VAC 452 iQ review in Stereophile

Skanda

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May 3, 2020
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Holli82

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Jun 7, 2010
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Mr. “footers are bigger than speaker upgrades” reviewer- I’ll politely disagree.

I'm not familiar with his footer reviews but I stand by post regarding his reviews of speakers.

Appreciate you being polite.
 

Mikem53

Well-Known Member
Oct 1, 2020
358
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Geez... quite a collection of equipment!! way beyond the scope of my understanding..
I lean more to ”Less is More” and “keeping it simple, but not simpler” !!
I’ll just look for a better recording, it seems less expensive and complex than your setup. :)
Seriously.. That’s quite impressive to say the least !! I would love to hear a few of my favorite recordings mastered correctly.. and to understand some of the tech and artistry that goes into “Fixing” a bad recording.. Thank you for the lesson and response.. Look forward to learning more..

Actually to a limited extend there is a cure for “lousy” recordings, albeit not a practical one, very expensive and with a very steep learning curve that could be too complex and technically challenging for most, and that is to do remastering of the lousy recordings yourself.

That is what I do with my two remastering systems that I have at home. Although you do not have access to the original recording’s tracks or master tapes or files, the convolution of remastering the released recodings is very powerful.

Remastering the recordings in XY stereo image in either the analog or digital domain is very effective. I prefer the digital domain as it introduces less residual noise in the process.

Sometimes just a little elliptical equalization goes a long way to improve things. In other cases transcoding to high order DSD also makes a marked improvement.

In the high-end mastering world there are so many tools at hand to improve even the lousyess of recordings.

Sometimes it may even serve the intend of recordings to go the other way. Some genres are made for a “low-fi” production sound and those recordings can sometimes sound too polished for those artistic expressions.

Having knobs to turn and buttons to push at your side or in front of you gives you immense power and allows for very effective convolution, BUT if you do not understand the concept or theory of what is going on then it leads to horrible disasters. As I said it is a technically challenging solution not only in terms of implementation but also in terms of over all concepts of what is trying to be achieved and the methods and means to achieve the objective, both from a technical and artistic perspective.

Here are a few pictures of my remastering systems:



View attachment 70192

View attachment 70193

View attachment 70194 View attachment 70195

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View attachment 70197
 

Carlos269

Well-Known Member
Mar 21, 2012
184
121
385
Geez... quite a collection of equipment!! way beyond the scope of my understanding..
I lean more to ”Less is More” and “keeping it simple, but not simpler” !!
I’ll just look for a better recording, it seems less expensive and complex than your setup. :)
Seriously.. That’s quite impressive to say the least !! I would love to hear a few of my favorite recordings mastered correctly.. and to understand some of the tech and artistry that goes into “Fixing” a bad recording.. Thank you for the lesson and response.. Look forward to learning more..

I have quite a few of those “simple“ systems here at home also. It is interesting to me that many who think that they have a strong commitment to this audiophile hobby spend all their time swapping, or in their heads “upgrading”, equipment, building purpose built rooms, tube-rolling, adding grounding boxes, holy potion special wires and tweaks while all along ignoring the fact that the “attributes“ of the source material, the recordings, are the most dominant factors in the reproduction chain. Notice that I said “attributes” of the source as oppose to the “quality” of the source material.

The failure, or inability, to address the source and just fiddling down the reproduction chain yields limited results. Addressing the “Personal Preferences“ at the source has a far greater impact than anything down the line. I saw on another thread that a member who has just recently completed a purpose built room project and put together high caliber equipment in that room is now hunting and searching for those great sounding “high quality” recordings to enjoy his new room and system.

Sometimes I see the madness that goes on and is like the tail wagging the dog. All too often what is promoted as great is no more than “different” and the crowd flocks to it without realizing that those gains are crumbs on the floor, when there is real food on the table.

