Vincent SP-331 Power Amp Review

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by purr1n, Feb 5, 2017.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Vincent SP-331 Power Amp Review

    I really don't have much idea what this Vincent company is about. I believe their website is this: http://www.vincent-tac.de/

    After perusing their website, I still have no idea what this Vincent company is about. I've heard that they are a Germany company that sends its designs to China to be manufactured. I don't know. For all we know, maybe they are Chinese designs with a German front to earn reputation points. I've also heard the name Sheng Ya associated with Vincent, maybe as an OEM. I don't know. It's all a mystery. They should pay somebody $250 for a quick marketing job. It doesn't need to be that complex of a story.

    Unboxing videos here: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/vincent-sp-331-power-amplifier-unboxing.3844/

    • Transmission: 10 Hz - 50 kHz +/- 0.5 dB,
    • Power RMS / 8 Ohm: 2x 150 Watt
    • Power RMS / 4 Ohm: 2x 300 Watt
    • Distortion Factor: <0.1% (1 kHz, 1 Watt)
    • Input sensitivity: 1.2 V
    • Signal-to-noise ratio:> 90 dB
    • Input Impedance: 47 kOhm
    • Inputs: 1 x stereo RCA
    • Outputs: 4 x 2 loudspeaker clamps
    • Power supply: 230 V / 50 Hz
    • Color: black / silver
    • Weight: 19 kg
    • Measurements (WxHxD): 430 x 160 x 450 mm
    • Tubes: 2 x 6N16

    Well, let's get down to it. The Vincent SP-331 is a hybrid power amp. The input stage uses 6N16 pencil tubes. There appears to be six solid state output devices per channel. We can see the two tiny tubes at the left in the below photo. The tubes appear to have some sort of anti-vibration dampers attached near the bases. The tubes are soldered onto the board and should have a lifetime of 15,000 hours.
    Vicent SP-331 internals).JPG

    The dimensions of the SP-331 are quite manageable. Only the faceplate is the standard rack width of 19". The rest of the unit is a few inches less in width, making it easy to slide into a furniture rack. Of course the faceplate won't mount into a real equipment rack, but few of us use pro racks. Below we can see a size comparison to the Crest CA2 Professional power amplifier.
    Vincent SP-331 front.JPG

    Here is a photo of the back. As we can see, the layout is pretty good. I would have preferred to see the power cord further away from the lower L speaker taps, but there is still enough clearance for the use of speaker cables with spade connectors. Input is unbalanced only. Not a big deal. Unbalanced is perfectly fine in a home environment. No need to get obsessive about balanced.
    Vincent SP-331 back.JPG
    The sound quality of the Vincent SP-331 is very good, perhaps exceptional for the price. The Crest CA2 sounds veiled and boring in comparison. I've started a quick comparison of other solid-state amps here: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...-power-amp-adventures.3789/page-2#post-116231

    The SP-331 sounded harsh and thin when first turned on. I figured I'd let the tubes warm up. After several hours, the sound warmed up and smoothed out. Subsequent power-ons seem to require about 15-30 minutes for the amp to get up to speed. This amp is going on the loaner program, so I would advise folks to leave the amp on for a few hours before evaluating it because its still fairly new. When the amp is first turned on, there is a blinking red light that turns solid after 30 seconds. This is when the amp will start working.

    The SP-331 is not quite as good as the Hegel H2 (http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/hegel-h2-power-amp-mini-review.3791/), which I feel is a true TOTL type of amp that meets all competencies, exceeds in quite a few, and ultimately is quite magical in being able to convey musical feeling. The SP-331 lacks the smoothness, microdynamic shading / nuance, bass extension / grunt, and immense soundstage / precision of the H2. Where it tries to make up for it is with the tube bloom / euphonics. The Hegel H2 is bright, so care needs to be taken with other components, especially speakers. The Hegel demands transducers with smooth, maybe even laid back treble.

