Review: PS Audio BHK Signature Preamplifier and BHK Signature 250 Amplifier


#1

I purchased the BHK combo because I was intrigued with the circuit design: a combination of tubes and MOSFETS. I once had the Sherwood S-6040CP MOS FET DC POWER AMP and really liked the sound.

I began by substituting the preamp for my Mark Levinson 38S preamp. This was Levinson’s best preamp in 1996 and cost $6500. Immediately noticed a greater refinement in sound, especially in loud densely orchestrated music. As my listening progressed, it occurred to me that I was hearing virtually all the qualities noted in the commercial reviews of this preamp: very transparent, enormous soundstages, wide, deep, layered front to back, massed strings had greater texture. I was very happy with the improvement.

I then replaced my 100 watt Classe CA2100 power amp, $5000 seven years ago. I don’t recall the first recording I listened to but I’ll never forget my reaction: Holy sh*t, what was that? What just happened? Quite simply, everything was better… the sort of comprehensive improvement where you want to play your entire CD collection because you know every CD will sound better. The last time I had that experience with a new component was when I first listened to my new Thiel CS3.6 speakers.

Once again my listening notes mirror the commercial reviews: extended and detailed at both frequency extremes, breathtaking depth to the soundstage , well-detailed midrange, spatial cues present in abundance, truly exceptional imaging, fast, punchy, tight bass; rich, liquid mids, delicate, transparent highs, tube-like midrange, high frequencies airy on top, effortless.

I listen to much classical music and the BHK combo has been especially effective in orchestral recordings. Not only is the sound stage deeper but instruments and instrumental groupings at the back of the stage are highly defined and distinguished from the larger orchestra. They create a most compelling illusion of the orchestra in the performing venue. I think the BHKs are very effective in retrieving low level detail. I hear more of the hall and the reverberation from the instruments.

In general, good recordings seem to really benefit from the high resolution capability of the combo. Jazz at the Pawnshop is a spectacular showcase for the BHKs. The overall presentation is now holographic. I hear greater depth to the sound field with greater delineation of the instruments. Mallet hits really pop with a crisp snap. Cymbals really sparkle and sound more metallic.

Keith O. Johnson’s engineering on Reference Recordings also stand out. Big Band Basie is a good example. The BHK combo produces a really 3-dimensional soundstage. Individual instruments emerge in relief separated from the overall sound space.

The BHK combination has made the most dramatic improvement to my system than any other component. It is really gratifying to hear familiar recordings sound better than you thought possible. I will be selling my Classe amp and Levinson pre amp.

Ps Audio Lambda and Ps Audio PWT transports, AURALiC Vega DAC, Oppo UDP-205, Mark Levinson No 38S preamp, Classe CA2100 amp, Klipsch Forte III, Velodyne SPL-1000R sub, PS Audio PerfecWave Power Plant 5. All Anti-Cable balanced interconnects and speaker cables.

Post script

A word about my Klipsch Forte III speakers. As some of you may know these are high efficiency speakers, sensitivity 99db. Conventional wisdom would have me power these speakers with single ended triode tube amps of l0 watts or less since that is all you need to play as loud as you as you wish. So why marry a powerful amp to a high efficiency speaker? Head room.

Consider passages from a Mahler symphony when all manner of sonic hell breaks loose; dense, complex, loud passages. You wish those passages to be reproduced with just as much clarity, smoothness, and especially “musically” as the quieter ones. I’m sure a 5 watt SET amp will power my speakers as loud as I wish. But will they do effortlessly, with no sense of strain and remain musical with challenging material?


#2

Great review. Thanks for sharing your experience!