The VAC Standard LE is a very nice preamp and fits in well with this group. Overall though, IMHO, the Aesthetix Calypso is the winner of this group, I would place the VAC second. The VAC is a tad sweeter, while the Calypso is a bit more resolute, so depending on what you are seeking, YMMV.
I've tried the Calypso in my system.It was to resolute for me, especially in the highs. I could not perceive my usual bloomy midrange anymore. Probably tube rolling or different cables could have done the job. Probably mismatch too. Listened to a VTL 5.5 and was better than my CJ preamp. Now there is a VAC passing along my path and I wonder if it is closer to a Calypso or an old fahion CJ.
That's why they make so many different flavors. Yes, the Calypso is more extended and open, which is why I like it, but my speakers are warm and rich, which probably explains my preference for the Calypso. The CJ should be the warmest of them all, and my least preffered. The VAC sounds like it will suit your tastes perfectly. It isn't quite as extended and airy as the Calypso, but is more so than the CJ. VAC definitely makes some fabulous gear, and me thinks it's very slightly closer to the CJ than the Calypso. I would definitely jump on the VAC piece if you find the Calypso too lean.
anyone care to chime in on their experiences with VAC gear, particularly the Standard pre, over the long term? Any physical reliability or sonic degradation issues? I'm thinking about buying a 9+ year old Standard pre. thanks
I bought my VAC Standard LE with MM Phono Option a few years ago on Agon. It's one of the best preamps values in any price range up to around $7500. Kevin Hayes is a great guy to work with! It has a nice bloom, very open and laid back, not fatiguing! I'm using it my Apogee Mini Grands and ML 23 & ML 9 Amps.
I've heard the Aesthetix Calypso Signature (Line Stage Only) retails for around $7200 and also thought it was lean and dark! not a great value for the money, however it does have a nice build quality!
I had a VAC Standard LE about 5 years ago and it was my introduction to VAC. I now have a VAC Phi 2.0 preamp and 2 VAC Phi 300.1 amplifiers. You can guess my opinion of VAC gear pretty easily at this point.
If you have any concerns about reliability or other issues, I would call up Kevin H. at VAC, explain your concerns and see what he says. My guess is that he'll say to listen first and call him if any problems. Their gear is bulletproof.
I got both the VAC Standard and a Premier 16LS2 later that was hanging around at a nearby audioboutique. The price was so riculous that I could not leave it there. Two different sounding machine, each one with different strenghts at a point I could'nt part with either one of them. The VAC is particularly very adaptable to tube rolling and I have a lot of fun trying all sorts of combination.
VAC Standard LE : Transparent, high resolution, sweet and vibrant, deep soundstage with several layers, dynamic. Will sound forward on voices, acoustics with most tubes. Can be corrected with proper rolling but will still sound forward. Low and high frequencies tight and precise. Mids are more sweet than rich. Might necessitate more tube rolling to adapt to your taste. Very susceptible to rolling. 2X 12AX7 (5751), 2 X 12 AU7. Quite a bargain at the price with phono, supposedly excellent.
Conrad Johnson Premier 16LS2 : Warm, rich sounding with very low noise floor. Deep and full bass. Richest and warmest midrange you can get. Soudstage very wide, less deep and precise than the VAC. Highs slightly rolled off for a more relaxing presentation. Big sounding unit. Quite unique type of sound. Piece of collection.
My music tastes are numerous.
For heavy classical symphonies and rock, techno,acoustic instruments, definitely the VAC. For soft jazz, ambient, world music, female singers and more relaxed listenings, the CJ. Less susceptible to tube rolling. 6 X 6922. I'm actually trying Siemens 7308 in it. Increased dynamics and deeper soundstage.
Forgot to mention. I'm very satisfied with both units. like I said, I just can't depart with either one of them. I alternate them depending on my mood. It's to a point where preamps are decided for many, many years for me. But......if there is a machine out there that I'm very curious about, it would be a VAC Renaissance or Signature.
Thanks for the excellent descriptions Andr. I'm currently using Amperex in my 17LS. I really appreciated their lushness when I had a very dry cd player. Now I'd like something a little more articulate but I've heard that the Siemens are somewhat on the warm side - definitely not a bad thing unless, like in my case, your system is already leaning in that direction. Anyway, I'm hoping for a little of your luck in finding a great buy on a 16LS2.