|Krell KCT Stereo Preamplifier|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps|
|Written by Augie Bettencourt|
|Thursday, 01 January 2004|
Page 1 of 3
Krell built its reputation on building big, powerful amplifiers with massive amounts of power reserves, tremendous transient response and bullet-proof build quality. Although the Krell name is best known for its amplifiers, Krell has also built preamplifiers since its beginnings in 1980. The Krell KCT preamplifier is the finest preamplifier Krell has to offer and is the result of the development of Krell’s best amplifier, the Krell Master Reference Amplifier. The question for many well-heeled audio enthusiasts is, does a well-engineered amplifier design translate into equally well-engineered preamplifier design?
As I unboxed the Krell KCT preamplifier, the cliché “built like a tank” was the first thought that came to mind. The Krell KCT is a visually striking piece of equipment, with a great sense of industrial design and ergonomics.
At $8,500, this preamp is immensely expensive although priced comparably or less than other “statement” preamplifier offerings such as Mark Levinson No. 32 (about $12,000) or Conrad Johnson’s ART (nearly $16,000). Weighing in at 23 pounds and measuring 19 inches wide, four-and-a-half inches high and 14.5 inches deep, it seems rather heavy for such a slender design, but then again, that’s how tanks are built. The front panel LED display provides information on input, zones (it has dual zone ability), menu function and selection and all preamplifier operations. The back panel has two pairs of balanced analog inputs, three pairs of single-ended analog inputs and two pairs of CAST inputs for use with Krell CAST equipped input devices. On the output side of business, it has one pair of single-ended output, one pair of balanced outputs and two pair of CAST outputs. For Zone Two, it has one pair of balanced outputs and one pair of single-ended outputs. The Krell KCT also has the Krell Link feature, which allows for synchronized remote power on and off with other Krell components that have the Krell Link feature. It’s equipped with three 12-volt triggers outputs for remote on/off of other components, RC-5 in to receive remote input commands and an RS-232 port for software upgrades. It also includes a phono power port that can be used to connect to a Krell KPE phono stage and will accept an IEC standard 15-amp power cord.
I placed the Krell KCT on the top shelf of my rack and plugged it into the wall socket using a Cardas Golden power cord, and connected it to the Krell FPB 400cx via its CAST outputs using Krell CAST cables. Speaker connections to the amplifier were made using the Cardas Golden Cross bi-wire speaker cables, which have been my long-term reference speaker cables. The Undewood HiFi modified, Shanling CD-T100 CD player was used for all two-channel audio.
The Krell KCT is the first preamplifier to incorporate Krell Tunnel technology, which is a circuit design that Krell claims is the most efficient signal transmission from input of the preamplifier to its output. The circuit topology shelters the audio signal from voltage interference and provides a current domain conduit for internal signal transmission in the same way that a tunnel protects what is inside while maintaining a safe passage from entry to exit. It also includes Krell CAST (Current Audio Signal Transmission) technology, proprietary technology for connecting analog components, which Krell claims provides the most accurate signal transfer from one component to another. The Krell KCT is the first Krell preamplifier to incorporate two-zone capability. It also allows for the independent source selection for the second zone and volume control for the second zone. The menu lets you name each input, select volume trim levels and balance levels for each input. The remote control is a serious chunk of metal. It lacks learning capability and backlighting, which would have rendered this remote more effective, but its clearly marked display gives it a nice feel, and in a pinch, you could use it as a weapon to protect yourself.