I quickly browsed through the comments on this thread and did not recognize the names of the amps mentioned, yet today I took a large financial step and changed amps in my bucket list system to improve the sonics and double my power, not to mention a newer design version of my current amp. Currently I have a VAC 450 IQ Stereo amp, which I have come to love for many reasons. But it did not have that last bit of power I regularly seek, and in my opinion, while in no way offensive, the highs are down a bit, although crystal clear. My plan was to convert my 450 Stereo to a 450 mono block and by a single 450 IQ mono block.
It turns the there is only a 10% salvage rate in the conversion of the stereo to a mono block. Fortunately, about 13 years ago I made an investment of just over $100,000 into a short-term tool with a guarantied high rate of return. Not being very financially astute I "sort of" forgot about the account as did AXA, allowing the tool to become a good long-term home for the money, despite my inability to add additional funds, Fidelity advised me to just let the money sit because they could not provide a. better return. Now the money is more than $200,000 and has been intentionally somewhat off of my radar, so that I will not consider it part of my retirement savings, but instead use it as a way to finance via my active "rationale" so that the money would be available if, or more likely when, I wanted to do something that is really quite extravagant, if not totally indulgent or even foolish.
So as a retirement gift to myself, the AXA account became found money I could use for the very expensive upgrade to 454 and ease by taking my 450 Stereo in, plus insuring another MasterBuilt Ultra power cord for the additional amp when the amps arrive in 4-8 weeks. Although my bucket list system, sounds absolutely beyond my wildest dreams, it is under powered for when I want to push it, which is most of the time and the 450 design has the highs a bit down, although beautiful in detail and delicacy, that is just not what I am looking for in my magnum opus sound system.
Suddenly I remembered the AXA account and its reason for being, along with some help from my friends at VSA, a deal was cut where I would trade in my Statement 450 Stereo and buy a pair of VAC 454's to run as mono blocks, instantly solving my power problems and improved sound from Kevin Hayes' latest design which improves the sound top to bottom, but especially the highs.
How could I not take the leap? Even though I do not have a good sense of 454's sound, I love the 450 and everyone who has had a good chance to listen to the 454 feels that the sonic improvements are considerable, so I am game.
I have a feeling that these amps are going to be amazing in my system, while providing the power I need and the improved highs. All the rest that is allegedly part of the package will be gravy. I must admit that the slush fund has allowed me to make an upgrade to my system that was supposed to be the end all.
And best of all my active denial made it all guilt free. I also think that this will be a super amp in my system which is already pro VAC and sounding pretty.
I'll get back to you in 4-8 weeks with an update.
They are still the KT88's, which Kevin Hayes believes are the best suited for his needs and incredibly reliable, especially as he biases them. From what I understand from Damon and Leif and conversations with Kevin, the relationship between VAC and VSA produced a mutually respected intense relationship that has attracted others of similar values.Do the new VAC 454 employ 845 tubes now and not KT88 anymore?
With all due respect to Mr Hayes, who's EL -34 based amplifier I used to own in the mid 90s, but the KT 88 is the crudest & least refined sounding tube of them all, and that includes the entire 6550 family! Comparing the KT 88 to the 845 is like comparing 1980 POntiac Bonneville to the modern Maserati, their supposed "reliability" be damned!They are still the KT88's, which Kevin Hayes believes are the best suited for his needs and incredibly reliable, especially as he biases them. From what I understand from Damon and Leif and conversations with Kevin, the relationship between VAC and VSA produced a mutually respected intense relationship that has attracted others of similar values.
The 450 integrated was a design exercise for Kevin to explore the potential benefits of vertical topology with the power supplies as far away as possible from all of the signal circuitry and all of the signal circuitry as close as possible with more routing options for improved noise floor and distortion. Being the person Kevin is, he tried to improve EVERY aspect of the existing product, the Statement 450 IQ. The integrated was the first application of his new topology and probably part of the reason people said it sounded so special.
Actually there are couple of SE 845 based amps that are very powerful in the absolute terms (about 120 of SE 845 watts, which is about I 'd say 300 "regular" tube watts) and will play VERY loud into most sensible loudspeakers: the Mastersound PF-100, the Unison Research Finale monoblocks. These amps probably match lot better with ceramic driver based Von Schweikerts, as I suspect the KT 88 based amps will provide excess nasty brighness spots & crudeness, within the frequency region.... Whether or not these distortions may bother one is sorely based on individual's sonic preferences. But if were you and had some funds available I would try these SE monoblocks amps. Using the volume control from your MSB dac into any of these amplifiers, the resulting sound might pleasantly surprise you. Just my couple of cents of course ....I apologize for misunderstanding this thread. I love the sound of SET amps, but I am also someone who plays fairly loud and thus need more power. I was not trying to intrude into a space that is not relevant to me. I was just excited about my new amp purchase. I think it takes much more than a great tube to make a great amp, and for my system the VAC 450 Statement has been wonderful and I expect the 452's will be substantially better. To me there is no comparison between the two because they are so different.
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