Review: Vincent 226 MK Hybrid Integrated Amplifier

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marsilians

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Here is a quick review of the Vincent Hybrid Integrated Amp (226 MK). I wanted to get into tubes and decided that instead of making a big splash, would try a hybrid first for not a very large sum of money.

Note, mine is the 226 MK model not the newer 226 MKII model. The difference is very minor in the pre-amp stage as well as extr

Lets get some minor things out of the way

Stated Specs:

  • Frequency range: 5 Hz - 50 kHz +/- 1 dB
  • Nominal output power 8 Ohm: 2 x 100 Watt
  • Nominal output power 4 Ohm: 2 x 200 Watt
  • Input sensitivity: 150 mV
  • Total harmonic distortion: < 0.1 % (1 kHz, 1 Watt)
  • Signal-to-Noise Ratio: > 90 dB
  • Input Impedance: 50 kOhm
  • Mains supply: 230 V/50 Hz
  • Inputs: 6 x RCA
  • Outputs:
  • 1 x Rec Out
  • 1 x Pre Out
  • 4 x 2 speaker terminals,
  • 1 x Jack Phone
  • 1/4" Headphone Jack


  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 430 x 130 x 400 mm
  • Weight: 12.5 kgs
  • Tubes for Pre Amp: 3 6N4 (Chinese equivalent to 12 AX7)

Look & Feel:


The amp came double boxed. Packing was good. Below are not the actual amp pictures but they are very close to what I got to see when they were taken out.



First Impressions:


vincentfront.jpg


I had heard that they were heavy but did not get a feel for the weight until I literraly had to lift them out. This is one heavy amp compared to the Naim & Creek that I had before.

I like the retro look as well since the feel. The body is made of steel with the knobs and LEDs on the front being the only plastic components.

As you can see from the pics, there are volume, channel switch, bass, treble knobs. A trebel defeat button and a "loud" button, which adjusts the amplifier's response at low volumes to compensate for the drop in hearing sensitivity - am not a big fan of this feature. An LED power indicator and 1/4" jack complete the feature set. Hoping my AKG 501 will get a nice workout. Nice spacing between the various knobs and buttons. Operations of the knobs are smooth like almost all other decent amps.

vincentback.jpg


The rear panel has a 110V IEC power inlet and comes with a removable power cord. There are two sets of 5-way speaker posts for A/B connections in different places or for biwiring capabilities if thats the kind of thing you are into. These again may not get much use for my purposes.

There are options to connect upto 6 sources to the amp. Finally, there is a pre-out and a record out pair of connectors. All are RCA connections. With the pre-outs, you can connecdt this to an external power amplifer.

Note the MK II version has a pair of 12v triggers and some minor improvements in the pre-amp section. While auditioning in the store, I did not feel any difference with all other components and connectors being equal.

The remote control is one of the best I have seen. Its all steel in black and sleek and you can hold it snugly. It has buttons to switch between the 6 sources, volume up/down and a mute. The layout is not the best with teh 6 input buttons not 100% aligned (3 on each side), but hey I cant be too nit picky. It takes 2 AA batteries (better and cheaper alternative than the AAAs). And a cool feature is that the cover is held to the remote by a powerful magnet and you just have to push it up to get to the batteries. I shook it vigourously to see if it came off, but no success there. So its all good so far.



Under the hood:


Warning: I am not an electrical/electronics engineer (for that matter I am not even an engineer). So what I put down is something I have learnt by working with others.

ampstagecloseup.jpg


As you see from the pic, the inside of the amp looks very clean with the modular compartments managing the critical functionalities from a design perspective. The first thing that struck me was the massive 5Kv Toshiba power transformer and the rich set of coils that come with it which provides 32K mF of capacitance. This shoudl be able to provide gobs of power to drive even some inefficient speakers.

powertransformer.jpg



The ALS 10 series 63V/10,000uF electrolytic capacitors and 2SC 33519/ 2SA 1386 resistors are of good quality. The shielding is pretty good as well. The power amp stage board is held together by 11 screws.

The Pre-amp stage is mounted on separate board and housed in another compartment including the 3 high gain Chinese made 6N4 tubes (equiavalent to the North American 12Ax7 or European ECC83). Image is below.

preamptubes.jpg


The Setup:

The amp was connected to a pair of Rega RS1 speakers using DH Labs Silver Sonic T-14 speaker cales. The source was Oppo 980 Universal player for the most part. For some albums, I used a borrowed Naim CD5i in addition to the Oppo as the source as well. The transports were connected via Audioquest g-snake interconnects.

