It’s been just over 3 weeks since we took delivery of the brand new Vitus Audio ‘Super’ integrated amplifier, the SIA-030. In that time it has been running almost continously to get plenty of hours on it before we start our customer demonstrations.
I’ve posted a couple of times already about the SIA-030 and I’ll revisit some of what I’ve previously discussed here as well as talk about what everyone wants to know – how does it sound!?
The SIA-030 is basically the much bigger brother to the popular SIA-025, it offers 30 watts per channel in Class A mode rising to 200 watts in AB mode, like the SIA-025 you can select Class A or Class AB off the remote contorl or front panel and easy switching offers nice and simple comparisons between the 2 modes, although in reality most users will only want to listen in Class A mode as this is where the SIA-030 truly excels.
In addition to being able to switch between Class A and Class AB there is also another 2 modes available to select, Classic Mode and Rock Mode. These modes should not be taken too literally, they are very system, listener, music and room dependent. Rock mode is a little more forward in presentation terms with certain music, Classic mode is called as such because it is Vitus’ preferred mode and is the default setting, it is not as forward as rock mode, but is wonderfully seductive and alluring. Both modes have wonderful traits of everything Vitus excels at to be fair. Depending on your music choices through a long listening session I could easily envisage people switching between the 2 modes. I can go from Rammstein to Miles Davis in a heartbeat and they couldn’t be further apart musically! When you change mode the amplifier re-initialises itself which takes around 20 seconds.
As you can see from the various images the SIA-030 is rather large standing at almost 27cm tall and 53 cm deep, weighing in at 63kg when unpacked it is a serious 2 man lift, it comes shipped in a substantial wooden crate with an integrated pallet and it isn’t the easy thing to move around, but we easily got it up a flight of stairs to the listening room.
Part of the reason for the weight is huge mains transformer which is a custom 2.2kVA transformer designed specifically for use in the SIA-030. Hans Ole Vitus has always treated the transformers as the beating heart of his products and designs them with an almost obsessive attention to detail and it’s one of the reasons every Vitus product performs to such a high standard and the SIA-030 is no exception to this.
The pre-amplifier section is internally shielded from the rest of the amplifier and the internal design has been optimised to ensure maximum airflow and efficient cooling without the need for a fan – when in Class A mode it does run quite warm (but never what I would describe as hot to the touch – you certainly couldn’t fry an egg on it like some other Class A designs over the years!)
The volume control has come straight from the Masterpiece MP-L201 Linestage and increases in 0.5dB steps to offer really fine and delicate control.
The design of the front panel display has changed with the SIA-030 and it is a lot more intuitive than the more traditional displays Vitus has used the past and this new style of display is certainly easier to fly. You can even customise the colours of the text on the front panel which is a nice touch.
As with the other Vitus integrated amplifiers there are 3 pairs of XLR inputs, 2 pairs of RCA inputs, pre-outs are RCA (as opposed to XLR on the other Vitus integrated amps). Any of the inputs can be set as a fixed input (for use in a surround system for example) and there is volume offset and adjustable sensitivity available independently for every input. On the rear panel you will see there are 2 horizontal slots, these are for the DAC and Phono-stage modules, not available at the time of writing, but will be due for release very soon. The USB port you can see on the rear panel is for firmware updates only.
The DAC board will offer the following connectivity, USB-B x 1, Ethernet x 1, AES-EBU x 1, SPDIF Coaxial x 1 and Toslink Optical x 1.
The Ethernet input will be Roon Ready and will also support Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Spotify, Apple Airplay and V-Tuner. We have been advised by Vitus that the performance of this DAC will be on-par with the standalone RD-101 DAC/Streamer so it will be a serious add-on upgrade for those looking for the ultimate one box system.
The DAC board is anticipated to cost around £4500.00 in the UK and we will be getting one for my demo amplifier when they become available. For someone looking for the ultimate simple system an SIA-030 with the DAC module (and an internet connection) and a pair of speakers are all you need in theory. Of course connecting a Melco N1Z or similar into the USB input will deliver an even higher level of performance. For those running CD players and CD transports there are 3 conventional (old school!) digital inputs, even an optical connection if someone wanted to connect their TV to it!
