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VTL Reference DAC


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Well,  curiosity forced me to make another unnecessary purchase.  A VTL Reference acquired from another member @Be quiet. This will displace the NOS Phillips TDA1540D based DAC in my second system and even if a sideways step sonically is beneficial in that it has multiple inputs and will only take up 1 rack unit in my equipment rack.

 

Sort of had to get it due to curiosity about the Ultra-Analog DA20400 modules. Back in 1990 it was between this and the STAX DAC-X1T for the title of best DAC in the world....  A title which would go either way depending on your sonic preferences.  A quick look at conversation from US to Aussie dollars and inflation means this thing was about $20,000 in today's dollars back then.

 

It has just today been delivered to @muon*. Sounds promising from what Ian has said  :)

 

Edited by Matthew Willims
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Yes, a very nice sounding thing, very analogue and natural sounding thing, piano and vocals are very nice, and everything is delivered in a very balanced way.

 

I couldn't say better or worse than the TDA1540D it comes down to personal preferences and the system that it will be in the defining things.

 

It's fuller sounding than my player, and some things like piano I think the VTL is doing better and maybe the balance of things is better.

 

Mind you the VTL is a bit hobbled being fed by a Marantz CD-50 with It's less than great coax output and I'm using a RCA cable and not a specific digital cable to connect it.

Edited by muon*
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On 27/07/2021 at 11:59 AM, MattyW said:

No, never tried Audio Note. Read some good things though

At one stage I heard the AN DAC5. If you like the Philips gear I think your flavour will align with the VTL more. 

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Posted (edited)
11 minutes ago, Be Quiet...Listen said:

At one stage I heard the AN DAC5. If you like the Philips gear I think your flavour will align with the VTL more. 

 

Yes, I'll have this set up in my equipment rack on Friday.  Bought some new screws with plastic washers so it doesn't scratch up the VTL when installed in the rack. Got to take good care of such a rare item.

 

Looking at recapping the near 30 year old electrolytic caps. Unfortunately VTL don't have schematics for this any longer.  A shame as it will make full restoration more difficult.

 

I never did bother with actually trying Audio Note as there were a few comparisons with the Abbas DAC2.1SE and 2.2SE. The Abbas came out on top.

Edited by MattyW
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1 minute ago, MattyW said:

 

Yes, I'll have this set up in my equipment rack on Friday.  Bought some new screws with plastic washers so it doesn't scratch up the VTL when installed in the rack.

Do bear in mind that the unit does get somewhat warm and some reasonable ventilation wouldn't go a stray.

 

And, do tube roll! It responds very well to that and you can really fine tune your sound. Have fun! 👍

 

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Posted (edited)
15 minutes ago, Be Quiet...Listen said:

Do bear in mind that the unit does get somewhat warm and some reasonable ventilation wouldn't go a stray.

 

And, do tube roll! It responds very well to that and you can really fine tune your sound. Have fun! 👍

 

 

Yes, it will be in the very top of the rack with a keyboard shelf installed beneath it. Means it will have room to breathe.  I've given some thought to this already  :)

 

It will have airflow both under and above it.  ;)

Edited by MattyW
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1 minute ago, MattyW said:

 

Yes, it will be in the very top of the rack with a keyboard shelf installed beneath it. Means it will have room to breathe.  I've given some thought to this already  :)

Early GE's were great. Red tip Telefunken's were too much for my system! Brimar Yellow T's were the pick of bunch.

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Posted (edited)

Did you try Raytheon Black Plate or RFT tubes? I've always liked the Raytheon Black Plates but in some gear they're simply too much. Very dynamic,  liquid sounding tubes.

 

It's a shame there's insufficient space to try 6414. :(

Edited by MattyW
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1 minute ago, MattyW said:

Did you try Raytheon Black Plate or RFT tubes? I've always liked the Raytheon Black Plates but in some gear they're simply too much. 

 

It's a shame there's insufficient space to try 6414. :(

Not the Raytheon Matt. Can't give you any insight on them.

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55 minutes ago, MattyW said:

Looking at recapping the near 30 year old electrolytic caps. Unfortunately VTL don't have schematics for this any longer.  A shame as it will make full restoration more difficult.

Get in touch with Manley. They can/do service old VTL gear. 

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It seems I won't hear it this Friday as I've come down with the flu.  In these uncertain times I'll be waiting until this has passed before I have Ian over for a listening session.

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On 28/07/2021 at 1:25 PM, MattyW said:

I never did bother with actually trying Audio Note as there were a few comparisons with the Abbas DAC2.1SE and 2.2SE. The Abbas came out on top.

Ahh...those famous words ;)   One day..but not today.  

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3 hours ago, MrBurns84 said:

Ahh...those famous words ;)   One day..but not today.  

The comparisons killed my interest in the AN DAC's if truth be told. I understand AN to be more coloured.  Doesn't mean I wouldn't enjoy it though I find at a certain level you're just comparing different flavours rather than whether something is truly better or not. I suspect that could end up being the case between my NOS TDA1540D DAC and the VTL. If it's truly better then that's a nice bonus.

