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New amp on the way.....

 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 128
Registered: Jul-07
Upload

Should be here on Thursday. Ain't she pretty. Well, pretty to me anyway.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 12238
Registered: May-04
.


I've been reading about the Vista products. Sounds like a good deal from the limited press they've received.
 

Silver Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 626
Registered: Feb-07
Interesting. Tell us more about it when you get it!
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 129
Registered: Jul-07
They have made some very good first impressions. They have a Canadian distributor who was most patient with all of my questions. Speaker matching will be the next thing. My current speakers have a fairly stable 8 ohm load, and an 89db sensitivity, so I think they will work fine in the short term. But, I'd like to get an upgrade in that department next, and match something up to the amp.

Even on my existing speakers I expect to hear quite a different presentation to my NAD receiver.
 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 6182
Registered: Feb-05
Looks beautiful, hope it sounds as good as it looks!
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 9756
Registered: Dec-04
Who is the Canuck distributor, Chris?
Looks real nice.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 130
Registered: Jul-07
Nuck, the Canadian distributor is Audio Limits....which also appears to be a recent start-up. The unit I bought was a demo unit that Alex at Audio Limits had on hand, so I got a little deal on it, and it's already burnt in. So I should be able to plug it in, warm it up, and get a good read on it right away.
 

Gold Member
Username: Frank_abela

Berkshire UK

Post Number: 2707
Registered: Sep-04
That's an unfortunate name. try typing Vista Audio into google and all you get are references to Windows Vista and sound cards and the like.

Looks to me like yours is the i84 with 15wpc. Your speakers will just about be sensitive enough to fill an average room, but not loud. If you decide to change them you should be looking at the horn and tube manufacturer fraternity with sensitivities in excess of 92db and solid 8-ohm impedances. Things like Living Voice, Audio Note, Klipsch, Impulse, Avant Garde...

Regards,
Frank.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 131
Registered: Jul-07
You're right Frank, it is the I84. I am rather curious about how well it will drive my CBM-170's, but I'm not sweating it as new speakers are next. I've already done a fair bit of listening and researching and what I'm considering right now is a pair of JM Reynaud Twin Sig's, or the new model which I believe is call The Duet. I've spent months trying to figure out what I'm really looking for, and I think I have my priorities pretty clear in my mind at long last.

The Twin's are around 91db, and from what I've read are nicely driven by moderately powered push-pull amps. I've listened to a few horn and single driver speakers, but I just don't think I "get" it. Crazy imaging and soundstaging, but they just don't make music for me. Either they are not my thing, or I haven't heard the right make/model.

There are some other models that I think would work nicely ( Fab Audio Brats and Sonist Concerto 2's come to mind ), but they are a tad more than I want to spend. I'd like to keep it under $1500.
 

Silver Member
Username: Stryvn

Post Number: 665
Registered: Dec-06
Great looking amp, Chris. Is this your first tube amp? Have you listened to anything with the EL84 tubes before this?

I look forward to your review of it.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 132
Registered: Jul-07
Yes stryvn, it is indeed my first tube amp. A friend of mine once had a Decware amp (model escapes me but I think it was an older SE84 model) that had EL84 tubes. Nice amp. All 1.8 watts of it. With the right speakers those little Decware amps can sound pretty amazing.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 12247
Registered: May-04
.

"That's an unfortunate name. try typing Vista Audio into google and all you get are references to Windows Vista and sound cards and the like."



http://www.engineeringvista.com/


A 2.5 watt single ended kit for under $200 USD. Four watts for $219.



.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 136
Registered: Jul-07
The amp was delivered as scheduled yesterday afternoon. I had to rearrange every piece of equipment other than my DVR in order to make enough space for safe heat distribution around the new addition. That took about an hour. Until I get my new speakers I'll have to unhook speaker cables from the receiver and connect the cables from the I84 every time I want to listen.

