Vitus Masterpiece MPD-201, Vitus Masterpieces...Part 2 review

A brief recap of what the Vitus Masterpieces are in an analogue sourced system. 

They represent tonality and musicality that is true to the recording. Here, you can expect every recording to sound as it supposed to be. Which is very different from one another. 

(A bit about the transducers that play a role here)

I believe this is possible, to an extent, due to the Egglestonwork Ivy Signature Loudspeaker system that is meant to be used in the studio. This pair of loudspeakers have been with me for some months and I have experienced them to be revelation of a recording and are able to realize a "live scale" kind of dynamic and transient of energy. You can expect them to give you the pleasure of a full scale of any attack from any recording including those that comes with a "warning" as per some of the Telerc titles. I have driven these with a number of different amps from tubes to solid state, ie; Audio Research 610T mono, Pathos mono, Rogue Audio Apollo mono, Linn Klimax mono, Viola Bravo, Viola Legacy mono, Gryphon Colosseum stereo, Gryphon Mephisto Stereo and Mono, Vitus Signature SM-102 mono and finally, Vitus Masterpiece MPM-201. Each set of amp is able to drive them to reveal their best and differences, but sounds very different. Believe me, after a session with them that a number of visitors actually bought those amps from their respective distributor here. 

A brief talk with Hans ole Vitus...

About the Masterpiece Dac (MPD-201) and I realized he voiced it to sound very much to his Masterpiece Phonostage, MPP-201 that I like very much for the reasons stated in part 1 of the review. This really up my expectation on the Dac. Prior to this commitment, I was thrilled with a month stay with the CH Precision C1 Dac with its sibling, D1 SACD player/transport. The CH Precision combo is nothing short of impressive in term of timing, coherency and accuracy in most aspect of a musical presentation, as it's name implies; "Precision". I was so impressed with the CH Precision then that I was readied to commit. I maintained my status quo as I knew the soon arrival of the Masterpiece Dac.  

When the Masterpiece Dac came...

My sentiment is that the Vitus Masterpiece Dac will have it tough and difficult to beat the CH Precision combo. In term of 'precision' in their execution of the above mentioned timing, coherency and accuracy, I find that the CH combo is most hard to beat. Recently, a friend of mine (code name "the Shogun") has just received the X-1 power supply which is supposedly an add on for the C-1 Dac. His initial impression is that what ever weaknesses the CH combo has had been much rectified. When a few top tier Dacs were brought together in a formidable system for a short listening, it's obvious that not all of them sound the same. Recently, I have such an exercise (as reported here in my review of Loit Passeri CD player) and that the result is that I believe that the owner of the respective Dac has preferences and wish that his Dac can perform in certain area better than its existing parameter (my feeling exactly too).

I was advised that both the Vitus Masterpiece Phonostage and Dac have similar characteristics. If I love the Phonostage's sound than I will have no problem with the Dac and that I might even love it too. In a way, this advice has prepared me as to what to expect from this Dac. I have to say the advice is well received.

I did not receive the CD transport from Vitus thus I used the Aurender W20 as the media transport throughout this review. My first track that I chose to play is the same as I would play for review of the Vitus Masterpiece Phonostage which is Kit Chan. The same track "Triumph in the Sky" was played. At the beginning of this track, her voice was backed by a simple piano in close proximity. My initial impression as the first note was struck was how true, in a way, that advice was. The presentation was clean that I felt that there is a sense of balance being struck between the vocalist's voice with the piano being played. There is a clear distance between the vocal and the accompanying musicians and their instruments. 

Her voice and her feeling for the lyrics are being presented unhindered by the piano. Thus her voice sounded so enticing and natural. Here both enticement and naturalness of her voice are not dissected into separate element but are being presented as one. To me, the naturalness of her voice is the element of a human voice that is easily recognizable by our brain. The element of enticement is her artistry in presenting the words of the lyric. The Vitus Masterpiece Dac is able to combine both elements of her presentation as opposed to separate element, as some other Dacs sounded so clear in the clarity of each word in the lyric that the nuances of her expression and pronunciation of the words in the lyrics were not given appropriate space. I do not only look for the obvious in the presentation as some of my peers do but more into the presentation of the artistry of the artist(s) involved and this is the resolution that meant most in musical realism playback.

