Prior to me going into the hifi business, I was interested in purchasing high power tube amplifiers. I called VTL on at least 5 different occasions and was told that Luke Manley would call me regarding the questions I had about the reliability of his amplifiers. I spoke with his wife, who is very nice, a number of times, and was told he would call. It never happened and I decided that was an indication of the service I would receive as an owner. I ended up buying a pair of Atma-sphere MA2 MKII.2's from Duke at AudioKinesis and was very happy with the sonics, reliability and the service I received from Ralph.
I think there are enough "GREAT" tube amps out there with the power that you are looking for, that you should not sacrifice good service.
Their service used to be great (Luke personally delivered a pair of amps to my house), but they've now limited transferrable warranties to the first re-sale, and that decreases re-saleability. And with their success and higher volumes, it's harder to give personalized service. This is understandable. But overall, as the owner of 3 VTLs, I was happy with their somewhat low-urgency approach to service.
I own both a VTL amp & pre-amp. I've never had to have them serviced, but have called VTL many times with questions & they've always been EXTREMELY helpful & cordial. Are you considering buying a brand new one? If so you'll get 5 years of warranty, longer than a lot of warranties on tube equipment. Plus, I think newer VTL stuff is very reliable (knock wood!).
As an owner of 3 pairs of VTL amplifiers, I can say that they have been VERY helpful with both the 2 pairs of amps I bought new AND the pair I bought used. I did speak with Luke about the "transferrable" warranty info. He advised they have been serviceing "lifetime" warranties from the early 80's since he re-formed VTL after his father dissovled the original VTL when he left. Sounds to me like they have gone above and beyond in the servicing of gear as old as 15 years. I understand how a "transferrable" warranty can be abused when after 2 or 3 owners, it is very difficult to tell what tubes have been used, if the unit has been altered etc. IMHO VTL builds an excellent quality product that is VERY reliable. Any problems I have had have been rectified quickly and at reasonalbe cost.
I have a VTL ST-150, and it is a superb sounding amp with very strong deep bass and lots of guts . It has blown some capacitors twice and they were serviced locally in NYC (due to the fact that it weighs about 70 lbs) at Analogic . I have spoke to luking regarding preamp matching and he spent 1/2 an hour on the phone with me and was great. Call Luke and talk to him & I think you will go with VTL . You cant beat the ST-150 for the price. Alternates are Conrad Johnson Premier 8 a's @ $ 6,000.00 use or an Audio Research VT 100 MK II
I've had to call them on two ocassions for tech questions, once to deal with a strange hum i couldn't chase down and once to deal with the aftermath of a near miss by lightning. both times they were very responsive, Bea Lam went out of her way on the lightning deal to get me through all the potential problems without shipping the amps in. Parts (tubes and fuses) showed up within days of sending the order and were reasonably priced when compared with tubes from ARC. They have also been very helpful in suggesting upgrades ect. On a couple of occasions i had to e-mail twice but that isn't any big deal. Considering how good the amps sound (MB 185 monos)i would put up with some service delays. The tetrode/triode swithching is a very cool feature if your tastes include small acoustic group music. Hey Medowman, i bought used as well could you give me some more info on the transferable warrenty that is one thing they didn't mention during our discussions. thanks
Just picked a used pair of MB-185 Sig. mono's, and they both went dead simultaneously within 3 hours after working in the last owner's system with no problems for a year. Since last weekend, I've left 2 messages for Luke with no response. I've talked to Bea twice, but she can't help a lot with technical issues. I think it must be the B+ fuses, because the heaters still light up, but what could make these blow at the same time? These amps had the tetrode/triode switch removed by the first owner, which I would like to restore, but Bea is not giving me any help with this issue other than to suggest I ship the amps to VTL, at a $300 cost plus $120 for new cartons, not including the repairs. Why she couldn't just sell me the switches and send a schematic for a local tech to do the work, I don't know, but she won't. I'm disappointed that the only person in the company who can talk to me about tech issues is the owner/president, because he obviously hasn't got enough time for this kind of stuff. Most companies I've dealt with have people on staff to handle this kind of thing.
