With its new transformer-coupled outputs and superb user
interface, the VK-33SE offers both extremely dynamic, transparent renditions of
musical events and the industry’s best ease-of-use versatility. The result of
intense research, each of the preamplifier’s transformer-coupled outputs is
encapsulated within a mu-metal shield, a design substantially superior to any
capacitor in maintaining purity of signal transmission. True to its heritage,
the VK-33SE uses the 6H30 SuperTube to form a high-current, low-impedance gain
stage. For extra convenience, the fully balanced VK-33SE even incorporates a mix
of balanced and single-ended inputs as well as outputs.
The VK-33SE preamplifier is truly an outstanding performer in Balanced Audio
Technology’s line of Special Edition vacuum tube preamplifiers. At BAT, we
don’t look over our shoulders to see what the competition is doing. Our
toughest competition comes from within.
Balanced Audio Technology is pleased to confirm that the VK-33SE
substantially exceeds the performance of the already stellar VK-32SE
preamplifier. With its new transformer-coupled outputs, the VK-33SE simply
offers a far more dynamic and transparent rendition of the musical event than
previously thought possible.
Transformer Coupled Outputs
Like the VK-53SE and REX II preamplifiers, the VK-33SE features
transformer-coupled outputs. This new design replaces BAT’s venerable
Six-Pak of output capacitors with custom-designed output transformers.
Each transformer is encapsulated within a mu-metal shield for the ultimate in
signal purity and noise isolation.
This change to a transformer-coupled output stage has a solid engineering
foundation. All devices have inherent imperfections. Yet, while both
capacitors and transformers can perform the same task of DC decoupling, in many
cases transformers can be designed closer to the ideal device model. This
benefit, however, does not come easily. First - the design of a linear,
and close-to-ideal, transformer is not trivial. Second - some applications
are more suitable for transformers than others. And third - the highest
quality transformers are also much higher in cost. The combination of
these three elements explains why good transformers are relatively uncommon in
In order to achieve this “transformational” goal, years were spent in
prototyping and testing various alternative output transformer designs.
The result: BAT’s new transformer-coupled output stage proved itself to be
substantially superior to any capacitor in maintaining a purity of signal
transmission. Electrically, these custom transformers significantly
improve the VK-33SE preamplifier’s ability to drive low impedance loads.
Sonically, they offer improvements in every area of musical reproduction.
Simplicity of design, especially in the direct signal path, has always been
the hallmark of Balanced Audio Technology’s purist approach to circuit topology.
Some advocates of this purist approach like to talk about a "direct wire
with gain" as being the ideal circuit. The VK-33SE preamplifier deftly
meets this simple design criterion. Effectively, the signal in the VK-33SE
preamplifier is transmitted through only one gain stage. It is a design
that is free from the negative artifacts attributable to both extremes of modern
preamplifier designs: passive preamplifiers at one end of the spectrum and
multistage buffered active circuits at the other.
The benefit of the UnistageTM circuit is that it provides the
ultimate simplicity of amplifying the incoming signal only once, while using no
global feedback to double-back on the straight-through integrity of that signal.
Imagine telling a joke to your friends and telling them to “pass it
on”…. Pass it on enough times and you won’t recognize the joke.
Pass the music through too many gain stages, and you’ll no longer
recognize the genius and beauty of your favorite recordings.
High-current 6H30 SuperTube circuit
Well over a decade ago, Balanced Audio Technology introduced the world to the
6H30 SuperTube with the introduction of the VK-50SE preamplifier. Today,
many of our major tube competitors have followed Balanced Audio Technology’s
lead by designing their own reference products based on this stellar vacuum
tube. As the fourth generation of our renowned VK-3x series of
preamplifiers, the VK-33SE preamplifier continues to proudly use the 6H30
SuperTube to form a high-current, low impedance gain stage. As we had
written upon introduction, “comparing the 6H30 tube to a standard 6922 is like
comparing a Formula 1 race car to a family sedan.” Balanced Audio
Technology is certainly proud of having the longest “track record” in using this
Fully balanced design
Of course the VK-33SE preamplifier is balanced. Balanced Audio
Technology staked its reputation on this principal of circuit design from day
one. Today, it isn’t hard to find many followers in the industry.