The purist audiophile approach of trying to capture “lightning in the bottle” or synergy by swapping out equipment and tweaks in a trial and error fashion, and the refusal to simply dial in the desired results is inexplicable. When you step back, and away as I did when I dove deep into the high-end mastering world for seven years, and look back and use logic and common sense, it all just seems ridiculous. Tools are there in the professional audio world to adjust all attributes of the recordings, and that is what you see in my two remastering systems but these tools remain either unknown to or ignored by most of those strongly committed to the audiophile musical reproduction pursuits on this side, like separate parallel worlds, where the recordings are just accepted “as is”.

All the tweaking of the room, speaker placement, equipment substations are in the end just adjustments to the frequency spectrum and phase/timing reception. That is all it amounts to. It is all “tone control“ in the simplest of terms and amplitude, frequency and phase adjustments in technical terms. How you go about it is the difference, in a trial and error fashion or with indexed, adjustable, repeatable and bypass-able controls.

Now this should not be taken out of context, this does not do away with the need for precision audio electronics and full range loudspeaker transducers systems capable of the highest resolution and of reproducing the frequency extremes.

Because in the end it turns out that there is no “absolute sound” and enjoyment is all about achieving those “personal preferences”. Sooner or later we realize that flat frequency response and 0.00000001% THD does not get us to utopia; we want rich tone and colors, harmonics, micro and macro dynamics, depth, dimensionality in a reverberant ambient field and high resolution soundstage and image detail.

My approach with my two remastering systems is extreme and all Outside The Box, but most can now be done ITB, Inside The Box, on a DAW, Digital Audio Workstation. At the ”keep it simple” approach, the extra equipment and complexity can be reduced to a minimum with the use of HQPLAYER, which I use in my reference playback system, it is very rewarding in further recreating and enhancing the illusion.
 
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Mikem53

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Oct 1, 2020
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I‘m humbled by the knowledge and extreme “measures“ folks on here have pursued in their quest for the best musical experience possible.. I feel Lost in a hobby I thought I knew pretty well ! I need to do a paradigm shift and reset my thinking, open my mind a bit wider on things I thought were not as important in the audio chain.. Especially after looking at the digital front end forums.. LPS on computers, roon, Ethernet for audio... while I made it a point when I downsized to keep my newly modest system modest... I can see areas I need to improve on..
Appreciate the response and eye opening possibilities.. Especially pleased at the peaceful atmosphere here compared to some other audio forums where opinions are more facts and money spent solely determines SQ..


I have quite a few of those “simple“ systems here at home also. It is interesting to me that many who think that they have a strong commitment to this audiophile hobby spend all their time swapping, or in their heads “upgrading”, equipment, building purpose built rooms, tube-rolling, adding grounding boxes, holy potion special wires and tweaks while all along ignoring the fact that the “attributes“ of the source material, the recordings, are the most dominant factors in the reproduction chain. Notice that I said “attributes” of the source as oppose to the “quality” of the source material.

The failure, or inability, to address the source and just fiddling down the reproduction chain yields limited results. Addressing the “Personal Preferences“ at the source has a far greater impact than anything down the line. I saw on another thread that a member who has just recently completed a purpose built room project and put together high caliber equipment in that room is now hunting and searching for those great sounding “high quality” recordings to enjoy his new room and system.

Sometimes I see the madness that goes on and is like the tail wagging the dog. All too often what is promoted as great is no more than “different” and the crowd flocks to it without realizing that those gains are crumbs on the floor, when there is real food on the table.

The purist audiophile approach of trying to capture “lightning in the bottle” or synergy by swapping out equipment and tweaks in a trial and error fashion, and the refusal to simply dial in the desired results is inexplicable. When you step back, and away as I did when I dove deep into the high-end mastering world for seven years, and look back and use logic and common sense, it all just seems ridiculous. Tools are there in the professional audio world to adjust all attributes of the recordings, and that is what you see in my two remastering systems but these tools remain either unknown to or ignored by most of those strongly committed to the audiophile musical reproduction pursuits on this side, like separate parallel worlds, where the recordings are just accepted “as is”.

All the tweaking of the room, speaker placement, equipment substations are in the end just adjustments to the frequency spectrum and phase/timing reception. That is all it amounts to. It is all “tone control“ in the simplest of terms and amplitude, frequency and phase adjustments in technical terms. How you go about it is the difference, in a trial and error fashion or with indexed, adjustable, repeatable and bypass-able controls.

