Rok­san Blak £2799

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Awards 2018 -

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

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