Auditions:

I auditioned with the stock tubes for about 1.5 days (abt 4 hrs/day) and upgraded to some very good Amperex Bugle Boys from the 1960s. I listened to the same songs as before and then also some additional ones for the auditions. This time I auditioned for close to 2 days.

The old and new tubes are shown in the pic below. The ones on the left are the 3 bugle boys and the ones on the right are the 6N4s.


12ax76n4.jpg


I was lucky to find the Bugle Boys with pretty strong measurements.

amperexbugleboys.jpg


Note that the Amperex were my third set of tubes after a pair of Telefunken (felt too harsh and analytical) and Raytheon (good tubes with a very nice high frequency repro, but the Amperex sound better overall and only comparitively). I woudl have stayed with the Raytheons if I did not come across the Amperex.


  • The Score (The Fugees)

This is an amazing album with a whole range of tracks that cover the highs, mids and low frequencies for fairly extended periods. Also there is a lot of background vocals and talk that should feel as though the singers are in the background even though they are speaking close into the microphone.

The third track 'Ready or not' is a fantastic rendition with female vocals of Lauren Hill accompanied by a snare drum beats through out. With the stock tubes the sound was decent. After the upgrade, the soundstage improved significantly enough that the beats come through very clearly. The bugle boys lived upto their expectations of providing lots of detail in the mid range and throw a large soundstage. Much much better than the 6n4s. Not an apples/apples comparison but they did cost a fair bit compared to the 6n4s.

My subjective rating (8/10).

  • Wish You Were Here (Pink Floyd Gold Edition)

I picked this album because it provides a very good workout on the high frequencies - guitars and keyboards. Also the album stresses the extent of the soundstage esp. when the mix moves from stereo to mono to stereo in the Wish you were here and Have a cigar tracks.

While I did enjoy the album a few times, one thing I noticed consistently is that the amp did not handle the upper frequencies as well as my current one - the Creek Destiny. This may not be obvious if you only listened to the Vincent. However it threw a very large soundstage esp. during the playing of 'Welcome to the machine' track. Very impressed.

My subjective rating (7/10).

  • Romance of the Violin (Joshua Bell)

One either really likes this album or not. Not being a purist in Western (or any) classical genre, I really like it. This is almost an easy intro to the styles of greats masters such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bellini and others. This album contains a fair bit of top range and midrange tracks. Also there are sudden drops from high - mid and high - low. If the repro is not good then these drops all get mixed up. The amp did manage the transitions well and at no point did the frequencies seem overlapped. Here too the Creek did a better job than the Vincent in the transitions.

My subjective rating (7/10).

  • Various - Ultimate Demonstration Disk (Chesky Records)

This is one I play during my auditions. Even though they are not the best picks across all genres, the collection still spans all frequencies and a fair bit of genres. While I played this a few times as well, I noticed that after about 20 odd hours of 'burn in' with the Amperex, the midrange purity , naturalness and transparency introducitons were absolutely fantastic. It appears that the Amperex needed some solid hours to start to shine. The holographic imaging and bass resonance was absolutely stunning. This is one of hte integrateds that has a solid bass response. Most others like the Arcam's and NADs tend to sound dull when trying to play deep bass tones. The 19th track I love Paris has fantastic duets of piano guitars sax and drums at a very fast pace. The Vincent delineates these very very well. Here it hands down beats the Creek es. during playing of the sax.

Another track where the Vincent really stood out was during the test of the holographic imaging. It really provided that sensation of being enveloped for this song. The Creek did a good job on the presenation as well but I think this is an effect of the smaller power supply here is a liability as the imaging was not as big as the Vincent.

Finally Grandma's Hands is very well reproduced in that it gives the feeling that you are listening to Livingston Taylor in life.

Oveall the Vincent reproduced this very well.


My subjective rating (9/10).

  • Alligator Records Blues COllection

This albums spans songs from 1940s at the earliest and is a great test for mid and low range frequencies. The Vincent with Amperex really reproduced the songs esp. the live environments. The highligt tracks are those that have a distinctive Louisiana touch. Phil Walker and Lonnie Brooks classic Boogie Walker comes out with very distinctive esp. his Chicago style jams throughout the song. A good test is to be able to hear the plucks and strums against the background vocals and drums. Its comes out distinctive through the Vincent.

