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Vincent Solidline SA-94 stereo preamplifier & SP-995 class A mono amplifiers Review

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Vincent SA-94 Inside Vincent SP-995 inside view

Vincent makes much play of the fact that the SA-94 is genuinely dual mono from end-to end, but I can’t say this resulted in notably superior channel separation in my system. I’ve heard worse, but I’ve also heard equally good – and from preamps that have not followed such a purist approach to topology. However, the SA-94 is fast, delivering snappy transients without overt colouration. It sounded notably more organic after being left running for 48 hours.

The 995s in contrast seemed to reach optimum temperature in less than an hour when operated in pure class A mode. Vincent’s brochure lifts the lid on some of the design features, revealing a 500 Watt toroid transformer and a DC Servo that uses an OPA2604 op-amp in the power supply backed by 80,000 µF of capacitors. Sixteen (apparently Toshiba) FETs deliver 100W in Class A into an eight-ohm load, 200 into four Ohms and 350W into two Ohms. As previously noted, a front-panel button allows selection of Class AB mode for less heat, more power, and a harder sound.

Even though I fall back into this habit myself, I remain profoundly suspicious of the audio reviewing practise of illustrating aspects of sonic behaviour to specific recordings. Is it a helpful tool when it can only mean something to someone familiar with the particular tracks? I’m more comfortable with general observations and in this respect I offer the following about the Vincent SA-94 and SP-995s: they are in large measure quite uncharacteristic of much solid state amplification. They don’t subject music to a razor-sharp forensic examination and they don’t slam you back in your listening chair with exaggerated and dry bass in the way that so many sand amplifiers can do. You’ll hear a nuanced, more soft-focus presentation that borders – say it in hushed tones – on the kind of tonally rich and relaxed sound achieved by good tubes. You’ll either see this as A Good Thing or Not A Good Thing.

Personally, I am firmly in the former camp. Some years ago I wrote that I was done with solid state – for me it was rather akin to the feeling one gets sitting under a fluorescent strip light – it’s illumination alright but it’s a long way from sunlight. It simply feels un-analogue. When I listen to live, natural sound, it does not start and stop in a binary fashion. It builds and it decays and that’s why, for me, fundamentally un-linear amplification so rarely fails to create any sense of satisfaction or pleasure. I make no apology for repeating this view. Some readers will get it, and others will not. I guess that’s one of the immutable facts of audio. We all hear differently.

The Vincents overturned many of my solid state prejudices and left me thinking that if they were the only game in town that I’d not feel massively deprived. Of course I’d miss my SET amplifiers. But the Vincents manage to sound un-etched, un-bleached and, well, simply musical in a way that I’d not expected. Fans of solid state amplification will recognise a good dollop of the weight and control at the bottom end that many people claim tube amplification simply cannot ever achieve. “Only solid state can do that. Tubes are bloated and waffly.” That’s not true of course. Good tube amps, with good (AKA expensive) output transformers do it, but then we’re talking money way beyond the price point the Vincents are pitched at.

And then in the crucial presence region and above, the Vincent combo has an unforced naturalness about it. Close your eyes and listen to your favourite singist and I’ll wager you’ll hear a fair approximation of human voice with some body to it, rather than amplified human voice. Notes decay in full measure without truncation and the top end extension is there, but is not shrill. Good SET amps can do this standing on their head, but solid state? It’s rare. And, once again, it’ll cost you.

See where this is going?

Look, I’m not saying the Vincents are the last word in sonic sophistication. But take a look at the ticket Joe. I fancy that like me, at that price, you’ll find it hard to name another amplifier combination that delivers such a relatively natural and liquid analogue sound – and carries enough wallop to deal with two Ohm loads.

If the Vincents are at your price point, and it feels like that might be your kind of sound, then I strongly recommend you get a listen to them.

4 Responses to Vincent Solidline SA-94 stereo preamplifier & SP-995 class A mono amplifiers Review

  1. Byron says:

    Thanks for such a great review. I don’t know why, but lots of people are simply sleeping on this brand…at least here in the USA they are. I own Vincent tubed power amps as well as the tube preamp and they are simply amazing at their price point…hard to beat. So I can agree with your review 100%….you are spot on in the way you described the characteristics of the Vincent products.

  2. Stanley says:

    Vincent Audio gear is extremely underrated & has to be heard to be believed

    I can understand why some people do not like Vincent because they are putting High End gear at real world prices! Ignore this company at your peril . Audition & judge for yourself!

  3. Bill says:

    Made in China is always a turn off for me, but it really depends on how well they are made and of course the sound quality. I like the sound quality of tubes, so the author being impressed by these amplifiers is a plus to me. I have a solid state amp made about 16 years ago, which can be switched from Class A to A/B. I like the feature, and it is useful for sound quality of different music. They can be switched to A/B to save energy.

  4. Wayne Elliott says:

    Vincent products are “stupid good” for the money. Paired with the sublime SP-998 Mono Blocks the SA-94 Pre-Amp is superb, but it needs to be matched carefully and sounds best with Tubes from the source.

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