As the months roll on and I spend more and more time with the entry RD-100 preamp/DAC, it continues to impress. There is a fine linestage in that unit but the DAC is seriously top draw. It falls short of a few of the ‘ultra’ Dacs which have passed through these walls of course (Zanden, Metronome, Trinity …) but then that’s hardly surprising given the modest price compared to those units. Back in sensible money league though it is possibly more than most people would ever want and I personally could live with one for good if pressed.
Many highend DACS tend toward the lean and analytical and if that’s your ball then there are plenty out there like that to choose from but Vitus digital is the exact opposite. All the detail and resolution is there at all frequencies but its not what you notice and overall the RD-100 sounds like a very good turntable with a generous but perfectly appropriate dose of warmth of richness. At the same time though, its transients are fast, the middle of notes and their decay are handled exceptionally well and generally your music collection sounds very dynamic and full of life and bounce. Here’s what one Naim 552/500/NDS/555PS owner wrote on the Naim forum recently about the player:
“So yesterday I had an extended demo of the Vitus SIA-25 with their entry RD-100 dac/pre-amp. I went in with a purpose in mind, which was twofold; how different the Vitus sound is to Naim, and how realistic and accurate the Vitus musical reproduction is. In summary, I was very surprised with the differences between Naim and Vitus, as I hadn’t expected this. On the latter, I have to say the Vitus set-up provided the truest musical reproduction I have heard. On reflection, I found myself losing track of the first objective, and just getting lost in the Vitus sound, which is actually a misnomer, as perhaps the greatest thing about it is that it has no sound of its own. More on that later.
Musical reproduction…what really stood out for me was the holographic imaging, deep and wide sound-staging, depth, detailing, combined with just the most wonderfully refined sound. There was a spooky sense of spacing around the singer’s vocals, like a physical presence and space that you could sense and almost reach out to in the room. On vocals, the spacing and depth in the start, continuation and stopping, is something I haven’t heard before. The blackness levels were just something else.
To me, this is the first time I have actually sensed the live music/being there experience. And I am not talking about going to a big concert…think more unplugged live music and an intimate and small audience. Thinking about it, I have never loved live music for the sum of the parts, rather the experience as a whole. That’s what the Vitus is all about. Have I heard some of these attributes in my Naim set up? Sure, to an extent, but the Vitus takes it to another level. It’s rare to find an amp that does all the above in a beautifully refined way and yet manages to sound so musical.
There is an argument that the Vitus sound is more aligned to solo artists, song writers, jazz, acoustic music and not necessarily rock. I would totally dis-agree to this. Yes, it doesn’t quite provide the same forward musical connection that we are all so used to, and love with Naim. On the flip side, it almost doesn’t feel the need to. In that sense, it really doesn’t have a sound of its own.
Of course though, this is Vitus we are talking about. As one reveiwer succinctly put it, their entry Reference products compete with most people’s flagship but for those of you who like a taste of the highlife there are another 3 levels above the ‘Reference’ range ! Enter stage left then the Signature class SCD-025 cd player/Dac.
The 025 is a blank sheet re-design of the former 010 player, a single box unit that can now either be used as a complete CD player or as a fully fledged DAC for streaming. If you are a spinner but plan to move at least partically into streaming at some point then its a completely futureproof solution. If you predominantly stream but occasionally play discs then it also makes a lot of sense. That said, there are UK customers who have bought this unit as a pure dac because even discounting the transport, the asking price compared to other ultra highend dacs without transports is still highly competitive.
As a Signature series piece the 26kg SCD-025 has machined aluminium sturdily affixed to top, bottom and sides too. It is visually almost identical to the 025 integrated and as it happens a perfectly balanced match sonically as well. The heft of the unit, the look and feel simply exudes quality and class; best not to try and and lift this one on your own. The top sliding draw is a thick meaty piece of aluminium too and moves backwards with a sense of weight and precision, a real joy to use. The fascia and controls are all standard Vitus.
Inside we have the high bandwidth 385Khz Anagram DSP timelock, 4 separate power supplies, an extensively reworked Philips CDPro2LF transport and Vitus’s modular based construction. The 025 is a heavily futureproofed device with an eye on expansion possibilities too.
Connectivity and functionality is exhaustive. The 025 has RCA and XLR outputs and for digital input, USB, XLR and single ended. Inside the menu system we have an internal volume option, phase inversion, switch-on volume adjustment, volume step adjustment, display brightness, input dB adjustment, gain offset and user configurable text labels.
In my own trials I have obviously used the inbuilt transport extensively but have also streamed from PC straight into the Hiface 1 USB socket through an Entreq USB cable. I have also tried the digital output from a number of other streamers from the likes of Logitech, Linn and Aurender, generally using HighFidelity Cables CT1 digital interconnect.