Now this should not be taken out of context, this does not do away with the need for precision audio electronics and full range loudspeaker transducers systems capable of the highest resolution and of reproducing the frequency extremes.

Because in the end it turns out that there is no “absolute sound” and enjoyment is all about achieving those “personal preferences”. Sooner or later we realize that flat frequency response and 0.00000001% THD does not get us to utopia; we want rich tone and colors, harmonics, micro and macro dynamics, depth, dimensionality in a reverberant ambient field and high resolution soundstage and image detail.

My approach with my two remastering systems is extreme and all Outside The Box, but most can now be done ITB, Inside The Box, on a DAW, Digital Audio Workstation. At the ”keep it simple” approach, the extra equipment and complexity can be reduced to a minimum with the use of HQPLAYER, as I use in my reference playback system, it is very rewarding in further recreating and enhancing the illusion.
 
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Symbiose

New Member
Dec 19, 2020
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What do you think about using the VAC Statement 452 iQ amplifier with the BAT REX 3 Preamplifier? I'm looking for a good tube preamp to use with the VAC, which I already decided to buy.
 
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Ron Resnick

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Jan 25, 2015
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Congratulations on your decision on that amplifier! What speakers will you be driving with it?
 

Symbiose

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Dec 19, 2020
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Congratulations on your decision on that amplifier! What speakers will you be driving with it?
Thankyou!

I want to buy the Wilson Chronosonic XVX. I was going to buy a not too big speaker, because the room I was going to use was not big, but an idea came up to build a dedicated and bigger room for my system and that's why I'm looking to buy the Wilson XVX speaker.

At the moment I am looking for a pre amplifier, I thought about a tube pre amplifier, since the amplifier will also be tube. I'm looking for information on which to buy, I thought about BAT REX 3, maybe it's a good combination with VAC 452 iQ amplifier.
@Foxbat
 
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gadawg58

Well-Known Member
Apr 7, 2018
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Thankyou!

I want to buy the Wilson Chronosonic XVX. I was going to buy a not too big speaker, because the room I was going to use was not big, but an idea came up to build a dedicated and bigger room for my system and that's why I'm looking to buy the Wilson XVX speaker.

At the moment I am looking for a pre amplifier, I thought about a tube pre amplifier, since the amplifier will also be tube. I'm looking for information on which to buy, I thought about BAT REX 3, maybe it's a good combination with VAC 452 iQ amplifier.
@Foxbat
I own the Rex 2 and have listened to VAC equipment a decent amount as well. They have a different sonic signature for sure so I wouldn't commit to the Rex 3 until you hear it in combination with the wonderful VAC amps you have decided on so congrats! The combo may be beyond wonderful or you might not like the results. With those amps my first choice would likely be the VAC Statement Preamp. That said ... if you have the chance to audition the combo you might like it and the Rex 3 could have you some serious money over the VAC Statement if you like how they sound together! Let us know what direction you head.

George
 

Leif S

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Feb 14, 2015
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Thankyou!

I want to buy the Wilson Chronosonic XVX. I was going to buy a not too big speaker, because the room I was going to use was not big, but an idea came up to build a dedicated and bigger room for my system and that's why I'm looking to buy the Wilson XVX speaker.

At the moment I am looking for a pre amplifier, I thought about a tube pre amplifier, since the amplifier will also be tube. I'm looking for information on which to buy, I thought about BAT REX 3, maybe it's a good combination with VAC 452 iQ amplifier.
@Foxbat
Why not buy a VAC preamp
 
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Afveep

Well-Known Member
Jun 9, 2010
20
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Hello Symbiose,
While the VAC Statement preamp is the ideal match for this amplifier, the VAC Master preamp was designed with concepts from the Statement and is sonically amazingly close to the Statement at a fraction of the price. It’s a world-class preamp in itself and leaves nothing behind. I’d strongly suggest that you audition this combination before mixing any brands. Disclosure: I’m a VAC dealer. Tom
 

kimurastanley

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Mar 16, 2019
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Singapore
I recently received VAC Master preamplifier and it is a wonderful preamp. The Statement preamp would be a natural match for VAC 452iq if cost is no object. My dealer told me that Master preamp can deliver 80-90% of statement preamp with significantly lower price. Although I have not listened to Statement personally.
 

