Krell KAV-300i integrated amplifier Page 3

Provided that such an amplifier has been appropriately designed with the right components, it will show a gain in performance compared with similarly specified separates. Within its modest frame, the '300i did show this advantage, allowing it to rival more costly two-box combinations. For readers familiar with my personal numbering system, the KAV-300i scored 22 points (25-30 points defines top amplifier sound). For reference, Krell's pre-1992 power amplifiers, which cost 3-4 times the price of the little '300i, when partnered with a suitable preamplifier, also scored ratings in the low 20s.

The KAV-300i delivered a very well-balanced sound, with no obvious errors of tone or timbre. The Krell's midrange sounded quite rich, and if not quite to the best tube standard, it didn't glare or shout even when operated flat-out. Overall, the midrange was relatively clear, low in grain, and fine-textured. It's not as liquid or as transparent as a Conrad-Johnson Premier 8, an Audio Research VT150, or a Krell KAS-2, but then, very little is! (Spend a little more on your system's cables and some of this difference can be made up.)

The soundstage had fine depth with surprisingly good transparency. The natural timbre and equally natural-sounding, well-layered perspectives were as convincing on classical music as they were on rock material. Focus was very good, stable over the entire dynamic range, and was allied to good image width. Reproduction of low-level detail and ambience were fine.

Like the mid, the KAV-300i's treble was neutral and self-effacing, with little grain evident. It sounded unforced, with clean vocal sibilants, while cymbals were rendered both open and unexaggerated.

In the bass, the little Krell went satisfactorily deep with fine control and above-average slam. While the all-or-nothing low-frequency grip of a big KSA wasn't present, the bass was entertaining—punchy, fast and articulate. Although it did sound slightly soft—though not tending to boominess—the amplifier's bass timed well. It was nicely rhythmic with a foot-tapping beat. Here, the littlest Krell amplifier may just have the measure of its bigger brothers.

While the '300i could kick the Wilson WATT/Puppy System 5 around pretty well, this speaker really needs to be driven by bigger amplifiers like the KSA-300S or, better, Krell's delightful KAS-2. However, you could have real fun with the '300i driving Wilson WITTs. Genuinely high sound levels were possible—the KAV-300i with the WITTs gave a performance which, in context, sounded surprisingly close to a KSA-200S partnering the System 5, a combination costing more than twice as much.

Dynamics were well-rendered and, in conjunction with the good rhythm and timing, gave good listener involvement. Aural fatigue was low even after prolonged listening sessions. Many times I forgot completely that my costly high-end amplification was out of the circuit! In fact, later on, when the review system was in a state of flux, it proved convenient and acceptable to throw in the '300i, so well did it perform in more expensive company.

I feel that Krell has a winner in the KAV-300i. At $2350, it may be designed to be cost-effective, but it's a Krell thoroughbred, nonetheless, able to punch way above its weight. Not least, there is its ability on music signal to dump well over 200W per channel into an 8 ohm speaker and 300W into "kinder" 4 ohm speakers.

The versatile input facilities, the satisfactorily high-resolution volume control, and the fine infra-red remote command system are all definite pluses. Remember also the preamp output terminals—if the '300i is a good-sounding integrated amplifier it must also be a pretty good-sounding preamplifier!

All in all, the Krell KAV-300i offers very good dollar value and is a seriously good amplifier into the bargain. For me, it is a likely Class B contender, knocking on the door of Class A in Stereophile's "Recommended Components" listing. I firmly recommend it.

45 Connair Rd.
P.O. Box 0533
Orange, CT 06477-0533
(203) 799-9954