Canor Audio Virtus I2 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

To prevent damage in transit, the large KT88 tubes are packed separately and must be loaded, in pair-matched order, into the tube bases under the lid. Canor supplies the necessary hardware, or you could ask your dealer to oblige. For future reference each tube is also tested and 'fingerprinted' in detail, allowing close-matched replacements to be offered when necessary. In the meantime, Canor guarantees all its tubes for two years.

sqnote Sweet Emotion

There's something beguiling about the sound of Canor's amps, and particularly the Virtus I2. There's the exciting ability to rapidly ramp up power and react to dynamic shifts in music, but also a smooth, naturally flowing quality that adds emotional heft. Of course, being a tube design you can't just switch it on and press play. The Virtus I2 is fitted with a bespoke pre-heating and cooldown circuit, to extend tube life, and this means waiting a minute or two before it can be used. This is hardly unusual or arduous, and in any case, it gave my partnering T+A DAC200 [HFN May '22] and iFi Audio NEO Stream digital transport [HFN Mar '23] time to boot up.

On this amp, triode operation adds some airiness, which helps to expand the soundstage and imaging, and during my auditioning it was the mode I tended to favour. Also notable is the volume control, with any 1dB change delivered by a satisfying click. It's suggested to ensure improved channel balance and separation, which probably aided the Virtus I2's ability to create a brilliantly defined soundstage with excellent placement of instruments. Generally, a volume control of this quality is only found on more expensive designs.


Four line ins and one fixed line out on RCAs are joined by balanced XLR ins for use in mono mode. The 4mm speaker terminals are routed via 8 and 4ohm taps

Canor's amplifier proved an agreeable match for my Focal Sopra No2 floorstanders [HFN Sep '15], but I was also very satisfied when using it to power Canton's new Reference 7 towers. Of course, even a KT88-based amp is far from a powerhouse and both of these speakers will require more if you want to drive them to concert levels. That said, I would be hard pressed to call the Virtus I2 feeble – 'Healing', the second track on German singer/songwriter Josin's In The Blank Space [DD031CD; CD], sounded full of body and mass.

This song feels like a nod to the trip-hop genre of Massive Attack and Tricky, with a spacious production and weighty, sluggish beats. It has a meditative aspect that suited the Virtus I2, as the amp's warm but also slightly forward character created an encircling listen and delivered the synth notes with plenty of texture. This sonic signature was even more apparent during 'Burning (For A New Start)', where the reverb-heavy soundscape was perfectly matched to the Virtus I2's rich balance.

Songs Of Praise
It's electrifying with vocals too. Josin's singing across In The Blank Space, but also her appearance on 'The Bottom Line' on Ólafur Arnald's Sunrise Session II EP [Mercury Classics 602445599622; 96kHz/24-bit], was portrayed with wonderful delicacy. The latter was one of those tracks where the amplifier's triode mode proved alluring, even if the music sometimes lost the dynamic impact delivered in UL mode.


Canor's slim but rugged alloy remote includes basic transport functions for the partnering CD player [HFN Apr '21] alongside input select, volume and mute for the amp

There's also nothing 'slow' about this Canor integrated, as illustrated by its portrayal of Yussef Dayes' jazz drumming on his album Black Classical Music [Brownswood Recordings; 48kHz/24-bit download]. 'Afro Cubanism' will be a favourite of anyone who believes a drum kit is the main act in all music, and the Virtus I2 deftly portrayed every succinctly placed lick. Meanwhile, its handling of the supporting instruments – including synthesiser and trumpet – will satiate those music enthusiasts with a more balanced view.

The amp's dexterity was also on show during 'Raisins Under The Sun', where the fluidity of the basslines made for an exhilarating listen. Even if Canor's amp isn't delivering the ultimate in resolution, which jazz fans who like to savour every little detail might prefer, it countered with a smoothness that brought the performance closer to a jazz club vibe than a recording studio.

Good Times
Pairing the Virtus I2 with a Pro-Ject X2 B turntable and Phono Box S3 B phono stage [HFN Sep '22] to create a fully analogue system certainly wasn't a bad move. Indeed, from the mainstream fare of Lorde's Melodrama [Republic Records B0026618-01], which was better in the punchier UL mode, to the capricious piano playing of Jef Neve on One [Universal Music Belgium 4703679], the Virtus I2 impressed with its versatility, and always injected just the right amount of tube 'goodness' to guarantee an enveloping – and fun – listen.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Technical excellence doesn't always translate to engaging listening, but the Virtus I2 proves Canor knows how to design and build an amplifier with universal appeal. Employing some tech tricks normally found on more rarefied gear, it still offers the smooth, warm sound many tube lovers demand. Moreover, the monoblock upgrade will accommodate a move to more challenging loudspeakers.

Canor, spol. s r.o.
Supplied by: Signature Audio Systems, UK
07738 007776