The VAC Renaissance Signature MKII is one of those special tube preamps that you just can’t help but fall in love with the sound. The CAT SL-1 did that for us but the VAC took it up another level (or several levels…). Music was a bit more substantial especially in the bottom end where it projected more weight and substance. The mids and highs were clean but colorful which brought about a vibrancy in the soundstaging and depth. Speaker pairing, just as its partnering components all play a major part in executing this musical landscape. And if you have a large room with a large pair of speakers, you could almost transform your room into a live concert hall. As a comparison to one of all out time favorite tube preamp, the Audio Research Reference 3, the VAC is less clinical in its precision and had a more relaxed demeanor. Its like the cool guy walking down NYC’s Fifth Ave whistling versus the guy in an Armani suit looking all professional. So if you want an over the top engineered preamp that slices into the music and scoping every “microbes” in the music, the Audio Research is one of the finest tool for it. But if you want a preamp that has a natural, unassuming talent for music, the VAC is amongst the best we have heard under $50,000.
This unit has the optional phono stage, which was a $4,000 up charge. There are six 12AX7 tubes in the phono stage, which on its merit, can outclass stand alone phono preamps costing up to $8,000. So to have this option together with its excellent line stage section for $8,500 now, it is quite the bargain. In the line stage, there are two 8416 tubes and two 12AU7 tubes. All the tubes are VAC certified tubes (which they strongly recommend be used in their components).
Cosmetically, the preamp is in very nice shape. Minor scuff marks here and there but nothing major. The top cover is missing two screws but they can be easily ordered from VAC and the umbilical cords that connect the power supply to the main unit have some frayed spots into the nylon sheath but no impact on function. Manual and remote (controls volume and mute only as designed). This is a two box shipment so factor in times two for actual shipping cost. Units will be securely packed for safe shipping.