Vision SET 400 amp Review

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. Read 3804 times.

I.Greyhound Fan

Vision SET 400 amp Review
« on: 9 Jul 2018, 11:12 pm »
Frank loaned me this amp so I could write a review and compare it to my Pass Labs X250 amp.  I have had it hooked up for 2 days now and I am very impressed.  The SET 400 is 225wpc at 8 ohms and Frank says it will double its power at 4 ohms.  My Pass amp is 250wpc and 500wpc respectively at 8 and 4 ohms.  The rest of my system consists of a BAT VK-51se tube preamp, Luxman DA-06 DAC running with a Regen powered by a Terdak LPS.   Music source is a dedicated audio headless desktop custom built computer.  Music player is Bug Head versions 8.6 and nontallion 10.04.  Cables- WireWorld Starlight Red usb, Cullen Gold Power cord (amp), AQ Columbia 72v XLR's and Belden 8402 XLR's.  Speakers are Magnepan QR 1.6's. 

My dual Martin Logan subs were turned off as the SET 400 is single ended and my system is fully balanced, so I had to use my female XLR adapters from subs to use with the amp.  To keep apples to apples, I listened to the music tracks with my Pass Amp without the subs.

Now for the sound. With the very first few notes, my son and I looked at each other and said "Wow, this sounds great".  As we listened to the first album, Anne Bisson's Blue Mind, it was very apparent that this was a special amp.   I hate to use audio cliche's but the sound is very natural and organic.  It has great musicality and is extremely smooth and liquid sounding, more so than my Pass amp. However, it did not round the edges off like the Pass.  Leading edges or attack if you will, were a tad crisper in a good and more natural way.  The overall tone leaned  just a shade to the warmer and darker side, although my BAT preamp may be responsible for the dark sound for those of you not familiar with the BAT sound.  I also have my settings in Bug Head to lend to a slightly warmer, darker sound. Bass was deep and very well controlled. Drum kicks were powerful and convincingly real. There was just a hint of low end bloom contributing to the rich toned mid range and musicality.  Speaking of the mid range, this is where it is at with this amp.  It is tonally rich and there is good texture.  Vocals and horns are full bodied. Piano sound delicate and full bodied at the same time.  The notes had excellent decay. There was no harshness or glare.  High frequencies like cymbals had good air and sounded real.  Sibilants were tamed as well.  For those of you familiar with Blue Coast Records, "Blue Coast Collection The E.S.E Sessons", Jayne Selke's song "Slow Day" is as sibilant as they come and the SET 400 did a great job of taming them without sounding rolled off.

Where my Pass amp had the edge was in texture, air and sound stage.  The SET 400 has good texture, air and transparency with a wide sound stage but my Pass had more.  The sound stage with the Pass extends beyond my 17' wide room and there is more front to back depth.  Female vocals, horns and piano had a bit more texture. There was just more separation between instruments and vocals. Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying the SET 400 is bad in this area.  It actually excel's in this area but the Pass just does it a bit better.  But I would expect the Pass to at its almost $7,000 price point vs $2199 for the SET 400.  I also own a Parasound A21 amp which now sells for about $2300.  The A21 does not even come close to the SET's performance.  The A21 sounds midfi in comparison.

I have to say that the SET 400 is my favorite AVA amp (although I have not reviewed the DVA 850 mono's) and on par with the R series amps.  Tonally, the SET 400 sounds completely different from the R series amps.

If I ever have to replace my Pass X250, the SET 400 will be high on my list as a replacement.

Highlights of the amp are-

To die for tonally rich and musical mid range
Organic sound, smooth and liquid
No glare, grain or edginess
Tight, controlled, powerful bass
High frequencies like cymbals have good air natural sound.
Plenty of power
Black background with no detectable hiss.

Low points- None at this price point.  I really could not find fault with the amp.



Music used for review purposes-

Charles Llyod and the Marvels with Lucinda Williams
Anne Bisson- Blue Mind
Blue Coast Collection- The E.S.E sessions
Paul Burner Band
Chris Jones- Roadhouses and Automobiles
Nils Lofgren-Acoustic Live
Sara Barelles- Brave Enough
Eva Cassidy- Live At Blue's Alley
and a few others

Best Regards,

Larry


Addendum-


I did some listening last night and I decided that I really love the sound of this amp.  The mid range, musicality and liquid sound of this amp is intoxicating.  I could listen to it if for hours without fatigue.  It definitely conveys the emotion of the music.  I could certainly see this amp selling in the $5,000 to $6,000 range in stores.

