Masterpiece is a huge label to hang on any component, especially by the designer and manufacturer himself. But, over the years I have listened to and reviewed many of Hans-Ole Vitus’ products and doubted that he would throw such a description around lightly. Masterpiece he named it and after hours and hours of experiencing it I would say that there is no exaggeration within that title, because a masterpiece it surely is.
The MP-201 DAC is typically Vitus. It’s heavy, impeccably constructed inside and out and features let’s say a generous deployment of metals and alloys within its semi-industrial design. Two hefty front panel side-elements house the six on-board controls while the small display sits in the middle as per usual. There are the expected set of inputs on the rear panel allowing it to be connected to just about anything digital through a 24/192 USB or S/PDIF, both RCA or XLR. Everything that comes into the MP-201 is upsampled to 24bit/792kHz. Analogue outputs are via XLR or RCA.
There is also the intriguing option of fitting a module that provides a couple of pairs of analogue inputs (RCA and XLR) and a high quality volume control allowing it to function as a DAC/preamplifier. The MP-201 has a standard on-board volume for level trimming, but the optional preamplifier in one box option is much better and uses a series of discrete resistors that don’t eat into resolution. This essentially means that you could forgo the expense of an undoubtedly expensive separate preamp and drive the power amplifier(s) from the DAC.
Vitus really knows what it is doing with volume controls and over the years we have found that volume control quality is critical to the performance of any pre-amplification. Factor in the cost of associated paraphernalia that a preamplifier brings and for the £2k that the additional board costs, the value of the MP-201 begins to look a lot better. Unfortunately for me, the review sample did not come equipped with that Analogue board but, if I was a potential customer, I would seriously look at it as an option, bearing in mind that brilliant sounding high-end preamplifiers are among the rarest and priciest components out there and that Vitus already makes some of the best.
We listen to systems, not individual components. How can we make any sort of accurate determination as to the interplay between audio electronics when there are so many of them in operation at the same time, all doing such complex jobs with music, one of the most intricate, and transient art forms around?