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    Review of VTA ST-120 After One Year Listening

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    EddieGnz1

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    Post by EddieGnz1 on Tue Apr 21, 2015 9:45 pm

    I have been thoroughly enjoying my VTA ST-120 for over a year now and I'm ready to share my thoughts.

    From 1985 through 1997 I worked in the Hi-Fi audio industry either installing or selling high end systems.  Krell, B&W Nautilus, Conrad Johnson Art, Martin Logan Monolith or CLX, etcetera.  I have also heard myriad configurations involving Wilson Watt, Mark Levinson, Pass Labs, Sonus Faber, and the list goes on.  My ear has extensive training with live unplugged music as well...and while I don't know much about building tube amps, I can hear subtle nuances fairly well.

    The short version is that the VTA ST-120 from Bob Latino is better than most amps that cost over $5,000.  I was utterly shocked that I was getting this level of quality since I only paid around ~$1,300 if I recall.

    I have the amp connected directly to the Oppo BDP-103 and then out of the amp directly into the Martin Logan Monolith III.  A very simple three step for the signal.  I have mid grade MIT wires.  The Oppo is actively crossing the VTA ST-120 at 120Hz with the low pass going to a JBL powered 12 inch sub.

    The sound is breath taking. One audiophile friend told me that it sounds better than the sixty thousand dollar system he had recently heard. Another audiophile told me it sounded better than a thirty thousand dollar pass lab system. Of course the amp is not the only component they hear, those Monolith III are serious speakers....that said however, i've never heard the Monolith III sound so natural and so rich and smooth. The detail is so natural that I just dream of listening to my system and I get so excited when i'm about to have a nice listening session. The vocals are the best i've ever heard period. Imaging is truly holographic...so stunning
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    Guest
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    Post by Guest on Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:04 pm

    this is exactly what many, who have either the ST70, ST120 or M125 are experiencing.
    I have always believed that with tubes, 'the less is better'!
    One does not at all need fancy complicated filters in the circuit, and a lot of other add ons that some of those so called high end systems seem to employ.
    All you need is enough to guide that analog signal into, through and out of that tube in such a way that it does not get screwed with too much, its really that simple!
    The VTA series driver boards are the best proof of that philosophy........its the old KISS principle....KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID!
    sKiZo
    sKiZo

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    Post by sKiZo on Wed Apr 22, 2015 6:15 pm

    About a year now here too, and still lovin' it ... Runs rings around my old McIntosh MC2205 for smiles per mile.

    Tubes? I'm running a quad of TungSol KT120's with a Mullard GZ37 rectifier. Drivers are an RCA Command 12BH7A in the center with Westinghouse Star 5963's in the channels.
    Gregg R.
    Gregg R.

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    Post by Gregg R. on Wed Apr 22, 2015 11:03 pm

    I have had my VTA ST-70 for about 14 mos., built from kit; Bob's instructions and packing are superb, much better than the original ST-70. The VTA ST-120 is a beefier version of the ST-70. I hadn't built anything, other than cables, since the mid 1970s.

    I came to the Bob Latino/tubes4hifi amps after buying a Chinese amp, and having it fail after about two months.

    After some tube-rolling, I've settled on a 1970s Tesla 12au7 in the center position, and NOS RCA 5963s in the outside places. I have salvaged the Shuguang KT-88s from the Chinese amp with the addition of a Valve Art KT-88 from yenaudiostore on eBay: the prop. worked with me to find a single tube to match the three that still worked. The Valve Art appears to be identical to Shuguangs. I now have five (5) sets of power tubes and numerous combinations of drivers. This current combination sounds the best in my system; your system may require a different setup. The DAC/pre-amp is a Grace Design M920, but it's very pricey. I left all my many LPs in Milwaukee, 20 years ago.

    The VTA ST-70 replaced a low-power Brit boutique amp that listed at $2k. And an NAD before that. For less than $1k, built from kit and fully tubed, the VTA amp is vastly superior to what I was using. In addition, you gain the ability to tube-roll, shading the sound to suit your tastes.

