Designed in Germany and hand-built in China, the Vincent SV-226 Mk II is a really big amplifier. There’s a retro quality to its machined metal faceplate and knobs, which feel great, by the way. And while it may not be obvious when you first look at it, the SV-226 Mk II is a hybrid, tube/solid state design. It uses three 6N4 tubes (equivalent to the more common 12AX7 tube) in the preamp section and highly regarded Toshiba power transistors in the amp. Vincent’s parts quality selection seems first rate; for example, the amp uses expensive capacitors and extremely precise metal film resistors in the signal path.
The power transformer is huge and the power supply is considerably beefier than what you’ll find in most affordable integrated amps, which is why the SV-226 MK II doubles its 8 ohm rated power of 100 watts to 200 watts into 4-ohm speakers. The heavy-duty speaker connectors can accommodate burly audiophile cables, no problem.
I was happy to see bass and treble controls (which are defeatable) and— just like in the good old days—a Loudness button! Tap that sucker for hushed late-night listening sessions and it’ll boost both bass and treble; it really does work like a charm.
The all-metal remote is beautifully machined and designed. I especially liked that it would never have me searching for a screwdriver to replace its batteries; the cover is held in place with powerful magnets.
Tip: The SV-226 Mk II has enough current and power to drive pretty much any mid-priced speaker.
I’ve listened to a lot of hybrid amplifiers in my time, but the truth of the matter is they almost always sound like solid-state amps. The SV-226 Mk II deftly defies that expectation; it melds the sweetness of tubes with the control and power of transistors. For this kind of money that’s nothing short of phenomenal.
Through the Vincent, the White Stripes’ thick, muscular rock comes on like gangbusters. The SV-226 Mk II’s low end is airy and wonderfully nimble, light on its feet, yet plumbs the depths of the bass. There’s no “tubey” mellifluousness down there, thank you very much! Next I popped on Neil Young & Crazy Horse Live at the Fillmore East 24/96 DVD-Audio [Reprise] and I’m here to tell you this is one of those discs that just sounds better and better the louder I play it. The SV-226 Mk II was happy driving my Dynaudio speakers to room-filling volumes without complaint or undue duress.
Bob Belden’s jazz epic, Black Dahlia [Blue Note SACD] is an amazing piece of work. The mood shifts from track to track, ranging from a steamy Los Angeles landscape, to slinky nightlife, lost love, and a disturbing murder scenario—all rendered in opulent detail. At one point a lone bongo, set against a curtain of harps was so perfectly delineated that it took on a three-dimensional presence on the left side of my room. Dahlia is eerily cinematic in its sweep, and the SV-226 Mk II brought every luscious bit of it home to me.