The next 400 hours will just get better and better. Welcome to the VAC family!
Dev wonderful system.Yes,you have had some special preamps and your enthusiastic comments on your new VAC makes me want to hear one.I assume by looking at your outstanding analog front end that you may have dealt with High Water Sound.
If you were at HWS did you listen to the Tron Syren and if so
can you share your thoughts between these two preamps
Again ,Wonderful system

Dev, got mine 2+ weeks ago in black and had the same initial reaction as you :-). I've had many preamps so I can tell this is going to be very good ... a KEEPER! I've been busy so only have ~60 hours on it ... it puts a smile on my face everytime I turn it on.

Still looking to add SS mono amp for the summer months and then done with any major changes to my system.

Rtn1, do you have tube rolling recommendations?

I have a spare MP of Philip Holland NOS e88cc SQ that I plan to roll and HiFi-Tuning fuse that I plan to try.

Dev,it seems the Vac pre and the 28s get along quite nice.
I did do a bit of a search.The Vac is some nice eye candy.
Seems some prefer the sound of the Vac to the ARC-3 or even 5.
I await your update also and comparisons.
Thx everyone;

Teajay nice chatting with you, congrats on your new pre-amp.

Rtn1, what specific Nos tubes are you referring to and what will the sonic benefits be?

Goldeneraguy, no I actually have not been to Jeff's place nor done any business. I actually lucked out buying the table locally because the person was moving to a Micro S 5000. I have heard a Tron but not the Siren which is suppose to be a marvelous pce., I did hear a Tron Seven phono paired up with a TW AC table in someones set-up and it was very nice, unfortunately the set-up was not full range so for me there was allot of missing information. Tron and other phono's will be on my list to compare to the VAC's but that will down the road. I'm kinda slow when it comes to this as I like to take my time and really get use the specific pce, I will want to have lots of hours prior on it but once I have done this placing something else with my set-up is pretty easy to analyze whats actually going on and if I prefer it.
It's nice because the VAC offers RCA connection along with XLR "TRUE BALANCED" for external phono hook-ups. The Audia Flight Phono will be hooked-up in balanced con-fig. I have it is suppose to be very nice and will certainly provide a different take being solid state, I have my eye on the new Boulder which is also solid state. Goldeneraguy you won't be disappointed, if you have a chance to get one into your set-up I would recommend to do so, if you refer back to my threads you will not read anywhere where I was so impressed with any pre I had right out of the box, this says allot. It's totally different than anything I have had had in my set-up but in a positive way. If you read one of my recent threads regarding the REF3 v/s the Ref5 "I was looking a buying one along with the REF 2 PHONO" you will read I was under fire after my comments but I like to say it the way it is, and that was how I felt and others feel the same way.

Knghifi, congrats. I goota say the Bryston's I have are sure winners and totally took me off guard and surprised the heck out of me, never thought I would have such driving my speakers. My MBL's seem to really like them, the VAC seems to be great match also, as you can see I'm all balanced XLR connection.
Dev, great to hear VAC and Bryston are getting along nicely :-). The 28BSST is on my short list of SS amps. Besides sound quality, I want cool running and short warm-up to max performance so this limits my pool. It's only April so I have several months to find a SS amp.

The VAC is sounding better and better and I understand Kevin voice every component in building the pre so probably just enjoy and skip tube rolling, ...
Dev, congrats on the new preamp, I'm jealous. ;)
I also agree with you on Stealth cables, they are stunning. The best I have heard in my system/room. I'm now trying to talk myself into buying a pair of Dream Petite speaker cables. Obviously I'd love to own the full Dream, but even the Dream Petite is a stretch for my budget.

Knghifi, I'm a tube amp guy now, but when I was a SS amp user, I found the shortest warm up was no warm up, meaning leave the amp(s) on 24/7 for best sound. I would unplug if I was out of town, but IMHO, SS takes much longer than tubes to warm up, I'd say 12-24 hours to sound their best. So when listening everyday, I'd just leave them on 24/7. Tube amps take about 30 minutes to sound their best, so I turn them off when not listening. Just my $0.02.

John, I've had many SS amps and always leave them on 24/7. My last SS was a Krell FPB600 and it requires a very long warm up so it was on 24/7. The heat in standby was miserable in the hot humid summer months and want to avoid in next SS.
I used a McCormack DNA-500. Great sonics, lots of power and runs warm at worst. Now a tube guy, but the DNA would be on my short list for SS (actually, keeping mine for the elusive "2nd system")
Reading this email was like reading my mind. We are a dealer in northern NJ and just took delivery of our VAC Signature MK IIIa pre as well. We ordered it with a MC/MM phono stage. We put it in our main mbl system, driving mbl 9008A mono blocks driving the new 101E MKII's and 111F's, and to say we were blown away would be a gross understatement. This is one magnificent preamp!!
It has so much richness and body that it is almost impossible to end a listening session. The musical enjoyment we have gained having the VAC in the system totally out weighs any other virtue one might be looking for in a high end pre.
By the way, we find no less resolution, dynamic range, soundstaging, or image focus than any other pre we have auditioned.
Hi all,
MBL 101E are my dream speakers. But in audio show the dealer always use all MBL combo.
Can anyone comment on MBL 6010D vs VAC Signature MKIIa pre-amp with MBL 9008a and MBL 101E?
I am also very curious about VAC Signature MKIIa pre-amp + new VAC Statement 440 monoblock power amplifier in a MBL 101E system. All black/gold color is also a visual match... :D
Hi Dev,

What are your latest thoughts on the preamp, now that you had it for a few months?
Hi Rtn1,

first thing that comes to mind is that the veil has been lifted from my system, I knew there was a bit present due to placing other world class pre-amps within my set-up but never really knew to the extent until placing this VAC in my set-up. My MBL 6010d did not even capture this, comparing the ARC REF3 to the MBL there were differences mainly floor noise, bass but in the end over all I still prefered the Ref3. When I got the Ref5 well you can refer to my thread about that.

