KRELL K300i-D Digital 150w class-A iBias Integrated amp/DAC-USB HDMI Bluetooth

KL 03 IA K300D
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Krell

The Leader in Audio Engineering

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FINISHED IN SILVER BRUSHED ALUMINIUM FINISH.  IT EASILY DRVES OUR MAGNIFICENT WILSON BENESCH ACT-ONE EVO SPEAKERS (RRP $40,000/pr). IT IS NICELY RUN-IN READY TO AMAZE YOU, IT'S OPEN AND  POWERFUL WITH SUPERB DETAIL AND MICRO DYNAMICS AND GREAT BASS CONTROL WITH JUST THE RIGHT TOUCH OF CLASS-A RICHNESS. THIS IS A VERY VERSATILE INTEGRATED AMP WITH STREAMING ON-BOARD AND HDMI & OPTICAL INPUTS, YOU CAN PLUG TV STRAIGHT INTO IT FOR GREAT STEREO AND GREAT TV WITH NO COMPROMISE, NOTHING NEAR THIS PRICE POINT COMES CLOSE..... READ THE AWESOME REVIEWS

Krell Industrie's NEW GENERATION K-300i / K300iD Integrated Amplifiers
Amplifier legend Krell Industries has announced its new K-300i Integrated amplifier which boasts newly developed amplifier circuit with Krell iBias that can deliver 150w @ 8ohms and 300w @ 4 ohms.
Greaty revised IBias provides the sonic benefit of Class A operation without the excessive heat and power consumption of traditional class A designs. 

"Krell Performance is as always, not only with endless power, but also has a balance in sound staging and performance that places it among the best audiophile amplifiers available. Thanks to the digital module and other amenities, this is a real all-rounder.”…. PowerHouse Mag (Germany)

"All I can say is WOW! I have never, and I repeat never, in over 30 years of professional audio sales and system design, heard a solid state product like this before. The phrase "tube like" has been bandied about for years when you have a solid state product that strives to recreate some of the magic of modern tube electronics, however, with the new K-300i, which I understand was the inspiration for the XD upgraded Duo, Chorus and Solo amplifiers series, you have actually done it! There is an organic wholeness and lack of grain to the sound which once you experience it, you know in an instant, this is not your typical solid state Hifi gear" ..... Dave Lalin, - Audio Doctor

"This integrated amplifier lacks almost nothing - actually it is almost an all-in-one device. The Krell pulverises my prejudices almost from the first note, it fills me with great joy when listening to music"....... Stephan Schmid - i-fidelity.net

The K-300i also boasts a 770VA Transformer and 80,000 uF capacitance for excellent signal control and dynamics.  Krell Current Mode to[topology is used with fully differential circuitry that runs from the input stage through to the last output gain stage proving and extremely linear and extended frequency response curve with smooth, effortless highs and extremely dynamic bass energy.

There are two versions available the "Classic" and the "Digital" the latter comes with a world class DAC featuring support for the latest digital music formats.  An ESS Sabre Pro DAC configured for high current output performs the digital to analogue conversion for un compromised audio reproduction.  A network streaming audio renderer with dedicated mobile App plays AAC, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV and WMA Files with DoP files supported to 192kHz/24Bit from UPnP music servers or Nas devices.
With the "Digital" option the Krell is both MQA and Roon Ready along with Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz and vTuner Radio streaming services being supported
There are HDMI inputs and outputs supporting 4K UHD and HDR to allow audiophile grade sound quality integration into Home Cinema systems.  A single USB port is available on the front panel with other USB ports on the rear for user friendly option to stream music from any computer and there is also a Bluetooth Receiver with aptX Technology
The K-300i has an internal web server that is optimised for tablets and provides a remote graphical user interface for convenient and intuitive control.

The KRELL Promise 
The new K300i-XD  competes with the very best out there that cost significantly more. The price is attributed to our decision to source main boards from US factories only, so we could sensure highest quality, reliability and performance worthy of the Krell brand, to enable us to bring Krell back to its place at the top once again.

When developing the K-300i-XD, David Goodman, our Director of Product Development, whom has been with Krell since 1987 and was largely responsible for design work on all Krell products, discovered that with modifications to the output stage, we could vastly improve sound quality, across the board, to all of our amplifiers.

The Result
A deeper, darker, blacker background that provided significantly better macro and micro dynamics, more silence between the notes. Vocals and midrange took on an organic, yet more vibrant tone, enabling us to hear much more body, and even though our amps were great before, there was a very significant improvement. 

The speakers disappeared; yet, instruments were more focused with appropriate size and specific soundstage locations. All in all, a much better sounding, much improved experience that was easily, immediately heard by all that listened.

Renowned American amp brand, Krell Industries, has just unleashed the K-300i Integrated Amplifier .
Krell made an impact with their KAV-300i integrated amplifier in 1999. Today, they are hoping that the all-new K-300i integrated will find similarly enthusiastic fans.

The 18.2kg K-300i incorporates a newly developed amplifier circuit design featuring Krell iBias tech. This delivers 150 Watts per channel into 8 Ohms and 300 Watts per channel into 4 Ohms. Additionally, iBias provides the sonic loveliness of Class A but without the traditional accompaniment of excessive heat and power consumption. Regarding power, there is a 770VA transformer with 80,000 microfarads of capacitance. The upshot of all that is excellent signal control and dynamics. 

Furthermore, with Krell Current Mode topology employed with fully differential circuitry running from the input stage through to the last output gain stage, we are told that we can expect an “extremely linear and extended frequency response curve with smooth, effortless highs and extremely dynamic bass energy”.

Analogue connections include two pairs of balanced XLR and three pairs of RCA on the input side, whereas outputs are catered for by two pairs of speaker binding posts and a single pair of RCA to run to a preamp.
Upgrade the analogue unit with the digital option, and you get the benefit of an ESS Sabre Pro DAC and networked streaming audio renderer with a dedicated mobile application.

The K-300i’s internal web server is optimised for tablets and hands the user convenient and intuitive control. The player is compatible with the latest digital audio formats including AAC, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV and DoP files up to 192kHx/24-bit from UPnP music servers or NAS devices.

The digital option also provides Spotify, vTuner Internet Radio, Tidal, Deezer, and QoBuz streaming services. Good news it is also Roon Ready and will decode MQA.

Connectivity-wise, the digital module brings HDMI 2.0 inputs and output supporting 4K UHD with HDR for audiophile-grade TV viewing. Upfront is a USB port enabling playback from flash drives. There is another USB port around the rear so that you can stream music directly from a laptop or computer. Wireless fans also are served by aptX Bluetooth. Rounding off the digital inputs are a coax and an optical port.

When developing the K-300i-XD, David Goodman, our Director of Product Development, whom has been with Krell since 1987 and was largely responsible for design work on all Krell products, discovered that with modifications to the output stage, we could vastly improve sound quality, across the board, to all of our amplifiers.

THE RESULT

A deeper, darker, blacker background that provided significantly better macro and micro dynamics, more silence between the notes. Vocals and midrange took on an organic, yet more vibrant tone, enabling us to hear much more body, and even though our amps were great before, there was a very significant improvement. 

The speakers disappeared; yet, instruments were more focused with appropriate size and specific soundstage locations. All in all, a much better sounding, much improved experience that was easily, immediately heard by all that listened.

The technical explanation from David:

“The “XD” update to the Chorus/Duo/Solo/K300i amplifiers reduces the output impedance to less than half of its original value. This lower output impedance better damps unwanted speaker vibrational modes. Changing the output impedance also necessitated re-compensating each amplifier stage to achieve optimal critically damped transient response. This ensures that the amplifier accurately follows the dynamics of the input signal.”

This New XD update has been applied to the entire lineup of Krell amplifier. All amplifiers, aside from internal modifications, will have an “XD” silk screened on to the left front panel to denote the change.

COOL RUNNING KRELL:
Nearly 40 years after Krell’s iconic Class A power amps hit the high-end, the company looks to be offering far less ‘brutal’ designs. When its iBias output stage technology was introduced [HFN Oct ’14] the company suggested it was doing its part to modernise flagship hi-fi, increasing its appeal to consumers who were not as accepting of bulky intrusions into their living spaces as dyed-in-the-wool audiophiles. Now, as then, Krell claims that its iBias circuit technique combines the ‘sonic benefits of Class A operation without the heat and power consumption of traditional Class A designs’. In practical terms, rather than maintain a constant, high standing current (or bias) in the output stage – the brute-force, but wasteful, Class A approach to eliminating NPN/PNP transistor crossover distortion – these iBias amplifiers spontaneously adjust the bias to suit the music signal. This sliding bias technology differs from Technics’ ‘New Class A’ and JVC’s ‘Super-A’ regimes promoted through the 1980s because, in the K-300i, bias is calculated from a direct measure of the current delivered by the output stage. As a result it incorporates your choice of speaker – with its distinctive sensitivity and impedance vs. frequency trend – into the calculation of required bias. PM

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Awards

Testimonials

Videos

Features

  • When it comes to high-end solid-state amps, no manufacturer is more revered or influential than Connecticut-based Krell
  • The K-300i is the latest in a long line of class-leading integrated amps – the simplest and most affordable way to own a Krell amplifier
  • Newly developed amp circuit incorporates the latest version of Krell’s iBias technology
  • iBias delivers the sonic purity of Class A operation without the excessive heat and power consumption of traditional Class A designs
  • Krell Current Mode topology, with fully differential circuitry from input to output, ensures an extremely linear and extended frequency response
  • 770VA transformer lies at the heart of the amp’s prodigious power supply, enabling precise, unerring signal control and effortless dynamic range
  • Power output rated at 150W per channel into 8 ohms, doubling to 300W per channel into 4 ohms
  • Two versions available: a classic version with purely analogue inputs (RCA/XLR) and a fully featured ‘digital’ version that adds digital inputs and streaming
  • Integrated high-end DAC section utilises ESS Sabre Pro chipset
  • Includes UPnP network streaming and aptX Bluetooth reception, as well as optical, coaxial, USB and HDMI digital inputs and an HDMI output
  • Supports a wide range of file formats and streaming platforms, including Spotify Connect, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz and vTuner
  • Also decodes MQA files and is Roon Ready
  • The  K-300i  has  an  internal  web  server  that  is  optimised  for  tablets  and  provides  a  remote  graphical user  interface  for  convenient  and  intuitive  control. 

