A Change of Plans

"I have a package for you," our mailman Art excitedly told me.

I did a vicious spin in my chair, "For me?"

It came so quickly. I wasn't expecting it today. I planned on going straight from work to a very special open mic night at the Sidewalk Cafe on Avenue A, but my new Bellari VP129 sent me home first.

At the bus stop, I ran into Herb Scher, a regular at the Sidewalk. He wrote an amazing song called "Tower Records is Gone," which, unfortunately, is not listed on his Myspace, but other greats like "Live in the Hills" and "New Beatles" are. Herb had to get to the Sidewalk early for "something." I felt left out. Luckily, a pretty girl smiled at me while I was waiting for the bus. Happiness.

I carried the box all the way home. Fortunately, it was only 4 pounds. SM claimed, "The box really makes you proud to own it." It does: the American flag, the fat-ass tube on the front, the box's oversized nature relative to the product itself. I owned something special.

Out of the box, the VP129 has this slick and curvy contour with a hot red finish. The red paint matched perfectly with my old white "turntable stand." My "turntable stand" is really a tall, 3-tiered coffee table. The top shelf fit my Rega P1 perfectly. Once I realized this, I decided I needed the VP129, simply because it would fit perfectly on the much smaller lower shelves. Shallow reasoning, I know, but the aesthetic persona of the VP129 really is what attracted me to it initially—and the tube. Then I read MF's review, and I was sold.

I plugged in the little guy, and his little tube started to smile a low, warm orange. While he heated up, I walked over to my record collection. I needed a reference: Where Have I Known You Before by Return to Forever, one of my favorite albums of all time. I plugged my Grado SR60s into the VP129's headphone jack.

Normally, the Grados don't have much of a soundstage, but with the VP129, a new layer of depth was present on the recording with keyboards moving back to front and guitars in your face. This was a benefit I was not expecting. I was anticipating a somewhat warmer, darker tone, but instead the VP129 gave Chick Corea's keyboards a smooth caramel type of sweetness with an excellent emphasis on note release. I did notice an absence of bass, but that could have been because of the recording where Stanley Clarke's tone is punchy and in the lower-midrange versus being deep and growling.

I wanted to listen to more, but I had to arrive at the Sidewalk a little early. It was a very special night, and I knew the place would be packed. So I slung my guitar over my back and went to the Sidewalk Cafe's final Anti-Hootenanny—the longest running open mic in New York City.

Doug Bowker's picture

Nice post Ariel. Congrats on that Bellari. I have the Grado phono amp, and although I'm pretty happy with it, the Bellari wins hands down in the coolness contest!

Ron's picture

Anyone know where I can buy one of these in Canada, preferably in the Toronto area?

Ariel Bitran's picture

Hey Doug. Thanks! I love the little dude. and he sounds good too. As I slowly build my system one component at a time, I'm happy that the vp129 is going to be part of it. the versatility with the headphone jack and the sweet tube design, its all so awesome.

AlexO's picture

Whatthe hell is this thing? Is it a headphne amp? A preamp? What does it do exactly?

Ron's picture

So along with a tube amp it also includes a headphone amp for under $300.00? Nice. I was considering the pro-ject pre-amp but I'll try and get one of these instead.

Ariel Bitran's picture

It is a tube phono-preamp which includes a Headphone jack. Its primary purpose is as a phono-preamp though. Eventually, once I get one, it'll be plugged into an integrated amp.

Ariel Bitran's picture

Hey Ron. Glad to see you considering the VP129. I haven't heard the pro-ject, but the headphone jack on this guy is really useful, the preamp itself is beautiful, and after hearing from everyone else who uses one as well, they only have good things to say. Best of luck with your purchase.

Stephen Mejias's picture

Whatthe hell is this thing? Is it a headphne amp? A preamp? What does it do exactly?It is a fun machine.

Ron's picture

It's fire engine red with a tube sticking out of it! What more do you need?;)