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Audio Research VT130SE
6 Reviews
rating  4.83 of 5
MSRP  7495.00
Description: All Tube 110w/ch power amp with balanced inputs and meters.


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Reviews 1 - 5 (6 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:4
Value Rating:4
Submitted by paolo fontana a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: July 9, 2011

Bottom Line:   
I own the starndard VT130 that differs only for cosmetics from the SE version.
I have been owning it since two years, purchased second-hand. This is a potentially excellent amplifier but it needs some attentions to perform at its best. First it is a little noisy (almost in Italy, 230V-50Hz version) and becomes more silent if powered at at a lower voltage (i.e. 210 V) rather than at 230-240V.
Second, it sounds much better equipped with KT88 rather than 6550 power tubes; anyway it needs carefully matched, high quality, reliable KT88s like my Valve Art or Svetlana / SED. I noted further improvements from using four Mundorf gol d/ oil capacitors in the input stages instead of the original ones.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by ken briffa a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: October 14, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I have had the VT130s since 1997 and not withstanding various changes in my system over the years I have never had the temptation to change them for something else.
Over the years I had come to believe that there is nothing like the sound of the tube. This is an amplifier that you can live with nd be content.
Originally I used it with the ARC LS2 purchased in 1994 but have recently upgraded to the ARC Ref1. Althoufh subtle the differences through the VT-130 are amazing which leads one to understand just how good the VT-130. The soundstage is now more defined, alsowider and deeper. More true to life.
I have also gone from the Roksan CDP-1 to the Sony SCD-777ES and still the VT-130 let me easily see the improvement.
Years back I also went from Sonus Faber Minina Amator to Guarneri Homage and again the difference was easily heard.
The amp is tubed with Svetlana 6550Cs which are excellent in all respects. I was toying with the idea of trying the Sovtek KT-88. Anyone has feedback to give me on this count??
The VT-130 is an excellent all rounder. I recently has the ARC "sonic upgrade" installed on the VT-130 $200 total. Some of the Caps are changed (I understand that all VT-130s built after 6/97 had this upgrade as standard). The improvement again can be heard in the mid to lower bass.

I would love to get my hands on the kit to VT-130 or maybe I will purchase a secondhand VT-130SE. I great little advantage is of this amp is that it has no ventilators (which after years always become noisy) unlike the Classic 60.

Thank you Bill Johnson.


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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   Pre 1995

Price Paid:    $6000.00

Purchased At:   Milano, Italy

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Victor a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: February 26, 2001

Bottom Line:   
I have just upgrade to the ARC VT130SE from a transistor amplifier and what a difference an amp made!

I was comtemplating between purchasing a KSA300S and the VT130SE and after reading a re-reading reviews in Stereophiles on the amps, I decided that the VT130SE would be a better match with my Pro-Ac response 2.5 since Stewart Tylor uses ARC to "voice" his products

The system is now warm and smooth sounding with an unforce sense of transparency. The soundstage is huge and detail with lots of details. Together with the Pro-Ac, the system simply sings.

Equipement used:
Sony XA-7ES, Philips SACD1000, Pioneer AX-10
Sonic Frontier Line 2
Pro-Ac Response 2.5
REL Stentor Mk1
AQ midnight as other similar grade cables

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1997

Price Paid:    $3000.00

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Peter a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: March 26, 2000

Bottom Line:   
Before I bought the VT 130SE, I was contemplating between the VT100 and the VT130SE. I had read reviews about the VT100 and it seemed like the amp for me. The VT100 was also substantially cheaper and upon an audition, it sounded really good with excellent soundstaging and really deep bass. It however sounded solid state in that it was bright sounding with certain music. It certainly put to rest the old notion of tube amps being very warm sounding.

I then chanced upon a used VT130SE. Now, THAT is an amp. It is big and macho with 2 big meters in the front. It is also about 2 feet deep with handles on both the front and the rear. It looked hunkered between the speakers as though it would spring up like the beast it looked. The Bryston 3BST looked positively diminutive! I was smitten. At about US$3,200 for a 3+ year old amp, I was apprehensive. After all, the VT100 was about US$1,200 cheaper and is after all, a newer model. I could not unfortunately get the opportunity to audition the 2 amps side by side.

