VAC / Wilson cables

Before year end I'll be replacing my VAC Ren 70/70 with Kevin's current iteration, the Phi 300. I've already upgraded from Wilson's Watt/Puppy 5 to Sophia 3. The cables, however, remain Transparent Reference.

I'm wondering, having upgraded at each end, if anyone has experience with a more current and improved speaker cable ? The pre-amp is Shindo's Giscours, fed by the Miyajima Kansui on a TW Limited table. Chamber, vocals, and keyboard is the diet.

Are you using the MM2 version of Transparent's Cable? Which interconnects?

btw, very nice system!
I owned similiar equipment and many cable brands, including Transparent Reference MM2 level cables. I love the same music and have found the latet MIT cables to vastly outperform the Transparent cables. MIT offers a truly fleshed out, clear, dynamic, tonaly accurate holographic soundstage with exceptional instrument voicing and color conveyed. Transparent uses in line filters while MIT's approach is outside the signal path and addresses all the inherent inefficiencies in signal transmission. But don't take my word for it...try some from Joe Abrams at Equus Audio online. I think you will be riveted to you listening chair:O)
It is hard to beat either the MM1 or MM2 judging from my experence with Transparent ICs and PCs. Unless I wanted a different kind of sound I would leave well enough alone.
Some experienced VAC customers and VAC dealers will tell you that the Renaissance amps are the best amps made by VAC and that switching to the Phi amp will be a step backwards. VAC stopped making the Renaissance amps because customers were not happy about the high cost of retubing with 300B's (the Phi amps use cheap pentodes) and the high electrical draw resulting from the Renaissance amps' Class A biasing. In addition, production costs are lower with the use of circuit boards - the Phi amps use cheap circuit boards - instead of the expensive point-to-point wiring used on the Renaissance amps. Of VAC's current production amps, only the very expensive "Statement" amps feature point-to-point wiring.

You would gain a bit more power with the Phi amp, because, having approximately two times the wattage of the 70/70, you can expect to obtain approximately 3 db. of additional volume.

You should definitely audition the Phi amp in your system before purchasing one. I'm not saying that the Phi is a bad amp - VAC makes very good gear and provides fine service - only that you need to determine whether you already own the better amp.

As someone with vast VAC Ren experience, I sold them since these amplifiers came out, I agree with with Dearing,
the newer amplifiers were not magical even though the build quality and fit and finish were way better.

The Ren series had some small issues in extreme treble extension, but over all these are the best amplifiers VAC has ever made.

As per networked cables I have found that Transparent Cables were far better than non networked cables of the day today's cabling is vastly better.
Hey oracle,
How do you decide when to use this moniker or your other one i.e. audiofreakgeek?

Maybe you should get a third moniker, something like imameathead.
Quick right hook has him wondering if he should be in the ring...
The Sophia 3's need more bass control than 300B's can supply.

1) Audio Oracle sold VAC at both Innovative Audio and Sound by Singer in Manhattan for fifteen years and knows what he is talking about.

