Aurorasound VIDA MkII Phono Preamplifier

hfncommendedAurorasound's VIDA (Vinyl Disk Amplifier), launched in 2011, has marked its first decade with a number of revisions to merit MkII status. How does it stack up in 2022?

Small Japanese specialist brands always fascinate me, due in part to my delight that they can co-exist with the Sony- and Panasonic-sized manufacturers. While every nation has its bijou marques, there's an uncanny aura to the likes of 47Lab, Shindo, Air Tight and Kondo, plus countless MC cartridge makers, that differentiates them from equally exotic producers from the UK, USA, Italy, Germany and beyond. Aurorasound could also only be Japanese, its VIDA MkII, an evolution of the VIDA [HFN Jul '13], ticking every box.

As self-contained as the standard £3659 version of the VIDA MkII is – it provides simple high/low load switching on both MC inputs, with low recommended for cartridges below 100ohm and high for those above 100ohm – there are options to reinforce the appeal to enthusiasts. On the surface, then, this is a comprehensively equipped two-chassis phono stage which eschews functional minimalism while avoiding clutter to create a super-clean fascia. Yet there's more to its capabilities, being a unit able to handle MM and MC cartridges in both inputs, and thus support two decks or arms.

Hit The Load, Jack
The vast majority of VIDA preamps are sold with this standard MC loading but our sample was fitted with the optional VI6 six-way load switch on both MC inputs, which adds £369 and provides settings of 30, 50, 75, 100, 150 and 470ohm. This should satisfy the most fastidious of audiophiles as I find most MCs do not require to be 'dialled in' to the nearest ohm. Not fitted to our review sample, however, are the balanced output (XLR) option at £549 nor the £459 SPC umbilical PSU cable with proprietary screening.

Externally little has altered, the MkII designation referring to the exchange of the original Aurora Amp module-1 for the Amp module-2 Rev. 3. This modularity extends to the circa-£10,000 VIDA Supreme, which provides the option of plugging in various cards that allow different MM or MC inputs via active circuitry or step-up transformers, EQ curves, inverse RIAA, and other settings. Also available below the VIDA MkII is the simpler £1000 VIDA Prima [HFN Mar '19], this phono stage offering just high and low adjustments for MCs.

Otherwise Aurorasound has fundamentally revised the PCB layout and optimised signal flow with a new mainboard [compare inside shots here and HFN Jul '13] with a claimed improvement of 6dB in left/right channel separation. The degauss control has been moved from the front panel to the back, the two pilot LEDs on the fascia are reduced to one, and the external power supply has been improved. Furthermore the chassis has been reinforced to reduce RFI and EMI.


The dual-mono VIDA MkII comprises three building blocks – a switchable op-amp based gain stage [far right], passive LCR RIAA network [centre] and custom output stage with onboard regulation [gold-plated PCBs, near left]

Precision Engineering
It occurred to me that this could be my dream phono stage (with the XLR output option, that is). The front panel provides everything needed on a quotidian basis, with the illuminated mute button standing proud in the upper lefthand corner. Across the bottom, left to right, are delightfully precise toggle switches as only the Japanese seem to be able to manufacture, for stereo/mono, direct or via a subsonic filter (useful if you have a badly warped but playable LP), the high/low MC switch, the MM/MC selector, and the toggle for Phono 1 and Phono 2 inputs.

Around the back are RCAs for output and two decks, two separate earthing posts, a three-pin connector that takes the feed from the external power supply, the aforementioned degausser, and the rotary for switching MC cartridge loads. I'm of two minds about degaussing, which demagnetises MC cartridges and which Aurorasound recommends once every six months, but as it can do no harm, and takes 30 seconds, it's no hardship to employ it.

While the VIDA MkII has a classy elegance, its matte silver fascia offset by a real wood enclosure, it's also a bit of a multi-coloured light show: red on the power supply rocker, orange for the big, square mute button and lavender for the tiny LED below the Aurorasound logo.

sqnoteLa Vida Loca
Although predisposed toward this phono stage because I love obscure Japanese high-end hi-fi, it was the name that did it. One of my favourite T-Bone Walker tracks is 'Vida Lee', so naturally I chose that to kick off my listening, specifically the version found on the various artists compilation Legendary Master Series Vol. 1 Urban Blues – Blues Uptown [Imperial LM-94002]. This stunning collection from 1968 was inspired by members of Canned Heat, and it's a doozy. It also enabled me to test the benefits of the VIDA MkII having a mono button, whether or not one has gone to the lengths of also acquiring a mono cartridge.

Aurorasound Inc
Supplied by: Pure Sound, UK
01822 612449