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Phonostage | MC

Balanced Audio Technology

Price (in Poland): 29 990 PLN

Contact: Balanced Audio Technology Inc.
1300 First State Blvd. | Suite A
Wilmington DE 19804 | U.S.A.


Provided for test by VOICE

ALANCED AUDIO TECHNOLOGY (or BAT), a company founded in 1995, is connected spiritually and physically with the International Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where it always shared the most important news. It was there that in January 1995 the first two devices, the VK-5 linear preamplifier and the VK-60 power amplifier were presented, also there an acquisition by Jim Davis, who also owns Music Direct and Mobile Fidelity was announced in 2013, and two years later an anouncement was made about employing Steve Shade as foreign sales director.

The company was founded by two friends who previously had worked at Hewlett-Packard - Steve Bednarski and Victor Khomenka, who were soon joined by Geoff Poor, previously co-founder of the Dunlavy Audio Labs, producing top high-end loudspeakers, as a full partner and sales director. They are the "heart" of BAT, which is why even after Jim Davis took over the company, Steve Bednarski and Victor Khomenko remained in their positions. Geoff Poor on the other hand started his own business as its owner and director. It's called "El Presidento" - Glenn Poor's Audio Video, and it's network of stores offering audio and video-audio components.


Companies are sold for many reasons, but usually it is about gaining additional resources and thus allowing company to develop. As it seems, Jim Davis assured not only that, because thanks to the experience in sales of audio devices, also having a publishing company, he could also offer something more - knowledge. And it's hard to come by. As it was emphasized in the press materials, it led to "improving most products and reducing their prices" ( and ensured "vital financial backing" (

VK-6PSE (VK = Victor Khomenko) was the first device that benefited from the ownership change. Introduced in 2014, replacing the VK-10SE model, it became BAT's new "entry-level" product in this category. Although the cheapest, it shares all basic solutions with its top phonostage models: solid chassis, balanced signal gain stage, tube amplification, dual-mono design, also power supply, as well as the optional upgrade - installing an additional tube stage and a special set of oil-paper output capacitors, which turns it into "SE" version. That's the one under review.

The VK-P6SE is a balanced design, with a passive "floating" RIAA correction circuit, ie after the RCA input the "positive" signal is amplified in one branch of the gain, and the "negative", which normally is shorted to the ground, here is amplified in the other branch. The ground connection is made with a separate cable run from a tonearm. This type of circuit allows to reduce the number of components – after all it is a balanced design, and therefore with lower noise – which translates into improved matching of the RIAA curve (within 0.1 dB). There is only balanced output (no RCA!).

The preamplifier provides a gain of 50 or 55 dB, so it is designed for MC cartridges. Gain would suggest using it with pickups delivering a nominal output voltage of 0.3 mV and more, but a high signal-to-noise ratio with a stronger gain, at 73 dB, also means that cartridges with an output of 0.2 mV should work just fine too. The phonostage offers the possibility of adjusting the input parameters, both the essential for MCs impedance load and the less important capacity. One can set following values: 100 Ω, 1 kΩ, 47 kΩ and 100 kΩ | 0 pF, 100 pF, 470 pF, 1000 pF; if necessary, you can also combine these values in parallel.

The device comes with interesting settings - 47 kΩ load and 0 pF capacity, which makes no sense, because it's not a correct setting for any MC cartridge. Additionally, to change these setting one has to remove a series of bolts and open the chassis. I do not know, maybe it would be better to order this phonostage with soldered resistors with proper values for a specific cartridge. There is also the "User" setting, which is a user-defined load.

There are eight 6922 dual triodes in the amplification path, four per channel, combined with two 6SN7 double triodes, which do not operate in the signal's path but in the second stage as current sources for 6922 tubes. The system works without feedback. The power supply section is also a dual-mono design. There are two large toroidal transformers and a bank of capacitors that suppress power grid ripples. The SE version adds another gain stage to the system, based on two 6C45 (6SN7) (Soviet made) tubes, and also replaces polypropylene output capacitors with a bank of six paper-oil capacitors manufactured for BAT per channel.

