B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?

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kingpin31

B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« on: 30 May 2015, 10:06 am »
Hi !

I recently had the chance to test a B&K ST1400ii amplifier with my Veracity ST's and was absolutely shocked by what I heard !  It was not better than my MC501 monoblocks - thank God ! - but, for such a low priced amp (300$, used, off ebay), it really REALLY "did the job" !

Anyone else had the chance to play around with any B&K amp ?  I'm considering buying one but would like a little more power (200+ Watts @ 8 Ohms) but don't know if all the B&K amps are a good buy.

Thanks in advance for your help !

François

ccklone

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #1 on: 30 May 2015, 12:01 pm »
Hey Now,

I have an ST2140 and it is very good for the price I got it for. 140wpc with both SE and balanced inputs. I use it for my front L/R HT via SE from an old NAD T163 pre/processor or balanced from Monarchy Audio M22C DAC to a pair of Polk SDA CRS+s. Just push the balance switch in the rear.  Very versatile amp for me, HT and dedicated 2 channel.

I get a nice wide and deep soundstage with very good imaging. For HT I use a sub, but 2 channel no sub and I get nice tight bass with CRS+s and B&K. Sometimes you can find B&K for silly cheap money. I would like to get a deal on a B&K reference amp.

Enjoy your B&K, I enjoy mine.

--
Finest kind,
Chris

DEP14

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #2 on: 30 May 2015, 12:13 pm »
I owned a B&K a number of years ago.  Very good amp.  I believe they were built by ATI (who builds a fine amp).

I've demo'd a few budget amps lately vs my Classe CA5200 as I am considering selling my classe gear to raise a bit more cash for some other things I need to deal with.

I've even demo'd the widely talked about Crown XLS drivecore amps that put out a ridiculous amount of power for the money (can be bought at guitar center and returned within 30 days).

I have to say the differences have not been that big between many of the amps.  At louder levels (85 db+) there is very little difference IMO.  It's actually at lower levels I seem to notice more of a difference in separation and soundstage.  At a certain point it's a wall of sound.  I don't have the stones (or ears) to push it much past that as I don't see a need to "listen through the pain".

BRM talked to me about this a while ago.  While I've always believed that speakers are 75% of the equation (assuming adequate power).  I used to believe that amps were the next most important.

It's the source/pre-amp, along with the room and room treatments that I now believe make more of a difference than the amp.  I do think their are differences (mainly if the designer voiced it to sound a certain way other than neutral).

I owned a Butler 5150 amp for a while, I know that amp was voiced for a bit more midrange, and you know what when I tried to double blind test it I did feel I heard a bit more.

That said, man those MC501's are tremendous.  I've always loved McIntosh gear!  I do think Mac voices their stuff to be a bit warmer (yet detailed, it's amazing what they do). 

But if you really want to screw with your head and have someone that can really help you do double blind, DB matched listening.  Go pick up a couple crown drivecore XLS 1500's or better, bridge them down and compare them to the 501's.  I suspect you will hear a difference, but you will also realize how much we spend for that extra 10-15% of performance.


JLM

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #3 on: 30 May 2015, 12:28 pm »
This is old news, but B&K stole their design from Frank Van Alstine years ago.  And I believe they're out of business now.  Good mid-fi gear, nothing more.  The interest that pops up from time to time for B&K reminds me of the latest craze for Crown XLS amps.  Yes, audiophiles live at the point of diminishing returns.

DEP14, I agree 100% with your sonic priorities: speakers, then source/room, then amps.

Kenneth Patchen

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #4 on: 30 May 2015, 01:01 pm »


Yup, I have a B&K ST202 stereo power amp and a B&K Pro 5 pre that I've used with my Salk HT2-TLs. It's got that MOSFET thang going on, a warm, smooth, forgiving and very musical sounding amp though perhaps not the last word in detail and resolution. They're a bargain at the silly prices they sell for used, i.e., a couple hundred dollars. Mine has now been reassigned to an upstairs listening room after being replaced my a pair of Odyssey Kismet/Khartagos and some Cary gear  in the main system. Still, very nice gear indeed and visually handsome. My wife approves.

The specs:
Class AB MOSFET
# of channels - 2
Pwr rating @ 8 Ω - 150/ch
Pwr rating @ 4 Ω - 200/ch
Prs output devices/ch - 3
Amperage (amps p-p) - 28
Dynamic head room - 1.5dB
Frequency response - 5-45kHz
Dampening factor (50Hz) - 180
Input sensitivity - Unbalanced (RCA) 1.4V

Cheers,
KP

Rocket

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #5 on: 30 May 2015, 01:08 pm »
Hi,

In my experience it is definitely the speakers that provide the vast majority of SQ improvement.  The source, preamplifier and amplifier all all fairly equal. The speakers will show you when you change a component and the improvements you have made in SQ.  For example, I recently bought a Red Wine Audio Isabella preamplifier which replaced my N.E.W. p3 preamplifier. I could definitely hear an improvement in SQ but it was only moderate improvement. 

