After the 1980s and 1990s, the HiFi landscape was often quite monotonous, especially in the entry-level and middle class, brands and products have been differentiating themselves more and more in design for some time. A hi-fi device with a traditional and, at the same time, pleasantly unfussy design like the Vincent SV-228 integrated amplifier with an integrated DAC (around 2,100 euros) almost stands out again mass out. We not only look, but we also listen more closely.
But first, let me get one thing straight. The Vincent brand has had the “Chinese” label since it was founded in 1995 or launched shortly thereafter. That is not correct. Because Vincent is a German brand registered by Sintron GmbH in Iffezheim, whose entire product development takes place in Germany, and if you have something against Far Eastern production, you can prepare for a rather restricted lifestyle anyway.
Let’s get to the actual subject of the listening report, the Vincent SV-228 integrated amplifier. It is part of the brand’s “Power Line” and sees itself as an evolution of its predecessors, SV-226 and SV-227. In other words: in the 228, amplification is the responsibility of a hybrid architecture consisting of one 6N4 and two ECC82 tubes in the preamp section and Toshiba A1941 transistors for power amplification. The latter provides a respectable two times 100 watts into 8 ohms and two times 180 watts into 4 ohms, which should be enough power for most loudspeakers.
The VU meters embedded in the front panel, made of aluminum just under one centimeter thick, are new, like the entire housing design. While the wriggling hands can be viewed as a gimmick, they give a rough idea of the amp’s work in progress. On top of that, they look good and can be illuminated in different, rather intense colors – red, green, blue, and white – but not dimmed. And I don’t understand why the “light switch” is on the back of the device. Depending on the device’s location, this is impractical and counteracts the urge to play.
Practical, on the other hand, are the (deactivatable) automatic switch-off function of the Vincent SV-228, which reduces unnecessary power consumption (Vincent does not use standby mode), and the trigger signal function via a 3.5 mm jack cable for remote activation of additional Vincent Devices.
The noticeably heavy toroidal transformer of the Vincent SV-228 is specified with 500 VA and sends its juice to the individual amplifier sections via various winding taps: the digital part, analog preamplifier, and output stages all benefit from noise filtering.
In keeping with the traditional design, the Vincent SV-228 allows tone controls for bass and treble within a range of -14 and +10 or -14.5 and +11.5 decibels, which can be completely removed from the signal path. In addition, the amp comes with a volume-adaptive loudness function, which can also be switched on and off as desired.
Such an adaptation can be very pleasant, especially for fun listeners without years of listening experience, and it would be even more pleasant if all these functions could be controlled via the supplied remote control. But since loudness and tone defeat are activated by mechanical switches and the bass and treble knobs are not motorized, the only thing left is to go to the amplifier. It’s worth it haptically because all the controls convey a rich, trust-inspiring operating experience.
Classic plus extra
Regarding equipment, the Vincent SV-228 delivers some of what is currently feasible for integrated amplifiers; everything else would be difficult to convey, especially in this hotly contested price range. Only Wifi or Ethernet streaming is left out. On the other hand, Bluetooth with the 5.0 standard is available and can process the codecs aptX, aptX HD, aptX Low Latency, SBC, and AAC. Where Bluetooth is in there, a D/A converter can not be far away, and the SV-228 also leaves ones and zeros wired accordingly via an optical and coaxial S/PDIF interface entry. You will look in vain for a USB and HDMI ports for connecting a TV with convenient eARC control. In most constellations, the equipment of the SV-228 should still be sufficient.
This also applies to the analog inputs and outputs. Two high-level devices can be connected asymmetrically via cinch; the phono issue has to be dealt with with an external solution – Vincent offers three corresponding devices for this in its PowerLine. And whoever – for whatever reason – wants to operate the Vincent SV-228 as a pure power amplifier can do so thanks to a “Stereo Main In” connection (also cinch).
Looking at the output side, there is a volume-adjustable preamp tap to which a power amp or a subwoofer can be connected, as well as a fixed high-level output with which the signal can be sent to a cassette recorder or equalizer, for example. There is also a 6.3-millimeter jack for headphones on the front. If you plug one in, the speaker outputs are automatically muted. There are two of the latter, by the way, they can be operated individually or together – as in my test configuration, in which one loudspeaker output operates the mid-high section of the ATC SCM50PSL and the second output is allowed to take care of the bass driver alone.
Vincent SV-228: sound test and comparisons
Even if the integrated digital-to-analog converter is often used in the Vincent SV-228, I tested it as a pure, classic stereo amplifier to get a feel for the core function. The signal is fed in via the Waversa Wstreamer streaming bridge (around EUR 1,000) and the integrated converter module (EUR 2,000) of the Norma Audio REVO SC-2 preamp (EUR 5,400 without converter). In addition, Vincent can receive signals from the Annenberg Bizet phono stage (6,000 euros). We then look at the performance of the integrated DAC separately.