Therefore, it is not a "plug&play" device. After connecting it to a power and turntable on one side and with preamplifier or an integrated amplifier on the other, one has to unscrew the cover and set proper impedance load and capacity and possibly also gain for one's particular pickup. After assembling the housing back, one can finally press the "on / off" button, then a blue LED lights up. After about 45 seconds, the "soft start" cycle, extending tube's lifespan, ends, and the diode stops flashing. A signal appears in the output, and we are ready to play some music. One should still give the device at least 30 minutes for "warm-up" – after all it is a tube device.

  • TEST: Balanced Audio Technology VK-3iX SUPER-PAK - preamplifier
  • AWARDS | 2007 Yearly Award: Balanced Audio Technology VK-300x TUBE – integrated amplifier
  • TEST: Balanced Audio Technology VK-300x TUBE – integrated amplifier
  • TEST: Balanced Audio Technology VK-250 BAT-PAK – power amplifier

  • Records used for the test (a selec- tion)

    • Clifford Brown and Max Roach, Study In Brown, EmArcy/Universal Music Japan UCJU-9072, 200 g LP (1955/2007)
    • Depeche Mode, Fragile Tension/Hole to Feed, Mute Records CDBONG42, maxi-SP CD (2009)
    • Johnny Hartman, I Just Dropped By To Say Hello, Impulse!/Original Recording Group ORG 027, 2 x 45 rpm, 180 g LP (1963/2013)
    • Paul Desmond, Take Ten, RCA Victor/Speakers Corner Records LSP-2569, 180 g LP (1963/2005)
    • Yama & Jiro’s Wave, Girl Talk, Three Blind Mice/Cisco TBM-2559-45, „45 RPM Special Limited Edition, No. 0080/1000”, 2 x 45 RPM 180 g LP (1975/2006)
    • Zbigniew Namysłowski, Winobranie, Polskie Nagrania „Muza” SXL 0925, Polish Jazz | vol. 33, LP (1973)

    Japanese issues available at

    So many tubes under the "hood" is not a coincidence. BAT delivers a refined, uniquely "tube" performance. It's a warm, big, dense sound with both range extremes rounded, with a samowhat tempered and rounded attack. I listened to re-editions from the Three Blind Mice label, published by Cisco (45 RPM), and I'm sure of it - it's a preamplifier that creates its own version of events. Even though, nothing in it is as unambiguous as this paragraph would suggest.

    As already mentioned, I started from the TBM re-editions. The presentation with records like Misty and Girl Talk tempted with sensuality, warmth and richness. There was not too much selectivity that this label is famous for - it's part of the "tube" plan. But the Depeche Mode maxi singles I listened to immediately after that, while preparing for the group's concert in Krakow, proved that it was neither boring nor monotonous sound.

    For example, the Perfect track from the 12" double release Hole to Feet / Fragile Tension (the album is actually a double album with two A and B sides) sounded dynamically and with o lot of momentum. In the ending fragment of the Roger Sanchez Club Mix bass went really low and deep. Only now - paradoxically, because it's a recording with high compression - I realized why the low end on TBM records was rounded. It turned out that it was not less rich in the lower regions compared to my reference phonostage, but it had a different character. The most energy is focused in the 150 to 250 Hz range, and everything below that is presented in a saturated manner, but from a distance.

    For a moment, I was under impression that the BAT's entry-level phonostage was emphasizing lower midrange, “enlarging” it. But no, it was just an impression caused by the sonic character of the TBM and Depeche Mode records. Listened soon after, Johnny Hartman, a beautiful, rich voice, was presented from a distance, as I had heard it many times using even the most expensive preamplifiers and turntables.

    I have this extraordinary album – let me remind you that the accompanying band consists of: Illinois Jacquet, Kennt Burrell, Jim Hall, Milt Hilton and Elvin Jones – re-released by Original Recording Group on 45 RPM record and it is very close to the original. Above all, in how Hartman's voice is shown. We know very well that he sings a classic "crooner", we know about it, but it does not flood the whole picture before our eyes, it has a perspective, nicely differentiates the guitars, and clearly separates the drum kit and guitars in different channels.

