Balanced Audio Technology VK-500 Amplifiers

4.66/5 (29 Reviews) MSRP : $5000.00


Product Description

250 watts


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User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by David Hall a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: February 1, 2014

Bottom Line:   
How to sum up a solid-state amplifier in one word? Hmm. How about "perfect." Or at least aars perfect as any SS amp under $15,000.00 could hope to be. Mine has the popular "Bat Pak" upgrade, so I am not able to speak to the standard model, although I've heard it is spectacular also. Long ago, in my early listening years, I used to doubt that an amplifier (especially solid-state) could make much difference given good source material and a good front end. Experience taught me I was wrong. I did not know how wrong until I obtained this amp. Wow. I have owned many high-end SS amps, and one good tube integrated. Never, and I mean never, have I heard such a natural reproduction of music. This amp produces great bass when the source material contains bass, beautiful, crystalline highs without any grain or glare whatever, and a midrange to die for. No coloration. None. No compromises. No deficiencies. Just truly incredible (and in my experience) unparalleled sound. I now regret the ill thoughts I've had about the reviewers in the high-end magazines that conjured up all manner of prose, metaphor, analogy and every other form of flowery language to describe the sound of high-end products. Now I understand. Truly breathtaking. If you can find one of these amps for less than $2,000.00 jump on it. Run, don't walk, to the seller. You will never regret it. Once again, wow.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2002



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by ScreamingEagle a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: August 13, 2011

Bottom Line:   
Bat VK 500
Purchased February 2006:
Price Paid $1750.00 New $5000.00

This was dealer trade in that I bought to replace a pair of VTL 450 Signature Mono-block Tube Amplifiers Even though, switching these highly regarded Mono-Blocks for a vanilla VK-500 (Mine does not have the BatPacK) would be considered a step backwards. However, I could not be happier, the VK-500 retains 90 percent of the VTL”s sound quality, without the hassle and expense of maintaining the tubes. Which for me was around $360.00 every 3 years, I have been using this amplifier for 5 ½ years now the only thing I had to do to it, was replace a $1.04 fuse and blow the dust out of it, every so often. Unlike the VTL, which would blow fuses and capacitors right and left when one of its tubes would start to fail. This is not a failing of the amplifier itself, but the fact that finding 16 good quality tubes in this day and age is a challenge. When you did find a good batch the VTL ran trouble free.

Having a love for the sound of Tubes I wanted my replacement Solid State amplifier to have a “tube like” sound. I looked at a number of different products, Classe, McIntosh, Theta, Krell, Bryston, and Electrocompaniet, to name but a few. What I found is that well executed Solid State designs sound similar to Tubes, and a good Tube design will have some of the personality of a Solid State amp.
I had a difficult time coming to a decision. Liking almost everything I auditioned, nevertheless I always went back to the BAT dealer for a listen to the VK-500. I guess what struck me about it was, one of my Audio buddies commented that the VTL-450 I purchased sounded like the VK-500 we just listened to. But alas at the time I had to have a “Tube amp” and went ahead and got the VTL, which I enjoyed for 5 years. Even so, I never forgot that he compared the sound of a big "Tube" amp to being like this "Solid State" one.

The characteristics of the BAT are a warm, natural, laid back sound, which is punchy and highly accurate. Their Goal is to have both their Solid State and Tube offerings sound the same. With VK-500 they have achieved this goal. It is not quite a VK-150 but you can definitely tell it’s a BAT.
Of course the sound of my old VTL was a bit sunnier. The MB-450’s did a better job with vocals, that being said, the BAT will still put Carly Simon right in your lap. I just don’t feel the moisture of her breath the same way I did with the VTL’s. Even so, it is more accurate than the VTL, giving me tighter bass and a more detailed sound stage.

The biggest thing I like about this is amp its inky black noise floor. Even with volume past half way there is no hum coming from my speakers. This why I think some folks will say that the VK-500 has a “Darkish” quality. On this, I would disagree. I have not found mine to be dark at all. I have found it to be unflinchingly “neutral”. BAT is a company that tries it best to stay out of the way of the music, much like McIntosh amplifiers do. However, they are still warm and contain much of the velvetiness of their tube counterparts; that warmth is the difference between these and a McIntosh. Which for me, is the gold standards of neutrality. My suspicion is this unexpected neutrality from the BAT amplifiers combined with it low noise floor takes some folks aback. These definitely are not sunny like a Bryston.

