Aurosound Vida MKII Phono Stage Review
Selling from £3659 ($5290 USD) depending on configuration, the MkII has retained the steel chassis of the original, launched in 2011, with extruded aluminum front and rear panels, and the high-quality wood sleeve into which it slots. It stands on machined aluminum feet with rubber 'O' rings inset in their bases. Build tolerance and finish are very good with vintage retro styling. There's a new 0.8m-long DC umbilical cable supplied with the MkII which links the off-board power supply to the amplifier, and this has been specifically designed to enhance performance.
The front panel is dominated by a large backlit yellow mute button (lit when muted) which somewhat overwhelms the row of five small toggle switches and the violet-hued LED on-indicator. Switches select the input, gain, High/Low MC cartridge impedance, subsonic filter, and mono/ stereo operation, while the back panel has two pairs of rhodium-plated RCA phono input sockets, two ground binding posts/4mm sockets, plus a toggle switch which turns on the cartridge degauss facility.
Output is again on RCAs, with an XLR output available as an optional extra, and there's also a rotary control for select input loading, which works only on the low cartridge impedance setting, and options are 30, 50, 75, 100, 150 and 470 Ohms.
The power supply, in an extruded aluminum case, has an on/off rocker switch with an LED on-indicator, though this doesn't match either light on the amp front panel. Delivering a DC output regulated using high-speed semiconductor circuits has a potted toroidal transformer and Schottky barrier rectifier diodes to minimize noise.
The Vida MkII's accurate RIAA filter circuit uses an ideal constant impedance consisting of inductors as well as the more usual capacitors and resistors, while the input switching uses high quality relays. Power supply and active solid state gain stages a mixture of operational amplifiers and discrete transistor stages. The newly-designed printed circuit boards in this latest version are of symmetrical layout, signals also being routed to reject external electromagnetic noise. Nichicon Muse supply caps and Fine Gold decoupling caps are also used.
The amplifier is DC coupled with a DC servo on the output amplifier, thus eliminating capacitors in the signal path. The frequency response is flat beyond the audio spectrum, though an infrasonic filter allows for the occasional record needing it. The low-loss equalization circuitry also has very low distortion and very good signal-to-noise ratio.
It all comes together to give excellent timing: the character is one of precision and neutrality while preserving the entertainment factor, and it's equally at home on all types of music. Connect it to a good system and it is capable of producing a finely textured sound, while surprising with its ability to extract new information from long-known records, though it needs to be partnered with other exceptional equipment, lest its excellence is dimmed by flaws elsewhere within the audio chain.
At this price level the Vida is undoubtedly one of the top phono amplifiers currently available and demands consideration. It's very versatile, works well with a large variety of MC and MM cartridges, and compares favorably with many more expensive units irrespective of their technology.
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