CES 2008

Greetings, VAC fans! Well, CES has come and gone yet again, and it is a mark of how very busy we have been that we’re only now updating our website to let you in on the fun.

First, the consolidation of most high end audio exhibits at the Venetian Towers resulted in a show that had higher energy and was easier to navigate than it has been in many years. VAC had four systems operating on the 30th floor (with such lumiaries as Magnan, Gershman Acoustics, Rives Audio, Talon Loudspeakers, and SooLoos), we were grateful for the easy access. And, by the way, the Grand Lux Cafe on the first floor had fabulous coffee! Also, our special thanks goes to Angie Lisi of American Sound, our Canadian importer, for much assistance and for spinning some fabulous vinyl on the Basis/Koetsu/VAC Beta phono front end. Truly stellar.

2007 was a year of exceptionally intense R&D and product development at VAC, resulting in the release of five new products at CES, as well as the retirement of some classic models (including the Renaissance power amplifiers, which had been in production since 1993!). All of the new models are in production – not ‘vaporware’ !

For many, the most exciting news is the return of VAC to the d/a converter market. Many of you will have heard, and many more have heard of, the fabulous VAC DAC series from the 1990′s. These designs are still in use in our factory’s reference room, and many who have heard them (here or in the past) have pleaded with me to make one for them. However, we have deliberately avoided this product category due to the confusion over which format(s) would be dominant (and you really can not optimize for all of them), and due to the perceived desirability of certain features that we believe to be deleterious to sound quality. We now believe that things have stabilized, and thus have launched the VAC Phi Alpha D/A Converter, optimized for playback of standard Compact Discs, as well as similar data streams via USB. I can tell you, it’s good to be back!

Making its debut was the VAC Phi Beta Preamplifier, the long awaited replacement for the Phi 2.0. It features an extensive remote control capability, a very flexible mixture of balanced and SE inputs and outputs, hand wired audio pathways, and is in most other respects comparable to the latest update of the VAC Signature Mk II Preamplifier (which, by the way, is the sole ‘classic’ VAC model to remain in normal production).

Joining the Phi Beta Preamplifier is the new VAC Phi Alpha Preamplifier. At first blush it would be tempting to view this as the replacement for the Renaissance Preamplifier. However, it owes much more to the Beta than to the Renaissance. Indeed, the Alpha is identical to the Beta with two notable exceptions: 1) the Alpha circuit is assembled entirely on printed circuit boards, and 2) the Alpha has a simpler power supply. Bottom line: the Alpha is much closer to the Beta than was the old Renaissance to the Signature.

Rounding out the new preamplifier offerings is the VAC Sigma Preamplifier, which is properly viewed as an evolutionary improvement on the former VAC Standard Preamplifier Mk II, with upgraded internal parts.

The final new product introduced at CES is the jewel-like VAC Phi Alpha 160 Musicbloc. You may view the Alpha Musicblocs either as a simpler embodiment of the VAC Phi 300.1, or as a massive upgrade of the older Standard 160′s, which they resemble in shape but not sound.

You will notice that the aesthetics of the new models has been developed around the beautiful theme set by the Phi 300.1. From our entry point through our finest models, one glance says, “VAC.” Now it is easy to mix and match models from the Sigma, Phi Alpha, and Phi Beta ranges, assured that they will work well together both sonically and visually.

More information about all of these models will be added to the website over the next few weeks. For now, job one is to try to catch up with the production backlog!

Lastly, a few words should be said about inflation and pricing. Between energy costs and the exchange rate of the U.S. Dollar, we experienced some tremendous pressure during 2007, which, of necessity, is reflected in the 2008 price list. The rises seemed most notable on parts with a high metal content. For example, our best power transformers doubled in cost, which our output transformers rose approximately 50%. We’ve done our best to keep our operating margins modest but sustainable, so that we may continue to support you through the years to come, and to continue to build the world’s finest audio components.