Vitus Masterpieces; How they came into my audio life?
Vitus audio components have been around long enough to be recognized as one of those high end brands that are here to stay. This fact is easily supported by the number of awards and accolades given to a number of their products and the number of strong supporters that continue to stay on the brand. The entry price to these famed products are indeed steep but are not uncalled for.
I was visited by Vitus Audio local distributor, Swedish Statement in Malaysia, whether I be interested to include their products in my list of consideration of purchase to build a truly decent audio system. My reply to Mr. Koo is that the onus is on him.
Obviously our daring Mr. Koo took the challenge but not all out. He sent in the Vitus Signature Phonostage SP-102 that resided in my system since late last year, 2012. At that time, I was enjoying some formidable components worthy, in my interest, to be my components to stay. My mind then was pretty settled as to what I wanted in my audio system. Then came the last component to decide, the phono stage. A close friend of mine reminded me that why not consider the Vitus phono stage since all those beautiful music are partly its credit. My immediate response is a resounding "yes". All those times, I have forgotten to accord credit to that phono stage. Come to think of it, the Vitus Signature phono stage SP-102 has never call attention to itself. There is no distinct character in its presentation, in comparison with the other components in the chain then.
I called Mr. Koo of Swedish Statement and asked him if he dare to take up the challenge to install Vitus' best effort in my audio system for my consideration, without any commitment on my part and that my decision and preference(s) are final. My daring friend took the risk and that I saluted him. He ordered the Vitus Masterpieces, MPL-201 pre amp and the MPP-201 and they came into my room within two months.
The deciding factor; Resolution, resolution and resolution...
This is one of the main determining factor in my choice of audio component. I must be able to hear more through the addition or change of a component to merit my attention, irrespective of how beautiful a presentation maybe.
My initial response to the Vitus Masterpiece MPL-201 pre amp and MPP-201 phono stage is, "I can hear so much more through Vitus"(this statement is still being shared till this time). Thus, that allowed the Vitus combo to stay on in my system ( till now ). This combo shows me more and more into my music as they ran in over the months. Then came the next challenge by Hans Ole Vitus to complete the Vitus Masterpiece system with the Mono amp MPM-201 and Dac MPD-201. I took the challenge and challenged him back to design the MPM-201 (which is originally a pair of mono amp per side) that is able to switch between mono and bi amp. To me, I may not always own a speaker that is bi amp able. I was having in my mind the Gryphon Pendragon loudspeaker system. Here, I need the MPM-201 to function as a mono amp with the full benefit of its beefy regulated power supply. Thus the MPM-201AF (Analogue Fellowship) edition was born, with auto switching between bi-amp and mono amp depending on what loudspeaker it's hooked up with. What impressed me with the Masterpiece pre amp and phono stage then took a whole new level with the Masterpiece Mono amp MPM-201AF.
The following impression is sourced by the TechDas Air Force One turntable with the Swedish Analog Technologies Tonearm (SAT) and the ZYX Omega Gold cartridge, as the main analogue source on duty.
The Human Voice that touch us all,
Many I have come to know here, love the hobby due to a particular singer. They build up an audio system to better enjoy the artistry and to some of higher expectation, the presence of the singer. Almost always a good recording and playback of the human voice will make all the investment, even to some "crazy" ones, worth it with exclamation (!).
Here, I m particular and sensitive to the volume level of the human voice played. Usually, I prefer the level that best express the emotion and artistry of the vocalist which, in most cases, are the softer side. In term for the component used, I believe that there may be an optimum level to best showcase it's performance that may tend to be on the higher volume compare to what I preferred for the human voice. I notice that the Vitus Masterpieces have changed my listening behavior. Many of my friends claim that I listen to vocalist at a much softer level compare to what they are used to at their respective system. I could not agree more, I find this combo allow so rich the detail to flow through that I need not have to push the volume any higher. The detail in the human voice is so rich here that he or she can literally touches, caress and invoke you. Lately, I am into the Singaporean singer, Kit Chan. Both her albums from New Century Workshop that are mastered and manufactured in Germany (NCKCLP001 and NCKCLP070911) contain tracks that I like then, turned to love, with my wife complaining why I always play the same albums and songs. The tracks are not that special with other components, but through the Vitus Masterpieces, there is a layer of detail and presence that draw me to her. A few audiophiles that came by heard these albums and experience the same here. They wish the same as I that Kit Chan will go back with them to sing at their respective audio caves. But the result is very different.
The Human Voice must be timed correctly,
Many will preach the importance of speed and some will go further to PRaT (pace, rhythm and time) and emphasize such with musical instruments. To me, there are too many of us audiophiles who may be alien to such musical instrument. To simplify it, why not use the human voice that we can so easily recognise.
