Balanced Audio Technology VK-3i Preamplifiers

VK-3i

User Reviews (14)

Showing 1-10 of 14  
Bob J.   AudioPhile [Apr 26, 2017]

This is the third BAT preamp I have owned. The previous two were BATs VK-30 and VK-32. The previous two were used with Lumley Signature 150 tubed monoblocks and/or a BAT VK-500 as is the current BAT that has found a new home here, a BAT VK-3i. I will cut to the chase and say of the three BAT preamps that I have owned, the 3i is the best of the three which might seem odd since it is the oldest design. It is not a dual mono like the other the two, nor does it offer some of the other features, such as a balance control. And for some reason, this BAT just sounds better. The soundstage is HUGE, and DEEP. While the 30 and 32 were no slackers in this area, the 3i is, well, just better. Subtle nuances in the music appear to be more readily heard but not in an etched or over-emphasized manner. Nope. It is just what one would expect to hear if one attended a live concert. The presentation is a bit forward but I like that. To me this makes for a more lifelike presentation. I mean, when I go to a concert or the symphony I do not expect, nor want the performer(s) to be 100 yards away from me. While BAT equipment can be, and is often described as dark or lean when pushed, I do not hear that with the 3i though it was slightly evident with the two previous models I owned.
Now, here is the disclaimer: I did replace the four 6922 tubes with four Amperex tubes, and the 6V6 tubes were replaced with NOS RCA 6V6. Too, I have found that BAT preamps take kindly to Nordost power cords and I am using a Blue Heaven one with the 3i, though this not new with this preamp as I used the same cord with the two previous BAT preamps. This is the first BAT preamp I have owned that responded well to NOS tubes, a significant change in sonics as opposed to a lesser difference with the previous two preamps by BAT.
I could go on and on but I just wanted to write a few quick paragraphs to say that a purchase of a BAT VK-3i is a very wise decision which will not disappoint. Frankly, they are worth every dime of their price and a good used one should go for about $1100 or so with remote and you need a remote as it just makes good sense. With the varying degrees of recorded volume levels one could go nuts jumping up and down to adjust volume levels to the proper levels so yes, get one with a remote.
A huge, deep soundstage, palpable performers, layers of music that are easily discernible, excellent remote and just plain musical makes a VK-3i purchase a no-brainer. Try it - I guarantee you will like it.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
WILLIAM C WALDECKER 3RD   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 28, 2006]
Strength:

high cost vs performance ratio. made in USA. handsome remote control unit. zero negative feedback. unistage topology with only one gainblock. built like a tank and sounds like a million bucks

Weakness:

none

this preamplifier replaces a Anthem pre 1L in my current system. it is not euphonic in the sense that that it is very clean sounding with just a hint of tube warmth. build quality is first rate with sonics to match.it came with the factory Sovtecs installed. i tried tube rolling with this pre and found that the Amperex 7308s that made my pre 1L sing so sweetly did not appeal to me in this particular circuit.i liked the sound of the sovtecs but on a recomendation from a friend rolled in a quad of Ei Elite gold 6DJ8s. these tubes remind me of early Amperex A frame 6DJ8s and sound great in this preamplifier.

Customer Service

i never needed service but i called to ask about tube rolling and they were very friendly and informative.

Similar Products Used: Anthem / Odyssey / Rotel /Parasound / BK
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
William C Waldecker III   Audio Enthusiast [May 08, 2006]
Strength:

superior build quality. cost vs performance ratio is very good indeed! sounds like a million bucks in my particular system. pitch black background.

Weakness:

zero

The BAT VK 3i is the second tube preamplifier that i have owned and used in my two channel system. the first one Being an Anthem Pre 1L linestage. i liked the Pre 1L very much and with Amperex 7308 goldpins installed it sang very sweetly indeed.i own a pair of Odyssey factory modded mono extreme SE's for amplification duties using Groneberg TS premium cables and ic's throughout the entire system. loudspeakers are the wonderful Odyssey/Symphonic Line Lorelei's using Scanspeak 8545 midbass drivers and 9700 tweeters and the source is a Symphonic Line Vibrato CD player.my system sounds alot better than it has a right to considering the performance vs cost ratio.i was very pleased with the Pre 1L in the system but the VK 3i takes it to a whole new level sonically.the synergy with the VK 3i in this two channel rig is breathtaking. if you prefer an overly euphonic presentation this pre may not be your cup of tea.if you crave a black background and a smooth overall presentation with just a touch of tube warmth the VK 3 i may be right up your alley.the bass,midrange and treble seem to be in fine balance with each other,as it does everything equally well. what suprised me the most is that in my particular system i prefered it with the factory supplied Sovtec's installed over my expensive Amperex 7308 goldpins. Victor Khomenko is a Genius when it comes to designing audio circuits and i would like to congradulate him on a job well done!the VK 3i is a very Handsome well built piece of Gear and best of all it is made in the USA thanks....WCW III

Customer Service

i have not required service but i did call to ask for recomendations on which tubes to use and they were very friendly and helpful. they recomended using Russian tubes.

Similar Products Used: Parasound PHP 850 ,Rotel RC 1090, Odyssey Tempest, Anthem Pre 1L
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
RLB61   AudioPhile [Sep 02, 2003]
Strength:

See review.

Weakness:

None to my ears.