The amp looks great, although certainly not a large piece. It's smaller even than my cd player, and by a fair bit. It took a only few minutes to pop the tubes in and make the connections. All of the connectors are good quality and provided very stable and secure connections. The selector switch and volume control on the front have a very solid feel to them although they are not as smooth as on some more expensive units. I turned everything on, went and poured a beer, and sat down for a listen. After all of the time spent rearranging, I only had an hour before the kids went to bed to listen at normal levels, then I had to turn it down and put on something a little more soothing.

The first thing I learned is not to expect its best until it had been on for 30 minutes. It sounded good straight away, but after about 30 minutes things got significantly better. I had been wondering whether this 15W amp would appropriately drive my current speakers (Ascend Acoustics CBM-170's, 89db sensitivity, 8 ohm) but that little concern was thrown out after about 10 seconds. At around 10 o'clock on the volume I was at my normal listening level. At 11 o'clock I was above it by a fair bit, but everything hung together beautifully. More on that in a bit. I don't think I'll need to limit myself to super efficient speakers to match to this amp.

Since the amp doesn't have a sub-out I didn't hook up my subwoofer. The connections for speaker hookup are not great on the sub, and I figured I'd lose more than I gained by trying to hook it up. I was expecting to miss it, but oddly I didn't. I was getting way better bass response out of this 15W amp than I did with my 50W receiver. Go figure. I don't know whether there was literally more bass, or whether what was it was simply cleaned up enough to be more digestable, but either way it will be fine without the sub until I get new speakers.

So how did it sound ? Let me start with the things I noticed that were different. First thing that struck me is the hardest thing to describe. The only word that comes to mind is "quick". With a snare drum for instance, I could distinctly follow the pattern of the rolls and snaps on the snare. The strikes started and stopped so quickly it sounded very much like it should. One thing that has always bugged me about my system was its inability to reproduce cymbal work, particularly brushed cymbals. It just makes this annoying ambiguous noise that makes me press "skip". Last night for the first time I heard a drumstick start in the middle of the cymbal and drag to the outside. I could tell how fast the drummer did it, and I could hear the decay of the cymbal. Very nice. Another thing that is not handled particularly well by the NAD is brass instruments, particularly muted instruments. The I84 was much improved here as well, producing a well rounded and powerfully brassy sound, without making you cringe on loud passages. As a matter of fact high notes on brass instruments were a delight, with a wonderful texture. Another complaint with my receiver was how congested music got whenever things got loud or busy. The I84 is a big improvement in this area. I could keep the instruments and voices separate, and the music did not lose its flow.

More generally, I think the Sean Fowler review (Affordable Audio) was pretty bang on. The I84 has great dynamics for such a "lightweight" amplifier. Even during instrument solos you get a better sense of what the soloist is trying to do. Passages that previously sounded quite flat dynamically now had ebb and flow in them. Even subtle timing differences were noticeable. The amp provides nice weight and texture to voices and instruments, but does not sound rounded at all. Transparency and detail retreival is very good, although you don't notice that at all unless you listen for it. Presentation is neither forward nor reserved.

What didn't I like. Not much. Soundstage was good, but not tremendous....extending a few feet above the speakers, and just a little beyond each speaker horizontally. Imaging was not pinpoint at all, perhaps not even as precise as with the NAD. I toed the speakers in a little more than I had them which helped a little. There is some midrange hollowness, especially with female voices, but I'm attibuting that to the speakers. It was there with the NAD, and is still there with the Vista Audio amp. Overall not much to complain about. For just over $700 its hard to imagine getting more for your money. It's not getting returned. I'm sure I'll get to know it better this weekend when I have time to listen to more of my cd collection. I'm curious to know whether it makes some of my cd's that are in my "sound bad" pile sound more listenable.
 

Silver Member
Username: Dmitchell

Ottawa, Ontario Canada

Post Number: 638
Registered: Feb-07
Excellent review Chris.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 137
Registered: Jul-07
Two things I should have mentioned. The amp is dead quiet. Quiet passages come from a very dark background. The other thing is this amp sounds very good at low listening levels. The NAD needs some juice flowing to open things up. Not this amp, which again surprised me given the modest rated output.
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 12250
Registered: May-04
.

