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Vitus Audio RI-100 integrated amp

10.04.2012..
..

Founded in 1995, Vitus Audio entered the Danish market in 2003, becoming one of the youngest hi-end brands. Except for the RI-100 integrated amp, priced about nine thousand euro, all their machines cost not less than ten thousand euro, therefore really exclusive objects.

We got the impression that through this new integrated amp, the owner and head designer Hans Ole Vitus, intended to increase the sales leads and, at the same time, tried to maintain, as much as possible, the excellent performances of his most exclusive products.

 

Consequently, if the technical background and the talent in design are always present and have a meaning, we expect remarkable performances also from an entry level product.

 

End of the article.

 

What? End of the article? Yes. The first draft of the article shares with the article you are reading only this part. This is because I have made two articles about the Vitus Audio RI-100. A double effort.

 

In effect, I consider this review an opportunity to speak about the meaning that has today, for the market, an integrated amp with such ambitions and cost.

I do not want to speak of technical info that you can easily find (even if not so many) on the Vitus Audio’s website.

Also a look inside does not tell a lot. This is the reason why I do not want to spend words like “components of good quality” or “exemplar manufacture”.

If you make part of the association “insecure audiophiles”, you can always buy a piece by yourselves, disassembling it and verify what good is inside.

Besides, the amplification boards are rather inaccessible and vertical: so, to have a deeper look we should have to “do violence” to the amplifier and we do not want.

What I can tell is that the gear has proved to be reliable and, most of all, very heavy. Do not lift it on your own! I am an idiot and I did it, of course, risking the integrity of my back.

But now, just let me tell you only what matters.

 

Without any doubt, we all think that a so expensive amplifier must perform well, very well.

No one is so mad to put on sale an amp that costs as a car and make it perform badly, not even a Danish (I am joking…).

In fact, the RI-100 performs very well, so well that after few seconds you can say: “wow, it is great indeed”.

But the meaning of a product like this must be another. Actually, you do not need to spend so much money to get similar performances. My PassLab, which costs lesser, performs likewise. To find a meaning we have to aim to something else: sound realism.

There is a big difference between a gear that performs very well and a gear that plays in a realistic way.

To perform well, what is required is the absence of audible distortions, great dynamics and contrast, a precise and wide image, excellent detail and transparency.

The realism needs something more: a correct tone and a complete harmonic content. Two things quite complicate to obtain, though.

Then, there is the perfect timing of the sounds and other less important and more complicate factors.

In sum, an amp that costs nine thousand euro does not have to perform very well, but it must be verisimilarly realistic. A copy of a real event, as a photograph, is a copy of a scenic context.

As you can see, I am referring very often to the price of the Vitus Audio because it would be predictable writing a positive review, and we do not want to write predictable things.

Predictable are the performance of the RI-100 in its global aspect. Definitely positive, if we refer to the normal Hi-End parameters so fashionable today: transparency and detail, in this amp simply sublime and at top levels.

 

In my home, only one integrated amp has played so exceptionally within these two parameters: the Audio Research DSi200, which is a class-D or a switching amp. Anyway, it was not able to perform with the same plasticity in the medium range as the Vitus Audio RI-100 does.

In fact, it costs half price.

The capacity of focussing is amazing, as well as its excellent transparency. You can see the sound subjects in a distinct and recognizable way. No records with this Vitus Audio will play confused or thick, even if the recording is.

The RI-100 has the inborn capacity of preserving every single instrument, almost guiding it into a precise, marked and correctly recreated scenic context. It is easy to read also the instruments in the background hidden inside the instrumental amalgam.

This skill, together with a stereo image that is dramatically deep, gives to the playback a great sense of space where the instruments are never overlapped or pushed one above the other: everything is clear, recognizable and wide.

 

If you are normal people, you certainly own and love one of Charles Mingus’ masterpieces, Five Mingus (OK, the title is Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus). Well, the first track, the splendid II B.S., is the litmus paper of the electronic transparency, mainly in the critical portion of the medium-low frequencies. The attack is characterized by the double bass of the American artist, a simple and portentous line of notes.

Then something happens, the horns come in.

You will say: “So what?”

So what, Mingus is still there playing, but… if a system is dreadful or quite acceptable, he disappears. In good systems, you can hear him, but some notes are missing. With the very good systems you can hear him a bit better but he is pushed behind by the explosiveness of the horns section… and what a section…! In the top systems, he remains there, with his big hands, plucking the chords of his double bass. He does not move, go backwards or forwards, become smaller or bigger and, most of all, you can keep listening to his bass line without any fatigue, without loosing the characteristic of the pizzicato, the chattering of the chords on the wood.

You should keep listening to his breath, his sweat, his soul, because these are the three things that separate jazz from music, any other music.

 

With the Vitus all this happens. All is perfect and apparently simple.

