BHK Mono first listen


#1

Okay, warning!! Spoiler alert. This is a rave and I just walked in from Music Room One holding my jaw in place. I am pumped up beyond description so take what you read with a boulder of sand. I have been accused of exaggeration and hyperbole in the past, it shall not end here.

Holy f*ck what has this change from stereo to mono wrought? I went into the first listening session of the BHK monos expecting better separation, possibly better soundstage as is normal with monos of the past. Immediately something was wrong. Center image specificity was all wrong. Spacious to the extreme, the mono part all wrong. I suspected a setup problem, none to be found. I played the Stereophile test disc and one channel’s was out of phase with the other. Ok, production units yes, but testing by hand without procedures and one channel obviously has wires crossed. Curses. Swap polarity on one channel, sit back to listen.

The first cut I put on is one I have heard so many times I rarely play it. But it came up on the iPad and away we went. Jane Monheit singing Alfie from an old Audiophile Voices CD. Wow. The reverb on her voice so obvious and detailed I remained transfixed in the seat. It was real. Not like she was in the room, but like I was in the studio listening to the playback. Weird. Not something I had experienced before. But I could not bring myself to turn on another track. I was transfixed. Near the end I heard something wrong, as if the sound ‘burped’. A glitch in the track? I went back to listen again. At precisely 29 seconds to the end it happened again, only this time it was as clear as day. A punch in! Holy crap. Clearly Monheit’s engineer punched the recorder in to have her fill in a phrase she had flubbed in the original recording. Now, so obvious that I cannot believe I had never heard it, but this time, perhaps my hundredth listen, I could not avoid its obviousness.

My friend Richard from Bit Perfect had sent me a track from the Vienna Philharmonic’s Das Rheingold, Solti conducting, and a DSD remastered copy. Not a Wagner fan, I have been trying my best to learn this track and so I have heard it many times, but I would not have normally chosen it; it was next on my playlist, so away we went. I turn up the volume, the soundstage opens in front of me and for the first time I get it. How could I have not loved this piece from the first listen.? It’s magnificent, and not just because the recording sounds so right, but because the music fills my soul as it never did before. I am in love.

Michael Fremer had sent me a recording of the Nutcracker taken from an album and now playing on my Mac Mini. Again, jaw dropping performance. I can’t leave the room. The surface noise of the record has become completely disembodied from the music, like the first time I heard Harry Pearson’s system and never again, until today. The fairies dance, the world on stage lays before me, separated from the record surface noise in the most natural of ways. The noise is obvious, yet not part of the music. It’s spooky. I am hooked.

The BHK Mono is a parallel BHK stereo. That means internally every tube, transistor, capacitor and resistor is doubled up, working together as one. And this has made some magic none of us would have guessed until we heard it. To suggest the mono is twice as good because it is doubled would be an injustice to my excitement of the moment. Perhaps it is only twice as good in reality and I will come down from my cloud to see this clearly tomorrow. But today, I will go back and listen into the night, confident it would be wrong to say it is only twice as good, when a magnitude is a better description. As good and revolutionary as the BHK Stereo is, an eye and ear opener to anyone able to audition it, the Monos are something to behold and words cannot do it justice.

I am posting this copied from tomorrow’s Paul’s post.


#2

I’m jealous…


#3

Yeah, congratulations Paul this is very exiting for PSAudio, a world beater, I can say I knew you when… :)

magicknow


#4
magicknow said Yeah, congratulations Paul this is very exiting for PSAudio, a world beater, I can say I knew you when..... :)

magicknow


Doh! Thanks, this thing is making me reel and think hard about why. I suspect it’s the parallel tubes. One thing we noticed in testing: the BHK 250 has a slight rise in distortion with frequency, much less than most amps, but there, none the less. The Signature 300 Monoblock does not have any of that evident at all, and that’s a bit of a mystery. More to come.

#5
Paul McGowan said
magicknow said Yeah, congratulations Paul this is very exiting for PSAudio, a world beater, I can say I knew you when..... :)

magicknow

Doh! Thanks, this thing is making me reel and think hard about why. I suspect it's the parallel tubes. One thing we noticed in testing: the BHK 250 has a slight rise in distortion with frequency, much less than most amps, but there, none the less. The Signature 300 Monoblock does not have any of that evident at all, and that's a bit of a mystery. More to come.
Congratulations - It seems like these things are killing the already high pre-existing expectations.

Is this experience with BHK pre-amp still to be added ?

Any guesses / expectations about what will happen with the BHK Pre- in the chain (dual question; synergy with BHK Monos & also comparison to existing Pre-) ?


On the bi-amped Monos plus spare change point, I understood (from the ever reliable internet) three variants of That Amp : Reference; Performance; Inspiration which (off top of head - memory) run something like US$140k/pair; US$55k/pair; US$20k/pair. For differing levels of power output.

20k/15k still being 33% more expensive. Or free Pre-Amp…

Saw (not heard; I don’t tyre kick stuff I know I’ll never buy) DCS Debussy & Constellation Amps walking a dealer place today… Looking at some Salon2 speakers… if people hear in Munich, what you’re hearing in Music Room 1, well, The lid is going to blow off the industry.

