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Reviewer: Joël Chevassus
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Audio Analogue Grand Maestro CD
Preamp/Integrated: Vincent SV-238
Speakers: JLA Acoustique Perspective 2 Signature & Stand 80, McIntosh LS360
Cables: Naturelle Audio XLR cables Live 8 and Live 4, Naturelle Audio loudspeaker cables.
Power Cords: Guzi
Stands: Quest for Sound Isol pads for CD player, Ikea stand for Vincent SV-238, Norstone AV piu for audio & video sources
Room Size: 56 square meters.
Review Component Retail: ca. € 2,800 in Europe, $4,500 in the US.

This is the companion introductory article to Joël's personal system. It began with his review of the JLA speakers he also owns. When requesting to join our staff of writers, I had picked the French speakers and today's Vincent amplifier from his system list to become Joël's first two assignments. - Ed.

Vincent is a trade mark of the German Sintron company. Despite its Teutonic headquarters, Vincent Audio outsources all production to China where the subcontractor is the local Zhongshan ShengYa company. Design and conception are reputedly German and in fact, all Vincent products share strong European values wherein build quality and reliability occupy the top range of all products generally manufactured in China. That Vincent Audio simply passes on main specifications for each new product to its Sino supplier is likely the case. Thanks to its solid experience in the audio industry now spanning 18 years, ShengYa today designs its own products branded Sheng Ya while the Vincent Audio contract continues. Many design cues of the latest Vincent models seem to in fact have originated in China.

So what exactly are Vincent products right now? Rebadged ShengYa or specifically designed for Western markets? Both I think. There are common models bearing both marks -- Sheng Ya and Vincent -- and there are specific models for Europe and the US as well as Asian markets. The specificity of 'Western' products simply seems diluted today even in the differentiation of selected internal parts. However, this review won't focus on the true nature of the Vincent trade mark nor on the question whether Vincent is simply rebranded* and associated claims to the contrary are predominantly marketing strategy; or whether it in fact incorporates a discrete technical identity. I will merely deal with the product's performance and reliability, not the convenience or risk involved in buying the same or 'quite similar' product directly from China. To end that argument, a friend of mine frequently traveling to China for his furniture import business told me that an exotic wardrobe selling in France for €3,000 costs him far less than one forth there.

* Sintron sister brand T.A.C. focuses on valve gear which is also built by Sheng Ya. Sintron further is the Thorens importer for Germany. Having reviewed Thorens electronics designed by Frank Blöhbaum, I had opportunity to interview this engineer. He contributes to T.A.C. as well for whom he has designed an advanced auto-bias board. This 'westernization' of original Chinese circuits is similar to how Marcel Croese earlier authored the Adaptive Auto Bias modules for Prima Luna whose products are built by Spark/Cayin; and how that board also shows up in Mystère models built by Melody. In short, newer T.A.C. products like the V-60 integrated include definite German engineering and it is likely that some of Sintron's parallel Vincent products benefit likewise - Ed.

The SV-238 integrated amplifier today is the top model of Vincent's integrated amps and has purportedly been designed for the West. Nevertheless, a ShengYa variant shows up in Asia. Vincent's outstanding level of build quality and finish place this brand on equal footing with most upper-level German productions. Given features and technical specifications, only the very competitive retail price will remind you of Chinese origins. It seems quite obvious that this amplifier has been designed to demonstrate the competitive know-how of the Vincent name in the highest eschelon and cement the brand's 14-year reputation solidly in the minds of the Western audiophile community.