VTL Rocks the Venetian

Luke Manley and Bea Lam of VTL were on hand as host and hostess at the VTL exhibit suite at the Venetian Hotel to present their two new stereo tube amplifiers, the $33,500, 400Wpc S400 Series II amplifier, and the $10,000, 200Wpc S200 Stereo Signature amplifier shown in the photo. Although the S400 was configured into a floorstanding tower and the S200 in the rack-mounted chassis used for their MB-450 monoblock amplifier, both new products feature VTL's latest tube technology, including fully balanced, differential input stage, VTL's SmartTube technology with automatic bias and screen supply adjustments and fault sensing, and a new user-adjustable damping factor feedback control. The feedback loop amount can be precisely set to suite the listener's taste via three-position switches located between the input tubes on the top of the chassis.

Luke and Bea had the VTL S400 Series II playing for most of my visit. I had lived with a VTL S400 series during the time I had reviewed their TL6.5 preamplifier, and recalled how natural the amplifier's sound was driving both floorstanding dynamic full-range loudspeakers and Quad 989 electrostatics. In the VTL system at the Venetian, the VTL S400 was driving a pair of $29,000/pair Rockport Technology Avior Speakers (JA's comment to appear shortly), and had a VTL $10,500 TP Signature phono preamplifier with MC step-up and a $20,000 TL7.5 Reference Line Preamplifier Series III. LPs were played on a $35,000 Spiral Groove SG-1.1 Turntable with a Spiral Groove Centroid tonearm, and a Dynavector cartridge. Luke and Bea credited the quality of the music sound achieved by the system to Sterling Trayle of Spiral Groove, who set-up the tonearm and cartridge, and the loudspeaker placement.

The sound was awesome, easily as good as I heard anywhere else at the show. Luke played one of my favorite's, an LP version of Lyle Lovett's "Friend of the Devil" from the Deadicated album. The sonic image of Lyle Loveltt's voice was totally three-dimensional, detached from the loudspeakers, more palpable and real than I've heard before. Selection after selection amazed me, including Mario Bondi singing "This is What you Are;" Shelby Lynne singing "Just a Little Loving," from a recent Chad Kassem QRP test pressing; Lampchop group performing "The Daily Growl," from their Is a Woman album; Rusty Montagne and Prairie Dogs singing, "You are not Coming Home;" and Bill Berry and his Ellington All-Stars playing "Take the A Train" with Steve McCormack doing the sound engineering for M&K Records.