B&K thinks it's time to resurrect two-channel products but bring them up-to-date with late-'90s refinements.
In re-entering the tuner-preamp market after an absence of several years, the company has developed a product that includes an RS-232 port, automatic recall of favorite settings when a particular source or station is called up, and PC-software control.
In developing a phono preamp for a first-quarter launch, B&K will offer an optional plug-in high-end A/D converter for recording vinyl to CDR, DAT or MD. Because of dealer requests, the company is also considering a two-channel receiver, said president John Beyer. "These are markets a lot of people have abandoned," he said.
Traditional two-channel amplifiers "have also increased for us," Beyer said, but in acknowledging "consistent growth" in the home theater and distributed-audio markets, B&K has also introduced its highest power multichannel amps.
"There is more demand for additional power as speaker companies deliver better home theater speakers that are more difficult to drive," he said.
As part of its two-channel commitment, the Buffalo, N.Y., company has begun shipping the PT-3 stereo tuner-preamp, which at a suggested $598, is selling beyond dealer expectations, Beyer said.
Unlike two-channel products of yore, this one adds an RS-232 port for integration into distributed-audio systems and to enable a PC connection that lets users control their preamp through B&K software loaded on a PC.
Consumers use the PC not only to control system functions but also to program personal presets, which link volume, bass and treble, and loudness contour presets to a particular source or radio station. Personal presets can also be selected via the supplied remote or through the unit's front panel.
To complement the tuner-preamp, B&K plans a phono preamp that accepts an optional A/D card. By the time the product ships in the first quarter, B&K hopes to offer a 96kHz, 24-bit A/D converter, Beyer said. Without A/D converter, the unit will retail for about $500, with the A/D converter adding about $200 to $300.
Beyer sees demand because few receivers come with phono preamps these days, and few companies offer phono preamps for owners of component two-channel systems.
Similarly, he sees potential for two-channel receivers "to fill a void left by competitors dropping out." Potential consumers are people who want a stereo system in secondary rooms, people who need a receiver that's smaller than a traditional home theater receiver, and people who don't want the complexity of home theater receivers.
For the more crowded home theater market, B&K has just begun shipping the Reference 7250 and 7260 multichannel amps at suggested retails of $2,498 and $2,798, respectively.
The amps are rated at 5 x 200 and 6 x 200 watts, respectively, into 8 ohms at 1kHz. Into 4 ohms, both put out 375 watts per channel. The latter will appeal particularly to owners of THX EX home theater systems, Beyer said.
B&K's multichannel amps previously topped out at 5 x 100 and 6 x 100 watts.
"As speaker companies develop better home theater speakers, efficiency levels have dropped, presenting more difficult loads," Beyer explained. "It used to be that home theater speakers' efficiency was often 95dB at 8 ohms, but now the low 90s at 4 ohms is not unusual."