Balanced Audio Technology VK-30 Preamplifiers

VK-30

tube linestage pre-amp; phono card optional

User Reviews (15)

Showing 1-10 of 15  
brutusse   Audio Enthusiast [Mar 29, 2002]
Strength:

The size of the soundstage. The price, a giant killer.

Weakness:

The bas could be more dynamic.

In Europe BAT is a little bit more expensive than in the USA, but compared to other high end products from the USA sold in Europe it is fair priced. I have always bought my amplifiers second hand and after long time search I managed to find a BAT VK30 secondhand. I have never had a tube preamp in my system before which consist of a pair of Krell 350M, Teac P30 drive, Meridian 563 converter (upgraded to 24 bit), Meridian 518, Clearaudio basic 2, Mitchell Gyrodeck (modified), Audiolab RIAA, and a pair of homebuild speakers with Thiel treble and midrange and a TC Sound bas. The thiel elements are very detailed and dynamic, but all the preamps I have previously tried sounded a bit hard, so decided to try a Tube preamp. I have tried a ML26 and a Krell KRC2 but they sounded to hard on my speakers, and only very good recorded LP''s or CD''s which was leaning towards the warm, was sounding resonable. After adding the VK30 to my system it suddenly sounded of music, and a lot of old recordings which sounded terrible with my other preamps was suddenly listenable. The Bat VK30 might not be the most detailed or dynamic preamp, but my speakers has it all, so I think I have enough of everything. Also like mentioned on other reviews it is a little bit colourful in the lower midrange. What is exceptionel with the BATVK30 is the wide and high soundstage, when you listen to it you listen to music, not Hi-Fi. Another thing which I find excellent with the BAT is that it is upgradeable, and the upgrade price to a VK30SE is more or less the same as the price difference between the two.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Rafe   an Audio Enthusiast [Feb 09, 1999]

I have to pretty much agree with the two earlier reviews. This is a wonderfully musical preamp that is a pleasure to listen to. Transparent and detailed. A bargain at the price! 5 stars for value and 5 stars for performance!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
David   Audiophile [Oct 22, 2000]
Strength:

Clean and honest presentation, fantastic build quality and flexibility in system setup and connectivity, attractive, superb remote, quietest tube product I've yet owned.

Weakness:

Sensitive to isolation due to ringing chassis; one distinct coloration mars an otherwise outstanding product.

For the money, this is an outstanding linestage, and in some ways, it is very good no matter the cost. The build quality and aesthetics are top-notch. User support thanks to Victor's presence on the web is among the best in the High End. The user friendliness and flexibility of this linestage is, IME and with the exception of the Levinsons, the best on the market. Single-ended and balanced inputs and outputs, complete programmability of each input for phase, gain, etc..., you can even name each input with up to 4 alphanumeric characters (don't snicker--if you do a lot of gear swapping, this can be a real convenience). Ditto for that gain option--you can match (with +/- 0.25dB accuracy) the gain for each input, for repeatable volume settings across sources, an absolute necessity when auditioning source components. With this feature, you can even seamlessly integrate a surround-sound processor into your 2-channel system, for the best of both worlds. And the remote control, though pricey, is terrific! Beefy aluminum, full-functioned, and easy to use; this is no volume-only remote like the Cary, or a flimsy plastic job like the ARC. Just super!

OK, there have to be some negatives, otherwise I wouldn't have sold it (after 6 months ownership) for something better; at twice the price I might add. The most serious flaw of this linestage is a distinct coloration, noted below by another reviewer, consisting of a chestiness in the lower midrange that does not go away no matter how you tweak the unit or which tubes you use. For some, this coloration might not be bothersome or even noticeable. But as my system is quite neutral in other regards, and my favorite type of music (female torch and ballad singers) are zeroed in right on this range of the frequency spectrum, the chestiness is just too much of a flaw to live with and I have moved on. I will note that tube choices in place of the stock Sovtek 6922s can ameliorate this chestiness to a certain degree (Siemens 7308s and Mullard CV2493s are particularly good). Also, like the Atma-Sphere preamp, there is a definite chassis ringing that contributes to the coloration I heard; try taking the chassis cover off, the VK-30 definitely sounds better "naked"! I could discern no improvements to the VK-30's performance with isolation footers, aftermarket power cords, or power line conditioners (PP300 was tried). Since all of BAT's products feature beefy power supplies and line filters, this insensitivity to power tweaks is perhaps unsurprising.