I suppose the jump from RD-100 to SCD-025 is much like the move from RI-100 integrated to SIA-025 integrated. When you play both side by side you at first might be surprised by how close the RD-100 gets and what amazing value for money it is. After a few tracks though, a few albums, a few days and weeks you fully understand that there is actually fairly big gulf between them. The differences are smallish in single isolated context but as a big picture, the gap in overall performance and hence musical enjoyment is anything but small.
One of the first things that struck me about the 025 was the dynamics and bandwidth. You’d never accuse the RD-100 of being soft or sleepy but once fully warmed up the drive, slam, the musical energy, the sheer vitality of the 025 is far greater and what’s more it’s abundant because it’s being better harvested and preserved from the data. Nothing added, nothing ‘pepped up’, the 025 is bringing you the vigour and vibrancy inherent in the recorded material and no electronics or design decisions further down the path are lessening or reducing that original sense of energy. I think ‘distortion free’ is the most correct way to describe this observation.
In fact I would go further and say that the 025 has a natural sense of vitality, verve and presence that I have rarely experienced with digital sources and as such it is deserving of the most capable and most honest of electronics and speakers. With transparency and bandwidth of this kind, you can assemble a system with the most neutral and even handed components the world has to offer. You don’t need cables that etch, speakers that accentuate the midrange or super speedy amps with transients that snap off the hairs from your chest. This for me is how it should work, the source as the source of all life and then a chain succeeding it which is endlessly balanced and see through.
Much like the SIA-025 integrated amplifier, the inner detail, expression, delicacy and very fine subtelties of notes and instruments also take a fairly big leap over the RD-100. Again, you would never accuse the RD-100 of lacking texture, intimacy and resolution but the SCD is just on another plain. Wider, deeper, cavernous. Room filling and enveloping in the most engrossing way, the 025 puts you closer to the essence of your music, more than you perhaps imagined was possible. What’s more, you can unearth all those dreadful CD’s that have long been banished to the loft and you’ll be shocked at just how much depth and colour that the 025 can breathe into them.
The tonality and balance of the 025 follows the house sound. The spectrum is very even all the way through and extended at both ends. Music sounds very free and unrestricted. Rhythms flow forward with wonderful agility and speed. The top end is refined and smooth but highly resolved, all of which means that in all but the most extreme systems, brightness and hardness is never on the menu. The midrange is gorgeously intimate and lifelike, and musical images have a fleshyness and a rich density that one does not normally expect from a transistor device or indeed a digital source.
When all is said and done, I think that the SCD-025 is all about musicality and having gotten to know the player so well, it feels a tad embarassing to try to describe it using a wooden checklist of audiophile personality traits, ‘more of this’, ‘less of that’ etc. I have heard a few higher resolving multi-box digital players, I have heard players that sound more incisive, more articulated and more impressive intially and I have witnessed many many players that did a lot right but were completely devoid of heart and soul and communicated precious little. The Signature device from Vitus though majors on delivering your music collection to your ears AS MUSIC. You find yourself melting away into your couch for hours on end, thinking more about the performers and the performances, the rhythmic and tonal relationships in front of you, the emotional intent and talent of the artist, drinking deep from the intoxicating fantasies, dreams, memories and ideas which your music collection invokes. The 025 engages and communicates in a way that is genuinely rare in this industry and although arguably expensive for a single box, it will most likely outlive the entirety of the rest of your system.
On demo and home loan now at Lotus hifi and priced at £16,500.
“It is quite simply the best single-box CD player/DAC that I have heard to date.”
“The Vitus is a device that stands as an antidote to some of the latest crop of ultra hi def. digital. So much of that stuff just drifts past me, drained of natural colour and with no sense of communication whatsoever. The Vitus sits squarely on the other side of the fence”
“As the Vitus had gotten into its stride and expanded its possibilities I began to appreciate just how open and musically free it was becoming. The sheer levels of communication were wonderful and powerful. ”
“The Vitus is totally sympathetic to the music and like the delicious dCS Vivaldi system, breathes new life into those old CDs from the 80’s and 90’s that have slipped to the bottom of the pile. I was astonished at what it did for John McLaughlin’s concerto for guitar and orchestra The Mediterranean.”
“But, like every Vitus product I have heard, it never, ever shreds the music or offers you a performance that is lost in the digital glare of high definition without ever sounding remotely academic.”
Please note that in the middle of 2015 the SCD-025 was upgraded to Mk2 specification. This involved a re-design of almost everything barring the bare transport and chassis:
Complete redesign of:
Complete Sound board
Sample rate converter
Analogue output stage
Dual reciever chips
USB implementation and board
The Mk2 is quite a leap then from the orignal Mk1. Even Vitus was surprised when they sat down to hear the final results. It now does various things almost as good as the masterpiece DAC. At the time of writing, to upgrade a mk1 to a mk2 cost around £5000. Not surprising given that its almost an entirely new player.