Nagra VPA monoblock power amplifier Page 4

Re-creation of acoustic space was always a strong point of the VPAs. There can be no better example of this than Vlatko Stelanovski and Miroslav Tadic's Krushevo (M•A Recordings M044A). The guitarists play soulful duos inside a hemispherical structure called the Macedonian Monument in Krushevo, Macedonia—there are a lot of cultural harmonics, quite apart from those of the two guitars (footnote 3). You'll play this CD not for audiophile-approved pinpoint imaging (of which there is none), but for its fabulous music, the tonal color and sense of space, the reverberant bloom and lovely acoustic decay of the notes produced by these two world-class performers. "," I seem to have scribbled in my notebook, along with: "Listening to this recording at 24-bit/192kHz, I feel connected to it on a spiritual as well as musical plane. The acoustic of the recording venue is the 'third instrument' in the recording—it comes across liquid but not too wet. The full and total explication of the space by the VPAs is a knockout."

Try Schubert's Symphony 6 and 8 with Jos van Immerseel and the Anima Eterna Symphony Orchestra, a recording I highly recommend (Sony Classical SK 63094). Although the VPAs do have a naturally close-up perspective similar to that of the matching PL-P, this recording sounded more mid-hall, very much like what you'd hear at a concert. The presentation was as dynamic as it's imaginable to be, making me jump in the Ribbon Chair during the last few powerful strokes at the end of the Allegro Moderato of "Die Unvollendete." The midrange was clean but well fleshed out. "Scrubbed shiny, healthy, and fresh," I noted. There are plenty of big orchestral transients in this recording, and the VPAs handled them with aplomb, as long as they remained below about 25-30W. The powerful timpani at the beginning of the Adagio—Allegro of Symphony 6 begins with a magnificent, huge acoustic moment that put the amps through their paces. They passed the test with flying colors. The VPAs again impressed with open, extended highs, the leading edges beautifully defined, the midrange rich with luster.

The transparency I've already mentioned is important for big orchestral doings. The VPAs put me in the hall—a big, reverberant acoustic, transparent and open, like an Elmar lens on an old Leica: sharp right out to the corners. The loveliness and enchantment of the presentation were fully available despite the amp's Euro pedigree and Nagra-bred clarity. More notes: "The music may, as a result, be said to become more meaningful and communicative; I was better able to relax into the acoustic and feel the intense emotion."

"Small but no bullshit!"—Kathleen Benveniste
That's how K-10 sums it up! As you may have gathered by now, I loved the Nagra VPA too. If you're a well-heeled audiophile with a large collection of vinyl, a Nagra PL-P preamp, and relatively efficient speakers, you might find long-term happiness with a pair of VPAs. The combination of the VPAs with the PL-P was altogether extraordinary in every audiophile sense imaginable, especially when coming out of the PL-P "hot rod" via the tape outs and adjusting volume with the input potentiometers. It's hard to remember when I last enjoyed vinyl as much as this.

Digital straight out of the upsampled Elgar D/A processor was magnificent, if a hair lighter and smaller in overall proportions and impact than with a variety of kilobuck kilowatt solid-state amps we've been auditioning. But by any criterion, the VPA is an unqualified success. If you can afford them, it's hard to imagine that they won't make you as happy as they did me.

Footnote 3: To learn more about this and other M•A recordings, see my interview with recordist Todd Garfinkle in an upcoming issue of Stereophile.
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