So, what's the big picture view? In its price range, this is a very good linestage, and with its many advantages, is a must-audition product. If one can live with, or better yet, not notice the chestiness I refer to, then I think the VK-30 may be just the ticket. I should note that I was able to compare the VK-30 to a VK-30SE, and frankly, I found the differences to be minor. YMMV.

Similar Products Used: Atma-Sphere, ARC, Cary, Lamm, Levinson, Rowland, Thor
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Michael   Audiophile [Sep 22, 2000]
Strength:

Great volume/switching controls/flexibility. Fantastic tone, smooth, dimensional

Weakness:

none

Let me start by saying that crank commentators like the Miller guy below do all of us a disservice and demean this site...

With that out of the way, this is a great control "system". Clearly unmatched in terms of thoughtful design as a control interface. Built like a tank. Open the case and you'll be amazed at the parts quality and architecture. Thick and artful faceplate that exudes class.

The sound is truly special. I've lived with this preamp for 2 years and I love it even more than when I first got it. It's sonic signature is all the holography of tubes without any rolloff at either the top or bottom. Paired with the VK-200 amp, it's a perfect marriage. (See below, plus my BAT VK-200 posting under amps.)

Voice is absolutely wonderful. My wife and I have a wonderful musician friend named David Grover; he's a longtime performer with Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger. Now he does the most heartfelt children's music in the world - www.davidgrover.com (he even wrote a song for our daughter's baptism.) Well, we see David and his band perform live all the time as he lives near us in the Berkshires (MA). I know his voice (and his bandmates Terry and Kathy) in my head like none other.

When I play Grover CDs it's like they are THERE. (They don't know that they're replicated in our home whenever the kids want them.) Holography.

Female vocals are as easily "to die for". Holly Cole, Diana Krall, Carly Simon, Patricia Barber, (and Kathy Joe Barrett from the Grover ensemble) - THERE.

The match with the VK-200 is really special. As a system they reproduce instruments with incredible realism. The emotionality of the music is pure. Hard to tell which component is doing what tonally and dimensionally. The answer is both.

Now I feel better that I offset the crank below. And Victor Khomenko (and his partners) are a class act - all the more reason to encourage and support their company. Keep up the great work!

Similar Products Used: Conrad Johnson, Ayre
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Robert   an Audiophile [Jul 08, 1999]

It is an absolute thrill to give a positive review for such a product as the VK-30 tube preamp. The preamp presents a very musical and pleasant presentation with any and all music via CD, Record, Tape and Tuner. The transient response leans toward the warm, slightly less dynamic compared to the high end solid state designs, but presents a very easy listening, non-tiring, musically great time, no doubt due to the oil filled coupling caps, added a poly shunt to speed things a tad in the upper frequency response. Recommend using a great design class A FET designed amplifier with the dynamics and faster transient response to compliment the more laid back sound of the tubes. The BAT 200 or the Monarchy SE100 deluxe makes an excellent match. One can get spoiled with the remote, flexibility and ease of use. The optional phono board is recommended with its additional load resistors, and gain selectivity. In all my audio years of experience this preamp brings total joy of any component and the contribution to the musical experience is breathtaking. The sum total of design, components, dual mono operation with large supply reserve and of course balanced output with the Sovtek 6922's all make this a wonderful experience. Most highly recommended and a well spent investment. One should still consider a well design control center for all your audio applications, period!!! Why settle for a CD only source, when the usage is still needed for Records, Tapes and CD's etc. One gets tired of connecting and reconnecting audio components, I would rather enjoy the music!!!!!!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Greg   an Audio Enthusiast [Jan 29, 1999]

I too just recently purchased this preamp from the '99 CES show. The previous review provides highlights that I won't repeat here. I do believe the reviewer neglected to meantion that although there are no volume presets available, each input can be programmed to its own pre-set volume level. The other thing I'd like to point out is that the VK-30 has more in common with the former VK-5i than the current VK-3i. According to Steve Bednarski of BAT, the reason the 5i was discontinued was because BAT decided to integrate the dual power transformers of the 5i into the VK-30 which carries over six 6922 tubes, but instead has a solid state power supply. The former 5i utilized 6922s and 5881s in power supply management, and voltage regulation functions. The new VK-30s 6922s are released from this taxing requirement and thus are free to blossom in their own right. BAT believes they've developed the most friendly user interface remote on the market. I could not argue with that. I owned the former VK-5i and feel the current VK-30 is a superior preamp sonically and functionally. My unit came with a factory optional remote and phono card. The phono stage is excellent and more than sufficient for the average occasional vinyl user. The new BLUE light treatment is a welcome addition over the strain caused by the former RED L.E.D.
Overall, I would give this preamp high praise indeed, and have no qualms about predicting that it shall as its predecessor be a shoe-in for a '99 Stereophile A rating in its first year of production. Beyond that, it will more than likely become extremely popular due to its performance vs. price. BATs owner suggested he believes it to be a better sounding unit than the former 5i. My first impressions concur with his assessment. It is not often that a manufactuer lowers the price of a component $1500, includes user friendly ad-ons, and provides better performance to boot! BAT obviously is out to win over high end audio users everywhere.