AU$45.6k to bi-amp dual 300w mono’s is a stack of money, but I’d rather a very nice very old car + that (or half that), rather than an expensive car & not that…

unfortunately my new car is already in the living room with me as part of the system being put together currently, so I’m not sure one can use that storyline justification twice in a line.

New justifications from experienced old hand hi-fi lovers are required !

facepalm-smiley-emoticon_gif tmi_gif crying_gif sorry-smiley-emoticon_gif

Nah it is a new happy place 4_gifcool4_gif


#6

I had pretty much settled on the idea of not needing the monos (as confirmed by my speaker manufacturer) and save some money getting the stereo, but now I’m of course in doubt again. Is it conceivable the difference is very dependent on the load presented by the speaker? Are your speakers a difficult (current hungry) load?


#7

And up until yesterday I would have advised you to simply go for the stereo version because it is soooooo good and the extra separation and benefits associated with monos, unless you have a tough load, are icing on the cake, not changing the flavor. Boy was I wrong.

As good as the stereo 250 is, and it is perhaps as good as it gets compared to any amplifier at any price (seriously), the Signature 300’s just blow it away - I cannot describe just how much better. And no, my speakers are a light load - very easy to drive - they do not need the extra current available whatsoever. Hell, even Sprout can drive them.

No, this is something else - extraordinary - the parallel tubes, transistors and power supply - the way the BHK Monos are built is nothing short of magic. I hadn’t any idea of just what wizardry was afoot when we did the monos and was taken by complete surprise.

If one can afford the price there is no choice but the monos. Period, end of story. However, I don’t want to make short change of the stereo - because it is still one of, if not the, best amplifiers ever made. I would put it up against anything at any price and have a confident smile how it will waltz all over its competition.


#8
Paul McGowan said

If one can afford the price there is no choice but the monos. Period, end of story. However, I don’t want to make short change of the stereo - because it is still one of, if not the, best amplifiers ever made. I would put it up against anything at any price and have a confident smile how it will waltz all over its competition.


Wow. Awesome confidence. Contagious.

Any idea / prediction what the pre-amp is going to do ?

Does the pre-amp contain cross-over circuitry to go with multiple amps ?


#9

Sounds like I will have to change my roadmap, and get the monos…


#10
Doh! Thanks, this thing is making me reel and think hard about why. I suspect it's the parallel tubes.
Paul, does this mean that the mono's each retain two tubes in parallel? At one point in the threads it sounded like the mono's had one tube apiece, but it sounds like perhaps two tubes were retained per amp based on your latest... Very excited to hear what Bascom thinks of these based on your initial findings :)

#11

Yes, the tubes are in parallel on the monos, as is everything else. Originally we were going with just one tube, but at Bascom’s suggestion, we paralleled the two instead. Great decision.


#12

Wow Paul that’s fantastic news! A very good decision indeed I would think. Now i need to hunt for another matched pair of NOS white label Amperex 6922 tubes :)


#13

So, now the mono’s are going to Munich?


#14

Ok. Paul got me convinced. I just signed up for a pair of beta monos, which will ship out within a week or so I hope. These better be good. They are up against my Spectral 360 MkII. I love the Spectrals (but hate being locked into Spectral Amp / Preamp and worse still MIT cabling). Speed and transparency to die for, but lacking a bit in “warmth”. May be the BHK hybrid design will offer the best of both worlds. Stay tuned.


#15

Hi Paul,

I was wondering if you ever finished upgrading the IRS’s ? I know a few months back you were recapping or something like that and you were going to rewire since the old Monster Cable was turning green :-) Curious how that all turned out?


#16
edorr said Ok. Paul got me convinced. I just signed up for a pair of beta monos, which will ship out within a week or so I hope. These better be good. They are up against my Spectral 360 MkII. I love the Spectrals (but hate being locked into Spectral Amp / Preamp and worse still MIT cabling). Speed and transparency to die for, but lacking a bit in "warmth". May be the BHK hybrid design will offer the best of both worlds. Stay tuned.
I look forward to hearing your impressions of the BHK monos, especially in comparison to your excellent Spectral amps!

#17
edorr said but hate being locked into Spectral Amp / Preamp and worse still MIT cabling
Add Avalon speakers and dCS front end and you get the most classic $100K+ combination ever :D

I love MIT Oracles, though.


#18

I may have a pair to sell you. If I go with the ps audio amp, MIT is out and transparent is back in. Like them better. Ironically, first time ever I was blown away by a stereo was avalon, MIT spectral with Paul’s very own digital lens in the chain, back in the 90s at an audio show in Amsterdam.

I ended up buying a fine pair of eidolons (since replaced) and spectral in part inspired by that experience.


#19
edorr said I may have a pair to sell you. If I go with the ps audio amp, MIT is out and transparent is back in.
I have Oracle 3.x all around. Instead of going one-two steps up, I would better go for the BHK monos ;) Interesting that you mentioned Transparent. They were my first networked interconnects, then I switched to MIT.
edorr said I was blown away by a stereo was avalon, MIT spectral with Paul's very own digital lens in the chain, back in the 90s at an audio show in Amsterdam.

I ended up buying a fine pair of eidolons (since replaced) and spectral in part inspired by that experience.

That combination left me cold, but I was immediately hooked to planars.


#20
Frode said So, now the mono's are going to Munich?
Nope, not enough time. We'll do monos in Newport.