Specifications

Analog Inputs
2 pr. balanced via XLR connectors
3 pr. single-ended via RCA connectors

Digital Inputs (only on K300D Digital model)
1 EIAJ Toslink Optical
1 S/PDIF Coax
2 HDMI (HDMI 2.0a, HDCP 2.2) + 1 HDMI Output
1 USB-A (USB 2.0 host)
1 USB-B (USB 2.0 audio device)
1 Bluetooth with aptX

Outputs 
1 pr. preamp outputs via RCA connectors
1 pr. speaker outputs via gold-plated binding posts

Control inputs 
1 RS-232 input via 9-pin D-subminiature connector
1 remote IR detector input via 3-conductor 3.5 mm connector
1 12 VDC trigger input via 2-conductor 3.5 mm connector

Control output 
1 12 VDC trigger output (60 mA maximum current) via 2-conductor 3.5 mm connector

Input impedance 
Balanced: 16 kΩ
Single-ended: 8 kΩ

Frequency response 
20 Hz to 20 kHz +0, -0.22 dB
<10Hz to 100kHz +0, -0.57 dB

Signal-to-noise ratio 
>104 dB, wideband, unweighted, at 2V RMS in balanced, referred to full power output
>117 dB, “A”-weighted

Gain 
25 dB, referenced to 2V RMS in balanced and full power output

Input Overload
10.4 V RMS Balanced
6.8 V RMS Single-ended

Total harmonic distortion 
<0.015%, 1 kHz, 150 W, 8 Ω load
<0.08%, 20 kHz, 150 W, 8 Ω load

Output power 
150 W RMS per channel at 8 Ω
300 W RMS per channel at 4 Ω

Output voltage
98 V peak to peak
34.6 V RMS

Slew rate 
46 V/µs

Output impedance 
<0.023 Ω, 20 Hz
<0.035 Ω, 20 Hz to 20 kHz

Damping factor 
>347, 20 Hz, referred to 8 Ω 
>228, 20 Hz to 20 kHz, referred to 8 Ω

Power consumption
Standby: 11 W 
Idle: 46 W 
Maximum: 900 W

Heat output 
Standby: 37 BTU/hr 
Idle: 156 BTU/hr 
Maximum: 3060 BTU/hr

Dimensions 
438W x 105H x 457D mm

Weight 
As shipped: 27.3 kg

Digital Module Specs 
Coaxial and HDMI inputs support PCM up to 24-bit/192kHz. Optical input up to 24-bit/96kHz
HDMI inputs support DSD and 4K video content. HDMI output supports Audio Return Channel (ARC)
USB and Network streaming support MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV(PCM), FLAC, ALAC up to 192kHz
Bluetooth streaming supports A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, 
The  K-300i  has  an  internal  web  server  that  is  optimised  for  tablets  and  provides  a  remote  graphical user  interface  for  convenient  and  intuitive  control. 

Reviews

All I can say is WOW! I have never, and I repeat never, in over 30 years of professional audio sales and system design, heard a solid state product like this before.
Dave Lalin, - Audio Doctor

SUMMARY: All I can say is WOW! I have never, and I repeat never, in over 30 years of professional audio sales and system design, heard a solid state product like this before. 
The phrase "tube like" has been bandied about for years when you have a solid state product that strives to recreate some of the magic of modern tube electronics, however, with the new K-300i, which I understand was the inspiration for the XD upgraded Duo, Chorus and Solo amplifiers series, you have actually done it!
There is an organic wholeness and lack of grain to the sound which once you experience it, you know in an instant, this is not your typical solid state Hifi gear.

I am writing this email to you while listening to our brand new demo KRELL demo K-300i Integradted amp playing Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Lee Morgan tracks.

All I can say is WOW! I have never, and I repeat never, in over 30 years of professional audio sales and system design, heard a solid state product like this before.

The phrase "tube like" has been bandied about for years when you have a solid state product that strives to recreate some of the magic of modern tube electronics, however, with the new K-300i, which I understand was the inspiration for the XD upgraded Duo, Chorus and Solo amplifiers series, you have actually done it!

There is an organic wholeness and lack of grain to the sound which once you experience it, you know in an instant, this is not your typical solid state Hifi gear.

The sound of the K-300i just draws you in to the experience of music. Even listening from the next room, the piano and organ have the flowing roundness of a real instrument.

Another extraordinary trait of this little amplifier, pun intended, it weighs 52lbs and feels like it was cut from a solid block of metal. There was a rim shot on the drums which made me lift my head from reading emails while sitting in my listening room. It was so life like and startling, and this is with only a short period of break in.

Combine this magical liquidity and sense of presence with a deep, well controlled bass response, a large soundstage, good top end extension, and thrilling dynamics, and add in a modern feature set with Roon and MQA capability, built in ethernet streaming, Apt X Bluetooth, HDMI in and outputs, and a ton of both analog and digital inputs, with enough power to drive real world loudspeakers, and it makes this one very special integrated amplifier. I will find it hard to recommend anything else but Krell to my clients, and we sell many of the top performing brands of electronics in all of audio.

We have not yet fired up the big guns, our new Demo Duo-300XD & Illusion-2 [reamp/DAC. I expect we will find this gear is even better than the little integrated with the XD upgrades as I’ve read in many publications over the past few months, and again we will likely find it hard to recommend our more expensive reference gear which is well over $50k. This level of sound quality is more akin to radically more expensive brands. Please get the word out that Krell is back! We are so pleased with these new products, you are going to have a bright future.

Krell is one of the foremost gems in the vein of classic American high end manufacturing, and like Harley Davidson, you are well on your way to restoring Krell back to its glory days.

I have owned many classic Krell products like the KSA 250s, a KRC HR, and 450 Mcx Mono blocks, as well as some of the finest tube gear from Conrad Johnson and VAC, so I know what good sound sounds like. The new K-300i is a quantum leap over the older classic Krell gear, and anyone who doubts that just needs to listen for 30 seconds to confirm that.  

Dave Goodman should be congratulated. Whatever he figured out with the XD series circuit advances the art of music reproduction.

Thank you for your recommendation of the K-300i and Krell in general, I can't remember the last time a product in this price point sounded so remarkable and was such a joy to use.

Please feel free to quote me on this, I stand by absolutely every word.

Sincerely,
Dave Lalin - Audio Doctor
This may be the ‘baby Krell’ – as if one could ever have such a thing! – but it has a big, clean sound that’s as much about clarity and finesse as it is all-out power and drive.
Andrew Everard

REVIEW SUMMARY: We’re a long way from the old idea of hair-shirt hi-fi here: the latest heavyweight integrated amp from Krell’s Connecticut factory comes fully-loaded and then some! 
This may be the ‘baby Krell’ – as if one could ever have such a thing! – but it has a big, clean sound that’s as much about clarity and finesse as it is all-out power and drive. The digital/ streaming section is well worth having, so well does it handle music from network storage and online sources, and it helps make an even more compelling case for what is a particularly fine – and refined – integrated amplifier.

REVIEW: You need to do some serious rethinking on first encountering the Krell K-300i. If you’re expecting a simple device all about massive power and minimalism, you’re going to be disappointed, but for those looking for an amp able to handle all the needs of the modern music listener, this one could just be bang on the money. 
 Of course, being a Krell, that’s bang on quite a bit of money, at least by the standards of the European competition. Available in a silver or black finish, the K-300i comes in at NZ$13,995, with the optional digital/streaming module that was fitted to the review sample bringing the price up to the NZ$15,995 mark. 
 Mind you, writing this review just after returning from Munich’s High End show [see p18], where almost everything I listened to seemed to have one more zero on the price than I’d been expecting, that tag seems anything but outrageous. In a world where the high-end industry seems firmly on a course of ‘premiumisation’, as I heard it described, the pricing of the K-300i almost seems modest.

STATES OF THE ART 
 That’s particularly the case when you consider what you get for your cash. This is the most affordable route into Krell ownership, and the size of the amp is well suited to European tastes, being a standard (ish) 43.8cm wide and just 10.4cm tall. What’s more, while weighty enough at around 20kg, it’s hardly a monster. For all that it does look impressive, especially in the black finish of the review sample – never been too sure of the silver – and with its use of thick metal and substantial construction. And, of course, the K-300i is still made in the USA… 
 As standard the amplifier comes with five analogue inputs – three on stereo RCAs and two on balanced XLRs, with the option of ‘home theater’ bypass on one input to allow it to be combined with a surround receiver or processor. A single set of speaker outputs, on high-quality combination terminals, is backed up with RCA preamp outs, and that’s about as complex as the amp gets, though there is an Ethernet port as standard, alongside RS232, infrared remote in and 12V trigger sockets, to allow it to be controlled in ‘custom installation’ systems. A matching, metal-clad system remote handset is also supplied with the amplifier. 
 It’s possible to rename inputs to suit your requirements, and trims are also available to enable levels to be equalised across all sources. One can also change the IP address of the amplifier when its Ethernet port is being used for control, error reporting, and also for downloading and installing firmware updates

HIGH-END HUB 
 However, things get much more interesting if you specify the optional digital module, which turns the K-300i into a complete digital/analogue hub. Based around an ESS Sabre Pro DAC it gains conventional S/PDIF optical and coaxial inputs, a USB-B port for computer connection, and a front panel USB-A socket to play music from memory devices. There’s also a trio of HDMI sockets – two in and one out – that take sound from video sources using the Audio Return Channel part of the HDMI specification, while passing through 4K HDR video to a suitable monitor. 
While becoming slightly more common on stereo amplifiers these days, such a provision is still a comparative rarity in this sector, even though it’s standard on AV receivers. It’s a welcome addition here, and a sign of the real-world thinking behind this amp. While some may still be lucky enough to have their music system in a separate ‘sound only’ room, many will find their hi-fi sharing space with the TV, and this provision allows very high quality sound to be enjoyed from TV via the main system speakers. 
 The same goes for the streaming capability of the K-300i when fitted with the digital module. Using the dedicated Krell Connect app running on an Android or iOS phone or tablet, or the generic mConnect Control app, it turns into a network audio renderer able to play AAC, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV and WMA files up to 192kHz/24-bit, as well as DSD up to DSD128, from UPnP-enabled computers and NAS units. It’ll also play online services including Spotify, vTuner Internet radio, Tidal (with MQA decoding for Tidal Masters), Deezer, and Qobuz.
 The K-300i is also Roon-ready, so it can be played to as an endpoint by a Roon core, and has Bluetooth with aptX for wireless music streaming. 
 Although the circuit design is all-new, the basic amplifier technology here is familiar Krell stuff [see PM’s boxout, below]. In short, the amplifier uses the company’s differential ‘Krell Current Mode’ topology from input to output, with an iBias-based power amp delivering a claimed 150W/8ohm, doubling into 4ohm. As PM’s Lab Report makes clear [p43], the amplifier exceeds these claims with ease, and certainly in use the impression is always one of an effortless delivery of the music.

