Sutherland KC Vibe Mk2 Phonostage
Everything you love about the KC Vibe in a smaller footprint with extra power supply filtering and some circuit improvements. The review below pertains to the original but is still applicable
Kansas City has a great history of artistic contributions. Walt Disney had his first studio here. The KC jazz scene is legendary. The barbecue is unmatched. Sports, too. The historic - and still going strongly - 18th and Vine district has been a cradle for jazz. Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Jay McShan and many more. Here there is an ethos that encourages having a dream and the stubborn confidence to take it on. There is a midwestern value of doing something well. With a straight forward, unassuming manner. Do it with care and focused concern.
There are many choices for today's buyer. Take a deeper look at provenance and the underlying values behind the equipment. When you find a like-minded resonance, you can buy with confidence of long term enjoyment.
Building on a Great Original
In Sutherland's assembly area, there are 100's of parts bins that hold the individual components for all of their products. All carefully selected, over the years, for solid performance and proven reliability. Of course, many of the components find their way into more than one model.
Most everything in the KC VIBE comes from that SAME stock of premium parts. They only had to add 5 new parts bins to build the KC VIBE circuit boards!
- 2 new values of polypropylene film capacitors (but still Wima brand, imported from Germany)
- 1 new value of electrolytic capacitor (premium, high reliability, very low impedance)
- 2 new op amps (both audio specialized Burr-Brown)
- Printed circuit board (same supplier and specs as more expensive models)
- Metal work – cover and base (Same supplier and specs as more expensive models)
The Power Supply Challenge
It is a well-accepted premise that high-end audio performance requires exceptionally good power supply design and execution. Energy from the power supply is the foundation for constructing the output signal. All too often, you will find cost-cutting compromises that undercut any possibility for fulfillment. Those commonly used outboard (the pejorative would be 'wall wart') power supplies are a good example. Their limited power, limited filtering, limited regulation, limited output voltage, and limited quality suggest limitation in delivering the required, quality power foundation.
The worst bad choice is a low output voltage. Many have outputs of 12 volts, maybe 24 volts. It is too little or, at best, leaves no margin for filtering or regulation. A good audio circuit would need at least 24 volts AFTER regulation/filtering. There is no excess capacity to insert an effective filtering function. Performance is already compromised, no matter how good the audio circuit may be.
The 48 Volt Advantage
The KC VIBE uses a 48 volt outboard power supply, providing a very good power foundation for the audio circuit. Limited power: fixed. The 18-watt power supply is loafing to meet the 2 watt power requirement. Limited filtering: fixed. Filtering is no longer determined by the external power supply. Within the KC VIBE, an extensive, passive RC filtering network completely removes any incoming residue. Completely isolating the audio circuitry from both the AC power line and outboard power supply. Limited output voltage: fixed. The 48-volt source gives a huge margin for extensive filtering and isolation. A full 30 volts of quiet, clean voltage is available for the audio circuits. Limited quality: fixed. The KC VIBE power supply is rated for over 500,000 hours MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures). In accordance with Military Spec MIL-HDBK-217.
The 48-volt power supply gives plenty of room for effective filtering, isolation and regulation. The audio circuit gets the voltage and power quality it needs for performance.
Gain settings: 40, 45, 50, 55 or 60 dB
Loading: 100, 200, 475, 1k or 47kOhms
Power requirements: 86 to 260 V AC, 2 W, Universal (No adjustment required)
Size (WHD): 6.5" x 2.5" x 12"
Weight: 6 lb