2) There's a bit more to the issue of getting good bass from a ported speaker like the Sophia when it's driven by a tube amp than just choosing a high powered amp that uses pentodes. Most 300B's do tend to be a bit fat below 30 Hz., yes, but the bass quality you get with a tube amp will be more dependent upon the quality of the output tubes you choose for it, and especially, the quality of the amp's output transformers and size of its power supplies - you can't just think about the damping factor of pentodes vs. 300B's and the choice of speaker cables. You will get better bass if you use a premium 300B like the KR Audio, E.A.T., and to a lesser extent, the better Chinese tubes (Sophia carbon plates or Shuguang Black Bottles). Also with respect to tube quality, it's important to point out that the Renaissance amps feature a push-pull circuit that is demanding on output tubes, running them at 95% of their maximum plate voltage at all times due to the Class A biasing, and for this reason, it's a necessity that carefully selected 300B's be used. I'm not just talking about choosing the right brand of tube (i.e., buying premium brands and staying away from most production coming out of Reflector or Shuguang), but making sure that the actual tubes to be used in the amps test strongly enough to withstand the circuit. In other words, each individual 300B that you put in the amp must first be carefully tested at plate voltages which resemble the voltage 300B's are run at in the Renaissance circuit in order to ensure that they will be able to handle the circuit -- this means that you have to choose a tube vendor who has appropriate testing equipment and who has integrity. Generally, as for transconductance, 300B's for the Renaissance amps should test in the 3,000-5,000 range. In addition, the plate-to-cathode voltage for 300B's in the Renaissance amps is approximately 430 volts dc, with idle current approximately 85 to 90 milliamperes in a self-bias (cathode bias) circuit. Again, this is approximately 5% below the maximum rating for the WeCo spec 300B (PS - only classic "WeCo spec" 300B's can be used in the Renaissance amps, as meshplates cannot handle the voltage, and "super 300B's" like the KR "BLX" have excessive filament current and will fry the amp). Milliamp and transconductance testing for purposes of matching must be done at these voltage levels, and many 300B's, even the best brands, will not make the cut (some KR's, which are very expensive tubes, will not meet these criteria, while a few EH's, which are very cheap, will -- the point is, each individual tube to be used in the amp must be tested in order to determine whether it meets these criteria). Sophia Electric used to market special quartets and octets for the Renaissance amps that met these heightened standards. Once you get a high quality, carefully matched set of 300B's, they last a very long time (8,000+ hours) and are linear into extremely demanding loads (they can drive 1 Ohm loads for short periods). VAC's own 300B's are rebranded Shuguang tubes that are very carefully selected, last a long time, and sound good in the Renaissance amps, but they are not the equal of carefully selected KR's or EAT's.

Regarding the crucial issue of output transformers, the output transformers are better on the Renaissance amps than the Phi amps - they are very expensive, which is the biggest reason these amps cost $14,000 twelve years ago. Before you buy a Phi amp, you should probably talk to Kevin Carter of K&K Audio - he designed the VAC Renaissance amps and can talk to you about the extreme parts quality that they featured. Years ago, when Sound by Singer started to carry Pipedreams, they were trying to find a tube amp to use with the big Pipes for purposes of demo'ing the speakers. They assumed that the VTL Brunhilde monos, a speaker that outputs 750 watts/channel, would be a good choice, but having mediocre output transformers, those amps would not drives the big Pipes. Out of curiosity, and knowing that the 70/70 is a beast (it's totally dual mono, all the way down to dual power cords and dual on/off switches, and has 1-2 Ohm taps), they gave it a try - the 65 watt/channel 70/70 drove the big Pipes beautifully.

The Renaissance amps are special - don't give up so soon.
In the last paragraph of my most recent post, I meant to write "They assumed that the VTL Brunhilde monos, AN AMPLIFIER that outputs 750 watts/channel, would be a good choice, but having mediocre output transformers, those amps would not drives the big Pipes." (Emphasis original).

While I'm at it, I'll relate another anecdote about how good the Renaissance amps are into tough loads. Innovative in Manhattan has carried B&W speakers for many years. As people knowledgeable about the B&W 801 Nautilus know, that speaker was tough to drive properly and needed to be bi-amped with good solid-state amps to really come alive. Just for laughs, Innovative hooked up the VAC Renaissance 30/30, which outputs a bit over 30 watts/channel, into their demo pair of 801N's. The amp drove the speaker, not to really loud levels, but it drove them, and nothing blew up.

The Renaissance amps were serious amps, and as far as high-powered tube amps go, the only thing I would rate as good or better are the CAT amps (BEASTLY), the better Audio Valve monoblocks, and the Air Tight Reference. The Atma-Sphere amps are also incredibly good, but being OTL designs, there are many speakers that they will not drive.

