Vincent “offers two ‘electrical concepts,” says Vincent’s website. “One side is solid-state transistor products. The other is hybrid technology with vacuum tubes on the input stages combined with solid-state transistors in the output stage.”
The Vincent Audio SV-737 integrated amplifier ($ 3,499.95) is on the hybrid side. It has a “class-A / AB” output stage polarized to deliver 10W in class A ?? said capable of 180Wpc into 8 ohms (10Wpc of that in class-A) or 300Wpc into 4 ohms. The SV-737 goes digital, with a Burr-Brown PCM5102 DAC chip capable of playing PCM up to 24-bit / 192kHz via TosLink or coaxial S / PDIF connections. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are also included. There is no USB input.
“All [Vincent] the products are designed and made in Germany, âFrank BlÃ¶hbaum, Vincent’s engineering consultant and leading member of the design team, told me in an email. âThe production of the products takes place in China, Germany or a combination of the two. We do not have a unit that is 100% produced in Germany. Only the SA-T7, SP-T700 and the new KHV-200 are assembled in Germany. The SV-737 is made in China.
The SV-737 is big. He weighs 47 pounds. Its case is made of aluminum. The exterior is imposing, like a newly christened battleship. I found the matte black finish, chunky faceplate, and large control knobs impressive, and liked the small porthole that reveals a tube inside.
An Allgemeine ElektrizitÃ¤ts-Gesellschaft tube
As black as charcoal, the front of the SV-737 contains, from left to right, four control knobs for treble, bass, input select and volume. All buttons work smoothly and silently. A 2Â¼ “round display window appears in the center of the front – a porthole, revealing a new German-made 85A2 AEG (Allgemeine ElektrizitÃ¤ts-Gesellschaft) tube 85A2; more on this tube later.
Along the bottom edge of the front panel, below the buttons and glowing window, is a headphone jack “followed by a row of fingertip-sized pushbuttons that are mixed with LEDs. The headphone jack is supposed to support phones between 32 ohms and 600 ohms; when the headset is inserted, the speakers are muted. Small buttons let you choose between digital or analog sources; activate tone controls; or choose which set of speaker terminals is active. A “WPS” button makes it easy to configure the 737 to work with your Wi-Fi network. The large button in the middle is for power.
On the rear panel are the four digital inputs, the six line-level inputs, the pre-out and input connections (default jumper), a set of Record analog outputs, two sets of high-end connection terminals. speaker, IEC input, voltage selector (115 / 230V), and a pair of DC trigger outputs. At the top right are the brackets for the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth antennas.
The slim brushed black aluminum remote controls include mute, input, and volume. It was easy to choose inputs using the remote, but struggled to set the correct volume level. Another button on the 85A2 tube remote control light; three levels of brightness are available. (Apparently, it’s not the light from the tube that is visible through the window.) Both sides of the chassis are heat sinks.
Under the hood I found a 5.6 “Ã 4.25” China-made “tested 5kV DC” power transformer that Vincent says weighs 17 lbs, and I believe so. Additionally, inside are two printed circuit boards which contain circuitry for the mirror image and dual mono output stages; five tubes including the AEG tube in the middle; an Alpine volume control; capacitors from Elna, Wima and Nichicon; and several Sanken bipolar output power transistors. Everything inside seemed tidy and methodically located, right down to the thick “Huaming Wire Mesh Co. Ltd.” soldered silver wire securing the circuit board to the speaker terminals.
The two 6N1P tube and two 6N2P tube 737 preamplifier stage array is a standard feature, but the only AEG 85A2 tube (CV449 / CV4048) sticking out of the front window is anything but. “It is a professional gas stabilizer tube, an integral part of the high voltage power supply regulation of the preamplifier,” explained BlÃ¶hbaum. “Allgemeine ElektrizitÃ¤ts-Gesellschaft [AEG] was an icon of the German electronics industry, founded in 1883. “AEG developed” the world’s first high-quality tape recorder in the 1930s “(footnote 1). The 85A2″ has strict tolerances and has been used for voltage stabilization in professional equipment. For audio devices it has never been used so far because it was too expensive. ”
Considerable thought seems to have been spent on lowering the background noise of the SV-737. âThe transformer has additional insulation between the primary and secondary windings and can therefore withstand the high 5 kV test procedure,â BlÃ¶hbaum wrote. “This additional insulation is not only favorable for increased safety. It lowers the coupling capacity between the primary and secondary coils and therefore has a damping effect on unwanted noise, which could be picked up by the mains supply. In these days of many switch-mode power supplies in every household, this is an important feature. ”
I asked BlÃ¶hbaum about the design concept behind the SV-737. “The power amplifier is designed [to have] a very linear characteristic, like a ‘straight wire with gain’, “he replied.” It … has a large phase reserve to easily handle complex loads (footnote 2). While the power amplifier is made up of transistors, the preamplifier uses tubes. The tube preamplifier, however, is designed to have “a linear characteristic with a little flavor of the sweet second harmonics of the triodes.” “Small” is important! This should not affect the integrity of the signal at all! An amplifier is not a musical instrument, but it should bring amplified music to life. The idea was to combine a very linear and neutral power amplifier with a soft singing tube preamplifier. Finally, the result should be like a triode amplifier on steroids, … capable of playing music with well-balanced clarity. ”
I put my Kuzma and Thorens turntables in the Tavish Audio Design Adagio phono preamp; A pair of Triode Wire Labs Spirit II interconnects connected the phono preamp to the SV-737. For files and streaming I have used my Asus Windows laptop as a digital source, but because the Vincent lacks a USB connection ?? a notable omission in an era when computers are often used as digital sources ?? I used a Wyred4Sound ÂµLink converter to adapt the USB output from the laptop to TosLink. To play CDs, I connected my Tascam 200iL CD player to one of the SV-737’s analog inputs via a pair of 1m Shindo Laboratory interconnects. To compare the Vincent’s on-board DAC to my Denafrips Ares II DAC, I used AudioQuest Forest digital cable and Triode Wire Labs Spirit II interconnects. I plugged the Klipsch Forte III floorstanding speakers into the amplifier and off you go.
Footnote 1: AEG showed the first practical audio tape recorder, the Magnetophon K1, at the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin in 1935.Editor
Footnote 2: âPhase reserveâ refers to the ability of an amplifier to handle complex (in particular, capacitive) loads.Editor