Krell DT-10 CD transport Page 2

The DT-10 is both gorgeous to look at and built like a tank. Internal layout and build quality are first-rate. The only problem I had was an occasional failure to play a track when it was selected from the direct-access number panel.

The DT-10 quickly established itself as a topflight transport, particularly when driving the Krell Reference 64 processor. Its sonic characteristics were well suited to the Krell processor, forming a synergistic match. The Reference 64's strengths—pace and rhythm in particular—were enhanced when mated with the DT-10.

The DT-10's bottom end was full, deep, and warm. Extension was excellent, giving the music solid tonal and rhythmic foundations. The midbass tended to be a little warm rather than lean and tight. Although the presentation was weighty and just a bit on the fat side, the DT-10 was articulate, fast, and conveyed detail in the lower registers. A particularly revealing test of LF detail is the bass on Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (Warner Bros. 26124-2), especially the bass guitar solo on track 5. With some digital products you can hear every nuance of the fingers on the bass strings, the dynamic envelope of the string being plucked, and lots of inner detail in the instrument. Other products lose so much of this information that the bass sounds generic, the playing less than extraordinary (footnote 2). The DT-10 was superb at conveying all the nuance and detail that made the bass guitar a palpable and tangible presence between the loudspeakers.

Compared with the Mark Levinson No.31, the DT-10's bass was warmer and a little fatter. The Levinson transport was leaner, tighter, more analytical, and had slightly better extension at the extreme bottom end. When listening to the DT-10, however, I found myself more rhythmically involved with the music. I wasn't aware of this impression at first, but found myself tapping my foot and enjoying the music's drive more with the DT-10. When connected to the Reference 64 with the Time Sync function engaged, the enhanced sense of rhythm and power was extraordinary.

The DT-10's overall perspective was a little on the dry and forward side compared to the No.31. The Krell transport had a more immediate, incisive, and present rendering, rather than a laid-back sense of ease. Similarly, the DT-10 didn't present as much space and air on naturally miked acoustic recordings. The soundstage was less deep and spacious through the DT-10, although the Krell threw very tight and well-defined images. The sax on Kei Akagi's CD Playroom (Bluemoon/Moo R2 79342) moved forward in the soundstage when played back on the DT-10, and had less air and space surrounding it. This gave the music more immediacy, but at the expense of ease and soundstage depth. If the No.31 put me in Row P of the concert hall, the DT-10 put me in row H.

One hallmark of a great transport is its ability to resolve recorded detail. The transport should present lots of musical information to the listener, yet not sound aggressive, etched, or analytical. In this area, the DT-10 and the No.31 stand alone. Both can extract the finest nuances of the musical performance—nuances that often convey so much musical expression. When you listen to familiar music and hear previously unnoticed shades of expression, you know the component is revealing more of the recording's details. This happened to me with the DT-10; subtle vocal inflections suddenly became obvious, and added to the music's meaning.

Although the DT-10 revealed a lot of information, it was of a different kind than that revealed by the No.31. The latter presented more fine detail, particularly in the treble. There was more action through the No.31's top end, but in a delicate and understated way. This detail I'm describing is the music's very fine structure at the lowest levels, something that was better conveyed by the No.31. The DT-10's presentation of this detail tended to be more immediate and salient than the No.31's greater sense of subtlety and ease. Nonetheless, the DT-10 excelled at resolving the kind of low-frequency detail described earlier.

The DT-10's portrayal of instrumental timbres was less liquid compared to the No.31's. In fact, this is my biggest criticism of the DT-10: it tended to make textures a little hard and brittle. Cymbals took on a more metallic character, and there was a trace of extra edge to saxophone. The DT-10's character was nearly the opposite of that of the C.E.C. TL 1 I reviewed in Vol.16 No.7, p.91. The TL 1 was lush, soft, smooth, soft and slow in the bass, very spacious, and lacked the last measure of resolution. The DT-10 was immediate, powerful and well defined in the bass, more highly resolving of information, a little hard in the mids and treble, and with a somewhat dry perspective.

It was interesting to have the Mark Levinson No.30/No.31 and the Reference 64/DT-10—two superb but different digital front-ends—for an extended period. Without realizing it, I tended to listen more to certain music with one digital source, and to an overlapping—but slightly different—mix of music with the other. I found myself enjoying rock, electric blues, and fusion with the DT-10, and jazz, classical, and acoustic music more through the No.31. These impressions held even with the Time Sync function engaged between the DT-10 and the Reference 64—an advantage not possible with the No.31 driving the Reference 64.

The Krell DT-10 transport is unquestionably a superb transport. I was, however, less enthusiastic about it than I was about Krell's Reference 64 processor (reviewed elsewhere in this issue). On the plus side, the DT-10 has a warm, rich tonal balance coupled with excellent resolution of low-frequency detail. Its pace, rhythm, and drive were superb by any measure. In addition, the DT-10 is beautiful to look at, and built to survive World War III.

On the minus side, the DT-10 sounded a little dry and forward—characteristics that may suit some systems better than others. The transport also tended to impart a trace of hardness to instrumental and vocal textures. I should add that my very revealing playback system is not very forgiving of these characteristics. Through another system, the DT-10's shortcomings may be less of a liability.

The inescapable point of comparison for the DT-10 is the $600-more-expensive Mark Levinson No.31, a product that established a new level of performance for CD transports. They're both superb products, but very different in character: the DT-10 was visceral and immediate, the No.31 more subtle and refined. In my system, I preferred the No.31's sense of ease, more liquid rendering of timbre, and greater sense of space. These qualities more than made up for the DT-10's more exciting, more rhythmically involving presentation. I also found the No.31 easier to operate, despite its additional disc damper and top-loading design.

Nevertheless the DT-10 is among the best transports I've heard. However, its distinct sonic signature requires careful matching to the playback system. A careful audition in one's system is, as always, mandatory.

If your system needs a little more life, drive, and immediacy, the Krell DT-10 CD transport will probably be just the ticket.

Footnote 2: Victor Wooten of the Flecktones was Bass Player magazine's bassist of 1993, narrowly beating out Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Just thought you ought to know.—John Atkinson
Krell Industries
45 Connair Road
Orange, CT 06477-3650
(203) 298-4010