Vitus launched the incredible SIA-030 integrated amplifier in the Summer of 2019 to overwhelming acclaim. It has received nothing but praise from all corners of the world with its effortless performance and spine-tingling realism.
It may be ‘just an integrated amplifier’ but the attention to detail in its design, build and subsequent performance means it will happily rub shoulders with pre-powers at more than double its asking price (£31,000).
Essentially the SIA-030 is the much bigger brother to the iconic SIA-025, it offers 30 watts per channel in Class A mode rising to 200 watts in AB mode, it has all of the seductive and alluring qualities of the SIA-025 coupled with a huge increase in overall performance.
Whenever Vitus are designing a new product it all starts with the power supply and the SIA-030 uses a transformer that has been designed exclusively for this use in this amplifier, weighing in at a healthy 23kg it is the beating heart of everything the SIA-030 is all about. The noise floor is so low and so quiet it has the ability to pull out so much finer detail and emotional expression from your music that you simply will not have experienced before. That old cliche of an inky black background has never been more relevant than it is here!
Since its launch I’ve done quite a few demonstrations and I’ve got a handful of good customers who are hard at work saving up to make the jump to an SIA-030. It’s been an emotional experience for sure, I’ve had 3 customers I know very well reduced to tears by what the SIA-030 can deliver, it really is musical reproduction at the very highest of levels. Artists and albums you know and love all of sudden sound more alive and real than ever before with wonderful transparency and musicality, it really is quite incredible how much extra information this amplifier can pull out of your music!
Included in the original design concept of the SIA-030 was space to install 2 optional plug-in modules, a DAC streamer board and a phono stage board. Priced at £5200 I took delivery of the DAC/Streamer a couple of months ago now, the first module in the world to be shipped from Vitus which was quite a coup!
Installation of the module couldn’t be simpler, unscrew the 4 retaining screws and remove the blanking plate, the board slides into place and makes connection, put the screws back in, power on and it’s ready to use.
The DAC chip Vitus opted to use is the ESS ES9028 PRO. As you an see from the image below there are 5 inputs on the module, AES/EBU, SPDIF, Optical Toslink, Ethernet and USB, the USB socket labelled Wi-Fi is there for connecting a USB Wi-Fi dongle, if your amplifier cannot be hard-wired to a network it gives you another method of connection, although I would always recommend a physical connection.
The USB input supports all sample rates up to and including 32 bit/384 KHz and DSD 128, the Ethernet, SPDIF and AES inputs are 24 bit/192KHz and Optical Toslink is 24 bit/96 KHz.
In this day and age the USB and Ethernet inputs are likely to be the most frequently used. The USB input can be used to connect a computer, Melco or any device that can output audio via USB, like an Aurender or Innous etc and as mentioned above this connection supports all sample rates up to 32/384 and DSD 128.
The Ethernet input can play music in several different ways, once connected to your network you are good to go.
Streaming via MConnect
The primary app that is used to control the SIA-030 when on the Streamer input is called ‘Mcontrol HD’ by Mconnect, it is a popular app and is nice and simple to fly – very similar to the Melco app for those that are familar with it. The app presents you with a number of subscription based streaming services, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, Deezer and vTuner Internet Radio as well. It can even play files stored in Dropbox, OneDrive or iCloud Drive. Also, if you have any local servers on your network such as a Melco, a conventional NAS drive or even a shared folder on a computer playback from these is possible as well, you can see the list of sources options in the image below on the right.
Once you are into Qobuz for example you have access to every aspect of the service, new releases, download charts, streaming charts, favourites and purchases etc, the same applies for any other the other music services as well, as you can see from the image above to the left Qobuz also supports 24 bit hi-res streaming, Songs in the Key of Life is 24/192 and all the albums you can see with the small gold logo next to them are 24 bit as well. For me Qobuz has been the best streaming service to date, it may not have a library quite as extensive as Spotify, at last count it was estimated to have 250,000 albums/40 million tracks available to stream, I don’t recall it ever catching me out if I’ve been looking for something specific and out all of the streaming services it offers the best performance to my ears.
The other option for the streaming using SIA-030 Ethernet input is Roon. At the time of writing the Vitus SIA-030 DAC module is not yet fully certified by Roon but I must stress it works perfectly. Roon as a service has become incredibly popular of late and it’s easy to see why when you use it, the interface is truly wonderful, it is easy to use, incredibly intuitive and the way it throws up suggestions and recommendations for new music based on what you are listening to is excellent. Roon has helped me discover an incredible amount new music and artists that I was not have found otherwise. The way it curates your existing library is superb as well.
Roon is a subscription based service which costs around £100 a year, a lifetime license is about £600. In order to run Roon you need a computer with the Roon Core software running which is essentially their operating system. Any computer on your network cna perform this task, but in order to get the very best performance from Roon using one of their Nucleus Core Servers is recommended. I’ve had quite a few customers jump to a Nucleus after using their Mac or PC for a period of time and if you have a good system the benefit this offers is not subtle. I sell both versions of the Nucleus and you can learn a lot more about Roon on this page
In terms of getting up and running you simply point Roon at your own physical library on the network and when you sign in to Tidal and or Qobuz it integrates your favourites from these services together with your own music which is a nice touch. When looking at your albums it’s easy to identify which albums are physically yours as opposed to those which are streamed. You can even fit an SSD drive inside the Nucleus as well to act as local storage if need be.
