AVA Vision SET 120 Review

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I.Greyhound Fan

AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« on: 9 Aug 2018, 04:28 pm »
Here is a review of the new Vision SET 120.  Frank asked me to review the new amp which is the baby brother of the SET 400.  It puts out 60 wpc at 8 ohms and Frank says it is about double that at 4 ohms. It is biased to Class A for the first few watts. It's price is $899.

My 27 year old budding Audiophile son and I reviewed it.  We had it in a secondary system for 2 weeks.  It consists of-

Parasound A21 amp, Pass B1 preamp-buffer which has zero gain (built with high end parts- Mundorf and Clarity caps, TI Z-foil, Shinkoh Tantalum and Audio Note non metallic resistors), Emotiva Big Ego DAC with an AQ Jitterbug and Uptone Regen, AQ Cinnamon USB cable, AQ Golden Gate mini RCA to RCA IC.   Speakers were Wharfedale Diamond 10.2 monitors with a sensitivity of 86dB at 6 ohms, PSB B6 monitors, Velodyne subwoofer crossed over at 50hz.  Music player is Bug Head.  Music was played at native resolution or upsampled 2x.  The sonic character of this system was built to have a slightly warm, musical and smooth sound.

Some of the music used-

London Grammar, Pat Metheny, Eva Cassidy, George Winston and many other artists that I can't remember off hand.

First off, let me say that we enjoyed our time with this amp.  It is very musical.  It has the same sonic character of the more powerful SET 400.  It's strong points are a deep, rich toned mid range, powerful bass and clear highs.  The sound stage was wide and had good depth. Similar to the SET 400, vocals were just slightly pushed back from midpoint and cymbals were in the foreground with good air.  Bass was controlled and powerful but not overwhelming. There was just the right amount of  bloom. Piano sounded natural and had good decay.  Overall the sound was natural, smooth and organic sounding.  Female vocals like Eva Cassidy had good texture without sounding sharp.  Horns were also very smooth without glare.  Imaging was very good, the speakers disappeared.

So how does the amp compare to the $2300 Parasound A21 rated at 250 wpc at 8 oms and 400 at 4 ohms and 60 peak amps of current?  Very favorably.  It has more musicality and it is more pleasing to listen to.  The SET 120 sounded great with the difficult to drive Wharfedales at medium to medium loud volumes but at high levels it became a little edgy where the A21 did not break a sweat. Most people would not be listening at these levels though. However, when we swapped the WD's for a pair of PSB B6 monitors rated at 89dB  at 6 ohms we were able to play louder without issues.  Part of the problem is that the Pass B1 has zero gain and I suspect that with another preamp that the 120 would not have any issues with the Wharfdales and loud volumes.  Dynamics were excellent and transients were handled with out strain.

The 120's bass was more natural but not as tight as the A21 which has a dampening factor of >1000.  The 120 was more musical however.  The A21 sounded just a little smoother and had a wider sound stage with more air and transparency.  There was more depth as well. There was more space between instruments which gave a sense of better resolution and detail.

My son and I enjoyed our time with the amp and were sorry to see it go. It held its own with the A21 in many respects. It's strong points are-

Musicality
deep, textured and rich mid range
Smooth and Organic sound
Excellent dynamics and transients
Natural powerful bass and airy cymbals
Good texture

Con's-
Nothing to complain about at this price.  It is a well rounded amp and performs way above its price point that offers a smooth, organic and musical sound found on more expensive amps.

Compared to the SET 400, the 120 sounded similar although we had them in different systems. The 120 has the same musicality and fabulous midrange of the SET 400.  I think that if we had the added power of the 400 that it would have bettered the A21 as it held its own against my Pass X250 amp.

Best Regards,

Larry


« Last Edit: 13 Aug 2018, 04:03 pm by I.Greyhound Fan »

ArthurDent

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #1 on: 9 Aug 2018, 06:07 pm »
Thank You, to both you & your son for the review. As always good insight into Frank's latest offerings. It is appreciated.    :thumb:

JD

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #2 on: 13 Aug 2018, 04:17 pm »
Thank You, to both you & your son for the review. As always good insight into Frank's latest offerings. It is appreciated.    :thumb:

JD


The amp is a real bargain performing way above its price point.  It is an SET 400, just with less power.

NIGHTFALL1970

Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #3 on: 15 Aug 2018, 01:07 am »
Thanks Larry for this excellent review!

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #4 on: 15 Aug 2018, 02:19 am »
Thanks Larry for this excellent review!

Thank you Nightfall.  It is always fun reviewing Frank's gear because I am always astounded at how good his gear sounds.

PeterCapo

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #5 on: 21 Aug 2018, 09:38 pm »
Good review, thanks. I have an A21 and agree with your description of its sonics, which adds to my confidence in your review. 
« Last Edit: 24 Aug 2018, 11:11 pm by PeterCapo »

Vingard

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #6 on: 27 Aug 2018, 06:14 pm »
Curious whether this would be a step up from my First Watt J2... Source is NAD M51, speakers are Revel M106 monitors.   Would probably look to pair it with an AVA preamp, though not certain which would work best with the SET 120. 

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #7 on: 28 Aug 2018, 01:47 am »
Curious whether this would be a step up from my First Watt J2... Source is NAD M51, speakers are Revel M106 monitors.   Would probably look to pair it with an AVA preamp, though not certain which would work best with the SET 120.

I can't say whether it would be a step up or not as I have not heard the J2, only my Pass X250 and the XA100.5 monoblocks.

It will have a lot more power and a very sweet sounding mid range.  It has punchy bass with authority behind it.  It is very musical and has good texture  and a smooth sound.  It will have no problems driving those Revels and it will play louder than the J2's.

