Virtue Sensation M451 Owner`s manual

Owners Manual
M451/ M901
Reference-grade Integrated Amplifier
Manual Version 1.1, September 2010
Purchased from Dealer:
Serial Number:
Purchase Date:
Invoice Number:
Virtue Sensation Owner’s Manual
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We started Virtue in 2005 with the dream of bringing the sensory experience of the high-end audio to
the masses. Welcome to our family! If you’re already an audiophile, you know already that this
amplifier is one of the best sounding, highest value audio products ever made. If you simply like
listening to good music, we hope to help you appreciate of accurate sound reproduction and museumcaliber build quality. When you do, you’ll be an audiophile.
Virtue is a principle-driven company. Here are some of the rules we live by:
Life is too short for bad audio. Make audio lovers audiophiles.
If it’s not overbuilt, it can be made better. Overbuild.
Provide a transporting sensory experience through sight, touch, and sound.
Make a product too attractive to be hidden in a cabinet.
Build it no bigger than it needs to be, but no smaller.
Make sure that ten is “loud enough” but go all the way to eleven regardless.
Establish Virtue as the highest value brand in the industry.
Provide a completely satisfying buying experience.
Live up to the Virtue name in every product and every way, every day.
We hope that you get a lifetime of enjoyment from your Virtue Sensation amplifier. Let this guide show
you how. We’ll cover:
What’s in the box
Setting up your amplifier
Tweaks & Tips
Do’s & Don’ts
If, after reading through this manual, you are have any questions whatsoever about the Sensation,
please submit feedback on our website. Go to, click on “Us” and submit your
question in the message form. Please be sure to specify “Product Question” or “Product Issue”.
To contact us directly, you can also send and e-mail to or call 1-877VIRT-YOU (877-847-8968) and leave a message. We’ll call you back!
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What’s in the Box
Inside the box you will find:
1. Remote control (top foam)
2. Sensation amplifier (inside)
3. Power supply and cord (bottom foam)
4. Power supply adapter
5. Volume Knobs
Box: Sensation will arrive double-boxed.
Sensation should be nicely cushioned inside.
Remote: The remote control unit will be on the top
of the box. The black plastic unit (standard) is
shown here.
Power Supply: Below the amplifier, you will find
one switching power supply (either the standard
24v or the upgraded 30v, if so ordered).
Power Supply Adapter: 4-pin to bullet adapter
to mate with bullet supplies (center pin positive)
Volume Knob: The chrome/steel volume knob is
packed separately to avoid damaging either the
knob or the potentiometer shaft during shipping
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Setting up your amplifier
We carefully box the Sensation to protect it during long-distance shipping. Here are the steps required
to get going.
1. Adjust feet and attach the volume knob
2. Connect the signal cables and speakers
3. Plug in unit
4. Turn on!
Adjust the feet and attach the volume knob
Rotate the feet to make sure that the unit is level on the installation
surface. Simply press the Volume knob onto the potentiometer shaft,
aligning the “D” hole in the knob with the slot in the “D” shaft.
Connect signal cables and speakers
Sensation is a full featured integrated amplifier and hook up is like most other units with which you are
probably familiar.
RCA Inputs: There are three RCA line level signal inputs for three sources, switchable on the front of
the unit or by the included remote. Connect your audio sources (CD/DVD player, DAC, MP3 player,
tuner, TV audio, turntable) to the L/R RCA inputs.
Speaker Propeller PostTM: Attach your speaker wire to Virtue’s cleverly designed Propeller PostTM
binding posts. They support banana plugs, bare wire or spades. Check connections after a week to
ensure they remained tight. If snug, they should remain that way.
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Banana plugs, the most convenient option, are inserted in the back of the Propeller PostTM
Spades are slid over the binding post shaft, behind the post collar, and the Propeller PostTM can
then be tightened.
Bare wire can be wrapped around the post or inserted through the rear hole and tightened.
You may connect speakers with an impedance of anywhere from 2 ohms to 16 ohms, without problem.
Low impedances may cause the amp to shut down; higher impedances may not have optimum
frequency response. But, you’ll be fine with the vast majority of speakers on the market. Running the
amp without speakers will not harm it.
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Mono Subwoofer Out: The mono subwoofer line level output allows you to attach a powered
subwoofer amplifier to the Sensation. Use the provided sub output connection instead of
connecting the Sensation’s high-level speaker outputs to your subwoofer high-level inputs as
this will bridge the Sensation’s speaker outputs and destroy your amp.
