While in Manhattan, New York City, in February 2017, I contacted Bob Visintainer of Rhapsody Music and Cinema. I met Bob originally at Munich Hi-End 2016 at the Ubiq Audio product introduction.
Several audiophile friends of mine have suggested that Vitus Audio amplifiers are a plausible solid-state alternative for long-time devotees of tube amplifiers. I knew Bob demonstrated at his location in Manhattan Vitus Audio and Kondo - Audio Note amplifiers.
I called Bob to ask for a comparison demo of a Vitus amplifier versus a Kondo. Bob graciously offered to entertain me at his audio goodies-packed loft the very next day.
Bob is not just an audio equipment salesman. Bob has been a high-end audio hobbyist, an audiophile, for most of his adult life.
Bob made his career in the computer industry. After 25 years in the computer industry his life was at a crossroad.
At the time Bob's personal audio system used Avantgarde Duos. He decided to make a career change and to become the Manhattan, New York, dealer for Avantgarde Acoustic. For about five years Bob was the proprietor of Avantgarde Music and Cinema.
Around 2004 Goldmund, Joseph Audio and MBL asked Bob to represent them in Manhattan. From that period until the financial crisis of 2008 Bob sold a lot of very expensive audio and home theater systems.
The financial crisis put a damper on high-dollar audio spending. After 2009 Bob focused on Goldmund, Kaiser-Acoustics, Kondo - Audio Note, Magico, MSB Technology and Vitus. Today Bob also carries Acoustic Signature, Absolare, Kubala-Sosna, Raidho Acoustics, REL Acoustics, Tara Labs and Ubiq Audio.
We listened to the rare Kondo Ginga turntable (which was beautifully machined and built, and included an elaborate motor controller box), the Kondo modified SME V tonearm and the Kondo IOM cartridge. The preamplifier was the Kondo M-1000 Mk. II with a Kondo SFz step-up transformer. Bob also played his Studer A812 with King Cello tape preamp.
We listened to Magico M3 speakers driven by 40 watt Class A Vitus SM-011 monaural amplifiers and by 50 watt Class A single-ended triode Kondo Kagura monaural amplifiers.
We had several limitations for a fully-satisfying comparison. I would have liked to compare the Vitus amps and the Kondo amps blind, but the cable switching required made it impossible for Bob to keep secret from me which amps were playing when. We did not have a huge amount of time, and Bob was not able to switch repeatedly between the Vitus and the Kondo. Finally, It had been suggested to me that the Vitus amp sounds better when fed with its own preamp. I would have liked to feed the SM-011s with the Vitus pre-amp, rather than with the Kondo preamp, so we could compare Vitus preamp with Vitus amp to Kondo preamp with Kondo amp, but we were not able to do that.
I have had tube amplifiers for all of my high-end audio life. I first had Manley 150s and then I acquired Vacuum Tube Logic MB-750s, which I still have now. Basically I have never heard a solid-state amplifier I really liked. Whatever solid-state amplifier I was listening with, I knew I would rather be listening with a conrad-johnson or a VTL or a VAC or a Jadis or a Lamm, etc.
I have heard from a significant number of people that Vitus amplifiers do not exhibit the slightly dry or bright or clinical sonic characteristics with which I have generally associated solid-state amplifiers. I personally have never cared for Soulution amplifiers, for example. But that is not any surprise: I prefer all-tubes, all the time. (Although I believe I could live happily with the Aesthetix Atlas hybrid which I think is a great amplifier for not a crazy price.)
While we did not have time for repeated back and forth comparisons of the SM-011 versus the Kagura I am confident that the Vitus is the least offensive solid-state amplifier I have ever heard.
We listened to:
- "Send in the Clowns" by Bill Henderson, Live at the Times (Jazz Planet Records/Classic Records)
- ”I've Got the Music in Me" by Thelma Houston, I've Got the Music in Me (Sheffield Lab 2)
- "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley, Grace
- An Oscar Peterson performance at 30 ips.
While listening blind to the Vitus (if we could have accomplished that) if Bob had told me we were listening to the Kagura I would not have questioned him. I did not hear from the Vitus the (for me) tell-tale signs of solid-state amplification. I heard no brightness or edginess or clinical-ness or analytical sound or "over-etched" sonic artifacts.
When we switched to the Kaguras I certainly felt that sense of a more relaxed sound which I feel I always experience with tubes. (Is this real or psychological when I see the 211 tubes light up? I think it is real, but I would be more comfortable reporting this if we had done a blind test.) I believe I heard a sweeter, slightly more rounded and harmonically rich presentation from the Kaguras. But the difference was surprisingly small given that the Kaguras are US$200,000 SETs!
I thought I may have found a smoking gun when I heard from Jeff Buckley a little bit of sibilance when we were listening to the Vitus. But, to my surprise, I heard almost as much (if not exactly as much) sibilance from the Kondo. So I could not draw a difference on that point.
The Oscar Peterson recording we listened to on tape proved once again the superiority of tape over everything else. There just is no comparison. The transparency and the "they are here" realism and presence I heard from that tape was laugh-out-loud (which I repeatedly did) amazing!
I have never been a fan of the sound of Magico speakers (or other "hyperfast" sounding, dynamic driver speakers) but the M3 sounded great, with no brightness or "etching" I could detect in this short listening session. Even if you have never been a fan of Magico speakers it would be educational for you to check out the new M3s.
I want to thank Bob for a wonderful visit and a very fun listening session! If you find yourself in Manhattan you should call Bob and arrange to visit his demo room.
Rhapsody Music and Cinema
27 West 24th Street, Suite 506
New York, NY 10010