The Vacuum Tube Logic room was difficult for me…and I am not sure why. Luke Manley was, as always, the most convivial and informative host. I visited his room three times, collecting photos and data, and every time Luke was smiling his big Luke-smile: “Herb, how can I help you?” He handed me a list of all the products and their prices: That small gesture always makes my life happier and easier. The room was well-lit—and yet I failed to get good pictures.

But the sound? Ahhhh! Music reproduction was world-class/top-shelf, with just the right touches of pepper and sunshine to keep it from being too cool or analytical. Luke played both digital and analog, and every track was note-perfect. So what then was my problem? I’d say shyness and free-floating Mr. McGoo-ism caused me to make one bad photo after another, making me so distracted as to lose focus while listening to music. But I didn’t have to listen hard to know: VTL’s demo system had it going on.

I am a fan of Wilson Audio’s smaller loudspeakers—especially the Sabrina—but I had never experienced the Yvette. The Yvette was highly descriptive and spoke with Wilsonesque authority and seemed perfectly matched with the VTL S-400 Series II Reference Stereo Amplifier ($33,500) and the two-chassis TL-7.5 Series III Reference Line Preamplifier ($25,000). But, but…I was assigned to cover “regular-priced amplification,” defined as: “Any amplifier product priced under $20,000.”

If you must know, the real reason I kept returning to the VTL room was to compare VTL’s TP-2.5i Series II phono preamplifier ($3750) to their TP-6.5 Signature phono preamp ($15,000 with silver MC step-up transformer). Luke played LPs on a Brinkmann Balance turntable ($27,490 with a 12.1″ arm), with a RoNt power supply ($4190) and a Lyra Etna MC cartridge ($8995). I kept trying to find that big sonic canyon that should separate two products that are priced this far apart. And that was the difficult part.

The bottom line is: VTL’s TP-2.5i Series II appears to offer a lot a phono reproduction quality at an extremely low price.