|B&K Components PT-3 AV Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Wednesday, 01 November 2000|
The $598 B&K PT-3 is the latest pre-amp/tuner from B&K. The PT-3 is a full-featured line level remote controlled pre-amp and tuner. The AM/FM tuner has 40 preset memories that recall not only the station but can also recall volume and tone control settings. The pre-amp features six inputs, a tape loop, tone controls, a 12-volt trigger and IR relay capabilities. The six presets can be custom-labeled to match your sources. The remote that comes with the PT-3 is well thought out and does not appear to be an off-the-shelf model, but rather one developed by B&K.
I utilized the PT-3 in my reference music system, which at this time consists of Martin Logan Scenarios, a Sunfire Subwoofer Jr., a Pioneer Elite PDR-19RW and a B&K ST1400II (125wpc), connected with Audio Analysis cabling. In addition to listening to the PT-3 at home, I brought it with me to my office to see how well the tuner performed in a more urban area. The tuner performed fairly well in the urban environment but had problems pulling in distant stations when in a rural setting. My Yamaha TX-950 tuner was noticeably better with pulling in distant stations from my rural residence. The PT-3 tuner performed no worse than the plethora of other tuners I have used, but was not quite as good as the Yamaha. With clean signals, the tuner performance was admirable. The tuner maintained the signal without drifting and presented a very easy-to-listen-to stereo program.
The source I used for the majority of my critical listening was a Pioneer Elite PDR-19RW CD player, which I connected through the CD input on the PT-3. I tried connecting the CD player to the other inputs - there was no noticeable difference in sound quality based upon the inputs.
Several months ago, I reviewed another B&K product, the Reference 20, a pre-amp/tuner/surround processor. As I still have this unit handy, I brought it out to use as a basis of comparison for the PT-3. The PT-3 had similar sonic characteristics to the Reference 20, but was also able to improve upon some of what I believed to be the Reference 20's sonic weak points.
I went back to some of the music I had utilized in my review of the Reference 20 while listening to the PT-3. For Duke (Realtime Records) was one of the first CDs I put in it. The PT-3 noticeably improves upon the Reference 20's two-channel playback capabilities. This album came through somewhat forward, thin-bodied and with a slight bit of graininess on the Reference 20. The complaints on the Reference 20 are actually fairly nit-picky and are even less noticeable on the PT-3. I would be a bit hesitant to pair the Reference 20 with speakers that were on the bright side, I would be more confident in doing the same with the PT-3. If I was pressed to pick which side of neutral the PT-3 falls on, I would still have to say that it is slightly forward, but only very slightly.
In addition to replaying the music I had listened to in reviewing the Reference 20, I also played Robbie Robertson's self-titled album (Mobile Fidelity) and Crystal Method's Vegas (City of Angels). Throughout my listening sessions, my observations remained fairly constant. The PT-3 exhibited the characteristics that some would say are the downside of solid state electronics: the hint of graininess and thinness of body when compared to fine tube electronics. On the other hand, the PT-3 also exhibits the strengths of solid state electronics, most notably control and detail in the lower frequencies as specifically exhibited on the "Busy Child" track on the Crystal Method album.
The PT-3 was remarkably satisfying as I listened to the PT-3/ST1400II combination in place of my Bow Technologies Wazoo ($3,500).
As I listened and made my listening notes I had to remind myself that the B&K setup was only half the price of the
Wazoo. That aside, I could definitely detect some differences. The B&K set-up, while smoother than the Reference 20 I had previously reviewed, was not quite as smooth as the Wazoo. The Wazoo presented a slightly fuller-bodied and smoother presentation. The volume control may also present a problem for those with high-gain amplifiers or otherwise sensitive systems, as it moves only in 2dB steps. While this does not directly affect the sound quality, it may make it difficult to achieve the exact listening level desired.
At $598, the PT-3 is a strong contender for a remote-controlled line level pre-amp. The flaws are slight and not at all atypical for valve oriented solid state electronics. The slight sonic flaws of the PT-3 are not likely to be noticed in, and indeed are likely to be hidden by, most moderately-priced systems. This pre-amp/tuner offers a lot of bang for the buck and would be at home in all but the most high-end systems.