Firebottle Vivant Phono Stage - A Review
Firebottle Vivant - MM/MC Phono Stage
A few weeks ago I asked Alan ( Firebottle ) if he had done any more about selling his Vivant Phono Stage, he said that it was finished but not setup up how he would like it so he asked me to give him some more time to finish it off and I could then demo it at home. It wasn't long before he got back in touch to say he was happy with it and if I wanted he could take it to MIBO, let it be heard there and then Ali could bring it up the road with him so I could collect it from his place.
I picked it up last weekend....................
Most of you will know that my system consists of Technics 1210 with Mission 774 Arm and a recent purchase of an AT33 PTG II Cartridge, all powered by a Paul Hynes SR7-EHD PSU and TQ Claymore Amp with PMC 21 Speakers. So I think it deserves a decent phono stage considering the investment made on the rest of the system albeit all bought second hand except the speakers.
Spare cartridges - Ortofon MC25FL and 2M Black
Don't ask me what all those figures mean, I ain't got a clue, but I do know how they add up
I have listened to the Vivant for about a week now and when I had to move the system to where it is now ( to accomodate the impending Christmas Tree purchase ), I also took the time to switch back to just the Claymore's built-in stage which in itself is excellent and saw off a Trigon Vanguard II, NVA Phono 2 and a Whest Two Dual Mono in the past so the built-in stage is pretty decent, mind you being designed by Colin Wonfor probably has something to do with that.
Dire Straits - Dire Straits LP, now I'm not a huge fan ( and my wife and daughter hate them lol ) but the sound and production on this LP really lends itself to be used as a demo recording, on the Claymore it sounded decent, not a huge soundstage being only as wide as the speakers sat, detail was good, I could pick out all the different instruments easily and bass was good, however vocals seemed a little recessed, almost as if they were slightly behind the rest of the music if you know what I mean, I hadn't heard this before but having recently switched from using the Ortofon MC25FL to the AT33PTG II via the Claymore built-in stage, I figured that was the difference which made me wary of how it would sound on the Vivant, so the first cart I tried with the Vivant was the 2m Black as I thought for Rock music IT would be the one I would prefer going by other reviews anyway, and it was good, better than on the Claymore stage, but lacking something, it just didn't move me at all, then I tried the AT33PTG II and it was and I'll quote the text I sent to Ali ( Tait ),
Apologies to any ladies and those of a gentle nature for that outburst, but that's how it went.....
" Honestly it's a F**K me moment when I put the 33 cart on"
Alan ( Firebottle ) confirmed that the Vivant would be better with the MC AT cartridge than the MM 2M Black due to the settings on the Vivant, needless to say the Black is up for sale, I dunno, I just prefer MC having tried a 2m Blue and Black, Shure 97xe all MM and then Zu Denon 103, Ortofon MC25FL, and finally the AT33PTGII which are all MC and I preferred any of those 3 to any of the MM ones, so the Vivant really fits in well to what I like to hear.
The Vivant/AT33 combo was a whole different league all together it was a WOW feeling and it just got better and better with every LP I played, on the Dire Straits LP playing Sultans of Swing the soundstage not only grew wider but front to back too, vocals were back where they should have been, front and centre, I could see the band playing it live right in front of me and I could see where each stood, it was superb. Well you know what happens next, it was LP after LP after LP. With each one sounding better than I have ever heard them on my system.
On each LP I played the bass was cleaner, tighter more defined, you could hear the strings being hammered/plucked and the bass guitar had the growl to it you get when playing rock, drums had power and attack, guitars just rocked, the room was much fuller with sound as it was driven more 'into' the room, vocals were clearer more real, treble was cleaner and not edgy as I sometimes get with the Claymore's stage ( especially when driven to extremes ), at the start of Robin Trowers 'Bridge of Sighs' there is a shimmering sort of sound that to me sounds like how rain/tears/snow would sound when falling ( yeah arty farty description I know ), but it felt/sounded like it was actually falling in the room in front of me, if you know the track you'll maybe 'get' what I mean. But the other thing that really impressed me was that all I wanted to do was TURN IT UP ( I'm a rocker at heart ) and it just kept giving and giving, I could push my amp way past 2/3 volume which is louder than is really comfortable and it still sounds in control, whereas using the Claymores' stage about half way was the limit before it became a mish mash and just wanted turned down again, the Vivant however gives me what I want
Some of what I went through.....
Pink Floyd - Animals - Dark Side of The Moon - Wish You Were Here - The Division Bell
Till Lindemann - Till Lindemann
Carbon Based Lifeforms - World Of Sleepers - Hydroponic Gardens
Frazey Ford - Indian Ocean
Rush - 2112
Robin Trower - Bridge of Sighs
Thin Lizzy - Bad Reputation - Nightlife
Agitation Free - Shibuya Nights
ZZ Top - Fandango
IQ - Road of Bones
Arena - The 7th Degree Of Separation
Tangerine Dream - Stratosfear
Ray Wilson - Song For a Friend
Plus loads of others, my click counter has jumped from 5 sides to 40+ from Wednesday to today alone lol.
In fact I also use a PI setup to stream from t'internet and when I moved the system I hadn't even put it until just a couple of days ago as it was records that really took my attention more than ever and re-affirmed my love of just putting a record on and just sitting back and listening, most of the younger generation won't get it, but you oldies will know what I mean when it is the simple act of taking the LP out of the sleeve and queuing it up and listening to the whole album that just takes you right back to your youth, you can't beat it, although in truth my youth never had £8000* worth of Hi-Fi in it EVER ( mad isn't it !! ), but you know what, who cares I'm happy as a pig in s*** and I ain't taking it with me when I go.
The Vivant can accept different loading plugs to match your cartridge, it has the 100 Ohm ones in at present and I think I also got 470 ones supplied too, not sure if those are standard as they were meant for Ali to try with his cartridge before I collected the stage from him, but he never got the chance to try it, 6 screws remove the lid and a quick swap of the plugs is all that's needed. Could I spend my money elsewhere and do better, I don't know, am I bothered, no, as trying out different phono stages is tricky where I live, I've tried a few of the ones within my budget that were available, in fact I've just remembered I also tried a Perreaux Audiant VP3 from a local shop which beat the three I mentioned earlier AND the Claymores' stage, however in my system it ain't as good as the Vivant.
* I hope the wife never reads this
PS: I don't actually own the Vivant, it is still officially on demo, in case you think I'm just bumming up something I've just bought to make me feel better
PPS: Current price as of today for the Vivant is £1100 ( Firebottle can confirm if he reads this )
Technics 1210 Mk 5 modded with Mike New Bearing, Paul Hynes SR7-EHD PSU, Sounddamped Steel Isoplatmat, Isonoe Feet, Magna Audio Ebony armboard, Mission 774 Arm fitted with Audio Technica 33PTG II - TQ Claymore Amplifier, Firebottle Vivant Phono Stage, PMC Twenty .21 Speakers, Partington Dreadnought Stands, B&W PV1 Subwoofer, Raspberry Pi 2 fitted with Piano 2.1 Dac/Kali Reclocker - Fiio X3 DAP - Sennheiser HD650 Headphones