On Instrumentals, Rock, Jazz, and Orchestral pieces the BAT really outshine the VTL’ s. Seemingly, to be in more control of my speakers. The MB-450’s come close but I hear a lot more inner detail and dynamics from the VK-500. While the VTLs would startle me at times into thinking that someone was in the room. The BAT will also startle me by producing the powerful slam of a drum or organ pedal note that I never heard before. Almost as if I am in the middle of the concert hall, which is what a Hi End Amplifier should do.

Pluses:
1. Since this is an older generation product this amplifier can be purchased well below the original price.
2. Even without the BAT-PacK it has tremendous reserves a clean power and is able to drive almost any speaker to volume without strain. I have never heard this amp clip once, even with bass heavy recording at live volume.
3. Extremely reliable, plus BAT has great technicians who offer wonderful support.
4. Offers portion of having your cake and eating it too, the slam and control of Solid State, and the warmth and lushness of Tubes. Not quite a Tube amp but mighty close.

Considerations
1. According to the website the only upgrade path available for the VK-500 is to convert it to a VK-1000.
2. They are big and heavy, so watch your back.
3. Like big block tube amplifier they need lots of clean power. Separate isolated 20 amp circuits are recommended.
4. Limited amount of local dealers forcing you to go to BAT directly for support. (This I do not understand. In my area we had 3 Dealers now all of them stopped carrying the brand. What was relayed to me is that the National Sales Rep is extremely difficult to deal with, thus they found carrying the product more of a hassle than it’s worth. I do not know if this is sour grapes or not but I have heard this comment from many sources. It is my hope that BAT will get someone else and stop alienating those that want to sell their product.)

Associated Equipment
VK-32se preamp with VK-Pi phono
VK-5 SE CD
Marantz SA-11s2 SACD
SOTA Sapphire TT
Kimber Cable Hero Interconnects
Kimber 8tc speaker cable
Thiel 3.6 Speakers



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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2000



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by jng92130 a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: April 4, 2008

Bottom Line:   

The VK-500 is in absolute terms one of the very best amps I've ever heard and owned. It's ever so slightly warmer than my Classe CA-2200, a paragon of linearity and neutrality, but only to the degree that it has character rather than color. It's an enormous brute, a true dual-mono design; moving it, all 106 lbs of hulking steel is exhilarating, terrifying, and exhausting.

But the sound... after an hour or warm-up you will forget how much it weights, the waves of heat it produces at idle, its intimidating appearance... and hear Perfection. I could certainly have spent more (and more, and more) on interconnects and speakers and source and preamp and on and on and heard even better sound, but the addition of the VK-500 to my system made more difference than any other component had made.

Bass is bottomless and limitless. Highs are extended and sweet, gentle and detailed. Mids are warm (though not overly so) and inviting. And it all comes together in a remarkable aural experience. The VK-500 is an amp of virtually unlimited power, and will obey whatever command you issue.; it is like the genie that grants any wish. You sometimes have to be careful what you ask for (e.g. earsplitting, house-shaking, neighbor-angering loudness), as the 500 will deliver precisely that and do so without apparent effort.

I had to sell mine to pay bills. I miss it and hope to have another someday.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2001

Price Paid:    $2500.00

Purchased At:   audiogon



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by levir a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: February 17, 2006

Bottom Line:   
This is the most musical amplifier I have owned to date! The BAT VK-500 bettered my VK-200 all across the entire frequency range. It can show plenty of nuance in the recording. You will be suprised how natural sounding this amplifier is. You need to do is listen.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2001



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by ednevis a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: May 3, 2002

Bottom Line:   
This is a first class amplifier that demands good source and speakers to reveal their best. I only recently replaced a pair of Sonus Faber Grand Piano Home with a pair of Audio Physic Virgo III, and what a world of a difference. It almost seems that the potential of the amp is flowing thru the Virgo III's.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $8000.00

Purchased At:   Audio Suite, Singapo




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