The Vitus Masterpiece system is "my Tutor" here. She is able to allow the vocalist's expression be heard at a tempo that every nuance is clearly heard with a start and a finish. I feel as if I am one of the talent show's judge here. You be able to enjoy the artistry and tone(s) of the vocalist's pronunciation of every word in the lyric. The (d)emphasis of one word over the other, or one noun over the other, the pause between words, the breathing and more, that may sum up a sentence, or lyric to a song, can be clearly heard here.
Many of times, we are being treated with presentation that rob us of all the above and in the worst scenario, the vocalist sing "so fast or out of tempo" that as if she is in a hurry to finish the song to collect her pay check (suggested by an audiophile).
Here, I was asked to play the track, "Ballad of Runaway Horse, Duet with Jennifer Warnes" from the vinyl album Rob Wasserman's Duet (MCA 42131). The challenge is to have Jennifer Warnes' voice at the right tempo that one able to follow her word by word of differing tones, as if she is reading the lyric to you, with the occasional emphasis of breathing, pause and bite. "Jennifer was at the top of her game in this song that all her artistries are portrayed", exclaimed an audiophile who have heard her here. In pursuit of the reproduction of the simple human voice, I love to have you hear Amina Claudine Myers in her audiophile favorite album,"Amina Claudine Myers Salutes Bessie Smith" (Leo Records LR 103), especially track 3 of side A, "Jailhouse Blues". Her first utterance alone already strike me how much can be heard. There is so much power, and energy in her voice that I can hear her skill to pull them into control with a showcase of feeling and emotion. The lips of the vocalist can be felt and touched, as the vocalist tries to express a stop to the lyrics. This showcase the Vitus Masterpieces' prowess to present micro dynamic and transient in the human voice and present vocal, the most easily recognizable tone, with all intimacy, seductiveness and believability.
The quietness that is Vitus' Masterpiece,
"My Tutor", is what lingers in my mind as I listen more and more into this Masterpieces of audio components. I wonder what made them so compelling and intriguing that capture me in that time capsule of musical session? I realized that it is the quietness or extreme low level noise from the system as a whole that did the magic here. Yes, the experience is almost "magical" here.
Allow me to express so through the vinyl album from Telarc, "Boito: Prologue to Mefistofele, and Verdi:Te Deum" with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (Telerc DG-10045). This is a dynamic musical presentation with occasional complex passages and amidst those complexity, the chorus arises and take helm over the musical score. The Vitus Masterpieces not only allow those chorus to be heard so clearly within their respective space, but allow each choir member to be heard as individual, or as a voice within voices. What really impressed me further and that I can adhered to "quietness" of an audio system is that each choir member is well delineated with certain natural boundary, (and not those forceful sharpness that we tend to overdo on our television monitor) within a space surrounding the member and all under an "atmosphere" (or the air around the venue recorded).
When all is quiet, you will hear em all...
We tend to take for granted music(s) we love and listen frequently and believe that we know every note and inch recorded throughout the entire score. At one time, I was spinning my usual heavy rotation vinyl album from Nah Youn Sun,"Voyage"(Silk Road Music SRM008LP) where at track 1, side A contain a simple whistling that both my wife and I are well aware of.
Here, the whistling is so clear and believable that my wife who is outside my audio den ask me who is whistling in there. I wish to add what have accumulated to this phenomenon. The whistling is more of and to the background, and supposedly soft to add to the mood of the score. The Vitus Masterpiece did not bring forward this whistling or made it louder. The whistling just sounded more palpable, at the right tonal balance and weight, and surrounded with layer of air that floated it nicely and real. In addition, you can hear or feel the atmosphere of the recording venue here. Thus, that whistling is so real to my wife who is outside the room that she came in looking for that whistler.
The other components in the music,
The Vitus Masterpieces are able present music with all her components intact. Given that it is in the recording, they will not fail to showcase each component in its rightful place and space in the musical presentation. I wish to add and highlight that each component enjoys a presence, as it's meant and intended to be, in the score. Back to the same vinyl album of Nah Youn Sun, in track 4, side A, the saxophone is so full of weight, density and presence that even the air flowing through it carries weight.
As for stringed instruments, the plug of each string and it's vibration can be easily heard together with the amount of control and strength the musician applied to each string. What set apart the Vitus Masterpieces from the other competitions is that you can feel and hear the string(s)' vibration and dynamic transient, together with their palpable weight. To me, there is a whole lot of realism here that these Masterpieces have reason to be named so.
