CES 2019: New VTL Phonostage sings with Lyra

Luke Manley and Bea Lam are two of the hardest working folks in the business.  At every show, you can feel confident that VTL will have a room and its going to sounds fabulous. So it’s no surprise even at CES 2019, when the exhibitor list was short and the halls were light, Luke and Bea brought their usual A-game and provided one of my two favorite rooms at CES 2019.

Earlier in November 2019, I had an opportunity to spend some time with Luke Manley at Audio Element while auditioning the Wilson Audio Sasha DAW driven by VTL Electronics.  A wonderful vinyl playback setup with dueling turntables sparked my interest in the VTL 6.5 Signature Phono stage at the event. At that time Luke hinted that a refresh was in the works….

VTL TP-6.5 Signature Phono Series II

The original TP-6.5 Signature Phono Stage began in 2006, with an early prototype first shown at CES Jan 2007, and production somewhat later that year.  So it was very fitting that at CES 2019, Luke debuted the refreshed TP-6.5 Signature Phono Stage Series-2!

Luke described the changes to the Series II as follows:

“More recently, over the past year since we successfully released the TP-2.5i we have looked at every part of the TP-6.5 circuit to see where we might be able to make improvements.

The resulting TP-6.5 Series II Signature Phono Stage is thus an update and improvement to the long-running TP-6.5 Signature Phono stage, with added power supply shunt regulator circuitry that was originally developed for the series III version of the TL-7.5 Reference Linestage.

This power supply technology was adapted for the entry-level TP-2.5i phono stage and was our first use of a shunt regulator in a phono stage.

The technology was dramatically enhanced for the new TP-6.5 Series II, resulting in a more sonically transparent power supply, a slower ramp for the high tension, and, most importantly, greater noise rejection and much more precise regulation.

A second major area of improvement is in the multiple cascaded regulators for the MC step-up, with greater energy storage available from newer technology capacitors, to further lower noise and lower power supply impedance, helping to improve drive from lower output MC cartridges, to take fuller advantage of vacuum tubes’ inherent capability for amplifying phono signals, particularly with their inherent headroom capability in swinging high signal levels at high frequencies, needed to drive the 20dB top-end insertion loss of the passive RIAA equalization stage.

Sonically, our target with these improvements was to try to make the sound more vibrant and present, with a fuller soundstage and better resolution of low-level detail, adding to the harmonic richness and elegant tonal balance of the existing TP-6.5.”

Driving the Series II phono stage was a Kuzma Stabi R Turntable in Walnut finish, with 11-inch 4Point arm and Lyra Etna cartridge setup by Stirling Trayle.

As Bea dropped the needle, I was taken back by the deep soundstage, lack of noise, tonality and dynamics.

We enjoyed a recent release of “Dreams and Daggers” by Cecile McLorin Salvant recorded live at the Village Vanguard.

I originally discovered Cecile Salvant in a VTL room many years ago, so learning about this new album with 33 tracks spread across 3 LPs was immediately purchased from my phone as I exited the VTL room.

As the needle slid through the grooves, I was immediately in love.  The reproduction of Cecile by the Etna + Kuzma + VTL + Sasha DAW was the best I have heard anywhere. Recently I have been yearning for more soul in my LP playback, and it was clear to me this was the best presentation I have heard using a Lyra Etna.  Maybe it was the setup? Maybe those smoking Sasha DAW speakers in Lamborghini Giallo Tenerif? Perhaps that new VTL Phono stage had its finger prints on this…

Speaking to Luke, I asked him to describe the sound of the new phono stage:

 “We find that the TP-6.5 Series II adds the drive and presence that makes the music more vivid, with more air and spaciousness, and more inner detail, better definition in the critical midrange and in the mid bass. With the lowering of the background noise, the stridency that sometimes appears in massed strings or woodwinds in the existing TP-6.5 has disappeared in the new design, allowing music to emerge with fluidity and grace.

Our listening comparisons tell us that the new design yields a wide and deep soundstage, realistic image proportions, and startling dynamic range and speed, with massive headroom capability and low noise. With final voicing complete there is even more refinement and nuance, with a delicacy that is especially noticeable in the way the sustain and decay of instruments are captured, and yet at the same time we feel that the new design retains the classic VTL characteristic of solid, controlled bass of the existing version..”

Pricing for the VTL TP-6.5 Series II Phono Stage has not yet been set, but is expected to be between $9500 and $15,000 USD.

This is definitely a phono stage we will keep an eye on and will spend more time with.

Full room setup

  1. VTL TP-6.5 Series II Signature Phono stage (debut)
  2. VTL TP-7.5 Series III Reference Linestage Pre-amplifier
  3. VTL S-400 Series II Stereo Amplifier
  4. Kuza Stabi R Turntable with 11-inch 4Point arm
  5. Lyra Etna Cartridge
  6. dCS Rossini Player and Clock
  7. Wilson Audio Sasha DAW Loudspeaker
  8. Finite Elemente Pagode Reference Racks

Next time you visit a show, pay Luke and Bea a visit.


1 Comment

  1. In my 30 years experience servicing, modifying and manufacturing high end gear, I never saw gear more reliable than VTL.

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