It’s been out a while (last November) but I have finally got my hands on the Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier and “it is a beauty mate”, as Eddie Jones (our new Grand Slam winning Australian England rugby union
coach) would say. Indeed to keep up the rugby union based theme, Clive Woodward, our World Cup winning coach of 2003, used to talk of his team playing with “Pace, Ambition & Execution”. Roksan, with the Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier, have delivered an amplifier of rare “Pace, Ambition & Execution.” Since Roksan were following the multi award winning K2, they had to get things right and with this piece of equipment they have done it.
I received the Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier last week and of course immediately plugged it in, leaving to one side her brand new sibling K3 DAC, just to see how good the K3 could be, immediate impressions were stunning, a step change, indeed. However, critical listening is required at this point so here goes.
Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier Design
The Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier is a classic, one box, integrated amplifier with all the many inputs you would want at this price level. And it weighs a ton, well 14kg to be exact, but you want it to be heavy. The inputs are many, and excellent, with five line level inputs, a Moving Magnet Phono stage and aptX Bluetooth. It also features a bypass for AV solutions. I would describe the front of the box as understated, and I like this look. My sample is ‘Anthracite’, above right. The ‘Charcoal’, below right, looks nice as does the ‘Opium’, a lighter grey colour.
Outputs are to standard speaker terminals and there is a preamplifier output option if you choose top look at the K3 power amplifier (or other). There is also a headphone out to the smaller 2.5mm jack, I prefer the larger headphone output myself.
Power output is high, 140W at 8 Ohms and 220 at 4 Ohms, higher than the K2.
The front of the K3 has a familiar feel, simplicity and functionality to the fore. The Mains power ‘On’ button is to the left on the front underside of the box and I usually leave my K2 ‘On’, waking it up when I arrive using the ‘Mode’ button to select the input source (standby is less than 25W, about 7p a day to keep everything nice and warm). Input switching is simple using the arrow keys, the K3 is smart enough to skip the inputs that are not connected. The Bluetooth is selected by switching the Bluetooth button on the far right. It flashes like crazy, searching for a source (in my case my Nexus 5 smartphone). Once paired the connection is solid (more later). There is a small bore headphone socket on the far right, I much prefer a larger 6.5mm headphone socket but there we are. The volume knob is prominent and easier to move than the K2 and this is good. It does wobble and move a fraction but this is to prevent vibration internally (I’ve checked this out with my Roksan source) when adjusting the volume so no problem here. There is a remote control to handle all of the above functionality.
The rear panel is pretty easy to navigate around and spacing is sensible. Power comes in to the right as you look at it, hence the Mains Power switch to the front left. Output is middle-ish so your speaker cable lengths are not compromised. The moving magnet phono stage is to the left, sort of determining the position of your record player. There is a pre amplifier output on the far left as you look at the rear panel. There is K3 power amplifier to match if you have the money.
The front panel is hand finished and looks a lot better than the K2, the light grey anthracite finish I have is really very pleasing indeed. Overall Roksan has delivered a nice looking piece of equipment and it is an improvement on the previous models and on other competitors. Around the back, little has changed to be honest, apart from a Bluetooth Antenna. The feel is very good indeed. There are several nice touches, notably the badge on the top of the box that generates a satisfying smile.
Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier Performance
power really is delivered very effectively through the speakers and I have found it to be very satisfactory
I have used my old set-up for this review, simply slotting the K3 in place of my own K2. Therefore I’m hoping to be able to hear clear gains and features of the K3. I have a pretty old but excellent Yamaha CD player playing through a Musical Fidelity M1-DAC using a high spec digital coaxial cable. This is coming into the CD Line In feed. I have also put my Rega RP3 into the MM phono stage in place of my usual set-up.
Overall, as I have already mentioned, I have found this amplifier to be very exciting indeed. The power really is delivered very effectively through the speakers and I have found it to be very satisfactory indeed. Resolution, detail, is very good indeed and I have been very impressed with this . I usually go for a spot of Miles Davies when searching for detail, and it is all there, beautiful.
With plenty of power, the soundstage is wide and powerful, ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ received a full play through and was just a realised joy to listen to. Dynamically, I have found power delivery to be quite effortless in more complex pieces. I’ve got a very nice 24 bit 96kHz organ piece that I enjoy and it was reproduced beautifully through the M1-DAC (The K3 DAC was even better, I can just hear my M1 has had its day really). I also had a play with my other stock pieces and I think that the amplifier is an overall very faithful partner to many genres. Outstanding performance across the range.
As I have mentioned, I have found the K3 very rhythmical, it is difficult to put a finger on it but it is just very enjoyable listening to music, Dire Straits’ “Telegraph Road” has had several plays, on CD, Tidal and Vinyl and it is bouncy and pacey and very exciting indeed.
Moving Magnet Phono Stage
The deeper reproduction of the vinyl is clear to listen to here. The MM Phono stage is very detailed and well produced here and it is better than the K2 to my ear. I use a separate Phono Stage usually with the K2 but I would be happy to stick with the K3 here. I was cranking up the volume a fraction though.
Using my Nexus 5 on the Bluetooth button, set-up to amplifier is simple and stable, the antenna sticks up out of the back to the right and seems to do the job. For Spotify dinner parties and general home and kids party fun, the Bluetooth connection is OK, it s a bit flabby at volume and it is no where near as detailed as fixed input, but it is nice to have. Personally, having enjoyed favourably, for a change, the Elipson Bluetooth on their Music Centre I am surprised this is not better, but really you are not buying this product for the Bluetooth functionality.
The headphone output is alright. It has become pretty clear to me recently that excellent detail is really the territory of proper Headphone Amplifiers like the Oppo HA-1 and others with proper cans. The K3 does a reasonable job but the limitations of a one box solution are here to behold, in the same way my Naim Uniti2 headphone output is pitiful! I think these guys want you to just buy their bespoke Headphone Amp solution (but I am a cynic caught in the Audiophile vortex).
The remote is quirky but fine. It controls the amplifier and the rest of the K3 range as well, CD, streamer, DAC, Bluetooth. It looks a bit weird and you do have to check yourself to see which end is which but you do get used to it. With volume control included and a mute for phone calls, boxes are ticked, it doesn’t light up from what I can see, since I am partial to a bit of ‘dark listening’.
All round, I think this is an excellent, very powerful, performer for the money. It does slip into the over £1,000 category these days so caparison with previous rivals is unfair. I am starting to believe, having had a sneaky listen to the K3 DAC, that amplifiers should amplify, DACs should DAC, streamers should stream, ‘phono’ stages should ‘Phono’ and Headphone Amplifiers should do their own thing. Of course this conclusion is all about quality and money but if you are after an integrated amplifier starter this Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier is an extremely good place to start. Its standout feature being the power and detail delivered from high quality line level sources.
The overall understated look
Hand finished Facia
Pace and power
Gold plated line in terminals
Moving Magnet stage is really nice
6.5mm headphone output
The Bluetooth was better
You can pick up the K3 range at Henley Designs. The Roksan K3 Integrated Amplifier is retailing at £1,250