STARTLING SOUNDS 
For those with an awareness only of the mythology that accompanies Krell, the K-300i may come as a surprise, for though it is powerful it is not a fire-breathing amp that storms through everything you choose to play. That’s a common caricature of big American amps, and (usually) an ill-founded one, that the K-300i dismisses with a sound that’s generous, rich and closely detailed, while at the same time having plenty in reserve for the dynamics of the music. 
 One thing that’s very much there from past Krell amplifiers is the solidity and punch of the low-end. Used with speakers able to reveal it, such as my PMC OB1s, the music is built on substantial foundations, but has the agility to propel even the deepest, fastest bass-lines. Play The Who’s ‘Pinball Wizard’ from the original recording of Tommy [Polydor 9861011; DSD64], and the power and deftness of ‘The Ox’ is clearly audible, driving the track on. 
 With Olivier Latry’s wonderful recent Bach To The Future release of the organ of Notre-Dame de Paris [La Dolce Vita LDV69; 96kHz/24-bit], the K-300i comes into its own with the ground shaking pedals. Yet it’s not all about the bass, for the beauty of the ’300i is the way this magnificent low-end is just the underpinning of a sound that’s both absolutely ‘of a piece’ but also packed with internal detail.
 That’s heard in the Latry recording in the sense of this great instrument filling the enormous space, and the way in which air is being shifted to musical effect – not to mention the speed and definition of the notes, and the vivacity with which the timbre of the pipes is revealed. 
 Whether used purely as an amplifier with sources delivering analogue output – in this case a Sony SCD-555ES SACD/CD player and my usual Naim ND555 network player [HFN Apr ’19] – or via its onboard streaming capability, the K-300i is one of those real ‘get on with the job’ amplifiers. Whatever your chosen recording has to give, this amplifier seems capable of delivering it to sometimes startling effect. 
 For example, playing the recent Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer Mahler 7 [Channel Classics CCS SA 38019;  SACD/DSD 128], the magnificence of this remarkable recording is served well by the Krell amplifier’s combination of sheer weight and speed. The sound is dramatic and yet fluid, with a big, expansive sense of ambience and presence, and a totally natural-sounding arrangement of the musicians in a sharply-focused soundstage. 
 The brass in the second movement sounds spectacular, with the call and response effect dramatic and believable, while the building orchestra forces see the K-300i maintaining its grip on the music – and the speakers – even when working very hard indeed. 
PUNCHING PERCUSSION 
 As with the previous pieces, the instrumental timbres are realised extremely impressively, benefiting the overall listening experience. And yes, this is a very easy amp to enjoy, not because it’s forgiving of a recording, or smoothing or warming the sound, but due to its complete honesty of musical delivery. 
 Even when pushed hard with recordings of rather less dynamic range, such as OutKast’s punchy ‘Hey Ya’ from The Love Below [Arista 82876 52905 2], the K-300i’s combination of speed and control is nothing short of remarkable. Even when playing at very high levels, the bass stays tight and focused, and everything going on up above is resolved very well indeed. The sound is gutsy, exciting and hard-hitting, but underlying it all is a sense of maturity and refinement.
 Go a bit more audiophile fare with the Rhiannon Giddens/ Francesco Turrisi collaboration There Is No Other [Nonesuch 591336-2], which combines close-recorded female vocals with lovingly-captured instruments without going all John Lewis ad on you – I told you I’d just come back from a hi-fi show – and the K-300i’s combination of focus and generosity of sound is much appreciated. Giddens’ plaintive vocals bounce off the Mediterranean/North African instrumentation on ‘Gonna Write Me A Letter’ to winning effect, the amp punching along the percussion while allowing the other instruments to soar out of the mix. 
 With the infectious piano jazz of Ai Kuwabara, Live At The Blue Note Tokyo [Verve UCCJ-2164; 48kHz/24-bit], the K-300i is able to demonstrate further its combination of low-end extension and speed as a platform on which music is based. It renders Kuwabara’s piano with a delightful lightness of touch, while Steve Gadd’s drums have slam and crispness and Will Lee’s grumbling bass is tight and precise. Add in a fine sense of live atmosphere – got to love that oh so polite Japanese jazz audience applause – and you have a compelling set that’s clearly right up the K-300i’s alley, so well does it deliver it. 

Suddenly somebody comes around and pulls the veil away and lets you see the paintings in their full glory, every stroke of the brush and every speck of paint. K-300i did that for me for the music. Get it if you can. …
Vedran Simunovic

Conclusion: Yes, it is in the upper price bracket. On the other hand, when will I own a Picasso painting? K-300i is a work of art, and moreover, a work of art that makes you enjoy other works of art in a truly breathtaking way. Imagine if painters made great paintings for centuries but kept them under a veil that only hinted at their true beauty. Suddenly somebody comes around and pulls the veil away and lets you see the paintings in their full glory, every stroke of the brush and every speck of paint. K-300i did that for me for the music. Get it if you can.

REVIEW: You’ve seen it many times in the movies. A prodigal son, or a lone cowboy, or a legendary warrior returns from what was really a self-inflicted exile. A long time ago he was the best, but something happened and he lost his way for a while. Now he’s with us again. Everyone cheers, hats fly into the air and an old friend throws a welcoming arm around his shoulders and in a soft, moving voice says: “Welcome back!” Enter Krell’s new high-tech K-300i integrated amplifier.

Appearance + Features

That was exactly the impression I had after listening to Krell’s K-300i for five minutes and it hasn’t left me since. It was also a reminder that people like me spend so much of their precious time on this planet obsessing over Hi-Fi because it’s a genuine and unique opportunity to personally enjoy real works of art, either through their almost supernatural looks or through “being there”, when everything works properly, speakers disappear and you’re transported into the music venue, wherever and whenever that may be.

The K-300i impresses you right from the start with its commanding presence, especially in the “I’m the boss” black. Gone are the showy features of the days past, now Krell can justly claim that it has really made a work of art. K-300i achieves a unique blend of sturdiness and elegance because it oozes build quality no matter where you look or touch and then combines it with an understated curved front, unobtrusive display and neatly arranged controls. This work of art also has a lot of gravitas. Literally. Many amplifiers may be larger and heavier than K-300i but quite a few contain a lot of empty space for a number of very valid reasons. Not this one. It’s jam-packed with hardware and when you peek through its cooling slots you can’t see many empty spaces at all. When you lift the densely packed amplifier you might even wonder if it really needs to be plugged into the wall at all (“…there must be a nuclear reactor in there somewhere…”).

Krell

Although it’s nominally a Class-A amplifier using Krell’s proprietary ‘iBias’ circuitry, the K-300i dissipates surprisingly little heat for its stated power (150 watts per channel at 8 ohms and 300 watts per channel at 4 ohms). Krell specifies that just about two inches of free space above the amplifier are required to assure proper cooling. I’ve put K-300i to the test on this and it passed with flying colours, which means that you should be fine to install it in places where many other amplifiers of similar power would be out of the question solely because of their ventilation requirements. Neat.

The unit received for review came with a ‘Digital Module’ option, which means that, in addition to the usual analogue inputs, it also had a whole gamut of digital inputs to which you’re able to connect your sources, such as CD/DVD/BR players, streamers, USB keys and whatever the never-sleeping electronics inventors come up with next. Digital inputs include USB, optical, coax S/PDIF, HDMI and the ubiquitous RJ-45 Ethernet port. Of course, in order to decode all this wealth of digital signals, the Digital Module includes an ESS Sabre Pro DAC of impressive specifications. Lastly, the Digital Module has Bluetooth connectivity, which does come in handy sometimes, especially if you’re having a party and/or if you want to play with the frequency response (given Bluetooth’s limitations, although on-board aptX is getting there). All input ports except for one USB are at the back of the amplifier, organised in a tidy logical manner and easy to access and work with. So are the stream of analogue inputs (XLR and RCA) and speaker posts, which accept banana plugs and spades.

Convenience is everything these days. People expect to have their music available to them everywhere and anywhere, anytime while being able to connect any device to any other in two seconds flat. K-300i does not disappoint in this regard. It comes Roon-ready, MQA-capable and with a number of options for many popular streaming services, including Tidal and Spotify, which you can control through the ‘mconnect/mcontrol’ app on your handheld device of choice (Android and iOS versions). This is where I found that K-300i behaves differently to my Oppo BDP-105 player, because the presence of the handheld (phone or tablet) and the running of the app is essential for K-300i’s streaming. For example, if you flick the control app off the screen the streaming stops. If I do the same thing with Oppo’s controlling app, the streaming is not affected at all. However, as long as the handheld is there and so is the app, K-300i’s streaming works just fine. Just remember not to take the phone with you when somebody sends you to check on the front gate during a party…

Krell

K-300i’s network setup is easy and as straightforward as it comes. In my case, everything worked right out of the box with no problems at all. That said, please keep in mind that K-300i has two IP addresses: one for the control app and one for the web interface. When I scanned my network, I found one “Krell K-300i” device on the address 192.168.0.34 and one “Generic” device on the 192.168.0.75 address. When you open the settings of the control app, it shows the address ending with “34”. However, when you check K-300i’s front display, the address it shows is the one that ends with “75”. If you put the latter address into your web browser, you’ll connect to K-300i’s web interface that looks exactly like the front of the amplifier and you can control it just as if you were pressing the buttons on the amp itself. Some might prefer this kind of access, but by the time I discovered it I was already perfectly fine with Krell’s remote control which did everything I needed. At some stage, Krell might find a way to combine the two IP addresses into one, but the current situation of having two addresses is not a problem at all, as long as you know that there are two of them.

K-300i also has a HDMI output, which quite a few devices I encountered use for displaying their interface on a TV, but Krell decided not to include that feature in their current firmware. I hope they will be able to do it at some stage because the small display at the front, although supporting the elegant looks of the amplifier, might require some squinting for people whose eyesight is not 20/20.

I consider all of these as very minor quirks and they did not stop me in enjoying the great sound and great streaming that K-300i was delivering in spades.

