Written in March 2017. Prices and model names might be out of date.
In over 3 years of retailing Vitus Audio I have moved many Naim Audio owners over to the Danish brand as a complete system upgrade. Out of about 5 or 6 dozen Naim to Vitus customers over the years, pretty much all of them still have the Vitus we sold them and it continues to deliver long term fuss-free listening pleasure. This then is now a very well trodden path and one that has produced many deeply satisfied customers who came to Lotus looking for an upgrade and/or system simplification.
When I wrote my original Naim to Vitus guide back in 2015 I never made mention of that other large UK brand Linn. Well the truth is that most of what is said in that original article really applies to Linn as well and although Linn owners tend to be more closed off to other brands, we have moved a decent number of customers from Linn Klimax and Akurate gear into Vitus as well. The Vitus RD100 vs KDSM is a popular demo for example as is any of the Vitus Integrateds against a set of Klimax Solos with a KK/1. There has also been a growing swell of customers not willing to take up the Exakt topography and Vitus represents a whole new world for them to step into and climb.
So 3 years on and with a lot more experience under my belt I thought it would be a good time to pen an update to my first Naim to Vitus article which addresses some of your more common questions and concerns that tend to crop up.
Does Vitus ‘Boogie’ ?
Yes, very much so. Vitus is very rhythmical and tuneful and it times amazingly well. The coherency with which it lays out and organises the music is something else. The sound is propulsive, very dynamic and very alive. The way it achieves this is in a very natural unforced way.
The Naim sound is very time coherent and also punchy and engaging. This is very important because music is fundamentally energy and when it does not sound dynamic and in time, you immediately lose interest. The thing is Naim achieves its ‘Boogieing’ by both reducing and enhancing certain parts of the signal. The inherent downside of these manipulations and Naim’s inherent design topology is that there is also a significant reduction in the beauty of the sound, the very fine details and nuances, the imaging ability and size of the soundstaging, the true volumes and spatial positions of different parts of the music, the timbral and tonal accuracy and note decay. Music also always sounds a bit more foward, aggressive and exciting than it really is and you can’t switch this fixed attitude off, it’s always there.
Vitus Audio first and foremost strives to honour a similar philosphy to Naim, in that music must be time coherent, dynamic and full of life or otherwise it’s just plain dull and boring. In this primordial respect they are on the same page. The way Vitus adheres to this philosophy though is not by adding this ‘fast, pacey, exciting’ character into the sound but by simply revealing the source as honestly as possible with the lowest distortion and highest bandwidth designs possible and with lots of very clean uncorrputed power and big heavyweight transformers. When done this way you do not need to add anything back in or alter the repsonse of certain parts of the frequency spectrum. The result is even greater shifts in energy, even greater coherency and of course, none of the reductions and compromises as listed above. When you hear live music you never come away thinking that the band needed ‘ a faster leading edge’ or ‘more pratt’. The real thing wants for nothing.
Surely sound is all personal preference ?
Yes, some facets of the sound are personal preference …. bright vs. dark, warm vs. cold, laid back vs. up front, smooth vs. detailed sounding. Within a Vitus system we can tune all of these properties if need be using system dressing and accessories. Although very important, these are relatively minor presentational considerations. That said, for nearly all buyers the natural ‘rest-pose’ presentation of Vitus is usually about perfect in terms of those sliding scales mentioned above so no tweaking of this kind is required.
What is more difficult to achieve when designing equipment is really high transparency, good neutrality and very low noise. The lower the distortion and higher the transparency, the more information you will hear and the more dynamic the sound can be. The more neutral the amplifier, the less it imparts its own sonic siganture to the music. Simply put, the more the equipment disappears and the more you can hear of the recording, the better it will sound, the more real it will sound and the greater the emotional connection will be with the artist. A system that is like this is more nuanced, more immersive, more emotionally potent and more enjoyable, you are effectively just closer to the music. Experience has told me that this is universal across nearly all people and all genres of music.