    BAT VK-P6SE does its job in an intricate way. This is a "tube" sound, I have no doubts about it. But "tube" in such a way that although the most important subrange is the midrange, which is soft and warm, it's not entirely at the expense of band's extremes, not quite at the expense of dynamics, and by saturating the midrange it focuses listener's attention on it. It worked great when I listened to the Japanese re-edition of the mono version of the Study in Brown, and in particular to the George's Dillema track. It begins with stick strongly hitting cymbals, and then snare drum. BAT warmed these elements up, softened, “gilded” metal sheets, but did not lose agility, it was powerful, it was fast, it was almost aggressive - as it should be.

    However, the device actually charms listener with something else - the density and breath in the lower part of the band. In absolute terms, the bass is not energetic down to the very bottom, and mainly in the range that is most noticeable for human ear and where the acoustic instruments, for example double bass, operate. The phonostage provides something extra there, which makes the presentation full, nothing is missing there. Same with the other band's extreme. Like low tones, also high tones are not particularly well differentiated. The idea was obviously to properly convey the tone with softness, with "gilt" and not with precision and so-called “neutrality”.

    The American preamplifier goes in the direction of presenting its own sound. It does it with grace, it's a high-quality sound. Not particularly well differentiated, you need to know that, because both the records cut from analogue tapes, as well as those prepared from digital files have a similar character and their own sonic features emerge only from under it. It is in this way that BAT manifests its tube character - without quotes, because it is exactly THIS type of sound. And also an authentic and pleasant one.

    It is not particularly dynamic or "nimble", and yet a powerful, club music will be presented in a nice, enjoyable way. However, as it seems, the most time users will be most likely to spend with jazz and classical music, because acoustic instruments, preferably from analogue recordings, gain the most from this sonic character. BAT is able to convey their natural sound, adding its own interpretation on top, ie the density and warmth of the midrange. At the same time, it does not exaggerate with the expansion of the stage, either in width or in depth. However, it nicely shows instruments placement and builds a dense space in electronic music recordings.


    So I could sum up this test with something like this: warmth, richness and naturalness. And add that it comes at a cost of lesser differentiation and selectivity - there are not too many "details", because it is a dense, saturated sound. The band's extremes are rounded and not quite as energetic. This is an excellent mix of these elements, a refined consensus between what is possible and what is desirable. You should listen to this BAT, even if you're looking for something different, because it's a very fine example of a classic tube sound, which is worth knowing as one of the high-end audio versions.

    The VK-P6SE is a tube balanced phonostage for Moving Coil cartridges. It features a typical appearance for this company's products, because the front wall was made of two layers of aluminum plates, with the top one resembling characteristic "wings". From its simplicity, only the power switch and the blue LED break off. On the back there is an unbalanced RCA input with an accompanying ground socket and XLR balanced output - there is no RCA output, the preamplifier is designed to work in fully balanced systems! The chassis is made of thick steel sheets, and all the walls feature elongated slits to improve cooling of the interior.

    User has following cartridge loading settings at his disposal: resistance and capacity - as well as gain, but the micro switches are placed on the main PCB inside the device. To change these settings one needs to open the chassis. The switches can be found on the main PCB, close to the rear panel, and the gain switch is located in the middle between the two channels. The electronic circuit was assembled on two printed circuit boards. The larger one occupies the entire underside, and over it a narrow plate with additional 6C45 lamps has been mounted. It forms, together with oil capacitors in the so-called "Six Pack", the SE version of this device.

    The device features a fully passive RIAA correction circuit of a dual mono design. The tubes serve only to amplify the signal; the power supply is solid state section also of a dual mono structure. There are four 6922 double triodes - 6922EH Electro-Harmonix to be exact - and one 6H8C per channel. The 6H8C is a Russian designation of 6SN7 tube and these are NOS units from 1962. The additional PCB I mentioned adds two 6C45 per channel. These are NOS tubes from 1974 originating from the Reflector factory, todays Sovtek. The 6922 triodes are used in the gain stage, and 6H8C are working as current sources.

