Being able to experiment with and optimize cartridge loading is a big deal sonically. The Technics EPS-310MC moving-coil I use in my Technics SL-10 linear-tracking turntable is specified at an internal impedance of 30 ohms. I experimented with loadings of 475, 100, 47, and 30 ohms. Not only did the gain increase with decreasing loading, but the sense of space, image focus, and dynamics were also significantly enhanced when I finally settled on a loading of 30 ohms. Incidentally, the Vision easily outclassed the SL-10’s built-in mc pre-preamp.
It was a similar experience with the Clearaudio da Vinci V2 cartridge currently taking up residence in my Kuzma Reference phono front end. Although Clearaudio recommends a minimum impedance of 300 ohms, I found that setting on the Vision a bit too bright for my taste. I eventually settled on 47 ohms, which gave the most gain and best overall tonal balance.
The Vision pretty much met my preconceived notion of what a solid-state phonostage would sound like and lived up to the promise of its objective technical specifications. I expected plenty of low-level detail resolution and a strong bass range, and I wasn’t disappointed. Transient speed and control could only be described as excellent. Alas, I expected a dead-quiet noise floor, but the Vision didn’t quite get there. On the purely subjective side, dynamic contrasts impressed with a rare ability—for solid-state gear, that is—to bloom and boogie. This miniature phonostage was able to light a fire under the soundstage. The biggest impediment to total musical bliss turned out to be somewhat muted tonal colors through the upper midrange. For example, violin tone was lacking requisite sheen. This was a persistent impression, though its degree of severity was a function of the associated cartridge and linestage. The Vision seemed happiest being mated with a romantic-sounding tube preamp.
With its smooth textures and precise transient control, the Vision was able to hold its own in the company of far more expensive gear. Partnered with the new Audible Illusions L3A line preamp it did not embarrass itself, despite the nearly 10:1 price ratio. On balance, I find the Vision to be a well-engineered little marvel. However, what you think of it will depend on the associated line preamp and cartridge. It needs a tube preamp in the mix to approach reasonable fidelity in fleshing out tonal colors. In such a context, Van Alstine’s Vision makes for an easy recommendation, and in view of its asking price, it rises to the level of a godsend for audiophiles on a budget.
SPECS & PRICING
Gain: 38dB (mm), 58dB (mc)
Input impedance: 47k ohms (mm); adjustable (mc)
Dimensions: 7" x 2.5" x 5"
Weight: 2.5 lbs.
AUDIO BY VAN ALSTINE, INC.
2665 Brittany Lane
Woodbury, MN 55125
Analysis Audio Omega loudspeaker; VTL Manley Reference 200/100 monoblocks; Kuzma Reference turntable; Kuzma Stogi Reference 313 VTA tonearm; Clearaudio da Vinci V2 phono cartridge; Technics SL-10 and Revox B795 turntables; Audible Illusions L3A and Atma-Sphere UV-1 preamps; FMS Nexus-2, WireWorld, and Kimber KCAG interconnects; Kimber silver speaker cable; Sound Application power line conditioners