The VK-30 is a keeper, and a downright bargain base-priced at $3000. I happened to pick up this loaded show demo for ($4000) $2400, as it was a no brainer. I've got the unit matched with a Plinius SA100 MkIII amplfier. Together, they truly are a small slice of audio nirvana.

Enjoy!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Ron Gurney   an Audiophile [Jan 29, 1999]

Let's cut to the chase. I give this pre-amp 5 stars. I traded in my BAT VK 3i (to which I would give 3-4 stars) toward the price of this new unit.
The 3i is now the entry level tube pre-amp in the BAT line-up with the VK-30 being the medium level tube pre-amp and the VK-50($5000), the upper level (the 5i has been dropped; there is also an SE version of the VK-50 for $7000!!). I cannot comment on the BAT solid state products.
The new VK-30, compared to the 3i, is quieter, with more dynamics, and a wider and deeper soundstage. It has 2dB more maximum gain than the 3i. It has many new bells and whistles, including its extremely flexible and versatile programming functions, standby mode, mono switch, polarity switch, and input selection through the optional remote. These are the same bells and whistles found on the upper level VK-50, which has 12 tubes. The 30 has six tubes, all 6922's.
With the press of a button on the remote, the unit can be taken out of standby mode and placed in play mode ( but not the opposite; a button on the front panel of the unit must be pressed for that). Standby mode helps to preserve tube life while keeping the unit on and warmed up ready for use, a convenient new feature. The beautiful blue display can be turned off if desired, automatically coming back on when any change is made via the remote. It's other new features are too numerous to mention but gladly welcome.
My only quibble is the loss of the volume pre-set buttons on the remote which I used often in changing volume settings. These were left out to avoid overcomplexity of the new remote.
I use this pre-amp with the VK-60 tube amp, a match made in heaven. I highly recommend this combination. The sound reputation of the VK-60 is well known; the Vk-30 greatly improves upon the already good sound of the 3i; and as usual the superb construction quality and cosmetics of BAT products shine through.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Jay R   an Audio Enthusiast [Jul 10, 1999]

The immense satisfaction I experienced living with the VK-3i for a year gave me the incentive to trade it for a VK-30.
Not being one who is inclined to use the word awesome, it does appropriately describe the performance of the VK-30. The VK-30 surpasses the VK-3i's S/N ratio, dynamic range, and soundstage. It reveals a quantum jump of musical detail and realism that is truly uncanny, with improved bass response and damping. The remote control greatly enhances operation and the VK-30 looks like it is built to survive 7.5 on the Richter scale. While the VK-3i offers great value at $2,000, the VK-30 is an even better buy in its price range.

Based on my experience, to get the most out of the VK-30, it is best to use balanced interconnects with an amp that has XLR inputs. Also, I have to credit my Meadowlark Audio Heron speakers for being able to reproduce all the VK-30 has to deliver.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
RR   an Audiophile [Aug 29, 1999]

Having previously submitted a review, I must make exception on the amplifier selections. The monarchy SE-100 deluxes are NOT a good match due to poor loading with the VK-30. The soundstage was compressed and noisy, the BAT sounds the best with higher input impedance loading greater than 30K. The BAT amplifers with higher load along with only the SM-70's which have 75K, work very well. Tube amplifers in general, have a rolled off characteristic and not much life. This still is an excellent preamp and highly recommended, but beware of amplifer matching and the oil coupling caps, which gives it overly smooth and laid back sound. This preamp is a real work of art and a real marvel, I prefer something with more dynamics and detail.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
Tom Miller   Casual Listener [Nov 03, 1999]
Strength:

Specialized

Weakness:

Pace

Read the prior reviews. Thank-you. This is written in teacher talk because I are one. Ha.Ha. If this preamp was a student he gets A's one some assignments and F's in others when matched with a BAT-60. Pace=F.Accoustic guitar=A. Voice=F. Piano=A.etc. Not one I could recommend.

OVERALL
RATING
2
VALUE
RATING
2
Showing 1-10 of 15  

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