Roksan Blak £2799
Unlike some of its fellow winners in this section, the mighty Roksan Blak (whose idea was that name?) eschews the minimalist approach and goes all out to be compatible with a range of sources.
If you want just a premium line-level analogue integrated, we would point you towards the company’s also-excellent Caspian M2 (£2000), but if you need a fully equipped unit that can connect to your computer, smartphone, turntable and headphones the Blak makes a mighty strong case for itself. Especially when you consider how muscular it is; it’s rated at 150W per channel into eight ohms, rising to 230W as impedance halves.
It’s not just meaty on power though; at 14kg it’s physically hefty too, and when it comes to build quality there’s a real feeling of solidity. It’s nicely finished as well, and – one or two minor design oddities aside – it’s a pleasure to use, even if the oversized display is a little Janet-and-john in appearance.
Traditionalists will be kept happy with balanced XLRS, three single-ended line-level inputs and a moving-magnet phono stage. Those into digital get a USB Type B that will cope with 24-bit/192khz PCM as well as DSD music files, and there’s aptx Bluetooth connectivity too.
After running this beast in for a few days, we hear the full benefit of the Roksan’s enthusiastic, muscular presentation. Gustav Holst’s Mars comes over with a full dose of power and authority. Lower frequencies and crescendos, in particular, are conveyed with real density and texture, while the music’s wide-ranging dynamics are meticulously delivered. And the Roksan takes it all comfortably in its stride.
Changing tack to Billie Holiday’s poignant version of Sophisticated Lady, the Blak reveals it’s more than capable of delivering a generous helping of nuance, texture and refinement; Ben Webster’s saxophone solo is as wonderfully warm and breathy as ever. We try out the moving-magnet phono stage and are pleased with what we hear. It’s a lively-sounding circuit, reflecting the insight and transparency delivered through the line inputs. The Bluetooth performance however, perhaps unsurprisingly, is audibly thinner and less expressive.
This is a finely judged amplifier. It’s power and composure are beyond question, it has enough in the way of insight and detail to satisfy the purists and it’s capable of sounding perfectly at home with a wide range of sources and speakers. Buy with confidence.
The muscular Blak goes all out to cater for both analogue and digital sources