Vista Audio Phono-2 Review

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  • jdjohnjdjohn Posts: 1,387
    For those who are interested, below are the phono preamps used in my sample WAV files.

    #1: ART DJ Pre-II
    #2: Pro-Ject PhonoBox DS+
    #3: Vista Audio Phono2
    #4: Dynavector P75MkII

    I have continued to use the Vista for the last week or so, and incorporated a SUT. The cartridge has been a Denon DL-301MkII, and run through a Signet MK12T SUT and then into the Vista MM settings. The sound for me is exquisite, but as with earlier experience, the mid-range continues to dominate. Lows are stronger than highs, but overall, a bell-shaped frequency curve is what I hear - not necessarily bad, but it is there.

    Tonight, I put the Dynavector P75MkII back in place with the same SUT, and IMO it is more balanced in the frequency range. The P75 fills in the lows and highs very well, even if the mid-range is left slightly subdued.

    I might as well cycle the Pro-Ject PhonoBox DS+ MM stage into the SUT fun as well while I can.

    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
  • andrew82andrew82 Posts: 152
    Given that others have already provided fantastic reviews of the Vista 2 vs. other preamps, I’ll focus my attention on my experience with the preamp itself, with some brief contrasts with my integrated amp’s internal phono.

    I am a complete novice in the realm of turntables, phono-preamps, and all things vinyl. Up to this point, I had used my amplifier’s internal phono-preamp to listen to records; never before had I used an external phono preamp. I’ve had no issues with my Parasound’s phono, and have enjoyed the records I’ve played through it.

    I tend to use records as background music: when I’m cooking, cleaning, having folks over for a BBQ, or evenings alone with my S/O. When I want to critically examine music or have a lot of people over to my place, I use Tidal. This pattern of listening fits the HINT’s phono, which I find to be very laid back, a bit sluggish, and somewhat flat with certain records. The HINT’s internal DAC + Tidal combo I find to be much more exhilarating and realistic.

    Enter the Vista 2. Wow. This preamp took my record collection and like Dr. Frankenstein shot it through with lightning. There was not a single record I threw on my turntable that did not immediately erupt through my speakers with a vigor that had, up to this point, been totally foreign to me with regards to vinyl playback. Even when I went and compared the records played through the Vista to the same albums played on Tidal through the same system, the records were, with rare exception, far superior.

    The greatest quality of the Vista 2 was the sheer sense of excitement that it lent to the records I played. It imparted a certain “loudness” to the records that came not through an increase in volume, but an increase the weight and body of the music.

    For my “critical review,” I spent an entire evening with the Vista 2 with three rounds of listening consisting of four records each. I would cycle between the Vista 2, the HINT’s internal phono, and the Tidal FLAC. Below are my brief reactions to the Vista 2’s performance vs. the performance on the same records using the HINT’s internal phono and, occasionally, the Tidal playback. Standout of the night was the transition from “Sinatra and the Swingin’ Brass,” which blew me away to Vashti Bunyan’s “Just Another Diamond Day,” which perfectly rendered Bunyon’s voice with insane precision and beauty.

    Round #1:
    Al Green: The record came off as much warmer. “Love and Happiness” had me smiling.
    Anderson.Paak: Similar to Al Green, I felt that the record warm-up and appreciated the effortless pace that the Vista 2 gave to Paak, especially in “Celebration”
    Sinatra: It sounded like a different band was backing Frank with the Vista 2 in “I Get a Kick Out of You” and then, right after, on “Tangerine.” The cohesion, timing, and exuberance were spot-on.
    Vashti Bunyan: The guitar and vocals on the titular track sparkled in a way I haven’t heard before or since.

    Round#2:
    Sturgill: Similar to Sinatra, the band really came together on “Call To Arms,” and Sturgill’s voice shined in his Nirvana cover, “In Bloom.”
    Ray Lamontagne: No standout tracks on here form me, but enjoyed how the Vista 2 lightened up the graininess of the album. More clarity.
    Joni Mitchell: The highs of Mitchell’s extended notes on Side Two, particularly with “California” and “River” were breathtaking. Skip used the word “sparkle” to describe an aspect of audio to me once, and I think I know what he means now.
    Kevin Eubanks: Besides the enhanced highs and lows, the pacing of this album was made much more exciting.

    Round #3:
    The Who: I didn’t jot any notes for this one (night was getting long), but “Doctor Jimmy” got my head rocking.
    Daft Punk: I thought the Vista 2 would have more fun with this song, but I was disappointed. The notes seemed much sharper, though.
    Stevie Wonder: My favorite album of the night. “Sir Duke,” “I Wish,” and “Knocks Me Off My Feet” all benefited from the Vista 2 with much better highs on Stevie’s vocals, and a performance by the band that got me off the couch.

    Wife/Girlfriend/Friend Approval Factor: it’s a box. But it’s a small, unobtrusive box which I was able to tuck away and blend with the other, far more obtrusive black boxes I have stacked in front of my television. It’s very well built, and a bit heavy for its size. At the end of the day, no comments were made by my S/O about the preamp itself, just the incredible effect it had on the music.

    I wholeheartedly recommend this preamp to anyone in the market for one. Shortly after passing the device along to the next participant, my job took me away from my system through several months of trips. However, once everything settles down this summer, I hope to tuck one back in among the other black boxes.

    Equipment used:
    Fluance RT81 Turntable
    Audio-Technica AT95E Cartridge
    Douglas Connection Bravo Interconnects
    Parasound Integrated Amplifier (HINT)
    Usher MD2s
  • open0open0 Posts: 2
    Just bought vista audio phono 2 preamp. I"ll do a review after a couple of days.
  • open0open0 Posts: 2
    jdjohn wrote: »
    For those who are interested, below are the phono preamps used in my sample WAV files.

    #1: ART DJ Pre-II
    #2: Pro-Ject PhonoBox DS+
    #3: Vista Audio Phono2
    #4: Dynavector P75MkII

    I have continued to use the Vista for the last week or so, and incorporated a SUT. ...

    Tonight, I put the Dynavector P75MkII back in place with the same SUT, and IMO it is more balanced in the frequency range.
    Hey guys, the Dynavector P75 mk4 phono preamp is 4 times more expensive than Visa Phono 2 in my local market. :)
    So, with entry level price, Visa Phono 2 is a winner !!!
  • jdjohnjdjohn Posts: 1,387
    Yes, the new P75 Mk4 is close to a grand, so the Vista Audio Phono 2 is much cheaper, and a fine phono preamp for the money. A used P75 - Mk1, 2, or 3 - can be had for a few hundred bucks.

    "Sometimes I do what I want to do. The rest of the time, I do what I have to." - Cicero, in Gladiator
    Regarding collectibles: "It's not who gets it. It's who gets stuck with it." - Jimmy Fallon
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