WARNING: Do NOT connect the high-level speaker outputs to your subwoofer inputs and use the
subwoofer to crossover the high and low frequencies. With Tripath amps such as this one, there is a
decent chance that your subwoofer amplifier will bridge the amp’s speaker outputs, blowing up your
Virtue amp.
Stereo Pre-outs: Sensation’s excellent preamp stage can be used as you would a stand-alone preamp,
to drive an external amplifier. Connect the L/R stereo RCA pre-outs, which output a full range signal, to
your other amplifier. We don’t know why in the world one might do this, but it’s possible. If your
Sensation is equipped with the optional Dodd Buffer, you might like to know that the buffer is part of the
preamp signal path.
Connecting Power Supply and Cables
Sensation is shipped with a standard 24v switching power supply or an upgraded 30v switching power
supply. If using another brand power supply, it must not exceed 30v.
Connecting the Power Supply: Make sure the amplifier power switch in the back is in the “off” position.
1. Connect the power brick to its separate power cable
2. Connect the power supply cable to Sensation (use the 4-pin to bullet adapter if needed,
depending on supply)
3. Plug the power cable into the wall outlet or your power conditioner outlet
If Connecting Batteries: Make sure the amplifier power switch in the back is “off”. Connect your
batteries as directed by the manufacturer and then connect the power source to the back of the
Sensation. Use the included 4-pin to bullet adapter if necessary. Please see for
recommended battery options. There is a misprint on the enclosure (it says 39v). The max input
voltage is 30v on Sensation. Do NOT exceed 30v.
Turning On the Amplifier
Sensation has two power switches: a main, manual rocker switch on the back and; a power button on
the front (which can also be controlled by remote).
The way the soft-start is configured, it is best to put the unit into stand-by before shutting it down with
the master power switch or unplugging the power supply. If you mess up, just make sure to wait around
90 seconds before trying to power Sensation back on.
Proper Power On Procedure:
1. Turn on rear power rocker switch on the back of Sensation
a. At this time you will notice the Protection and Standby LEDs will come on, testing the
power input to make sure it is safe before the amplifier can be turned on
2. Wait briefly for the standby circuit to “click” and charge up
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a. After about 3 seconds, Protection LED will go from yellow, to red, to off and Standby
LED will stay on
3. Turn on the front power switch on Sensation or by remote
a. Red Standby will go off, Blue “On” LED will come on
Turning Off the Amplifier
In most cases you only need to turn off the front power button in daily use and enjoyment to keep your
Sensation in standby mode. This way it will be ready to play when you are ready to listen. However, if
you need to fully power down Sensation and the power supply in order to change connections or make
any internal adjustments or tube swaps (if you’re one of those lucky dogs with the Dodd Buffer) then
you MUST follow the full power down procedure below.
You should fully power down your Sensation amplifier and the power supply to:
• Take off the top and look inside Sensation to see the Special Sauce
• Change tops, sides or any other exterior structural changes
• Make internal adjustments to the jumpers, caps, tube and other doohickies inside
• Change speakers or inputs
• Switch the Dodd Tube Buffer on or off
• Switch between power supplies and/or batteries
• Protect Sensation from power outage during storms
• Just don’t want the power supply or battery on
Full Power Down Sequence
1. Turn off front power button (or turn off by remote)
2. Turn off rear power rocker switch
3. Unplug the power supply from the back of Sensation
Please do NOT rapidly turn on and off the unit. If Sensation goes into protection mode, turn off the
master power switch and wait 90 seconds for Sensation to reset.
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What’s Inside
Here is an annotated picture of the inside of Sensation.
Tweaks and Tips
Removing the Top
Sensation is easy to open up for customization, tube rolling (with optional Dodd Buffer) or just to peek.
1. Follow full power down sequence to fully turn off Sensation and its power supply
2. Unplug unit
3. With allen wrench, loosen and remove screws on the back holding the rails in place
4. Slide top back
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Setting 80hz High-Pass Filter
Sensation outputs a full range signal to your speakers. If you would like to filter the lower frequencies
below 80hz, which you might choose to do if running a subwoofer, simply move the jumpers.
Power Supplies & Batteries
Sensation ships with a standard 24v, 65w regulated power supply. It’s nice and perfectly serviceable
but an upgraded supply will help Sensation show its true colors. Our 30v, 130w regulated supply is a
huge upgrade and well worth your consideration.