Roon is a great experience I have to say. As mentioned above the way it recommended new music for you to try based on what you are listening to is superb, the Discover function is good too as it can pull music deep from within your library that you may not have heard for some time.
The speakers I was using to listen to the DAC module/SIA-030 were a pair of Vimberg Mino, these are a serious pair of world class loudspeakers, they have no colouration in any way and don’t impart any of their own character into the presentation and this gives the DAC module (and the system as a whole) nowhere to hide. Any shortcomings in performance in your system from whatever angle the Mino will certainly let you know about them.
I connected up a Melco N1ZS EX to the USB input of the DAC module and left it playing quietly in the background 24/7 for a couple of days to let it settle down.
I keep several saved playlists saved, full of tracks from some of my favourites artists/tracks which I always go to when evaluating equipment, this includes Leonard Cohen, GoGo Pengiun, Jon Hopkins, Crowded House, Rammstein, Lyle Lovett, Matthew Halsall, Laura Marling, Nick Cave and more.
‘In My Secret Life’ by Leonard Cohen had been playing for about 10 seconds and I was smiling. The DAC module offers a wonderful sense of refinement and naturalness, the presentation is unmistakenly Vitus in that it is almost analogue like in the way the musical landscape is painted. Switching over to the relaxed and contemplative jazz of Matthew Halsall there so much space, texture and air you can really sense the enviroment the musicians recorded the album in, it’s incredibly intimate and a wonderful experience, turn up the ante with Leftfield or Rammsteinand the room is filled with explosive energy, incredible drive and attack, but again, I’m never forced to turn the volume down, there no sense of hardness or stridency at all, in fact the volume actually increases!
Tonally the sound sits just on the warmer side of neutral but is endlessly detailed with incredible levels of resolution, it never sounds forced, artificially detailed or strident in the way it presents the music. The soundstage is huge, wonderfully 3D and holographic.
It’s an addictive listen that’s for sure, over the first few days/weeks of listening I found it impossible to listen for a quick 30 minutes, one track leads to another, then another and before you realise it’s 2am!
This DAC module itself is based around the £10,800 RD-101 – so it made sense to connect this up to the SIA-030 into one of the XLR inputs as well to see how it compared.
With the same playlist in hand and the RD-101 warmed up it and connected to the Melco it was time to listen – there is very little, if anything to choose between the DAC module and the RD-101. With the SIA-030 in mind you take away the case, power supplies, the need for an interconnect and power cable and create a really short signal path the DAC module offers incredible value for money at £5200.
That’s not the say the RD-101 doesn’t have its place, it’s a brilliant standalone DAC in non Vitus systems and a perfect partner for someone with an RI-100 or RI-101 but in the context of the SIA-030 the DAC module makes much more sense, it saves you money, gives you less cables to deal with and saves you space in your equipment rack!
That’s not the end of it though, connecting the Melco N1ZS to the USB input on Signature SCD-025 mk2 and things change somewhat. The SCD is a significant step forward over both the DAC module and the RD-101. Utilising the renowned Philips CD Pro mechanism which has been further optimised by Vitus, 4 separate power supplies and the highly revered Analog Devices AD1955 DAC chip the SCD-025 is a world class product, one of the very best CD players I have ever used and probably the best one box CD player in existence.
With the SCD playing there is more resolution, greater weight and increased vibrancy and energy in the music. As always with Vitus the sound is natural, resolving and incredibly lifelike. It never shouts or is aggressive in the way it presents the music and just lets you focus on being drawn in and engaged by the performance
To be fair the SCD-025 mk2 is £19,000 vs £5200 for the DAC module so I was fully expecting the SCD to take things up a gear or two! Sitting alongside the SCD-025 mk2 is the DAC only version the SD-025 for those that don’t require CD replay and sitting above both of these models is the new Masterpiece DAC, the MP-D201, so you can still take things even further if you wish, the SIA-030 is more than good enough to show you what happens at each step.
DAC Module or an External DAC?
Space is quite often an issue for a lot of people in UK living rooms and the SIA-030 isn’t exactly small so the DAC module makes a lot of sense, it complements the amplifier perfectly. If someone wanted the ultimate ‘one box’ system you could buy the SIA-030 with the DAC module, connect it to the Internet and sign up for Qobuz and away you go! An amplifier and a pair of speakers is essentially all you need.
If you want to use Roon add a Nucleus Core Server into the mix and it’s still an incredibly simple system, the Nucleus is very small and can be easily hidden from view.
Throw one of the bigger Melco’s into the mix (N10, N1ZH or N1ZS) connected via USB and performance takes a substantial leap forward over the streamed services and to be fair this is where you get the very best out of the DAC module, playing a stream of a track vs playing off the Melco isn’t a subtle comparison.For those that like the idea of using Roon because of the interface it shouldn’t be too long before the Melco itself is Roon certified!
For those wanting even more performance from the the SIA-030 sidestepping the DAC module and adding one of the dedicated Signature source components (SCD-025 mk2, SD-025) makes a lot of sense, but that is to take nothing away from the DAC module, bolted inside the SIA-030 its the makings of a system that would last a lifetime! The various options are all about varying levels of greatness!
Ultimately it all hinges on your budget, space and how far you want to go!
I’m obviously unable to do demosntrations at this moment in time but if you have any questions about the SIA-030 and the DAC module please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Remember part exchange is no problem at all either!