This £1,250 integrated amplifier was launched in 2016. It has five line inputs, moving magnet phono stage and aptX wireless Bluetooth but interestingly though, no DAC functionality is offered. Indeed, aside from the Bluetooth which is unashamedly a convenience feature, this amplifier has a lot in common with the sort of thing you’d see in the nineteen eighties. It’s a chunky, Class AB bruiser with lots of audiophile attention to detail..
For example, inside it is symmetrically laid out with new op-amps, audio and power supply circuits, compared to its predecessor. High quality signal output relays are fitted, and the new chassis gets better ventilation for cooler running. Interestingly, the power amplifier section is directly powered from the mains supply, via a 550VA toroidal transformer with a total of five regulated supply rails. The manufacturer claims 140W RMS per channel into 8 ohms, and over 220W into 4; suggesting a robust power supply. Vichey IRSP9240 and IRSP240 MOSFET power modules are fitted, giving lots of power from an amplifier of the Roksan’s relatively average (432x380x102mm) size, although it’s a little heavier than some at 14kg.
The Roksan is nice enough to use, notwithstanding the main power on-off switch, which is hidden underneath; the fascia has a ‘mode’ button to flick between on and standby. Supplied with the K3 is the new Roksan system remote, an impressive metal framed device that’s nice to use and offers control over a Roksan CD player and amplifier from the comfort of your sofa. The handy aptX facility – which is done by a module with its own internal digital-to-analogue converter – works well and is easy to get going.
This compact integrated has the unerring ability to make music magic – and unusually it doesn’t matter what music it is. Whether it is the brilliant Electric Cafe album by Kraftwerk, one of the most seminal electronic music recordings ever made in my view, or the rather ropey 2009 remaster of The Beatles’ White Album, somehow the K3 cuts to the musical quick. It has the special ability to lift you beyond the recording, so you’re no longer concerned with it and instead find yourself lost in the music.
It has its faults yet they never get in the way. Mother Nature’s Son by the Beatles seemed to take on a life of its own fed from a high end CD transport and dCS Debussy DAC. Via one of its line inputs, the song floated and emoted; the amplifier threw out an amazingly wide recorded acoustic, seemingly unaware of the loudspeaker boundaries. Tonally it was surprisingly sweet and smooth, perhaps with a slight accent on the upper midband, but bass was very strong and slightly warm by its rivals’ standards. Dynamically it was superb, really going out of its way to signpost the music’s accenting. And best of all, the music flowed brilliantly, like an fast river bubbling over its banks. It gave the track an incredible sense of purpose and direction, totally beguiling the listener, namely me.
With Kraftwerk’s Telephone Call, the stereo soundstage seemed to expand TARDIS-like when you stepped into the song. It sounded vast, and filled up with crashing electronic percussion, infectious drum breaks and wonderful sequenced keyboard lines. Drum machine cymbals shimmered, electronic baselines grumbled, and snares thumped. Vocals were beautifully pure, just like you were standing in the vocal booth with Ralf Hutter. I never found myself thinking how good it was at the price; instead I sat there totally immersed in the majesty of the mix. This is a rare talent for any solid-state amplifier, let alone one that costs £1,250.
The phono stage is good, but you can do better if you spend a serious money on an offboard one. I cued up an old pressing of Supertramp’s Breakfast in America LP and soon got absorbed in Child of Vision, marvelling at the vast amounts of detail, ‘walk-around soundstage’ and the ease with which all the instruments were able to play independently. Indeed the K3 is able to cheekily fool the listener into ignoring its failings – which admittedly are relatively minor – and celebrate the music like it’s your birthday. The only downside is its slightly limited tonal palette; everything sounds a fraction on the warm side, whether it was originally recorded that way or not. Overall then, a great affordable integrated – traditional in appearance but thoroughly modern in performance.