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Krell KAV-1500 Multi-channel Amplifier Print E-mail
Monday, 01 January 2001
ImageThe KAV-1500 is Krell’s $8,500 powerhouse five-channel amplifier, which delivers 300 watts per channel into eight ohms (600 watts into four ohms). Housed in the standard-size chassis are two massive two kVA toroidal power supplies with 14 proprietary Krell transistors per channel to ensure the highest level of musical accuracy.

The KAV-1500 provides both balanced and single-ended inputs for maximum system compatibility. The most unique feature of this amplifier is Multiple Amplifier Throughput (MAT), which sends the same musical signal to all amplifier channels using only one of the balanced or single-ended connections, thereby reducing installation complexity with multiple amplifier systems. Individual channels can be bridged as well. In fact, bridging up to four channels produces a whopping 1,100 watts.

To make changes to the amplifier’s configuration, such as bridging channels or setting it for MAT, it is necessary to remove the top of the unit and use the supplied jumper cables to create new signal pathways on the main printed circuit board.

When you unpack, the amp special pins are inserted into the first and third pins of the balanced connections to eliminate external noise from corrupting the signal when using single-ended inputs. I removed these, since I was using the balanced connections between the amp and a Krell Home Theater Standard digital processor ($6,000). Another method for interfacing the amp with a matching Krell processor is via the DB-25 connector, which provides simultaneous connection of audio and control signals through a single cable, eliminating serious clutter from numerous interconnect cables.

High-quality five-way binding posts are supplied, capable of handling spade lugs, even those with large-gauge cable, and banana plugs. A convenient 12 VDC trigger input and output enables remote power on/off operation between the amp and other Krell components. Each channel has a slow blow fuse to prevent short circuits in the loudspeaker output.
As far as I’m concerned, assessing the real quality of an amplifier has a less to do with its features, of which there are usually few, and hinges solely on how it performs under all conditions with a variety of sources. The Krell KAV-1500 performs admirably in all instances.

The intricate detail of the string section is both dynamic and revealing in the finale of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 (Telarc). The individual parts of this multi-layered movement are equally detectable at lower volumes. The image is wide and expansive for a real concert hall effect. The amplifier creates a large volume of air that allows the music to breathe and live in the acoustic space.

I got lost in the tonal perfection of Jesse Cook’s soulful and warm guitar on the track “Falling from Grace” on his 20-bit mastered CD Gravity (Narada Equinox). Each note is vibrant and crystalline, popping right out into the middle of the image.

Staying in Spanish mode, some big band salsa from Sergent Garcia was absolutely invigorating on the song “Hoy Me Voy” from Un Poquiteo Quema (Higher Octave World) The strong bass line is tight and punchy with a powerful horn section. Both strongly exhibit the KAV-1500’s fast response and precise articulation.

Five-channel music never before sounded so enveloping and coherent in my listening room. From the magnificent House of Yes DVD (BMG) recorded at the House of Blues in 1999, the song “Yours Is No Disgrace” is powerful on Chris Squires still-impressive virtuoso bass playing and remarkably delicate on vocal harmonies. Cranking the soundtrack never put a strain on the amp. Believe me, your ears will give out before this amp ever does. I’m sure it could have handled even more than I gave it.

Just in time for the theatrical release of ‘Jurassic Park III,’ Universal finally delivers the first installment of the trilogy, the original ‘Jurassic Park,’ to the DVD format. Sure, it has a few flaws but there’s no denying it’s one of Steven Spielberg’s best and has always been one of my favorite demos. The extreme dynamic range of this film is easily controlled and delivered with all the emotion and strength that this magical and frightening movie deserves. The amp is capable of keeping up with the most demanding and powerful portions of the film. In light of the amp’s intense and deliberate force, it never sounds overly bright or fatiguing.

The Downside
I was surprised that Krell didn’t use some external control on the rear panel to bridge channels or convert it to the MAT format. It is necessary to use the Torx wrench to remove several screws to release the thick sheet metal top, revealing the guts of the amp, so jumper cables can be inserted to change the output configuration. The instructions are easy to follow and I’m sure avid enthusiasts won’t be fearful to open up the unit and make the connections. In fact, most manufacturers have taken away the more “tweaky” aspects commonly associated to audiophiledom. The opportunity to actually play inside the equipment will, no doubt, be a welcome relief to some Krell fans. If you are planning to use the KAV-1500 as a five-channel amp, you don’t have to do anything. In the end, since I don’t consider myself a devoted audiophile, I find such inconvenience on an amp only a minor negative, especially when it sounds as good as this one.

My only other comment applies to the sheer mass of the unit. The relatively small size of the chassis is deceptive; don’t even think about lifting it by yourself. The sheet metal casing that holds five giant torodial transistors weighs in at a monstrous 108 pounds and takes two to lift. The upside is that its relatively small size (19 x 6.3 x 25) allows it to be placed in areas that many other high-gain, multi-channel amplifiers would be unwelcome. With some customization, the KAV 1500 can be rackmounted in say a Middle Atlantic rack with a custom shelf, but needs bracing from the front and rear because of its significant weight. The standard width between rack rails is nineteen inches. With the amp being exactly nineteen inches wide, mounting it flush with the front of the rack would be an extremely tight fit if not a physical impossibility. If you plan to rackmount it, the amp wound need to mounted behind the rack rails.

I knew the Krell was going to be a very good amp thus my expectations were high to start. My listening tests exceeded my high expectations. The Krell KAV 1500 worked exceedingly well in my (currently) dark sounding room because the Krell is a very lively amp. It did smooth out significantly throughout break-in however it was never as smooth as my Reference Proceed HPA 2 - HPA 3 ($3,250 and $4,750). The Krell was more dynamic and had better bass in comparison to the two chassis Proceed system. Both amps are of reference quality and really are differentiated by the actual sonic flavor of the amp.

Standard five-channel set-up is straightforward, especially if you use the DB-25 connection to a Krell processor such as the HTS. Using the 12 VDC trigger turns the amp on when you fire up the processor, making the KAV-1500 virtually disappear after installation. Its transparent performance, however, will be the highlight of your home theater system. I’ve had the pleasure to review a fair amount of amplifiers and the KAV-1500 is absolutely one of the best. It assures maximum performance for either movie soundtracks or music, whether classical or classic rock.

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