Herron VTPH-2A Review

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by mike catucci, Jun 12, 2018.

  1. mike catucci

    mike catucci Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    So I wanted to wait a bit before posting a review on the Herron VTPH-2A so I could really give it a chance to break in and get to know its nuances. I've had it about a month now and I gotta tell you, this is one heck of a phono stage. I’ve been lucky enough in the last 6 months to own some really nice stages. This journey started when I purchased a new Rega Planar 6 with the Ania cart and Fono stage. The sound was not what I was expecting from a 2k purchase. My Lounge Audio actually sounded better and so the hunt began. I worked my way up the price line trying to find what each brand did differently and see which I could live with. That story is in another thread and I won’t repeat it here, but suffice to say I ended up faced with a tough decision and decided to take the plunge and give the Herron a shot. I like to research to death and there is not a lot out there on the Herron. But what was out there was stellar and I now know why.

    When it finally arrived I played the albums I knew very well. During each jump in price I made with the previous stages, I found they offered more. Some more detail, others better bass or staging. You get the idea. The Herron hits on all of them. It leaves nothing out. Each aspect of what you want in a sound stage the Herron delivers in spades. As I went through each album, I swore the other stages had opened them up and allowed me to hear all the album had to offer. I did not think there could be anything else hidden, no new instruments or nuances going on that I never heard before. I honestly didn’t think the Herron could improve in that area, I did expect other things from it, but again not in this area since I already had heard several layers into my music thanks to the other stages. Boy was I dead wrong on this. In fact it may be the biggest thing that continues to catch me off guard and gets that smile going from ear to ear.

    I have been taking notes during my listening sessions. Rather than me summing them up in a long sentence, I though why not just post them raw:

    · Focus, clarity -everything is clearly defined and layered

    · Presence

    · Bass has improved with nothing else changing but the stage

    · Separation

    · Inner detail

    · You know where the musicians are standing, no guessing

    · Background singers/vocals have more of an impact on the music -you can clearly hear them and where they are in the soundstage


    · Everything sounds different, guitar, drums, etc. Can't explain it, but it is REALLY good. Drums -you can feel/hear the depth when the stick hits. I'm not experienced enough to put better descriptors here. A friend said it was timing. Everything has more body to it.

    · Music sounds so real, like I am in a club. I can feel the thump of the drums like never before.

    · Guitars, you hear the vibration of the string....the pick strumming the strings. Inner detail galore!

    · This stage ensures you hear every instrument on the recording with adequate separation

    · I guarantee you will hear instruments you had no clue existed in your recording. Dire Straits -I know these like the back of my hand, or so I thought.


    These are my notes in the raw. Suffice to say the Herron is one heck of a phono stage. I never imagined the stage could have such an impact on how the overall table sounds. Inner detail is incredible; instruments like bells, tambourines, triangles, etc come to life. Where you may not hear them at all with some equipment, the VTPH 2A isolates them like a laser. It also does a great job of creating the soundstage in regards to depth and width. There is definite dimension going on, especially with the well recorded stuff. I’ll be sitting there listening and many times I hear something off to the side and look that way to see if someone came in the closed door only to find it is in the music. Lots of 70’s recordings are great for this. Steely Dan, Seals and Crofts, etc. It does justice to vocals as well. I'm a huge Straits fan and Mark's voice never sounded more lifelike and "in the room with me" than it does now.

    But let’s be honest, all these things have been said before about other stages and maybe the Herron does it all better (it does) but what really sets it apart from other stages and why is it worth the asking price? One word: LIFE. Yes life, it brings everything to life. I have not heard sound like this in any other stage I have purchased this year. Not even close. The JC3 Jr does a lot of things right and is my next favorite, but even that stage cannot replicate what the Herron does. It’s not that I feel like I am at a live concert, no I feel rather that I am in the studio watching these guys play. Every instrument from drums, guitars, bass, brass, etc sounds so real. This may sound odd to some, but you “feel” the drums and I don’t mean feel as if you turned the volume up all the way and feel the beating in your chest, no…not at all. You can keep the volume low and yet you still feel the drums. You feel the guitar.....the strings sizzle as they are struck and just hang there in space for a second or two. The stage is EXTREMELY accurate, the musicians are where they should be with no question at all as to who and what is occupying that space in front of you. I sold a collectible from my other hobby to help purchase this Herron VTPH 2A and I was worried I would have regret. I have ZERO regret and can now absolutely, positively cross off the phono stage as my upgrading days for that piece of gear are done. I have no interest in hearing anything else. Thank you Mr. Keith Herron for making one incredible piece of musical equipment. It is worth every bit of the asking price if you are into vinyl.