The capacity of detail is enormous. No instrument is opaque, obfuscated, and shadowy. All is perfectly delineated, focussed and demarcate.

If you have selective loudspeakers like my electrostatics, you could really catch the real breath of a choir, the real intonation of a singed line, the concrete flow of the air through a saxophone and many, many particulars often omitted in less accurate systems.

The light is very clear, sometimes blinding, white pearl.

We will speak later on about that.

The absence of audible distortions is evident, with the result of a real pure sound without ruffles in all the audible frequencies, also the lowest ones that are strangely controlled, maybe too much, but undoubtedly clean and without grain, like the high pitched frequencies that show an almost impalpable refinement.

End of games, you would say. Do we have the perfect amplifier?

No, we did not.

If we think about the money to purchase it, definitely we did not.

There is no concrete realism.

Attention, I have said realism not reality, because the reality is only on stage and cannot exist in your living room, but the realism can.

The designer has set himself a target, fully achieved, of obtaining a clean sound, a transparent and detailed sound.

Mission accomplished.

This is the kind of realism he sought and reached. Simply because the real sound “is” clean, transparent and detailed.

But he stopped there.

In the perfect realism, which aims to the real, there is something else.

First of all, the Vitus is coloured in some tonal aspects where it shows a white blinding coloured, as I said before.

And this feature makes it a bit artefact, as it would reproduce on the screen not a movie with real actors but cartoons, very sophisticated and “likely”, but always cartoons.

Also in this feature, the RI-100 behaves like some switching amplifiers.

A due explanation: the Vitus RI-100 is in good company, because there are many so called Hi-End amplifications performing alike, mostly if we refer to solid state.

Maybe the constant pursuing of record-breaking transparency and detail has made lose sight of other important elements in the musical playback. Or maybe some people like this way: if you like this way, well, here is your ideal amplifier.

Anyway there is some colour, sometimes blinding, an intense white light at some junctures, frankly too excessive.

This explains how the character of this amplifier is not so prone to muffled and intimist tones. It prefers to sculpt, define and maybe sometimes it is pedantic.

This also explains how the Vitus often prevails on the music, and does not limit itself to be at its service: during the listening test, you can easily indulge on its merits rather than on the artistic merits of the record, and it becomes protagonist and not a music comprimario.

What is also missing, to fully reach the sound realism, is a wide and complete harmonic content of the instruments.

Noticeably, the solid state cannot do much more, also at these price levels. The Danish top pair – Class -A preamp and power amp – that I tested some time ago, performed better and the same do the products of another manufacturer of great solid state amps: Viola Audio.

 

Thus, we are talking of objects that cost much more than our - also expensive - Vitus RI-100.

In conclusion, I want to say that an object like this must guarantee “THE” sound realism that today is technically obtainable by an amplifier: we are getting closer, for the amazing detail, transparency and grain refinement. But I have some reserves as far as the tone and, mostly, the harmonic content are concerned. This last one is not fully represented and therefore is incapable of giving the right importance and the correct materiality to the instruments. It cannot give that sense of realism that deceives our senses and makes us losing in the almost tactile sensation of having them just in front of us.

Everything else goes from the perfect to the very good. Is that enough for you

 

Conclusions and suggestions for use

The Vitus RI-100 does not present any practical problem to its user. On the contrary, it solves many. Being a Class-AB – more B than A – it does not give off much heat so is easy to place. Of course, you have to take into account its considerable weight.

The connectors are solid, the Apple remote control is reliable and essential, maybe too small and thin, and does not hum nor hiss.

Its driving capabilities are practically inexhaustible and it has driven two troublesome Martin Logan SL3 speakers, up to very elevate levels, showing the dynamic limits of the panels, rather than its own limits.

Careful, careful with the cables.

The main cable has a certain weight on the global rendering and, at the end, among those at my disposal, the best has been the Stat Audio LN2-A2, cryogenically treated. Good was also the Kimber PK10, less the Transparent Power Super, which I have always found not very much dynamic with the big amplifications and more indicated for the digital sources. The other types of cables have to be carefully assessed. In the end, I have opted for the MIT 350 CVT as an alternative to the Cardas Golden Cross, both very good.

Very bad the silver cables, even if there are manufacturers who are starting to make these conducers without that hint of hardness on the medium high range. Do not use hyper-detailed and cold cables, unless you do not intend to listen to your favourite music wearing a coat.

I would avoid digital sources with a similar tone, also of a certain level.

With my Naim, perfectly neutral, we were already at the limit.

In conclusion, I should make some considerations on the quality/price ratio of this amplifier.

Well, I should not and for two precise reasons.

The first one is that, once having trespass a certain price threshold, this elusive ratio has no more an indicative value. The second one is that the price of a product, even if based on a rigid arithmetic value, is the less possible objective value to be taken into consideration.

Nine thousand euro for a millionaire are peanuts, while for an honest worker are an insurmountable barrier.