Similarly Robert Cray and Albert Collins She's Into something is reproduced very very well with Cray's in and out playing on the guitar coming out very clearly. It almost appears that he is going back/forth to the mike when playing. Finally the jam session with Collins and Cray distinctive guitars and style is overlapped very well. I was able to hear both the riffs very clearly.

Saffire's You can have my husband was a test for the female vocals and Rusty Zinn's The Chill for male vocals as there are not too many instrumentals backing these tunes. They are simple and straightforward tracks and am familiar with them. I felt a fair bit of fidelity and clarity in the voices and was able to pick the background instruments clearly.....

Finally, the live version of Clifton Chenier's penned Jambalaya (On the Bayou) stresses the mid and top end with the accordian and background drum beats that requires a quick roll off. The Vincent did manage the drums very well and reasonably well on the accordian. It did a good job on the roll off of the tunes however.

My subjective rating (8.5/10).

  • The Traveling Wilburys Collection (Disk 1)

This is the remastered version. This disc tests the placement of instruments esp. the acoustic guitars harmonica and slide guitars with joint vocals by Dylan, Petty, Orbison and Harrison. The Vincent was able to provide the feel of uncluttered feeling through out the album especially on Last Night, Congratulations, Handle with Care. I have heard this on some other occasions in other setups where it did nto play well at all. In this audition, it really brings out the strenght of the Vincent with very good fidelity.

My subjective rating (9.5/10).

  1. Mambo Sinuendo (Ry Cooder and Manuel Galban)

This is a very different Ry Cooder album (he is the producer as well) as there is a heavy bit of electric guitar. I wanted to see how this quasi 'jazz/folk' album would play out with the heavy electric guitars. I am happy to note that this was one of the best reproductions of the album. Very very smooth esp. with the guitars and drums played very precisely on the highlight tracks - Monte Adentro, Drume Negrita and La luna en tu mirada. I listented to this album a few times esp going back/forth with the Oppo and Naim.

Side note: this album is a pleasure definitely when played from the Naim. This definitely shows the distinction between the 2 transports. Alas, I cannot afford the Naim now, so my Oppo is staying. For those who are looking to audition CDPs, I would recommend considering the Naim in your mix.


My subjective rating (9.5/10).

  1. Brilliant Corners (Thelonius MOnk)

This is a classic album with a lot of sax, drums and horn ensembles. There is a lot of shift within songs across different genres such as jazz (ofcourse), blues, early rock/roll and folk. All the tracks in this album are good candidates to review the bass response and accuracy.

Ba Lue Bolivar Ba Lues Are (Bolivar Blues), Monk's classic rendition along with the solos on sax, drums was produced very accurately by the Vincent. I was paritcularly interested in the sax and piano solos. Also this album generously used hornsI have to say that the tonal balance was slightly held back (again not very obvious but I know this album very intimately). It was just a touch laid back than I woudl have liked it to be.

Mind you the Rega RS1 are smaller bookshelf speakers, so I suspect that with larger ones like the Totem Arro or Mite, the sound would have been that much better.

The Pannonica and Bemsha Swing tracks test the dimensionality of the music esp. with Monk playing the piano and celeste simultaneously and I have to say that the distinction and being able to pick the musician's spot on the stage was very clear.

I am starting to feel that the Vincent is able to pick instruments pretty accurately in an ensemble.

Overall very happy with the way the amp managed this album except for the slight drop in tonality in Bolivar Blues. I am not sure if other amps at this range would have picked up as I have heard better balance and tonality from pretty expensive setups that are beyond my budget.

My subjective rating (9/10).


  • Kinsmen (Rudresh Mahantappa & Kadri Gopalnath)

I am a sucker for fusion esp. involving Indian classical. There are 3 tracks on this album that I listen to a fair bit to understand the nuances. I have been doing this for a the past 4 months or so. There are 3 tracks that I have sort of picked out the rhythm and patterns decently and think that they will either make or break a setup. Its as simple as that. These are Snake!, Ganesha and Convergence. Its absolutely amazing how the various artists get into a jugalbandi of sorts to play on these tracks and then there is a final chorus.

Here I have to say that Vincent really shone. Prior to this I though the 2 strengths to pick of this amp for fidelity and reproduction were jazz and chicago blues. After listenign to the abouve tracks, I am convinced that this will do very well for fusion genre as well.