If you want to stay with VAC but just want a bit more power, you'd be better off buying another 70/70 and having the two 70/70's converted by VAC into 140/140 monoblocks. It is easy and, beyond what you'd pay for a second 70/70, not very expensive to do. Of course, I recognize that it's very expensive to properly tube these beasts, but once you put the right tubes on them, you'll be in good shape for a very long time to come (I'm still using the same set of 300B's that I put on my 70/70 in the late 90's).

I'm happy to help. I should point out, however, that there are some issues with 140's:

1) 16 output tubes biased in Class A in the same room put out HEAT - the ability to adjust A/C individually for your listening room would be a help;

2) Again because of the Class A biasing, they draw a shitload of power from the wall at all times; and

3) Retubing an amp that requires 16 high-quality 300B's is EXPENSIVE, but as noted, if you do it right, you won't have to retube again for years.

Last I heard, Kevin was offering deals on Signature upgrades for the Renaissance amps. You could perhaps buy another 70/70, convert them to 140's, and get the Signature upgrade for less than you would pay for a Phi. Kevin will of course try hard to sell you a new amp -- don't expect him to say his new amps aren't better than the amps he made ten years ago.

Finally, you may want to write to other Audiogon members who have experience running Renaissance amps. Pdreher just bought a 70/70 Signature and previously ran a 30/30 Mk. III. Member Waltersalas has experience running KR Audio 300B's with his 70/70 Mk. III. Member Wavetrader has experience running Sophia carbon plates in his 140's. Member Raquel knows a lot about these amps.
This has been a very interesting thread! I have found the Phi equipment to be the most magical tube equipment I have heard; the perfect blend of incredible detail, slam and sound stage of solid state with the bloom and decay of tubes. There is such flesh on the notes without sounding colored. Years ago I had the Phi 220's and sold them because I had Wilson MAXX's and missed the control of solid state. I reqreted selling the Phi stuff but enjoyed the Phi integrated at a friend's home. I would return home and listen to my system and wish I had the magic his did. I returned to the Signature 2a pre amp and I found it superior to the ARC REF5 and PH-7 I owned. It makes the ARC stuff sound two dimensional. I am selling my MAXX 2's and will have a tube friendly speaker and plan to buy Kevin's Phi 300. The other comment I found interesting is the claim someone else designed some of Kevin's equipment. I find that hard to believe and almost laughable. Of course Kevin is too humble to defend himself, so we'll never know!
There's no claim - Kevin Carter was indeed formerly with VAC and designed the Renaissance amps - ask Kevin Hayes and he will tell you. It's not a secret and there's nothing wrong with it.

In fact, most two-channel hi-fi companies are tiny one to four-man operations and a lot of their gear is designed for them by consultants working under contract on a per-project basis. I know that Kevin Carter has also worked on amps for Audio Art, and if asked, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he has consulted for other hi-fi brands.
Greetings, everyone.

I don't normally follow these threads, but this one has been pointed out to me, as it contains a few misunderstandings that deserve correction.

1) The electrical current draw of the Renaissance 30/30 and the Phi 200 (its nearest current price & size equivalent) are the same; ditto for the Renaissance 70/70 and the Phi 300. While the output stages of the Phi amplifiers operate in Class AB1, it is a very rich Class AB1.

2) The Phi output transformers are identical to those used in the Renaissance amplifiers. The Phi power transformers are larger and considerably more expensive. In all other cases, Phi parts are of equal or higher grade.

3) The Renaissance Series of amplifiers represented the best we could produce from 1993 through approximately 2003, when the Phi Beta Integrated, using KT88 output tubes, drew even with, and in many ways surpassed, the Renaissance sound. A year or two later, a new input/driver circuit was developed that delivers terrific sound when used with KT88 output tubes, but which is not compatible with the 300B, which requires twice the input signal swing. This circuit was first seen in the Phi 300, later in the Phi 200, and a further development is used in the Statement amplifiers.

It's not just the output tube types used that count, but the entire combination of circuit elements, parts, technique, and overall embodiment.

Please note that these comments do not apply to the Phi 110/110 or Phi 220, which did not use the new circuits.

