Why does Balanced Audio Technology offer a choice
of three phono-preamplifiers in the VK-P3, VK-P5 and VK-P10?
The VK-P3, VK-P5 and VK-P10 cover a broad spectrum of needs for the analog enthusiast both in terms of price points and features. Balanced Audio Technology is dedicated to providing the finest possible reproduction of music in the home and strongly believes that outstanding analog reproduction remains a key element of that commitment.
How do I choose the phono-preamplifier that is right for my system?
The choice between the VK-P3 phono-module and the VK-P5 is easy. The VK-P3 inboard phono-module offers extraordinary performance for either moving-magnet or moving-coil cartridges (and the convenience of a single-box solution for a combined line stage and phono-stage). The VK-P5 is a ten-tube phono stage that moves the listener much closer in performance to the ultimate sound of the VK-P10. If you still listen to analog a great deal, but find the VK-P10 price beyond your budget for a phono stage, our recommendation is that you choose the VK-P5. The VK-P10 is for the analog aficionado who simply wants the best possible reproduction for his or her analog system. It offers unmatched flexibility and a superlative sound that reveals the finest nuance in both recordings and ancillary equipment.
Can you elaborate on the differences between the VK-P5 and VK-P10 phono-stages?
The VK-P5 and VK-P10 are based upon the same ten-tube dual-mono circuit. They also use the exact same tubes and the exact same power supply transformers. They are different in that the VK-P10 adds polarity switching, switch selectable step-up transformers, custom oil-capacitors in place of polypropylene parts, greater power supply energy storage, and a nine-pound resonance control plate to minimize chassis vibration. Because of its ability to engage the step-up transformers, the VK-P10 has a broader range of available gain settings and a lower noise floor, thus allowing for the use of super-low output cartridges.
When should I use the step-up transformers in my VK-P10?
Most customers seem to prefer the direct connection mode (step-up transformers disengaged). In direct mode the VK-P10 can comfortably handle phono-cartridges with output as low as 0.2 mV. Usually in such a set-up, the input noise of the gain stage will be substantially below the surface noise of even the cleanest records - a good criteria for system noise evaluation. However, for the rare cartridge with very low output (0.2 mV or less), you should try using the built-in step-up transformers to provide higher gain and improved signal-to-noise ratio. Note, however, that these are general rules. In a number of cases, we have found higher output cartridges that sound better with the step-up transformers engaged. We believe that the step-up transformers may offer a synergistic match with some of these cartridges. The net result is that you need to listen to both alternatives to determine which is best for your system.
How do I determine the optimum cartridge loading (both resistance and capacitance)?
As general rule, we recommend that you start with the cartridge manufacturer's recommendation. If a particular cartridge calls for a 47 kΩ resistor and no capacitance, then make this your starting point. There is no risk in experimenting with these settings and engaging for example, 1 kΩ or even 100 Ω load resistors. Usually, cartridges will yield a bit more "air" when loaded with higher value resistors. Engaging additional input capacitance will usually help to tame the rising top end of many moving coil cartridges.
How does the VK-D5 CD player perform in comparison to your best analog setup?
The VK-D5 provides a remarkably open presentation that competes favorably with the most expensive analog setups, even those using our own VK-P10 phono-stage. During customer and trade-show presentations, we regularly switch back and forth between the VK-D5 and a top-flight analog setup. The VK-D5 is as effortless in its presentation as the finest analog reproduction.
Will the VK-D5 be upgradeable to a new digital standard whenever it's released?
Probably not. Many companies will claim full upgradeability to a future digital standard but will not tell you the cost of any such future upgrade. We'd rather not play a game of semantics with your money. Any new standard will probably involve a DVD transport, and not the CD format.
When will Balanced Audio Technology jump on the new digital standard for its own designs?
We are being conservative in making this decision. The two major competing standards are now DVD 24 bit/96kHz audio and DSD Super Audio. We'd like to wait until the market accepts one as the standard, rather than take a guess and potentially have our customers buy the wrong box for many thousands of dollars.
Should I just wait before buying any CD player until a new standard is released?
Well, it depends. The digital world moves quickly. A personal computer purchased today will be vastly superceded in eighteen months. Without question, a new digital audio standard will offer improved sonic performance over today's Redbook CD standard. Yet, we've already seen almost two years of industry infighting with no clear standard having emerged. In the face of this uncertainty, what should you do? One choice is to simply maximize your enjoyment from the vast recorded library of existing music (instead of constantly worrying about the future to the detriment of the joy available to you today