VTL TP-2.5 Performance Series
Phono Stage Review
by James Leahy
The VTL TP-2.5 Performance Series is the companies
best value for dollar Phono Stage solution. The all important tube component of this
line stage comprises of four 12AX7 vacuum tubes that are run by a fully
regulated power supply with extensive AC mains filtering. To back this
up the design has an over size power transformer with an array high spec
capacitors controlling the audio signal circuits.
This Phono Stage is placed by VTL at a very
competitive price point of under AU$3,500.00 when you consider the
competition from ARC's PH5. I have seen, listen to and sold many Phono Stages less and also much more expensive then this but why does the
TP-2.5 from VTL stick in my memory more than any other?
Simple. It does everything well without any
objectionable deal breaking flaws at a price that is more in the
realistic realm of mere mortals and less than a king's ransom. The
quality of such a product that performed so well had really taken me by
surprise in this class. To have a truly hi-end sounding valve Phono Stage with that classic tube VTL house sound we have all grown to know
and love made me feel a sense of respect of what VTL have achieved here.
When you have to meet financial and also
performance constraints within the design parameters of a product in
this price range and performance goals, the complexity of manufacture
becomes infinitely more involved than designing a cost no object
Not to pre-empt the conclusion of this review, but
the TP-2.5 succeeds on so many levels where others have failed. The
simplicity of operation and set-up with any cartridge on the market
being in the MM or higher-ended MC camp is very welcomed by me for one.
There are two sets of inputs on the back panel for MM or MC and there is
a pair of simple dip switches on the inside to be set once then
forgotten about. The engineering dollar was cleverly not wasted on fancy
push button variable cartridge loading settings and other such useless
electronic controllable stereo/mono modes as some other manufacturers
feel the need to use. Make no mistake this is one hardcore tube Phono Stage for the audiophile that wants 100% of their cash going into the
performance rather then flashing lights and slick advertising campaigns
that promise much but delivers little.
Do not misunderstand these statements to lead you
to the false assumption that any corners have been cut in the quality of
construction of this unit. This is equal to units costing double the
price and as can be seen from the photographs below, attention to fine
detail is evident everywhere one looks. While it is still available I
would happily recommend this to the biggest of analogue addicts. I have
had to review Phono Stages from other manufacturers that have been close
to the $10K mark and they have been defective straight out of the box.
Clearly not acceptable but never the less it happens. Comparing that to
this, I know which I would rather have purchased as a customer when the
other was virtually unrepairable.
Minimalistic business like
design gives no indication to the performance of this remarkable
On the rear panel we have
separate inputs for MC and MM Phono sources. The quality of the RCA
connectors used is very high and the inclusion of a detachable I.E.C.
connector is always a welcome addition. Lets the user employ one of
Furutech's premium power leads and connectors for the ultimate in clean
You can see the size of the over sized power
transformer in relation to the other components and the usage of nine
high quality capacitors that complement the audio circuit.
The four 12AX7 Vacuum Tubes make this an all-time
classic sounding phono stage.
Gain levels are factory set for MM cartridges at
45dB and for MC cartridges at 58dB. This proved more than enough with a
low output Ortofon Jubilee at 0.34mV and at high listening levels no
distracting noise could be detected.
Newly released from Universal Records is
this Japanese Import - Limited Edition 200 gram pressing of Eric
Clapton's infamous '461 Ocean Boulevard' 1974 album proved to be an
awesome test recording for this review. A little bit off topic but
these new Japanese pressings from U.R. are truly awesome and
reference class all the way.
Bass performance is well tuned and has
fasted paced timing without any slow down in presentation that can
come from poorly engineered valve designs. The impact of the bass is
hard hitting and rich in colour without overly accentuated bloom and
vigour. With Eric's vocals and guitar solo riffs piercing the air
the TP-2.5 was able to hold the soundstage together and present the
air and space of the recordings that best Phono Stages on the market
are well renowned for giving the listener.
Midrange separation and texture is classic
tube lovers paradise with warm hues of light coming through in the
track 'Mainline Florida' in capturing the feeling of early seventies
west coast American blues/rock.
The combination of all these parts and how
the TP-2.5 handles them is very rewarding for the listener and gives
you all one could ask for in a great Phono Stage with bucket loads
of sweet tube layering filtering throughout your favourite albums.
Coming from a company run by Luke and Bea I am not surprised at how
well this is all put together and the quality of the unit. These
people really design products that do what they claim and if I could
personally introduce you to them to give you more insight into how
their products are designed and marketed I would.
Ok now after getting a bit off track, back
to the review. The highs are both extended and sweet,
there is no grittiness but this unit needs at least 100 hours
through it before it really opens up and lets you slip into the
groove with the best of both smoothness and tone. This is typical of
all VTL products I have found. Long running in periods are required
for the optimum results to be achieved. The voicing
character of this Phono Stage is very neutral being both forward and backward
and transcending a huge distance in depth depending
more on musical content than anything else.
If I had to recommend to a customer one VTL
product above all others for their system that required some fast
attention in the analogue department it would be to start out with
this Phono Stage and work on the rest of the system later.
So hard is it to find a good, or make that
great Phono Stage for a reasonable cost that when you do find one
you should not let grass grow under foot. I have been happily
listening to this unit more and more over the last few weeks that I
feel it does everything I could want out of my analogue system. It
Ortofon Jubilee MC cartridge a wonderful partnership in all
areas important to my listening enjoyment and more.
With this unit you are able to build a
truly giant killing system for a modest cost and rest assured in the
knowledge that your Phono Stage is giving you everything in terms of
soundstage, depth and tonal accuracy on the better side of $5K.
That's why I have adopted the VTL TP-2.5 as my Phono Stage of choice
in my personal system and I am continually thrilled with the
startlingly remarkable performance this baby from VTL can deliver.
Associated review Equipment
VTL MB-750 Reference Monoblocks
Martin Logan Odyssey