"The strikes started and stopped so quickly it sounded very much like it should."


Yep, start/stop.

If you aren't doing this, put the CD player on repeat and let the amp work for about 50-100 hours before you judge anything. Most tube amps require at least 20-30 minutes before they sound right from a dead cold start. Most tube amps will sound even better after a few hours.


.
 

Silver Member
Username: Stryvn

Wisconsin

Post Number: 668
Registered: Dec-06
Nice writeup, Chris. And congrats.


I want that.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 138
Registered: Jul-07
Jan, it was a demo unit so it has a few hours on it, so it is at least somewhat run in. I'm ok with it getting better still though.
 

Gold Member
Username: Artk

Albany, Oregon USA

Post Number: 6203
Registered: Feb-05
Well done Chris!
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 9757
Registered: Dec-04
Good for you, Chris and thanks for sharing!

Stryvn, you should look into these.
 

Silver Member
Username: Stryvn

Wisconsin

Post Number: 670
Registered: Dec-06
7 bills is a bit more than I want to spend right now, Nuck.

Jan's link up there is .....maybe this belongs in tube talk. I'll post over there later.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 139
Registered: Jul-07
How about 5 bills stryvn ? Alex had another demo for a little above that. It's a slightly older 10W version. Same sonic signature.
 

Gold Member
Username: Touche6784

USA

Post Number: 1224
Registered: Nov-04
Chris, I noticed the same thing concerning the extra bass going from a SS to a tube amp. When I hooked up my EL34 powered amp to my father's ML Clarity speakers I noticed a dramatic increase in the amount of bass and his amp is no lightweight either, its an ADCOM GFA 545. I also agree with you on not necessarily needing super efficient speakers with tubes. I have a set of Magnepan MG-1c speakers with sensitivity of 85dB and they sound great. It is nice to hear that you are enjoying the amp.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 140
Registered: Jul-07
Jan, you were bang on with the warm up time. After about 2 1/2 hours things shift into a whole new gear. The soundstage becomes much deeper, and the imaging improves significantly. Almost holographic at 3 hours. Even at low volumes.
 

Silver Member
Username: Stryvn

Wisconsin

Post Number: 672
Registered: Dec-06
I think we've lost another one.

Wait for me on the other side.
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 141
Registered: Jul-07
Heh heh. I'll try not to lapse into Randy Warren territory. Now where did I put that Quickcrete ?
 

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 12252
Registered: May-04
.

If you can afford to leave the amp on constantly, you'll have the best sound. Most tube amps don't lend themself to continuous operation when not in actual use but you can try leaving the amp on for a few days and listen for improvements over what you hear at 3 hours time. There shouldn't be much difference though it's probably noticeably better and the tubes will last longer if you turn the amp on and off. I haven't seen that this amp has a soft start circuit. That would be helpful to tube life though the tubes for this amp aren't very expensive if you're not doing top o' the line NOS.

.
 

Gold Member
Username: Nuck

Post Number: 9765
Registered: Dec-04
The Sovtek's are very good.

Tubedepot.com
 

Silver Member
Username: Hawkbilly

Nova Scotia Canada

Post Number: 142
Registered: Jul-07
Yeah, a complete re-tube is around $60 every year or so, so not a big concern. More if, as you say, I get into more interesting NOS or cryo versions. Once I get used to how the standard tubes sound I'll likely want to try something else, just to see the differences.

For now I'll just flip the amp on well before I plan to listen to it.

I also purchased a power cord with the amp from Audio Limits (Shield 3.1) for $65. Once it burns in for a bit I'll replace it with my MAC cable and see if I notice any difference. I have a MAC cable on my DAC as well. Seems to work fine but I haven't compared it to anything else so I really don't know.
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