Many customers rave about battery power supplies with Sensation. With high-sensitivity speakers, a
battery power supply easily exceeds the performance of all other power supplies offered for this amp.
The noise floor drops to nothing. Detail levels are greatly improved. The vocal region is smoother and
more relaxed. Sound stage and imaging are also improved. However, some customers do not prefer
the “tightness” of batteries and will prefer an upgraded regulated power supply. Check our website for
several regulated and battery power supply options at
Cabinet Resonance
Placing 1” hobby magnets on the green, interior parts of the inside of the case may help reduce any
cabinet resonances you encounter. Some customers may choose to remove the feet and place the unit
on a wooden block or granite. The different materials will reduce resonances.
Charge Batteries
Sensation is so sweet with batteries, but be sure they are charged up. You may experience odd
squealing sounds from almost dead battery supplies.
Phase Issues
Sensation is in phase. The main output to the speakers from Sensation is phase correct. The mono
subwoofer out is phase inverted.
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Using as a Power Amplifier
Turning the dial all the way up to maximum volume has the same effect as jumpering out the volume
POT. The POT cannot be completely jumpered out on Sensation as it can on the ONE.2 and TWO.2
Dodd Tube Buffer Option
We are delighted to be able to offer the finest buffer made today as an optional upgrade to the
Sensation’s preamp stage. This stage “buffers” the impedance from the source to the amplifier so as to
present a “friendlier” impendence to the speakers. It essentially sorts out impedance mismatches that
prevent the amplifier from efficiently transferring power, which would otherwise degrade the sound.
Most folks agree this results in a fuller, more lively sound that is also cleaner. You don’t need to crank
up the volume to enjoy the benefits of the buffer.
The buffer is a proprietary potted circuit – don’t ask what’s inside. It is the quietest and most musical
that we have ever heard.
The Dodd Buffer in Sensation can be switched on or off from inside the unit (but only do so when it is
fully turned off and unplugged or else you may hear crackles and pops in your speakers).
The upgrade is shipped with an excellent JJ 12-AXJ tube that sounds perfectly swell to many of us. But,
you can roll just about any 12v tube that fits. Here are some of the ones we’ve tried (no guarantees):
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There are often lively discussions on our forum about which tubes sound better. Join
Sensation is a marvelous piece of equipment designed and manufactured over the course of several
years by a boutique audio company (ours). However, it is not perfect and we know of several quirks
that you may find annoying.
“Rustling” sound when changing the volume
There is a strange sound of leaves softly rustling when the volume is changed. We did not catch this
issue until recently and it cannot be fixed without a total redesign. This is and remains a “known issue”
with Sensation. When the POT is not “in motion” the sound disappears completely. We’re sorry about
Heavy volume knob issues
We chose to create a heavy (and expensive) chromed steel volume knob. This knob cannot be
shipped with the unit without causing damage, which explains why you must attach it yourself. It is
secured with friction only and if you wish to fasten it more tightly please use plumbers tape or a small
amount of super-glue (so the seal can be broken if necessary for re-shipment). If your knob falls off
and dents or the POT shaft bends, contact us and we will send you replacement parts. In the future,
we will make knobs from aluminum not steel.
Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t burn in Sensation with heavy metal music. Sensation is destructible and if you just love playing
heavy metal music at full blast, return the amp for a full refund before you blow it up.
Don’t repetitively switch the front or rear power buttons on and off.
Don’t freak out if Sensation goes into protection mode if you accidentally switch it off in the wrong
order. Just wait about 90 seconds and restart in proper order.
Do allow 100+ hours for Sensation to fully burn in with use.
Do make sure Sensation is fully off and disconnected from the power supply before changing any input
or speaker connections or making any internal changes to the unit.
Do use a phono preamp to use a turntable with Sensation.
Do contact us if you have any questions.
Do join us on our Virtue forum at
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Issue: “Hum coming through speakers.”
Recommendation: Especially on units with the Dodd Audio tube buffer, humming is caused by
transformer interference. If a nearby piece of equipment has a large transformer in it (could be the JT
supply or Piano CD-player), consider moving it 6” or more away from Sensation. With Piano, the
transformer is on the left side and on Sensation, the Dodd tube buffer is on the right side. Placing
Sensation to the right of Piano is sufficient to eliminate hum emanating from the Piano transformer.
Issue: “Hiss coming through speakers.”
