Two VAC Statement 452 IQ MusicBlocs - The Keystone To My Bucket List System

Mobiusman

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May 25, 2010
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For the past three years I have been assembling my “Bucket List System”, the ultimate audio system I could afford and pay for before I retired to fulfill an audio dream conceived when I was 10-at an audio show in San Francisco with my dad. Now I am 71, much older than my projected retirement age of 55-60, writing this in the middle of a pandemic living by myself and recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Going from an obsessed workaholic with no free time or energy for me, to suddenly be home all of the time with tons of free time, but many TBI-related struggles added a fundamental challenge I have never had, diminished cognitive skills. I found myself left with tons of time to work out the expected kinks from assembling a totally new dream system that was 5X over budget and had some big twists/delays, which are common with this kind of project. The pandemic made it impossible for some of the planned onsite technical support from Von Schweikert Audio for setting up my Ultra 9 speakers and to create my total loom of MasterBuilt Ultra cabling, forcing guided support from afar, Riverside, CA.

Fortunately, I had most of my core equipment and speakers before the pandemic started. I was awaiting my new music server, the hailed Extreme from Taiko Audio to talk to my MSB Reference 70 fempto clock DAC, and still working out my analog arm, via a Bergmann Odin/ Galder turntable with a ZYX Ultimate Optimum cartridge. In February Leif Swanson, VSA head designer, had just visited for several days and realized that a serious current surge had damaged one of my 1000 watt plate amps and its associated 15” subwoofer. He took the amp and woofer when he returned to Riverside, expecting to return in 2-4 weeks to reinstall them and “force” another visit with one of my now close friends Leif, hopefully along with another new close friend, and VSA CEO Damon Von Schweikert.

Then came Covid-19 and no travel, nor life as we knew it. Ultimately, I had to send the whole speaker back to Riverside to insure proper reinstallation since there is a lot going on inside the Ultra 9, as one might guess by all of the tuning controls on the speaker’s back side. While the shipping was way more than paying to fly Leif out, it also was somewhat of a pain and left my Bucket List System one speaker shy. So I took my Endeavor 3 MK2 speakers from VSA used in my secondary system and hooked them up to my Bucket List System electronics powered by a VAC Statement 450 IQ Stereo amplifier. It was an unexpected pleasure that helped me appreciate what each of my carefully selected pieces was contributing. In the process I became very impressed by the E3MK2’s with such a powerful front end.

The one area I was concerned about was speaker output and control when my Ultra 9 ultimately returned from Riverside to join its orphaned sibling. This leads me to the actual reason for this thread, the VAC Statement 452 IQ Musicbloc, although configurable as a stereo amp with no sonic degradation inserted into my system as two monoblocs. Although I was now retired and not making what I once made by a long shot, I knew that to fulfill my true Bucket List System dream I had to upgrade to two VAC Statement 452 IQ’s so that I could listen at concert levels as I frequently like to do. Besides, Kevin Hayes new layout and circuit upgrades in just about every area, especially the power supplies which have 4X the current capacity of the Statement 450 IQ’s, sounds much, much better than the Statement 450 IQ series, which were reference level already.

For those of you who do not know the VAC Statement 452 IQ, it is a radical update of the 11 year old design of Statement 450 series of amps, including major layout learnings from the VAC Statement 450 IQ Integrated project, using a vertical one chassis configuration, with all of the power supplies in the bottom of the vertical stack and far away from the noise sensitive amplification section on top. It retains much of the great features of the latest 450 IQ products, especially the IQ system which insures continuous perfect output bias, which essentially removes most of the downside of tube amps, especially high power units. The IQ system keeps the sound consistent by constantly adjusting the bias for each output tube, and also vastly prolongs tube life.

At this point my amps have been on with signal 24/7 for 9 days or 216 hours towards its basic break-in target of 500 hours. So let me cut to the chase, while I am definitely not broken in, I have been observing the entire path closely as it unfolded. At this point after 6 hours of initial sonic bliss, providing a hint of the final amp sound, the sound went south changing sound every 15-30 seconds. At this point I have gotten most of tough part of the break-in done with a major sonic transformation at about 145 hours. It was at this point, that I exceeded my prior sound with the Statement 450 IQ Stereo in every aspect.

