VAC preamps - too expensive?

VAC makes great products so i hear.  The Linestage Master lists for $28k and next one down is Signature, for $22k.  Add $12k for a phonostage.

anybody have experience with these units?

its a marketing strategy.  Yeah the $22k Signature is very nice but for just $6k more u get a much better unit. Might as well get the Master.  Pretty clever.  Oh and they offer a line stage called the Statement for $80k and it comes with chrome and a skylight so u can view whats inside.  The Master has most of what the $80k Statement has (no skylight) so i guess the $28k Master seems a great deal.  Pretty clever.

It all depends. For me, I believe in the law of diminishing returns. Once you get to a very good level equipment-wise, then improvements tend to be incremental. So, what you spend depends on the equipment you’re replacing, which determines the % of improvement you'll achieve.
fuzztone hit that nail on the head. Some folks will chime in and say that a $100 pre will sound 95% of anything in that price point. How dare someone spend their own money like that.
@rocray funny and I agree if you like it and can afford it, then go for it.

the rest will be sour grapes.

OP if you got the scratch then itch it.
Thanks for philosophy thoughts, but i am interested in VAC specific pts.

if there is value then no problem, but being overcharged is another matter.
VAC is a great preamp or linestage quality cost money otherwise get an older model used.Jump on one asap!!
VAC has been in business for many, many years, so if they are taking advantage of people then they wouldn’t have lasted this long. Never heard their equipment personally but they tend to gather great press. I’m sure much of the cost is the quality of their cabinets. I recall sometime back they built reissues of vintage Marantz tube pieces. Marantz could have chose any company to build these pieces, which apparently they couldn’t as well, but they chose VAC.
'Some folks will chime in and say that a $100 pre will sound 95% of anything in that price point. How dare someone spend their own money like that.' 
@rocray,  well stated and on the bullseye. 
People that really enjoy well reproduced music do not generally hear a law of diminishing returns. They hear and are rewarded with a much more emotionally involving experience. The closer and more involving is worth the increasing cost to get there. Last year with a some reservations purchased a $22K streamer, replacing my $4K streamer. Within a few minutes the price went from ridiculously high to a bargain as the performance increase was so profound and exceeded my expectation.

I have heard VAC equipment periodically throughout the decades I have pursued high end audio. Whenever I have it was always priced appropriately for its amazing level of performance. Also, yes, you cannot play a marketing trick on high end audiophiles and stay in business for a few years let alone decades.

Those of us who have pursued this for most of our adult lives are pretty familiar with this phenomenon. It is what keeps us enthusiastic about the pursuit and enjoying the music. The performance of Etta James in Canada from 1975 that is currently playing is truly amazing and with a realism I never imagined I would experience… and from Qobuz, the streaming service. Amazing.
Some units are highly recomended regardless of cost. I have no experience with VAC, but if you have the cash go for it.
I would, after listening lately to a Kondo G70 and what a preamp of that kind could do to a system.
I'd like to clear something up about myself. I am not a monetarily wealthy person. I'm a letter carrier. I've never in my career,seen a rich mailman. I buy just about everything used. However,those that have created significant wealth,especially those that have worked WAY harder than I was willing to work,deserve the rewards of their hard work. I'm not here to ridicule someone that is better off than I. Nor am I here to ridicule someone that wants to hold on to their communion money until retirement,kudos to you. When did it become fashionable to judge folks on what they are able to purchase? Next thing you know,we'll be judging folks by the color of their skin. 
I’ve been dabbling in building and modifying amps for years. I can tell you that by replacing resistors with bulk foils (like VAC), choosing a few Miflex film caps and some choice tubes, all for say, $500, you can increase the performance of an amp whereby it may seem worth a $50,000 price difference in model lineup.
If you are filthy rich it’s not expensive....however if you are a poor middle class slob with a mortgage, wife, kids, bills, etc...then yeah, those prices are ridiculous...
There are many wonderful "affordable" products available to the "average audiophile"... the list is far too large to put it these products will get most 90% or more "there" need to spend your life savings...however, here are a few, imo, giant killers....
-Origin Live Aurora with Onyx or silver tonearm
-Hana el or sl mc cartridge
-2m bronze or black cartridge
-Tannoy Eaton speakers
-Sugden Signature A21se pure class A integrated....
-Musical fidelity v90 dac
-Border Patrol R2R dac
-Music Hall mmf-7.3 or 9.3
-Akg K550 closed back headphones
-Graham slee Novo headphone amp
-Tavish design the classic or Vintage tubed phono preamp
-Pro-ject tube box DS2 tubed phono preamp
-Ear 834P tubed phono preamp
-wharfedale Linton Heritage
-wharfedale Diamond 225’s
-Rogue Audio Sphinx V3 integrated...
-Any of the Marantz reference cd/sacd players...
-Marantz pm14s1 or 15s1 integrated...
-Audiolab cdt6000....
I could go on and on....
You should ask your question in the forum link below. VAC owners post there.

