It’s was a bit of a grueling time, two shows in three weeks, but the results were superb!
Good report From Stereophile about our VAC Statement components at the recent Newport Audio Show:
“In the best of all possible worlds, the system would still be up and running two weeks after the show closed, Southwest Airlines would be all too eager to fly me to and fro for free … some of the best sounds at the Hilton.”
“Best Sound (for the lowest price): The VAC “back room” system—Magico S1 ($12,600) speakers, VAC 160i amp ($11k), and Esoteric K-05 deck ($8300)—delivered beguilingly beautiful sound that needed no apologies except for the lack of the very bottom octave.” – Alan Taffel of HiFi Plus
March 5-7, 2010 saw the first ever Audio Expo of North America (“Axpona”), sponsored by Stereophile. The weather in Jacksonville, Florida was cool but clear, as 30 some exhibit rooms at the Wyndham Riverwalk showed audio gear from around 120 companies.
VAC joined Cardas Audio, KingSound, and XtremeFidelity in the Propeller Room (all of the convention room names had a nautical theme … nautical, but nice). The results were fabulous. The room was singled out at the Stereophile discussion panel by John Atkinson as having outstanding sound. See the official Stereophile report for more details (“superior sound … simply wonderful”).
Below you can see more about our exhibit, and a few other notable things from the show.
Here is a general shot of our exhibit room, which was roughly 24 x 28 feet. The loudspeakers are the King full range electrostatic speakers, used with the VAC Royal Power Supplies.
This photograph shows the Symposium rack, topped off by a VPI Classic turntable, followed by the audio chassis of the VAC Signature Mk IIa Preamplifier, an Accuphase DP-85 CD/SACD player, and the power supply for the VAC preamplifier. On the floor are a pair of VAC Phi 200 amplifiers running in mono. You can just see the edge of a Furman power conditioner, whose outlets proved to be blessing, as most of the rooms wall outlets couldn’t retain a power cord! All of the interconnect and speaker cables are Cardas Clear; three of the power cords were, too.
This is the VPI Classic turntable, with optional platter ring and weight. It is a real value at $2,500 for the table with the10.5 inch tonearm. This superb table left the show with me; by Monday night it will be ensconced in one of my home systems! The Cardas tonearm cable came with me, too!
This photo shows Stereophile editor John Atkinson listening to the system on the opening day, even before the Cardas Clear XLR cables replaced the more modest Cardas Light RCA cables on the run between the preamp and amps. Just beyond Mr. Atkinson you can just make out the top of the KingTower omnidirectional speaker (not in use).
This is the sensational new Ortofon MC A90 cartridge, courtesy of XtremeFidelity, mounted in the VPI 10.5 arm. Odd looking, maybe. Superb sounding, oh, yes!
Speaking of analogue, this photo shows none other than Michael Fremer at the far end of the front row, next to Arnie Chinta (making a recording of the room for Audiogon’s show coverage). In addition to vinyl listening, Michael also brought a CD with what is perhaps the most unusual piece of music heard at the show, Tom Wait’s “Step Right Up” from the album “Small Change.” I can not even begin to describe it, but it is worth checking out. You should also check out guru Michael’s columns at MusicAngle.com, as well as his DVDs on turntable setup.
Speaking of Cardas, the lass peering through her bangs is none other than the lovely and beguiling Colleen Cardas, iPhone (as usual) in operation in her hand. To be honest, I sometimes have the same problem. A friend’s daughter once asked me, “Did it hurt much when you had the iPhone surgically attached?” Humor. Har.
This is Mike Oltz from XtremeFidelity of Fairfield, New Jersey. Well worth looking up if you prize great sound.
This gentleman is Steve Brakke of Behrens Audio Video in Jacksonville, Florida. No, he doesn’t sell King, VAC, or Cardas, but he is the first high end dealer I ever dealt with, way back in 1976 when he was with Lon Cooper’s late, lamented Cooper Radio Company in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Steve is a man of great patience (necessary to deal with me as a teenager), good humor, integrity, knowledge, and ability. It means a lot to me that he came by to spend a few minutes. If you need custom work in Jacksonville, give him a call, please. He’s the best.
Also unrelated to VAC, this is the exhibit room of Madisound, sellers of speaker drivers, kits, and parts. The little backloaded horn speakers you see are their BK-16 kit ($846.00/pair). In my quick audition they surprised me with a very lively (yet not out of control) and pleasing sound. I may have to get a pair to play with in the office.
This gentleman is Bill Leebens of LM&M Communications and man-about-audio; he authors a rather nice, literate, and well informed blog on Audiogon.
There are many other people I wish I’d been able to spend time with, photograph, and let you know about, but time did not permit. I’ll make a special mention of Mike Chafee of Sarasota, mastering engineer Bob Katz from Orlando, the team from Scaena, and so forth. Maybe next time!
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.
Alon Wolf of Magico with VAC Signature Mk II Preamplifier, VAC Phi 300.1, and his absolutely phenominal new loudspeaker. If you are at CES, GO HEAR THIS ROOM! Venetian Tower, 29th floor
A pair of VAC Phi 300.1 biamping the new Talon Acoustics Thunderhawk speakers. Crossover is the interesting new Rives Audio Sub-Parc. DAC is the Wadia System 9. By the way, the photogenic head in the foreground is the legendary recording engineer Chris Huston, who is now VP at Rives. You definitely should meet him. Venetian meeting room # 4606.
VAC Phi Beta with new Audes loudspeakers (a great value). Venetian Tower, 29th floor
Exhibit room: Chateau Ballroom 3 – click for coverage by EnjoyTheMusic.com, Stereo Times, Audioholics
Entry way/static display: Chateau Ballroom 6
Items used in active display:
- Von Schweikert VR-11SE loudspeakers, $100,000-$125,000/pair (depending upon finish)
- VAC Phi 220 Monoblocks, $9,500 each (biamp configuration)
- VAC Phi 2.0 Master Control Preamplifier, $15,000
- Oracle CD2000 transport, $7,500
- Oracle DA2500 dac, $7,500
- Oracle Delphi Mk.V turntable, ~$5,000 without arm or cartridge
- Graham 2.2 tonearm
- Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II interconnects, $948 for 1 meter pair
- Acoustic Zen Matrix Reference II interconnects, $548 for 1 meter pair
- Acoustic Zen Hologram II speaker cables, $1,048 for 8 foot pair
- Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables, $598 for 8 foot pair
- Acoustic Zen Gargantua II power cables, $1,488 for six foot cable
- Acoustic Zen Tsunami power cables, $350 for six foot cable
- Acoustic Zen MC2 digital cable
- Room treatments designed by Rives Audio (consulting from $900 up)
- Rives Audio PARC, $2,800
- PS Audio power conditioner
- Quantum power conditioner
For the recordings of Misty River Band (sessions daily at 5 PM):
- Engineer-Chris Huston of Rives Audio
- Geoff Daking mixing console
- Soundelux elux251 tube mic
- Soundelux e49 tube mic (Kevin Hayes comments that this may be the most astounding mic he’s ever heard!)
- Soundelux 47 tube mic
- Brauner Valvet tube mic
- A/D conversion courtesy of Ed Meitner
- Tascam DSD recorder courtesy of Ray Kimber
The active demonstration system
Misty River Band getting ready to record
Chris Huston confers with Misty River
Chris Huston at the mixing deck
Beautiful VAC Phi 220 amps glow and music flows…
A veritable bevy of VAC instruments