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Krell KAV-300i Integrated Amplifier Print E-mail
Thursday, 01 August 1996
ImageDesigning a cost-is-no-object AV system really isn't that hard. Ripping out walls, floating the floor, professionally hanging all sorts of room treatments and installing all of the best electronics practically guarantees a successful result. The problem is, not all of us have the $500,000-plus it takes to achieve all-out audio/video nirvana. A true challenge lies in developing a very high performance system on a much more modest budget.

This brings us to the introduction of the Krell KAV-300i integrated amplifier. Priced at $2500 USD and rated at 150 watts per channel into 8 ohms, this little monster gives an up-and-coming high-end music enthusiast the ability to luxuriate in the high-end goodness known as Krell without having to sell any of the children to Gypsies. The Krell KAV-300i is a sleek design operated either by beautifully machined front panel or by remote control. The KAV-300i is equipped with four inputs, one balanced and three unbalanced. Its proprietary Theater Throughput technology allows you, the end user, to modify your KAV-300i to interface smoothly with an outboard surround sound processor while still using your Krell amplification.

The Music
I use the Krell KAV-300i in my family's vacation home in Scottsdale, Arizona, in a system designed for lifestyle as well as high performance music playback. The system includes Wilson WATT Puppy version 3.2 loudspeakers, the Krell KAV-300i, a Camelot Technology Arthur 3.0 DAC and a Pioneer Elite PDF-107 101 CD changer with Transparent analog and digital cables. The room is huge, featuring 22- foot ceilings, a glass side wall on the left and a vast opening on the right. Clearly a room this large is a tough test for any integrated amplifier, in that integrated amps are stereotypically known for loading lots of features into one chassis, but almost always skimping on the power. This was not the case with the Krell KAV-300i. On Steely Dan's "Peg" from the Aja record (MCA), one immediately notices the deep and punchy bass you hear with the Krell. Every time I have ever auditioned a Krell system, I have been struck by its fast, deep and tight bass. I was worried that this effect might be lost with a mere 150-watt integrated amp in a room so large. I was wrong. The low frequencies resonated long and strong on this legendary reference album. The disco-influenced brush beats layered nicely on the left of soundstage, perfectly balanced with the percussion and high hat trickery on the right.

The bass on Barry White's "Practice What You Preach" from The Icon Is Love (A&M) has similar mythic stature. However, the low end wasn't what struck me most about auditioning this cut with the Krell in my system. The presence of Barry's vocals was stunning and worthy of special note. The overtones were opulent as his voice penetrated the soundstage, jumping right into the living room. It was the presence that compelled me to keep increasing the volume as if I couldn't get enough. But who can get enough of Barry White anyway?

Frank Sinatra always had the best orchestrations. His 1967 foray into bossa nova with Antonio Carlos Jobim presents a great test of a music system in the campy song entitled "Baubles, Bangles and Beads." It features eternally smooth Sinatra vocals accompanied by Jobim's signature guitar strumming, along with a full complement of strings and horns to accentuate their musical point. With the Krell KAV-300i, the layering was deep and resolute and the overall sound was velvety smooth, just like the Chairman of the Board himself.

The Downside
While it is obvious that the Krell design team seriously considered the upgrade path for end users, the fact that there are no balanced preamp outputs left me wondering. The Krell Theater Throughput technology allows you to use the internal Krell amps, but what if you get the urge to add the horsepower of a bigger Krell amp? I guess you are simply limited to unbalanced operation.

The remote that comes standard with the Krell KAV-300i is adequate and controls the matching Krell CD Player. However, it lacks the sex appeal and high-end user interface that graces the rest of the KAV-300i. One may choose to invest in the Krell KRC-3 all-aluminum remote for a $250 fee or consider something along the lines of a Philips Pronto ($480) for a sexier interface.

The sound of the KAV-300i is pure Krell. It is dynamic, present and smooth, but at times can sound cold. This is not to say that the unit sounded bright or brittle; it just won't glow with warmth that you'll find in less dynamic tube gear.

The Krell KAV-300i is the kind of product the high- end audio industry can be proud of, in that if a non-audiophile stretched his or her budget to include this super performer in their first truly high-end system, they would always be satisfied. The Krell KAV-300i provides all of the sound, features and sex appeal (and then some) that are needed to provide topnotch musical enjoyment, as well as helping to develop tremendous pride of ownership. The Krell KAV-300i is a gateway product that is capable of inspiring a music lover to learn to love their music all over again.

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