Listening Impressions

For quite a while this review was in danger to be a very short one indeed, because in essence all I can say is that K-300i’s command of the sound is absolute. Period! And there is another thing which I never expected to encounter, and somewhere deep down it pains me to admit it, but K-300i sounds better than the power amplifier I designed, assembled, customised and tweaked over the years to suit my Magnepan speakers perfectly, or so I thought.

Now, before you say “…but Magnepans have no bass” or “…but Magnepans have no dynamics”, please let me counter both myths with “Magnepans have to be placed properly”. My listening room is just 4m x 3.7m and has some irregular features, which did present a challenge, but after spending a few weeks moving speakers around (yes, weeks, because panel speakers radiate both front and back and with Magnepans millimetres count) what was achieved has been a veritable acoustic nirvana in which a great recording rewards you with a front seat performance that’s barely distinguishable from the real thing. Bass, mids, highs, dynamics, soundstage, you name it – they’re all first class. Weeks were spent, but that was years ago and I never had to change the position of my speakers again. Sheer bliss!

Enter K-300i, “stage left”, as a distinguished guest who you’re happy to entertain for a while but you’re not sure what to expect from. The trouble begins when you realise that Krell managed to deliver value for your $12,000 and that the sound that’s coming out of K-300i elevates your speakers, especially Magnepans, to another level of existence altogether...

The sound quality I heard is more than just about THD, frequency curves and similar technical stuff. According to the theory, a power amplifier is supposed to perform one deceptively simple function: take a signal from the input and reproduce it faithfully amplified at the output. An integrated amp like K-300i performs two more functions: input selection and volume control. On paper, that’s all there is to it, but hi-fi industry has been living off the details since inception. I don’t care for amplifier topologies, valves versus silicon, passive-versus-active or any fashions and fads abounding the hi-fi world, as long as the produced sound is reproduced faithfully and accurately. In my view, any manufacturer, including Krell, has a legitimate right to claim their fair share of acronyms – and they’re welcome to it – but for me K-300i sweeps all those details aside with its marvellously accurate sound that you can never hear enough of and that you never get tired of.

As far as I could hear, Magnepans really appreciate the power and the high current capability of K-300i, as well as its tight control of speakers. In regards to speaker control, you have to keep in mind that speakers often impose a rather peculiar load on an amplifier because mechanical movements of the membrane and/or cone manifest themselves not only as resistance, inductance and capacitance loads but also as delayed current/voltage sources, all of which complicate the lives of Hi-Fi equipment designers. K-300i performs superbly in this regard, in a way that’s more than just about the damping factor. This is quintessential Quality with capital Q. Recordings that used to sound great suddenly reveal another layer of detail and you get a feeling that the speakers are much more obediently following the amplifier’s signal.

Krell

I’d recommend that you audition K-300i with its Digital Module installed because if you’ve ‘gone streamin’’, that might be all you’ll need in the foreseeable future. It incorporates a top-quality DAC and that it lets you utilise a wide variety of streaming services. For music that is not on your streaming service you will need other sources (CD/DVD/BR/TT/R2R…). For this review, I mostly used Tidal, which I’ve been subscribed to for a while and found to be the best fit for my needs.

I also tried K-300i with Redefy Audio Monitors with results very similar to what I heard with Magnepans. I’m sure that K-300i would have handled many other speakers just as well as these two. If your speakers’ main virtue is accuracy, I’m certain that K-300i will reveal their full potential to you. It definitely did it for me.

I have a fairly standard set of test tracks that I use for evaluating equipment. This set reliably reveals strong and weak points of any device in the chain, but in the case of K-300i it was very hard indeed for me to find anything that would require an improvement to what I heard. Then, I expanded the repertoire and tried more and more tracks, but still could not find any weak points. Well, maybe, if your speakers need only 15-20 watts to fill the room with music, you may want to find them a suitably powered amplifier, perhaps a valve-based one. If, however, your speakers love a bit more power and can use additional current – again, if they’re Magnepans – I’d go straight for the K-300i and never look back.

Please let me elaborate on this point a bit.

The K-300i made it literally uncanny to listen to Anette Askvik’s “Liberty”, from the album of the same name, because it clearly revealed the singer’s articulation sounds: mouth opening, breath taking and every movement of her tongue and lips. I did hear them quite clearly before I plugged K-300i into the chain, but this was something entirely different. Another example would be Osibisa’s “Kolomashie”, album Welcome Home, which somehow acquired another layer of African village sounds, while singing and clapping of the performers gained immediacy that I previously thought was not possible. Come to think of it, try Osibisa’s “Seaside Meditation” as well. (I heard it performed live ages ago and the drum extravaganza in the middle of the song lasted 11 minutes flat! It’s still with me…)

Krell

Next, I tried Yello’s “Takla Makan”, album Touch Yello (Deluxe). As the name of the album suggests, the sound makes you feel that you can almost touch the sands of the Takla Makan desert. Watch for the sound of the didgeridoo about 50 seconds into the recording. It gives you a jolt!

When testing, I always try a wide variety of recordings and then let a device “drift” towards its preferred genre of music. In this case, K-300i remained right in its original “United Nations” position and faithfully amplified whatever it was ordered to. For example, when playing classical recordings such as “Jupiter” from Holst: The Planets by Boston Symphony Orchestra, conductor William Steinberg, the orchestra was there, from double basses all the way to the tiny triangle. You could hear cymbals crashing with the same measure of clarity and mellowness as when you hear them live, with no harsh edges anywhere. The next case in point for me was Schubert’s String Quintet (D956), where K-300i effortlessly confirmed the technical brilliance of the performers and the recording made by the Artemis Quartet (with Truls Mørk; Virgin Classics), versus a much more flowery version recorded by the Melos Quartet with Mstislav Rostropovich for Deutsche Grammophon.

As mentioned before, K-300i will make a great recording reward you with a front seat in the venue. The best example of this for me was VH1 Storytellers live album by Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, which was recorded with just a few microphones in close proximity to the audience. I even played track 1 “Ghost Riders in the Sky” to some people who are admittedly not very particular to country music, but they were nonetheless captivated by the quality of the sound. They asked me to play it again!

Jazz albums, like Crystal Silence Chick Corea and Gary Burton, and Flood by Herbie Hancock benefited greatly from K-300i’s accuracy and dynamics. Flood in its original form is a relatively hissy recording (have a listen to “Butterfly” for the best example; maybe the tapes were not up to scratch), but K-300i reproduces that hiss without making it a distraction. At the same time, the highs are not compromised at all. Whatever is the trick, it has my vote.

Krell

Lastly, I put on Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly and, to my great pleasure, K-300i (in cooperation with Tidal) revealed that it was MQA (Master Quality Authenticated). This added yet another layer of richness to the sound and made me run out of words to describe the end result. Please listen to The Nightfly but be careful because I’m sure that anyone who hears this recording through the setup I described will immediately feel an overwhelming urge to acquire K-300i and never mind the price. As for myself, I had to perform a desensitisation exercise reminiscent of a scene from Some Like It Hot by repeating to myself: “I’m on a budget. I’m on a budget…” before I parted with this marvellous amplifier, particularly because of its delivery of The Nightfly.

Conclusion

Yes, it is in the upper price bracket. On the other hand, when will I own a Picasso painting? K-300i is a work of art, and moreover, a work of art that makes you enjoy other works of art in a truly breathtaking way. Imagine if painters made great paintings for centuries but kept them under a veil that only hinted at their true beauty. Suddenly somebody comes around and pulls the veil away and lets you see the paintings in their full glory, every stroke of the brush and every speck of paint. K-300i did that for me for the music. Get it if you can.

Vedran Simunovic

If the Krell K-300i doesn't end up with a Class A $$$ (for high value) rating in Stereophile's next Recommended Components, the man might as well come and take me away.
Jason Victor Serinus

SUMMARY: I'm hardly the final authority on integrated amplifiers, but of all of them, the one whose sound stands out most in my mind is the Krell K-300i. It has the smoothest, most listenable, and most all-of-one-piece sonics of the lot; it isn't a supreme challenge to move around; and it offers an optional DAC that is surprisingly musical and satisfying for the price. The Krell is also Roon-ready, does well by DSD and MQA, and offers streaming options that some much-higher-priced components lack. There's a round edge to its images that some might equate with the gentlest sprinkling of warmth, but others would describe as listener-friendly. It certainly leaves me smiling. If the Krell K-300i doesn't end up with a Class A $$$ (for high value) rating in Stereophile's next Recommended Components, the man might as well come and take me away. Hey, since that could happen regardless, take a listen soon

I was less than thrilled by Editor-in-Chief Jim Austin's suggestion to review the solid-state Krell K-300i integrated amplifier. I had recently reviewed another similar priced integrated amplifier, the quite different hybrid Aesthetix Mias, and while I ended up liking the Mimas a whole lot, I felt decidedly lukewarm about having to recalibrate expectations for another integrated, especially one that costs far less than my reference Dan D'Agostino Prigression monoblocks (US$38,000/pair) and whose DAC option is a fraction of the price of my reference dCSRossini DAC/ Rossini Clock combination (US$31,498 plus cables). How good could it be?

There's something happening here:
There were also lingering questions about what had happened to Krell after its founders and co-owners, Dan D'Agostino and Rondi D'Agostino, were axed by an investor who, in the words of Krell's present-day COO Walter Schofield, "did not respect the legacy of the brand." Eventually, Schofield reports, the investor "walked away from the company."

Since Dan had already moved on and founded Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems, his former wife, Rondi, repurchased Krell in May 2016. After Schofield proposed a new business plan that would address reliability and performance issues, he came onboard as COO. The first all-new product from the re-envisioned and reinvigorated company, the Krell K-300i integrated amplifier, was released in early 2019 as the successor to Krell's US-manufactured Vanguard integrated amplifier.

That I had nothing to worry about (as if it were possible for a Jewish only child not to worry) became clear when I heard the K-300i shortly after its release, during Graham Audio's launch of their LS5/9f loudspeaker at Gig Harbor Audio near Seattle. After spending several hours listening to the speaker with an amplifier that did not do it for me at all, my ears perked up when proprietor Erik Owen switched to a brand-new, hardly-broken-in Krell K-300i. One listen to the difference in midrange (the Krell had a full and warm one, thank God) and top (the Krell's was smooth and extended rather than hard and unwelcoming) made clear that my editor was on to something. A mere two months later, a K-300i made its way to Port Townsend for review.