    Manufacturer used high quality passive elements. Above mentioned oil capacitors, 1 μF each, are custom-made for BAT, same as the polypropylene ones used in other places in the circuit. BAT used precise resistors and film capacitors in the capacitance selector. The power supply is exceptionally advanced, with two toroidal transformers, one per channel, each of them featuring two separate secondary windings. There are semiconductor rectifiers that work with integrated voltage regulators and eighteen - in total - electrolytic capacitors, coupled with Wima polypropylene capacitors.

    It is a well-made, well-thought-through device. It seems to me that the "SE" version should be the only one available. The loading adjustment is problematic, the more that the number of settings available is too small. But for high-ender users this should not be a problem, because they get the opportunity to accurately define the load for their cartridge by soldering suitable resistors and capacitors.

    Technical specification (according to manufacturer)

    | Low: 50 dB
    | High: 55 dB
    Cartridge loading:
    | resistance selectable from 100 Ω to 47 kΩ
    | capacitance selectable from 0 to 1000 pF
    | Low Gain: 71 dB
    | High Gain: 73 dB
    8 x 6922 | 4 x 6C45 | 2 x 6SN7
    Power consumption: 150 W
    Dimensions (W x H x D): 480 x 145 x 400 mm
    Weight: 17 kg



    - Turntable: AVID HIFI Acutus SP [Custom Version]
    - Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE | Miyajima Laboratory ZERO (mono) | Denon DL-103SA, review HERE
    - Phono stage: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE

    - Compact Disc Player: Ancient Audio AIR V-edition, review HERE

    - Line Preamplifier: Polaris III [Custom Version] + AC Regenerator, regular version review (in Polish) HERE
    - Power amplifier: Soulution 710
    - Integrated Amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE

    - Stand mount Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
    - Stands for Harbeths: Acoustic Revive Custom Series Loudspeaker Stands
    - Real-Sound Processor: SPEC RSP-101/GL
    - Integrated Amplifier/Headphone amplifier: Leben CS300XS Custom Version, review HERE
    - Headphones: HIFIMAN HE-6, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE | HIFIMAN HE-300, review HERE | Sennheiser HD800 | AKG K701, review (in Polish) HERE | Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro, version 600 - reviews (in Polish): HERE, HERE, HERE
    - Headphone Stands: Klutz Design CanCans (x 3), review (in Polish) HERE
    - Headphone Cables: Entreq Konstantin 2010/Sennheiser HD800/HIFIMAN HE-500, review HERE

    - Portable Player: HIFIMAN HM-801
    - USB Cables: Acoustic Revive USB-1.0SP (1 m) | Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL (5 m), review HERE
    - LAN Cables: Acoustic Revive LAN-1.0 PA (kable ) | RLI-1 (filtry), review HERE
    - Router: Liksys WAG320N
    - NAS: Synology DS410j/8 TB
    System I
    - Interconnects: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, review HERE | preamplifier-power amplifier: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review (in Polish) HERE
    System II
    - Interconnects: Acoustic Revive RCA-1.0PA | XLR-1.0PA II
    - Loudspeaker Cables: Acoustic Revive SPC-PA

    System I
    - Power Cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300, all system, review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate, review HERE
    - Power Line: power cable Oyaide Tunami Nigo (6m); wall sockets 3 x Furutech FT-SWS (R)
    System II
    - Power Cables: Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version, review (in Polish) HERE | Oyaide GPX-R (x 4 ), review HERE
    - Power Distributor: Oyaide MTS-4e, review HERE
    - Stolik: SolidBase IV Custom, read HERE/all system
    - Anti-vibration Platforms: Acoustic Revive RAF-48H, review HERE/digital sources | Pro Audio Bono [Custom Version]/headphone amplifier/integrated amplifier, review HERE | Acoustic Revive RST-38H/loudspeakers under review/stands for loudspeakers under review
    - Anti-vibration Feets: Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc/ CD Player/Ayon Polaris II Power Supply /products under review, review HERE | Finite Elemente CeraPuc/ products under review, review HERE | Audio Replas OPT-30HG-SC/PL HR Quartz, review HERE
    - Anti-vibration accsories: Audio Replas CNS-7000SZ/power cable, review HERE
    - Quartz Isolators: Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010/CP-4

    - FM Radio: Tivoli Audio Model One