I was going to buy a VTL amp. Matter of fact it's the only negative review i have here after the auction. I was told by the seller about a hum. I called VTL 3 times and only talked to some lady. She told me that it was a transformer hum and it would cost more to fix it then it was worth and that some of their older models did that. She told me some people just put them in a closet so they didn't hear it. My wife called, because it was difficult for me to understand her English, and she told her to fix that type of problem was similar to removing the engine from an automobile. I had a hard time believing that and wanted to talk to someone else about it, but after four phone calls and never being able to talk to anyone but her, I decided it was in my best interest to back out of the auction, which I know is wrong, but at the same time, the hum was never mentioned in the ad. I've dealt with many companies such as Audio Research, Rogue, B & K, ect. and all these companies had excellent customer service, especially Leonard at Audio Research. You want a part and the scematics of a product, boom he sends it to you. Not saying VTL is a bad company, I know they make some very good products, but I had an overall bad experience with the customer service end of it. I believe if I was able to talk to someone with working knowledge of the amp my questions may have been answered, and possibly I would have bought the amp. Who knows. I personally don't think VTL has very good personal service, but this is only my experience. Hope this helps.
I was interested in VTL also, but I could not get any information about their products upon inquiring directly to VTL. I later listened to their equipment at a audio dealer. I continued to attempt to contact VTL directly, but they would not respond to any of my inquiries. At about the same time I had a friend who was attempting to get a VTL amp serviced. But he could not get Luke at VTL to return his calls, or his e-mails.
Eventually I sent VTL a e-mail advising them that their lack of response to my inquiries lost them and their dealer a sale. I also advised the VTL dealer the reason I Wasn't buying the VTL product. To this day neither of them have contacted me to offer any explanation for the lack of customer service.
I also have a friend who once sold VTL who told me to stay as far away from VTL as I could.
I've gotten my response from Luke, and it is the same story. He doesn't want to speak by phone, or help me to fix the switches or get the fuse issue diagnosed without sending everything back to the factory. They will not consider selling parts or schematics that would make this easier. In fact, he even declined my invitation to describe to me upgrades they might be able to do if I ship them to the factory, saying he would talk about that if and when the amps arrived. And he also wouldn't comment on my asking for any recommendations about whether to use the balanced inputs, or aftermarket AC cords, saying if I had a dealer, I should ask them. He did, however, scold me for buying his amps used. I replied that this is diametrically opposed to the attitude they should be taking, and indeed to the one that most manufacturers I've dealt take. I'll try to get the amps running again on my own, because I need to audition them at length before making a commitment to spend over $1,000 on service at this point. Wish me luck!
I have listened to the VTL MB-450 amps and they sounded very good indeed, so I added them to my list of possible new amps. The favourable reviews and attitudes by TAS, made me feel even more convinced, that the VTL MB-450´s were a strong alternative. But after reading these postings about bad customer service, I changed my mind. I find that we, the consumers,have gained much more power, with the Web. According to the liberal economical theory,the market:i.e. the sum of all individual customers,will award companies which have and get customers who are contented with their purcases;the product, its price,the service provided before and after the purcase and even the company´s reputation or goodwill,all this has to be just right,for a company to survive in the long run.Naturally, the marktet will, in the long run, punish companies that fails to meet the above criteria. In short, with our money we vote which companies are the best to us. But before the Internet,we were much more restricted in sharing our findings.The Hi-fi magazines (seen as a group)e.g.are too dependent on the manufacturers, to tolerate a free debate.A monopoly of information even in the western countries where money was the paramount key, in a way resembled that of totalitarian states.That was a paradox that had to be be solved by the open society!Remarkable, the money that was put into military research, forced by the Cold War to escalate,provided, -among other things,the root to the Internet as we use it right now.This has provided relief in , but obviously not a total freedom from monopoly or oligopoly tendencies in media. By reporting good, as well as bad experieces with a certain company, you make us a great favour, in our coming buying decisions.Thank you! Thanks also to Audiogon for publishing this information! Sharing information and knowledge about Audio,is the most important way for us to develop as audiophiles. A free debate,hopefully, may also put an end to, or deminish the influence of some false myths and ignorance about audio, that has been taken for granted for too long. I will return to that, soon. Regards Håkan (Sweden)
Well, Hakan, where you are in Sweden, you would presumably be dependent upon the local distributor anyway, not an American company such as VTL itself, so don't let this disuade you from checking out the reputation that disributor might have in your country if you really like the amps. As for the rest of your post, it just makes me glad I didn't grow up in the shadow of the Soviet Union! You are right about the market forces and the internet thing, though, and I reminded Luke Manley of this in my correspondence to him - not that it helped. In fact, I invited him to search for this and other similar threads on Audiogon, and I hope he does. I still think he makes fine amplifiers, and for the money too, but I definitely have encountered more helpful service elsewhere.