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What it is . . . became increasingly clear
While my sample of the K-300i was breaking in, Dave Goodman, Krell's longtime director of product development, gave me a rundown of its key attributes. Goodman, who was working for Sikorsky Aircraft when he discovered Krell's headquarters by chance while driving through an industrial park, has either designed or served as lead engineer for multiple Krell products over his 32 years with the company. Most recently, he designed the K-300i's optional DAC section and was responsible for the final development and implementation of its trademarked iBias technology.

The K-300i's key features include low-negative-feedback, fully differential circuitry, a 771VA power transformer with 80,000µF of capacitance, and a Cirrus Logic CS3318 volume control that runs balanced to ensure that balanced input signals, including those from the DAC, remain balanced until they reach the amplifier's main gain stage. All circuits up to the driver stage operate in pure class-A. Krell claims that this integrated was designed to output up to 150Wpc into 8 ohms and 300Wpc into 4 ohms, with its iBias technology allowing the amp to deliver up to the first 90W in class-A—"without the excessive heat and power consumption of traditional Class-A designs," Goodman told me by phone. (For his complete discussion of iBias and other unique aspects of the K-300i's design, please see the sidebar.)

The front panel includes power, source selection, navigation, menu, and volume buttons; a USB-A receptacle for playback from USB sticks; and an illuminated display. All of the panel's indicators except for volume level were easy to read from my music room's sweet spot, which is located approximately 12' away from my Wislon Audio Alexia 2 loudspeakers. You can assign custom names to sources, adjust volume offset to compensate for different source output levels, choose between variable and fixed output levels, and use the Fixed option to enable a home theater surround-sound processor to control the volume of the left and right front speakers along with all of the other home theater speakers.

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The Krell K-300i's rear panel includes two pairs of balanced analog audio inputs and three pairs of single-ended analog audio inputs. Given that my reference D'Agostino Progression monoblocks only accept balanced inputs, I stuck with balanced interconnects throughout the review period. Because the K-300i's sole pair of preamp outputs is single- ended, and I didn't want to use single-ended–to-balanced adapters (which might have compromised sound quality),

I was unable to pair it with the Progressions to test it as a stand-alone preamp.

The Krell's loudspeaker outputs come with EU-approved plastic safety fittings, a challenge for bifocal wearers. But once you get the hang of things, it's easy to connect and tighten spade lugs.

A number of the K-300i's rear-panel inputs and outputs are activated with the optional digital module, which uses the ES9028PRO Sabre DAC chip. These include a USB-B input, which accepts signal from external devices such as HDs, NAS drives, and computers; a Bluetooth receiver with aptX; HDMI 2.0a and HDCP2.2 inputs and a single HDMI output; and TosLink optical and S/PDIF coax inputs. An Ethernet input comes standard, as do an RS232 control, baseband RC5 input, and 12VDC trigger input and output.

The DAC, which fully decodes and renders MQA and is a Roon endpoint, decodes PCM up to 24/192 through the rear-panel coax, HDMI, and USB-B inputs; the optical input is limited to 24/96. Higher PCM rates are downsampled. The USB-B input also plays DSD up to 128; DSD256 may be converted to a lower DSD rate, depending on the capabilities of the source device. Both network audio and the front-panel USB-A input work in conjunction with a downloadable ConversDigital mConnect Control app for iOS and Android to decode PCM up to 24/192; those inputs only play DSD64 and will not down-convert higher DSD rates. Depending on the capabilities of your network music server software, you can get around DSD limitations by setting it to down-convert higher DSD rates to DSD64 or to PCM. (Roon can do this.) The mConnect Control app also handles network streaming audio from Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz, and vTuner internet radio. It won't wash your windows, however.

There's also a very handy remote control that can select inputs, control and mute volume, adjust balance, and access menu functions. Replacing its two AAA batteries is a pain, however, because it involves using a supplied Torx screwdriver to remove and replace four teeny, easily lost T10 screws.

The K-300i's manual cautions against plugging it into a power conditioner. When questioned, Goodman said, "Krell amps have always had very large power supplies that deliver a lot of current. This means that the power conditioner has to be at least as big as the power supply in the amplifier to avoid limiting power and negatively impacting the sound. The K-300i may be one of our smaller amplifiers, but it has an over-750W power supply. To get everything you can out of it, your power conditioner should be rated for at least 1000W." Goodman subsequently acknowledged that conditioners such as AudioQuest Niagra, which, when run from a 120V supply, can sustain 20 amps for up to 25ms, should be adequate when the K-300i is connected to one of its high-current outlets. Thus, I stuck with my own Niagara 5000, which I use with my reference D'Agostino amplifiers.

Stop: Hey, what's that sound?
My review strategy was pretty straightforward, at least at the start. To evaluate the K-300i solely as an integrated amplifier, I bypassed its DAC section by sending signal from the Rossini DAC's balanced analog outputs to one of the Krell's pairs of balanced analog inputs. After turning the Rossini DAC's volume all the way up, I used the K-300i's front- panel navigation menu to select the correct input. (I could have used the remote control instead, but I kept it on the couch to control volume.) The source was my customary Roon ROCK-equipped NUC, with playback controlled by a Roon app downloaded to my iPad Pro.

I began with Muddy Waters's "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl" from his 1964 album Folk Singer (24/192 MQA, Chess/Tidal). Timbres were virtually neutral with just a touch of inviting warmth, dimensionality was impressive, and the guitar's cleanly articulated dynamic nuances drew me in. The Krell K-300i sounded great.

I was equally enamored of the reproduction of mezzo-soprano Marianne Crebassa's rendition, with pianist Fazil Say, of Debussy's "La mer est plus belle ques les cathedrals," from their album Secrets (24/96 WAV/Erato 564483). The sound was smooth and inviting—I loved the warm highs—the illusion of depth quite good if not breath-seizing, and timbres were spot on. To evaluate the bass, I turned to Mahler's Symphony No.3 by Iván Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra (DSD64, Channel Classics CCSA 38817/ NativeDSD) and King Creosote and Jon Hopkins's "John Taylor's Month Away" from Diamond Mine (16/44.1 FLAC, Deep Six/Tidal/Qobuz), where low bass was impressively tight and clear, with forceful slam. Thumbs up all the way. In short order, it had become clear that listening would be a pleasurable and involving experience and not a mere review assignment.

Out of the blue, award-winning keyboard master Robert Silverman emailed to say he was coming to Port Townsend to give a house concert and wanted to hear my system. When he arrived, we used the Rossini DAC and K-300i to listen to tracks from two of his Chopin recordings: Stereophile's February 2018 "Recording of the Month," Chopin's Last Waltz (DSD128, IsoMike 5606, NativeDSD), which was engineered by Ray Kimber, and Chopin: Polonaise-Fantasie and Four Scherzi (24/96 FLAC, Marquis B07GJ2J9BC, Qobuz). Bob was impressed enough to ask if I thought the Krell might be a good match for his home system.

1119krell.remThen we bypassed the US$31,498 Rossini DAC/Clock combo and auditioned the Krell's US$1000 DAC option. We inserted a USB stick loaded with Silverman's tracks and others into the K-300i's front USB-A port, selected the correct input (Network), and easily controlled playback using the mConnect app I'd previously downloaded to my iPad Pro. Because the Krell's USB-A port can't accept DSD128, we struck out with Silverman's IsoMike recording. Instead, we chose tracks from two other superbly engineered recordings, Crebassa and Say's Secrets and our September 2019 "Recording of the Month," Patricia Barber's Higher (16/44.1 FLAC, ArtistShare AS0171).

Having reviewed both recordings with my reference Rossini DAC, I knew them well enough to note that the K-300i's DAC conveyed less air, transparency, and color contrasts than my reference. The soundstage was smaller and a dearth of harmonics impacted the piano's radiance and vibrancy on the Crebassa, and flattened the sound of double bass on the Barber, but the overall beauty of the music, and its creators' sublime artistry, touched me nonetheless. I hadn't listened to the Barber since writing my review several months before and was delighted anew by the exquisite musicianship of all involved. When we returned to the Rossini, I could hear details such as fingers moving across bass strings that were obscured by the K-300i's DAC.

Days later, I used the Roon app on my iPad to send music from the NUC to the K-300i's DAC via its Ethernet port. On Barber's first two songs, "Muse" and "Surrender," colors were a bit muted, and bass a mite fuzzy. I attempted to hear if those two tracks sounded any different when I used mConnect to play them back from a USB stick inserted into the Krell's USB-A port; if they did, I couldn't hear it. Switching to the first movement of Mahler Symphony No.3 confirmed that, with the Krell's DAC, left/right elements on the soundstage seemed less connected, and the vividness, three-dimensionality, and strong bass that I find so thrilling was diminished. Timbres were still spot on and inviting, but listening was less involving.

Since many audiophiles play their digital files from a computer rather than a dedicated music server, I dragged in a 2017 MacBook Pro, hooked it up to the Rossini via USB, and sent the signal to the K-300i's balanced inputs. With Roon as playback software, the sound on Barber's songs surprised me. While I had expected something noticeably less transparent than through the NUC, the sound was gorgeous, with ideally smooth and correct timbres. Yes, when I ditched the computer and used the NUC instead, highs were clearer, and air and natural sibilance more pronounced and image size increased. The natural radiance and complex overtones of the piano's highs emerged, and I could sense the texture of each note plucked on the bass, but either via computer or dedicated music server (NUC), the sound of the Krell integrated/Rossini DAC combo was wonderful.

Everybody: Look what's going down!
It doesn't take a weatherman with a PhD to know that the wind blows foul when comparing a $1000 DAC to a setup costing 30.5 times more. In the interest of fairness, I enlisted the Mytek Brooklyn DAC+ (US$2195), which has balanced analog outputs but lacks a network connection. It was easy to connect the Mytek to the K-300i and compare its sound to the more-than-14-times-more-expensive Rossini's—the Mytek's highs were a little bright, bass was a mite muffled and diminished, and transparency, depth of color and soundstage, and air were all "less than." However, due to the complexity of my reference system's elaborate noise-isolation scheme—a complexity that compelled Jim Austin to don his starched collar and preach the values of simplicity—directly comparing the sounds of the Mytek and Krell DACs involved more finagling than you would ever want to read about. Ultimately, each had its sonic strong points, but the Krell, which required no additional power cable or space and could accept network signals, triumphed in the cost/practicality department.

