Vincent Audio C-60 CD player Page 2

The Vincent's superb resolution of low-level detail was a big part of how it re-created this live feel, and one way that it distinguished itself from most other CD players I've heard. Many CD players, even some of the very best, struggle at the very softest end of the volume spectrum, losing the finest, lowest level of detail in a digital silence that feels a bit electromechanical. With the Vincent, those tiny details were there, distinctly drawn yet coherent, with a realistic surrounding ambience, just as they are with a top-flight analog front end—or a live performance.

Even more unusual among CD players, and even more impressive, was the C-60's ability to resolve and distinctly render these low-level details beneath and behind much louder voices and instruments. Track 1 of the Zevon disc, "Splendid Isolation," was a great example of this. Zevon's 12-string Ovation guitar was miked much more closely than his voice, so there is relatively little ambience information around the guitar. All spatial cues and information about the audience and venue are superimposed on the vocal track. The guitar is also balanced very high in the mix, so with most CD players I've heard, the volume and sheer presence of his guitar overpowers all the spatial and ambience information, leaving no clear picture of the stage or venue.

The Vincent beautifully sorted out all of this. The guitar chops rang brightly, with the power and energy that the instrument has live, and all of the instrument's complex harmonics and body resonances were rich and distinct. At the same time, Zevon's gruff, hoarse voice, while lower in level, was perfectly reproduced, and the way it spread out and filled the space painted clear pictures of the different recording venues.

The ability to re-create three-dimensional images and soundstages was a consistent strength of the C-60. With smaller venues, such as on the Zevon and Jones discs, I could close my eyes and be there, in the audience. Jones' "Chuck E.'s in Love"—or, more correctly, the audience's applause, laughing, and whoops during the song—were goose-bump moments. The combination of Jones' voice and Rob Wasserman's double bass drawing the stage, and the audience defining the venue, described the space so precisely that I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rise with the electricity and excitement in the air. And with works of larger scale—some of my favorite opera and orchestral recordings, for example—I felt as if I could stand up and walk around the hall and out onto the stage, among the performers.

The Vincent's reproduction of multimiked studio recordings was superb as well, and again, felt more analog than digital. Regardless of the mix, it created solid, well-defined, three-dimensional images that were precisely located in a soundstage, albeit an often artificial one. Also, the C-60 consistently captured the harmonic richness and complexity of instruments and voices, and beautifully reproduced the fine, inner detail that distinguishes individual voices in a chorus, or individual violins in a large orchestral section. Trio II, a collaborative album by Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt, and Dolly Parton (CD, Asylum 62275-2), had never really impressed me through other players, but I absolutely loved it through the Vincent. Listening to "High Sierra," I noticed how realistic the voices sounded, and how "right" it felt when the three merged during the choruses.

John Coltrane's classic 1958 recording with the Red Garland Trio, Settin' the Pace (CD, JVC XRCD2 0207-2), really showcased the C-60's strengths. Arthur Taylor's faint cymbal strokes at the opening of "I See Your Face Before Me" had a gorgeous mix of ringing, overtones, and metallic swish, and faded perfectly into the surrounding space. Coltrane's tenor sax reminded me anew of how masterfully he simultaneously worked every aspect of the instrument, getting a level of expression that far transcended other, even virtuoso, players' work. Throughout the recording, I was impressed with the level of natural, organic detail in each of the instruments, but I kept coming back to Taylor's brushed cymbals and how perfectly the succeeding waves of sound cascaded over each other, each with exactly the right mix of a bell-like ring decomposing into a bright, metallic hiss.

Dynamic transients through the Vincent were satisfyingly large, if not unusually so. Smaller works again fared best, with the guitars on Learning to Flinch and Naked Songs being great examples, both having a good portion of the power and presence they do live. Both the leading and trailing edges of sharp transitions were always crisp and clean, and the C-60 did a great job of reproducing the pace and flow of a performance. This latter characteristic was especially evident on temporally complex works, such as much of Settin' the Pace, where dramatically different lines need to mesh for the piece to work. Each player, heard on his own, seemed to be using different timing and chord structures, yet from a step farther away—and through the C-60—they all came together as a coherent whole.

All of the these strengths were evident on large-scale performances as well, even if the overall illusion wasn't quite as realistic. Performances don't get much larger than Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony's of Sunrise, from Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra (CD, RCA Living Stereo 61494-2); while the Vincent didn't re-create the CSO and Orchestra Hall in my listening room, it certainly captured enough of the thunder and bombast to take my breath away!