I was the second owner of a used vtl Stereo 50/50. It was a great sounding amp but shortly after I bought it it developed a popping noise.When the unit was built it came with a "lifetime transferable warranty".When I spoke to Luke Manley he informed me that vtl no longer honored that warranty. Naturally I was disappointed that they would not stand behind their "warranty",but sent he unit out to have the input caps replaced($200). When I got the amp back it sounded great but within 2 months I had a bad resistor(which I replaced )and then only weeks after that the right output transformer failed. Bea Lam at vtl was very pleasant to deal with, but the fact that they would not stand behind the original warranty caused me to buy a McIntosh amp and preamp. The irony is that when I was trying to get them to honor their word I was auditioning a vtl 2.5 pre and ST85 amp,and their reluctance to do so cost them a customer for life.
I've gotten my MB-185's running with new tubes and higher-rated B+ fuses (now standard on the amp), and have experience no further operational problems. Luke finally talked to me by phone, after deciding that my emails were too long! He was still of very little help, though. "Send them to us" is all VTL will comment, basically. They still refuse to assist me in restoring the missing switches, and seem annoyed that I bought my tubes elsewhere. Frankly, they probably would have already gotten my business on a coupling cap upgrade, if they weren't so guarded and unhelpful about my need to continue auditioning the amps *before* deciding to invest big $ in cartons, shipping costs, time out of the system, etc., not to mention the repairs and parts. I wouldn't want to do an upgrade if I decided to sell the amps, but I would want to do the switch restoration - but at a reasonable cost, which means locally! VTL, however, is emphatically not sympathetic to this logical position, something I will remember before recommending their products to anyone else.
This is a very sobering thread! I was just considering buying used MB-450 monoblocs (again) when I found this topic.
My experience with VTL is a bit mixed: I own a TL 2.5 pre-amp that I bought used a couple of years ago, & absolutely love. No problems, knock on wood.
I also owned a (used) early model ST-85 power amp for a couple of years. It was a bit noisy, & had some old weird funky connectors, but still, had it's charms. It finally blew a fuse which I couldn't get locally because it was an odd one. VTL (Bea), sent me new fuses before I paid for them, relying on me to send them a check later, & gave me plenty of advice over the phone.
Bea, (Luke's wife I believe), has been extremely helpful by phone & e-mail. However, they have chastised me occasionally for not buying their gear new. The thought of shipping VTL mono-blocs to California really puts me off.......I have just read too many accounts of either their outright failure, or some "funky", intermittant, quirks. Maybe if I lived in California. The pre-amps are great however, IMHO, & easy to ship if need be. Just my 2 cents.
Hi Steve: Just let me add that I haven't had any issues with the reliability of the MB-185 Sig's themselves, just the now-replaced and amperage-uprated fuses (which are uprated for better performance [amperage-wise] and protection [voltage-wise, which I don't have yet] on current production), and the switch removal business, which I knew about when I bought them. Oh - and they sound pretty darn good, too.
With all the fine tube amps out there, why would anyone buy one from a company that stiffs its customers?
From what I read on this thread, they break down alot, and you can't get decent service, or even reasonable behavior from these VTL folks.
Who wants an amp with common breakdown problems, and a poor service policy? There are plenty of other amp makers out there who make amps just as good-sounding or better than VTL, and will treat you like a person.