There are two main areas of improvement with the 452 IQ’s compared to the 450 IQ Stereo: 1) I have much more power with much more power reserve, finally giving the Ultra 9’s the control and headroom they had been crying for to do their best; and 2) the signal path has been so modified with large reductions of the wire used for the component direct wiring in all VAC Statement products. So while the power supply and amplifier circuits are physically more isolated, the vertical design makes it possible to reduce more than a hundred feet of internal wiring. Add to these two key factors, Kevin took all that he has learned in the past 11 years and upgraded all aspects of the design.

So while the 452 IQ is now the big brother of the VAC family, it has so little in common sonically with all other VAC products due to the many design changes that makes a VAC 452 IQ such a special piece. One thing that it does have in common is the VAC sound that is not solid state nor tube, just realistic sounding. Except the 452 IQ is such a giant leap ahead of the Statement 450 products. Top to bottom you hear totally clearer, quieter and less distorted sound, with “several hundred additional horse power” to control the already superb Ultra 9’s.

I should mention that my system design centered around clarity and believability to make the most realistic sound conceivable from a two channel system. Part of the reason I was 5X over budget is that to attain this goal, every millimeter of signal path must be tended to. MasterBuilt’s Ultra line of aerospace products were tasked with insuring all of the components were powered with MB Ultra power cords, which make an absolutely astounding difference. All signal path connections between my components were MB’s Ultra interconnects with Boochino connectors to insure no rhodium coloration and MB Ultra biwired speaker wire. I need to put the insistence of MB Ultra Loom in perspective, by the simple statement that without it, I am sure that I would not be able to even closely approach the sound I am listening to as I write this.

Another key “accessory” that I consider a “component” are CMS footers under all of my system components except my speakers, because Leif needs to come to modify the bottom of my 9’s for the speaker footers to work. I will make these changes once the pandemic allows Leif and Damon to come visit and hear what is no doubt better sounding than any of the super show systems done jointly with VAC, VSA and TAC and have won hundreds of best of show awards. I say this show systems are functioning in terrible scenarios and never have a chance to fully settle in. The best way I can summarize the combination of the VSA Ultra 9’s and the VAC 452 IQ Musicblocs supported my electronics, cabling and resonance control with the help of the CMS footers is the VAC Statement 452 IQ’s and VSA Ultra 9’s are MADE FOR EACH OTHER!!!!!

Since I am still in the break-in phase, I will write again when the 452’s have passed 500 hours and have reached some stage of stability and connected to my now very stable system with extreme attention to the entire signal path optimized and most resonances tended to via the CMS footers and a vibraplane for my turntable.

If anyone is curious about my other WBF posts related to creating My Bucket List System, they can be found on the forum under my user name Mobiusman

At this interim point, I have the best sound I have ever had, and if not the best sound I have heard, amongst the best I have heard. I have no doubt that the end point of the VAC 452 IQ’s break-in will result in one of the finest sounding systems out there.
 

Holli82

Well-Known Member
Jun 7, 2010
175
106
450
Russ, I very happy that you finally have your "Bucket List System" completed. You are preaching to the choir here regarding the synergy with VSA, VAC, CMS and Masterbuilt. I tend to listen at lower levels so I find my VAC 450s sufficient for my power needs. Wishing you all the best with the system.
 
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Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
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Jersey Shore- waterside
Russ, I very happy that you finally have your "Bucket List System" completed. You are preaching to the choir here regarding the synergy with VSA, VAC, CMS and Masterbuilt. I tend to listen at lower levels so I find my VAC 450s sufficient for my power needs. Wishing you all the best with the system.
Wow,

We really have similar systems. All I know is that I love listening to my system. BTW, according to Kevin, one 452 in stereo is superior to a pair of 450 monoblocs. I love the sound of the 452 top to bottom and could not go back to a 450.

russ
 

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
607
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Jersey Shore- waterside
My sound is now so different than it was when I made my above post. I truly have no idea where these are going. But I do know that they passed the "I am thrilled point" four days ago. And it is already so much better and no doubt will continue.
 

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
607
244
455
Jersey Shore- waterside
It is Thursday, New Year's Eve and my sound has changed so much since Monday. There have been a couple of short dips followed by improvement. Last night the sound was expanding down my side walls avery 10 minutes. I now have about 300 hours on the amps

I am big CMS footer fan, but their breakin is a total pain and lasts for at least 14 days if not 21. My amps are on an area rug and on day 3 and I put four 1.5 CMS footers under each. When I had the VAC 450IQ Stereo in the center on the rug on the footers (4 under the power supply and another 4 under the amplifier section (stacked on top of the power supply with good result). I then put a 2 inch thick piece of slate under them and had an immediated and dramatic improvement.