The Vitus Masterpiece Dac is a master in the balancing of musical presentation. It is able to balance out seamlessly between the vocalist, Kit Chan and the accompanying instrumentation in track 10 (for example). You can expect the same balancing of detailing as that of the vocalist's (given its in the recording and intended by the engineers). Here, the accompanying guitar strings is being treated as individual with a clarity of its presence and purpose in the musical presentation. I felt the musical touch of the guitarist and his artistry here. Although he may be just having a supporting role, both in strength and emotion, but the Vitus Masterpiece Dac is able to draw and present his actual and intended role in the presentation and never over emphasize it here. It is too often I heard Dacs that over detail a presentation and bring forth everything into the front emphasis. There are other Dacs that emphasize only a certain element of a presentation, example; the vocalist. To me, these Dacs will fail to please in the long haul because our brain will tired out trying hard to put those detail back into proper emphasis. 

Balancing the emphasis between multiple key artists of different artistry, role and instrument in a presentation may be the recording engineers' task. The designer of an audio component must also bear in mind of such task. I am sure that Hans Ole Vitus carry this burden in all his designs because I find myself so easily taken into the essence of a musical presentation time and time again from his Masterpiece Pre amp MPL-201 and Phonostage MPP-201 to the four chassis Mono amp MPM-201 and now the Dac MPD-201. I am reminded again in the album of "Antonio Forcione Quartet in Concert", where each musician has a key role in all the tracks. If anyone is over emphasized then that musical presentation may carry a very different emotional impact and meaning. In the track titled "Tarantella", the balance of emphasis is most crucial as different musician is given different space and time to play major and that the Masterpiece Dac is able to catch on the musician whom is playing the major while not losing the others' presence and weight the play. Here, no one is being down play is  one of the key to the intended musical presentation. In term of realism of each musical instrument, the Masterpiece Dac has no emphasis on any particular bandwidth (that I can detect of from my existing full Vitus Masterpiece audio system). The tonality of each musical instrument is clean with clear definition from the low low to mid to the very top. This can be attested to the fact that the transient of energy of different component in each instrument can be easily detected. In addition, each musical instrument carry the right weight, presence and size in the presentation. 

What about timing, accuracy and coherency? 

As mentioned earlier that the CH Precision C-1 Dac is among the finest in term of precise timing, accuracy and coherency of its musical presentation. I believe that its attributes are more incline toward the presentation of musical instrument. In comparison to the Vitus Masterpiece Dac, the CH does sound faster and more exciting. Some may say the CH can capture you into the music and would not let go. 

In the context of reproducing the human voice, as I have stated in part 1 of the Vitus Masterpiece review, timing is extremely important here. As an analogue enthusiast, I have worked hard to get my turntable to spin as accurate as possible to the desired 33.3rpm or 45rpm because I appreciate the effect of such toward the end result. The slightest difference in rpm will ultimately affect the timing which will affect the tonality, timbre, detailing, delineation, imaging, layering, separation, transient of energy, and the list goes on. In addition, this nuance of rpm of the platter on the turntable will not affect the human voice exclusively but all musical instruments and other elements in the musical presentation. The Masterpiece Dac's rendition of the human voice sounded much more natural and retained the essence of it that is realism. 

The CH has all the details of a human voice retrieved from the media but failed to compile those details back together to form what is realistic to my ears as the intended human voice. I am not saying that the CH sounds artificial in the reproduction of the human voice or that it's too detail. {To me detail is part of resolution and so does reconstruction and/or compilation of those detail. Therefore there is never any harm in retrieving too much detail (if ever there is a component that can do so) but not proper reconstruction and/or compilation of those detail will hinder a perfect presentation of them}. I dare say if its not for a direct comparison, I can easily accept or even love the human voice rendered by the CH. The "but" is that the Vitus' slightly 'slower pace' (compare to the CH) is able to present the amalgamation of emotion into that voice that really capture my heart. 

As for the reproduction of musical instrumentation, the CH is able to play them within certain timing that each instrument threw a strong presence with density, palpability and weight that resulted an accurate and coherent imaging. In addition this timing created a pace and rhythm that carry the listener into excitement. There is a sense of 'precision' in CH's presentation. The Vitus Masterpiece is at the same league in its presentation of the musical instrument but it's timing is quite different where there is appropriate space or gap for the presentation of the amalgamation of the artists' artistry in handling the instrument. The slight difference in time allow more detail to surface and coupled with proper reconstruction of those detail resulted in the listener able to hear into the artistry of the musicians. 

Vitus has produced one of the top tier phono stage in the current market and the obvious reason being able to get a number of points right (as illustrated in Part 1), and the Masterpiece Dac enjoy some similar traits. Ultimately, this Dac is mine to keep. 

Dato' Danon Han