I've had good experience with VTL. Maybe because I bought new, I don't know. My VTL IT 85 is a really nice unit, and sounds great. Very well built, and very well thought out. For it's retail price of $2500, I still think it's a bargain. The unit has performed flawlessly. And when I had questions, VTL always answered the phone, took my calls, and gave me the info I needed.
The only thing I didn't like was the fact that if I change my tubes to NOS, it voids the warranty. Otherwise, good experience all around.
Zaikes, that's a nice amp. I've recommended it before and a friend of mine had one so I'm familiar with it. Do you have the 805 output tube version?
On the breakdowns, old VTL not so good, new VTL as good as the rest.
I'd say that the manuf is still acting like he's a small outfit operating out of a garage, but when I was reviewing I was thinking about some tiny triodes and called three times and never got a response. Something about being out of the country, then this then that. This is EXTREMELY unusual behavior for a manuf - and not too bright given how many many reviewers penalize manuf's for such behavior, although that wasn't my MO - so I wouldn't take this too personally in the sense that its directed at dissing customers or used buyers. It seemed endemic to me and I never called again.
That said, they are nice sounding amps with many happy customers. A used VTL, sound-wise, is very hard to beat in many systems, so you have to balance it out I suppose.
Asa, the only MB-185 Signature I'm aware of is the model I own with 6550 output tubes. I don't know which of their amps may have used the tube you refer to, but I believe VTL streamlined their range down to 6550's and EL-34's at the time they introduced the "Signature" transformer models a few years ago.
I have had no problems with or complaints about my VTLs or the company itself. So far I have only good things to say. I purchased used VTL 450s in Japan 18 months ago (probably 6-12 months old at the time). Several months afterwards, I emailed VTL asking for an owner's manual in English and some advice on biasing the tubes. I got a series of nice emails in quick succession starting only a few hours later (with full docs), despite the fact that it was only 2-3 days before the C.E.S. (I have to imagine for any manuf. that has to be a busy time). If I remember correctly, Bea sent a nice follow-up email several days after the show to make sure everything was OK.
Zaike, it was a special order unit. Thought yours might be one. It sounds better than EL34 and especially 6550 units. If you ever send it in for service, you might want to consider the mod. Ask around.
Phillyleggs, I actually went to VTL's factory in CA this summer and met Bea Lam. She is really a very nice person who loves music, and was extremely accomodating and helpful to me in person, but their philosophy does seem to be to play everything close to the vest, especially when it comes to owners of second-hand VTL gear. Trying to talk to them on the phone or through email can be a frustrating experience in certain ways, yet I wouldn't ever say that owners of new (or even used) VTL gear would be left out in the cold. Part of it is, I think, simply a communication problem - Bea's first language was not English. And part of it seems like there might be a bit of corporate paranoia that I presume may be some fallout of the history with Luke's father David (Darth? ;^) Manley and the company bearing his name that is now VTL's competitor. It's not that their service is bad in any way, but they always want you to go exclusively through them, even if you're not under warranty, and they don't seem particularly forthcoming about anything. I don't think this is actually too unusual in companies where the principles are responsible for customer service, rather than them having someone on the payroll to act as the service liason. I will say this: VTL's service, while not cheap, is definitely thorough. And I'm not too sure that anything Cary makes would give you the combination of qualities present in the 450's (and vice versa, I've no doubt) - apples and oranges, to some degree. Listen and see, and if you like the VTL, I'd still go for it, 'cause when the needle hits the groove, it's good stuff for the money.
Well, I have an earlier post on this thread regarding my experiences with VTL, which have been at least 90% positive, so I won't repeat that here. I'd just like to say, they are apparently a 2-person company. And I got a very positive & fast response to every one of my issues or questions every time I called them, even tho I'd bought both of my VTL components used. They did often point out however, that I'd get better service, etc. if I'd bought them brand new from a dealer. I guess you can't blame them for that.
Hey--if you buy used audio gear that's not under warranty any more, you're taking your chances. VTL is a "boutique brand", I think it's fair to say, so maybe you have to weigh the trade offs--you can buy a Camry, or a Ferrari, or a vintage BMW, what do you want?
Recently I called Krell, because I was thinking of buying a used FBP amp, & asked to know the history of that particular amp. The guy at Krell I spoke to, absolutely refused to give me any info, & was very rude & abrupt about it. I've never gotten that treatment at VTL, or any other tube mfg.