As a preliminary matter, let me say that I love this pre-amp. Its sound is natural and engaging without being syrupy. 3D imaging is amazing and soundstage is wide and deep. First thing you must do is swap out the stock Sovtek 6922 tubes. This is essential if you want to really hear what the VK-3i can do. Now, I did some tube rolling with Amperex, Siemens, etc., and wasn't particularly satisfied soundwise or costwise. I settled on the NOS Sovtek 6H23-EBs and Visseaux 6v6GTs from Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio (reasonably priced). WHAT an improvement over the stock tubes. I much preferred the sound of the VK-3i to that of the VK-5i(discontinued) and VK-30. The 5i had a tad more resolution but it was so incremental that it didn't justify the price differential. Also, the 5i has no single ended imputs. As for the VK-30, I found it to be a bit lean and just not as much fun to listen to as the VK-3i. This is one sweet pre-amp.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Sherif Elkady   Audio Enthusiast [Feb 27, 2000]
Strength:

-

Weakness:

-

This is a VERY IMPORTANT piece of advise that will work
for all fully balanced equipment including the great
VK-3I :-

You will never know what you're missing or how your
gear will truly perform UNLESS you use the Balanced
(XLR) Outputs.

Today, I connected my VK-3I to my Plinius SA-50III
(a match made in hi-fi heaven!!)
via its Balanced Outputs and was literally floored !

It was as if I upgraded to a VK-30 or something like
that..: Wider Soundstage, Deeper and more controlled
Bass and Spooky Midrange !!

I had always criticized the VK-3I as having a small
and narrow soundstage that couldn't be matching with
large speakers. But that's in the past now!

Thanks again Victor & Steve for a truly outstanding
slice of audio heaven.

Happy Listening

Similar Products Used: -
-
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Owen   Audio Enthusiast [Dec 28, 2001]
Strength:

Simplicity, build and Sonic qualities. Completely neutral with all source input.

Weakness:

None at it's price.

I have a wide veriety of music and a lot of classic (Distorted) rockn' roll. I wanted all my jazz and soft vocal music to have that warm tube sound so I decided on the VK3i for that but on the rock side I new I would need high current and fast bass so I went with the SS VK200 for punch and reserve. I can truly say I go both ways when it comes to SS and tube now. This is by far the best combo amp pre amp I have ever owned and I feel Victor designed these two pieces of equipment to go hand in hand to create in my mind and also to my ears "Musical Nirvana". As Sherif said in an earlier review you will not know the true perameters of this combo unless you use balanced XLR's to tie them together. I have them between my pre and phono pre also. If you want to hear exactly what was put on your vinyl or CD's you must hear this combination in action. If you have ever heard the expression "makes them walk and talk" this is exactly what this combo does to my B&W 803's. I would put this combo up against anything costing 2 to 3 times their price and make you want to get some $$$$$ back. Or like Mikey says "Try it, you'll like it!"

I gave it an overall of 4 because the 50SE is the daddy!

Similar Products Used: CJ,VAC and MAC.
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Johnny Maggitas   Audiophile [Nov 08, 2001]
Strength:

excellent dynamics, rhythm and pace

Weakness:

lacks focus, can sound thin.

I borrowed this preamp on loan while my CJ premier 16LS is being upgraged to MK 2 status. I was impressed by the speed and dynamics of the unit. Sounds alot like a SS unit except has the decay of a tube unit. Soundstage is wide and deep. Mids and highs are a bit more aggresive than I am accustomed to and seems skewed a tad more toward the highs. Has excellent transient response and punch. some of the tightest bass I have ever heard. Instruments and voices tend to blend together and lose focus. Keep in mind I am comparing this unit to a preamp that costs 4 times as much. Unit is dead quiet, but tube rolling can be a hassle because BAT gear is succeptible to microphonics. Overall a solid unit and I can see why BAT gear garners so much attention.

Similar Products Used: CJ premier 16LS
CJ PV-5
CJ PFR
Levinson 380S
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
Jim Warner   an Audiophile [Apr 04, 1998]

I have been on mission for over 2 years since I purchased my VR-4 speakers forever onward spending and spending. Upgrading and upgrading always getting better sound but not quite there and finally my BAT VK3i arrived at my door. Now the sound is sooo goood... Everything sounds like it should: vocals piano drums etc. This was the icing on the cake of music. It has great depth, soundstage, and all the good stuff without the bad. Even discs from 10 yrs ago sound better than I ever heard. No listening fatigue just the sound drawing you into the music. I know there may be better but I have been thru and listened to several different preamps (adcom, c-j, audio research, b&k,sonic frontiers,audible illusions,etc.) This pre-amp brings an element of liveness to the sound. This is my humble opinion. System: (Coda l0.5 amp-EAD ultradisc 2000 cd player-Bat VK3i preamp-VR-4 spkrs.-Tice Elite 4 cond. Tice cables-Synergistic Research powercords-all the sandboxes, air platforms, cones, concrete slabs,etc.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
George   an Audio Enthusiast [Jun 10, 1999]

I borrowed the Bat VK3i from a local dealer in Montreal. It is a very impressive piece of equipment in terms of built quality. It's sound is very warm and lush. I used it along with a Moon w-3 amplifier (solid-state) and the Bat preamp overwhelmed the Moon with its tube-sound character. It is not the last word on neutral: it made the bass sound bloated and the high's were just too bright. Perhaps it could sound better with other equipment. This Moon/BAT combo did not work.

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
Sherif Elkady   an Audio Enthusiast [Jun 10, 1999]

George, the unit you borrowed from your dealer is not properly burnt-in.The VK-3I does sound bright in the highs & slightly bloated in the bass in
the beginning. But this character gradually fades away with proper burning-in.

I experienced the same syndrome. But now, after almost 90 hours of operation,
the unit has greatly stabilized and is running smoothly & effortlessly.

Happy Listening.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
Showing 1-10 of 14  

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