Speaker upgrades are definitely where you will get the majority of improvement in SQ.

Cheers Rod

kingpin31

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #6 on: 30 May 2015, 01:39 pm »
Thank you all for your replies !

I'd just like to specify that this amp would be for a second system and not to replace my beloved MC501's !  Also, if I wish it to be a bit powerful, it's not to get my ears to bleed but - call it superstition - I like my amps not to have to work too hard to provide the volume of sound I like.  I've been happy with less powerful amps but I always kind of tend to think "in the long run".

But, of course, my Veracity ST's are the reason I am blessed with such great sound !!!

Other than that, nobody had any experience with one the "Reference" models from B&K ?

kingpin31

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #7 on: 30 May 2015, 01:43 pm »
Oh !  And I would love to get some Van Alstine gear but not at all the same price !

...and they deserve better than being "second system" !!!

RDavidson

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #8 on: 30 May 2015, 03:35 pm »
This is old news, but B&K stole their design from Frank Van Alstine years ago.  And I believe they're out of business now.  Good mid-fi gear, nothing more.  The interest that pops up from time to time for B&K reminds me of the latest craze for Crown XLS amps.  Yes, audiophiles live at the point of diminishing returns.

DEP14, I agree 100% with your sonic priorities: speakers, then source/room, then amps.

Yup. B&K stole the original, and rather legendary, ST-140 from Frank.
Later B&K amps didn't really have much in common with the ST-140 lineage after 3-4 iterations......which is largely because B&K didn't know what they were doing with this stolen circuit design. ST-140 series 2 had HORRIBLE performance and couldn't handle much of anything below an 8 ohm load. Garbage. These can be found on Ebay all the time and are very difficult to discern from the original, more desireable, ST-140.
Much later amps, such as the one the OP has, are far removed from Frank's design. So, one can't say all B&K did was steal from Frank and make mid-fi gear, but boy, it certainly got them started on a road to success (though rather short-lived in comparison to good American companies like VanAlstine).

Kenneth Patchen

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #9 on: 30 May 2015, 04:24 pm »
Yeah, evidently B&K never made it on Frank's Holiday card list and his opinions of them are quite unrestrained. Evidently Frank didn't have a patent on the ST -140 when, he claims, B&K borrowed his ideas. Actually I thought they borrowed design plans from Hafler.

Phil A

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #10 on: 30 May 2015, 04:26 pm »


...and they deserve better than being "second system" !!!

True - but it is good to have quality gear and not a horrible thing to have it in more than one system.

R Swerdlow

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #11 on: 30 May 2015, 04:35 pm »
I now have a B&K EX4420 driving my STs.  I guess that is a predecessor to the B&K "reference" models.  At 200 wpc, it has plenty of power (probably more than enough) for those speakers, but the nice part is the Salks can easily handle that power.

B&K is now out of business and was bought by ATI, although no ATI model seems to resemble any of the B&K amps.  But ATI owns all the designs, and does keep some of the old B&K web site active.  For anyone looking at used B&K amps, there is still a list of all the old B&K amps, and their general specs, http://www.bkcomp.com/fileadmin/content/bk_support/FAQ/Previous%20Amp%20Specs.pdf.  Most if not all of their 200 wpc amps were well made, and at the right price, make for a bargain.  I've heard a 5.1 system with Vandersteen 3 speakers in front driven by a B&K Ref 5-chanel amp.  I think one of those amps and your Veracity ST speakers would be excellent.  As a price goal, look to buy used B&K amps for as low as $1 per watt, $400 for a 2-channel 200 wpc amp.

And yes, the original ST-140 was directly copied from a design by Frank Van Alstine.  It got favorable reviews when it came out, and for a time B&K was "in fashion" among audiophiles.  Its a sad commentary on how things work in the audio business.  Unless you have patented products, and have the money to pay lawyers to enforce those patents in court, it apparently is fair game to steal designs.

RDavidson

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #12 on: 30 May 2015, 05:15 pm »
Yeah, evidently B&K never made it on Frank's Holiday card list and his opinions of them are quite unrestrained. Evidently Frank didn't have a patent on the ST -140 when, he claims, B&K borrowed his ideas. Actually I thought they borrowed design plans from Hafler.

The basis for the ST-140, I believe, is from a Dynaco solid state amp. Not sure if it was a David Hafler design or maybe a James Bongiorno design. I'm sure there are others here that know that history much better than me. But regarding the topic company, B&K, they definitely started with the ST-140 which was unprotected IP of Frank's....which is morally and ethically 100% wrong.