With any high-end purchase, esp. used, you've gotta ask yourself, where & how can you get service if you need it. If I lived on the West Coast, I'd be way into VTL......as it is, I still happily own a VTL pre-amp......
Obviously, there was supposed to be a script proir to my p.s.. Seems to have gotten lost. The contents of which were supposed to read something like...Phillyleggs, I think Zaikesman is right on. Though they both used tubes, I think Cary and VTL are quite a bit different. VTL's less than sparkling reputation for customer service runs long, wide and deep. Both customers and retailers have complained vehemently about them for some time now. I value customer service a lot. I've been scared off
My first entry into tube electronics was the TL2.5 that I currently own which was purchased used from this site. After three months it stopped working and needed a three hundred dollar repair to replace something power related. It was turned around in less than two weeks coast to coast with great communication from the factory. Since then I've purchased new components through a local dealer and am continually amazed with VTL's price to performance ratio. Customer service is top notch from my experience!
Here's my experience with this dreaded company called VTL. They do make good products but if you need help you are left helpless. I am 66 years old and have been an audiophile for most of my life. I am friends with many audio manufactures all all bend over backwards to help their customers except Luke and Bea. They are the worst company that i have ever dealt with. The worst experience i've ever had in this beloved hobby. They are both rude and condescending towards me. It started when my amp fried and they blamed the Penta Labs KT88. They said it was the fault of the chinese tubes because the lands shorted at the tube sockets. This was because they spaced the lands to close to another not that the tubes caused it. So i had to send it back and they re-wired the circuit board with insulated wires to prevent this arching. A thousand dollars to ship it back and forth and another 3k for repairs when a few experts that they know said it was a design issue that i had to pay for. I could go on and on and have other stories and have read on Steve Hoffman's site that getting customer service from VTL and like getting blood from a stone. I agree they are the worst company in the audio business. I recently had another problem with my amp. I called for help on the phone. Bea Lam told me to ship it back. LOL A 325lb crated amp. Just like that..... ship it back. No advice, no help at all. I then got help from a noted tube amp expert named Da-Hong Seetoo and with a continuity meter we concluded the amp was fine. My problem was my active interconnects were shot. The Photon Cable (laser Cable) that were sold by Harmonic Tech. I then requested a small plastic bushing for the top cover that is cracked but zero anse=wers to my email requests. As soon as i got Da-Hong involved and didn't ship it back to Cali Bea disowned me. IMHO, do not buy products from these two people. One is worse than the other. Rick
Thanks! for sharing your stories-All it is imperative to post both positive and negative experiences when dealing w/ these companies. I once sent an email to inquire about dealers/retailers. To date never received any reply to my query?
they truly seem to either hate their customers or the just hate life.
And it's not just Bea Lam. You think she's terrible and rude then you
find out that Luke, her husband is much worse. Stay away unless you
want a bad experience. I have a VTL Amp and know i can't get service
when needed withOUT getting verbally raped
I own VTL 450MKII and before that VTL 300. Both products were purchased used, When I had a problem with the 300's I called them. VTL was reluctant to help me because I did not buy it from them. I took the amps to them and they verified no one had altered them and agreed to repaired. Over the years of upgrades and minor repairs I became a valued customer. On one of my early visits I was given a tour of the facility. VTL is a small company and they are in the business of making money. If you buy new from an authorized dealer you will be a customer and treated as such.
Funny, If I have an issue and call, one of the first questions is "Where did you get the tubes?" What a wonderful way to disarm someone. LOL
I hear you and I'm glad you're experience was good but there is just no reason to be nasty and condescending towards a customer for any reason..
There's a blog somewhere on the net titled "Getting customer service from VTL is like getting Blood from a Stone" You are one of the lucky ones. I asked Bea why i'm being treating this way. I asked "why do you and Luke hate me so much" I told them i was a loyal customer but zero replies. I'm done. They don't deserve my money. There are too many nice and appreciative manufactures out there. I've never heard this type of stuff from any other companies in 40+ years of being an Audiophile