Steam on the boiler: the bass
First things first: Regardless of whether the music flows through the integrated DAC or the SV-228 functions as a purely analog amplifier, the basic character of the Vincent remains intact. That means: There’s a lot of steam on the boiler here, especially in the bass. Vincent transmits this in Tools’ “Fear Inoculum” from the album of the same name in an unusually powerful, full, and assertive way so that the rather sinewy sound aesthetic of the album gets flesh on the bones. That’s good for the sound of this over-masterpiece, just like that of the more recent Yello albums, all of which, despite all the admiration for the overall sound, can come across as a little bloodless in the upper bass and fundamental tone, especially if the chain is more on the slim side (just like fear inoculum ).
But what about Bassy sounds like the funky tracks by Bluezeum? In “Luv Unconditional” (Album: Portrait of a Groove), the double bass rumbles quite powerfully through the 25s of the ATC SCM50PSL but scrapes past the border of “too much” with a sufficient respectful distance. So all good – that’s more Bud Spencer than the Bulle von Tölz. It’s great that the Vincent descends deep into the bass cellar, where it is just as juicy and full-bodied as in the middle bass range and has significantly more thrust than the tighter tuned Cambridge CXA81 (around 1,200 euros), but also as a heavier representative like the Hegel H120 ( 2,500 euros) – despite the “amazingly fundamental and rich deep bass” of the latter. Admittedly, Vincent agreesNicolas Jaar’s “Colomb” (Album: Space Is Only Noise) doesn’t have maximum control and contouring at the bottom, but that’s not all that relevant in the end: Most loudspeakers in the right price range shouldn’t be able to hear this properly anyway, a deep one However, the foundation is always good.
Surprisingly transparent: the mids
If a device produces more bass than is a strictly neutral theory, one may quickly be inclined to deny transparency and clarity as virtues. Or you see the powerful gait as a primary character-defining feature. Both would do the Vincent SV-228 an injustice. Then, just as it should be, the amp shapes the music, especially from the mids. This is due, in particular, to the harmonious and at no time overpowering timbres. Despite the rich colors rather than watercolors, the amp reproduces Agnes Obel’s voice and her piano in “Familiar” from the Citizen of Glass album openly and transparently; the electronic alienation of the voice in the chorus is easy to hear and understand.
The Vincent integrated amplifier also manages to brilliantly separate the cello, which is used with the violins, from the smaller stringed instruments – this is not a matter of course, even for some more expensive equipment. In doing so, he gives the instrument a comparatively substantial tendency. In short: the middle tone is clear and differentiated, is underpinned by a warmer basic tone, continues upwards and finally becomes neutral, and is blessed overall with hearty colors – I like that.
The treble is pleasantly unobtrusive and overall minimally reserved. Especially in the super treble, the Vincent SV-228 does not try to shine with artificial fireworks but keeps the events together in a clear and well-kept manner. This has two effects: In a direct comparison, it is noticeable that amplifiers that are more concerned with high fine resolution create a little more air and light.
This, in turn, is at the expense of point 2: The Vincent SV-228 successfully represents individual instruments homogeneously and coherently; nothing frays at the upper-frequency end. To put it bluntly: It’s just not annoying. Thanks to the lack of distraction from the last details in the treble, our brain can focus better on the more important content in the middle.
The Vincent SV-228 does not sound dark or overcast at the top but concentrates on the essential, the musically important, in transmitting information in the upper-frequency ranges. Neither the grindcore attacks of Terrorizer nor the loud, screaming orchestral parts like at the beginning of Prokofiev’s “Montague and Capulets” from his Opus 64 (Romeo and Juliet) become a test of nerves – Vincent has managed this balancing act well.
Powerfully mild: the dynamics
The same applies to the Vincent SV-228’s dynamic capabilities and impulse response. In terms of coarse dynamics, it makes no secret of its power with a lot of force, but it delivers these steep impulses in a slightly smoother, milder way. The Vincent uses its mass to land the slam, emphasizing the (bass) body of the overall dynamic event over the jagged amplitude surge of the impulse. A hypersensitive feeling for fine dynamic gradations is less Vincent’s thing than transients’ smooth-agile, yes, downright delicate reproduction. In “Tear Jerker” from the album Room 29 by Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzalez, the Norma Audio HS-IPA 1(2,550 euros) understand the minimum volume gradations of the piano a little more clearly. Nevertheless: In my opinion, the appealing transient reproduction of the SV-228 – in combination with the transparency of the mids – contributes a lot to the fact that, despite the slightly reserved treble at the top, which is very suitable for long periods, nothing is missing in terms of transparency and detail resolution and it never gets boring.