4) Initially, the Phi 300 was offered for sale alongside the Renaissance amplifiers, the final production of which occurred in 2007 or 2008.

We build what people tell us to, or, to put it more aptly, we cease to build what people tell us not to. Customers voted with their checkbooks overwhelmingly for the new amplifiers.

The superior tendencies of the new circuit are attested by many long term VAC owners who have auditioned Phi 200's and Phi 300's, subsequently purchasing them to replace much loved Renaissance amplifiers. This is significant, as Renaissance owners tend to be fiercely loyal (witness some comments in this thread), and they are surprised to find a KT88 amplifier doing a better job of reproducing music. Frankly, so was I when it happened in our R&D efforts, but that is the way it is.

5) If the customer being discussed in this thread makes the comparison (and tweaks his system to the new amp, i.e., away from compensating for the shortcomings of the Renaissance amplifier), he is very likely to choose the new VAC Phi amplifier.

6) If someone prefers the sound of a Renaissance amplifier, fine; every system is different, and one should use what one enjoys! There is no one perfect tool for every job. However, in our experience choosing the Renaissance would be the exception rather than the rule.

7) The VAC Renaissance amplifiers were introduced to the public in the summer of 1993. I designed these amplifiers, with an able assist by our technician of the time, Scott Seehauer, and mechanical engineering by my father, Chan Hayes.

We hired Kevin Carter four years *after* the Renaissance amplifiers went into production, initially for marketing and later for production management. He was then an interested DIY audio hobbyist employed in an unrelated field. He was with the company for approximately four years, until our return to our home base in Sarasota, Florida in September 2001. He is a capable fellow, and did make a significant contribution to the initial Mk II update of the line stage section of the Renaissance Signature Preamplifier; however, a phase problem occurring under certain conditions was discovered in late 2001, and so the circuit was reengineered in Sarasota during its first year of production. No model we produce was designed by him.

To be clear and fair, many people, both within VAC and without, have made suggestions and contributed ideas over the years, some of which have found places in our designs. Like most successful companies, VAC is interested in new developments in circuits, parts, and techniques. This is an essential factor in progress. We routinely engage in R&D projects using parts and techniques not found in our current products, thus challenging our own theories about what will or will not sound good. On several occasions this has lead to unexpected breakthroughs in sound quality.

There are few VAC products for which I would claim sole credit. I function as the chief engineer, and in all cases I am the final arbiter of design and sound. But it is the nature of a passion-driven specialty company that many of our staff are quite knowledgeable, and ideas or challenges are discussed freely. I gratefully acknowledge the good people on our team and their important contributions.

8) On only two occasions in VAC’s history was an outside engineer ever involved in analogue audio circuit development. One project was a non-complementary solid state amplifier idea, and the other a brief evaluation of the merits of the 811A transmitting triode, both more than ten years ago. Outside of the audio path, a consultant was used circa 1998 on a remote control design that was not successful, an outside software engineer wrote the assembly code to our specifications for the remote control logic processor used in the early Phi preamplifier, and an industrial design firm helped craft the chassis for the old Visionary system.

With one exception, no VAC model has ever been produced that used an analogue design that was not conceived or developed in house. The exception is the Marantz Classic Series. VAC was selected by Marantz in 1995 to do the audio archeology to recreate the Model 7, Model 8B, and Model 9, and then to manufacture many thousands of units for them from 1995 through 1998. In addition, I am the principal designer of the Marantz Model 66 integrated amplifier, which we also manufactured for them. In fact, VAC has been the engineering consultant to several home and pro audio companies over the last 21 years.

9) The Audio Doctor is not a VAC dealer. Its principal was once a salesman at a VAC dealer, but was disassociated from them long before the current Phi 200, Phi 300, or Statement amplifiers were introduced.

I trust that this information will be of help to the community. And whether it be with an old Renaissance or a new Phi or Statement amplifier, we're happy to have many of you in the VAC family!

