|Krell KID and Papa Dock Amplifier|
|Home Theater Media Servers Music Servers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Monday, 01 September 2008|
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When I was told Krell was developing an iPod dock, I knew I had to have it, if for no other reason other than the fact that it was a Krell iPod dock and was sure to be ridiculous. If there’s one thing I like about Krell, it’s the simple fact that every product they make goes to 11 in more ways than sheer volume. After un-boxing the Krell KID (Krell iPod Dock) and matching Papa dock stereo amplifier, it’s safe to say this system takes iPod music to the ultra-extreme. Until the KID’s arrival, my impression of an iPod dock was a cheap puck-style hunk of plastic helping to produce cheap hunk of plastic sound. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Apple iPod, truly I do, and I consider it a viable music source when handled correctly, but nearly every iPod dock is nothing but consumer electronics crap.
The KID on the other hand is all Krell from top to bottom. It’s large, solid and looks like it could hurt you if it wanted to. Most iPod docks are no bigger than a computer mouse or small cell phone, whereas the KID measures 13 inches wide by three inches high and 11 inches deep. It also weighs a fair amount, tipping the scales at a robust 10 pounds. The front façade is minimal yet elegant, displaying a touch of industrial flair with its exposed bolts and semi-brushed steel faceplate. The front features three small display screens, one each for treble, bass and volume. The screens are easily readable from several feet away and glow a nice pale blue. Below each screen are two arrow keys to increase or decrease the various functions represented in the screen. The KID has a small power/standby switch in the lower left corner and an auxiliary mini-jack input on the front for you Zune users out there. Atop the KID is the iPod cradle itself, which features a thick metal support or brace with a small pad that juts out from the top of the iPod-sized opening to give your beloved MP3 player a little something to lean on. Around back you get more goodies. For starters, there is a single composite video out, as well as an S-video out for onscreen navigation of the iPod’s menu, should you require it. Next to the video outputs rest a pair of balanced and unbalanced audio outputs, which, like the composite video output, are gold-plated and extremely robust. The KID also has an RS-232 input, as well as a detachable power cord and a 12-volt trigger.
Internally, the KID utilizes a fully differential output for the internal DAC. It also features opto-isolated digital connections between your iPod and the KID itself, as well as balanced differential Class A circuitry.
Like the KID, the matching Papa dock is another example of Krell excess and ingenuity run amok. Featuring a U-like shape and measuring 17 inches wide by roughly five-and-a-half inches tall and 16 inches deep, it tips the scales at an impressive 39 pounds. For an iPod accessory, 39 pounds is a bit much, but for a 150-watt stereo amplifier, which is what the Papa dock essentially is, the weight makes a bit more sense. However, while far from back-breaking, the Papa dock feels heavier and more solid than many traditional stereo amps I’ve encountered. The front panel features the same silver finish as the KID, with a single power switch. Toward the front half of the inner “U” is the serial port that connects the KID to the Papa dock. Around back, you’ll find the Papa dock’s plastic-wrapped binding posts that can accept banana or spade connections. The Papa dock has both composite and S-Video outputs on the back plate, since the KID’s outputs are not accessible when sitting in the Papa dock. There is an RS-232 input, as well as a 12-volt trigger and detachable power cord. While the KID can be used as a standalone piece, the Papa Dock must be used with the KID.
Which brings me to the remote. For all of Krell’s prowess in design and engineering, they still can’t crack the formula to make a remote that you want to use. But they’re nothing if not consistent with the KID remote. In true Krell fashion, it’s unbearably thin and cheap and is about as readable and usable as a third nipple. Yes, all of the functions you could possibly want on an iPod remote are present, but my God, they’re not possible to find in anything but a fully-lit room. Every button looks the same and is laid out in such a fashion that it feels like a leftover game of 52-card pickup.
I unboxed the KID and Papa dock like a kid on Christmas morning. The KID isn’t quite plug and play. Once it’s out of the box, you have to assemble the iPod cradle by placing the metal iPod rest along the back edge of the cradle, which is a very easy procedure. Next, I had to unscrew the plate that covered the serial input on the bottom of the KID to “dock” it with the Papa dock. Once this was completed, the two fit together snugly and securely.
I went ahead and connected the Papa dock to my reference Paradigm Signature S8 v.2 loudspeakers via runs of Transparent Reference speaker cable and was ready to go. Because I chose to run the KID and Papa dock as a complete system, no additional cables were required. I plugged the Papa dock (which also powers the KID when connected) to my Transparent Power Wave 8 power conditioner and was ready to rock and roll.
I recently bought a new iPod, which has an 80GB internal hard drive. I loaded it up with a barrage of self-ripped music, as well as countless iTunes-purchased tracks, complete with their less than stellar sound quality. After about a 20-minute transfer session, I went ahead and docked the iPod inside the KID and the entire system automatically powered up and brought up the iPod’s small menu. I set everything to shuffle and prepared to let things play for a bit before getting critical. “A bit” lasted about 30 seconds, for what I heard was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced from an iPod before. It was music.