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Right before it was time to return from the K-300i to my 6.33-times-more-expensive Progression monoblocks, friend Peter Schwartzman and his audiophile buddy David came by for last listens. Our tracks included the Barber and Mahler, soul vet Bettye LaVette's "Crazy" from Thankful N' Thoughtful "Deluxe Edition" (24/96 Flac/Qobuz), Yello's "Electrified II" from Toy (24/48 WAV, Polydor 4782160/HDtracks), Will.i.am's title track from #thatPower, featuring Justin Bieber (16/44.1 FLAC, Interscope Records UICS-9136/7), and, for that last little bit of pounding bass and blaring brass, Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra's Keith Johnson-recorded version of Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man from Copland 100 (16/44.1 WAV, Reference Recordings RR-93). David was wowed, and I loved every second of everything I heard. As for Peter, his comment that the K-300i might be the perfect integrated for our doctor/musician friend, Gary Forbes, led me to say that compared to all the other integrated amps I'd ever brought to Gary's for a listen, the Krell's sound was the most neutral, transparent, and satisfying on every level.

Yes, the D'Agostino Progression monos sounded even more neutral than the Krell K-300i. Images were larger, and the soundstage bigger. I heard more depth to voice and bass, and more harmonics on the piano. Barber's hushed singing seemed even more intimate and refined. That recording sounded so exquisite that I wanted to cry. (To those who may doubt these words I say: You don't know me.)

Also with my reference D'Agostino monoblocks, when I turned to one of the recordings I'd reviewed with the Krell integrated, Yannick Nézet-Séguin's version of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte (24/96 WAV, Deutsche Grammophon B003069702), I heard more resonance in the marvelous voice of bass Franz-Josef Selig, which also sounded larger. On Fischer's Mahler Third, it was easy to hear that, at the symphony's beginning, some of the drums were positioned offstage, behind the right side of the orchestra. And to turn from the sublime to the soulful (not that they're mutually exclusive), the guitar on LaVette's "Crazy" sounded even nastier (as it should) with the Krell.

I'm hardly the final authority on integrated amplifiers, but of all of them, the one whose sound stands out most in my mind is the Krell K-300i. It has the smoothest, most listenable, and most all-of-one-piece sonics of the lot; it isn't a supreme challenge to move around; and it offers an optional DAC that is surprisingly musical and satisfying for the price. The Krell is also Roon-ready, does well by DSD and MQA, and offers streaming options that some much-higher-priced components lack. There's a round edge to its images that some might equate with the gentlest sprinkling of warmth, but others would describe as listener-friendly. It certainly leaves me smiling. If the Krell K-300i doesn't end up with a Class A $$$ (for high value) rating in Stereophile's next Recommended Components, the man might as well come and take me away. Hey, since that could happen regardless, take a listen soon, so I can find out what you think before it's too late...

 

The Krell K-300i - The Return of a Classic
Gregory Petan

SUMARY: "It’s a true treat for this long time Krell user to hear what they’ve achieved with their latest XD technology and the K-300i in particular. At this price, it can make an excellent anchor for a reasonably priced, yet high performance audio system. Its compact form factor makes it an easy roommate to live with as well. “ … "The K-300i is a piece that I suspect its owners will treasure for a long time.

 
It’s funny what you remember. My tenure with Krell goes way back, to the demo room I was scared to enter, where an early Krell KSA 150 was matched to a pair of Apogee Stage speakers. Even though I had just purchased a Rotel integrated from the same dealer the “Krell room” seemed like exalted territory.
 
The sound and appearance this combination made played heavily on my senses – even the smell of this amplifier had an aroma that neither the Classe or Levinson amplifiers possessed, and this combination that was the KSA 150 engaged on all levels. It was an audiophile elixir. I soon became obsessed with Krell and purchased a KSA 150.
 
Moving up the product range, the next generation FPB 300, FPB600, KSL preamp, SPB32-X DAC, KRC preamp, the KPS20i cd player and finally the KPS25i cd player would follow. This was money spent with consumer dollars, not reviewer dollars.
 
Throughout my journey reviewing a wide range of manufacturer’s components, I’ve always rooted for Krell’s success, though I haven’t had much experience with current products since founder Dan D’Agostino moved on to form his own company. In the middle of evaluating a number of integrated amplifiers, Krell’s Walter Schofield offered the first crack at Krell’s K-300i, making for an excellent opportunity to revisit the brand.
 
Slim and powerful
 
Despite a low-profile enclosure, the K-300i weighs in at 52 pounds. Producing 150 watts per channel into 8 ohms, doubling into 4, the K-300i provides the weighty, grip that will entice newcomers, and be familiar to fans. The 1/2-inch milled aluminum front panel (available in silver or black) completes the homage to Krell products past, while the curved front keeps an eye on the future.
 
The K-300i is loaded. Equipped with 2 HDMI inputs, 1 HDMI out and a preamp output to compliment two pairs of balanced XLR inputs and 3 RCA line level inputs, everything at your disposal will easily plug in. Those checking the digital box also have Toslink and coax inputs along with USB and RJ45 ethernet inputs, as well as Bluetooth/aptX capability. This is a well thought out product as a stand-alone control center or integrated into a full home system via the RS-232 ports.
 
Vinyl lovers will need an outboard phono stage, but with so much going on in this compact chassis, I’d almost prefer keeping the delicate analog signal out of this box, and why pay for functionality you don’t need? Digital music lovers are in luck, with Krell offering an internal, streaming DAC for an . This includes an on-board DAC and Roon Ready streamer, that will decode digital files up to 24/192 and unfold MQA as well.
 
Krell’s David Goodman, their director of product development and head of engineering is the person behind the current XD series of amplifiers. As we saw in a recent comparison, the difference between their last series of amplifiers and those with XD technology, the improvement is not subtle.
 
Goodman relates that the XD upgrade (Xtended Dynamics, Xtended Dimensionality, Xtended Detail) “takes an already great sounding amplifier, and raises its performance to the next level. This is a perfect example of Krell’s continuous R&D efforts delivering benefits across multiple product lines. During the development of the K-300i, we discovered substantial sonic improvements lowering the amplifiers output impedance below traditional norms. Applying this to the existing products made for an equally big improvement and required a unique designation, hence XD. This lower output impedance exerts more control over the speaker drivers and damps out unwanted vibrational modes, allowing a more accurate reproduction of the original signal.”
 
Exceeding expectation
 
Fully anticipating big dynamics and a tonal balance favoring the lowest octaves, as with past Krell product, the K-300i is vastly different from past Krell efforts. It’s a top to bottom improvement towards a more refined, yet more musical sound. The lower registers are more refined and controlled at the same time.
 
Retaining the dynamics and forceful low end that’s made Krell famous with audiophiles the world over, the K-300i is more nuanced and natural in its musical delivery. There is a sweetness to the sound that is reminiscent of the original KSA-50. The K-300i is non-fatiguing, inviting you to turn up the volume on your favorite tracks – right out of the box. That’s always a great sign. Remember, Krell amplifiers are still class-A, but thanks to Krell’s current i-Bias topology, they don’t run as hot, or draw as much power at low volume levels as the original models did. Yet the K-300i still draws 900 watts from the AC line at full output – and generates a fair amount of heat.
 
Utilizing a wide range of speakers from Sunny Cable, Lansche and PBN, nothing threw the Krell a curve ball it could not field. After a solid week of burn in, some direct comparisons to my reference D’Agostino Momentum Preamplifier and Pass Labs XA200.5 monoblocks, reveals the big bucks gear still having the edge, but it’s not as big as you might think. The key word here is value. This is performance that would have been unheard of ten years ago for this price.
 
Great with all sources
 
This newfound balance altered my approach. Past Krell components always had me reaching for the more bombastic selections in my music collection, but the K-300i sends me to vocal rich recordings, exploring the heart of the mid band and treble in ways that older Krell designs did not inspire as a first move. From Sarah Vaughn’s previously unreleased concert pressed by Devialet, via my VPI Avenger Reference, with the Gryphon Sonett and Boulder 508 phono stages, it’s easy to see what this amplifier does so well.
 
Liquidity, color, expressive dynamics, and space. All positive aspects of these two phono stages, and the differences between them are clearly rendered by the K-300i, revealing the emotion present in the recordings auditioned. Sarah Vaughn’s vocals sound full of life at times and a weary at others. Eva Cassidy’s Live at Blues Alley is another familiar go-to when trying to reproduce inflection, a wide range of dynamic control, and emotional impact. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” from this band is wonderful, and though I’ve heard this recording so many times, the Krell never gets in the way of the music.
 
Compared to my reference McIntosh MB50 streamer, the Krell provides a more intense presentation to the Mac’s slightly sweeter rendition. If I didn’t already have an outboard streamer, I could happily live with the one built into the Krell. For the less than the price of a decent pair of signal cables and a power cord, you can have it all inside the chassis. A great thing for those craving simplicity.
 
Just a quick note about the HDMI performance of the K-300i. In a word, it is phenomenal. Watching Mary Queen of Scots, my wife and our friend agreed, it was like we had upgraded our modest Epson projector several levels. Color saturation and detail rendition was startling as was the contrast and brightness. If you are like me and your audio system does double duty as your home theater, the upgrade in video quality alone not to mention the ease of integration is worth at least half the overall cost the K-300i.
 
Coming to grips with it all
 
On balance, this is one of the best sounding pieces of Krell gear I’ve had the pleasure to use. While the last bit of resolution and slam from their top products is not here, because you can’t have everything for only NZ$15,995, Krell has made it a point to deliver a high degree of sonic excellence and balance in this compact package. Those needing more power can consider using the K-300i as a control center and adding a more massive Krell DUO or MONO power amplifier later.
 
The only part of the K-300i that I didn’t terribly enjoy was the Bluetooth streaming, but this is not my favorite way to listen anyway. Still, it is nice of Krell to offer this, so that when friends drop by and want to share their favorite playlist, connectivity is only a click away.
 
It’s a true treat for this long time Krell user to hear what they’ve achieved with their latest XD technology and the K-300i in particular. At this price, it can make an excellent anchor for a reasonably priced, yet high performance audio system. Its compact form factor makes it an easy roommate to live with as well.
 