Symbiose

New Member
Dec 19, 2020
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I will keep the same manufacturer between pre and power amp, the VAC Master is the same price than Bat Rex3, I think is the right decision considering the synergy between the equipment. Thankyou guys.

The VAC Statement would be the right option to choose, but is good to know that Master delivers almost the same performance as the Statement.
 
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Afveep

Well-Known Member
Jun 9, 2010
20
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408
Symbiose,
If you will use phono, the internal phono option in the Master is a "giant-killer"!
Best of luck!
Tom
 

nirodha

Well-Known Member
Aug 11, 2010
423
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Extremely controlled forms of distortion and noise...sounds like an esoteric definition of music itself...not just what your stereo does! I don’t buy this argument that listening to reproduced music is essentially a different art form from live and therefore any attempt at High Fidelity is pointless.
I hate live music. I love me stereo. I once asked a group of musicians to play something that would approach the sound i have at home. They failed miserably:p
 
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gadawg58

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Apr 7, 2018
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I hate live music. I love me stereo. I once asked a group of musicians to play something that would approach the sound i have at home. They failed miserably:p
And here I am hoping the recreate the sound of Dallas Symphony Orchestra Hall in my listening room! What a fun and diverse hobby!

George
 
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thedudeabides

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Jan 16, 2011
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“attributes“ of the source material, the recordings, are the most dominant factors in the reproduction chain. Notice that I said “attributes” of the source as oppose to the “quality” of the source material.
Totally agree. Even my modest system can excel with the proper recording. The everlasting challenge for us is the find the "great sound / great music" material.
 

hbsry2001

Well-Known Member
Apr 9, 2018
13
14
68
It is personally (and idiosyncratically, I realize) very interesting to me that Michael liked the VAQ 452 iQ as much he did, compared to his reference darTZeel NHB 468s. I enjoy reading about how and where Michael calibrates various tube, hybrid and solid-state amplifiers on his spectrum of sonic attributes.

At this level of top-of-the-line amplifiers I think it is totally a matter of personal subjective preference. In my brief comparison at MikeL's of older generation VAC 450s and his then-reference darTZeel NHB 458s a couple of years ago I would have chosen the VACs as my "keepers" and MikeL clearly preferred his 458s.

Also interesting to me is that Michael apparently preferred these new VACs over the VTL Siegfried IIs he compared directly to his darTZeel 458s several years ago, as I sense that he did not rave about the Siegfried IIs quite as effusively as he praised the VAC 452 iQs. Putting it differently, I read this review as suggesting that Michael enjoyed the VAC 452 iQs compared to the 468s relatively more than he enjoyed the Siegfried IIs compared to the 458s.

Consistently, it seems, Michael Fremer and MikeL both ultimately come down on the solid-state side of the tube/solid-state dividing line on the amplifier spectrum. I still come down on the tube side of that line.

Of course Michael was using different speakers then, so these idle speculations may be entirely spurious and invalid.
I must agree that its largely subjective. Everyone's hearing is different.

Personally, I dont care for what I call the 'new' sound like the 1.2 million dollar VAC/Wilson system Ive heard at shows. Its big, bold, punchy, with some detail, but seems to have little of what I call 'finesse' that I hear in my and others, vintage based systems. I attribute it to a couple of reasons. First, the amps of today do not have the quality steel and copper that went into the older transformers. Secondly, the new tubes just dont measure up to NOS ones. They dont sound as good nor do they last as long. Third, (most) speakers are designed to be 'artsy' sacrificing having someone actually listen to them to see how they sound. The system below (mine) won 'Best of show' at the 2014 Capitol Audio Fest. The amps are reworked Altec 1570s with NOS tubes, the pre and phono amps are hand built, point to point wired, and the speakers are reproductions of old theater horns. Not a transistor in the system. They actually sound live music and not reproduced music.

 

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