Kevin Hayes, Founder & President
VAC/Valve Amplification Company

Thank you for your comprehensive post. Regarding my statements about Kevin Carter, they are based upon what I was told by a dealer in North Carolina from whom I bought a pair of speakers who expressed detailed knowledge, albeit perhaps erroneous I will of course admit, about VAC. Given that he is located where VAC used to be located in North Carolina and based upon his general demeanor (a calm, serious guy who didn't appear to be the type of person who would misspeak), I took him at his word. His comments were not offhand - he specifically stated that your role at VAC was managerial in nature and that Kevin Carter did the design work. I have spoken to Kevin Carter a couple of times and the knowledge he expressed about the Renaissance amps was such that I assumed he did indeed design them, but I never asked him to confirm that he was the designer and his comments, which seemed knowledgeable to me, could of course have been informed by his position at VAC as you have described it. If it was irresponsible of me to make statements about this subject under these circumstances and I am wrong, I apologize and stand corrected.

As for my comments about many hi-fi companies hiring consultants to do design work, I was referring to hi-fi companies generally and not VAC specifically - I did not intend to state that VAC hires consultants and have no knowledge upon which to conclude that you do or don't. And again, so what if a company does - there's nothing inherently good or bad about receiving services from consultants or independent contractors, in my opinion.

Regarding Audio Oracle, my recollection is that he left Singer in 2006-2007, which would have given him ample time to get to know the initial Phi products (incidentally, how he managed to stomach Andy Singer for as long as he did is beyond me - but Sound by Singer would be a topic for another thread). It's important for me to state that I know of no one who is a bigger cheerleader for VAC products than Audio Oracle - and this, despite the fact that he is not a VAC dealer - and my intention was certainly not to get him into any hot water. He is an unusually knowledgeable guy (and a nice guy) who swears by VAC and you have him to thank for many, many VAC sales.

If any of my comments were wrong or misleading, I stand corrected and apologize. These forums are the principal means used by many people to educate themselves about audio and it's important that people be truthful and accurate.

Regarding the OP's initial question, I am sorry that this thread has veered off course. Now that I really think about it, I will also take this opportunity to say that someone told me - again, hearsay - that Kevin generally advises people to avoid networked cables for his products. Kevin, can you please comment?
classy and gracious as always. thanks for the elaborate overview.
Very interesting summary, Kevin; thank you. Blessed Thanksgiving to all!

A comment in regards to system building considerations:
I reviewed the Signature Preamplifier MkII and the Phi 200 for Initially I was impressed with networked cables and felt there was a strong case for their use. But over time I have achieved far superior results when using non-networked cables. This has been consistent with all components/speakers whether using digital cables, interconnects, speaker cables or power cords. I also have achieved purer sound, with better microdynamics and definition when not using power filtration/regeneration components. Perhaps someday my mind will be persuaded otherwise by some product yet to be tested, but at this time I would not seek a networked cable for my reference.
Interesting statement regarding no longer liking the networked cable solution of MIT or what cable manufacturer do you like; and what type of material have you found to be good, i.e.; pure copper, blends of silver and copper, etc...
You also mention that you don't like power products; or regeneration. Are you going direct to wall plug; or are passive conditioners like Equi-tech ok to use and not degrade sound?
I have MIT Magnum M-2's; with my VAC and Ventures...curious as to what path you might recommend for me to try. Happy Holidays.
Mribob, I do prefer a non-networked cable to networked, based on the comparisons over many systems. The trade-off in using networked cables and conditioning systems seems to be improvement of macrodynamics at the expense of definition/detail. I am not willing to make that trade. (I have a theory regarding the appeal/experience of networked cables, but will not take the time here to expound upon it)

You make a good point; I had powered conditioners in mind when I made my statement. However, I have used RFI filters etc. which are passive and they also it seems restrict some of the frequency range. I haven not tested Equi-tech so can't comment on that one. I believe that using a superior power cable one can outperform the use of a power conditioning device with a stock cord. I have done so several times.

