November 24, 2009

Steppin' Up! Krell S-300i Integrated Amp.

The new Krell S-300i integrated amp. Kinddy stuff? Think again!

Kenny of Hi-Way Laser took out a Krell box, identified by the shipping label on the top right hand side of the box. Oh Wow! I thought I'd be in for a treat, it must be the Krell Evolution pre amp. Kenny then asked, "would you like to review the new S-300i integrated amp from Krell?". I thought to my self, "Oh no, I don't wanna do integrated amp, that's kinddy stuff" Odiosleuth gave me that "don't look at me look". I then said to Kenny, O.K. lah! , which I later found out how foolish it was, of me to think about the latest batch of integrated amps that way.
The chunky all aluminium remote hand set. No back lighting though.

But then,I did it out of curiosity, that many in the online forums that I read are in the opinion that the latest entry level Krell cannot sonically match the older KAV-400xi integrated amp, which was made in the USA. The new Krell S-300i proudly wears it's made in China tag but does say design by Krell USA at the back panel. Apparently this is the first of possibly of many to come from Krell that would be made in China.
Country of manufacture clearly stated here on this back panel, you'll have to squint your eyes to spot it. He!He!......

I opened the double layered shipping box, and was immediately impressed with the weighty feel, nearly 20kgs of aluminium and metal. I did not like the plain Jane grey powder coated top plate finishing, but that does nothing to affect the sound, or functionality.The front panel is beautifully finished in luxurious satin, thank fully. Built quality seems to be pretty substantial and have that made to last feel. A peek inside the ventilation slots reveal a big, big transformer up front, just behind the fascia plate. This is followed by the pre-amp section directly behind the rear panel for the shortest signal path and two power amp modules at both sides. All board parts are surface mounted and seeming of high quality. Important point, country of manufacture aside, Krell maintained very high standards of quality in the parts that matters most. The sound!
The excellently built internals, larger heat sinks would be better for punishing music.

The remote is also built to the same quality standards as the rest of the amp. This Krell also accepts an Apple I-pod as input, a quality interface cable is provided, but why is the socket located in the back panel? I would rather it be in front for easy plugging and unplugging of the I-pod. I did not have an I-pod to test the input or interface unfortunately. There's also a single pair of XLR input, followed by other RCA inputs. A pair of WBT style speaker cable binding post is offered, which is easy and convenient to use.

The remote can program many functions which are displayed on a blue lighted panel, which is dim able by various programmable steps. There are just too many functions to list here, but I am sure if you readers are interested, a visit to Hi-Way Laser will have Kenny showing you all the nitty gritties.
The back panel action.

I was playing with the already impressive PMC OB1i speakers, powered by the 75W Pass Aleph 0 mono blocks. This time my Marantz CD7, not working, I used Odiosleuth's loaner Copland CDA-822 as CD source, by passing my regular Pass X2.5 pre amp with a pair of 4m long Cardas Golden Presence XLR interconnect, plugged direct in to the Krell's XLR input. Speaker cables are my very fine Siltech Classic Anniversary Series 330L. With the 150W @ 8 ohms rated Krell powering the PMCs, the sound took on a more dynamic character. I noticed the similarly smooth highs as with the Pass Aleph. The mids on the Krell seemed a little leaner somewhat, but I guess when compared to the Aleph, all else seems leaner by comparison. The bass took on a more powerful stance. The Krell kept the bass notes like a Rottweiler on a tight leash. Note to note up right bass transfers were clean and very articulate. Kick drums had a powerful "kick" to it. If you've heard the musical term "the bass propels the music forward", this Krell does it!This is one area where the Pass Aleph 0 is beaten by comparison.

The sound stage is as wide and as deep as the Pass Aleph, only shortfall being the layers within the sound field seems less distinct by comparison. Imaging properties is nearly as solid and dense as the Aleph 0. I would however, mark down hall/studio spatial and ambient cues just very slightly compared to the Aleph.

The Krell integrated amp will play all musical genre, be it pop/rock, jazz or classical with confidence, always sounding in control and up to task. When the Krell resided in my system, together with the PMC OB1i speakers, I've never heard the Musik Wie Von Einem Anderen Stern CD, by Manger sounding so powerful before, especially the killer last drum percussion track 15, called Jazz Variants. Many smaller systems just fail to reproduce the impact of those big dynamic drum beats. This is the forte' of bigger systems, yet in my room, and the context of the system in review, the Krell S-300i sails through the entire track effortlessly, powering the "big boy" PMCs with great control and authority.
This is an excellent test CD. I especially like track 2, which is a radio broadcast play, much like our Rediffusion, except the dialogues are in German! Track 15, is a well known system killer.

For two weeks, I played the most dynamically and transient challenging music in my collection, in order to try and find out the Krell's seemingly bottomless limits. I found that the amp runs very hot, but never shown any signs of distress by the way of playing music with distortion. I finally came across this track that tripped the Krell. The last track of The Greatest Hits of Arrested Development, an unplug "live" version of People Everyday finally showed up the Krell's limitations. This is one killer track, with it's low level but highly dynamic recording, will make one keep turning the volume up. I went all the way to near concert levels because I wanna feel the kick drums, and that attacking bass guitar notes pounding my chest! However, almost 4 minutes plus in to the song, I heard the bass guitar notes distorting and proceeded to turn the volume down. I then felt the frying hot heat sinks on the amp's top plate. I switched off the amp, for a few minutes, allowing it to cool down. I re-started to play music again soon after that. No problems at all.
This is a surprising difficult test. The last track show up the last of the Krell's bottomless power reserves.

The Krell's volume control operating range is from 1-150 steps and responds linearly. I was playing at 112 volume level with People Everyday when the amp started to protest. Trust me, that is mighty loud, and will probably damage your hearing.

Another look at the all powerful Krel S-300i.

I later proceeded to hook up my Audio Physic Spark speakers to the Krell. The more efficient and tonally neutral Spark seems always nervous and edgy by comparison to the PMC. I did used 3 pcs of the large Cardas Myrtle Wood Cuboids under the Krell and that seem to reduced some of the said leanness and made the partnership a better one. No fault of the Krell though, I just felt it better matched the PMCs than the Audio Physics.

Priced at RM$11,888.00, the Krell S-300i can be a very attractive proposition for those steppin' up in to high end from the Audiolabs, Creeks or Mission Cyrus, just to name a few. It gives them a big dosh of that high end taste to come, especially when partnered with warmer sounding speakers and sources. It's also suitable for those whom have done the high end up grade merry go round, and now just wanna settle down with some "basic" quality musical playback system. For me though, I could almost live with the Krell S-300i integrated. I said "almost" because for me at least, that would also mean buying a pair of PMCs to suit!

Lastly, I did not find out if the Krell S-300i was as good as the older KAV-400xi, as I did not have a sample of the later to compare. But I am very sure the newer S-300i is certainly no lesser of an amp, if probably not better, based on my experiences with it.
Krell sold by Hi-Way Laser, contact Kenny, tel no: 019-2813399.

1 comment:

maggielurva 愛美姬 said...
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