    With the Altec 511B horns pictured below, I actually preferred the Vincent SP-331 to the Hegel H2 by a small margin even though the H2 was the "better amp". Sometimes synergy takes precedence. If I had more time, I'd probably try to tweak the horns or use a more syrupy sounding DAC to get more synergy from the H2. The front horns, with their ragged midrange and treble response, work best with tubes or more laid-back sounding solid-state gear anyway. It should be noted that I by far preferred the Hegel H2 with the Fostex FE168 Sigma BLH speakers, which are more laid back and smoother sounding than the front horns below.
    [​IMG]
    Also, see here for impressions with Code-X headphone: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...-power-amp-adventures.3789/page-5#post-118173

    If I had to nitpick, these things come to mind:

    1. Microdynamic shading and nuance. To me, this is the essence of music. The Hegel H2 and the SET tube amplifiers I have do this in spades. I can't complain because the SP-331 is still quite good at this. The Crest CA2 is merely competent, and the Parasound A23 reviewed a few weeks ago was utter incompetent. Even then, the SP-331 brings tube euphony to the table. A small amount of bloom and a sprinkle of harmonic richness. Picking on this probably isn't fair, because only the $5000+ amps I've heard have been able to fully pull this off. It's close.
    2. Imaging precision. The imaging is not quite as precise and stable as the H2 or CA2. Instrument localization can be a little diffuse. Switching to the JFET buffer on the Freya preamp didn't really help either. (The upside is that the Freya tube circuit can pull of pin-point imaging with a suitable power amp).
    3. Bass extension and low end grunt. Not quite as muscular down low as the Hegel H2. Equivalent to the CA2 though, so really not bad and more a case of high expectations from me.
    4. Tube bloom. To me, a tad excessive with the Freya tube circuit (although I must admit that I listen to music with the Freya tube circuit switched in); but too bloomy for movies (this is when I use the JFET buffer on the Freya). Ultimately, this is a matter of taste. I think those with solid-state preamps won't have an issue.
    In a nutshell, the Vincent SP-331 represents a fantastic value. It meets basic competencies, adds some tube euphonics, and most importantly is quite musically engaging. The sound quality exceeds the typical high-value propositions (higher end Class AB pro amps), but still doesn't quite meet the true high-end monsters, but we do get awfully close to them.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 5, 2017
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    P.S. It's ironic that I've been trying to find a decently priced power amplifier that is more suited for music than home theater, yet the speakers I have do home theater (and music) a lot better than most of the HT garbage at Best Buy or Magnolia.
     
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  3. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    Glad the Vincent turned out well. Matching equipment is key, no matter how good the stuff is. I bet with break-in it will sound much better than now. I do believe there are German designers making the circuits for these.

    Vincent has an Anniversary Edition of their next level up with the Class A stage the Vincent 331-MK called the Vincent SP20. It is a limited edition and has new curcuitry inside supposedly to make it sound better than the 331-MK Class A model. It has cool VU Meters and there is 4 colors you can choose for the VU meter. $3,000,00 for the SOB. May be worth a look for someone. Company takes back, no questions asked if it sucks.
    Here's the link..... http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=VISP20
     
  4. ohhgourami

    ohhgourami Friend

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    Description is that of a used 1-1.5k power amp.

    I hope you can get your hands on a Benchmark AHB2. You will be utterly impressed. I doubt there is an equal at under ~4k used prices.
     
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  5. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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  6. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    @Clemmaster
    Thanks for the heads up. Just ordered the thing. Couldn't resist at the price I got it for. Thanks again.
     
  7. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    I got the Vincent yesterday. Last night I set it up and warmed it up for about 80 minutes and did a 2 hour listen. The Vincent only has RCA inputs, compared to my NuPrime STA-9 which has balanced and unbalanced inputs.