I also changed some settings on my Bug Head music player to a more neutral sound and was able to remove most if not all of the darkness.  My BAT preamp certainly contributes to the dark sound and my Luxman DAC leans to a slight warmth.
« Last Edit: 11 Jul 2018, 02:18 am by I.Greyhound Fan »

ArthurDent

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 9122
  • Don't Panic / Mostly Harmless
Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #1 on: 9 Jul 2018, 11:21 pm »
Thanks for the review Larry. Sounds like something to consider down the road, maybe trade in my old FetValve Ultra550, or the Insight 250+. Appreciate you taking the time to share, as I'm sure Frank does.  8)

JD

Goosepond

  • Full Member
  • Posts: 975
  • Hedy!
Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #2 on: 9 Jul 2018, 11:33 pm »
I've never owned any AVA gear but I'm now wondering how much the 120 gets from the very nice 400????

Gene

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #3 on: 10 Jul 2018, 01:47 am »
Thanks for the review Larry. Sounds like something to consider down the road, maybe trade in my old FetValve Ultra550, or the Insight 250+. Appreciate you taking the time to share, as I'm sure Frank does.  8)

JD

JD, I know the older Ultra 550 well.  The SET 400 and the R series amps are a huge improvements.  Both compete with amps costing twice as much.

avahifi

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #4 on: 10 Jul 2018, 12:49 pm »
Larry, thanks much for the kind comments.  If you try the amp with our new Fet Valve CFR vacuum tube preamp (loaner available) I bet the slight darkness will go away.

The Vision SET 120 has identical circuits and and sonic performance, just lower power and much lower price ($899).  I have a loaner of this amp too.

Thanks again.

Frank

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #5 on: 10 Jul 2018, 03:10 pm »
Larry, thanks much for the kind comments.  If you try the amp with our new Fet Valve CFR vacuum tube preamp (loaner available) I bet the slight darkness will go away.

The Vision SET 120 has identical circuits and and sonic performance, just lower power and much lower price ($899).  I have a loaner of this amp too.

Thanks again.

Frank


Frank, that darkness is due in part to my preamp but the settings in my music player contributed to the majority of that. And it really was just a hint of darkness which I tend to prefer.

Last night I did some more listening and I changed the settings and was able to get rid of almost all of the darkness.

By the way, I am going to addend the review a little bit for the better after doing some more listening.

Larry

drumnman2

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 24
Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #6 on: 10 Jul 2018, 04:03 pm »
Just wish more of Frank's products were balanced as I have my rack to the side as we all should. I am using 25' xlr's now, seems a long way for single ended runs.

avahifi

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #7 on: 10 Jul 2018, 07:08 pm »
I can build you a mono pair of Vision SET 400 amps, each with a single XLR input. The amps will then be true balanced designs with about 300 watts each output. 

Now what is your excuse? 🤨

Frank

ASCTLC

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 75
Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #8 on: 10 Jul 2018, 07:44 pm »
aaaaaand Frank goes for the mic drop  :lol: :thumb:

rlee8394

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #9 on: 11 Jul 2018, 01:38 am »
So are the Vision SET amps output stage single-ended as well, or is it still push-pull? If push-pull, is it running on a bipolar power supply or single-ended supply and capacitive coupled to the output like the FetValve R amps? Just curious.

-Ron

avahifi

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #10 on: 11 Jul 2018, 02:09 pm »
The high current output section is very similar to the Fet Valve power amps which as given us very reliable and musical audio performance.

Frank

mav52

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #11 on: 11 Jul 2018, 02:17 pm »
Frank I've been throwing around some thoughts between the new SET 400 and the FET Valve 400r Hybrid.   Can you explain and noticeable differences in the two, regarding the low's, mids, hi's soundstage etc..  I would be using a AR LS27 pre and KEf 201/2 speakers, room size 21x19x12

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #12 on: 11 Jul 2018, 02:33 pm »
Frank I've been throwing around some thoughts between the new SET 400 and the FET Valve 400r Hybrid.   Can you explain and noticeable differences in the two, regarding the low's, mids, hi's soundstage etc..  I would be using a AR LS27 pre and KEf 201/2 speakers, room size 21x19x12

PM sent

avahifi

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #13 on: 11 Jul 2018, 02:39 pm »
A lot will depend upon the basic sonic quality and balance of your speakers.

