Balanced Audio Technology VK-6200 multichannel power amplifier Page 3

X-Men's soundtrack is thick and varied, and most of the orchestral accompaniments are distant, back-of-hall affairs, but that served only to deepen the soundstage—in contrast with the action scenes, in which the sound is very up-front and direct just where another comic-strip–based show might have only flashed "POW!" on the screen. That's when the BAT served up that extra degree of aural oomph. With the VK-6200, it was always "Holy Rocket Launchers, BATman, did you hear that?"

For multichannel music—and its channel-selection affectations aside—there's nothing much better than Lyle Lovett's DTS version of Joshua Judges Ruth (MCA/Curb/HDS 71021-54430-2-7). The 2-channel recording on which the multichannel Joshua is based is already reference quality, and I'm as comfortable with Lovett's voice as with those of Mark Knopfler, Joni Mitchell, and Marc Cohn. Lovett comes through solid and clear. While the slap-happy "Church" is my favorite demo track, it's in the quiet "North Dakota" that Lovett's wispy voice combines with the heartfelt pining of Rickie Lee Jones. In the 2-channel version, I used to listen to Jones and Lovett's tightly coupled voices, suitably impressed with electronics that imbued them with some degree of separation. In the multichannel version, the engineers have done the work for us, throwing Jones into the rear left channel. Still, from the deep, resonant growl of Lovett's acoustic guitar to the non-tizzy shimmer of Zildjian cymbals to the forever-young voice of Rickie Lee, this minimalist track never sounded better than through the VK-6200.

After being subjected, at my family's behest, to two straight nights of bad home theater (how bad?—the second night was pan&scan!), I finally got to watch director Tim Burton's "re-imagining") of Planet of the Apes (Fox 24543 02896). Say what you will about the self-hating humans who wrote the script, the sound and picture are incredible—this DVD is worth owning on those grounds alone. During the opening orchestral sequence, heavily punctuated with the beat of jungle drums, my 14-year-old daughter Monica clutched my arm and kept asking, "Is this going to be scary?" Mission accomplished, BAT, with dynamics to spare.

While Apes' Dolby Digital track seemed highly detailed, the DTS track offered extra depth in the front channels during the opening credits, so I stuck with it. Chapter five, "Crash Landing," has not only its share of explosive sounds, as you'd expect, but a lot of rear-channel activity as well. As the space pod hurtled through a rain forest, taking out trees in its path, the sound of crunching old growth cascaded from the front of the room to the back as the pod skipped its way to the bottom of a swamp—a great job by the Hollywood sound editors, but the VK-6200 had the final edit in my room. Some amps might have turned this conglomerate of Foley effects and orchestration into a muddy mess, but the BAT kept the sonic vines untangled.

Final Victory
Even if you've only been looking at the picture, you must know this amp is expensive. While it might not shock someone ingrained in the high-end 2-channel culture, most people are still going to roll their eyes at a $10,000 multichannel amp. Is the BAT worth that much? If it means going without food for a year, then no, not worth it. If it means quitting smoking and saving the $2555 a year it costs a two-pack-a-day Connecticut Yankee to get sick in King Arthur's court, then heck yes!

The Balanced Audio Technology VK-6200 is a great multichannel power amplifier that I can recommend to any of my fellow 2-channel snobs. I recommend it even more strongly to people who come to us by way of all things video—the VK-6200 will spark a new love of music in your tiny 35mm hearts.