Initially I considered whether this should be placed under equipment reviews in Wigwam, but as many talented hi fi journalists from all over the world have written about this amplifier, plus it has also won many awards.
I thought I would tell my story as to how I came to own one of these masterpieces.
A few months ago knowing that I was going to be in Grantham for a business meeting, I decided to contact Polar Bear to suggest that as I was up in his part of the world, we have a long overdue curry.
This gave me one problem, how to kill 2-3 hours until Polar Bear turned up. Then I recalled that I had seen some quite unusual valve amplifiers at AudioLincs, and they were based in Grantham.
I called AudioLincs and explained that I was still on a quest to find out whether valve amplification could excel in ALL types of music.
Up to this point my only valve experiences were with the Push Pull 48wpc of Art Audio Concerto, which had shown me how valve amplification was stunning with certain types of music, but less than optimal with more complicated forms of music.
Jim at AudioLincs had an interesting VIVA 845 SET integrated, which had been taken in as a trade in, and I also asked to hear a KR Audio amplifier, as I had read so many good things about their valve production, and their own amplifiers.
I was up front enough to tell Jim that I was really about to replace the Concerto with a solid state amplifier, and not to get too excited about a sale. This was not a problem for him.
On the day, I found my way to Jim’s house, where I got my first sight of the VIVA 845, now I had gathered it was on the large side, but in the flesh it was HUGE, but beautiful, classic Italian design that reminded me of a V8 engine block, and once it had been playing for an hour or so, I could see a rippling heat haze coming off the beast.
I was amazed that the VIVA 845 20w SET could produce so much slam and attack, when coupled with some speakers I had never heard of, Horning Agathons. We listened to a wide range of music, and I was impressed as it seemed that here was an amplifier that could rock.
After extended listening to the VIVA, I felt my ears ringing a bit from the musical attack, and asked to hear what Jim had brought over from KR Audio. I then helped Jim in with a wooden case, and we unloaded a VA340.
We then repeated almost the same musical repertoire with this amplifier, and for the first 20 minutes or so I sat there rather unmoved by the experience, and commented to Jim to that effect. “Just you wait until it properly warms up”.
Well within no time at all the VA340 suddenly awoke, and I found myself tapping my feet to the music, and asking to turn up the volume, as I was really enjoying the music. The more we played the better it became, at which point Polar Bear dropped in and joined the audition.
I had an idea of what the list price was for the VA340, which was an integrated 300B XLS hybrid valve amp with four RCA inputs and remote control for the volume and input selector. Jim told me that this was his demonstrator and made me a price, and when I explained that I had the Art Audio Concerto to sell, he offered me a very reasonable trade in on that too.
I knew deep down that this was a very special piece of equipment, and Jim had put a very tempting offer on the table.
It took a weekend to make the decision, then to pack up and send my Concerto to Jim.
A few days later the VA340 arrived, and I set it up in my second system having been assured that it would work well with my Focal 1007bes. For the next week or so, I found myself constantly listening to this amplifier, it was just a pleasure even though I was only using a CA 740C CDP as the main source.
Jim told me that the VA340 should be better than any SS amplification, and he offered to come over to my house, and we would try it in my principal system.
Well the rest is history as they say, the VA340 was just so much more musical than the existing solid state pre/power amps, which were then taken down to the second system.
Even though the solid state amplifiers were almost double the price of the VA340, I doubt very much whether they are nearly as good. The proof being that the second system now sounded almost two dimensional and lacking in musical life, by only swapping the two amplifiers around.
Now the KR Audio VA340 sits on the bottom shelf of my Townsend seismic sink stand, where it looks as if the two products were made for each other. The structured look of VA340 is complimented by chrome sprung chassis of the Townsend stand.
The other added bonus is that I never need to go tube rolling, as the VA340 has just two output valves, and these are KR Audio’s very own 300B XLS valves, so no need to play around there.
I believe I have found a product that produces glorious music whether it from CD, the Tuner or Vinyl.
It performs exactly[/b] as the dealer said it would. If only I had come across the VA340 last year!