    I use the Freya preamp, Modi Multibit, Martin Logan ESLs, 2 REL S3 subs, AudioQuest Evergreen interconnects, 8 gauge OFC speaker wire.

    The Vincent last night had a veil over it and the timbre was way off. Sounded like a stereo that most people have. Lacking in realism, distant. I could go on. My NuPrime was so much better with getting everything just perfect. The Vincent didn't have the ambience in the voices and lacked any kind of guitar or piano release that a properly setup audiophile system will provide. Last night I was very disappointed. No matter what setting of the Freya (passive, JFET, tube), I couldn't extract the essence of the music. I was blaming it on the 2 tubes in the Vincent amp. My logic was that the Martin Logans didn't like those tubes sitting there in the Vincent solid state amp. It was destroying and putting a veil over the sound. Damn I thought. I get such lush accurate sound from my NuPrime, it gives me chills that I have a system that can produce a proper reproduction of the recording.

    So the thinking cap comes on.....

    Got some sleep..... and here's what I tried first......

    I've always praised the balanced output of the Freya preamp. So what if I sent a signal from the balanced output of the Freya to the Vincent. So how do I do that? Well I bought an item that is an Active 2-way Stereo Converter (Rolls MB15b Promatch). I got it from the place in New York called B&H Photo. They are the best on the East Coast for Pro Audio, Pro Camera and other good stuff for professionals. Been using them forever. This Rolls MB15b converts XLR and RCA anyway you need it. It is a very useful item and seems to be built for minimal degradation of sound, if any at all. So I use XLR out of the Freya to the Rolls MB15b and RCA out of the Rolls MB15b to the Vincent. It's perfectly safe. It has a volume control, but I have it set at straight thru with no added volume.

    So how did the Vincent do with a balanced out from the Freya you ask? ...............

    Night and Day difference in performance. Soundstage appeared. Timbre got almost perfect.

    Freya has 3 output settings (passive, JFET, Tube)
    Right now I would say that the passive is the most accurate. But there is still a liking for the tube output. And I think with some cable wizardry, the Vincent just may be able to be a keeper for me, and surpass my NuPrime. I can say that the soundstage is larger with the Vincent, but right now the accuracy of timbre and ambience goes to the NuPrime. But the Vincent has brought rewards to my REL S3 subs. Because the Vincent has only RCA inputs...... the gain is not as high as the balanced NuPrime. This allows proper gain matching of the REL S3 subs into the system. Night and day difference. Volume controls on the RELs are half way. Yes. Last night I literally shook the whole room with a large boost of the volume. Me like dat.

    So there more things I'm going to try to get the sound even better..........
    Next up is cables that I just got in the mail this week from Morrow Audio. I have 2 sets, so I can go from the Modi Multibit to the Freya, and from the Rolls MB15b to the Vincent. They are Morrow Audio's MA1 and I bought them so I could trade up to the MA4 reference. You get a discount with trade-up that saves you money in the end. Supposedly these cables are very revealing. I mean very revealing for a planar speaker like a Martin Logan. I also have Morrow Audio building me a Speak-On cable for one of the REL S3 subs. Mike Morrow the owner claims much improved resolution with cable. Money back guarantee for 60 days. So I took the gamble with that guarantee. If I do the trade-up with the MA1 to MA4 though, there is no money back guarantee. But you're getting the cables for almost half price. There have been some users of the cables that swear by them. Morrow Audio is a small company and I will give them a try. If it pans out the I get the sound where I want it to be. It'll all be worth it.

    So there you have it. The Vincent needs to be feed properly. And the Freya is at it's best with the balanced out. I cannot overstate the difference I hear between the balanced and unbalanced. The next thing project is to go balanced DAC into the Freya, and use a AudioQuest USB cable and see if that improves things more. The beat goes on. Dennis

    PS: Forgot...... I got 12 tubes to roll........ that ought to be fun.......:)
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  8. HitmanFluffy

    HitmanFluffy Hoping to see real genitals someday!