What is meant by a ‘Highend’ sound ?
Well exactly the above really. Very high levels of resolution and equipment that is very transparent to the source. Put another way, the equipment has very little sound of its own and lets you hear an awful lot of the actual recording. The frequency response is also very even so when you hear a piano note for example, you hear all of its component frequencies of sound in the right proprtion and at the right intensity. The result is that it sounds like a real piano rather than sounding slightly pinched, slightly metallic or lacking in body.
Good highend equipment will also faithfully telegraph the very smallest of nuances – slight pressure changes on a piano key, difficult or awkward rhythmical structures, the faint breath and rasp from a singers voice, the subtlest of musical accents as a saxophonist cascades through a scale. This is artistry, skill, emotion. It is the very essence of ‘music’.
A ‘Highend’ sound also usually means a very large sound, an expansive 3d soundstage that completely leaves the speakers and fills the room in multiple layers. This is often one of the first biggest surprises to the Naim user, that the Vitus sound is much bigger, way outside the speakers and seemingly limitless in its sense of life and energy.
Don’t a lot of so called highend systems sound a bit sterile with too much detail and not enough ‘musicality’ ?
Well yes this can sometimes be the case. Some equipment does sound like this. It’s actually a very diffcult trick to pull off, to make an amplifier or a digital source that has very high resolution and detail levels but at the same time, one that does not sound bright, harsh and fatiguing. Suffice to say that Vitus definitely does not do this and it’s a very big reason why it’s such a satisfying brand and is doing so well. It gives you the highest levels of resolution this indutry has ever seen but the whole sound, the tune and the song always remains uppermost. Vitus always sound rich and full bodied, it is the very opposite of lean and analytical and it is always effortlessly ‘musical’.
Why does Vitus sound so good at comparatively less money ?
Many of the best things in life are bespoke, finely crafted and built in small numbers. Wine, cars, watches, furniture, jewelery. At the centre of the best things is always love and passion. Vitus Audio is no different. It is a small company completely free from bean counters, shareholders and bloated workforces. Hans Ole Vitus, musician, music lover, turntable collector and devout audiophile guides the company in exactly the way he sees fit. His approach is uncompromising and of course he is a brilliant designer.
The accompaniment to being a smaller bespoke company is smaller overheads. Although Vitus uses very expensive components throughout and has invested in some of the most advanced machinery in the industry, his relatively modest infrastructure means that he doesn’t have to pay 140+ salaries and an enormous lease on a gigantic premises. He’s also a very fair person and not puppeteered by other people who have a vested interest in company profits. Whilst he could charge £30,000-£40,000 for an SIA-025 Integrated Amplifier (because that’s the level it operates at relative to the competition – and he would still sell plenty of them at that price) he chooses not to but to offer very fair value to the consumer instead.
If Vitus is so revealing do poor recordings sound worse ?
No the opposite is true. A good system should sound good on all material. We find that when a system is more honest and more transparent then the true nature of a recording becomes more apparent and the greater clarity and coherency allows you to appreciate it for what it really is. Once you appreciate and understand the limitations of a recording better it’s easier to ignore them and then get on with just focusing on the music.
I have NDS/CD555 + 552 + 500 all DR’d, what Vitus do I need to get an upgrade ?
You can go to any combination really. Either the Reference RCD-101 CD/Dac with the RI-100 Integated (£19,600) or the Signature SCD-025 + SIA-025 Integrated (£36,500). We have even had one 500 series owner step into the RI100 with just the £2000 inbuilt DAC module (£11,900) and he was pleased as punch.
The Reference system will be a significant sonic upgrade and by the time you’ve traded in your old equipment, not much of a financial outlay, maybe some money coming your way. It’s fair to say that most 500 series owners go to the Signature series though because they often have some money to put in and they also like the idea of a very large sonic jump that they don’t ever have to upgrade again. Whilst the reference series is beautifully built the Signature series also represents an upgrade in terms of cosmetics and casework and this is an important part of ownership for many as well. Some customers also go for one Signature unit and one Reference; the SIA-025 amp partnered with the RCD-101 is a popular route for people who have a turntable because the better amp will benefit all sources.
