I streamed Tidal from a Roon Nucleus straight through the USB and listened to a high-end CD player through the digital XLR input. Amplification was a Dartzeel pre and power (a fantastic thing that I shall return to in a future issue). The electronics sat on a Stillpoints rack and the cabling was all Nordost. If you think this sounds like an interesting amalgamation then let me confirm that it certainly was that and much more. Rarely have I had such an intriguing music machine at home.
Let’s talk system resolution for a moment. I believe that the word means different things to different people and barely an audio discussion passes without its absolute desirability being dropped into the mix. For me it encompasses just about everything that comes out of the speakers. It’s not so much that you hear new details that you haven’t heard before but rather that you hear them in a new light, perhaps with a new relevance to the piece. A high-hat figure from a drummer, a vocal inflection or a phrase from an instrument might suddenly knit a rhythmic passage together or resolve and answer a question asked within the music. It may be positioned within the soundstage differently to the way you heard it before. The Vitus can and will do these things. It really doesn’t matter how complex and deep the music is, or how seemingly simple, this Vitus will get right in there between the notes to show you what is happening and not in a chilly forensic way either. Just about every facet of the way the music moves through time in a digital system, be it streamed or CD based, falls under the control of the DAC and the way it deals with the data that flows through its inputs. Having said that, I did have someone tell me recently that it’s just a stream of ones and zeros so all DACs should sound the same. Good luck with that one.
As time has passed and sensibly configured digital-based systems have become a very serious option, the possibilities have grown and grown, alongside the very real sonic improvements from subscription services like Tidal and Qobuz. It seems that we are really beginning to appreciate the absolutely vital role that the right DAC plays as the system conductor. The musical differences between them are as important as those you will find between other components and no amplifier or speakers can replace resolution that the DAC misses out on. Early DACs could be rather thin and mean-sounding devices, shimmering with unrealistic and brash detail that gave many of us a headache. They helped in no small way in giving digitally sourced music such a bad name, especially among analogue enthusiasts. As I said though, things have changed beyond all recognition and with products like this Vitus, the DAC finds itself at the heart of all top quality digital based systems by controlling everything further downstream, from timing to tone.
To say that this is a good DAC would be an understatement as it has such wonderful scope and potential for the music to develop and work its magic. The soundstage is broad, very, very deep and full of energy, ambience and pure airspace. Transparency and rhythmic movement are superb and its bass performance is epic. Rock solid stability and a feeling of tremendous power, bandwidth and sheer weight bring a real sense of involvement as do the musical complexities it unravels right in front of you. Tonality is a system thing really but the Vitus, despite its considerable and organic musical density, seems about as neutral as I have heard. It’s this connection with the system that makes it all worthwhile emotionally. A really good system is one that has the capability to talk to you personally and the MP-201 is right on message here and what it has to say is profound.
Take the seeming simplicity of a single musical phrase whether it be from an instrument or a voice. It’s all part of the story that the composition is telling. The Vitus spins the yarn explicitly. It seems to revel in showing the smallest details, joining them up and relating them to the whole, even on the simplest of songs by the most introspective of singer-songwriters. It has an almost surreal way of explaining the piece through the language of music and where the art itself is concerned the Vitus is supremely eloquent. High-end systems like this are simply wonderful at unravelling musical relationships and their place in the passing of time, or we may call it rhythm or tempo. The Vitus is brim full of nuance and subtlety but it is certainly dense where sheer musical information is concerned. From the texture and colour to the way that individual notes, whatever their source, are born, live and then fade to be replaced by something new. This is absolutely great when you listen to soloing and appreciate what a precious gift true phrasing is and how it is the very root of expression and pure musicianship.
The MP-201 is very, very quiet and the blacks are as inert as I have heard. There is no sense of a highly detailed and processed digital stream of data being reconstituted. It has the ability to adapt completely to any musical form. A simply miked recording of a singer with an acoustic guitar can literally shake you with its realistic scale, intimacy and beauty as it has this way of drawing you toward the artist by giving them shape and physical form within the soundstage. They exist as a three dimensioned feature and not just a mouth and a guitar. Depending on the quality of the recording there can be something so captivating and so emotionally powerful here. But give it bigger work to do, like an orchestra at full throttle and it digs deep and gives the amplifier a lot of dynamic work to do while maintaining levels of instrumental detail and separation that is truly special.