Since I now have two amps the slate does not work, so I had 2 3/4 thick stainless steel plates fabricated, which have about 6 coats of black enamel paint on them for looks and damping. About an hour ago I moved the amps onto the plates, each with 4 1.5 footers under the chassis, not the amp outrigger feet.

While I went somewhat backwards sonically, it was not as bad as a totally new install, although as I am writing this, the bass has disappeared and the soundstage has collapsed (typical CMS breakin stages). So I will probably not report for at least another 150 hours or 2 weeks, which ever sounds better.

I have attached two pictures to demonstrate my craziness
 

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Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
607
244
455
Jersey Shore- waterside
I said I would not post for about two weeks, but I made a statement about the CMS footer breeakin and lack of enthuasiasm for going through that process as I am learning my new amps.

Well maybe the footer retained some of whatever they do, and I quickly shifted them from being under the amp and on the carpet to being on the painted stainless steel planks I had fabricated,. At first it was pretty grim.with massive muddiness and tremendous loss of bass. But about 25-30 minutes later, it rapidly moved towards the sound while still on the carpet, even with some areas of new improvement. Another 30 minutes later, it actually sounded pretty good, with some raspiness in the highs.

It seems like the next several weeks will be sonically superior to what I was expecting. This time it is good to be wrong.
 
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gadawg58

Well-Known Member
Apr 7, 2018
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Congrats on an awesome system. I can only imagine how good it sounds!

George
 
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Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
607
244
455
Jersey Shore- waterside
Congrats on an awesome system. I can only imagine how good it sounds!

George
Thanks George. I had several BAT preamps and loved them even with a Spectral Ref DMA 30 amp. The VAC electronics seem to work well with my VSA Ultra 9's, but then the full loom of MasterBuilt Ultra cables and CMS footers everywhere also help..

I live on the Jersey shore half way between NYC and Philly. If you are ever around here please free to come visit.

Happy New Year.

russ
 

gadawg58

Well-Known Member
Apr 7, 2018
71
38
85
Thanks George. I had several BAT preamps and loved them even with a Spectral Ref DMA 30 amp. The VAC electronics seem to work well with my VSA Ultra 9's, but then the full loom of MasterBuilt Ultra cables and CMS footers everywhere also help..

I live on the Jersey shore half way between NYC and Philly. If you are ever around here please free to come visit.

Happy New Year.

russ
Russ ... once the world gets back to normal I will take you up on your kind offer because while I live in Dallas I have an office in Philly also. Thanks and take care!

George
 

Mobiusman

Well-Known Member
May 25, 2010
607
244
455
Jersey Shore- waterside
I am now approaching 800 hours of run time on my VAC 452 IQ Musicblocs's with signal passing. Each amp is configured as a 450 watt monobloc with a four times normal current reserve.

In summarry the break-in process moved forward and backwards with a consistent pace until about 300 hours, when the sound chaged dramatically for the better and then did not flucutuate much for more than 10 days, leading me to conclude that I had moved to another sonic plane that I thought was the first evidence of the amps ultimate sound.

Boy was I wrong. Eventhough I still hear small improvements every 1-2 days, instead of the former every 15-60 SECONDS changes, something weird started to happen about 5 days ago. After atleast 10 days with no swings, although and fairy consistent forward improvement, my sound started to slowly, but progressively tank, to the point that I was questionning the purchase, especially since I am now retired and do not have the same resources.

For the past 5 days my sound has been "good" for a $15K system, which is wonderful, but way short of what I was hearing in my belowed system. I have been very busy the past week and not listening as much or as criticallty, although I did notice brief moments, make that seconds, where the sound had something very special going on, only to rapidly disappear.

Today, while engrossed in my listening seat with my computer and with music playing, I was not paying much sonic attention because it has not been good for the past 5 days, and then "it" happened, or maybe more correctly, happened again, the flowers openned again, but this time substantially better than they had done previously. So now I have the best sound I have ever had, which is what i thought I had 2 weeks ago, but now by comparison fairly mediocre.

So all I can say is this amp keeps getting better and for a quite a while has been better than just about anything I have heard over the years.

I'll check back around 1000 houirs.
 

Robertd

Well-Known Member
May 13, 2015
49
20
213
Mobiusman,

What preamp are you using in your system with the 452s? I looked but wasn’t able to find that.

thanks!
 

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