VTL MB-1250 Wotan monoblock amplifier The rest of the brew

Sidebar 2: The rest of the brew

In an altogether funny audiophile moment, Luke Manley apologized for not allowing enough room between the chassis to place Shakti Stones on the power transformers. (As have other manufacturers, Luke tells me he has found them to be effective.) I did try a pair on the output transformers up top, and even there—given less of a magnetic field to interact with—I noticed the bass tightened up a notch. More subtle improvements became evident over time.

Tweak-wise, I cosseted the small tubes with a combination of Bluenote Midas Tube Dampers and Ensemble Tube Sox. The amps sat atop Michael Green Tuning Amp Stands on a trio of Shun Mook Ultra Diamond Resonators.

Preamp in use during the review period was the Jadis four-chassis JP-200MC. The JP-200MC is a superb preamplifier, and while its line-stage is notable in every way, the phono section is its true raison d'être. It's simply the most sophisticated and totally refined analog engine it's ever been my pleasure to audition (footnote 1).

I wrapped Bluenote Midas Tube Dampers around the two phono-input 6DJ8s and suspended the four chassis on Michael Green Designs AudioPoints. (Even I didn't have the nerve to squeeze a $25k preamp in a ClampRack.) As in the rest of the system, power cords were either The Essence or AC Master Couplers.

Digital front-end was the Forsell Air Reference Mk.II CD transport connected to a Clamped and topless Forsell D/A converter, tied together with a length of BNC'd Illuminati D-60. As before, the transport sat atop a four-shelf Michael Green ClampRack, while a Signature 'Rack lightly squeezed the DAC. The transport is set upon two Harmonix RF-66 Large Tuning Feet at the rear (dots up, per Mr. Kiuchi) and a single Audiopoint [P?] centered up front.

Analog was handled by the Forsell Air Force One, a fresh Mint Green dental-floss drive-belt wrapped around its platter, and a van den Hul Grasshopper IV at the end of the arm. As the hours continue to accumulate on the IV, I keep gaining new respect for it. The beefier suspension—optimized for undamped linear-tracking arms—required a break-in time on the order of 200+ hours! Finally loosened up, its sound was much more open.

I keep a Shakti Stone over the Flywheel's electronics, and a trio of Shun Mook Mpingo discs on the plinth of the 'table. There are six Harmonix Tuning Bands at various locations on the bearing and support structure. The whole concoction sits on two custom-sized Michael Green four-shelf ClampRacks. Record weights in play included the transparent and fast Harmonix TU-812 Tuning Record Clamp, and the ineffably musical Shun Mook piece.

Cabling was all TARA Labs Decade. I had excellent results with Synergistic Research Resolution Reference and XLO Signature lashups, but overall, for its superb balance and light, elegant presentation, I preferred the Decade as the best all-around performer with this setup.—Jonathan Scull

Footnote 1: This review was the preamp's swansong in our system; except for our JA-200 monoblocks, all things Jadis have since left our hands. This turn of events truly saddens me, but our search for a new reference will be exciting.
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