As is well known, the creative design team at Art Audio revolves around Joe Fratus but includes Tom Willis in the UK who originally launched the brand and David Gill who has contributed the Gill Audio Elise tube DAC and Alana tube linestage sold under the Art Audio banner. David also lends his low-level signal expertise to circuit designs of other Art Audio products. Another vital part of the Art Audio recipe is Kevin Carter, VAC's former operations manager who was involved with their Marantz replica project and later with the Renaissance Series upgrades and linestages. Kevin left VAC when that company relocated to Florida three days before 9/11. Carter preferred to remain in the Carolinas instead.
During David Gill's Alana project, Carter had approached Gill suggesting he'd try out the Lundahl transformers for which Carter had become the US importer through his K&K Audio business. One thing led to another and Art Audio's Vinyl Reference became a wholly Carter-authored product. After its conclusion, Joe Fratus confided to Kevin how he'd always loved VAC's Renaissance 30/30 MkIII amplifier which Kevin was involved with as it transitioned from MkII to MkIII upgrades. What did Kevin think he could do about the concept of a 25-40wpc push/pull 300B amplifier seven years later?
With completely different circuit topology from the Williamson-style 30/30, the new Art Audio Vivo is Kevin's answer. Available in two flavors, the standard Vivo accepts WE-style 300Bs for 25 watts of power. It ships with Emission Labs 300Bs but can be rolled with Valve Arts, Cetrons, Electro-Harmonixs, Full Musics, Sophias and all available NOS variants. That amplifier sells for $12,500. The high-power Vivo is optimized for the modern 300B hybrids by makers like Vaic, EAT, KR Audio and Emission Labs. It outputs 40wpc, ships standard with Emission Labs 320Bs and sells for $13,000. It uses different power and output transformers and certain resistor values have been altered to deliver the elevated plate voltages these high-current 300B variants require. Naturally, 300Bs from either amp aren't interchangeable.
The 3-stage push/pull Vivo is a capacitor-less Class A design without any global NFB. It direct-couples the fully differential, choke-loaded input-transformer stage with one 6SN7 per channel to the 6BX7 octal driver stage. (Because of the input transformer's differential operation, the Vivo accepts both RCA and XLR inputs.) It then uses an interstage transformer to the grids of each pair of 300Bs. All Vivo iron is Lundahl issue and the audio magnetics (input, 6SN7 plate choke, interstage and output transformers) are amorphous core exclusively (the C-core power transformer and choke are silicon iron cores). The Vivo is a current-source cathode-biased design and hence relies on closely matched valves. The output transformer is an overspec'd 80/90wpc affair and thus used at half capacity for long life, low distortion, bandwidth and headroom.
Full-wave bridge rectification is via a hi-speed Fred/6CJ3 hybrid to achieve low-noise low-impedance results and the slow turn-on from the single-diode valve rectifiers to protect the output tubes. Fixed output taps are 4-ohm standard but can be wired for 8 or 16-ohm upon ordering. As a lover of Italian audio design and amateur woodworker, the Carter-designed Art Audio Vivo combines the firm's trademark polished stainless steel chassis with a Macassar Ebony wooden base and full-width vented transformer cover as shown (the latter to hide what Kevin calls "wonderful-sounding but hideously ugly Lundahl trannies"). The Vivo shown at CES was still in a prototype chassis and sans the polished stainless bits. Availability of first production is scheduled for the second quarter of 2006. Basic specs include 21dB or 27dB of gain for 300B version; 24dB or 30dB for 320BXLS version; frequency response of -1dB @ 20Hz and -0dB at 20kHz (referenced at 1watt/1kHz); dimensions of 22.5" x 20" x 10" WxHxD; and weight of 74 lbs.
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