    I'm glad you are enjoying your VTA ST-120; I sure like my lower-powered version!!
    arledgsc
    arledgsc

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    Post by arledgsc on Fri Apr 24, 2015 11:39 am

    I'm coming up on 2.5 years and think my ST-120 amp is sounding better as time rolls on.  With the right set of tubes and I am wanting for nothing.  The $2,000 sand amp sits idle as I can only tolerate its clinical sound for very short periods. The ST-120 makes recorded music much more enjoyable.
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    DrewK

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    Post by DrewK on Mon Feb 11, 2019 7:41 pm

    I know this is an older thread but I built Bob's ST-120 about 5 years ago. I was the guy who bought the kit for my downstairs system and tried it out in my main system and the ST-120 wound up replacing my McIntosh MC275 in the upstairs system. A couple of years ago I replaced all the tubes because they did have a lot of hours on them. The amp has been reliable as a stone. The ST-120 is probably the best audio purchase I have ever made from a price/performance point of view. DrewK
    ArlanB
    ArlanB

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    Post by ArlanB on Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:49 pm

    When I was a high school junor in 1964 I could not afford Mcintosh, I had not heard of Dynaco or EICO, only Heathkit. So I invested in their AA100 integrated amp and AJ41 tuner kits.  The AA100 lasted 44 years then began to act up, the AJ41 tuner is still working.  I needed to replace the Heathkit amp due to my desired for higher power amp.  Again McIntosh was beyond my means in 2008 and along came Bob with the VTA ST-120.  It was kismet I guess. He was just introducing it to the market for sale and I was in the market for a kit.  It is now 11 years along and I could not be happier.  Power tubes took a while to find. After several spectacular tube failures over a two year period (all tubes from the eastern block countries), I ended up with Chinese tubes from Penta Labs (KT88SC). No more light shows, just good music.  Still using Chinese tubes, although sourced from a different tube vendor now, but the same tube structurally.  Thank You Bob!
    bbqjoe
    bbqjoe

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    Post by bbqjoe on Tue Feb 12, 2019 12:21 am

    I have zero complaints with my 120, and can't even imagine ever replacing it.
    I want mine in the box with me when the time comes. Shocked
    corndog71
    corndog71

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    Post by corndog71 on Tue Feb 12, 2019 2:18 am

    I too love my customized VTA-120 but it got sidelined by my custom M-125’s because my speakers needed a little more muscle.

    Review of VTA ST-120  After One Year Listening 40782966372_312b01ba17_c VTA120

    Review of VTA ST-120  After One Year Listening 27146772937_6fca1dec75_c Custom VTA M125
    Bob Latino
    Bob Latino
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    Post by Bob Latino on Wed Feb 13, 2019 10:33 am

    Corndog's custom chassis was sourced from Front Panel Express. Link > Front Panel Express . They also have a Facebook page > Facebook > Front Panel Express They have free CAD (computer aided design) software that you can use to design your own chassis and then have FPE build the chassis. I have had a number of customers use the Front Panel Express software to design their own chassis layout and then have FPE build the chassis for them.

    Bob
    cci1492
    cci1492

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    Post by cci1492 on Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:40 am

    Love that look, such wonderful amps too. What a nice project!
    corndog71
    corndog71

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    Post by corndog71 on Wed Feb 13, 2019 11:58 am

    The free cad software from Front Panel Express takes a little getting used to but once I got the hang of it was pretty easy to use.  One of the many nice features is the ability to get an immediate quote for your work with a complete breakdown in price for every hole.  For my M125's each plate ran around $200 which admittedly is a lot compared to the stock chassis but the top finish is a beautiful fingerprint-free matte finish and the lettering is etched in and paint-filled so you get a lot of hand-built quality for your money.  Just be sure you check your work a lot before submitting it.  I made one mistake on my first plate with the power inlet screw locations.  Fedex Shipping was really cheap too!

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