I've heard rumors of an SE upgrade for my VK-5i.
Is this upgrade a reality?
It is! The SE upgrade involves very comprehensive improvements to the VK-5i that take this world reknowned preamplifier's performance to an even higher level. You can read more about this upgrade on the VK-5SE product page.
Why has Balanced Audio Technology introduced a new series of preamplifiers?
Perhaps this question is best answered from a historical perspective. When Balanced Audio Technology first introduced the VK-5 in 1994, it quickly garnered acclaim as a preamplifier offering truly world-class sound. The user interface, as was common at the time, was rather simple - it offered only manual control of functions from the unit's front panel. The i-series preamplifiers (both VK-3i and VK-5i) improved upon the sonic performance of the prior models, and more importantly, provided remote control of volume along with a convenient two-digit LCD display. The i-series preamplifiers now offered a combination of world-class sound and a substantially more modern user interface with digital display that allowed repeatable and accurate volume control settings. This combination proved very successful in the marketplace. The new architecture for the VK-20 through VK-50SE was developed to meet the following goal: To offer a combination of world-class sound with a world-class user interface. We are confident that our new series of preamplifiers has met this lofty goal while at the same time offering outstanding value to the customer.
I notice that the VK-3i preamplifier remains in the product line. Why?
The VK-3i has become our largest selling product due to its flexible combination of balanced design combined with a marvelous tube gain stage and the availability of optional remote-control as well as plug-in phono capability - all at an outstanding price! The VK-3i remains our entry-level tube preamplifier to serve a large segment of the marketplace where superb sound and exceptional price are the most important purchase considerations.
Is the VK-5i preamplifier being obsoleted?
Yes. The VK-5i is being replaced by the new VK-50 preamplifier. The VK-50 provides a significant improvement in sound over the VK-5i as well as offers a truly world-class user interface. The factory will continue to take orders on the VK-5i until summer of 1999, at which point this stellar performer will have its number appropriately retired.
How do the new preamplifier models compare sonically with the previous models?
Well, the VK-20 and VK-40 solid-state models establish a new benchmark for solid-state performance, but as they have no former equivalent in our product line, we can simply state that they are incomparable. :-) The VK-30 is a significant step up from the VK-3i. In many ways, including circuit design, overall construction and its dual mono power supply, it is much closer to the VK-5i than it is to the VK-3i. A common statement seems to be that sonically it closes much of the gap that exists between the VK-3i and VK-5i models.
Which models can accept the plug-in phono module?
The VK-3i, VK-20, VK-30, and VK-40 can all accept an optional plug-in phono module.
Can I add remote control capability or phono capability after I purchase my preamplifier?
Does my unit need to go back to the factory for the remote or phono upgrade?
No. The remote control as well as phono-module can be installed at your dealer by a competent technician for all of our current models. Only older models of the VK-3i may need to come back to the factory for addition of the phono module.
I'm intrigued by the new VK-50SE. Tell me, what makes the 6H30 SuperTube so "superior"?
Please see the in-depth explanation of this new tube.
Can I upgrade my VK-50 to a VK-50SE at a later date?
Yes. You will pay a small premium to have the upgrade done afterward as the unit will require more work than building it as a VK-50SE from the start.
What is involved in upgrading the VK-50 to a VK-50SE?
The upgrade to the VK-50SE involves the following:
The SIX-PAK provides an array of paralleled paper-in-oil capacitors that triples the value of the coupling capacitors used in the VK-40, VK-50 and VK-50SE. It allows these preamplifiers to maintain their outstanding load current drive characteristics into even lower impedance loads (defined as the power amplifier input impedance). This feature extends the compatible power amplifier input impedance range downward from 10 kΩ to 3 kΩ.
Is the user interface and programming capability the same in the VK-20 through VK-50SE?
Do I need to be a computer programmer to use the new model preamplifiers?
No. They are easy to use right out of the box. No programming is required in order to start using the product effectively. Additionally, the programming feature is quite easy to use and many customers can use this feature without ever reading the manual.