The shop that sold the VT130SE had a pretty bad listening room but from what little I heard, I decided to take the chance and buy it. I felt that it was a better buy than the VT100 aesthetic aside. It seemed to hold its value better as the VT100 was sold in greater numbers in S'pore.

Now, I do not have a balanced pre-amp (the ARC LS7) nor do I have the funds at present to buy one. I am using a connector that allows me to use single-ended interconnects. Yeah, I know about how compromised it is but hey, that's life. I am saving up to buy the LS25.

The miserable connection problem aside, the VT130SE is fantastic and has transformed my listening. I always had a problem with my system and my bedroom where my hifi is kept. I suffer from listening fatigue. I could not listen to music for more than a few hours before I would get tired from the bright sounding system. I do not suffer from fatigue anymore when I listen to the VT130SE. And I can listen at higher level.

My listening room is untreated and I do not want to have any acoustic treatment on the walls of my bedroom. I value aesthetics above acoustic, at least until I have my own dedicated listening room.

Talk about soundstaging. I can reach out and touch the singer. It is a very solid and clear image. Voices are rounded and fuller. The sound is also warmer. Some may call this colouration but to me, it allows me to listen into the music. I finally discovered what depth means. On Spanish Harlem (Rebecca Pidgeon, Rebecca's voice floated clear and well in front of the music. Desperado by the Eagles on Hell Freezes Over Very real similarly sounded extremely lifelike and goose bumps inducing. It was like having the singer in front of me.

Separation was also another level. I heard in recordings which I have played several hundred times over details which I have never heard before. Even my wife has discoverd these details and she is not an audiophile. If my wife can be impressed, it says something because her attitude is that only audiophiles can tell the difference. Well, she must be an audiophile now!

Bass is an area which I thought may be a problem but with 110 watts and small speakers, this is certainly not an issue for me. I could however hear that the bass of my Bryston was much more detailed and stronger. The bass on my VT130SE was warmer and fuzzier. It was sounded as though a blanket was wrapped around the bass.

I had also mentioned about transparency. Well, let's just say that when I switched on the lights on my CD player, I could tell that the overall sound was brighter. The sound also lost its warmth. This effect was something which I had read about in the magazines but I had never been able to achieve with my previous amps.

Let's just say that I am very impressed with the VT130SE especially as the connection is compromised. The speakers and CD player are also not in the same league but the difference at present is like night and day. I can't wait to save enough money for a LS25 and a better CD player to be able to hear the VT130SE in full.

For the second hand price, it's five stars for value but if bought new, I can only give it 4 stars.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   1997

Overall Rating:5
Submitted by Rick Shavatt a an Audiophile

Date Reviewed: February 13, 1999

Bottom Line:   
This amplifier came to my attention at our local Audiophile Stereo shop. It was alternating with the Mark Levinson model 33 mega expensive power amp. They were driving the Wilson Audio XL1's. This unit has the most realistic 3 dimensional and palpable instrument presentation I have ever heard. The stage depth was enough to make my jaw drop. Talk about reach out and touch someone, it was really incredible. I'm sorry to say the Levinson didn't fare anywhere near as well. Flat soundstage and solid state sizzly highs. The opposite extreme was true for the VT130SE. This unit has an enormous power supply and with either the 6550 or KT88 power tubes it blows anything away in its price class of $7500. I recently heard the VT100 and it is also very nice but definitely the poor boy cousin. No voltage meters, less power storage capacity and no biasing meters. The VT130SE has both voltage input, as well as biasing adjustment meters on the faceplate; which is a must at this level of sonic accuracy. It also puts out 130w/ch at soft clipping, a lot of tube watts and dynamic power highs and lows.

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Duration Product Used:   an Audiophile

Reviews 1 - 5 (6 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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