Some customers like to compare apples with apples and felt it only fair to spend the same amount on Vitus as their Naim system cost them. Purely on price, the closest matching Vitus system to a 500 setup is actually the SCD-025 CD/Dac partnered with SL-103 preamp and SS-103 power amp. We have only had a few customers take this route and we stress that it’s a large jump of many many levels and really not necessary sonically but it still remains a perfectly viable option.
Finally, many customers we have sold Vitus to had a system slightly lower down that the full 500 series, perhaps a 552/300, a 252/300, maybe a CDS3 in there and also guys with older olive setups like 52/135’s. The thing to remember here is that anything they move to in the Vitus world will be an even bigger sonic jump subjectively relative to someone who has a full 500 DR system.
I have KDSM + KK1 + Klimax Solos, what Vitus do I need to get an upgrade ?
The same as above applies really. Either the Reference CD/Dac + Integrated or the Signature set and both of them cost less than the Linn did orginally. Another common Linn upgrade we encounter is the KDSM whether in /1 /2 or /3 guise. Some customers have these outside of Linn systems and it’s a very easy move to go to the Vitus RD-100. The RD-100 is a Dac + Preamp just like the KDSM. Ok so you need a streamer with the Vitus as well (such as the £2099 Melco N1Za) but that combination still comes out at £10,600 versus £18,900. The difference is not small either with the Danish setup having a much lower noise floor, a more natural sound, more analogue and dimensional and just greater resolution and transparency. Of course if you match the Linn on price then you would partner the SCD-025 with the Melco streamer and then it’s a far greater sonic upgrade again.
Do I need really expensive cables to go with my new Vitus system ?
No you don’t. We don’t push people into spending lots of money on new cables but simply point out that because Vitus is very open and low distortion if you want to spend more, then you can go very high up the cable ladder and you will hear every last benefit. We often find that with Vitus equipment, customers take a new stance on cables and other system accessories such as Stillpoints as they realise how powerful they can be in a very transparent system.
That said, many of my Vitus customers just run basic TelluriumQ Black or Ultra Black. This is a good neutral and open cable that is well known to the Naim fraternity and it is relatively inexpensive. It will work beautifully with Vitus. You do not need to spend fortunes on system dressing to make a Vitus system impress but the benefits are there if you so choose.
I tried swapping cables before and they didn’t make any difference ?
Well yes, this can easily happen but the reason it happens is because the system you tried it in has probably not reached a level of transparency whereby differences are easily audible.
As an analogy imagine going into your fridge and making a fairly awful concoction out of every liquid you can find. Make the same potion again but this time leave out that little drop of lemon juice and you probably won’t be able to tell the difference. Like a system with lots of distortion and colourations at each and every juncture, your concoction is a huge mass of colliding flavours and leaving out one ingredient isn’t going to made a jot of difference withink the context of the huge muddled mess. But now take your mixing jug and make a far purer drink, lemonade with ribena. Make the same drink again and leave out the ribena and the difference will patently obvious.
Although i’m not the greatest with analogies, cables in a system work a little like this. A cable doesn’t improve the sound in any way it’s just that the better the cable the less distortion and colouration it introduces into the system. So when you use a better cable in a very pure and low distortion system like Vitus you will easily notice a further increase in openeness and transparency but in a system that is already too much of a hotchpotch of different distortions, in percentage terms you aren’t really cleaning up the system any further. Suffice to say that a Vitus setup let’s you hear all manner of tweaks and improvements.
Is Vitus difficult to set up ?
Nope. As above really, on home demos Vitus will impress pretty much straight out of the box using standard mains leads, modest interconnects and speaker cables and just plonked on an existing rack. That said, it does improve markedly with heat in the casework and we always ask you to properly appraise it after 48 hours powered on.