This review is written by keeping well in mind the purchasing price of the product.

If it had cost half price it would have been more enthusiastic, but the sound of the Vitus would have always been the same.

If I had to evaluate the sound, is apart from the price, but if I have to judge the object, the price and other elements that are independent from the sound - like the reliability or the value in time – well, then, they become important.

The sound of this Vitus goes from good to exceptional, but my final consideration about it, is… that I would have got more.

You have to do an attentive listening. You can appreciate what it is able to give you. For certain aspects, it is one of a kind, and together with other few brands making solid state amplifications, is always pursuing that sound realism which is and has always to be the real goal of any Hi-End manufacturer.

 

 

SCHEME SUMMARY

top score ✳✳✳✳✳ ReMusic Sparks

Tone colour✳✳✳ | Coloured in the dryness side, sometimes excessive. Bass very controlled, high range well lined up with a very dry mid-high. Decisive, for the whole performance, the balance of the system. Harmonic weight not elevated.

Dynamics ✳✳✳✳ | Excellent, mostly the micro dynamic, while the macro, due to an excessive control, sometimes seems shy. High push and unlimited driving capacity.

Detail ✳✳✳✳✳ | Extraordinary, the maximum obtainable today. Very marked contrast.

Clearness ✳✳✳✳✳ | Very high and capable of unravelling every musical programme, also the most complex. Excellent the relation between the single instruments and the general amalgam. With this amp, you will hear notes generally impossible to catch.

Image ✳✳✳✳1/2 | Very extended in depth, less in the scene width. Great precision and scansion of the sound perspectives.

Rise time ✳✳✳✳ | Very rapid impulses, but the release times are not very realistic. The harmonic content is not exceptional and contributes to simplify the harmonic complexity of the instruments. Everything seems sometimes brisk.

Manufacture ✳✳✳✳ | Great level. Maybe the internal wiring is excessive. The weight is high because of a good and huge transformer.

Price/quality ratio | Out of logic as for the price. The performances are aligned to the competing products.


Official technical specifications:

Frequency Response: DC to +500KHz

Signal to Noise Ratio: > 100dB

Rated Output Power: 2 x 300Wrms at 8 ohm Class AB

THD+ Noise: Better than 0,01%

Input Sensitivity: with volume set at 0dB / RCA = 2, 6 / XLR 5,2V RMS

Input Impedance: RCA = 22KΩ / XLR = 22KΩ

Slew Rate: > 35V/s

Inputs: 2 x unbalanced (RCA) - 3 x balanced (XLR)

Outputs: 1 x unbalanced sub-out (RCA) - 1 x balanced HQ headphone - 1 x set balanced speaker out

Power Consumption (RMS): Standby < 3W; Class AB (no load) ~90W

Dimensions: 435x195x435 mm (WxHxD)

Weight: ~40Kg

Remote Control: included

Other Options: Phonostage module (MM/MC) - DAC module

Product brochure: to download (8 mega) click here

Official Italian dealer: to DP Trade website

Official current price in Italy: 9,000.00 EUR

Associated equipment: to Paolo “Miracle” Di Marcoberardino system

 

DIRECTOR’S CUT | INQUIRY SUPPLEMENT

Purity. We could imagine purity as a diffuse and blinding light, an intense light so gorgeous that can make you blind and afraid.

Also a pure and crystal-clear sound could be described as an intense and bone-white light. Paolo has been able to figure out the features of the Vitus Audio R-100 amplifier, which, even a deluxe entry level, has been realized bearing in mind which would have been the sound outcome: the pure sound.

The features of extreme transparency have been enhanced by the sumptuous detail of the sound picture, a valuable musical chisel able to draw with precision each interpreter on the stage, a voice or a musical instrument.

The worldwide hi-fi situation is dominated by hi-end devices capable of reproducing a sound rich in particulars. This trend is favoured by the always more pushed technical research that orients its efforts towards the progressive improvement of the high-resolution digital signal. These new formats need machines capable of going along with their always more analytic capacities.

The Vitus RI-100 is a champion of these modern amplifications dedicated to very high-resolution digital signals. These amplifications, powerful and very tidy, need amplifications above suspicion and, in the Vitus case, cumbersome and very heavy amps.

Who, like me, has known the high fidelity with the analogue signal, can go beyond the surprising musical detail and can also appreciate a sound that is less precise, less perfect but capable of giving back what we call “tonal nuance”. In the creaks of the old vinyl, we can hear something that brings us closer to that sound roundness which gives back body to the music and to the instruments. In this case, the perfection of the Vitus Audio is quite embarrassing and baffling.

Instead, the other audiophiles who firmly believe in the digital signal must love the Vitus Audio RI-100, which worthily represents the modern amplification par excellence: a splendid Greek God perfectly sculpted in the candid marble with a faultless beautiful profile.

 

R.R.

by Paolo Di Marcoberardino
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