    Now who wants to talk cartridges? :angel:
    I kid, I kid!
     
    sturgus, Roycer, beowulf and 5 others like this.
  2. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Excellent review, bud! :righton:

    Now, I just want to ditch everything and get myself one of those. Maybe one day.

    Too many things to buy. Argh! :laugh:
     
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  3. Dreams266

    Dreams266 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ
    I think I paid a lot more than 2k for mine. I love it. I do notice that the tubes are VERY sensitive to cell phone and Wi-Fi interference if you start to notice a whine
     
    mike catucci likes this.
  4. MattG

    MattG Forum Resident

    Location:
    Maryland
    Nice write-up! Just to clarify, you're running a Rega P6 w/Ania cart into it?
     
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  5. mike catucci

    mike catucci Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    It was the Ania the first week or so. It is now a Planar 6 and 2M Black.
     
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  6. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    I'm actually a bit surprised at the lack of responses in this thread, so far.

    Maybe it's because it doesn't have as much notoriety as maybe the Chinook or JC3+? Can't figure out any other reason.

    One was recently offered for $2400 but I see these going every 1-2 months for close to 2K even. IMHO, if half of what @mike catucci is accurate, I easily could see it as being an endgame for most audiophiles, myself included!

    Might as well ask questions, while I'm at it!

    1. How quiet is it, especially in contrast to the JC3 Jr?
    2. What tubes does it come with?
    3. Which version of the VTPH-2A did you get? AFAIK, there are 2 versions which work slightly differently with the tubes.
     
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  7. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    Time to update the ol' profile, my friend!... again. :laugh:
     
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  8. Dreams266

    Dreams266 Forum Resident

    Location:
    NJ
    I can vouch that it's super quiet. It comes with Electro Harmonix and Sovtek tubes
     
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  9. KOWHeigel

    KOWHeigel Forum Resident

    Location:
    Manlius, NY
    I also have this phono stage and the best compliment I can give it is that I constantly find myself going down to my listening room and putting on records ... night after night. It's a joy to listen to!
     
  10. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
  11. KOWHeigel

    KOWHeigel Forum Resident

    Location:
    Manlius, NY
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  12. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    mike catucci likes this.
  13. Davey

    Davey very clever with maracas

    Location:
    SF Bay Area, USA
    Yea, lot of good deals out there if you have the time to watch for them. I'd like to think my Conrad Johnson Premier 15 phono preamp is a lot better than the Herron, but you never know, have to admit I was momentarily tempted to give it a try at that price, that was pretty much a giveaway. Hope someone here got it.
     
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  14. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    It would be an interesting and worthwhile comparison.

    Two worthy phono pre's.

    You're right, the price could not be beat!
     
    mike catucci likes this.
  15. mike catucci

    mike catucci Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    PA
    When I see them that low I get nervous something is wrong with it. Am I the only one? That is unusually low for that unit. The original maybe.... but the newer 2a for under a grand?
     
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  16. SandAndGlass

    SandAndGlass Twilight Forum Resident

    I get the same feeling. Why would a $3,500 phone pre sell for $950. Makes no sense.

    Should be asking around $2k plus or minus $500.
     
    mike catucci likes this.
  17. Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    I also have a VTPH-2, which Keith recently upgraded to the 2a spec for me. I concur with the OP's review.