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    Dude get yourself something that can actually resolve in place of the Modi Multibit, that would cost you a fraction of the cable/tube absurdity. You own ESLs.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Yeah. Modi Multibit to Gungnir Multibit is a significant jump. Direct out from the Gungnir Multibit DA chips to the tube buffer is yet another huge jump.
     
  10. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    The Rolls mb15b is an active device with op amps in the signal path. Noise floor is published at -88 dB and a THD of 0.003% probably using a lot of Negative FeedBack (NFB).

    Schematic found here:
    http://www.rolls.com/pdf/M_MB15b.pdf
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  11. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    Does that mean that I'm introduction undue noise into the chain?
     
  12. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    @HitmanFluffy
    I've spent under $200 for the tubes. The cables are another story, about $650 total I have spent altogether in speaker cables and interconnects. There will be plenty of spares though.
     
  13. beemerphile

    beemerphile Friend

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    The active device that @Big D Design seems to need is an active crossover to resolve all of the level matching issues with the subs. A BBE Max X-3 could take the balanced Freya inputs via XLR and provide SE outs to both the Vincent and the subs via 1/4 TS > RCA adapter cables. In addition the crossover frequency would be adjustable. Not sure if he is running the main speakers full range or high pass, but this would allow high pass to the main speakers and low pass to the subs. It would additionally provide separate level controls for main, HF, and LF. SNR of the BBE is around 100dB
     
  14. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    Here is the latest on the Vincent.......

    I listened in 3 sessions today for about 4 hours total. With the Freya set to Passive it sounds the most realistic. It still is missing that last bit of air and clarity that the NuPrime has, but I want to give the amp some time before I move to other angles. I still love the Freya tube output. It is more lively, but some tracks suffer with a little too much bloom with all the tubes going on. My goal is to use the Freya with the tubes, and have the Vincent sounding proper. I'm hoping some cable or Vintage tubes in the Freya will take me there. Really don't want to use EQ, and I don't want to go back to the headache of the NuPrime and my subs problem with gain matching. That gain problem was destroying $4k worth of REL subs from doing their thing. Now that I have the Vincent on the balanced Freya circuit..... It has opened up into something that I can work with.
     
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
  15. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    i keep reading about these Frankenstein direct-out hacks and just weep in anticipation. ;)
    might just spend a bunch of $ and have a weekend on the bench with @MisterRogers hacking things together while drinking beers.
    :drunk:
     
  16. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    @beemerphile
    The setup I have now is exactly what I need. The ESLs are supposed to be run full range and the RELs just enhance the ESLs. The RELs are not supposed to stand out like other subwoofers. They are designed to enhance a full range speaker. What I'm using is what all the other sound and broadcast pros use, they they swear by them.
     
  17. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    You have raised the noise floor, yes, with the introduction of the mb15b to the signal path. Also note the capacitors in the path. Those aren't audiophile capacitors (for the benefit of those concerned about such.) I would suggest using Jensen transformers from Radial Engineering to perform this task instead.
     
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  18. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    I also have a Yamaha MG06x Pro Mixer. What do you guys think of that into the sound chain. Just wondering how that would destroy the sound too. I bought it so I could run Modi Multibit into it with an RCA to XLR cable and then XLR cable out to the input of the Freya. The unit is made for stereo input and stereo output with a press of a button.

    Of course I could use another Rolls unit as well if I wanted to. Yamaha has a 112sn ratio
     
  19. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    @atomicbob
    I was worried to send an XLR to RCA cable straight to the Vincent, and leave the Rolls out of the equation. Wasn't sure if that would be dangerous.
     
  20. Scott Kramer

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    @Big D Design How about another shot at pure SE between Freya/Amp -- maybe it was still in the warmup, breaking in phase while you had it SE. Seems really surprising it'd be such a change in sound... especially if you are using the passive mode. Is the input impedance really low or something on that vincent?
     

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