Krell KAV-300cd CD player Page 3

To further illustrate that it's no one-trick pony, the Krell responded to the complex overtone structures of the winds, breathy voices, and all those mallet instruments with éclat. After hearing the first recording of this piece on ECM, nearly 20 years ago, I was startled when I heard Reich perform it at the Brooklyn Academy of Music several years later. While the recording featured a dry studio acoustic, it sounded timbrally true, capturing a natural breathiness that was quite convincing. In performance, however, the overtones stacked upon each other, creating a clangorous hash of high-frequency information that was startlingly aggressive. It added a dimension to the work that I never would have suspected from ECM's presentation of it.

Judith Sherman went into the studio in 1996 with Reich and Musicians, and the resulting recording is far superior to the earlier one. That rich overtone stew is present now for the first time on record, and the Krell did a superlative job of presenting it intact.

Given how impressively it performed, I feel picky pointing out that, as good as the KAV-300cd was—and it was very good—it still lacked that last smidge of rhythmic ease that inhabits the very finest digital gear I've heard, such as Krell's own KPS-20i (at nearly three times the money), or the Mark Levinson No.39 (at about twice the price). This may not matter to many users—the whole concept of pace is one that still elicits controversy. I can understand being seduced by the KAV-300cd's grainless detail, huge dynamic capacity, and unrestrained soundstaging. These are areas where you would have to spend money with abandon before you found its equal, much less before you bettered it.

That said, there is a living, breathing quality to music that goes beyond melody—a grander sort of architecture, dictated more by the long line than by the phrase-to-phrase progression. Here, I felt as if the KAV-300cd imposed limits upon the music, flattening the effect. This flattening was noticeable in such no-holds barred systems as the C-J ART/Krell FPB 600/EgglestonWorks Andra rig I currently have running in my main room—but that system is so revealing, I can now determine whether or not the dogs barking on Dr. John's "How Come My Dog Don't Bark When You Come Around?" have fleas. (They don't.) This system also clearly revealed that the KAV-300cd sounded best with its display turned off. More detail, more air, even less hash—all the usual stuff.

On most systems, however, I can't imagine the KAV-300cd being the limiting factor. Certainly, this wasn't the case when I played it in a rig consisting of its stablemate, the KAV-300i, and a pair of ProAc One S loudspeakers—and that was an unusually satisfying, musical system, one that I could very easily spend the rest of my days listening to. If changes in your system do result in the 300cd being the weak link, you'll be happy to learn that it makes a first-rate CD transport.

Good things cost less than bad ones
I liked this player a lot. It has an engaging brawniness, throws a heck of a soundstage, and has tons of nonfatiguing detail. If you're looking for a high-quality, reliable CD player that can show you exactly what's on a recording, look no further. The KAV-300cd should leap to the top of any must-audition list for an under-$5000 CD player.

And remember—when you pay $3500 for a KAV-300cd, you get a Krell. That's always meant solidly built, meticulously engineered, packed with quality parts...same as it ever was.

45 Connair Rd.
Orange, CT 06477-3650
(203) 799-9954