BHK Mono first listen


#161

+1 I like Spectral amps so this is great to hear.


#162

+2


#163

First of all, my sincere thanks to Paul and Scott for allowing me to be one of the early adopter, beta testers of the BHK Signature 300’s. My BHK 300’s arrived yesterday afternoon and I had my system reconfigured by early evening last night. My previous amp is a Krell FPB-600 that sat next to my source components which are located next to my main listening position. The BHK’s are in the front of the room next to the speakers. So I have gone from short IC’s and long speaker cables to long IC’s and short speaker cables. I did some casual listening last night and this morning, nothing critical, and left the system on at a low level all night to let the amps cook a little.

The FPB-600 is a beast; conservatively rated at 600 watts per channel of pure class A power into 8 ohms, doubling down to below 2 ohms with a fully regulated power supply. At 180 lbs. in gun metal gray, it has the look and feel of unbridled power. It also sucks power from the wall like a great white in a feeding frenzy. When idle it pulls 430 watts and can double as a space heater at any power level. When I bought it approximately 15 years ago I thought it would probably be the last power amp I would ever need. However as time has passed the upgrade urge has grown strong and the opportunity to purchase and beta test the BHK 300’s, designed by one of the foremost minds in amplifier circuitry, was irresistible.

Now that the amps have a few hours on them here are some of my initial impressions. Being so early in the game this is not a definitive review, just random observations I have made.

The BHK 300’s are powerful! The FPB-600 is measurably more powerful, but the BHK 300’s have the same feeling of unlimited clean power up to any rational (or irrational) sound pressure level in a normal consumer environment.

The BHK 300’s are dynamic! I sensed no dynamic compression or softness at any SPL. Micro-dynamics which can be lost in low level congestion and buried in the mix are very evident as low level sounds occupy their own distinct space. This characteristic surpasses the performance of the Krell.

Low frequency pitch definition surpasses the Krell. Low frequency transients from instruments such as kick drum, bass guitar, string bass, tympani, synthesizer, etc. have very fast attack and controlled decay with a a more defined texture than I have heard from the Krell.

Mid and high frequencies are clean and rich. Instruments within these ranges have body yet textural delicacy at all SPL’s.

The soundfield breathes life. There is an organic quality to the soundfield produced. The ambient soundfield extends well beyond the boundaries of the speakers, side to side, front to back, top to bottom. Individual images are contained within the boundaries as would be expected but the sense of space is uncanny. By comparison, the FPB-600 soundfield is dark and dry with images that sound more like cutouts, but only in comparison with the BHK 300’s.

All in all, the BHK 300’s out performed the FPB-600 in every aspect except maximum power.

As you may have figured out I am ecstatic about the acquisition of the BHK 300’s. Further positive changes in the basic characteristics in the sound of these amps will only be icing on the cake.

Mucho Kudos to Bascom and Paul along with Arnie Nudell for a product that surpasses all of my preconceived ideas about how a new amplifier could elevate the performance of my system.

As an aside, on her own, my significant other sat down, started listening and for the first time told me how good the system sounded. That alone made the acquisition of the BHK 300’s well worth it.

The signal chain as listened to: Auralic Aries - Audiobyte Hydra-Z - DirectStream - BHK 300’s - Revel Salon 2’s


#164

Great review. I look forward to hearing more of your impressions as the amps break in.


#165

A really great review of the BHK 300 monos… I wait with much excitement for my BHK 300’s to arrive !


#166
DenisD said

All in all, the BHK 300’s out performed the FPB-600 in every aspect except maximum power.

As you may have figured out I am ecstatic about the acquisition of the BHK 300’s. Further positive changes in the basic characteristics in the sound of these amps will only be icing on the cake.

Mucho Kudos to Bascom and Paul along with Arnie Nudell for a product that surpasses all of my preconceived ideas about how a new amplifier could elevate the performance of my system.

