Virtue 2 digital amp feedback

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Danny Richie

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Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« on: 26 May 2009, 11:02 pm »
Okay I have had the Virtue 2 in house for a little over a week now. Before I start though, let me preface my feedback with some information.

I hosted this digital amp shoot out and spent time with each of these digital amps:

http://www.gr-research.com/amps/amps.htm

I then co-hosted this event held at Art's:

http://www.stereomojo.com/SHOOTOUT2007INTEGRATEDS.htm

And this one:

http://www.stereomojo.com/AmpSHOOTOUTPowerAmps.htm

I have a pretty good feel for most of those and spent time with many of them in my own system.



I dropped the Virtue 2 into my system using my CEC as a transport, highly modded Lite DAC-60, Dodd Audio balanced power supply, Majik Buss, Electra Cables, Dodd battery tube pre-amp, and new open baffle Venue speakers.

Okay, my first thoughts upon listening to the Virtue 2 was a little mixed. It was not bad by any means. It was as good as the better units that have been through here and considering the price point its a home run. Still there was a slight roughness in the vocal range, a slight noise floor, imaging was a little flat, highs were a little dirty, and just not completely musical. It sounded a little on the fresh side, like it really needed burn in time.

I guess it wasn't really fair going to it from those big Blue Dodd Audio tube mono-blocks either.

I then burned it in for about fours days and went at it again. It was better but only by a slight margin.

I tried it without a pre-amp and with my battery powered Dodd. Adding the Dodd pre-amp definitely gave it more drive than my DAC. It opened up the sound stage too. Most importantly to me though is that I could use my remote for turning it up and down. It was still not bad at all without the pre-amp though. You can by-pass the internal pot and make this into a pure amp only if you want. It gets the pot out of the signal path and improves it a little more still. I haven't tried it yet though.

So I tried replacing the stock power cord going to the power supply. Since this is just AC going to a power supply that converts to pure DC, I wasn't expecting much. However, the difference was not subtle. This was one of the new Electra Cable power cords. Some of the roughness in the vocal area went away and the whole sound stage opened up a little. No doubt, it was more musical. I was really surprised at the difference in the power cord. It was still not blowing me away though.

I then A/Bed it to me modified T-amp. The T-amp was being powered with a 12 volt wall wart. Clearly the T-amp had smoother vocals, cleaner highs, lower noise floor and more pin point imaging. This was slightly perplexing. Both of these are Tripath based (I think). So why so different? I suspected that because the T-amp was stacked with Sonicaps and Gen.2 Sonicap by-pass caps while the Virtue was using Auricaps might be the difference. The Auricaps always had a coloring effect in the mid-range that I did not like. That could be an area of improvement for the Virtue, but that was not "it".

The problem with the T-amp is that it is only about 10 watts max. But with the 97db sensitivity of the Venue, it really wasn't an issue. Only when pushed really hard on some Jeff Beck did it run itself up against the wall and out of juice. Drum hits started to get a little spitty and without impact. Not so with the Virtue. It still had room to spare even at those levels.

I then called up Gary Dodd and ran this by him to see if he had any ideas about the issues with the Virtue. Still it was a home run for the money, but I felt like it could be more than just really good for the money. I felt like it could be really good period. He had built a couple of them for the various shoot outs and they always did really well both times.

I also always felt like the Tripath based amps were the most transparent off all the chip amps. They had little to no sonic signature about them compared to other amps. They sounded like whatever you were feeding them. Crap in crap out, or $8,000 worth of front end components ahead of it and it sounded like a world class amp. There was still something holding it back though.

Gary always has the answer too. He knows all to well that the key to how these digital amps sound is largely due to the power supply. So he says, "run it on batteries." Figures! So I scrounged around and came up with some old Ack Dac batteries. Giving them a little charge and hooking them up in series gave it a solid 24 volts. I just happen to have one of the plug ends that fit the input of the Virtue too. So I made up some cables...

I then had to call Gary back not long after and admit it was not just a little bit better. It was a lot better. The issues I had with the vocal region were gone. Noise floor was back down to a dead quiet level that I am used to. The sound stage opened up. Imaging was great. The whole thing was great. It was amazed.

The small pair of 1.5 amp hour batteries powered it for about 3 hours at a medium volume level before dying. If I would have been playing it harder it may have lastly less than 2 hours.

Then I charged them up and another pair just like them and series paralleled four of those little batteries on it. I also made a little adapter for the pre-amp charger and hooked it up to the batteries. The pre-amp charger is one of those smart type chargers and it is for charging 24 volts. It will also allow you to plug it in to 220 or 110 volts and works the same either way. It will sense when a charge is needed and shut down when fully charged.

