I was expecting the usual ‘good power amps, shame about the pre’ from this pairing, if only because good preamps are always thin on the ground at any price point. In fact, what Vincent provides is a pairing that is very evenly balanced – both pre and monos are extremely natural sounding and if anything, the preamp is ever so slightly better than the powers. Now that is a rarity. In fact, the pre and monos are so close in performance terms it would seem churlish to split them up.
There’s been a niggling “I’ve heard this sound before” going over and over in my brain. It took a while to remember what the Vincent reminds me of, but finally it came to me – it sounds a lot like that classic early 1990s combination of PS Audio preamp and Counterpoint power amplifier that worked so well. OK, so the caveat to this is the Vincents only replicate this classic combo in Class A mode (Class AB does well, but it’s got a more aggressive edge to it). But the big bass, the transparency and the overall sense of order just reminds me of that classic combo.
Obviously, recalling an amplifier sound from the early 1990s, when it resided in someone else’s system and one that bears absolutely no context to anything in today’s market is about as haphazard as you can get. It’s almost like trying to recall the hair colour of the passenger of the 43rd car you passed on the Motorway last week. Except that the PS Audio/Counterpoint system was just so satisfying and enjoyable, and yet also so detailed and accurate, it stuck in the mind… and this is its modern equivalent. And like the PS Audio/Counterpart combination, it even shares the same observations, namely it’s more a beauteous sound than an energetic one. The amplifier combination is outstanding on opera, where the sense of theatre pushes the music along in its own right, but driving power chords and snappy electronica is slightly softened and bloomy. This is not really a deal-breaker for most people, but those who define systems from the temporal outwards will not approve of the Vincent combo.
The Vincent SA-94 and SP-995s are very good amplifiers in combination, and none too shabby taken as separate components. I marginally preferred the preamplifier to the powers when split, which is always a sign of good engineering because good preamps are hard to find. These are not amps that ‘disappear’ however; they impart their own distinct character on the music, and if you are in step with that character, you’ll find these a difficult act to follow. That’s not a bad thing, because the character they impart is easy to listen to and reminiscent of one of the best high-end combinations from highend’s heyday. We try not to focus on price here, but this offers a classic highend sound, but without an astronomic price tag and could represent the first step in a long and exciting high-end audio journey. Enjoy the ride!
Vincent SA-94 preamp
Inputs: 5x RCA stereo (LINE IN), 1x XLR stereo (LINE IN)
Input sensitivity: 380 mV
Input Impedance: 47 kΩ
Outputs: 2x RCA stereo (PRE OUT), 1x XLR stereo (PRE OUT), 1x RCA stereo (REC OUT), 2x Power Control (3.5mm Jack)
Frequency response: 10 Hz - 20 kHz
Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.1% (20Hz-20kHz)
Signal to Noise Ratio: > 95 dB
Channel Separation: > 86 dB
Dimensions (W x H x D): 43x8.4x36cm
Vincent SP-995 power amplifier
Inputs: 1x RCA Main Input mono, 1x XLR Main Input mono, 1x POWER CONTROL (3.5 mm jack)
Outputs: connectors for up to 2 loudspeakers, 1x POWER CONTROL (3.5 mm jack)
Frequency response: 20 Hz - 20 kHz ±0.5 dB Nominal Output Power per channel at 8Ω (Class A/AB): 100 W (continuous) Nominal Output Power per channel at 4Ω: 200 W (continuous)
Input sensitivity: 800 mV
Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.1% (20Hz – 20kHz, 8Ω, at nominal output power)
Signal to Noise Ratio: > 90 dB
Input Impedance: 47 kΩ
Dimensions (W x H x D): 43x15x43.5cm per channel
Weight: 19.5 kg per channel
Colour: black / silver
Price: £1,659 per channel
Manufactured by: Vincent/T.A.C