Review: VIVA Solista LT Tube amp

Category: Amplifiers

The Little Solista, or Solista LT, is a physically smaller, less powerful version of the Viva Solista integrated. It cost $7600 with the remote, although I hear the prices are going up. What else is new. The (big) Solista is now up from $10K to about $17K, although I hear it is significantly different from what it was. The LT uses (2) 845 tubes, (2) 5u4’s as rectifiers, (1) 6922 and (1) 6SN7. It is approximately 18” x 14”, so it will fit in most equipment racks, although you are going to need some space above it to accommodate the heat of the 845’s. I use a Salamander rack, so I can adjust the height, but I have found that a small Vornado Zippi fan placed to the side of the LT, silently blows the heat out of the rack and keeps the shelf above the amp reasonably cool.

The styling from the “love it or hate it school” and it is available in a variety of automotive colors for a $300 upcharge. I opted for the standard dark grey/light grey, which looks great and costs nothing additional. The rear has standard binding posts, 4 sets of RCA inputs, a “direct” input for a preamp, and stereo RCA sub outputs. Nice touch. Power output is rated at 18 watts of SET power.

The sound was somewhat variable during the first month, but it settled down pretty quick. It seems consistent after 2 months use of about 10 hours a week, although I’m sure it has more to go. Before going into the sound, I think it’s important that I describe my listening tastes and expectations, as yours may vary. I live in a pretty cluttered apartment. My speakers flank the TV and audio rack and are about 18” out from the wall. The speakers are about 7’-8’ apart and I sit on a couch against the rear wall, about 8’ from the speakers.

I pretty much listen at night at fairly low levels. I prefer simple acoustic music – guitar/bass, piano/bass, piano/vocals, Bill Evans, Blue Note stuff. My speakers are the Opera Callas Monitors, which I switch off with a pair of Fritz 6.5” Fostex speakers when I feel like something different. Sources are vinyl, CD and SACD players.

The combination of the Viva with the Operas is just stunning. While the Operas are rated at 87db, they are an excellent match for the Viva. At low levels, the sound is very full, with a palpable sense of being there. One thing I could never achieve in the past was a real “soundstage”, which I assumed was due to having the TV and audio rack between the speakers. However, the Viva just tears down the walls and presents the performers on the stage in front of you. It’s as if there’s a large empty space between the speakers, not the actual clutter that exists. For me, this is incredible, as I thought I could never obtain this sense of space in my apartment. The second thing the Viva does well is the realistic presentation of instruments. I was a professional musician for 20 years and I am intimately familiar with how acoustic instruments actually sound. With a good recording, the Viva is capable of extracting the true timber of the instruments, bringing them into the room with you.

With the Fritz single-driver speakers, rated 94db, the Viva is extremely quiet. The sound is very complete with an addictive coherence that eludes most multiple-driver speakers. While they don’t have the bass of the Operas, the sound is still very enjoyable due to the clarity and quick transient response. The light Fostex cones react much faster than the Scanspeak drivers in the Operas, although I don’t think I would want to live with them permanently. It’s nice to go back and forth between the two speakers.

I think the Solista LT would make an excellent choice for anyone who values tone over volume and can live with the physical size and looks of the unit. For an apartment dweller like me, the LT has been a revelation in bringing the sound of live music into my small space.

My current system:
Viva Solista LT
Doge 6 CD player
Sony ns9100 ES DVD player (for SACDs & DADs)
Linn Sondek LP-12 with Rega RB700 and Lyra Argo

Previous electronics:
Naim 252/250
Mastersound Due Trenta Integrated.

Associated gear
Linn Sondek LP-12
Doge 6 CD player
I use the full power 22 watt version of the Solista and have to agree with you. Tubes are slow, coloured, flabby. Not a bit of it, the Solista is fast, neutral, deathly quiet, good base, which is the usual tube amp failing. I use mine with 89db Acoustic Zen adagios and even large scale opera, orchestral music is reproduced with detail and power. Criticisms, it runs hot as hell, the wife hates it and the soundstage is'nt as wide as I have had with other amps, deep, but not stretching outside the speakers
I think the appearance may be a big sticking point for some. When I first saw the original Solista a few years back, I thought it was absurdly huge. The LT is considerably smaller and fits more comfortably into the domestic environment, I think. In any case, I believe it's unfortunate that, because of the relatively few dealerships, many people have not had the opportunity to hear a Viva, which is really a shame, as the LT brings the Viva sound into a more realistic price range.
I understand what you are saying. My wife liked the photo, but was not impressed by the size of the thing. Unfortunately, high output SET's are'nt cheap or small, they need big transformers, capacitors etc. They are'nt cheap either, I agree. I got mine 2nd hand and have used them happily for 3 years. I am not sure I would have paid the new price.