And I still think about that KPS25i – it was one of the coolest pieces of audio gear I’ve ever owned. It’s funny what you remember. The K-300i is a piece that I suspect its owners will treasure for a long time.
K300i - A hugely talented entry-level integrated amplifier from Krell
What HiFi

OUR VERDICT

Krell’s entry-level amp is brilliant - we can’t think of a rival that’s as accommodating of digital sources while sounding anywhere near as good

FOR

  • Superb detail, dynamics and punch
  • Capable of huge volume
  • Range of inputs
  • Superb build

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Features 5
  • Build 5

REVIEW: Krell is one of the founder members of the market sector we now know as the high-end. Back in the 80s, alongside Mark Levinson and a handful of others, it raised performance standards (along with price tags) to deliver some of the finest hi-fi ever made. The brand’s products have remained highly respected over the years, though the business side of things has fluctuated, particularly in recent times. But a change of ownership and a renewed focus on core values has seen the product range rejuvenated. The new K-300i integrated is part of this regeneration and is intended to bring Krell bang up-to-date in terms of connectivity without sacrificing the performance levels with which the company has become synonymous.

Features

This amplifier lives up to our expectations in the metal. It’s an imposing looking unit with a clean but brutal appearance that couldn’t be anything other than a product made by Krell.

We have a complaint here though. That simple control layout isn’t particularly intuitive in use, with input changes needing multiple button presses and changing configuration proving a bit of a faff. Thankfully, the supplied metal remote makes these actions quicker and less tortuous. That remote is nice to hold, though we never quite get used to the rattling as the metal buttons move around in the metal case when the handset is moved.

A basic version of the amplifier is available for NZ$13,995 (incl GST). This is a straightforward 150W per channel analogue integrated with good quota of single-ended and balanced line-level connections. That’s a traditional approach to amplification and is likely to slot into many premium systems without issue. 

Spend another NZ$2000 (incl GST) to get the optional digital module, which is the version we have on test here, and the K-300i becomes a just-add-speakers system. This option has the ability to stream music over a home network and aptX Bluetooth, as well as supporting streaming platforms such as Spotify Connect and Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz and vTuner. 

Then there are the digital inputs. Add the digital module and you get USB, optical and coax connections. The USB will accept up to 24-bit/192kHz PCM files and DSD128 music streams. The coax matches the USB’s PCM rating but, as is usual, isn’t compatible with DSD files. Neither is the optical, but it will handle 24-bit/96kHz music. The K-300i is also MQA compatible and Roon-ready. We can’t think of an alternative that’s as well equipped.

It’s interesting that Krell has also included HDMI connectivity in the form of two inputs and an out. The company recognises that an increasing number of people use their stereo system to improve their television’s sound.

Connecting the amp to a TV’s ARC-equipped HDMI socket means that it can strip the audio track from anything the TV is showing. Including such an input shows surprising pragmatism from such a purist high-end manufacturer and proves its willingness to accommodate the wide range of sources people use today, regardless of the audio quality.

Krell doesn’t have a dedicated streaming control app for the K-300i but recommends the use of mConnect (iOS and Android). It’s free and works well enough but doesn’t feel as slick as dedicated software from the likes of Naim or Linn.

Build

The K-300i feels superbly made. It’s solid and gives off an aura of permanence that’s hugely appealing. Fit and finish is impressive too, just as it should be for the price. There are two colour options, black and silver. This is a heavy amp, weighing at almost 24kg, so be careful when you lift it. Take the Krell’s lid off and it’s the huge 770VA mains transformer and 80,000uF of smoothing capacitance that grabs our attention. That’s the kind of power supply arrangement that makes the claims of the power output figure doubling to 300W per channel into a 4 ohm load all the more believable. We’re also impressed by the neatly designed circuit boards that are fully differential from input stage to output in a bid to improve performance, and a little surprised at how compact the heatsink is considering just how much grunt this integrated has. A relatively small heatsink can be used thanks to the use of Krell’s iBias technology. This keeps the output stage working in Class A but monitors the input signal closely to reduce any power wastage where possible. That doesn’t stop the casework from getting hot though. This amp still needs plenty of ventilation around it to help with heat management. Apart from that, and the relatively large footprint of 44 x 46cm, there’s no issue as far as installation is concerned.

We already know that the K-300i is happy to accommodate pretty much any source you can think of. But if you have a record player, you’ll need an outboard phono stage. While some would prefer such a module to be built-in, the hostile electrical environment inside the amp makes it very difficult to optimise the sound of those very low level analogue signals. 

Sound

This is a highly transparent performer though, so while it’ll work happily with most things across its various inputs it won’t ignore their sonic quality. This is brought home when we play some tunes from our Apple Phone X via Bluetooth. The connection is quick and fuss free, but the results across a range of music from Kate Bush to Olafur Arnalds is listenable at best. That’s not the Krell’s fault, though. It’s a highly resolving product that’s simply showing the input signal for what it is. With Bluetooth, dynamics are limited, as is transparency and resolution. That said, the sound is still entertaining and it does open up your system to playing music that you might never hear in another way. 

Things take a notable step-up when we hook it up to our test network and stream music from our Naim server. Here we play all sorts of recordings, from a CD spec 16-bit/44.1kHz file of Undun by The Roots, right the way through to Hans Zimmer’s The Dark Knight Rises OST (24-bit/192kHz) and Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions on DSD. The K-300i switches between file types seamlessly and quickly, something that isn’t always a given. With Undun we can easily follow the group’s vocals and revel in the thumping beats and smooth flowing rhythms. 

This amplifier resolves an impressive amount of information and organises it with class leading stability and control. Rarely do we come across an integrated amplifier that sounds so composed, regardless of the complexity of the recording.

This aspect is highlighted with the Dark Knight Rises OST. Here the Krell’s bright-lit and strongly etched presentation works a treat. It sounds wonderfully agile and punchy, carrying a big bat while still able to speak softly when the music demands.

We’re pretty shocked by how well the K-300i delivers the soundtrack’s huge dynamic swings and the way it grips our reference ATC woofers to produces what is arguably the tautest bass we’ve heard from any amplifier at this level.

Such is the amplifier’s combination of control and muscle that it sounds right at home delivering massive volume levels through every speaker we tried, from the ATCs to Revel’s Performas.

You can add a wide, stable and wonderfully precise soundstage to the list of positives. It’s easy to pinpoint the position of instruments in the orchestra and their placement remains focused, even at higher volumes. That’s quite some achievement.

Switching to Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground shows that the Krell has dancing shoes too. While it doesn’t prioritise rhythmic drive in the way of PMC’s Cor, the K-300i still manages to convey the drive and momentum changes in the song well. It’s a fun listen as well as an informative one. The results are equally positive with the other digital inputs, proving that the optional digital module is a good one and great value.

Does it negate the need for other sources? The digital module is certainly comparable in sound quality to the better standalone streamers we’ve heard below the two grand mark, but when we switch to our reference sources – Naim’s range-topping ND555/555PS and SME’sSynergy turntable package (with its integrated phono stage) – it’s perfectly clear that the analogue sections of the amp are capable of doing even better.

With these sources, the Krell’s detail resolution is even better than we expected, though the convincingly even tonal balance and spacious, uncluttered character remain unchanged. We’re now more aware of instrumental textures and notice more of the dynamic nuances in a recording. At its best, the K-300i is good enough to make you think there's no reason to spend more on amplification. 

Of course, compare this integrated with far pricier reference equipment – in our case, Burmester’s 088/911 pre/power – and you’ll hear greater subtlety, an extra dose of transparency and even greater rhythmic precision, but remember, to get that you’ll have to spend many thousands of dollars more.

Verdict

Krell released its first integrated amp, the KAV-300i, back in the mid-90s. That was a terrific performer, and this current version reminds us of that.

The current integrated may be the cheapest amplifier the company currently makes but it still delivers a concentrated dose of the fabled Krell sound. Add the forward-looking feature set and you have something of a high-end bargain.

We doubt there are many times those words have been used to describe a product worth almost nine grand.

SCORES

  • Sound 5
  • Features 5
  • Build 5
This integrated amplifier lacks almost nothing - actually it is almost an all-in-one device. The Krell pulverises my prejudices almost from the first note, it fills me with great joy when listening to music.
Stephan Schmid

SUMMARY: The fact that the Krell pulverises my prejudices almost from the first note fills me with great joy when listening to music. The K-300i is clear, stocky in the low-frequency range, and that must be a Krell amp, but it is not a clumsy fuss, but does its job with surprisingly fine flair. Nice to hear from the Viennese cult band Wanda. The relaxed drive of the music and the sometimes shabby vocals of singer M.M. Fitzthum called Marco Michael Wanda is reproduced very prominently by the K-300i. Despite the mumbled Viennese singing in "Columbo" on the album "Niente", the lyrics were easy to understand, and the music encouraged me to bob my feet. To be honest, I wouldn't have believed the Krell that way. Incidentally, I had this "urge to move" regardless of whether the player was my turntable with phono-pre via ZenSati NF cable or the music server with D / A converter via ZenSati XLR cable. The K-300i also showed its class in the classic "The Girl From Ipanema" by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto (from the album "Getz / Gilberto feat. AC Jobim") from 1963. It started a bit fuller than usual, but then Astrud Gilberto came in: clear as a bell her voice came out of the depths of the room, the saxophone was of an incredible intensity - this shows the ability of the Krell to reproduce midrange with an incredible enamel.

REVIEW: The Krell K-300i, is dressed in a very chic dress, is fist-thick behind its aluminium front panel. This integrated amplifier lacks almost nothing - actually it is almost an all-in-one device.

When I took my first steps as a hi-fi enthusiast in the 80s, like many of my like-minded fellow students, I moved through the Berlin studio scene to at least take a look at the prized items on the HiFi Olympus or a demonstration with them to experience. At that time, one of the products we mostly discussed was the power amplifier from Krell - large, powerful, Class A with unimaginable performance. Everyone wanted to hear them. Then one day I enjoyed it - and was extremely disappointed. "Not being able to walk with power" was my first thought, and I had hit the sound experience quite well. The Krells brutally pushed loudspeakers from different manufacturers, triggered primal forces in the bass cellar, but musically they did not want to meet my expectations: no flow, no swing, limited space, no musicality. When the K-300i announced itself, I thought that it certainly wouldn't hurt to experience a Krell of today and check whether anything could be changed in my posture.

With the K-300i, I now have an amplifier in my listening room where I am initially not sure how to deal with the K-300i with my (preliminary) judgment from over 30 years ago. So let's take a look at what the AMP made in USA has to offer. With its 44 centimetres in width and just over ten centimetres in height, the K-300i is almost classic if it weren't for its depth of 46 centimetres. These are dimensions that not every rack can handle. A look inside provides the explanation: A neat 700 VA transformer and the power amplifier section next to it, including solid heat sinks, take up a good two thirds of the space. In order to accommodate the prepress and the digital board here, you need the sprawling depth.

