Krell KRC preamplifier Page 2

The slight softness I noted in my earlier evaluation of the KSA-300S power amplifier was, apparently, not inherent in the amplifier itself. It largely disappeared when the 300S was paired with the KRC, replaced not by any degree of hardness or brightness, but simply by a more alive, open quality. To be fair to the Consummate (it remains a superb preamp, and I intend to continue using it in situations in which precise, repeatable control of listening level is required), it was not able to benefit here from the undeniable synergy which exists between the new Krell KSA-300S and the KRC.

Further thoughts
To get another perspective on the sound of the KRC and the KSA-300S together, I auditioned both products in another system, this one consisting of Apogee Stages at the pointy end and a Krell Reference 64 D/A processor and DT-10 transport at the source. This was in my new listening room, which has nearly twice the volume of Stereophile's. (I'll have more to say about this room, in which I will now do most of my critical listening, in a later issue.)

The sound here was also superb, though certainly displaying a different set of strengths and weaknesses due largely to the change in room and loudspeakers. It was a big sound, less intimate but more open and expansive than that in the smaller room. The KRC and KSA-300S used here were different samples from those discussed above, but despite all the system and room differences, nothing in the sound persuaded me to change my opinions of the Krell amplification. Somehow I had never quite been comfortable with the KSA-250 driving the Stages, though the results were certainly more than acceptable. The KSA-300S with the Stages, however, was a different, and more pleasing, proposition altogether.

Nearly all of my listening to this point was done with an unbalanced input to the KRC and a balanced output. To get a feeling for the sound of the KRC/KSA-300S with balanced vs unbalanced connections, I briefly compared both modes. This time, to do a straight, fully balanced vs fully unbalanced comparison, I rounded up matched sets of interconnects of both types. Well, almost matched. I had two pairs of long Cardas Hexlink interconnects—20' unbalanced and 25' balanced—for the preamp–to–power amp link. Also available were two sets of Music Metre silver interconnects, both 1.5m—one balanced, one not—to connect processor and preamp. The only difference, then, was the extra 5' of Cardas balanced.

I found that I marginally preferred the balanced connection; its sound was a shade more full-bodied and dimensional. The unbalanced mode was a bit washed-out in comparison. But these differences hardly made my jaw drop. I've never been a big fan of balanced connections—they've never made an irresistible difference in the sound, and they do make life difficult for the reviewer who's forever mixing and matching things. But in this case I did find some sonic benefit in their use, and no down-side other than the cost of new cables (footnote 3).

As for the preamp, tubiacs will still be tough to convince. You can't see its level-control–knob indicator LED from angles well off center. And I do miss a numerical readout of the level setting a la Rowland's Consummate. On the other hand, a super–high-end Krell preamp with just such a capability is said to be in the works. But it will be muy mucho mas expensivo, and its availability is still a good ways down the road.

This review will not please those readers who complain that we review too much expensive stuff. (An equal number seem to complain that we review too much inexpensive stuff.) This Krell tandem costs more than I care to think about, and certainly there's plenty of solid-performing, less–budget-busting equipment out there capable of giving a great deal of pleasure. I am as bothered as any reader by the perceived growth in prices at the high end of the High End—a growth heavily fueled by demand for such products in certain overseas markets.

But what can I say? Costly or not, there's no denying the bottom line: These Krells are the best-sounding preamplifier and power amplifier I have heard in my system.

Footnote 3: There'll probably be a noose of silver-stranded Litz wire waiting for me at the next CES for saying this, but most balanced and unbalanced high-end cables are of the same construction except for the terminations. If you already own a set of unbalanced cables you're happy with, I see no reason why you couldn't get them re-terminated by the manufacturer for balanced use. Don't expect this to be free, but it'll probably cost a lot less than a new set of cables.
Krell Industries
45 Connair Road
Orange, CT 06477-3650
(203) 298-4010