It has now been playing all day long on those 4 little batteries. While I was listening I noticed it dropping in and out of charge mod with the charge light flicking back and forth from green to yellow, but could not detect anything in the sound. If there is some difference I couldn't tell very easily. I'd have to do some more critical listening to see if the quality drops off as the charger kicks in.

I just listened again a little bit ago. It sounded great and the charge light was solid green again. This thing could play continuously this way.

It sounds really great. In fact it sounds much better than it has any right to at that price point. That batteries solved any of the issues that I had with it completely.

So here is what I am going to do. Yes, I liked it well enough to want to offer them to my customers. I am going to offer the Virtue 1 as is for $269. I will offer the upgraded Virtue 2 for $379. The prices are the same as see on the Virtue Audio web site. See all the details here: http://store.virtueaudio.com/category-s/26.htm

I will also offer the Virtue 2 for $20 less ($359) minus the power supply that it comes with.

I will then offer a battery kit for converting it to battery power. I will be actually letting Gary Dodd provide to me his same battery system that he uses in his pre-amp and in this prototype digital amp that he built a few years ago.



Pre-amp:



The kit will include the four 12 volt batteries, the smart charger, all fittings, connectors and cables that can be made to length. All you need to do is put it in your own chassis. It can be a nice wood box, MDF, piece of plastic or nothing at all, whatever you like. The box for it is the easy part and my DIY customers can build this themselves and save that expense. Anyway the battery kit will be $199.

If you are a real DIY guy and like modifying and upgrading this thing yourself then get the Virtue 1, upgrade the coupling caps to Sonicaps, add the battery power supply, upgrade the wiring, etc and still be under $500 total. You will not be disappointed, and I challenge you to find anything better or even close in that price range.

I just checked the batteries again as it has been playing for hours with the charger connected. The charger was in an off cycle, but I disconnected it anyway. The batteries were still reading over 25 volts.

This is more than a home run. This is fun.   :banana piano:

I can't discount these as part of my agreement in carrying them, but I might run some specials that if you order one of the Virtue amps from me, then I will discount any of our kits by 10%.  :thumb:

« Last Edit: 28 Jul 2009, 03:26 am by Danny »

PDR

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #1 on: 26 May 2009, 11:30 pm »
Danny, PM sent

Danny Richie

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #2 on: 27 May 2009, 05:41 pm »
This morning I played the amp for about an hour on the small Ack Dac batteries without the charger on them. It started off at about 25.5 volts. It dropped to right at 24 volts after an hour. So I put the charger on it and left it on it while it played. I checked it again an hour later. The Green light was on so the charger had cycled off. Batteries were back up to 26 volts. This is continuous play on batteries and sounds great.

ttan98

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #3 on: 27 May 2009, 10:32 pm »
Danny,

Is the 1st photograph shows the actual picture of the actual Virtue's amp or Dodd's amp mounted next to the battery?

thanks.

Danny Richie

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #4 on: 28 May 2009, 01:38 am »
The pics are to show the batteries offered in the battery kit.

1000a

Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #5 on: 28 May 2009, 04:40 am »
Danny
I would like to hear more about these batteries and your future comments if you keep that system up and running.

I have 2 Virtue 1s running as mono blocs currently very happy with the vocals on my set up especially with a TVC in front of them.  Any way I have the 30/90 PS for each of my amps and was considering eventually replacing them with the 30/130 PS.  I have not been disappointed in the sound of my amps, but is my 1st go round with T-amps.  The investment in 2 30/130 PS is not inexpensive so I am already trying to see what options are out there that might bump these up a considerable notch- I always want more even when I am very impressed.

Honestly, I probably will not be ready until the fall-Oct/Nov. and may have interest in hearing the majic bus at that time also.

Are you offering a 30 day trail on the batteries, I would evidently need 2 sets at 199. each correct?  Do you have a photo of just the batteries and charger set up outside of a case?

Thanks a mill,

1000a

Danny Richie

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #6 on: 28 May 2009, 02:24 pm »
Quote
I would like to hear more about these batteries and your future comments if you keep that system up and running.

If you haven't heard this amp running on batteries then you haven't heard it. It isn't just a little bit better.

Start with getting one battery kit and see for yourself. You could even run them both on one batter kit to get you started. It comes with four of those batteries seen in the pics above. You can put a pair on each amp. It should give you 3 to 6 hours depending on the level that they are playing. Then with the charger on them while playing, it will last much longer.

You can then step up to another battery kit later to add more reserve and more drive to them. Dynamics will be better with a higher amp capability or more batteries.

Here is a pic of the smart charger:



You get all the fittings and wire that you need too. So you can make your wire leads any length you need. The batteries can be right next to the amp in a tricked out box or chassis, or they can be on the floor or out of site.

The next inexpensive mod for the Virtue 1 is to drop in some Sonicaps. The value needed is small and not expensive.

