The expression “entry level” covers a vast swath of price points in the high end. For Vitus Audio, a premium maker of electronics from Denmark its Reference Series, which includes the RI-100 is at $13k, entry level. The Reference RI-100 is a line stage integrated amp but it’s not my first date with a Vitus Audio amp. In Issue 218, I reviewed the Signature Series SIA-025, a marvelous Class A line stage integrated and at a vertiginous $25k the most expensive one I’ve reviewed to date. So it would be natural to assume that the RI-100 at roughly half the price could be a big step down. Not by a long shot. The RI-100 is essentially the Vitus Audio RS-100 solid-state stereo amplifier with the addition of a linestage preamp. It outputs a stout 300Wpc into 8 ohms and tips the scales at 88 lbs.
As powerful as the RI-100 is, that was not the key sonic element that stands out for me. What really struck home was the lack of an electronic signature throughout the frequency spectrum. It’s supernaturally quiet. There’s impressive transient speed that seamlessly integrates with a richly harmonic sonic landscape. It’s not euphonic in the classic tube-sense of the word, nor is it etched or pushy like less desirable solid-state.
It also reproduces the delicate world of space and ambience around the music like few amplifiers I’ve experienced. It’s a quality that fixes a musical image in a precise position but without disturbing the distinct ambient space that image is occupying. It’s like a mysterious curtain of reverberant sound, an ambient backdrop–a near-subliminal energy dense and alive–that the musical images are enfolded into and play off of. The string sections of Appalachian Spring have buoyancy and a lack of stridency that on more than one occasion had me recollecting the flawless treble performance of the pure Class A SIA-025 [Reference Recordings].
On balance, it gives away little to its highfalutin pure Class A Signature Series siblings. They present music in its fullest spectrum with astounding presence and energy. Both are fluid and articulate. But to these ears, the Class A SIA-025 has a riper flavor, and a micro-presence that expresses the smallest dynamic gradients and image clusters (orchestral section layering and choral groups come to mind) in a way the larger amp can’t quite match. By the same token the RI-100 powers through the broader swaths of large-scale symphonies and high intensity pop/rock in a way that makes most other amps seem a bit submissive in comparison. An alpha amp if ever there was one. More to come on this one soon.