As an aside, on her own, my significant other sat down, started listening and for the first time told me how good the system sounded. That alone made the acquisition of the BHK 300’s well worth it.

The signal chain as listened to: Auralic Aries - Audiobyte Hydra-Z - DirectStream - BHK 300’s - Revel Salon 2’s


Thanks for this wonderful review between the Krell and the BHK! This is the kind of detailed feedback that helps everyone.

#167

Good things come those who wait, so the saying goes. After a quick three months or so after being notified I was on the list of beta monoblock testers, my amps arrived. This was on Tuesday this week. Of course, I was on call at the hospital and did not get home until after 10 pm. As others have mentioned, packaging was first rate and easier to open and move the amps into position than I expected. I’m not even that sore today.surprised

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I did not get the chance to get them set up until Wednesday morning. With that, I was only able to listen for a short time yesterday. Here is a picture of them in my room. I will be getting a new rack soon so I have left them on the floor. I was hoping to have the rack first since it was ordered last month, but it was backordered until early August. sad_gif

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Close-up of the new amps and the dedicated P10 plugged into its own 20amp circuit.

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Here is the rest of my system plugged into a P5 on a second 20amp circuit. This is why I need a new rack. My entire system used to be plugged into the P10. After reading various suggestions, thanks Paul and edorr, I moved my P5 from my big screen TV in another room to let the P10 power just the monoblocks.

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Another post coming soon with detailed thoughts on the improvements noted already with the new BHK 300’s in my system.

For those looking closely at the picture of the entire system, you can see where my avatar comes from. It is a Peter Max work, “Gramophone”.

Alan.


#168

What an awesome looking setup!! Can’t wait to hear what you think.


#169

Dropped by the showroom in HK today to have a look at the BHK Monos and a quick listen … very impressive - just wished I could have spent more time with them … the few tracks I heard from Mark Knopfler & SRV was excellent - warm and great soundstage. Would have been even better if they had used the Directstream instead of a CD player …

Here are some of the photos I took …

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#170

Great photos! Thanks for these.


#171

It may not be as beautifully presented as the HK showroom but this demo in Singapore blew my friend away.

I want one…

My precioussssssss


#172

Wow, they look awesome sitting next to all that DCS stuff!


#173

You’ll be pleased, Paul to know the demo was done using the DirectStream DAC with Yale official OS :)

And it was no slouch. My friend said he preferred the DS to the 6 figure stack. If only we could play SACDs through a matching transport as well.

Words thrown around included

… sublime

… best showroom (in Singapore)

… staggering realism

… toe tapping

… shiver inducing goosebumps

… transparent

… swift

… thunderous


#174

I have had the BHK 300s playing for about a week or three so it is about time to post some observations. First, I have been insanely busy, so I really have not had too much time to sit down and listen for extended listening session. Second, after my initial very positive response to the amps with 24 hours on them, I started having some reservations and I did not want to write anything (that could be construed as negative) before having had a chance to fully assess the amp.

While I found a lot of strengths, my reservation on occasional listening sessions was a certain harshness and grain in the high frequencies, which in some cases detracted from my musical enjoyment. Even after three weeks of burn in this phenomena has not gone away. However, switching back and forth between different recordings I found some recordings sounding silky smooth in the highs (say high note hit hard on piano of female vocal), while the same keys on the piano or same pitched vocal sounded slightly harsh on others.

I have concluded that what I am hearing is what is actually on the recording, so to my ears one attribute of the BHK is it is an unforgiving amp. When you have a flawed recording the BHK will relentlessly expose it. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to everyone to decide for themselves. For me it is a negative, because I have some flawed recordings, I am simply enjoying less. Only caveat is I am using MIT cabling and a SS preamp (Spectral), neither one of which is particularly warm in the highs. I will be switching (back) to tube preamp and Transparent cabling so this may change the situation.

Now for the unambiguously positive.

