It’s a personal thing, but what I seek in an amplifier is ample power for the speakers being used with a solid grip on the low end. I would also like it to be as neutral as possible and allow the signal to pass through it as undisturbed as possible. In other words, I am not looking for it to add character. I do give extra consideration to a visceral sense of dimensionality, which is something I experienced early in my listening when I played ‘Take Five (Take another Five)’ from Grover Washington Jr’s SACD Prime Cuts [Sony Music], played on the Oppo 105D. This creative version of the jazz classic offered space and dimensionality. The depth of the soundstage was breathtaking. Spatial cues were present in abundance. In the centre of it all were the pure saxophone tones of the master, Grover Washington Jr. It was a clinic on musicality and a joy to experience. While I was enjoying the rest of the SACD, I came over all alpha-nerd and perused the parts list of the BHK 250. PRP Resistors matched up with film and foil Rel Caps all hand soldered through the circuit board without surface mount components. An approach found primarily on gear running well beyond £10,000. Sonic quality with sound (no pun intended) value. The BHK 250 was ticking many of my ‘need to have’ audio boxes.
Moving on to something more intimate I selected the SACD of Nick Drake, A Treasury [Universal – Island Records]. ‘River Man’ is a haunting guitar and strings melody with deceptively ‘simple’ chord changes. Once again, the character of the dimensionality of the presentation created an in-the-room sense. The violins’ tonality had that lovely blend of pure sound married with the physicality of bow on strings. Finger work on the guitar was sure and crisp. Drake’s vocals were centred as they should be, conveying his haunting fragility. This is where one really begins to appreciate the tube input and the capabilities of the 6922’s to preserve the sense of body and wholeness of the recording. In fact, I attribute these qualities not only to the valves chosen for the design, but also to King’s decision to use independent power supplies for the amp’s input and output stages.
Given that we have valves in the amp that means you can tube-roll to tailor your sound. Swapping tubes is very easy with the BHK 250. Simply loosen the two Philips head screws holding the back plate covering the tubes and replace the installed 6922’s with any 6 or 7 series dual triode variant. Make sure to follow the steps in the manual to avoid damage to the amp or the tubes. I had a matched pair of broken-in Tungsram PCC88’s that have been commented on favorably in the PS Audio forums on the manufacturer’s website. My experience with these tubes showed an increase in midrange focus and some extended treble beyond the Genalex 6922’s. After installing the Tungsram’s it was time to return to more listening.
I recently received a copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on 180-gram vinyl [Pink Floyd Records]. Placing it on my VPI Scout 1.1, with its Dynavector 10X5 cartridge, and ALO Audio phono stage, I sat down to enjoy an all-time great. First impressions were black as in zero background noise during the opening of ‘Breathe (In the Air)’. The clock and chimes came from nowhere to spread out across the room. The heartbeat reverberated from the front to the back of the room with solid force. Roger Waters’ bass notes were solid and deep, but well controlled. It was an exceptional delivery – one that led to my playing the entire record and letting out my inner hipster as I got up and turned over the record half way through. Actually, in my mind, vinyl never left: it has always been a great way to experience music. Paired with the BHK 250, I could enjoy the best of analogue in all its organic three-dimensional glory. The nuance of Dave Gilmour’s guitar work was on full display. It was the best I had ever experienced this long time classic.