Krell KSA-250 power amplifier Lewis Lipnick's Setup
In order to control the listening experiment as tightly as possible, only one component in my reference system was changed at a time. Initially it was the amplifier. The KSA-250 was substituted for the Mark Levinson No.23, with the rest of my reference system intact: a Theta Pro (balanced) Generation Two digital processor and Mark Levinson No.26 line-stage preamplifier, all operating in balanced mode, using Madrigal HPC interconnect. My B&W 801 Matrix Monitors were bi-wired with the same AudioQuest Clear speaker cable I've had for about a year (not the latest generation).
Other components used during the course of this review (approximately 16 weeks) was as follows: Esoteric P-500, P-10, P-2, and Krell MD-1 digital transports; Proceed, Meridian 208, and Rotel RCD-855 CD players; Theta DS Pro (generation two) balanced, Proceed PDP, Krell SBP-32X and SBP64X digital processors (although the Krell Digital equipment is excellent, and should be on your list of digital components to audition, I used the Esoteric P-2 and Theta Pro for most listening so as not to confuse the issue with too many sources).
Both the Krell KBL and Mark Levinson No.26 line-stage preamplifiers were used extensively during this review. They are drastically different in their overall musical presentations, the Krell having a notably less forward perspective. At this time I can't say one is better than the other, simply because they're so different, yet musical. After returning from an upcoming European tour with the National Symphony (which leaves tomorrow!), I'll be working on the KBL review. Stay tuned.
Following an initial period of listening, I began auditioning different interconnect and speaker cables in order to find the best all-around combination. Of all the interconnect cables used during this review, the Magnan Type VI comes out the clear winner. It is the most neutral interconnect I've yet auditioned, with the best balance of soundstaging and harmonic accuracy. Perceived bandwidth of the Magnan VI appears to be more extended, at both frequency extremes, than the Madrigal HPC, Straight Wire Maestro, or Cogelco Yellow. Needless to say, I used this cable for the bulk of my listening during this review, and hope to be able to adopt it as my reference. So far, of all the speaker cable I have on hand, Straight Wire Maestro wins the prize; it's much more open, transparent, and dynamic than either the OCOS or AudioQuest Clear. I just received a set of the latest Clear, but haven't had time to break it in to its full potential.
My B&W 801 Matrix Monitors were used for the first several weeks of this amplifier review, until the arrival of the phenomenal 800 Matrix Monitors. I have officially adopted these speakers as my new reference, and have written the bulk of this review with them on-line.—Lewis Lipnick