BAT VK-3500 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

Overall, the VK-3500's sound mixes crisp, sparky treble and fast, precise bass with a deliciously dynamic delivery and confident, detailed soundstaging. It gives a mostly transparent view of recordings without descending into clinical indifference while treble is typically more wholegrain mustard than buttery smooth. I was guilty of expecting a little more softness to its presentation – having recently experienced exactly that with Copland's easy-on-the-ear CSA150 hybrid integrated amplifier [HFN Jun '21] – but instead found myself captivated by its energetic and revealing nature. It's an attention-grabbing performance.

'It Never Rains', the closing track on Dire Straits' Love Over Gold [CD, Vertigo 800 088-2], begins with a major key keyboard melody, gentle percussion and floating guitar licks, but ends with an extended instrumental section where Pick Withers' drumming gains intensity, Knopfler lets his bluesy guitar notes fly and a phase effect threatens to render it a sonic soup. BAT's VK-3500 artfully handled both sides of the coin, approaching the introduction with a light touch but matching the drive and dynamics later on beat for beat, while keeping the various elements distinct.

1021bat.remDrop Kick
Queen's 'Death On Two Legs' from A Night At The Opera [EMI CDP 7 46207 2] – which has an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production befitting an album reported at the time to be the most expensive ever recorded – left me grinning. Each note of the piano intro sounded cleanly struck, and then, as if snapping its fingers, the VK-3500 launched into the guitar riff, bringing bite and edge to Brian May's tone. Musical flourishes sparkled left and right while the drums sounded weighty and intense.

A particularly notable trait of the VK-3500 is the fun it has with deep bass. Low-end transients come and go like momentary explosions, as exemplified by the one-note bassline progressions in Eminem's 'My Name Is' [The Slim Shady LP; Interscope 490 287-2], or the bouncy kick drums of Regina Spektor's 'Fidelity' [Begin To Hope; Sire 9362-44112-2] – in both instances the listening experience took on a physical dimension. The latter track's title proved apt here, too, as the amplifier relished Spektor's lilting, articulate vocal and the plucked string accompaniment, expressing them with remarkable clarity.

Party Up
So the VK-3500 sounds detailed and alive, speedy and rhythmic. Does it have a weakness? I can imagine some might prefer more warmth to its presentation, and a softer edge to its upper registers – a weekend filled with high-volume listening to the likes of Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones and AC/DC did throw up the occasional shrill moment. Yet I was never deterred from continuing to enjoy these rock 'n' roll dinosaurs, such was the verve and snarl this BAT amplifier brought to the party.

And when I moved on to more tonally nuanced material, cherishing the three-dimensional soundstaging and textured trumpet of Nils Wülker's 'Just Here, Just Now' [eponymous, Ear Treat Music; 88.2kHz/24-bit], it wasn't because I was seeking respite from a brash-sounding amplifier.


A single PSU transformer [top, centre] feeds a 'dual-mono' layout including an electro-harmonix 6H30P double-triode preamp [centre] and rugged output stage with four pairs of ON Semiconductor transistors [left/right heatsinks]. Phono PCB sits edge-on near the rear of the case

The more time I spent with the VK-3500, the more strings I found to its bow. When fed some modern, techy electronica (and even with a regular-sized standmount), the impression is that it wouldn't be out of place doing front-end duty in a nightclub. Paul Oakenfold's 'Save The Last Trance For Me' [A Lively Mind; Perfecto PERCD003] came straight out the gate at full-throttle, a pounding drum track underneath waves of reverberant synths. Yet this slab of euphoria was peppered with surprisingly delicate touches, such as an isolated high-pitch woodblock that echoed serenely right-of-centre.

And with a track where bass is less prominent, the VK-3500 is able to shift gear easily. Through the big Paradigm Founder 100F loudspeakers, the sustained organ notes, soft strings and falsetto vocals of 'Pause', by multi-instrumental outfit Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo [Almanac; Everyone Sang; 88.2kHz/24-bit], were painted in varying subtle shades. The recording was utterly spine-tingling.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
BAT's VK-3500 integrated amp ably serves as a celebration of the company's 25 years in the 'balanced audio' business – offering an imperious blend of lush looks, audiophile engineering and stellar performance across all musical flavours. Not the honey monster some might expect of a big tube/solid state hybrid, but it's never less than enjoyable. As birthday presents go, this is far better than a pair of socks.

Balanced Audio Technology Inc.
Wilmington DE, USA
Supplied by: Karma-AV Ltd, York
01423 358846