Here is how I can sum it up, it's like going for a drive and you go down into a valley where it's really foggy and then you drive out of that same valley and it's sunny with perfectly clear blue sky, what a feeling!

Over all the sonics in my system have been greatly improved, my MBL's are lovin it. Highly recommend if there's a way to get one to demo in your own set-up, I wasn't fortuanate enough to be able to do such but in the end it all worked out, MBL and Ref3 both sold recently.

One area that does bother me a bit is the volume remote and how it works, not as smooth as others I have had along with you have no clue of what the volume setting actually is but that being said I'm very happy that I pulled the trigger and got one.

I have had allot of top notch world contenders over the years and by far this is my favorite in my set-up. Fit and finish is top notch, nice to look at.

I also got mine with the phono installed because I was wanting to exspeariment with a table set-up, too early to really comment but so far no complaints. I actually prefer my vinyl set-up over my RedBook sonic wise by a far margin and it's still only in the break-in stage, really can't believe the differences.

Artylandy, if you read some of my past threads you will gather allot of info. of what I have been up to, searching for the ultimate pces to mate up with my MBL's. It's been a journy and I would have never thought that I would have ended up with the amps I have but they just work. I have had all the MBL pces you refer to along with their top amps etc. but in the end it really comes down to your own preference, mine was not having them paired up. The VAC amps you mentioned really interest me also but they are costly, not being able to demo first without any commitment, well you know the risk never mind the cost layout. Don't know how much heat they really throw off either, if I could live with them or not. I owned CAT JL3 Sig. MK2 tube mono blocks prior, if these VAC's throw off the same heat I would be okay with it.

Another tube amp that comes to thought is the Destiny 350 mono's from Joule.
Dev - Glad you like the VAC Sig IIa - I had a pretty good hunch you would, but you had to hear it in your system.

I'm not sure what kind of SPLs you play your music at, but a number of us are using a pair of VAC 300.1s in mono configuration with great results. They play much "larger" than their 300w power numbers would otherwise indicate. That would be an option you could try much more easily (logistically and financially) and then maybe talk to Kevin Hayes from there if you are still interested in the 440s. Just a suggestion.......

Just a reccomendation on a wonderful combo to consider:

VAC Ren IIa Sig Pre driving Clayton M-300 monoblock SS amps. Great synergy and musicality.
Driving Revel Ultima Salon II's

I might suggest to try a set of Stillpoints under the VAC. I find it offers a significant improvement no matter which amp or set of speakers I am using at the time. They add life, dimension, vibrancy, and bass definition.

The interface is a 1.5 inch thick mdf shelf and the VAC rests on the pointed (ball end) of the cone.
I started with Stillpoints, then went to Finite Elemente Cerapucs and am now using Synergistic MiGs. Incremental improvements with each change.
I find my VAC Signature MKIIa pre-amp sounds great with every amp I tried, both SS and tube. Every time it's removed from the loop, the degradation is amazingly obvious. It's the foundation to my system.

This is the 1st tube component that I have no desire to tweak. I have Amperex Holland e88cc SQ tubes, HiFi Tuning gold fuse ...
Update, haven't hit the 400 mark as of yet on the line stage but getting there, I'm at 280 hours and really enjoying.

I have 95 hours now on the phono and really enjoying my vinyl journey, haven't played my RedBook since.

I read 400 hours for the line stage to really open up, is there much of a difference sonic wise from where I'm currently at? if so what is the difference.

The phono stage I haven't been able to find any comments from other users, how many hours for this and sonic wise?

Is there an ultimate cart to use with this phono, possible match made in heaven? I'll have to contact Kevin and ask. Was at a freinds and really liked his Lyra Olympos cart paired up with a Schroder Reference and TW AC3, might be my next cart but in no hurry. My arm is the Phantom MKII
What is the difference between the VAC Signature IIa and the VAC Phi Beta preamplifiers? It appears that they are similarly priced. Thanks.
Dev, I suggest contact Kevin for his recommendations ... he's a great guy to deal with.

I've been talking to Kevin in regards to tube rolling. He suggests Philip 7308/e188cc as an alternative to the stock Golden Dragon NOS e88cc.

I have a MP of NOS Phiip Holland ecc88 SQ w/Gold Pins from my SF gear that is similar to Philip 7308 and I like the changes. Sound is bolder, more focus with well defined edges, more neutral than the Golden Dragons.

I like both tubes so will change when bored ... cheaper than buying new gear :-)

Not inexpensive but will get some Philip 7308 / e188cc to roll too.