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ARC VT100 MKII vs. VT130 SE

66.92.242.100

Posted on December 8, 2010 at 12:07:50
TubeAmpQuestion


 
I'd like to get input from folks here on the board re the sonic differences between these two ARC amps. Is the VT130 SE weak in the bass region compared to the VT100 MKII? Is it weak in the bass area in general? How do mids and highs compare between the two amps?

How about soundstage? Does the VT130SE throw a deeper, wider, more realistic soundstage than the VT100 MKII? Is the difference in soundstaging more dramatically improved with a change in pre-amps (e.g. LS25/MKI to a Ref 2/MKI)?

Any input is appreciated.

 

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RE: ARC VT100 MKII vs. VT130 SE, posted on December 8, 2010 at 13:41:04
AbeCollins
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I can only speak for the VT100 mkII. As tube amps go, I thought that the VT100 mkII had excellent deep bass and impact with great dynamics, more so than some other 6550/KT88 based amps. But I do love those pretty meters on the VT130SE. ;-) Unfortunately, I haven't heard the VT130SE.


 

I have heard both amps in my friend's set-up......, posted on December 8, 2010 at 19:03:35
kootenay
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with MF KW SACD and ARC Ref pre driving the Watt Puppy 5.1 speakers. Definitely the VT130 SE was more robust and visceral than the VT100. In terms of highs and midrange frequency responses they're about even, however, the VT130 SE was much better in plumbing the depths of the Wilson's speaker than VT100 ever could.

Sadly enough, he upgraded his WP5 to MAXX2 speakers and the VT130 SE just didn't have enough oomph to drive them properly so he bought the Krell 250M CX model power amp.

BTW, He kept the VT130SE of which he uses it to drive his B&W 30 Signature Speakers.



If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well
(Proverb)

 

RE: ARC VT100 MKII vs. VT130 SE, posted on December 9, 2010 at 07:27:02
fstein
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Good luck biasing an ARC amp yourself

 

RE: ARC VT100 MKII vs. VT130 SE, posted on December 9, 2010 at 08:27:25
kentaja
Manufacturer

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Joined: March 26, 2001
Hmmm. What exactly is difficult?

The VT130(SE) bias on the front with the built in meters. Explain how that is difficult? The standard version is also a snap to bias.

The VT100 has a couple of bias adjust pots/test points on the top edge of the motherboard. Remove the top cover and it is a snap to bias. How is this difficult?

Hey if biasing a tube amp is too much for you then get solid state. ARC has a built many, many tube amps. Most are straight forward and quite easy to bias. I have never seen any of them that I would describe as difficult.

 

RE: ARC VT100 MKII vs. VT130 SE, posted on December 9, 2010 at 11:15:20
Ozzy
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Posts: 6565
Joined: September 21, 1999
Yeah, you want difficult. Try biasing an Airtight amp.

Oz


Don't worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older, it will avoid you.
- Winston Churchill

 

RE: ARC VT100 MKII vs. VT130 SE, posted on December 9, 2010 at 14:34:53
AbeCollins
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"Yeah, you want difficult. Try biasing an Airtight amp."

I guess they don't call 'em Airtight for nothing. Try biasing one and run the risk of letting the air out.



 

RE: ARC VT100 MKII vs. VT130 SE, posted on December 9, 2010 at 17:03:24
fstein
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while they may have cleaned up their act recently with these models, historically they have been much less than user friendly

 

AbeCollins - question re you pre-amps, posted on December 9, 2010 at 17:22:21
TubeAmpQuestion


 
AbeCollins,

Thanks for your comments on the VT100 MKII.

In looking over your contributions here, it appears you have changed from an ARC LS16 to an LS25 MKII. Can you comment on the improvements in soundstaging/imaging between the two, if any?

 

Kootenay, a few follow up questions if I may ..., posted on December 9, 2010 at 18:38:33
TubeAmpQuestion


 
It is interesting that you found the VT130 SE to have better low end performance than the VT100 MKII as I've read that the VT130 SE is not so great in this area. Wes Philips actually referred to the bass response as "anemic" in his 11/1996 Stereophile review of the VT130 SE. Perhaps his version did not have the Infinicap upgrade - judging by the date of the review this may well be the case.

Do you know if you were listening to a VT100 MKI or a VT100 MKII? If it was a VT 100 MKI it would have had 1/2 the energy storage capacity of a MKII and it may not have had the Infinicap upgrade (almost certainly not if it was a stock MKI).

So, if your listening experience was a pre Infinicap MKI vs. an Infinicaped 130 it might explain why your perception and that of Mr. Philips are so different.

I would be very interested to hear your opinion of the soundstaging capabilities of the two. Was one markedly better/differnt than the other?

Thanks again for your response - it jives with my gut feeling re the two amps and directly addressed my inquiry. And, if your personal choice of amplifier is any indication, you are in a very good position to judge how visceral these amps are. The D-250 is a thing of beauty.

 

RE: AbeCollins - question re you pre-amps, posted on December 9, 2010 at 18:43:20
AbeCollins
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You know, I can't really say if I noticed a difference in the soundstage and imaging going from the LS16mkII to LS25mkII. The LS25mkII is a bit more dynamic and the top end is either better extended or just a bit more "clear".

Plus the LS25mkII has additional features that set it apart from the LS16mkII including Balanced XLR & RCA's for ALL inputs and LO, MED, and HI gain settings from the front panel. I'm not talking about Volume Control, but gain. This came in handy when I had a phono preamp that was putting out a rather hefty signal that would occasionally over drive the LS25mkII causing slight distortion on music peaks. Simply reducing the Gain solved the problem completely.