Given the tone of your question, not sure if you are really an interested buyer, or a lover of sour grapes.
People make choices on how to live their life, how dedicated to work they are, how much investment in their education they make,  and how to spend their money. 
There are disparaging remarks on the opposite side of “filthy rich”.
VAC preamps are pricey, no doubt, but excellent. I bought a demo Phi Beta preamp 8 years ago for roughly half of MSRP, which was still a bundle. I thought I was crazy at the time, but I'd heard one at a dealer and loved it, so I jumped. Well, it’s been in service 12 hours a day for almost every day since then, sounding wonderful with any amp I pair with it--and there have been many in that time. The fact that it has a dual LOMC phono, too, that’s among the best I’ve heard is just icing. You pays your money for VAC but you get an heirloom piece that just keeps going. High expense but high value if you buy used or a demo.
VAC is very good stuff and has that reputation, so you will pay for that.   
Do I win a prize for hitting that? I’m looking for a world class integrated amp. A VAC would do just fine.

It’s not easy to be around for many years and post regularly without getting banned or just plain burned out at some point prior. I did take a hiatus for a year or so a few years back. I know at least one person missed me.

I still like music and hifis and all that goes with that. I’d rather talk about that than most anything else. I’m a creature of habit I suppose. Music is a wonderful sedative and way to relax from life’s stresses. Very healthy! The better music sounds, the better it is.

THe "high end" is an interesting place. Especially for a guy from Amish Country like me.  Lots of opportunities to help cut through the noise and get to the meat when it comes to good sound. You learn along the way but the noise never stops. There are expensive things to sell! Just have to find a choice few who are ready and willing to go there.

Audiophillia is a rich man's hobby. The plethora of mid-fi gear is a relatively recent thing and the reason why Youtube reviewers live in that space. Its growing fast and seeing much innovation. It proves the markup on gear is massive.

The haves will always diminish the have-nots. Its why the whole hobby is not growing year after year. Some brands coast on name cache (Mac) and others will build items that punch far above their weight (Decware). But once the vinyl boom fizzles out, segments of the hi-fi market will disappear forever.
Audio Research is a common option. I use an Audio Research tube pre-amp with phono. Only 6 tubes I run these days. Cost under $2k new during a sale a few years back to make way for newer model.

I’ve had a handful of VAC auditions. Won’t say the two sound the same but both are top notch and seem to shoot for a similar sound, less "tubey" and more SS than many.

My local ARC dealer also sold Rogue as a lower cost option. Nothing he sold ever sounded less than superb.
With the newer stuff, VAC has priced itself out of the real world. But the older top preamps are very similar in circuit to the newer ones. Look there if you want the VAC sound and quality without the risk of losing your thumbs to loan sharks. Stick with ones that provide 12 db of gain. The Renaissance Series, at least the earlier models, have something like 23db of gain, which is nutty to me.