There is one minor detail regarding racks and supports. Vitus can sometimes be sensitive to what it’s sat on but to be fair it’s no different to any other piece of good equipment in this respect. It generally does not like glass and it does not like heavy wood as well. One can make it sound ‘glassy’, the other a little dead and turgid. The easiest thing to do on a home demo is to use a set of three Stillpoint feet. These properly isolate the Vitus from whatever rack or furniture you have so you can literally demo the units on the carpet or on a sideboard or your fraim with the glass removed.
Does Vitus need regular servicing and does it ever go out of tune ?
No on both counts.
Can I retain my Fraim/Isoblue/Hutter/Quadraspire ?
Yes you can. The simplest way of using these racks whilst also optimising the performance from the Vitus is to Stillpoint each Vitus box. Ultra SS feet are £660 for a set of three and to be honest they add so much to the performance of each box that we even advise them if you have one of our racks from Entreq or PAB.
On the Fraim you just want to remove the glass and stillpoint the Vitus straight to the wooden pieces. Glass is rather a primitive way of adding focus and attack but it can also introduce hardness and glare and through a Vitus system you will notice this considerably. It will damage the very lifelike and evenly balanced tonal rendition of the upper frequencies. The extra attack and focus you won’t need because the Stillpoints will increase dynamics and transient speed to an greater extent and in a much more sophisticated way that has no downsides.
Can I retain my Superlumina/Sarum cables and Powerlines ?
Yes you can if you like. The Super Lumina are good cables at a similar sort of level as the Tellurium Ultra Black. You will release more performance from going to Highfidelity Cables but Vitus will be perfectly happy with Super Lumina. The Sarum TA and SA are also good cables and can be used as well although many do elect to swap over to Highfidelity.
The Powerline is also an excellent product from Naim and I’ve always thought it keenly priced as well for what is a pretty good mains cable. In the case of the Signature series you get a very good Andromeda mains cable incldued (£1400 worth) so you wouldn’t use a powerline there as it would be a backwards step.
How do I stream digital music with Vitus equipment ?
This is an easy one. You just purchase a Melco, the leading streamer in the marketplace right now. You may in fact already own one because most Linn and Naim dealers sell them as they are an admirable upgrade to an existing DS or NDS network player in the context of a Linn/Naim system.
The base N1a model runs at £2099 and then there are superior models at £4299 and £7699 if you wish to maximise performance. Note that the level entry N1a model though will be enough to constitute a significant upgrade and you don’t have to spend more than this if you don’t want to.
Both the RCD and SCD CD/Dac units from Vitus have transports so can spin CD’s as well as accept multiple digital inputs from your Melco or indeed Skybox, Bluray player etc. If you don’t ever spin CD’s then you can either simply ignore the CD drive and treat the unit as a pure DAC or in the case of the Reference range, opt for the RD-100 Dac/Preamp over the RCD-101 CD/Dac.
That then just about wraps it up. If I think of any other questions I will be sure to add them in when I get the chance. As ever just give me a ring or drop me an email for more information, I hope it’s been of some use. More links to explore down below. Of course if none of this appeals to you especially then please be sure to see my preloved section. We always have lots of used Naim, especially 500 series and we still need to sell that too !
Been doing a fair bit of listening, most days, enjoying the Vitus immensely, best decision I ever made hifi wise! The Proteus too, i’m still learning just what this cartridge is about.
Hope you and your family are keeping well, business looks brisk, i go on your website now and again.
The Vitus equipment is allowing me to enjoy many recordings which I had ignored because previous equipment was unable to convey the nuances which contribute to musical communication. And it is all down to your informative blog on the Lotus website.
Have a really Great Christmas,
Hi Richard, system sounds just stunning, what has really got me is just how dynamic and enveloping it all is. Been in heaven for hours and hours. You definitely have a new customer ! Will call tomorrow to discuss final order.