2016 was a tumultuous year. Musicians fell like flies and voters confounded pollsters on both sides of the Atlantic. Meanwhile for Roksan, it closed the year in the hands of Monitor Audio. Roksan co-founder and owner Tufan Hashemi stepped down to ‘spend more time with his humidor’, while the well-established loudspeaker brand gains an audio electronics division with a great reputation. It’s not the first time that the creator of the iconic Xerxes turntable as been sold: the company was bought in the 1990s by the Verity Group, then-owners of Mission, Quad, and Wharfedale, but was quickly bought back by co-founders Tufan Hashimi and Touraj Moghaddam (now of Vertere). But this will be the first time in the company’s 32 year history that Roksan will be run without the involvement of its original founders. There are no other changes to Roksan’s infrastructure and the company’s full range of turntables, electronics, and – for the time being, at least – two models of loudspeaker will continue to built in London.
The Blak range was the last to be developed under Hashemi’s direction. It comprises a CD player and this amplifier, both sitting at the top of the Roksan sound quality tree. Blak is not as pretty as the Oxygene range, but one suspects that results in fewer compromises in amp design. The Blak integrated is a beefy 150 Watt model with a built in USB DAC and aptX Bluetooth receiver that sit in a fairly conventional chassis, but one with an attractively distressed fascia available in a range of colours. It has a large, clear LED display and the minimum of obvious controls, I say ‘obvious’ because there are two hidden under the front panel: one switches it on and off while the other selects amplifier or headphone output. It’s a good justification for the ‘RTFM’ acronym because if you don’t read the manual, you might not figure out that your ‘silent’ amp is in headphone mode!
The capacious back panel hosts a nice set of WBT speaker cable terminals, three sets of RCA inputs and an XLR input, alongside sockets for a moving magnet equipped turntable. It’s not clear why there are no other digital inputs for the onboard DAC apart from USB and Bluetooth, as space is certainly not the issue. The DAC itself is good for PCM up to 24-bit/192kHz and DSD128, so it’s more than adequate for the majority of the music you might actually want to listen to.
The front panel controls you can see extend to volume, go-forward/go backward input selection, plus an ‘OK’ button. This last has to be pressed after you have selected the input. Another foible is that the displayed volume level changes in twos, so you can have ‘14’ or ‘16’ but not ‘15’. It’s the same on the remote handset, and the volume steps are quite big, at around 2dB depending on speaker. It’s not a problem, but seems odd in a time of 0.1dB increments.