(1) The amps throw a huge image, bigger than anything I have used before

(2) They produce a fuller sound than the Spectral DMA 360 Series II, my previous reference. So (1) and (2) combined results in just “more” sound filling the room

(3) Upper bass and low mids are second to none, which is what I suspect produces this fullness

(4) They play very well at low listening volumes - very articulate

(5) Speed, dynamics and transparency is at par with the Spectrals, which are the gold standard in this regard.

I will report more impressions once I have had a chance to do some more listening.


#175

Thanks! Great report.

The last thing we would have wished for in the amp is sweet syrup poured over sound. Some amps lay things so bare they’re not good to listen to, while others sweeten the pie to the point of nausea. The BHK is just right - when the recording’s sweet, the sound is oooooh so sweet, when the recording’s harsh that too is reflected but what I find fascinating (and please confirm if your experience is the same) that gritty edge does not upset the amp or add anything triggered by harsh sound. Like record noise that becomes detached on a good amplifier, vs. an exaggerated part-of-it when ill designed, the characteristics I most treasure in amplifiers and preamplifiers are their uncanny abilities to detach themselves from the music and give you what’s there, in all its glory. If the recording’s not great the device never embrasses itself with further exaggeration.

Oh, sweetness when you acieve that.


#176

Edorr… after the amp is for sure 100% broken in. I’d suggest two things … first try the DS straight in, and or a different preamp. Then I’d try some other tubes in the BHK amps…


#177

Has anyone compared the sound of the black monoblocks vs. The silver ones? There must be a difference since the quantity of photons reflected by the chassis must surely make an audible difference.

Okay I’m obviously having a bit of fun with our obsessive hobby, but I am wondering if anyone has seen both colors and can comment on which color they prefer in person.

Also I just read a review of the Hercules II amps. Anyone compared them with the BHK mono? Did Bascom design the Hercules II as well?


#178
emailists said Has anyone compared the sound of the black monoblocks vs. The silver ones? There must be a difference since the quantity of photons reflected by the chassis must surely make an audible difference.

Okay I’m obviously having a bit of fun with our obsessive hobby, but I am wondering if anyone has seen both colors and can comment on which color they prefer in person.


I opted for black only to be consistent with all the other gear in my rack, which is all black now that the Streets’ gold front panel has been replaced with the black BHK.

But it’s entirely up to you as it won’t matter to the sonics a bit. Either will work in the room as both are color-neutral.

Let us know what you pick.


#179

i find it necessary to see any object in person to judge. Automobiles, people, and pieces of audio kit all look very different “live” than their photos suggest.

However, as a rule of thumb, light colors flatter and highlight interesting lines, double curves and the like. Dark colors hide awkward design, adds a slimming effect, and draw less attention to the object. I find most audio gear falls into the second category, with a few exceptions such as the Woo WA5 300B SET headphone amp.

Thus, most of my equipment is black - heard but not seen.


#180

Notwithstanding many great qualities of the monos, I reported earlier my reservations about the unforgiving nature of the mono’s resulting in some annoying grain and harshness on some recording. Well, to be honest, some of the better recordings were not entirely free of harshness (almost distortion) in the highs on music with very sharp “attack”. I was wrecking my brain over this and thinking of cabling and preamp changes - or would it simply be the amps themselves?

I had earlier taken out my preamp and found I lost some dynamics so I put it back in. Exasperated, i took the preamp out again (thanks erikm for suggesting), and loo and behold the harshness was gone. I must have been listening for other attributes of the sound the first time I took out the preamp, or simply played material that did not have the harshness issue. I conclude there is a massive lack of synergy between the spectral DMC 30SS Series II and the BHK monos (one of the reasons I sold the spectral powersamps is it would allow me to go back to tube preamp, which I have always liked better). So I feel like only now can I start listening to the amps in seriousness sans-preamp.

Finicky indeed. Spectral preamp and associated MIT cabling will go up for sale today…

Next I need to decide if I pick up another tube preamp pending arrival of the PS audio or just play without preamp for the some being. I’ll probably wait for the PS audio preamp…