I've been very happy with the LS25mkII. I chose it (and the 6H30 tubes) because I consider this tube linestage to be pretty neutral sounding as tubes go. It's fully extended in the bass and treble with no noticeable roll-off (which I have noticed in some tube linestages), and it's smooth with no grain.

Now if I wanted a more robust and rich sounding linestage that is also fully extended, transparent, and dynamic, I would look to the Cary SLP-05. This is a lovely sounding linestage and definitely warmer and richer sounding than the ARC LS25mkII. But in my case I already have enough of that "warm and rich" sound from my tube monoblocks so I was seeking a tube linestage that didn't sound too tubey, if that makes sense.

I once had the Cary SLP-05 driving a hefty SS amp and that was a very nice sounding combo too.

...Abe


 

Thanks again Abe..., posted on December 9, 2010 at 19:27:01
TubeAmpQuestion


 
Makes perfect sense to me - the LS25 MKII's I've heard are very neutral yet still retain that sense of air and ease that tubes can so convincingly convey. The fact that you did not notice a difference in imaging capabilities between the 16 and 25 indicates that they are very close in this regard.

By the way -are you referring to your Aesthetix Rhea Phonostage? Would you say that the Rhea's sonic signature is more along the lines of your Manley's or does it tend to favor the LS25 MKII?

Thanks again - and might I add that your tutorial on replacing/biasing the VT100 MKII tubes is just brilliant.

 

RE: Thanks again Abe..., posted on December 9, 2010 at 20:45:24
AbeCollins
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No, let me explain as there's more to it than I described in my previous post. When I had the slight distortion on music peaks driving the ARC LS25mkII, I was using the Hagerman Cornet2 vacuum tube MM phono with a Bob's Devices Step Up Transformer (SUT) for my Benz Glider SL MC cartridge. That setup put out a pretty "hot" signal and over drove the ARC LS25mkII that had been set to HIGH gain. Simply reducing the gain to MEDIUM completely solved the problem. You might ask why I had it on the HIGH gain setting in the first place. I was using the setup with a much lower output Dynavector 17D3 MC cartridge that benefited from the additional overall system gain, which proved to be too much for the Benz.

The Rhea has adjustable loading and gain. So if I had the Rhea at that time, I would probably also run it at a lower gain setting the for Benz vs the Dyna cartridge.

I would say that the Rhea's sonic signature is more along the lines of the ARC vs the Manleys. It's fairly neutral sounding to my ears, not especially warm or rich sounding but airy and no grain, nice and smooth.

When I'm in the mood for an extra blast of that harmonically rich, robust, weighty and warm tube sound, I turn on the EAR 834P. To my ears the EAR has noticeable midrange presence and warmth along with an extra shot of bass energy. It's a very seductive sound but too much of a good thing in my setup. I suppose the EAR 834P would be an excellent fit in an otherwise thin sounding system.

Some additional comments on the VT100mkII. Prior to owning the VT100mII I had a couple other 6550 based amps but these were typical 4-tube units that put out about 60wpc or so... like the CJ Premier 11a. They were OK but when I heard the 8-tube VT100mkII I was immediately impressed with it's effortless dynamics and bass punch. It also has a nice midrange. I had the smaller VT50 for a while and I thought it would be just a bit less dynamic than the VT100mkII but I was wrong. It also seemed to lack the midrange presence of it's bigger brother sounding slightly thin in comparison. I had a Cary CAD 120S on loan for a while and this is also a larger 8-tube 6550 setup. As much as I like most Cary gear, I felt that the CAD 120S was lacking something in the midrange. It didn't have any warmth or glow in the mids. I preferred the old ARC VT100mkII.

But then it was time to move on. I discovered the AES/Cary SixPac monoblocks and these had 6 EL34 tubes per amp and put out about 60wpc. I was amazed at the midrange. I loved the sound of these modestly priced monoblocks but wished they put out more power for even better dynamics and impact. They were a big step up from the more costly CJ Premier 11a with 4 6550 tubes but I wanted even more. I then discovered the Manley Neo-Classics with 10 EL34 tubes per amp. So I had that EL34 sound that I fell in love with but with significantly more power.

I hope I didn't bore you to tears with my long rambling. ;-)

 

I'm not sure if he upgraded the VT100...., posted on December 9, 2010 at 21:40:07
kootenay
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before trading it to the VT130 SE. I do know that he did upgrade the VT130 SE with Infinicap after.

As I said, they were both even in reproducing the highs and the midrange frequency responses. But the VT130 SE was much better in resolving the bottom end. In terms of imaging and soundstaging, again the VT130 SE was much better in this regard while driving the WP5.1 speakers. As it did a excellent job in helping the Wilson speakers made the walls, floor and ceiling disappear, while listening to Patricia Barber Cafe' Blue cd in his listening room.

Compared to my D-250, the VT130 SE sounded a little anemic and cooler, rather than visceral and organic however, the top octave frequency response of the VT130 SE was much better as the D-250 tends to roll the highs off a tad earlier.

BTW, I could lived happily with either one of them.



If a thing's worth doing, it's worth doing well
(Proverb)

 

RE: I'm not sure if he upgraded the VT100...., posted on December 10, 2010 at 07:12:13
AbeCollins
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The VT100mkII had a larger capacity power supply which improved the soncis a bit over the VT100, and the VT100mII added a quiet muffin fan on the bottom panel inside the amp for improved cooling. The VT100 didn't have the fan.

If you visit the ARCDB (unofficial Audio Research Database), the picture of the VT100 they used, is actually my VT100mkII that I had in my living room audio setup years ago.



 

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