Vincent Audio
US distributor: WS Distributing
3427 Kraft SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49512
(616) 885-9809

WillWeber's picture

Hello Brian,

Well I’m confused.

You state: “Should an audio component accurately reproduce the signal it's fed, or should it evoke the sound and feel of live music? Accuracy or musicality?”

You suggest that traditionally solid state has claimed to be  “more accurate” (by measurements) while tubes sounded more “musical.” But then you state: “…both camps have eliminated the obvious colorations of their respective technologies, and the levels of performance of today's best tubed and solid-state gear have converged.”

So if these “obvious colorations” are eliminated and the sound quality has “converged” over the years, doesn’t that imply both have become more accurate? (Colorations are an inaccuracy right?) Then where does "Musical" lie in this new terrain?

Then this new CD player has a choice of tube and solid state paths. And you state that is has: ”…a recognizable sonic signature—actually, more than one,…” So is this not a throwback in technology? You even detail how the tube path is sweet and warm (“…a little sweeter and more golden than reality”),  while the solid state path “…more accurate and more tonally neutral...”

So what am I missing here?

Thanks in advance for any helpful explanation,


PS: Opening Panda’s Box - Tube vs SS. Tubes are sweeter and warmer, my experience too, overall. But I find this sound syrupy and not so accurate. I find (high end) SS more like a live performance. In fact, I can make my synth sound sweeter, more like tubes, by adding a touch of 2nd and 3rd harmonics. That experimental data point suggests that this might be the allure of tubes, for those who prefer a more saccharine sound, albeit less accurate. (OK, all you tube guys get out your guns!) "Musical" might be a subjective term to some, but live performance is musical to me, and tubes (traditionally) don't have as much live character, again to me.

Brian Damkroger's picture

Hi WIll. Thanks for the comment.

First, there's the question of semantics, and how we agree to use the words accurate and musical.  I tried to use the former to refer to the claim made by early solid-state proponents, which was that their gear had a measurably more accurate reproduction of the input waveform. The gear also sounded hard, cold, hazy, and any number of other not so great adjectives.  I used musical, on the other hand, to describe a classic tube sound - harmonically rich but with all the other baggage that plagued the early tube gear.  I didn't use accurate, or musical for that matter, to mean accurately reproducing the original musical event.  In my vernacular, neither accurate nor musical were particularly in this latter regard.

Over time, both tube and solid-state gear dramatically reduced their most obvious audible colorations, both sounding more like music and not coincidentally, more like each other.  Both did, as you note, grow to more nearly approach, or more accurately reproduce, the sound of the original recorded event.  Accurate and musical, as I originally used the terms, became less applicable and less relevant.  

You're right, the Vincent gear is a bit of a throwback in that it offers the two different output stages.

Thanks again for the comment.


WillWeber's picture

Hi Brian,

Thanks for your clarification, that helps me understand your position much better.

Semantics are often a struggle in communications, as the forums attest to (quite strongly!). To me, as a scientist, "accuracy" has a very specific meaning that is carefully defined to the nth degree in the metrological context. I duly note that you refer to the context of early SS measurements, which were certainly incomplete, dubious even. In fact, these types of measurements have improved, but still I think they are lacking. There is a tendency for the disease that I call mononumerosis, that is trying to present data one dimensionally to allow easy comparisons. Meaningful measurements are much more complicated. And there are undoubtedly parameters that matter but are not measured, or at least not measured well enough.

I agree that many of the early (as well as cheap contemporary) SS designs are harsh and cold sounding, and would not seem to be so accurate, or musical. Some of the modern ‘phile designs though are silky smooth, dynamic, and detailed, and actually measure quite well too. I suspect that manufacturers are using more thorough and accurate measurements to assist in their R&D, which has enabled such progress, both valve and SS gear. Tubes still have more distortion, though of the kinder “musical” low harmonics, and output stages always require that unfortunate tranny output for impedance matching--with the consequential low Q and speaker impedance interaction. I hear these compromises as coloration and lack of control and dynamics (with most speakers). But I do think that good tube designs can be more useful in pre stages and line buffers, just not my preference (yet). There remain the issues of short life, excess heat, warm-up time, energy consumption, and microphonic behavior too.

My musician side, with context of “accuracy” and “musical” being as you describe--reproducing the live event as realistically as possible--still prefers high end SS over the sweetened sound of tubes, which seems to be largely unavoidable.

I appreciate your taking the time to explain your usage of these terms. (Aren’t you busy at the show in Germany?)