I tend to like the sound of cables with high total gauge copper. In certain systems in certain locations silver cables have been quite effective. One of my favorites from among those I have reviewed is Clarity Cable. I strongly encourage comparison with sets of cables if at all possible. This shows how dramatically different a system can sound with a cable change.

The networked cable/conditioner thing is much like the SS/tube divide. It's not absolute, nor is it preventive from having good sound. One has to test things out to see what they're hearing.
Not all networks are created equal! I have vast experience as well over many systems/technologies. Synergy matters and results are dependant on music bias, room and component matching. Some non-networked cables may find a place in the mix and in certain circumstances/component mixes. All that said, Transparent uses in-line filters, so accordingly one may hear a loss if micro detail (haze). MIT is vastly superior and uses networks outside the signal path to assist in the most efficient transfer of the audio signal as possible. Systems need to be treated holisticaly and assembled judisciously for maximum efficacy. If this is done, an MIT Gen 3 or newer cable wil vastly outperform a competitive non-networked cable.
Classy and informed reply by Kevin Hayes for a thread that was beginning to be irritating and misinformed to read. I'd also point out I believe the Phi amps are also hand wired point to point. I am the fortunate owner of a Phi 300.1a. I plan on buying a second, and either having them buried with me or pass them on to my children. One constant...all the VAC amps become classics with a cult following. I'm happy to hitch my wagon to the Phi series.
Dave_b is our resident mit shill.

It gets funnier with every post.
I do not believe the Phi amps are point to point wired.
I did not, in fact, design anything of note while at VAC. I was involved almost entirely in the marketing and operations side of Kevin's business. That was enough work, indeed, and excellent business experience.

Susbsequently, I did design a phono preamp for Art Audio, the Vinyl Reference, which is no longer in production. Now I am working as a principle in two audio companies, K&K Audio (10th anniversary coming up in March!) and Sonus Veritas.

Kevin Carter
K&K Audio and Sonus Veritas
The Phi Signature 2a and the Phi Statement 450 stereo and mono amps are point to point wired; the others I can't be sure.
Not a shill (no affiliation wt MIT), just upfront and honest about my preferences. The funny part is a Stealth Cable dealer (and representative of other various gear) pretending to be a neutral voice of reason. I ask people to try before you buy...Audiofeil knows he knows what you should know before you even know it!
>>12-09-11: Dave_b
The funny part is a Stealth Cable dealer (and representative of other various gear) pretending to be a neutral voice of reason.<<

Did I endorse or recommend any product(s) in this discussion?

It's all about reading comprehension Dave.

Work on it.
I comprendo just fine Afeil...for example, the two attacks in this thread alone speak volumes for how very small a person you are vs your presumed understanding of all things audio. As I've said before, it is better to have offered an honest opinion vs attacks laced with self agrandisement. Your disaffected third party persona, devoid of any involvement (yet presuming to contain Godlike amounts of knoweledge and understanding) is not only usless but deeply disturbing. Human beings need to connect on a personal level minus the attacks. You tend to bring out the worst in people. Maybe you built a wall for yourself a long time ago and you just can't bare to reveal your vulnerabilities. I'm just sayin it's OK bro...let it go! You can start to heal by spreading less hate and arrogance and instead, replace them with actual constructive advice. Lay off the stalker "Quotes" as well would ya? It's kinda creepy and dimented when you do it all the time. They call it OQD...Obsessive Quotation Disease. Anyway, have a nice day:O)
No hate Dave; just low tolerance for your MIT shilling.

Godlike amounts of knowledge? Hardly, but anytime you want to go one on one for cash regarding audio, look me up. That would be anytime "bro".

Dave you need to go back to occupying mom's basement.

It's safe there and mom will make some hot chocolate for you.
If this is done, an MIT Gen 3 or newer cable wil vastly outperform a competitive non-networked cable.
Such a statement is always dangerous and comes back to bite the author in short time.
I likewise use a Shindo giscours preamp, with shindo silver IC's and love the Purist Audio Provectus cables from the Phi to the Sophia 3's.