 

The system it's paired with will eventually be paired with an LDR passive pre and darTZeel NHB108B circuit based amp so it will be rather nice.  The fast and slightly lean nature of the darTZeel NHB108B should balance nicely with the rather full and rich sounding vintage B&W DM-16 speakers. 

 

If anything the VTL Reference is a rarer breed than the B&W DM-16's though they're of a similar vintage with these particular speakers built only 6 years before the VTL.

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Posted (edited)

Seems with the new lockdown it may be quite some time before I hear the VTL.

 

Anyway,  just placed an order for a quad of Mullard CV4024 from the Mitcham plant.

 

CV4024 12AT7WA ECC81 M8162  Double Suture
Date Code: 8418   
Acid Etched Code:
654 R3L1  and 
654 R3L3
New Old Stock

 

Should be very nice once installed and burned in. :)

 

I've also emailed Manley about schematics for this unit. See how we go.

Edited by MattyW
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37 minutes ago, MattyW said:

Seems with the new lockdown it may be quite some time before I hear the VTL.

 

Anyway,  just placed an order for a quad of Mullard CV4024 from the Mitcham plant.

 

CV4024 12AT7WA ECC81 M8162  Double Suture
Date Code: 8418   
Acid Etched Code:
654 R3L1  and 
654 R3L3
New Old Stock

 

Should be very nice once installed and burned in. :)

 

I've also emailed Manley about schematics for this unit. See how we go.

 

Just confirming those 2 valves were made in the 1st and 3rd week of December 1963 in the Mitcham Mullard factory UK. I can even tell you what colour clothes the workers were wearing on the day these valves were manufactured. 😁

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6 hours ago, xlr8or said:

 

Just confirming those 2 valves were made in the 1st and 3rd week of December 1963 in the Mitcham Mullard factory UK. I can even tell you what colour clothes the workers were wearing on the day these valves were manufactured. 😁

 

Should be a very nice valve for this unit methinks. Do you have experience with this particular valve? I'd be interested in your thoughts on its sound..... And out of curiosity the colour of the workers clothes. Don't need to know the colour of their knickers though.....  :P

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The Mitcham made ECC81/12AT7's are one of the best sounding tubes to own. Their sound is different compared to Blackburn equivalents. What you get from a Mitcham tube is a more layered sound spread across the frequency spectrum. Blackburn tubes focus more in the finesse of the sound. Mitcham tubes were manufactured to a different standard to address military specifications and the lowest noise levels. They have a lovely euphonic sound.

 

The best sounding Mitcham ECC81/12AT7 tubes though are those manufactured in the mid 1950's. I believe this tube started production circa 1953 with the grey welded plate version as I have a few samples from this era. As the years progressed, the sound became more delicate and focused in the top end - in a sense lighter. However, the detail that is presented in the mid band in all these tubes is the most outstanding feature.

 

Happy to recommend other ECC81/12AT7 tubes to fit the bill. 👍

 

 

Edited by xlr8or
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Posted (edited)
29 minutes ago, xlr8or said:

The Mitcham made ECC81/12AT7's are one of the best sounding tubes to own. Their sound is different compared to Blackburn equivalents. What you get from a Mitcham tube is a more layered sound spread across the frequency spectrum. Blackburn tubes focus more in the finesse of the sound. Mitcham tubes were more focused on military applications and the lowest noise levels.

 

The best sounding Mitcham ECC81/12AT7 tubes though are those manufactured in the mid 1950's. I believe this tube started production circa 1953 with the great welded plate version as I have a few samples from this era. As the years progressed, the sound became more delicate and focused in the top end - in a sense lighter. However, the detail that is presented in the mid band in all these tubes is the most outstanding feature.

 

Happy to recommend other ECC81/12AT7 tubes to fit the bill. 👍

 

 

 

It sounds like I'll enjoy these very much, probably even more than a Blackburn made tube. With some luck it's not too top end focussed as I'd like some good solidity in bass with this unit. Certainly interested in your recommendations on tubes for this DAC. Low noise should be ideal in this application.

 

I don't intend to tube roll though you just never know. Brimar have always had an enjoyable sound and I've always loved the detailed, liquid sound of Raytheon Black Plates though really have no experience in 12AT7 types apart from running the Raytheon 6414 black plate as a sub in a Yaqin MC10T I had years ago. The 6414 is too tall to fit in the VTL though sadly.

Edited by MattyW
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The single notch black anode plate rectangular getter Footscray Brimar 12AT7's circa 1950-1952 are the ones to go for here. Have a look at the top row in the first link below.

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/LOT-OF-8-x-BRIMAR-12AT7-ECC81-CV455-SQUARE-GETTERS-1950-1956-/203543914826

 

https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/3-x-Brimar-ECC81-12AT7-CV4024-Square-Getter-Valve-Tubes-Used-Tested-V28-/184853639015

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Posted (edited)

I guess I'll be bidding on those. How would they compare with the '63 Mullard I have coming?  Which would you rate over the other? 

Edited by MattyW
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