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Behold APU768 Preamplifier and BPA768 Amplifier Review

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If I had to peg a coloration using the old clock analogy, I would say the Behold could be two minuets past twelve on the side of the cool temp. This is a compulsory observation as a reviewer. No component is dead neutral if off by even a minute or two past dead midnight.

The mid band is capable of astonishing organic beauty that makes the conclusion of the previous paragraph so very hard to assert. Listening to Mighty Sam sing “I’m So Tired” From Give It Up Too Love (AudioQuest), I am struck dumb with wonder as my brain attempts to associate the beguiling naturalness of his vocals with the fact that the sound is being produced by an electronic device. A Lack of grain? You know the effect a great power conditioner can have? The lack of noise reflects that though to a far greater degree. As a result, the sound is sublimely relaxed and liquid while exhibiting steadfast control and grip throughout. Listen to the sax on Trio Jeepy from Brandford Marsailis (CK44199), track one “Housed for Edward” features the sax panned hard left. The Behold places the sax three feet behind and just to the inside of the speaker. The image is so solid and locked in space regardless of the dynamic demands placed on the BPA. The clean organic horn just sings out with no edge or artificial bite. Even at the dynamic peaks, the pure tone remains true. Vocals in particular through the Behold combination are the best I have heard. Are there better? Perhaps, I just have not heard them.

300 watts are not too shabby, but I have had 400, 500, 600 even 700 watts and above amplifiers in here that could not touch the quality of the Behold’s bass performance. Macro dynamic swings are huge when called upon. This is really fun at times, like when Disturbed Asylum finds its way into the CDP’s tray. The title track’s punishing swings in volume force the Lansches to give up well before the amp. When the big Sunny SW15’s are in the system, the mayhem is just overwhelming. I have feared for my hearing and keeping with the title’s theme, my sanity at times with this lethal combination.

Power and control just seem to have no limit. Impact, extension, brute force, you name it, the BPA has it, in spades. With Ramsey Lewis playing “People Make the World Go Round” from a GRP Sampler, the low bass just quivers and pulses with perfect grip and extension. This headroom leaves the impression that if needed, the BPA could go even lower and louder without losing a step.

The elusive micro dynamic shadings of which the BPA is capable, will satisfy to the same extent as the bass, if only in a gentler, less chaotic way. Lifelike is so generic a term, and means many things to many people. But that is what just keeps coming to mind. Lifelike in so many ways, the BPA sounds so alive, especially when pushed a bit. This is no knock on modest level of volume performance, it is just my large room (33x60x13) has a way of sucking the volume out of the room. Giving a nudge to the large volume knob and hold on, the music really swings. “Just Friends” off of Sarah Vaughn and Count Basie’s (XRCD) Send In the Clowns really moves along. Unexaggerated transients keeps the focus on the fundamental note and create a great sense of musicality while the music is cookin’. Listening to Keith Jarett’s Standards Live (ECM), the cymbal work employed covers the entire spectrum from gentle tap to aggressive whack. The ability to hear deeply into the complexity is nothing short of revelatory. Without resorting to spotlighting the detail in any way, the whole of the picture adds up to stunning musical realism.

Soundstage dimensions go again to the level of neutrality, that allows the source material to completely determine the image created. There is no obfuscation, no flattening, or fattening, for that matter. Want a huge orchestra in your home? Pop on David Ostrika playing Hindemith’s Violin Concerto (Classic CompactDisc). The left-to-right/front-to-back performance is stunning. Whether it is an orchestra or the digitally manipulated soundscapes that make up a great deal of my catalog, I can spend hours digging into the inner crevices of my music.

Behold APU768 preamp and BPA768 power amplifier

Behold a passionate conclusion

This has been a reasonably easy review to write as I have lived with the BPA/APU for nearly five years. I have heard the system with four high end loudspeakers and have had the benefit of comparing it to the many amplifiers that have been in house. All this experience has solidified my impressions and thus has made them easier than usual to commit to words.

That said, it is not as easy to really relate just how good this gear is. Supreme ease, yet iron fisted control all wrapped in a naturalness that I had never heard before or since.

In the past couple of years, companies like Ypsilon and Soulution serve up gear aimed squarely at the same demographic Behold aims to serve. I have not heard those companies’ offerings, and I certainly do not limit the Behold’s competition to those brands; I’m sure there are many others that make similar claims to the crown.

But until someone from one of the many contestants drops an amp and preamp into my loft that improves the sound in a significant way, never mind that either of the companies named have a room correction capacity, I will continue to tout the Behold as the top of the heap.

I feel a bit emotional concluding this endeavor. Nearly five years in the making, countless thousands of hours musically engaged, my passion for the hobby (it really is more than just a hobby though, isn’t it?) has deepened and broadened thanks to the APU/BPA. It has spread to loved ones and acquaintances who have come through here to give the system a listen. What a great gift to give- the wonderful gift of music. Thank you Mr. Ballmann.

US Importer’s Comment:

We would like to thank Mr. Petan for his insightful, well written and engaging review of the Behold reference amplifier and preamp. Ralf Ballmann of Behold has dedicated himself, completely, to advancing the reproduction of music through science and novel thinking about amplifier design. We are so pleased that Dagogo was open to reviewing the Behold reference equipment and that the review ended up capturing so many of the essential elements that make the Behold gear unique. Our thanks to Messrs. Soo and Petan!

Sam Laufer

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