Balanced Audio Technology VK-D5 CD player Page 3

Tiger Okoshi's Echoes of a Note: A Tribute to Louis "Pops" Armstrong is one of those great Taguchi-produced JVC XRCDs (JVCXRC-0030-2), and "Basin Street Blues" showed off perfectly the best the VK-D5 can do. And what great music! I was connected, with a strong sense of Okoshi's delight at playing these classic tunes. My notes: "Completely effortless, incredibly airy, with space and bloom. Low-level dynamics are superb. Tiger's horn is razor-sharp, with not a hint of hardness or grain. Transparency is of a very high order; the Radians truly disappeared. Timing is everything on 'St James Infirmary,' and here the mesh is perfect."

Bill Holman's Brilliant Corners: Music of Thelonious Monk is another Taguchi JVC XRCD production (JVCXR-0028-2). Listening to "'Round Midnight," I became incredulous. The soundstage was enormous and enveloping—Bob Efford's bass clarinet sounded like sex on wheels. When the band picks up and lifts the music on a rising scrim of sound and power, Efford's clarinet soars to match. It was very moving. Notes: "The acoustic bass solo the VK-D5 delivers is all about articulation and luscious midrange madness. The swing is profound but restrained, pace and timing are spot on. If it's possible to take a bath in soundwaves, this is it!" Hey, if you don't get excited, what's the point?

It was a good listening session.

'Scuse me, I'm feeling unbalanced...
Since reportedly nearly 50% of VK-D5 owners are dropping their players into systems other than BAT's own, I switched to the player's single-ended RCAs and tied them to the Nagra and the YBA Signature 6 Chassis. I used single-ended versions of the TARA cables, and had good luck with Ensemble's very fitting Masterflux interconnect.

I can report with a clear conscience that the VK-D5's RCA jacks aren't afterthoughts thrown in for good measure. Don't forget, all processing within the VK-D5 is carried out differentially, regardless of the output. The Nagra's adjustable input potentiometers allowed me to finely optimize the throughput, and I wound up with a hugely entertaining sound. Man, it was vivacious!

I racked up another trip-hop favorite around here: A Grand Love Story by Kid Loco (Yellow Productions/East West 3984 208052). Notes: "You lose the lovely analoglike midrange and top end of the XRCD. This is a rougher pop mix, without the same level of refinement and subtlety as the JVCs. But it's energetic, colorful, and vivid, full of impact and slam—the transients licking off the Radians are astonishing! The openness and clarity in the highs are so very Nagra."

The VK-D5 fell—in a big way—for the YBA Signature 6 Chassis. Once I'd hooked it up to the Tape In RCAs of the French dual-mono-everything preamp, the game was well and truly over. Ah, the velvet, the velvet, the extension top and bottom, the linearity and refinement, the utter clarity...

Spoiled again.

Running the VK-D5 balanced produced the best results, better yet into BAT's own VK-5i. Switching to single-ended slightly lessened the extremely high palpability factor while rendering a soundstage that was just a touch less transparent. Balancing this neatly, the highs sounded a tad more incisive and fast running single-ended, especially on the Nagra. I'd say you don't lose much more than a percentage point or two of overall performance when using the single-ended outputs; I can recommend both configurations with no qualms at all.

Stacking it up
So how does the BAT VK-D5 stack up? At $4500, it sits at a very touchy price point. For that kind of money you can expect a high order of performance, especially in these fluxional digital times. And it's an integrated player, of course—just one box.

I could easily live with a CD player like this. While it's bested in some ways by the far more costly Ensemble gear, it fights on a level playing field with the YBA CD-1 for my musical affections. Each offers a genuine slice of high-end sound. The YBA is a bit more removed, elegant, and refined. The VK-D5 is more emotional, immediate, and lively, retaining the exquisite palpability and dynamic capability of an unfettered, well-turned-out tube circuit. Methinks BAT has done it again.

Balanced Audio Technology
26 Beethoven Drive
Wilmington, DE 19807
(800) 255-4228