The virtual stage conjured up by the Vincent SV-228 is impressive. He designs an expansive space that spreads as far to the left and right as it does up and behind the speaker plane. In “Silent Night, Holy Night” on Cantate Domino, the Oskars Motett choir stands a step lower in space than, for example, the Cambridge CXA81. Vincent draws individual sound events, voices, and instruments in a sufficiently three-dimensional, tangible manner, with sharp-edged outlines and a little larger than usual on the stage design. Despite the stage being built behind the speaker level, this is impressive in its sheer splendor and has a strangely addictive effect.
This is probably because the Vincent SV-228 displays the screen’s large and full virtual space and relies on a holistic rendering tuned for harmony and enjoyment (remember the tonality and the lack of distraction?) rather than individual spotlights. The “big picture” works, not the individual parts. The abilities of the Vincent SV-228 play together particularly beautifully, for example, on the electro track “Benched” by GusGus (album: Arabian Horse): The SV-228 leaves the listener with the big projected ones Admire soundscapes, comfortably embedded in deep, substantial, supple basses that effortlessly flood the room.
When the integrated DAC of the Vincent SV-228 comes into play, it shows that it is a good entry-level solution and a welcome bonus but does not fully exploit the analog sound performance of the SV-228. With more effort, you can do even more. The tonal characteristics remain intact with the DAC, with a powerful bass range. However, the integrated converter does not trace the structures of a bowed double bass quite as clearly. In addition, the expensive external players deliver more defined high-frequency details and draw the silhouettes of musical components with higher contrast, contributing to the tangibility of the image.
Above all, this result shows: The analog amplification of the Vincent SV-228 scales wonderfully with high-quality upgrades, and the internal DAC is always suitable for a satisfactory start in the digital domain. So if you buy and operate the Vincent SV-228 as a complete miracle weapon, you can invest in an even higher-quality external converter solution at a later date thanks to the very good analog amplifier performance of the amp – how about the Vincent DAC-1MK (849 euros) for example? Its factual, high-resolution, and tight bass gait should fit perfectly with the pleasant, powerful character of the SV-228 and make it move in the appropriate places. In any case, he does it easily and clearly shows improvements.
This well-equipped integrated amplifier knows exactly what it wants. And that is a basically warm and pleasant, long-term, powerful, musically appealing reproduction without annoying corners and edges. The Vincent SV228, on the other hand, doesn’t want to be an amplifier for bean counters or adrenaline junkies but rather serves listeners who enjoy listening and people who want to relax while listening to music – without running the risk of getting bored.
Loudspeakers, rather slim to neutral, should usually be the right playing partners. I don’t rule out musical genres, but audiophile chirping, which often has no real musical substance, is revealed by the amp, designed for smooth, harmonious, and musical reproduction as an end. So if you’d rather grow the audiophile grass than listen to music, you might want to look elsewhere. But then he misses the pure, casual fun you can have with rock, metal, and electro or hip-hop & co.
The Vincent SV-228…
- surprises with a neutral, open midrange and particularly beautiful, realistic tones without being romantic.
- Delivers a substantial, deep-reaching bass trained less for iron-hard contours and strict precision than for involving thrust and rich coarse dynamics.
- It is slightly restrained in the treble, and instead of maximum airiness, it increasingly focuses on long-term suitability.
- It is not an analyst but does not withhold any musically relevant information. He is more concerned with holistic enjoyment with heart and soul than cerebral small-small.
- Impresses with a large space on the horizon and vertical and behind the speaker base, including comparatively large sound sources. Although he does not trace edge outlines with razor-sharpness, they are separated from one another.
- Offers a fast reproduction of transients and impulses, the slightly rounded note in the impulse reproduction underlines the “overall” relaxed pace.
- Despite the somewhat softer impulse reproduction, it can achieve a decent coarse dynamic slam using the powerful bass range, which is more important to him than subtle fine dynamic differentiation.
- Offers a good equipment package that enables many amplifier tasks practically and, with the integrated DAC, provides a solid out-of-the-box solution for digital playback (except streaming, USB, and HDMI).
- Achieves an even higher sound level with high-quality analog signal playback, especially in image sharpness, transient attack, and detail resolution.
- It is processed in line with the price range, all sockets are tight; the material quality is very good.
- Model: Vincent SV-228
- Concept: a hybrid integrated amplifier with a tube input stage and transistor power amplifier
- Price: 2,099 euros
- Dimensions (H x W x D) and weight: 430 x 152 x 450mm, 15.5 kg
- Analog inputs: 2 x high level unbalanced (RCA), 1 x direct power amplifier access (RCA) | digital: 1 x coaxial, 1 x optical, 1 x Bluetooth,
- Outputs: 1x Stereo Pre Out, 1x Stereo Rec Out, two sets of speaker terminals
- Power: 2 x 100 watts into 8 ohms, 2 x 180 watts into 4 ohms
- Colors: silver or black
- Other: remote control
- Guarantee: 5 years