Recommendation: The Tripath technology we use does not reject hiss from the power stage and is not
completely quiet. Most hiss is related to power supply issues and with the Dodd Tube Buffer, tubes
especially new ones. Burning in the unit properly, changing tubes, and using battery supplies are the
best strategies for reducing hiss. If you are still unsatisfied, please consider returning your unit within
the warranty period.
Issue: “I hear a big “thump” when I switch the tube buffer on and off with the unit on.”
Recommendation: Don’t do that! Sensation should be completely off and unplugged before switching
the buffer or swapping out the tube.
Issue: “I understand the tube buffer stays on as long as the main power switch on the back is
on. I’m worried the tube will burn out prematurely if I don’t fully turn Sensation off after
Recommendation: The JJ tube included with the Dodd Tube Buffer option is guaranteed to last 5 years
under regular use (and is rather inexpensive to replace). Gary Dodd says we’ll all be petrified before the
tube fails in this usage. Just leave it on and enjoy until petrification sets in.
Issue: “Sensation shuts down and the yellow lights come on when I turn it on.”
Recommendation: Use the master rocker switch to shut down Sensation and wait 90 seconds before
turning it on again. Then follow the power on sequence explained above.
Issue: “Sensation feels very warm to the touch.”
Recommendation: Virtue amplifiers tend to run warmer than other Tripath-based amps. Our innovative
heat sink system includes a heat pipe connected to the substantial metal case, which dissipates heat. If
Sensation feels warm to the touch, it means this system is working correctly by transferring the heat
away from the chip and onto the metal where it will radiate. On equipped units, the Dodd Tube Buffer
does not emit substantial heat.
Issue: “I hear a slight fluttering sound heard when changing volume.”
Recommendation: A few customers have reported a faint “swoosh” or “flutter” sound when the volume
knob is in motion, more noticeable with high efficiency speakers. This does not occur when the volume
is set and music is playing. This is a known issue that cannot be fixed. Your amplifier is not defective if
you hear this sound.
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Issue: “When Sensation is on standby (with the front power button off but the rear switch on) I
notice the yellow protection light comes on when I turn the volume knob.”
Recommendation: While this is an oddity, it is fully protected while in standby mode and the light does
not represent a danger to the amp. Feel free to turn the volume knob down if this occasional light
concerns you.
Issue: “Aaaaeeeeeiiiiii! There’s a horrible high pitched squeal from my battery-powered
Recommendation: Follow proper shut down procedure and recharge the batteries. This can happen
when some battery sources are extremely low on power. A full recharge should fix the issue.
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Sensation Specifications
Max DC voltage
Input impedance
Min speaker impedance
Max speaker impedance
Total harmonic distortion (THD)
Power consumption
Dimensions (no columns)
Dimensions (with columns)
30v, 87wpc @ 4ohms
Around 85%
50K ohms
2 ohms
20 ohms
<0.1% @ 87wpc
Between 300mA (idle) and 7A (maximum output)
270mm (W) x 240.5mm (D) x 103.5mm (H)
290mm (W) x 240.5mm (D) x 109.5mm (H)
Around 15 lbs
Power vs. Distortion @ 30v, 4 ohms load
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Power vs. Distortion @ 30v, 8 ohms load
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Frequency Response
Virtue Audio products are guaranteed to be free of defects for 2 years from the time of purchase. If you
experience what you consider a defect, please visit the “Contact Us” section of the Virtue Audio website
and submit a message with the type “Product Issue”. We reply to requests within 24-48 hours. If you
did not purchase the product from Virtue Audio directly, you may also contact the seller who may be
able to help you faster and easier. Warranties are technically non-transferrable but we do try to live up
to our name every day so if you are a second owner and you haven’t mishandled or blow-torched the
amp in shipping, we will make every effort to fix problems.
We keep a stock of replacement parts such as blue LEDs, power switches, and volume POTs. In some
situations, it may be faster and easier for you the customer to perform the repair than to send your unit
back to the dealer or Virtue in the USA. We will discuss opportunities for self-service on a case-bycase basis.
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Virtue Audio® as well as WIHIFI™, Better Sound by Design™, Built for You™, EcoAudio™, We make
audio lovers audiophiles™, Sensation Amplifier™, Virtue Amplifier™ are protected trade-marks of
Virtue, LLC. If you suspect that another company is infringing on our trademark rights, we would be
most appreciative of your contacting us at
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