I sought out the Phi Beta for a year before I found one. It was only made for a couple years before VAC went to the 2A Sig as their TOL pre. The change was made, I was told by the lead tech, mainly because VAC could no longer source the IC relays that enabled the Phi Beta to have a full function remote (key feature for me). Sound quality was not the reason. The replacement 2A Sig has only volume and mute on the remote. Yes, the manual source switches on the 2A Sig offer slightly more sonic purity, but the Phi Beta has plenty of that itself and the full-function remote is a real pleasure. I have a lot of sources so it’s important to me.

I’d say keep your powder dry until a Phi Beta comes along on the used market. It’s beautiful, too. Worth the wait.
Considered the arc ref 6se but had trouble with soooo many tubes - 8, being run very hard and lasting 3k hrs, etc vs Vac with 2 tubes.
just nutty, arc is so damn complex.
I have a couple quite longstanding audiophile friends who feel the opposite, that ARC is superior to VAC for performance, value and engineering. Both are definitely top shelf brands with very very high prices but both my friends swear by ARC and say their experiences with VAC are mixed.  These are certainly very successful brands of tube equipment, and each has their strong followings, so I guess the responses here not surprising.
Yes the most common comparable companies are Audio Research and Conrad Johnson. I believe all are excellent brands. While I have auditioned all and all respected, I have all ARC components.
Well I do agree the fewer tubes the better.

I’ve had the sp16 for a number of years. It’s been pretty easy overall on the tubes but with any tube gear you have to be ready when a tube starts to go. 3 tubes in pre-amp and 3 in phono stage.  There is one primary slot for each where you must have very high performance tubes for best performance.   Other 4 are fairly forgiving.
The great thing about VAC is that they take a Formula One approach to product development.  No holds barred on the Statement preamp and then allowing much of the technology to drop down into the Renaissance MKV - which is what I own.  I picked mine up a few years ago used and less than 6 months old for $5,500.  I consider it great value for the money and wouldn't dream of swapping it out.
If you have heard their preamps, they are worth it if you have the budget.  Truly special units that deliver an image that is jaw dropping.  I have a customer who jokingly says he is going to have his casket fitted to ensure their is space for his preamp.  

There are many preamps that are at the levels that VAC competes.  Soulution, Boulder, Constellation, AVM, ARC, etc....  Lots.  None are quite VAC.  They have a sound that is unique and extremely engaging.  The other are fabulous and different, in a good or bad way depending on your preference.  

I am a dealer but have no affiliation with VAC.  I am just a fan.  
I have an Atma-Sphere MP-1 preamp with built in phono stage.
I thought that maybe VAC was the competition but think I see that, like everyone, when you get into the upper end $25K++ units, they all are just line stages with no built in phono stage.
I love my Atma tube pre that dedicates 8 of its 18 tubes to the phono stage. And it’s great to not hanve to have a separate phono stage and additional quality IC.
@mglik Always wanted to hear an MP-1 or MP-3 in my rig. On paper, a V-Capped Atma-Sphere looks like all you'd need.
Post removed 
It's very rewarding to be a VAC customer.  I started with a used, original Avatar integrated that developed a problem with the on/off knob.  I sent it to VAC, who provided a concise explanation of a past vendor issue, but then Brent took a personal interest in making my used piece sound as good as possible before returning it.

It means something when the president of VAC, Kevin, literally stands beside his designs, which often win best of show.  If you're a small company, building some of the best equipment that is reliable, elegant, provides long-term pride of ownership, and superb support, you've earned the right to charge a premium.
Iv owned VAC Pre-amps for 6 years, enjoyed it very much never thought il ever upgrade to another pre-amp.

They can be had for cheap on the secondhand market, but once i heard a Fully Loaded Atma-Sphere MP-1 Pre-amp i sold off my VAC and never looked back.

VACs make some good stuff. If you can not afford new buy second hand.

For me the Atma-Sphere MP-1 felt like the room was filled with music rather then just projecting outside from the speaker. It felt effortless, transparent, smooth, more alive with energy.
I listened to a VAC preamp at a B&M store locally over a decade ago and loved the sound. It left me wanting to own one some day. Sure enough I ended up buying my Signature Mk IIa SE several years ago and never looked back. Yes the Master is a step up, and I’m sure that I’ll move up the chain at some point.

