The Sound of Vincent Audio amplifiers

The recent buyer of a Vincent Audio SP331MK has continued to email me with updates. His latest is a good explanation of the Vincent sound and I believe it characterizes well the sound of the SP331, SP331MK, and the SV237.


I’m finding the amp incredible! The tones are excellent! They have a set of 6n16 tubes soldered in … and a 12Au7 which can be rolled. I suspect the amp is not popular due to the soldered in set of tubes, and because they don’t know about the soldered in tube. Its like what? I can’t roll that! Yes you can if you can solder. If you ‘re good, it wont take that long. But there is really no need to roll the 6n16 tubes. There are a few variations of that tube available … I do believe Musical Fidelity also used a variation of whats called subminiature tubes. These tubes are tough and can out last other tubes by years … ten years and beyond. But the following article explain it much better than I.



The first practical subminiature tubes were designed and developed by Raytheon in the 1940s. These tubes were sometimes referred to as “pencil” tubes because of their small stature. They’re approximately a quarter of the size of the miniature B9A tube types found in guitar amplifiers, and instead of pins they have flexible leads just like transistors. These tiny tubes were manufactured to meet the stringent MIL-E-1 specification for reliability and designed for long service life under conditions of severe shock, vibration (up to 20,000G), high temperature and high altitude. These tubes were some of the most meticulously built and most rigorously tested of all tubes, as their main intended use was extreme military applications, such as missile guidance. The subminiature tube represents the pinnacle of tube technology and offer more consistent and reliable performance than the early NOS germanium transistors. The Raytheon datasheet boldly states, “Tubes developed for this purpose proved so rugged that in-operative failures became very rare.”. Impressive stuff, eh. It’s also fascinating to consider that if the development of the transistor had been delayed for just a few more years, these tubes might have become the standard amplification device used in the audio industry today.

The SP331MK is the darnedest thing I have seen as far as burn in. Around the 30 hour mark, the amp changed for the worse. It started sounding funky again. I was like what in the world is going on!?! One online consumer review said it takes a full 40 hours….another guy stated his changed a few times, and it takes a full 3 weeks. I called Audio-advisor and they said a full 100 hours, and finally I called the North American distributor and they said a full 100-150 hours. Geez! Never had an amp to burn in like this, and change back and forth like this. But around that 35 hour mark she started opening up again and with close to 50 hours on her she is sounding great with her character starting to take hold…even better than I first reported.

It’s a tad too the right of neutral making for a tad darker presentation and back ground. This makes detail a little more noticeable but just a little. The amp has all those attributes..things that good amps should have, but the staging and the bass are the stronger points with this amp….it seems to add the idea that you are sitting in front of the performance. It’s like it really creates a space as if you are sitting there….especially when the recording is live. It gives you the sense that you are in the room. It’s really a back to front sound stage that expands left to right if the recording is good. I guess you can call it atmosphere. It’s not an overly detailed sound, but its got musicality. Don’t get me wrong, its got detail….but too the point where it seems to create space between instruments in the recording. It helps you hear all the music playing as a unit which brings your attention into the performance. It’s hard to explain but you start to see the musical performance with your mind’s eye. With symphony and classical, the stringed instruments have great tone due to the tubes. those soldered in mini tubes are outstanding. They give the warm, textured tones that’s needed, and that to, can be tweaked by rolling the 12AU7 tube. The class A lets the silent to loud passages classical is known for, to come across with force.

One other thing… the tad darkness, which is very little, still lets the true nature of a hot recording come through. Its not going to hide it. If it’s a bad recording it’s not going to make it right. Some people want their gear to fix the recordings … I’m not one. So, I have discovered more poorly recorded music in my collection. Its really a great amp. I have about 50 hours now and it’s still running in. I have entry-level cabling and speaker wires now, but down the road I will move up to the good stuff … which will enhance what I am already hearing.

In addition he sent me an email of an online exchange he had with an audiophile (Matt) considering the Vincent SP-331MK vs. Parasound A21

Matt wrote: 

I’m looking to upgrade my amplification, and right now, the Vincent SP-331MK and Parasound A21 are at the top of my list. Naturally, I’ve been following the recent thread by slippers-on about the Vincent with interest. Does anyone else have experience with either amp or a different one packing similar power and within approximately the same price range?

Important amp characteristics:

  1. Magnifying glass detail
  2. Big dynamics
  3. Large soundstage (width, depth, height)
  4. Neutral to slightly warm tone

My current system:

  • Amp: B&K ST-140
  • Preamp: Anthem TLP-1
  • Speakers: Alon II
  • Turntable: Beogram 8002
  • etc.

His reply:

Matt… I think you’ve made two fine choices, but naturally you know where my pick will be. Let me also add, I have an audio pal who post over at as well as who has the A21 and he is looking to get from under it and looking to the SP-331MK as one of his finalist with the Van Alstine hybrids…he has expressed his intentions to me as of late.The SP-331mk is a very nice amp…well above what I expected. It has a way of creating atmosphere and has the best front to back I’ve heard in an amp of this price and some above. This amps makes you want to take advantage of excellent recordings in a huge way. I don’t know what preamp you’d mate it with but I’ve also got a Vincent tubed preamp and what I am hearing as this thing continues to run in is absolutely stunning… a real joy! I’ve got about 55-60 hours on amp … I stopped keeping actual time after around 35 hours and its all a guess now. The US distributor told me at the 100-150 hour mark she should be fully burned in, and I believe him. So if you do purchase, have a little patience. In the beginning around the 25 hour mark I sorta thought I made the wrong choice, but not now…this thing creates wonderful music … sounds strange, but it has some of the best cymbal taps I’ve heard, especially recordings with nice decay.My 2 channel room is about 24X24 or maybe 24X20 I forget, and I don’t play really loud most of the time, for the most part…I go too about the 45-50 mark with the 30 mark being 0, and I sit about 9, 10 feet away and this thing sound excellent. In the early morning hours I go to the 35 mark and it’s perfectly fine with all the detail. Its got excellent tones … timbre and has a plush, lush … rich midrange, a very nice top end that never fatigues, and the bass has very good presence with drive. But of course that’s just the beginning of what she can do but the best thing is you don’t listen to it but you hear the music and enjoy it. If you want neutral, you’ve found the right amp … she is a tad to the right of neutral making it a tad dark … I believe that helps with the nice tones of the music as well as the drive.The combination of the Vincent preamp and amp together is at a nice price point making for a very nice system as a unit … great to build the rest of a system around. While I don’t have the matching preamp, but the SA-T1, But if you did get the matching preamp as well as the amp, trust me, you will be a proud papa of your new baby.

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