Whatever had happened, it was delicious and the music and myself were the winners. Where before I had listened through the prism of the Vitus’ running-in period, now I was getting much more involved as the SCD-025 just opened up with this river, no make that a torrent, of rhythmic movement and dynamics. The softness had gone and been replaced by precision and expression and musicianship. I had been on a bit of a Melody Gardot kick for a couple of weeks, but in a very personally indulgent way as I was working with a friend on some arrangements for a recording project that she was involved in. For inspiration I began to explore her music and particularly the production aspect that I found fascinating.
I had played her album My One And Only Thrill [Verve] a few days earlier, but it had drifted past my consciousness. The on-going interest I had in the beauty of her musical arrangements and how they had been so delicately flavoured and judged just never connected. Using the system as a tool for musical education is something that I know not everybody does or even gets. But, I have always loved this aspect of high-end audio and can become transfixed for days by a string section, a guitar solo or even a four-note phrase. As the Vitus got into its stride and expanded its possibilities, I began to appreciate just how open and musically free it was becoming. The sheer levels of communication were wonderful and powerful. Listening to the same album I found that now there was purpose, intent, and delicacy to everything she was doing. The framing and phrasing of her vocals and her use of vibrato had become just a part of the whole and the supporting cast of musicians joined in and their soundscape extended far, far back and way outside of the confinement of the speaker’s positioning. The lyrical articulation cut deep now where earlier it was a bit like wallpaper and the various acoustics were marvellously laid out, leaving the relevance of the way the album had been made just so much more complete and understandable. But what struck me the most was the way the Vitus showed me the emotional power of the woman as her lyrics cut deeper and deeper. There is an ambiguity about her music, but she holds so much back. The song and the way she sings it is just what she shows us, above the water.
If I had been enjoying the remarkable Vitus through the Quad electrostats, things took an even more interesting turn when I installed a pair of Avalon Transcendent loudspeakers. The Quads had been endlessly interesting and very ‘sweet’, but the new additions allowed the SCD-025 the scope to perform on a much higher dynamic musical plane altogether. When music sounds as interesting and compelling as this I am so much happier than sitting in front of a system played at crashing volume that costs as much as a house, but has no subtlety or intimacy at all.
The Vitus is totally sympathetic to the music and like the delicious dCS Vivaldi system, breathes new life into those old CDs from the 1980’s and 1990’s that have slipped to the bottom of the pile. I was astonished at what it did for John McLaughlin’s on his Mediterranean Concerto [Sony]. This is a 24-year-old DDD recording of John doing a Rodrigo-type exploration of the Spanish guitar with full orchestra. It’s a difficult perspective to record and I had never really ‘got’ it until it resurfaced during my time with the Vitus. It had always sounded rather uncomfortable to me. The Vitus, with its superb tonal balance, simply peeled back the years, banished the rather thin digital sound, and kicked life, energy, weight, and colour into it. What it did for the perspectives and the relationship of the guitar to the orchestra was beguiling. It has exceptional resolution, tremendous shaping, and is as precise as you would ever want. But, like every Vitus product I have heard, it never, ever shreds the music or offers you a performance that is lost in the digital glare of high definition, or that sounds even remotely ‘academic’. Its control of the tempo and the rhythmic elements that ebb and flow within is brimming with movement and life and puts me in mind of that other exceptional single box player/DAC, the Burmester 089. Those that think that a player that shows you the fourth beat of the bar has good timing will find themselves lost in the sheer audacity with which the Vitus will debunk this crude theory. Just the enjoyment as it reveals musical polyrhythms and their relationships to each other is beautiful and insightful. It has a beauty all of its own whether you are using it as a CD player or employing the DAC section as I did with the Aurender W20 hard disk streamer, which worked wonderfully with it.