I would pair it with Franks FET Valve preamp but he does make an excellent SS preamp.  AVA gear has a lot of synergy within itself.

maty

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #8 on: 29 Jan 2019, 09:14 am »
Audio by Van Alstine Transcendence 10 RB Preamplifier and Vision SET 120 Stereo Power Amplifier by Drew Kalbach

http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/audio-by-van-alstine-transcendence-10-rb-preamplifier-and-vision-set-120-stereo-power-amplifier/

Quote
The AVA duo is possibly the best bargain I’ve reviewed so far, and more than worth a listen. The preamp in particular really wowed me, especially the quiet but breezy tubes and the fantastic phono section. All in all, both the Vision SET 120 power amp and the Transcendence 10 RB tube preamp are easy recommendations.

The weak point of the reviews is the subjectivity of the listener and its credibility. If they came with measurements, they would be much more interesting for everyone.

If I lived in NA and had speakers with a sensitivity of 88 dB/W/m or higher and not very difficult impedance, the SET 120 amplifier would be a very attractive purchase. With silver front option (with a plus) better. And a more audiophile power button too.  :D

https://www.doctorproaudio.com/doctor/calculadores_en.htm#calc_spl

Calculators/Audio/Acoustics/SPL

88 dB/W/m, 30 watts, 2 speakers, random phase:

* 3 m / 9.8 ft -> 96.2 dB

* 4 m / 13.12 ft -> 93.7 dB

https://avahifi.com/collections/solid-state-power-amplifiers/products/vision-set-120-power-amplifier

Leifer

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #9 on: 2 Feb 2019, 09:59 pm »
I'm considering  a SET 120,  based solely on reviews, favorable opinions , and Van Alstines' reputation.
Who buys an amp without listening ????
Me, I do.
(except, I do heavily audition speakers before I buy).
This may be the first AVA product I buy.




(BTW, any company that actually sells an ABX switch comparator, must be confident in their product....lol)
https://avahifi.com/collections/accessories/products/abx-switch-comparator



« Last Edit: 4 Feb 2019, 05:42 am by Leifer »

simon wagstaff

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #10 on: 8 Feb 2019, 02:43 am »
Love mine.

AvsFan

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #11 on: 17 Jun 2019, 06:16 pm »
I don't know if I just missed it somewhere, but what is the power at 4ohms?
I am assuming double? 120x2 or right around there.

Would this amp have a problem powering some Maggie LRS's rated at 4ohms and I think 86db? 
I know a great match an amp I will "eventually" have is the SET400, but I can't afford $2000 right now, I can however afford $899. So at moderate volumes in a small room, do you think the 120 can handle it? And once I do get the 400, I am moving the 120 to the theater room to power some VERY efficient easy to drive ZU Audio Omens. So it won't be a waste either.

kclark0395

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #12 on: 17 Jun 2019, 08:35 pm »
I'm very interested in AVA products to power my Salk's, but am I reading this right, that "vocals were just slightly pushed back from midpoint and cymbals were in the foreground", in other words drums in front of the vocalists?

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #13 on: 17 Jun 2019, 08:46 pm »
I'm very interested in AVA products to power my Salk's, but am I reading this right, that "vocals were just slightly pushed back from midpoint and cymbals were in the foreground", in other words drums in front of the vocalists?

In our system it was but with different electronics and speakers your experience may be different.
« Last Edit: 19 Jun 2019, 06:03 pm by I.Greyhound Fan »

AvsFan

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #14 on: 19 Jun 2019, 01:27 pm »
I'm very interested in AVA products to power my Salk's, but am I reading this right, that "vocals were just slightly pushed back from midpoint and cymbals were in the foreground", in other words drums in front of the vocalists?

I too would assume it would have a little more to do with speakers and speaker placement. But amps do throw a sound stage too. I'd be interested to know more about this. Because I want the drums to be behind the vocals, not the other way around. 

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #15 on: 19 Jun 2019, 06:09 pm »
I too would assume it would have a little more to do with speakers and speaker placement. But amps do throw a sound stage too. I'd be interested to know more about this. Because I want the drums to be behind the vocals, not the other way around.

Let me say that the sound of the SET was not pushed back  and it was not forward in your face either.  You have to remember that I was comparing it  to my gear.  Amps definitely have their own sound.  My Pass amp sound completely different than my Parasound A21.  Cymbals were a little more forward with the SET than my Pass.  I can't remember where the drums were in space but they had plenty of kick.

And when I say that vocals were pushed back, it was just a hint.  In my personal system vocals are forward.

The SET amps are great amps and have a to die for midrange.
« Last Edit: 21 Jun 2019, 07:14 pm by I.Greyhound Fan »

Birdbrain

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #16 on: 21 Jun 2019, 04:42 am »
Love mine as well. Thanks, Frank, for making such a great amp at such a great price.

AvsFan

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #17 on: 23 Jun 2019, 06:34 pm »
I really am at a crossroads where I am going to make a decision soon. It’s narrowed down to the SET120 and a very nice Class D amp, the Digital Amplifier Company Stereo Maraschino. Decisions, decisions.

AvsFan

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #18 on: 23 Jun 2019, 06:37 pm »
The Stereo Maraschino is usually $1200, but they have a demo unit for $790! So the value is with the Maraschino. Both are rated around the 125 watts per channel range. So it’s a tough decision. I am SURE that either route I take, I won’t be disappointed.

Hydro

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Re: AVA Vision SET 120 Review
« Reply #19 on: 23 Jun 2019, 11:00 pm »
My experience with class D amps has not been good, except when powering sub woofers. If you have a very hard load to run they tend to stay more linear, but still aren't as involving. I have not heard one that lets the emotion through like AVA products and the SET amp does it in spades.