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The bass quality doesn't merely reflect complete extension but perhaps most importantly great coherence and richness. This is how well reproduced bass should sound like – full of harmonics and without any phase shifts. It’s why Chet Baker sounded so good and later Ella Fitzgerald on the Cole Porter Song Book. I must say that all recordings with vocals—and I listened to a lot of them—came off very good. It was likely because of this very combination of dense midrange and extended well controlled bass.
As I declared earlier it was important for me to confront Vitus and Soulution amplifiers. They carry a similar price and potential customers might chose between these two fabulous options. To do so I had to replace the Soulution 710 with the SS-101 and run the latter with my usual Ayon Audio Polaris III preamplifier. I did the same thing during the earlier Reimyo KAT-777 review. Even so an obligatory second phase of such a review must also use the same manufacturer’s matching preamplifier as only this will reveal the complete sonic synergy that exhibits the designer’s full intention.
In a good system individual devices complement each other to offer more than any of them is capable of individually. It's not about fixing weaknesses of other machines or taking over. With inexpensive machines this might still happen. Individual components ‘fix’ shortcomings of ancillary machines. When it comes to the hi-end however, this becomes unacceptable. Any real weakness excludes a particular device from this lofty circle. Certainly even here you might want to adjust the sound according to personal preferences. That’s okay but different.
Vitus as a set does just that. The SL-102 preamplifier too delivers a big, dense sound which complements the SS-101 very well. The Danish preamplifier reminded me more of the Reimyo CAT-777 Mk II than my own Polaris III even though the latter two are based on tubes and the Vitus in an exemplary solid-state ambassador. I think there was even more resemblance between the SL-102 and Convergent Audio Technology SL1 Legend. Quite similarly Vitus delivers a slightly warmer sound than CAT and one that’s far warmer than my Ayon. Such a presentation makes human voices very natural in timbre and volume. The Vitus amp with Polaris preamp already did quite well but only now did I finally get vocals how usually planar speakers like Magnepan or certain horns like Avantgarde Acoustic deliver. Surely the Avalon Transcendent I used at this juncture was not a warm speaker.
This is a system for those who expect vocalists to materialize, to have Wes Montgomery’s or Jim Hall's guitars appear in their homes. That's what the SL-102 and SS-101 offer. As already mentioned the SS-101 reminded me of a very good analogue system. The SL-102 simply took the performance closer to such perfection and as such was very very close to good vinyl indeed. Together this pairing delivers huge sound with great tonal balance, amazing dynamics and very black backgrounds. Its incredible ability to drive even difficult loads makes you think that 100-watt+ power declarations elsewhere must simply be in error.
The preamplifier emphasized some other elements the SS-101 already touched upon but left unfinished (at least in my opinion where certain elements could still be done better based on my experience and idea of perfect sound). This seems obvious but still has to be said. There always is something that could still be improved. Even Vitus admits it by offering monoblocks. In my opinion here it is mostly about soundstage depth. The latter is great, recorded ambiance is properly retrieved, the presentation is dense and palpable but my system is capable of delivering more depth to the stage (and so is the amplifier without its own preamp). The latter slightly rounds off the bass too.
I had no doubts that the SS-101 connected directly to my Ancient Audio CD player better controlled and differentiated the low end by showing more shading down to the very bottom. The Vitus preamplifier strengthened the vocals with stronger more massive bass compared to the Polaris but its resolution was slightly inferior—and here it got really interesting—not throughout the whole range. It didn't penetrate above the midrange. Especially the lower midrange was denser and more beautiful as these two things always come together. The Polaris seemed to deliver a more ethereal sound with better differentation but smaller virtual images centered on the midband. Resolution delivered by Reimyo is not as good as with Vitus but the timbre is very similar. On the other hand CAT has a rounder midrange and treble without exaggerated bass.
At this level of performance all this is a question of personal choice and preferences. The Vitus system belongs to the absolutely best solid-state (or other) systems I have listened to. But it also has some distinct character traits that derive mainly from the preamplifier. Build quality is superlative to telegraph that we have something special in our possession and not merely another appliance. The industrial design is very likeable because of its simplicity and being fully incorporated throughout the catalogue.