It was absolutely stunning how the amp displayed the two saxophones in absolute clarity as well asthe background bass drums and mridangam. The imaging was placed very well with excellent tonal balance and dynamics. The detail was good as well

My subjective rating (9/10).

Final Thoughts:

I have made specific notes on the auditions and what I have put down above is a summary of each. I can break it out if someone is auditioning the same albums.

I started off on the journey of trying tubes about 6 months ago and here I am with the Vincent. During the time I have reviewed Jolida, Shangling and Cayin amps. I have to say that I am pretty impressed with the Chinese made gear. Yes you need to roll the tubes but for an entry point of ~1100 USD, I consider the Vincent to be in the mid level in terms of pricing.

I have decided to keep the amp esp. after upgrading the tubes. Once I have some more finance, I will look into upgrading my speakers. In teh meantime I usually listen to it about 2 hours a day under moderate volume except for sometime over weekend when the knob sits between 11 AM and 1 PM positions.

If you have reached so far, thanks for your patience in reading the post.....
 
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stevieboy

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congrats marsilians! nice detailed review! :) good to hear you're enjoying your new amp. welcome to the tube club! waiting for the pics. you can upload from imageshack.us and just paste the forum direct link you'll see on the right hand side of the screen.

regards
 

grubyhalo

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Awesome write-up! Have you written down similar impressions of the other gear you have checked out?


P.S: I am not able to see any pics on the post though...
 

soundsgreat

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Hi,

Marsi really well done review :clapping: !! Neat without much clutter,I especially like the Album wise rating ;) !!

So when Am I invited to enjoy the same ?? Also I don't know if you remember or not but I had asked you to drop in for an Audition of my DIY stuff which never happened !! So this time will it ??

One minor correction or whatever you want to call it !

The ALS 10 series 63V/10,000uF electrolytic capacitors and 2SC 33519/ 2SA 1386 resistors are of good quality.

First of Am bit confused bout the ALS 10 Series,is it a capacitor brand or what ? (I've not heard of such brand hence asking) Second I guess either a comma is missing after the transistor numbers or you've mixed transistors and resistors !!


Last but not the least,PICS please ASAP big one's :eek:hyeah: !!

Regards.
 

marsilians

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@Stevieboy - thx for your suggestions. it really helped.

@grubyhalo - I usually tend to make notes for systems that I audition or setup. They vary from auditioning a few songs to multiple albums over multiple days. However I am not a big fan of the 'shoot out' process as its not an apples/apples comparison in my perspective. I favour single or atmost 2 systems. Just my comfort level.

@thevortex - a dealer I know got me the Vincent for US$1100 + threw in some additional free stuff. I spent US$ 180 for the Amperex Bugle Boys. I have also bought a bunch of Telefunkens and Raytheons. I have since sold the tele to break even and will be selling the raytheons soon. I am also looking to try some Sylvania 5751 blackplates maybe in 6 - 9 months time. These are lower gain but I have been told that they improve the soundstage that much more. This will also help me setup my little kitty of tubes in case some bust down the road.

@audio_engr - thx for your comments. Its 110V since I picked it off a known dealer in the US couple months ago.

Re: Moscode, I have not had any expeirence with the brand. Seems like a good build. Unless someone has it on the forum, I wouldn't mind checking this the next time I have some time in the US. The price point is a bit too high for me, but for some lunch and couple of beers, i think I can squeeze an audition from my friends.

Re: tube rolling. I can definitely say the Amperex made a huge difference in the sound. This becomes obvious once someone does A/B comparison. See above for my plans for a 5751. What is your take on them?

@cha_indian - Yes I know Sheng Ya appears to be an OEM for Vincent. Unfortunately I dont know anyone selling these except on the bay or Chinese market. If one can get an equipment with similar warranty terms then I would call it a steal.

@soundsgreat - thx for your feedback. And thx for the correction audio_engr. The 2SC should have been noted as high frequency transisors. I shoudl have noted that the amp uses 5W22R resistors.
 

soundsgreat

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Hi,

@soundsgreat - thx for your feedback. And thx for the correction audio_engr. The 2SC should have been noted as high frequency transisors. I shoudl have noted that the amp uses 5W22R resistors.

Its my pleasure,Buddy you however have not replied to my request,if you don't mind please do !!

5751 esp NOS types are great but varies from amp to amp. If you are happy with what you're getting now, I'd say settle down and enjoy !! (for a while at least).

