VTL's IT-85

VTL presented two systems at the 2012 CES—a larger, more expensive system comprising VTL’s S-400 Series II Reference stereo amplifier ($33,500), TL7.5 Series II Reference line preamplifier ($20,000), TP6.5 Signature phono preamplifier ($10,500), and Rockport Technologies Avior loudspeakers ($29,500/pair); and a second system made of VTL’s S-200 Signature stereo amplifier ($10,000), TL5.5 II preamplifier ($9500), and Avalon Acoustics Indra loudspeakers ($21,995/pair). The systems shared digital and analog sources—dCS Paganini DAC, player, clock, and upsampler ($53,500) and Spiral Groove SG-1.1 turntable with Centroid tonearm ($35,000)—as well as Transparent cables and Nordost AC products.

I listened to and enjoyed both systems—besides providing greater frequency extension and a more dramatic sense of space, the larger system exhibited better image focus and a more solid center-fill—but I was especially taken by VTL’s more modestly priced and sized IT-85 integrated amplifier ($4750). Like a Honus Wagner baseball card or a Krispy Kreme cheeseburger, I had heard of it, but never seen one in person. And it’s beautiful. Unlike VTL’s more imposing amplifiers, the IT-85’s got that special size and shape—it measures 15.75" W by 11" D by 7" H—that makes me just want to hug it and never let go.

How does it sound? Can’t say. But I’ve heard that a talented recording engineer, The Tape Project's Piper Payne, uses one, and if it’s good enough for Piper….