As I mentioned in my January 1 writeup here on SoundStage! Ultra, for several years I’ve been enamored with the idea of the super integrated amplifier. In that article, I listed the myriad models I’ve reviewed and mentioned that I’d soon be auditioning yet another super integrated amplifier in my Ultra Reference System. That product is the Vitus Audio SIA-030 integrated amplifier, which retails for $46,200 USD in its standard configuration (an optional DAC-streamer and/or phono stage can be added at additional cost).
If you’re like me, the SIA-30’s price tag elicits a bit of sticker shock. And you might be asking yourself, what makes an integrated amp cost that kind of scratch? After all, for almost 50 grand you can buy a really nice set of separates. As far as super integrated amplifiers go, the SIA-030 is crazy ambitious. It tips the scales at a fighting weight of 138 pounds and includes a power supply taken directly from Vitus’s Masterpiece amplifier series. That’s not all, though. It’s also the company’s latest product, and it’s one that draws on the vast knowledge the Vitus design team has gathered thus far about how to build a great-sounding component. So I thought it would be fascinating to dive deep into the heart of the SIA-030 manufacturing process and share it with you guys.
Below you’ll find the first of a two-part feature detailing the manufacture of an SIA-030 in Titanium Orange finish. This of course took place in the AVA Group’s factory in Herning, Denmark (AVA Group is the parent company of both Vitus Audio and sister brand Alluxity). When I was in Denmark in July, I was blown away by AVA’s complex manufacturing process and thorough testing, and the depth of the overall quality assurance that goes into the making of the SIA-030.
In the photos below, you’ll see Jesper, the main technician responsible for building this particular SIA-030; Nora, who’s responsible for the individual parts and modules that go into the SIA-030’s production; and Edvard, a Vitus Audio trainee learning the ropes. The SIA-030 you see in the photos is the exact unit that will be heading my way for review by the time you read this.
Vitus Audio products are manufactured in batches to improve both efficiency and quality control. In constructing the SIA-030 integrated amplifier, the first step is to align the power-supply transformers needed for a given production run.
Once the transformers are all perfectly aligned, an employee begins the task of twisting pairs of cables and twirling the pairs together. Once this step is completed, all the cables are bundled together in a tight, orderly configuration. The cables are then cut to precise lengths and crimped, and connectors are added to them. The transformers and their cable harnesses are then thoroughly tested to ensure proper operation before the next step in the process.
The internal plate can be thought of as the backbone of the SIA-030. This is where Vitus technicians mount the transformer, eight large 47,000µF capacitors for the power supply, and other elements that will be added later in the assembly process.
The eight capacitors are aligned on the internal plate. This is done with an internally manufactured tool that mimics the PSU/slow-start PCB that will be mounted much later in the assembly process.
The transformer is installed with rubber spacers to damp vibrations.
Each heatsink is a standalone module containing one channel’s output stage. As in all VA products, these are compact and tight-fitting. It was therefore necessary to mill insertion pockets for the transistors into the heatsinks. The first step here is to mount the heat transfer material, Kapton tape, directly to the adjoining heatsink. Jesper fixes the tape and makes holes in it to avoid twists and bulges during the output device mounting process.
All transistors are pre-bent with internally made tools to ease the installation of each device.
Cables connecting the output stage and the output PCB are soldered, while the PCB is screwed to the heatsink.
The standalone output-stage module is then fully tested and installed.
The input module contains the preamplifier stage, volume control, and insertion connections for the optional DAC-streamer module and the upcoming phono-stage module. These optional modules can be installed by customers in the field.
The preamplifier board is mounted on a frame called the “preamp shield,” which helps to isolate noise from the transformer and prevent it from entering the sensitive circuitry.
Lastly, the module is fully tested: all inputs, outputs, volume steps, and features are carefully examined, and general measurements are made. This data is stored as part of the company’s internal documentation.
The rear plate consists of multiple parts, including all of the connectors, the external backplate, input/output select PCBs, and an antistatic module box containing the DAC-streamer and the phono-stage module. This box helps with isolation and aids the installation process tremendously.
The first step in assembling the rear plate is to mount all pre-made input and output connectors, install the external backplate, attach the antistatic module box, and install the input/output PCBs.
The internal front plate contains the center glass and microprocessor PCB. Technicians must be attentive while installing the glass and the microprocessor unit to avoid dust and scratches.
The parts are installed in an antistatic environment. To improve the air conditions even further, Vitus Audio applies antistatic air with a Simco-Ion antistatic conditioner, which prevents dust particles from electrically attaching themselves to anything in the environment.
There’s a lot happening behind the scenes at this stage, including quality control as well as sorting, planning, stocking, and distributing parts to the right products. Vitus Audio devotes considerable time to matching each external plate with adjoining external plates to create a full set of matching parts that don’t differ in color or hue when scrutinized under revealing lights.
The assembly of mechanical parts includes joining the top and logo plates, installing feet, and of course, adding the power on/off button, which is positioned at the center bottom of the unit.
At this point, the assembly is fully tested under the tightest tolerances, and then the faceplate, top plate, and bottom plate are added.
Next month you’ll see how all these modules and parts fit together in the final assembly. You’ll also see the testing performed on this particular Vitus Audio SIA-030. Once it receives AVA’s seal of approval, it’ll be packed up and shipped to North Carolina for audition. Stay tuned.
. . . Jeff Fritz