As for the 110V operation, I would try to work out a way of rewiring the amp for 220-230V operation and that toroidal transformer should be having the taps to allow that. (A good tech guy is required to look at it). In case you do rewire do change the fuse rating to "half-the-value" as current is now half while voltage is doubled.

Yes I agree with you on that,its better to first get the Amp properly burnt in and get the feel of the whole thing before making these subtle changes !!

Arup on a side note one question,how do you rate BEL 5751's ?? there is one box full (close to 100+ ) original factory shipped lying with a source ! I've been eying them for sometime now ! Its for my DIY tube pre which currently uses 12AX7 from Mullard !

Regarding the trafo,yes I agree with you there as well !! Marsi if you need any help you are more then welcome to get in touch with me for the same !!

Regards.
 

thevortex

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Goodness me, Marsilians! You have got quite a bunch of tubes there. And you are tempting me to experiment as well.

All the best and I am sure this is a smashing listening experience. By the way, I also love Chesky's ultimate demonstration disk. I love listening to 'There is a rose...' by Rebecca Widgeon, the first track I guess.

And the trumpet piece 'If I could sing your blues..' is free flowing and evocative.

There was also a Latin piece that I really loved. I think it was Correntezza. A test of naturality. How I would love find more tracks from similar genres. Unfortunately I dont know the first thing about hunting down such tracks. :(
 

soundsgreat

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Hi,

Before I post sorry for the off topic post :p!!

They're ok but should get some tube measuring equipment & check out random samples of that lot (in case you are keen). Hate to see money going in the gutters! Viren should be able to advise you better on this.

Thanks for the reply,so shall I take the above as NO ?? I mean they are not worth it,I just wanted to take few and thought if anybody else wants can talk for the lot !! But looks like its............... Surely will check with Viren (hate to disturb anyone through PM will try to catch him on thread where he's active;))

All the best and I am sure this is a smashing listening experience. By the way, I also love Chesky's ultimate demonstration disk. I love listening to 'There is a rose...' by Rebecca Widgeon, the first track I guess.

And the trumpet piece 'If I could sing your blues..' is free flowing and evocative.

Buddy you got it wrong :p, the artist is Rebeca Pigeon and its not the first,the other song is from Sara K !!

My fav too:D !! I listen to it regularly !

Regards.
 
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soundsgreat

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Hi,

Yes Soundsgreat - Rebecca Pidgeon. Blame my mistake on Dhoni's lacklustre captaincy

Thats no biggie pal,will do just fine !!

Aha:lol: No wonder !! Good that I don't like cricket,else me too would've..............:eek:hyeah:

Regards.
 

marsilians

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Goodness me, Marsilians! You have got quite a bunch of tubes there. And you are tempting me to experiment as well.

Hey I am just getting into the act here. So far I am happy with what I hear from the tube equipment. If things play out, I might slowly transition my system to tube based ones over the next couple years. I am not there yet.

What is very revealing in the short time I have been playing around this space is that each tube manufacturer has a very distinctive impact on the sound signature, so I am learning that ensuring synergy is a significant key to having a good vs. bad experience.

There was also a Latin piece that I really loved. I think it was Correntezza. A test of naturality. How I would love find more tracks from similar genres. Unfortunately I dont know the first thing about hunting down such tracks. :(

Correntezza is a really nice song - its sung by Ana Caram. Its a very good test for the female vocals esp. the in/out transitions nd instruments tonality as Ana seems to move back and forth from the mike. the accompanying instruments should never overtake her song through out the track.

Side note: What I found with Chesky is that I can take it in doses as its too rich to take it all in one sitting. I usually listen to about 5 - 6 songs with a few glasses of wine. Its definitely not background hall music if you want to get into it.
 

marsilians

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...
There was also a Latin piece that I really loved. I think it was Correntezza. A test of naturality. How I would love find more tracks from similar genres. Unfortunately I dont know the first thing about hunting down such tracks. :(

HI Vortex,

Yesterday I received some albums that I had purchased over the inet and one of them does fit the criteria you may be after.

Welcome to Chesky Records: The Premiere Audiophile Record Label

I listented to it twice and its pretty good slow jazz but excellent recording as its coming from Chesky.
 

dewiseman

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Marsilians, I am anxious to know what you have discovered in your experiments with tubes for this amp. I have had the MKII version for a few years and really enjoy it. I also have the CD-S1.1 and your review has inspired me to try some tube rolling for the first time.. Thank you so much for this article. Dennis
 
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