Danny Richie

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #7 on: 28 May 2009, 07:08 pm »
I got the Vitrue 1 and Virtue 2 up on our web site now. So you can now order them on line.
« Last Edit: 28 May 2009, 08:27 pm by Danny »

panomaniac

Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #8 on: 29 May 2009, 01:46 am »
Very cool!  Thanks for the report.

I have a lot of these at home, both the ONE and the TWO.  The TWO is my daily driver.
Having experimented with many different power supplies - from 64W to 200W and 24V to 34V I can say that the more current the supply offers, the better the amp sounds.  Each supply has its own sound, some are smooth, some are rough, some noisy, some quiet.  But the higher the current rating, the wider, fuller, more detailed the sound. Always seems that way.

I'm glad you have found a sweet spot with the batteries.  It's a great upgrade.  :thumb:

ttan98

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #9 on: 29 May 2009, 03:45 am »
Very cool!  Thanks for the report.

I have a lot of these at home, both the ONE and the TWO.  The TWO is my daily driver.
Having experimented with many different power supplies - from 64W to 200W and 24V to 34V I can say that the more current the supply offers, the better the amp sounds.  Each supply has its own sound, some are smooth, some are rough, some noisy, some quiet.  But the higher the current rating, the wider, fuller, more detailed the sound. Always seems that way.

I'm glad you have found a sweet spot with the batteries.  It's a great upgrade.  :thumb:

The internal resistance of the battery is important when the amp is drawing current from the battery. Danny/Dodd arrangement is good one when you series and parallel the battery to give the 24V supply, the total rating is about 10Ahr and the effective source impedance is equal to the internal resistance of one battery. So the quality of the battery is important eg. low internal resistance. Powersonic battery has about 40mohm for the 12V 5Ahr rating.

I think you maybe right, you need to put a bypass capacitor right at the battery terminals to ground the spurious high freq signals coming back from the amp, any suggestion of the values, is 0.1uF suffcient?

ttan98

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #10 on: 3 Jun 2009, 01:30 am »
Danny,

I just wonder if  you can compare Dodd's  digital amp with Virtue amp when both were running on battery? You have experience in both amps.

Can you give us a summary?

Thanks.

Mariusz

Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #11 on: 3 Jun 2009, 01:47 am »
Very cool. :drool:

Danny Richie

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #12 on: 3 Jun 2009, 02:07 am »
It's been a while but I think those two would be pretty close. The Dodd would have likely had an edge due to the use of Sonicaps by-passed by Sonicap Platinum's.

I still think adding the batteries to the virtue makes it pretty tough to beat especially considering the price.

ttan98

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #13 on: 3 Jun 2009, 02:44 am »
Danny,

Thks for feedback, reading the digital Power Amp Shootout, Dodd amp came in 2nd to the Cary digital amp says a lot about both amps ie Virtue and Dodd.

stevenkelby

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #14 on: 3 Jun 2009, 11:15 am »
Can the charger accept 240V?

Just read on the GR site that it can yes.

Email sent, Danny :)

Cheerwino

Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #15 on: 5 Jun 2009, 07:25 pm »
Thanks for the info on the battery upgrade! I really love my Virtue One with Horn Shoppe Horns and am intrigued at ways to tweak and improve this little T-amp.

I see Virtue is proposing a new circle here on AC, for those who might like to vote 'em in: http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=68503.0

It would be great to have more value-priced manufacturers here. Cheers to GR for what you've done!  :beer:


Danny Richie

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #16 on: 5 Jun 2009, 07:37 pm »
Right now I have the battery power supply kit as an option available when ordering the Virtue amps.

It was suggested that I set up a separate page for ordering the battery power supply kits separately so that it is easy for the now 400 plus Virtue owners to order it by its self.

So I will try to get that set up on its own ordering page as soon as I can.

Jason T

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #17 on: 17 Jun 2009, 03:42 am »
I'm glad to see people are enjoying their Virtue amps as much as I am !

I would like to introduce myself.
I'm Jason Terpstra
I have the honor of working with Seth @ Virtue and am now his Custom cable guy so if anyone needs Virtue cables let me know or look me up on Audiogon or Canuck audio mart.

I cant wait to try the battery pack on my Two !
I'm thinking of using some high current lithium Radio controlled car packs in series. these packs are capable of 14amps solid output and have a killer life span.

Enjoy
Jason

Light-Echo

Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #18 on: 28 Dec 2009, 01:53 pm »
Danny

Can I get the battery kit sans the batteries? 

Regards
Dave

Danny Richie

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Re: Virtue 2 digital amp feedback
« Reply #19 on: 28 Dec 2009, 04:12 pm »
You can contact Gary Dodd at Dodd Audio to get everything minus the batteries.