The musicians behind those musical instruments have their own presence and space;
In the jazz album of "One Foot in the Gutter (A Treasury of Soul)" by the Dave Bailey Sextet (Epic BA 17008) each musician enjoys a presence with weight in his own space within the group. Here, the presence carries such palpability that literally you can hear a clear full bandwidth of each musician, as if each musician is being play by one dedicated full bandwidth loudspeaker. To me, this result is clearly the (in)ability of the Vitus Masterpieces to not emphasize any particular bandwidth that may cloud the musical presentation and the individual presence of each component therein. You can say that my experience here is that I can hear and feel the full body of each musician.
The piano played by Diana Krall in "Live in Paris" (Verve ORG 003, vinyl 180gm/45rpm) took on such presence even when it is not suppose to be in prominence but in competition with the cello or bass in track 2, "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon) of side B. Every key played by Diana was so palpably weighted that it actually came alive in my audio system.
Landscape of the sound (or music) presentation,"Soundscape"...
The landscape of a sound or music presentation can encompass diverse factors. The above do represent some of the factors. Here, I wish to concentrate on the expanse of the scenery of the musical presentation. Usually, this category is use to depict the performance of loudspeaker design.
The Vitus Masterpieces system, with the right recordings, you can expect the presentation to go beyond your walls and ceiling of your audio room. The above factors will tell you that I have heard and experienced great detailing and imaging with great density within the wide, deep and high soundstage of the presentation. I wish to introduce the factor that hold them together to make up the "expanse of the scenery" or "soundscape" of the musical presentation, "the Air".
Here, the same air separate each musician and the musicians with the main artist or vocalist is so apparent, and clearly and cleanly separated that as if the air is an entity itself with the musicians. It can be experienced that the air is not just distancing the musicians in the presentation but also holding the whole presentation together thus expressing the "soundscape" of the music. Back to the recording of Diana Krall's Live at Paris is a good example of such air, thus separation, taking such palpability to the extent of entity-ing. The audience, the additional musicians backing the jazz ensemble and Diana in the middle of them all, can be easily segregated and enjoy, almost, individually, and all within the "soundscape" of the presentation.
The level of see through that one able to experience from the Vitus Masterpieces is as good as one entitled to expect in this price range which is "Damn Bloody Great!". As I have exclaimed from the beginning that "I can hear so much more through Vitus". They are like a magnifying glass of the highest order in the most musical of sense. The details are not thrown at you or highlighted beyond what is intended. Actually, the music presentation is presented as it was recorded and intended to be. As an audiophile, I would say that every time I hear any piece of music through them, my sentiment is toward the recording and I have yet to experience anything is being push to me. Maybe, this is what I experienced when the Vitus Signature Phonostage SP-102 was in service in my system with other branded components. The Vitus Masterpieces is so faithful and transparent to the recording that you will not notice the audio components at play but the music.
I did swapped the MPP-201 Phonostage with the SoundSmith Strain Gauge, immediately I notice and hear the difference of presentation but I must state that the rest of the Vitus Masterpieces act as the better conduit for it to perform better than any other set up that came my way. In reverse, the introduction of the Vitus Signature Phonostage SP-201 into other branded set up did not highlight noticeable "Vitus" character into the system. I wish to add that the Vitus Masterpieces is also faithful to the "character" of the connecting component(s), cables and etc. If you are a person of tweaks and candies unto your audio components and audio room, you will definitely hear the change(s) made. I learnt quite a bit in tweaking my system from the "Tutor", thanks to its transparency.
Bass, Dynamic and subsonic bass ( those you felt and not heard...)
As I have mentioned above that the Vitus Masterpieces are of extreme low noise audio components and this attribute to their ability to allow very low level detail to pass through with unhindered and clean dynamic range. Unless, you have heard an even lower noise components out there, which I have yet to ( and of course, I have not hear them all ), these components are truly masterpieces in this department.
Take any of the current reissue from Analogue Productions of Living Stereo Classical titles and you will experience so clean and defined low low, with well delineated information and direction. The low low is so clean and clear that as if the treble range to the low low with information all the way to the floor. This allow the effect of the low low to come at you from the recorded musical instrument(s). The sense of each musical instrument, within an orchestra, enjoy the density, palpability and weight, thus full bodied ness to have greater reality with wave after wave of low low information coming at the listener. There are materials that I can feel the waves of low low bass coming at me without hearing the boom. Given any good recording, the difference in the strength and layering of the low low waves that come at the listener allow him to better distinguish the instrument(s) played and the strength applied on those instrument(s). This is as real as it get from any audio system thus far for this listener. As far as analogue is concerned, the Vitus Masterpiece Phonostage MPP-201 is the sonic boom of phono stage!
Next stop will be the Vitus Masterpiece DAC MPD-201 in the system...enjoy.
Text: Dato' Danon Han
Pictures: Mr. Koo/Swedish Statement