Aurorasound VIDA MkII Phono Preamplifier Page 2

Walker was all about slithery guitar playing and the kind of vocals that could make 'Old McDonald Had A Farm' sound salacious. What the VIDA MkII somehow extracted from this track – which I used to play repeatedly when my blues library consisted of a mere dozen LPs – was plump, rich, honking sax which was enough to distract me from the sound of his big hollow-bodied Gibson. It wasn't just the fast runs which signified Walker's playing – the way he strummed those chords produced a sound complex enough to keep wordsmiths reaching for the thesaurus. Resonance, air, some rattles... any Gibson aficionado would be able to tell you which ES-model he was playing (without cheating and looking at the recording date of 1952).

Mood Music
Back to the sax. This arrives right after the opening line, a mere two seconds in, but it establishes a mood that suggests a darkened bar, in the wee hours, on the other side of town from Ol' Blue Eyes. The VIDA MkII was living up to its namesake, especially the realistic, almost tactile textures of that smoky voice.


Outboard PSU connects to the VIDA MkII via a short umbilical

From the same LP came Fats Domino's 'Don't Lie To Me', recorded before he went gold with 'Blueberry Hill'. Here the main sound was rollicking New Orleans barrelhouse piano, again dependent on the reproduction of certain resonances. This immediately reminded me of Dave Wilson – Wilson Audio's founder – and his Ragtime Razzmatazz LPs, and discussing with Dave what was needed to make that sound, the way worn-down hammers would hit with a specific timbre. Fats' performance may have been 70 years gone, and without the benefit of stereo, but it still filled the space in front of me.

With both T-Bone's and Fats' voices tilted toward the richer end of the spectrum, the contrast of Carole King's vocals on Tapestry [Mobile Fidelity UD1S 2-030 One-Step] let me wallow in the honeyed midband and at the same time experience spatial recreation. The piano provided an alternative sonic sensation, again suggesting that keen-eared musicians might even be able to identify the make and model.

While the near-excessive warmth favours my biases – anything that sounds like valves, even if solid-state, gets my thumbs up – I can expect some might find it overbearing with certain MC cartridges, especially into an all-valve system, which is what I was enjoying. With Carole King's 'I Feel The Earth Move' and the change in tempo, the nature of the piano bordered on pounding rock 'n' roll, harder hitting than Fats' track. Here the VIDA MkII produced transient attack and crisp edges which counter-balanced the possibly-too-warm overall nature.

Classic Flavour
Note that this was consistent from cartridge to cartridge, and these included a couple of flavours of Ortofon 2Ms for moving-magnet duties, and both classic and modern MCs of varying impedances. If a pattern was emerging, and with an ear to the kind of neutrality which is a virtue for those who favour solid-state, digital, and anything else that isn't a 300B or 845, it's that the VIDA MkII has all the speed and slam, across the frequency spectrum, to disarm any whose initial impression is coloured by the warmth. I'm trying hard not to confuse you… or myself, for this phono stage will never be mistaken for some all-valve design like the astounding EAT E-Glo.


The MkII still offers two front-switched MM/MC phono inputs, but brings the degauss function to the rear. Variable 30-470ohm (low) MC loading option is extra

Instead, my findings are based on comparing it with other solid-state phono amps, all of which sounded cooler and more forensic. With Little Feat's 'Willin'' from Sailin' Shoes [Mobile Fidelity MFSL 1-307], the VIDA MkII had no difficulty separating the myriad layers of sound, subtle little licks from acoustic guitars, pedal steel far right, dry percussion, and those harmonies on the line 'Weeds, whites and wine'. You're gonna fight hard not to shed a tear about the loss of Lowell George.

That pedal steel provided an illustration of the clarity this phono stage can yield and do so without ever sounding brittle. Mainly it's down to the unit's transparency, which some might find is often clouded by warmth, but Aurorasound has found a near-perfect balance. If there's any criticism I can make about the VIDA MkII it's that it also tends toward the polite. But in this mean old world, that's a virtue.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Aurorasound's VIDA MkII might be classified as a cult product due to its esoteric origins, but it is nothing of the sort. This delicious little phono amp is ergonomically ideal, comprehensively equipped, beautifully made and – as our review reveals – is as sweet-sounding as deserved of the finest analogue systems. Fresh out of the box, it caressed everything from budget MMs to £5k-plus MCs. It's a delight!

Aurorasound Inc
Supplied by: Pure Sound, UK
01822 612449