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Positive Feedback ISSUE 28
november/december 2006


PFO Brutus Awards for 2006: An Addendum - the Balanced Audio Technology VK-600 SE stereo amplifier
by David W. Robinson


"I freely confess, accordingly, that I endeavour to be one of those who write because they have made some progress, and who, by means of writing, make further progress. If, therefore, through inadvertence or want of knowledge, anything has been stated by me which may with good reason be condemned, not only by others who are able to discover this, but also by myself (for it I am making progress, I ought, at least after it has been pointed out, to see it), such a mistake is not to be regarded with surprise or grief, but rather forgiven, and made the occasion of congratulating me, not of course, on having erred, but on having renounced an error."

Saint Augustin of Hippo, "To Marcellinus, my noble lord, justly distinguished, my son very much beloved, Augustin sends greeting in the Lord," 412 A.D. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Volume 1: The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin, with a Sketch of his Life and Work, Reprint Edition, Hendrikson Publishers, Peabody, 1994, 490.

Reconsideration, upon further reflection.

It does (and should) happen sometimes.

For example, I've been going back over my impressions and reviews for 2006, and looking over my Brutus Awards one last time. In doing so, I've been thinking again about amplifiers. I gave awards to the superlative Boulder Audio 2060 Stereo amplifier, and to the surprising Lamm M1.2 hybrid monoblocks, but I've had a third amplifier nagging at me for the past month: the Balanced Audio Technology VK-600 SE stereo amplifier. Rick Gardner had loaned me his VK-600 SE to try out between the 2060 and the Lamm M1.2s, and I spent several weeks using the VK-600 SE (300 watts per channel) in balanced mode with the EMM Labs CDSD SE/DCC2 SE front end, and the Von Schweikert VR-5 SEs on the far side.

The result was different than either the 2060 or the M1.2s. The BAT VK-600 SE's sonic presentation detailed like the Lamm M1.2's, but was a definite touch warmer tonally. It was certainly warmer than the 2060—then again, compared to the Boulder Audio 2060, just about everything sounds more or less than neutral. And the BAT didn't have the absolute authority that the 2060 has—but then again, neither does anything else that I've heard in my room.

At the time that I issued my Brutus Awards in November of 2006, I wasn't sure but that the BAT VK-600 SE wasn't perhaps a touch too warm, a bit too willing to be musically seductive, and so gave it a pass. But the bloody amp wouldn't leave my mind! I was reminded again and again of the very real pleasure that I experienced while it was in my listening room, and that I could have very easily lived with the VK-600 SE for quite a long while. I've learned to pay attention to being haunted by second thoughts in audio. Perhaps the relatively rapid succession of the Lamm M1.2s, then the Boulder 2060, then the BAT VK-600 SE, and then back to the Lamm M1.2s (which are what's currently in my room) had led to my short-changing the virtues of the BAT amp. In critically appraising fine audio components, I always have to beware of a certain proximity effect that can occur. A succession of candidates, particularly if too rapid, can lead to one item getting less praise than it otherwise would receive, simply because another design was heard too close in time for a proper perspective to develop.

In retrospect, I have become sure that this is what happened in the case of the BAT VK-600 SE. So I have decided to redress my oversight, and award the Balanced Audio Technology VK-600 SE stereo amplifier a Brutus Award for 2006. Congratulations to Viktor, Steve, Geoff and company for designing and building gear that haunts editors who need to be haunted!