Also don’t forget to get a pair of nice 6922’s. I bought two pairs of Telefunken’s both cryogenic and non, and they’re worth every penny. Amperex’s are very good too.
I am late to the party, but have owned a VAC CLA1 MKII Dual Mono Pre Amp for many years. I am the second owner and other than Tubes, it has been in use and sounding fantastic for many years. It now resides in System 2. I believe it was around $4500 in the 90s so Relative to some of today's prices somewhat. I would love to drop the cash for a full VAC system, but I also want to retire :)

Service from VAC is also great. I called to ask questions about re-tubing and Kevin answered the phone and gave me close to a half hour of his time.

If you can afford it, and you like the newer looks, you really can't go wrong owning it.
I upgraded from a MP-3 to an MP-1.
Major difference.
If you can afford it, go for a MP-1.
jumia:VAC pricing is not a marketing ploy. It is what goes into the chassis that sets it apart from a myriad of other high-end products, plus the proprietary circuitry. No one upgrades from VAC to...anything - except VAC!


Funny someone said no one upgrades from VAC to Anything except VAC :-) wish that was true.

I moved from VAC to Atma-Sphere. I actually do very much like VAC Gear cant really fault it much.

Many companies have their own proprietary circuitry. Nothing new here! 
Inputs of vac not controlled by remote.  Kinda annoying.  Can this be corrected??

may have to look elsewhere.  Tough to have this in ht.  Family would not like manually changing inputs as unit would be in a separate area/room.  This is a huge issue.
No @jumia you cannot change inputs on the VAC remote. It has 3 buttons (mute, volume up/down) which does not have an input button. Also, the HT bypass is not changed by the input selector. There is a “Cinema” knob on the upper right corner of the preamp which you turn to select HT bypass. It works very well for my Theta Casablanca IVa with D3 Xtreme DAC’s.

It’s fascinating that you would keep the VAC in a separate room from your HT. That must be one long pair of interconnects or speaker cables that you intend to use. A VAC would also be quite a jump from your Schiit Freya+, and you may have to budget wisely for those cables of yours.
Kmmd, so whats your point? U seem to,have a problem with my comment.

its a side room on opposite side of wall. Quite nice.
Even if the vac box was visible its still super annoying remote lacks input capability. They go to trouble of doing a bypass special button which seems kinda pointless as input selector is sufficient. 

but then what do i know  just a dumb guy willing to shell out $25k for an electronics box.

Nope no problem at all. The expense will be there for long cable runs whether they’re XLR or speaker.

Using a Cinema / HT bypass button or knob allows you to use your Marantz AVR’s volume control for all channels and not try to level match the volume of your mains set by the VAC to the volume of your center and surrounds of an AVR.
So the lack of imput functionality on VAC remote is not a concern to those using it as part of ht system.

so for the next 20 yrs plus, assuming vac will be a long term possession, i have to get up and go to vac to change sources.

Guess i just want it all
The VAC preamp lineup is not "clever" marketing trying to trick people into spending more. It’s true high-end gear for extreme enthusiasts who love the VAC sound and are beyond their phase of continually churning through $2K - 10K models on audiogon, doing the inevitable give-and-take sidesteps with each trade.

The Sig IIa SE is the result of a long evolution of their previous flagship preamp; the Master is a trickle-down cost reduced version of the Statement minus its over-the-top cosmetic perfection. The cost savings of the Sig IIa SE vs Master is more significant when you add in the 6-tube phono stage to each unit (28K vs. 40K), which is a beyond excellent stage - VAC’s tube MM phono sounds particularly amazing (add your choice of SUT for MC or use its built-in Lundahls), so as full function preamps their sound is hard to match or beat at any price.

The fact that the Signature preamp still lives in "IIa SE" form (first the "II" then "a" then "SE" upgrades) also gives past Signature customers an upgrade path.

I only use one source on my Master - vinyl. I have no use for the HT bypass; in fact that once got accidentally engaged and it took me an hour to figure out why there was no sound.