Kenneth Patchen

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #13 on: 30 May 2015, 07:31 pm »
The basis for the ST-140, I believe, is from a Dynaco solid state amp. Not sure if it was a David Hafler design or maybe a James Bongiorno design. I'm sure there are others here that know that history much better than me. But regarding the topic company, B&K, they definitely started with the ST-140 which was unprotected IP of Frank's....which is morally and ethically 100% wrong.

I've heard Erno Borbeley's (sp?) name mentioned in connection with Hafler and the ST-140, perhaps that's just scuttlebutt. Yes, I agree, if they ripped Frank's design then that was morally and ethically wrong but now, after the fact, that doesn't diminish the quality of the product produced and bought used would not be putting money in their immoral, unethical and now non-existent pockets.

The 'K' was Steve Kaiser?

Cheers,
KP

avahifi

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #14 on: 30 May 2015, 07:38 pm »
The basis for the B&K 140 was an exact copy of our Mos-Fet 150 amplifier which was built into Dyna ST-150 sheetmetal box before we started designing and producing our own metal parts.  The B&K 202 was an exact copy of our Mos-Fet 300 which was built using Dyna ST-300/QSA-300 metal.

No Dyna solid state circuits were used at all, both amplifier designs were original Van Alstine creations.  B&K acquired the designs when Steve Kaiser, the "K" of B&K purchased the amplifiers from us.  We had no idea of his intent until after the fact.

When we reported the theft to all the editors of the major audio magazines of the day, nobody cared.  Stereophile, as I remember, said "well everybody borrows circuit ideas from each other", or something to that effect.

I guess that left us as fair game for anyone.  Later our Super Fet preamplifier and Double 400 power amplifier were copied by Dynaco (after David Hafler had left Dyna) and produced as the pat-5 BiFet and the Dyna 416, external power supply and all.

Later yet, Panor copied our Super 70 rework of the Dyna ST-70, although they buggered the feedback network.

I only run this business because I enjoy it, but sometimes it is no fun at all.

Needless to say we went for patents on more recent designs.

Frank Van Alstine

mresseguie

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #15 on: 30 May 2015, 08:44 pm »
I'm sorry to hear of your past problems, but I'm glad to hear you've pursued patents.  :thumb:

kingpin31

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #16 on: 31 May 2015, 07:33 am »
Wow !  I certainly didn't know all of this when, totally by accident, I've stumbled upon that B&K amp !!!  If it's the counterfeit copy, then I can't imagine just how good the "real thing" must sound !

Since going "The Salk Way", I've been curious of Van Alstine amps, as they seem to go so well together but, being a McIntosh junky (and NOT for the BiG Blue Meters, believe it or not...), I've put pretty much all of what I could afford in it so it does not leave enough for another HiFi system (unless I sold my McGear...).  Also, I've grown accustomed to XLR connectors as they are dead silent when linking Macs together.  For me, XLR is not mainly a "sonic affair" as I don't feel that the sound is better than with RCA (even though different) but more of a "No POCK !" in the speakers when switching the amps on - not that the MC501 make any noise anyway but other amps do - or other noise(s) when there should only be silence.  I know that Van Alstine offers an XLR option but it's another 200 or 250$, plus the european voltage option (free on some amps, I think I read), so it adds up to quite a lot for a "guest room" amp !

All this being said, I'd really like to have the chance to try a Van Alstine amp, either a Synergy or a Fet Valve and, maybe, one day, when I'll order my SS8 from Salk, I'll also get a Synergy 300 or Fet Valve 400R to drive them but it's not "in the cards" right now.

Man !  Now I feel ashamed for liking the B&K !!!

P.S.: To MM Van Alstine and Salk:  Is it possible that, in a near future, you'll come visit us in Europe ?
« Last Edit: 1 Jun 2015, 05:45 am by kingpin31 »

Phil A

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #17 on: 31 May 2015, 01:40 pm »


Man !  Now I feel ashamed for liking the B&K !!!



Not your fault there are people in the world who don't do things the way they should.

kingpin31

Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #18 on: 12 Jun 2015, 02:24 pm »
Hello again !

Just to let you all know that instead of going the B&K way (and feeling guilty for it...), I've bought a nice "naim NAP 100" instead.  It REALLY delivers (at its size, it's scary) !  They call it "shoebox" size, I call it "candybox" !  Anyway, it's a GREAT buy and it will give me time to study Van Alstine's offerings more closely instead of rushing in.

Thank you all for your replies !

Welcomdmat

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Re: B&K Amplifiers, anyone ?
« Reply #19 on: 30 Mar 2017, 06:39 pm »
Have any of your guys come across the EX-140?  Is that a copy of the same amplifiers?  I have been looking for information for a little while.