Why do we believe that balanced is better? In our opinion balanced
topology simply provides a completesignal
representation. Something magical happens when you free yourself from
the limitations of the single-ended structure with its half-signalprocessing. If a one-handed craftsman can be very good, imagine
what he could do with two hands.
It is fairly common to associate the benefits of balanced design with
improved signal integrity when dealing with long interconnects, for
example. In fact, the true benefits of a balanced approach to circuit
design go much further than signal transmission. These benefits include
such fundamental aspects of design as the interaction between the power supply
and its associated gain stage. It is now common wisdom that the power
supply should be considered a part of the signal path. However, whereas
the sonic contribution of the power supply can be overwhelming in a single-ended
design, it is much less of a concern in a balanced circuit. As the circuit
becomes more symmetrical, the residual effect of the power supply becomes less
intrusive. In effect, the demand on the power supply is reduced, making it
easier to design a balanced circuit that conforms more closely to the
For added convenience, the VK-33SE incorporates a mix of balanced and
single-ended inputs as well as outputs.
Shunt volume control
The VK-33SE preamplifier employs a proprietary electronic shunt volume
attenuator that offers one hundred and forty steps of 0.5dB resolution.
Only a single Vishay bulk foil resistor per phase – the most precise and
thermally stable resistor available – is in the signal path. Discrete
metal film resistors are used to bleed the unused signal to ground. With
this circuit, only the highest quality Vishay resistor is in series with the
signal. In addition, the one hundred and forty steps give precise,
repeatable volume settings that sound continuous to the human ear. With
the VK-33SE preamplifier, you can always get the volume just right!
Optional Phono Module
The user can order the VK-33SE preamplifier with Balanced Audio Technology’s
outstanding VK-P3 phono card. The VK-P3 phono card is a solid-state phono
module that is designed to compete with external phono stages that are twice its
price. It offers switch-selectable moving magnet or moving coil gain
settings, and provides a convenient, high performance, single-box solution for
the vinyl record aficionado.
Superb User Interface
The VK-33SE preamplifier is easy to use right out of the box. It is also just
as easy to customize. Its user interface has been widely acknowledged to
be one of the best and perhaps the most flexible in the industry. You can
dim the display (or turn it off entirely) from the comfort of your chair by
using the BAT remote. Fade the music gently at the touch of one
button. Name your sources. For example, name your home theater
playback input THTR. Fix the volume for your THTR input to allow easy
master control of your home theater system from your pre/pro remote.
Switch phase from your chair to see if a recording was made in reverse absolute
polarity. The list of features is extensive. If you only use one of
the many delightful features of the VK-33SE preamplifier, you’ll appreciate the
thoughtfulness behind its design.
The VK-33SE is an extraordinary, high-performance preamplifier that we are
proud to place on the same podium with the VK-53SE and REX II.
All you need to do is listen….
NEVER FRET ABOUT VOLUME
Effectively, the signal in the VK-33SE preamplifier is transmitted through
only one gain stage. This UnistageTM circuit provides the ultimate
simplicity of amplifying the incoming signal only once and uses no global
feedback to double-back on the straight-through integrity of said signal. Pass
music through too many gain stages, and you’ll no longer recognize the genius
and beauty of your favorite recordings. And with the VK-33SE, you can always get
the volume just right. A proprietary electronic shunt volume attenuator offers
140 steps of 0.5dB resolution that give precise, repeatable volume settings that
sound continuous to the human ear.
The VK-33SE is easy to use right out of the box. You can dim the display from
the comfort of your chair by using the BAT remote. Fade music at the touch
of a button. Switch phase to see if a recording is made in reverse absolute
polarity. Even name your sources. For example, name your home-theater
playback input “THTR.” Then, fix the volume for your THTR input to control
your home-theater system from your pre/pro remote. Analog lovers are also
in luck. Simply order the VK-33SE with Balanced Audio Technology’s VK-P3 phono
card, which provides switch-selectable moving-magnet and moving-coil gain