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This review first appeared in the June 2011 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read this review of the Vitus pre/power combo in its original Polish version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Vitus.

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacuła
CD player
: Ancient Audio Lektor Air
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Air Tight Supreme, Miyajima Laboratory Waza
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III with Regenerator power supply version II
Power amplifier: Tenor Audio 175S, Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom version
Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro
Interconnects: CD-preamp Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp-power amp Wireworld Platinum Eclipse
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2
Audio stand: Base
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD player, Pro Audio Bono platform under CD player
Review component retail in Poland: 102.000 + 111.800zł respectively

Dust hadn't yet settled after our review of the extremely (though not the most) expensive Vitus SP-102 phono stage and here I was already being presented with an opportunity to write up two other products from the line: the SL-101 stereo line stage and SS-102 power amplifier. The latter is not a ‘pure’ power amp as there is an attenuator for possible source-direct connection via RCA and XLR inputs. It's far from the first device of this type of course. For just one example Leben’s CS-660P power amp embraces the same scheme.

In my opinion the popular distinction between power amp with volume control and integrated amp is more of a regional custom which depends on what functionality is viewed as primary. Of course some might claim that integrated amps have higher input sensitivities to make them easier to drive from low output sources and that their input impedance can be lower due to an input buffer. But if we check facts there are many integrated amplifiers with low input sensitivity and many power amps with high ones. What to call an integrated with a passive pot then? Either integrated amplifier or power amplifier with volume control just as Vitus does here. If you start looking at number of inputs, the distinction gets easier. More than one input most likely makes it an integrated amp. But again these are mere conventions. I'm going with the integrated amplifier convention since that's what the SS-101 is for me.

There of course also are ‘undisputed’ integrated amplifiers in the Vitus Audio range starting at 32.400zł for the RI-100. Also in the catalogue are two CD players, the integrated one-box SCD-010 at 68.000zł and the two-box MP-T 201 transport + MP-D 201 DAC at 64.800 and 98.400zł respectively. As the distributor stressed the SCD prefix here has nothing to do with SACD, it's simply the Signature line nomenclature. The Vitus range divides into three lines: Reference, Signature and Masterpiece. Most these Danish amplifiers operate in class A but add a switched option of class A/B bias. Introduced in 2007, the SS-101 is no exception. At 8Ω it offers 50 watts in class A (which in theory seems to be moderate power but in practice proved otherwise) and twice that in class A/B. My former M-800A Luxman offered 60 watts in class A and entered class A/B above that. The Vitus SS-101 weights in at 85kg, exactly the same as my new reference power amplifier, the Soulution 710. The matching SL-102 preamplifier is much smaller but its build quality is equally perfect.

Since I hadn’t mentioned it yet, the Vitus build quality is exceptional. If you’ve read my phono stage review, you already knew that much. The SL-102 line stage appears to use the same chassis and to my eyes looks identical except for the back panel of course. The SL-102 is newer for Vitus and joined the range in 2010. It is a fully balanced circuit with three inputs and two outputs. There are two XLR inputs accompanied by RCA. Ditto for the outputs. All single-ended signals convert to balanced before any further processing in both preamp and power amp. The line stage weighs a solid 24kg.

Sound. A record selection used in the review: Stereo Sound Reference Record. Jazz & Vocal, Stereo Sound, SSRR4, SACD/CD; Stereo Sound Reference Record. Popular Selection, Stereo Sound, SSRR5, SACD/CD; Abraxas 99, Metal Mind Productions, MM CD 0102, CD; Brian Eno, Craft On A Milk Sea, Warp Records, FLAC 24/44,1; Carol Sloane, Hush-A-Bye, Sinatra Society of Japan/Muzak, XQAM-1031, CD; Chet Baker, Chet Baker Sings and Plays, Pacific Jazz/EMI Music Japan, TOCJ-90028, HQCD; Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Study In Brown, EmArcy/Universal Music Japan, UCJU-9072, 180g LP (mono); Deep Purple, Perfect Stranger, Polygram Records/Polydor K.K. Japan, 25MM 0401, LP; Ella Fitzgerald, The Cole Porter Song Book, Verve, 537 257-2, Verve Master Edition CD; Frank Sinatra, The Voice, Columbia/Speakers Corner, CL 743, Quiex SV-P, 180g LP (mono); Frédéric Chopin, The Complete Nocturnes, piano: Gergely Bogányi, Stockfisch, SFR 357.4051.2, 2 x SACD/CD; J. S. Bach, Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Linn Records, CKD 366, SACD/HDCD; Jim Hall Trio, Blues On The Rocks, Gambit Records, 69207, CD; Jim Hall, Concierto, CTI/Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2012, SACD/CD; King Crimson, In The Wake of Poseidon, 21st Century Complete Edition, Universal Music Japan, UICE-9052, HDCD; Laurie Anderson, Homeland, Nonesuch, 524055-2, CD+DVD; Roxy Music, Flesh+Blood, Virgin, 847439, HDCD; Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto, Getz/Gilberto, Verve/Lasting Impression Music, LIM K2HD 036, K2HD; Suzanne Vega, Close-Up. Vol 1, Love Songs, Amanuensis Productions/Cooking Vinyl, COOKCD521, CD.

The sound of the Vitus amp paired with my Ayon preamplifier reminded me of some very good analogue turntable systems. I refer to a dense deep and very communicative presentation. This particular communicativeness consists of highlighting the sonic aspects which deliver the emotional charge encoded in a tune. So this becomes an emotional proposition. The timbral center of gravity is the lower midrange and as such lower than the Class A Luxman M-800A and Accuphase A-65 and lower also than the Soulution 710, Reimyo KAT-777 or Ancient Audio Silver Grand Mono. Quite a list. I'd peg the Danish amp’s timbre most similar to components I’ve heard from Kondo, Jadis or the Mastersound Compact 845 I recently reviewed for Audio. This isn’t relative to a general performance plateau but simply a pointer on the type of tonal balance you might expect. This is the aspect which influences our perception the most.

The plateau of performance is at the very top, on the same level as Soulution, Reimyo and Ancient Audio. All the others fall way behind. You might find such a statement premature at the very beginning of a review but during what follows I want you to be mindful that this discussion is about a state-of-the-art component. Whatever pros and cons might get mentioned are in the context of a best-of-the-best contemporary amplifier regardless of circuit or output device choices.