    I have mine as part of a pretty high end system. I could go on upgrading components around it, but never need to change the Herron phonostage itself. The more I improve my system the more I see what it's capable of. It just keeps up with whatever I put in the system, it's that good. I'm convinced it's probably the last phono stage I'll ever need.

    Keith is an awesome engineer and person too. He always answers emails and has great advice about using the phonostage (take his advice). He lives just 10 miles down the road from me, and hand delivered and installed mine after I ordered it from Acoustic Sounds. He has hung out a few times at my place to listen to tunes. He loves music and enjoys hearing new things.
     
  18. Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    The two versions differ in tube compliment only. One has all 12AX7, for more gain (69db MC), vs the lower gain version with two 12AX7 and three 12AT7 (64 db MC).

    The 12AX7 are Sovtek tubes. The 12AT7 are Electro-Harmonix. Recently, my stock 12AX7 tubes needed replacement. Keith recommended the EH 12AX7 tubes as an alternative replacement if I wanted to try those, so I got a pair of mtahced gold pin versions. They sound great.

    I bought some other tubes to "roll." A set of Genelex Gold Lion (12AX7 and 12AT7) and a set of Mullard (12AT7 only). They did not improve things. In fact, the Gold Lions were a bit too bright, and with the Mullards I lost some detail and dynamics. In the end, I have found it best to stay with the tubes provided. Keith has done a lot of work to voice the VTPH-2a.
     
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  19. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    In my experience, EH tubes are my least favorite of all. My favorites by far are NOS RCA black plate 12AX7s. Beautiful 3D musical sound and not even expensive. Definitely worth a try.
     
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  20. Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Thanks. I have no desire to change anything about my Herron, ATM. It sounds fantastic. I know other VTPH-2a owners feel the same, i.e that tube rolling it isn't necessary or beneficial. The phonostage as it is, provides a lot of detail and is very neutral and open. The rest of my system is also very neutral and open and lets the source speak for itself.
     
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  21. Strat-Mangler

    Strat-Mangler Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    I'm sure it sounds great as-is. My post merely suggested the possibility for even better. You won't know until you try but it's great that you're already happy with it.
     
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  22. Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    I know, I did thank you for the suggestion. At some point, however, my money is better spent than trying out more tubes (you aren't the only one to suggest alternatives). How do you think the RCA tubes change the sound of the Herron from stock?

    I did some tube rolling and always came back to the stock ones. I'll ask Keith about the tubes you suggest. He probably has experience with them. He has been building tube circuits for a long time.

    Besides, I want a new tonearm so I need to save my money. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2018
  23. mkane

    mkane Musics a Passion

    Location:
    Cloverdale,CA
    We like ours. Just put in a couple more ax7's for more gain. This is a nice unit.
     

  24. If I remember from older posts you use to own a Fosgate Signature. I've had a Fosgate for about 3 years now and as much as I love it I find it a tad bit too noisy for my taste. I'm currently running a Dynavector 20x2L and at 0.3mv I find I have to really turn it up to get to where I can tap my foot. That introduces a lot of noise and I'm finally ready to pull the trigger on something new. How did you find the jump to the Herron? Significant? Love your opinion on the matter.
     
  25. Josquin des Prez

    Josquin des Prez Forum Resident

    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Yeah, I thought the Fosgate was a bit too noisy too. I even tried tube rolling to make it better, but I mostly enjoyed it at the time anyway. In the end, however, mine developed a buzz in the right channel and when it wasn't repaired correctly the dealer credited my purchase towards the Herron..

    The Herron is in a different (higher) league than the Fosgate. Much better in every way. It's a different sound though: it's very neutral, detailed, dynamic, and it's quiet. But it's a very different animal, with a different (better) presentation. If you are looking for that lush tubey midrange sound, that's not what the Herron is. If you want something that's very musical and revealing, and lets the music flow through the Herron gives you all that. It also doesn't matter what kind of music you play through it. It all sounds like it's supposed to sound (assuming the rest of the system gels similarly).

    I wouldn't give a millisecond of consideration to going back to a Fosgate or anything like it.
     
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