As for the phono-stage it is estimated this will also be £4500.00. This has 2 sets of RCA inputs, one pair for MM and one pair for MC and just like the DAC board it is ideal for turntable users looking for serious performance without a huge box count.
In terms of our demo system with the SIA-030 we have been using a Melco N1Zs/2 (and a N1zH/2) connected to the Vitus RD-101 DAC with a pair of Avalon Idea loudspeakers and a pair of Serhan & Swift Mu2 (at the time of writing our Vimberg Mino’s have not yet arrived – they should make a rather special combination together!). Signal and power cables has been a mixture of Tellurium Q Black Diamond and Entreq. The RD-101 and the Melco have been Stillpointed using Ultra 6 and Ultra 5, I have not put any Stillpoints under the amplifier…….yet.
When the amplifier was first powered on it sounded great, massive scale, a little thick and heavy but you could immediately hear what it was doing, but to be fair I simply put an album on repeat and closed the door and left it alone for a good 48 hours before I sat in front of it to properly listen to some music.
Comparisons in performance are naturally going to be drawn between the SIA-030 and the SIA-025 and even the RI-100 and RI-101. The SIA-030 is a pure Vitus thoroughbred, in that in bears all of the classic Vitus hallmarks of incredible tone, texture, liquidity and is wonderfully natural in the way it presents itself.
The Avalon Idea has never been short of bass weight and extension, in my room they do that wonderful Avalon trait of simply disappearing, driven by the SIA-030 one of the very first things we noticed was how much more depth, weight and scale the presentation now has, it isn’t just extra bass for the sake of it either, there is real structure and texture to it which really allows you to hear more into the music and there no overhang or sense of bloom to it either.
I have a large music library which covers most genres and revisiting albums I know really well with the SIA-030 has left my jaw on the floor and tears in my eyes on more than one occasion. The SIA-030 is eerily quiet and has one of the blackest backgrounds I’ve ever heard, as such it delivers a quite remarkable level of clarity, resolution and transparency and has the brilliant ability to be able pull out the finest level of micro-detail and expression from music you know inside and out. Don’t make the mistake of thinking the SIA-030 is clinical or forward though, it still retains a wonderful sense of naturalness and refinement and is unmistakably Vitus through and through.
This level of control and purity has really opened up the sound stage, everything is so much more 3D, the imaging is wide and tall, but the depth of the sound-stage is incredible, it really is palpable and you almost step into it and it give you a real sense of intimacy with everything that you listen to. Even on older recordings or recordings that are a bit rough around the edges the SIA-030 simply takes them all in its stride, rolls its sleeves up and just fills the room with glorious music giving you much more insight into it at the same time.
As one would hope and expect it is a significant step forward over the RI-100 and RI-101 and even the hugely coveted SIA-025 as well.
I’ve installed a lot of RI-100 and RI-101 over the past past 2 and a half years and they have always performed way past their price points, I’ve lost count of the number of times I have demonstrated one of them against the likes of Naim, Linn, Krell, Musical Fidelity, Bryston, Devialet and every single time the Vitus has won out and it has been exactly the same with the brilliant SIA-025. That in itself is a serious heavyweight amplifier and a significant step up the ladder from the Vitus Reference models, but the SIA-030 really takes performance up to a whole new level and it really stretches its legs over the 025.
That said, the other Vitus amplifiers still obviously have their relevance and the RI-101 is proving to be very popular and that won’t change. I’m not going to apologise for the price-point of the SIA-030, it costs of an awful lot of money and will be out of reach for many people. But given the performance level on offer I would candidly suggest it offers excellent value for money and I’d happily compare it to just about any other amplifier out there and I’m not just referring to other integrated amplifiers either, but big hitting pre-powers costing way more than the price of admission here as well. Over the past couple of years there definitely has been a shift away from pre-power amplifiers towards high performing integrated amplifiers and the release of the SIA-030 has certainly added more weight to the argument that pre-powers are not as relevant as they once were.
To me the SIA-030 is all about the ultimate performance from one box delivering that emotional connection and engagement to the music, it simply paints a huge musical landscape in your room, close your eyes and let it transport you to another place where you just get lost in the music and speaking personally it doesn’t really get much better than that for me.
We have the SIA-030 on permanent demonstration so if you would like have a listen to one please get in touch, don’t forget we offer generous part exchange so if you have a few items to trade in to help make the numbers please get in touch.