They say if an amplifier does not get the first watt right, then many more make no difference. It matters not if it is a 100 watt per channel unit or the single watt GREATech µVAC. Loyal readers know full well i am not of the 'bigger is better' camp. Huge coffin-sized loudspeakers that demand 1.21 Gijawatts of power need not attend my funeral. Give me that single tube, pure Class A triode amplifier and a pair of loudspeakers that present an easy load. High efficiency is, of course, a must. Perhaps those guys who like huge speakers and amplifier, like Fabio, are making up for other, eh hem, shortcomings?
My first encounter with this amplifier was years ago at the High End Society show in Germany. It was in prototype form under the Kolibri nameplate. At the 2005 Munich show i once again saw the unit in production form by GREATech, and under the official name of µVac. Frankly, i have always had a soft spot in my heart for chachkies. In the 1980's it was the Sony D-88 3-inch CD player. Eventually came the Lehmann Audio Black Cube phonostage, which has just been released in a 2006 version by the way. Next up was the 47 Labs Gaincard, and many of you know the outcome from that review. The Gaincard spurred many imposters to the point of virtual downright design theft! They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, though stealing a design and selling it to others is downright inexcusable! With that said, i have a feeling that GREATech has no worries in that regard.
As seen in the photo, the µVac is very small. A puny 140 x 85 x 75 mm for amplifier and 140 x 85 x 90 mm for the external power supply. The box of wooden matches gives you some idea. To the right is a photo i took while covering a European show in 2005. Note the chassis color and Kolibri name at that time.
So what is it with the fascination of small chachkies? The heck if i know, other than perhaps i am the type of guy to cheer for the little engine that could. GREATech's µVac is a stereo amplifier with volume control and external power supply. Single source systems can use this as a preamplifier/amplifier, thereby saving money on interconnects and the like. Tube compliment is a High-Rel MIL subminiature beam power pentode 5902 for amplification and high-mu UHF triode 5744 for pre stage. Frequency response is claimed as 25Hz to 30kHz with weight being a mere 2.5 kg in total. The internal power supply senses power voltage and therefore can handle from 115 to 230. So how many watts does this €940, limited production of only 250 pieces produce? Glad you asked!
Remember at the beginning of this article where i said the first watt is the most important. Well, that is all you get with the µVac. A single, one, uno, ein.... Just one watt! This amplifier almost personifies the meaning of the first watt, because that is all it can produce. Not that the Song Audio's 4 watts is some big, beefy amplifier in the watt-producing game of life. i mean, here it is 2006 and we have amplifiers that produce well over 1,000 watts per channel. What the heck am i doing playing around with such small wattage units? Ahhh, we must remember the saying about the first watt. As for build quality, the µVac is almost toy-like, yet the tubes are nicely surrounded in an almost jewel-like gloss black chassis.
Cables Make A Difference
Glorious midrange. i swear this amplifier has swooned me big time! My wife, upon hearing the µVac on the Hyperions, was smiling ear to ear. Have you ever had one of those components where upon installing it and first hearing it you went into your music collection to enjoy disc after disc? Well, the µVac is precisely one of those units. As much as i tried to find fault in this little bugger, the only real thing i could come up with was the lack of very, very high frequency extension (over 12kHz) that is the very last sheen/shimmer. Do not expect extremely high sound pressure levels (SPL, or volume) unless you have highly efficient loudspeakers. Of course playing Reference Recordings Pomp & Pipes [RR58-CD] had limitations, especially on the Hyperions, as the pipe organs' deep bass caused the amplifier to go into clipping at basic listening levels. To its defense, the Hyperions are not ultra-efficient loudspeakers like the Avantgarde Acoustic Duos (reviewed here) with their 103dB/W/m rating. But do not fear as...
i like to rock, so on came Rush Signals remastered [Mercury 314 534 633-2] and yes this is the little amplifier that could at sane volume levels. David Chesky's Club de Sol [JD33] had a delicacy that most amplifiers only hint at. i find that when an amplifier produces incredible resolution and dynamic portrayal, the music sounds more relaxed. Yes, this little bugger has relaxed down in spades! There is more natural space as each instrument floats within the room. An oldie but a goody is Sonny Rollins Way Out West [Analog Productions CAPJS 008] had just the right horn balance of reed, breath, and metal resonance. My wife and i danced to certain song on Madonna's The Immaculate Collection [Sire/Warner 9 26440-2]. So where is the Achilles heel?
Other than that very last smidgeon of ultra-high frequency sheen, nothing. Yes, you read that right, nothing! Am i saying the µVac is perfect? Hmmm... after a very long time thinking this out i would have to say it is the best damn amplifier i have ever heard in my life. Oh, and i did try it as a headphone amplifier with the Sennheiser HD600 with Stephan Audio Art cable (reviewed here) and if you are a Head-Fi kinda person this may be just the ticket to erotica! Forget those other headphone amplifiers, who shall remain nameless. Get yourself a µVac!
We are in single digit wattage territory here so i have a feeling this review will only be good for headphone guys and those with over 95dB/W/m sensitive loudspeakers. Well, leave it to me to spend vast time and effort in hopes of reaching a niche, of a niche, within a niche market!
All i ask is one favor. When you buy the unit and give it a good listen within an appropriate system, please e-mail me your comments. i truly want to know what others think of this thing. Color me amazed, enthralled, astonished, and stunned at how much sheer dimensionality and definition this baby can find within the music i have enjoyed for many years. All this for only €940 too! Like Bill and Ted would say, "Like, no way dude!" And with that said, of course in the end what really matters is that you...