If they tend to be on the bright side, then the 400R will be a better match.

The SET 400 is a very "high energy" amplifier preserving and playing back every nuance of the micro dynamics of the music.  If your speakers are voiced toward the "hot" side, the SET 400 might overwhelm them.  With a well balanced and very transparent set of speakers, the SET 400 will simply amaze you as Larry has reported in his review above.

I know that Mike Levy loves the amp with his huge and very expensive Alta Titanium Hestia speakers.  :)

http://alta-audio.com/collection/titanium-hestia/

Frank

Pryso

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 122
Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #14 on: 12 Jul 2018, 08:33 pm »
Larry, not sure why you replied to marv52 with a PM?  Others may be interested in your comparison as well, particularly after you tempted us with, "Tonally, the SET 400 sounds completely different from the R series amps."

The 400R has been identified as a great match for Janszen speakers.  But now Frank followed up, "With a well balanced and very transparent set of speakers, the SET 400 will simply amaze you".  I consider the Janszens to be well balanced and very transparent, so all this is confusing, if the amps do sound completely different.  :scratch:

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #15 on: 12 Jul 2018, 09:05 pm »
Larry, not sure why you replied to marv52 with a PM?  Others may be interested in your comparison as well, particularly after you tempted us with, "Tonally, the SET 400 sounds completely different from the R series amps."

The 400R has been identified as a great match for Janszen speakers.  But now Frank followed up, "With a well balanced and very transparent set of speakers, the SET 400 will simply amaze you".  I consider the Janszens to be well balanced and very transparent, so all this is confusing, if the amps do sound completely different.  :scratch:


I sent a personal PM because it is easier to talk about systems and have follow up questions.  Bottom line, in my system the R and SET amps sound completely different.  R series in my system had my Pass beat in air and transparency but it was not organic sounding like the Pass or SET.  Treble was forward and had more air but it was not warm enough for me. I prefer a slightly colored sound with a hint of warmth, darkness and bloom. The R series amps have good detail and good texture, probably a bit more than the SET from what I remember of the R amps.  The SET amp does not have the air and transparency of the R series in my system.  The SET has  beautiful tone and mid range, different than the R series.  It is smoother and more rounded but still has crsip attack on leading edges of guitar and strings. Sound stage is not as deep or wide in my system.  I found the R series to also be a bit more dynamic.  Keep in mind that I am not saying that the SET does not have a wide sound stage as it does but just not to the extent of the R series or my Pass.

The SET amp sounds just beautiful for lack of a better term. It does not sound SS except for the tight, fast bass. And at $2199, I can find no faults. And believe me, my BAT preamp and Magnepans will let you know when an amp or dac is not up to snuff.

Both the R series and SET amps are excellent just different flavors.  Bear in mind that I have not had an R series amp to review for at least 1.5 years or so.  And system matching is important so as usual, YMMV.

Larry

birbygdad

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 19
Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #16 on: 13 Jul 2018, 05:24 am »
I have ordered a Vision SET 400. I'm an older hifi guy and I really like Frank's philosophy and way of doing business. I know the amp will do well with my Salk Song3 speakers, providing a good level of driver control. I'll post results as soon as appropriate. Thank you friends of Frank and Frank.

aln

  • Jr. Member
  • Posts: 142
Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #17 on: 13 Jul 2018, 06:54 pm »
I would be interested in having this amplifier listened to by someone who has a 400-600R (single ended) system.  The comparison would be very interesting.  Who is next to hear the review amp?

Best
AL Nozak

rlee8394

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #18 on: 13 Jul 2018, 08:25 pm »
Frank,

Can the SET amps be built into any Dyna or Hafler chassis?

Thanks,
Ron

WGH

Re: Vision SET 400 amp Review
« Reply #19 on: 13 Jul 2018, 08:48 pm »
Larry - thanks for the review and comparison. I should probably schedule a trip to RMAF to hear the SET amp if Frank is going to be there, maybe he will bring his ABX Switch Comparator. I have heard the 600R in my system with the Salk HT2-TL speakers, the 600R was perhaps a little more detailed, a smidge less warm than the Synergy 450 but that was about it. I kept the Synergy 450.

Wayne