Balanced Audio Technology VK-56SE power amplifier $8495 Review

June 5, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“The BAT VK-56SE had a fine talent for pumping bass out of Harbeth’s M30.2s, but no one would mistake it for a solid-state amp. With the M30.2s, the VK-56SE’s midrange was exceedingly lush and overtly textured. But with Harbeth’s smaller P3ESR speakers it sounded distinctly not lush. Driving the mini-Harbeths, the BAT sounded more precisely focused, more like solid-state. Consequently, it made the P3ESRs “disappear” even more than they usually do. Björk’s Gling-Gló was depicted with a surprising, bright clarity and a breathy, wide-open effortlessness. The soundstage was big in every direction. Björk was now better described and easier to “see.” I noticed less electronic-ness in the space between her and her voice mike. In my room, the BAT amp sounded its absolute best with the little Harbeth P3ESRs. But . . .

When I removed the VK-56SE and connected the P3ESRs to First Watt’s astute, 25Wpc SIT-3 solid-state amplifier ($4000), which I reviewed in February 2019, I noticed, first, a slight loss in apparent woofer grip, which I perceived as a reduction in image contrast. Punch and drive were also reduced. However, these losses were accompanied by a radical increase in the density of small-scale information. The SIT-3 made trumpets, drums, guitars, and human voices sound more complex—more fully expressed, and microscopically textured. Both amplifiers sounded extremely good with the extremely good Harbeth P3ESRs, but I think I favored the BAT’s extra oomph and push.




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