AXPONA 2016: Vinnie Rossi breathes real life into Harbeth

One of the nicest gentleman in hi-fi. Period.

axponaIf you want to clear out a room full of “audiophiles” super quick, just put on Aphex Twin, and crank it. British guys in bow ties practically leap from their chairs out the door, dudes in sweatpants with pamphlets from every room at Axpona? Gone like the wind. Old dude with questionable toupée? Sayonara. Basically everybody but Vinnie Rossi will flee or mumble something about “coming back later…” Vinnie? He just sits there, and smiles, and lets the music play. He knows what’s happening, but he’s OK with it. And to be honest, I only wanted to hear a track or two, but I have to say: props to Vinnie Rossi for keeping it real.

Mr. Rossi’s latest iteration of the already legendary LIO ultracapacitor-powered integrated amplifier, now with Directly-Heated Triode (DHT) line stage compatible with 2A3, 300B, and SV811 triode tubes to name a few.

And trust me when I say that Vinnie Rossi also keeps the music real. His latest iteration LIO is a Class-A, OTL (Output Transformer-Less) zero feedback pre-amp, with a fully customizable MOSFET integrated amplifier pulling power duties (as well as Class-A, zero-feedback JFET phono stage with  MC step-up transformers, and DSD/PCM 32-bit/384 DAC duties), to the tune of 25 w/pc into 8 Ohms, and runs a cool $10, 470 USD. There’s been a ton written all over the web about Rossi’s modular approach to price, and function for his amplifiers, and this LIO takes it a step further with the new DHT line stage.

AXPONA coverage brought to you by Underwood HiFi, Exogal and Emerald Physics

I caught up with Rossi following the show, and asked him why he decided to incorporate DHT, and multiple valve options for the latest iteration of LIO, here’s his response:

Vinnie Rossi:
“I wanted to offer an option for LIO customers that would allow them to hear what DHT tubes really sound like without the usual driver tubes, output transformers, feedback, cathode resistors or bypass caps, and speaker load (commonly found in SET amp).  Going “spud” (only one tube per channel / no driver tubes) means the fewest parts in the signal path, just one cap and the operating point set with a single nude Vishay Z-foil grid resistor, no cathode follower or OPT (output transformer).  The real challenge is that tubes configured like this pick up tremendous noise and hum. That’s where feeding the B+ from our isolated, ultracap supply comes in. The cathodes are heated by a custom, patented Belleson super regulator called SPVR (Belleson Super Power Vinnie Rossi), one per tube fed from an external linear power supply.
So the LIO’s isolation from the grid / low noise was really made for going DHT linestage – the road less traveled on for sure!
I wanted to make it a convertible design because there are so many great sounding 4-pin DHTs out there – and they are some of the best sounding triodes available.  2A3, 45, 300B, PX4/PX25, 101-D/205-D, SV811/SV572 and more.”


Acoustic Signature Thunder turntable, $10,995 without tonearm.

Feeding the LIO, was the sleek Acoustic Signature Thunder ‘table, which was fitted with one of my favorite cartridges, the Dynavector Te Kaitora LOMC ($3,450 USD), and the Acoustic Signature 12-inch TA-5000 tonearm ($6,495). Speaker cables were Tellurium Q Signature Diamonds ($7,495).

Big bottom end, and sound stage courtesy of the Te Kaitora

All this was being pumped out to the latest, and biggest Harbeths to date: The M40.2 loudspeakers ($14,795 USD). I’ve heard every Harbeth currently in production, and love them for their flat frequency response, and uncolored transmission from source, but these new monitors take things up another level with even more ability to create space, and air around instruments, and vocals; no matter what they are being fed. I heard female vocals, I heard pop, I heard soft rock, and (as I mentioned) I heard Aphex Twin, and the 40.2 didn’t skip a beat. They just remain completely unfazed no matter what’s playing through them. As I mentioned, Harbeth can be ruthlessly revealing of source, and if you have any harshness, brightness, veiling, softness – whatever – it’s coming through them loud, and brutally clear. So I’m always very cognizant of source when listening through Harbeth speakers, and here they sounded sweet, clear, powerful, and tonally beautiful thanks to the LIO and Dynavector/Acoustic Signature combination.

A fantastic synergy, lightning transient response, and big, fat dynamic swings with ease.

Vinnie Rossi was able to turn these ultra-revealing, BBC-lineage monitors capable of all the geeky tech traits audiophiles fetishize over such as clearly-articulated microdynamics, fast, meaty dynamic swings, fantastic Deep-V sound-stage imaging, and  tightly-controlled bass into living, breathing entities that fill a room with emotion, and life.

What else can I say? Well done Mr. Rossi.

About Rafe Arnott 389 Articles
Editor of InnerFidelity and AudioStream


  1. Rafe,

    Do you have any idea what kind of equipment stand Rossi was using? It really looks nice but I don’t recognize it.

    I heard the Rossi/Harbeth room at last year’s Capital Audio Fest and was very impressed with the sound, with both vinyl and digital sources. And that was a “regular” Rossi LIO, not the DHT version you heard.

  2. Dear Mr. Arnott,
    Did you get an opportunity to listen to the Sonore microRendu Vinnie used as an Ethernet to USB source for the DAC module?

    • Unfortunately, I was not able to stay, and listen to the digital front end. Time constraints as they were. Cheers.

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