New BHK - Sound question

Hi Everyone.
I took the plunge and got my new BHK preamp last week. At this point it has around 40 hrs on it.
Love the tube timer, tube standby feature, and having a numerical volume level display. The soundstage is somewhat larger than my old preamp (Odyssey Audio Candela tube preamp), and the bass seems to be a little fuller/deeper. I’m also hearing some more details. Very nice!

Not crazy about all the snapping sounds when I change volume. Seems like there should have been a way to address that.

Anyway, on to my question:
The sound is softer and lacking punch. The attacks of the notes seem rounded off and lacking snap as if the drummer added some padding to the drumsticks. I also need to have the volume knob up to at least 50 to get up to normal volume (I realize if I switched to balanced cables this would improve).

The system is:
Direct Stream DAC > BHK Pre-amp > Odyssey Audio Stratos Monoblocks (180 wpc) > Vortex Acoustics (VonSchweikert) VR-35 speakers.
All cables are Audience Au24 SX (Single ended interconnects) and speaker cables. Power cords are all Audience Power Chord sei. Everything is plugged into a Synergistic Research PowerCell 8 UEF SE with the Level 2 PowerCell power cable.
I have turntable but primarily listen to digital.

Is this the normal sound signature of this preamp?

Will things improve with more break in time?

Could a tube swap improve the sound to my liking?

Would switching to balanced cables address the softness? In the past I didn’t find a huge difference between SE and Balanced and it would be a significant investment to change.

TIA for your suggestions.

I guess you need to provide the input sensitivity of your power amps to those who might be able to analyze/help…to me this seems like an incompatibility issue between pre and power amp in case you don’t use very exotic cabling with strange technical values.

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The sensitivity is not listed but the Input impedance is 22K ohms if that helps.

i don’t have a BHK - but my hunch is the unit could use some burn in time…

This preamp is all about clarity, detail, realism and weight which is opposite what you’re talking about. Is your unit brand new? Does it have the original tubes? Are the jumper settings correct?

Will things improve with more break in time?
Normally yes.

Could a tube swap improve the sound to my liking?
Maybe but even with the stock Psvanes it should sound very articulate

Would switching to balanced cables address the softness? In the past I didn’t find a huge difference between SE and Balanced and it would be a significant investment to change.
It will sound louder but not necessarily better.
As for the volume, make sure you don’t have the attenuator engaged on the DS Dac. Turn the preamp volume down to a soft level and push the “DAC Level” button on your remote. And really, why do you care what the number is on the preamp display as long as you get the volume you desire?
You’re going to love this thing.

There is a used Halcro dm8 pre-amp on eBay at the moment if you wanted to try something else.

As to the volume issue. The input sensitivity on all Odyssey Stratos amps is 1 volt. The gain on the Candela is 14 db as opposed to 3db via the SE outputs on the BHK. As others said the number on the dial of the BHK is irrelevant as long is it is reasonable. The Candela has more gain than the BHK even with the Balanced outputs which are 12db.

You went from an all-tube preamp to a hybrid. The BHK is an excellent preamp if you were coming from a solid state pre.

I did what you did – went from an all-tube pre to the BHK – and experienced exactly what you experienced. I’m back to my Cary SLP 05.

Thanks everyone.
Couple things…
We are at 80 hrs and the punch has improved a little more. Tubes are original.
The DAC is not attenuated and set to 98. I’m still thinking more gain from balanced outputs might help, but don’t have my balanced cables yet.

FYI I decided to dive in headfirst and get a BHK 250 amp which will be here Friday. Hoping for a big improvement even though the Odyssey gear is really good.

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Yes, it’s brand new.

Did you consider the Odyssey Kismit. Klaus is doing an extreme version of the amp and I can tell you first hand it’s outstanding. Don’t know how it compares to the 250 but my guess is it’s a least on the same level and you can save a ton of $ if you have your current Stratos upgraded.

No I didn’t, but it’s a little late now.
I love Klaus’s gear, but one thing that irritates me is you must leave it in all the time for it to sound its best, and he doesn’t put any kind of standby circuit in it.
But PS does!

I’m not sure how far the standby function on PS gear goes…on some of their early stuff it just muted the output and left everything else running.

It will save your tubes if nothing else.

Don’t some tube types experience greater longevity if left on continuously, as a better option than the shock of power cycles?

I may be wrong but I thought I read on here somewhere that the standby turns off the input tubes and leaves everything else on and muted. Any solid state amp I’ve owned took at least a day to sound right again after turning off. When you get into to this hobby you just have to accept there’s going to be a little dent on the electric bill if you want to hear what you payed for.


If you want to try XLR’s without investing a lot this is a really good quality one that you buy buy the foot.

Other cheap option are the Mogami cables on Ebay or one of the Pro Audio shops.

Also running balanced cables to the Stratos won’t changed anything as it is not a balanced amp. The XLR’s are for convenience only.

Does it rain a lot where you live? :grinning:

Let us know when the BHK shows up and how the combo works.

That’s still the case. Standby turns off the display and mutes the outputs and everything else remains on. The only exceptions to that are the BHK amplifiers that reduce their current draw at idle and shut off the input tubes, when in standby, and the BHK preamp which also shuts off the vacuum tubes in standby.