|Krell Theater Amplifier Standard Multi-channel Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Brian Kahn|
|Friday, 01 February 2002|
Krell has updated their home theater line, along with the rest of the KAV series, resulting in new products such as the Theater Amplifier Standard. The new Krell Theater Amplifier Standard ($7,500) is the only five channel amplifier in the line, designed to be used in conjunction with the newly released Home Theater Standard 7.1 AV preamp.
The Theater Amplifier Standard is the largest multi-channel amplifier I have ever had in my system, measuring 17.25 inches wide, 9.75 inches high and 17.25 inches deep. This hefty amplifier weighs in at a solid 100 pounds. The Theater Amplifier Standard, like the rest of the new KAV series, features an attractive new and modern exterior design. The Theater Amplifier Standard is made out of a heavy gauge, brushed aluminum including the polished and rounded corners. The top panel is heavily perforated, with slots that allow heat to escape from within the amplifier.
The front panel features the Krell logo engraved in the center above the power button. When the power button is switched from standby to active, the traditional blue Krell light emanates from behind and surrounds the button. The rear panel features a heavy fixed power cord, five balanced and five single-ended inputs, a multi-channel DB-25 input, five-way binding posts for each for each of the five channels, fuses, a master power switch and a 12-volt trigger input and output.
The Theater Amplifier Standard utilizes Krell Current Mode technology. In utilizing the Current Mode technology, the audio gain stages are performed in the current, rather than in the voltage domain. The purpose of this is to increase speed and detail. When normally configured, the Theater Amplifier Standard produces 200 watts per each of its five channels. The amplifier is bridgeable, allowing for two 800-watt channels plus you still can use the center channel at 200 watts. Another fairly unique feature is Krell’s Multi Amp Throughput. This allows the user to connect one channel to the amplifier’s balanced or single-ended input and have that signal distributed to all five channels. This feature would be helpful for some whole-house audio applications, especially those installing high performance in-wall loudspeakers.
Physical help is strongly recommended in setting up this amplifier, as it is extremely heavy. I found that the height of the amplifier prevented it from fitting in my normal equipment rack spot. This amplifier runs warm and demands ample breathing room, so do not squeeze it into a rack opening barely bigger that the unit itself.
The Theater Amplifier Standard was connected to Krell’s Home Theater Standard 2 via Better Cable's Balanced Silver Serpent Interconnects and had the remote power feature activated by the processor’s 12-volt output.
Before using the amplifier for its intended purpose as a multi-channel amplifier, I briefly utilized it in my stereo system in order to compare it to the KAV-300iL I recently reviewed. I compared the KAV-300iL, using its internal amplifier, to the KAV-300iL as a preamplifier, driving the Theater Amplifier Standard. While both units are rated at 200 watts per channel, the Theater Amplifier Standard clearly had more gusto to it.
The sonic characteristics of the two amps were very similar. The Theater Amplifier Standard, with its larger power supplies, seemed to be ever so slightly more dynamic and more immune to power fluctuations. The differences in the sonic flavor between the two Krells were slight and attest to the sonic unity throughout the Krell line.
For the next level of testing, I called my strongest friend to come over to help me carry the amplifier into my theater room and began my multi-channel listening. I started with the movie "Pearl Harbor" (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), as I had missed the movie in the theaters. The Krell drove my Martin Logan speakers with enough precision that I was unable to miss a single over-dramatic line of dialogue or any nuance of its delivery.
Thankfully, the Krell’s accuracy is accompanied by vast power reserves, which were called into play for the attack scene at the end of the first disc. This scene had many sonically complex moments with multiple explosions, voices, gunshots and planes sounding off from all directions. Despite the extreme complexity and commotion, all of the sounds remained clearly distinct. The various explosions and shots remained distinct, even as they overlapped one another. While much of this clarity has to be attributed to the processor and of course the disc itself, the amplifier had plenty of power for quick and clean transients that kept the sounds crisp, clear and distinct. Scenes such as bombing raids demand amplifiers with ample and quick power supplies, which the Theater Amplifier Standard delivers.
I then spun up the DVD of "Moulin Rouge" (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), which features a more musical soundtrack. The Krell, while failing to provide the warmth that is sought after by tube enthusiasts, provides a compelling and involving musical soundstage. The Krell was accurate and detailed enough to capture nuances missed by other respected amplifiers. The "Moulin Rouge" soundtrack was rich with many background details that came through much more clearly with the Krell than with the McIntosh amplifier I had previously had in my system.
I also auditioned some 5.1 music with the Krell, beginning with The Police’s Every Breath You Take – The Classics (DTS). One of the harder-hitting cuts on this fairly mellow album is "Don’t Stand So Close To Me." This track features a powerful bass line, which was tightly and accurately reproduced by the Krell. The Krell was capable of great detail, as evidenced by this track and by "King of Pain." My MartinLogans are very revealing and were able to fully appreciate the detail provided to them. The intricacies of the bass lines, as well as the small spatial cues from the surround channels, were clearly reproduced without sacrifice.
The Krell Theater Amplifier Standard shines, literally. The blue power light is obnoxiously bright. Thankfully, my equipment rack is not visible from my listening / viewing position. Nonetheless, the light is bright enough to cast a blue glow in its corner of the room. If the amplifier’s front panel is to be exposed to the theater room, the light must be covered. This unfortunately will detract from the amplifier’s fine aesthetics.
The Theater Amplifier Standard is a welcome addition to the Krell line, as well as to my theater system. Some may complain that $7,500 is a strong investment for a five-channel amplifier, but before this amplifier’s introduction, five channels of Krell would have cost much, much more. The signature Krell accuracy, wide dynamic range and spectacular control – especially in the bass -- can be well-utilized in dynamic theater environs. The sonic characteristics identified in my earlier review of the KAV-300iL are still evident in the Theater Amplifier Standard. However, these characteristics lend themselves more to theater and most multi-channel applications. I found the power and dynamic capabilities of the Theater Amplifier Standard, coupled with its precise analytical nature, to be most adept at accurately portraying complex and dynamic soundtracks.