The front is adorned with the power button on the left, which brings the amplifier from stand-by mode to life or brings it back to sleep, as well as seven buttons with which the K-300i can be controlled and various settings can be made. To the right of the amplifier's name, which is prominently placed on the curved front, there is an excellently readable display as well as two buttons for volume control and a USB input. The beautiful back enchants with sensible connections on the classic amplifier side: Two inputs in XLR format and three cinch connections do not burn anything, a cinch preamp output and a pair of really well-made speaker terminals round off the positive impression. The rest of the space is occupied by the connections for the optional digital board. For this, Krell charges a surcharge of 2,000 euros, which at first glance is quite sporty, but this digital board has it all, because it is not a pure D / A converter board like most competitors, but in the actual sense a network streaming board.

The digital board can be connected via optical and coaxial S / PDIF cable, via USB-B port and via Bluetooth in the aptX standard. Krell also offers AV fans access to the amplifier. Three HDMI inputs are available here, two of which are intended for source devices. This also gives concert videos an impressive backdrop in terms of sound.

With this digital board, aptX standard connection can be established via optical and coaxial S / PDIF cable, via USB-B port and via Bluetooth. Krell also offers AV fans access to the amplifier. Three HDMI inputs are available here, two of which are intended for source devices. The third HDMI input is intended as a connection to the television and is designed as an “ARC” (Audio Return Channel) version. This makes a sound bar obsolete, because the television sound can be played back in the highest quality via the stereo system. The icing on the cake of this digital board is the music streaming option: connected to the home network via Ethernet cable, the K-300i acts as a full-fledged network player via Roon or various UPnP apps. Streaming services such as Qobuz, Tidal or Spotify can also be used in this way.

Serious option

Technically, the converter section is also up to date. With the ES9028Pro converter from the 32-bit reference series from ESS, the K-300i is able to convert the incoming signals with 24 bit / 192 kilohertz (the optical connection is an exception here) and via the HDMI Process input even DSD. For the Krell, Highres signals of any kind are not a problem, and so the streaming capability is not a slimmed-down addition, but a really serious option to get by without any additional streaming components in the system.

However, the most important thing of a full amplifier is the quality of its amplifier section, and here Krell has decades of experience. The K-300i has the self-developed iBias circuit in the power amplifier. With this innovative feature, the power amplifier working in Class A mode is to be taught more efficiency and less heat generation. The tonal merits of a pure Class A amplifier should be preserved. I have never seen a Class A power amplifier with a power rating of 300 watts at 4 ohms in such a narrow housing. The heat generated is dissipated using a large heat sink and two quiet fans.

The third HDMI connection (Out) is intended as a connection to the television and is designed as an »ARC« version (Audio Return Channel). This makes a sound bar obsolete, because the television sound can be played back in the highest quality via the stereo system.

Even from a distance, the information on the display can still be read easily. If the remote control is not at hand, the volume can be adjusted using the two push buttons.

The Managing Director of the German Krell sales department, also provided me with power cables, NF and XLR cables from the Zorro series from ZenSati. Without question, these cables fit very well with the K-300i due to their homogeneity. After I looped the Krell into my system, I was very excited to see whether my attitude towards Krell amplifiers would manifest itself or whether the K-300i would teach me otherwise. Every amplifier gets me used to a few days in which it is only responsible for the background sprinkling. But even with this task, the K-300i made a remarkably positive impression. He transported straight voices even at low volumes with a melt that really turns you on. Sure, that's the chocolate side of a well-made Class A circuit, but the ability of the Krell goes much further than I expected.

The new age

The fact that the Krell pulverises my prejudices almost from the first note fills me with great joy when listening to music. The K-300i is clear, stocky in the low-frequency range, and that must be a Krell amp, but it is not a clumsy fuss, but does its job with surprisingly fine flair. Nice to hear from the Viennese cult band Wanda. The relaxed drive of the music and the sometimes shabby vocals of singer M.M. Fitzthum called Marco Michael Wanda is reproduced very prominently by the K-300i. Despite the mumbled Viennese singing in "Columbo" on the album "Niente", the lyrics were easy to understand, and the music encouraged me to bob my feet. To be honest, I wouldn't have believed the Krell that way. Incidentally, I had this "urge to move" regardless of whether the player was my turntable with phono-pre via ZenSati NF cable or the music server with D / A converter via ZenSati XLR cable. The K-300i also showed its class in the classic "The Girl From Ipanema" by Stan Getz and Joao Gilberto (from the album "Getz / Gilberto feat. AC Jobim") from 1963. It started a bit fuller than usual, but then Astrud Gilberto came in: clear as a bell her voice came out of the depths of the room, the saxophone was of an incredible intensity - this shows the ability of the Krell to reproduce midrange with an incredible enamel.

If the music server is connected directly to the D / A converter via S / PDIF cable, the sonic signature changes a little in the direction of »Prussian«. A slightly brighter, stricter signature goes hand in hand with switching to the internal D / A converter - this has nothing to do with better / worse, no, with some recordings simply better audibility is the result. The live recording “Concerti” by Paolo Conto wins a little bit. The musicians are localised more clearly on stage, and Contes voice is easier to understand. Interestingly, the spatial representation does not change - it is rather compact in width and realistic in depth. If you want to explore the bass capabilities of the K-300i, you should put on "Pili-Pili" by Jasper van't Hof (on "Pili-Pili"): The K-300i presents the percussion explosions with force and drive and leaves the other Instruments, especially van't Hoff's piano, the due place and does not cover a single note.

This Paolo Conte concert is very successful in terms of sound and atmosphere. A good system makes you a listener in the present, even though the recording was made three decades ago.

With the K-300i amplifier, Krell has created a multifunctional control centre, an all-in-one first-class concept. Everything that is needed in digital processing - network players, AV capability, digital inputs, high-speed streaming - is available and offers the buyer considerable added value. But basically, the K-300i is and remains a first-class amp that knows how rhythm and drive first catch the listener and then indulge them permanently.........  Stephan Schmid

The sound with the K-300i driving the Sonus Faber Olympica III Loudspeakers was exceptionally fast and clean—more clear mountain stream than, what, furry animal babies?
Jim Austin,

Is the K-300i's sound consistent with the company's new more approachable image? Is it, as the brochure suggests, "clean, powerful, natural sound in all its subtleties, colours, and gradations"? It's impossible to judge based on a short listen in an unfamiliar room and system with unfamiliar tunes, but here's my first impression. The sound with the K-300i driving the Sonus Faber Olympica III Loudspeakers was exceptionally fast and clean—more clear mountain stream than, what, furry animal babies? I don't know these loudspeakers, but I've found the Sonus Faber house sound to favour warmth and ease over speed and ultimate resolution. Driven by the K-300i, the Olympicas didn't lack for warmth—nor were they the least bit bright or etched. But there was no dearth of articulation, from the bass on up. So, yes, waterfalls and Alpine pools, bracing, cool, clear water—those aren't bad sensory analogies.

Krell had a big display at Munich High End show and seems to be on the brink—or maybe in the midst—of a major new-product and marketing surge.

Walter Schofield, the company's COO, told me that in addition to a few new products recently introduced, many more are just on the horizon. The new products—and the new marketing push—are based on two recent technical advances. The first, iBias, which was introduced by Krell in 2014, is a sliding-bias scheme that ensures there's always a positive bias for both phases of the waveform. Sliding bias is like class-A in that a bias voltage is always maintained, eliminating crossover distortion, but instead of a large, constant bias as in class-A, the bias voltage tracks the signal, staying as small as it can be while assuring that it's bigger than the signal. In contrast to most (or all? I don't know) other sliding-bias approaches, iBias uses the amplifier's output —not its input—as its reference, so it accounts for the interaction between the amplifier and the loudspeaker.

Longtime Krell designer David Goodman told me that the resulting distortion is almost entirely of the third-harmonic variety; he insisted that third-harmonic distortion is preferable to second-order—which provides some indication of the sound Krell is aiming for.

The second advance, which the company calls XD, is a method for reducing output impedance. The key insight, which Goodman told me was discovered in the course of developing the K-300i integrated amplifier is that "lowering the output impedance below traditional norms" results in "substantial sonic improvements."

Krell's technology surge comes with a renewed marketing effort aimed at altering the brand's image. On the substance side there's a renewed emphasis on product reliability and customer support: The K-300i brochure notes the company's commitment to "ultimate reliability" and "white glove service," and the 300i comes with a minimum 5-year warranty. On the image side, there's a focus on nature and humanity. That brochure offsets images and descriptions of the product and its sound with nature photos and an endorsement of the Nature Conservancy.

The energy savings facilitated by iBias fits this environmental image—but many audiophiles will likely be more influenced by the practical advantages of the technology than the planet-saving ones. The K-300i can deliver 150W into 8 ohms and double that into 4 ohms, according to published specifications. A pure class-A amplifier capable of that much power would be big and heavy and dump a lot of heat into the listening room. The K-300i is a normal-sized component—a typical 17 1/4" wide and 18" deep and a few inches tall—and it weights a modest 52lb. It burns just 46W at idle; a 150W class-A amplifier would consume more than ten times that much power and put more than ten times as much heat into the room.

Is the K-300i's sound consistent with the company's new more approachable image? Is it, as the brochure suggests, "clean, powerful, natural sound in all its subtleties, colours, and gradations"? It's impossible to judge based on a short listen in an unfamiliar room and system with unfamiliar tunes, but here's my first impression. The sound with the K-300i driving the Sonus Faber Olympica III Loudspeakers was exceptionally fast and clean—more clear mountain stream than, what, furry animal babies? I don't know these loudspeakers, but I've found the Sonus Faber house sound to favour warmth and ease over speed and ultimate resolution. Driven by the K-300i, the Olympicas didn't lack for warmth—nor were they the least bit bright or etched. But there was no dearth of articulation, from the bass on up. So, yes, waterfalls and Alpine pools, bracing, cool, clear water—those aren't bad sensory analogies. As for the subtleties, colours, and gradations, judgment on that will need to await a longer, more focused listen.

A streaming DAC module is available, the DAC supports Roon, Tidal, Qobuz, Spotify, and MQA. The K-300i's warranty is 5 years from the purchase date, or six years from the time it was sent out from the factory, whichever is longer.

KRELL IS BACK ON THE MAP WITH NEW K300I-XD INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER - Welcome back, Krell!
Marc Rushton

Further revisions and developments have also been realised. David Goodman, Director of Product Development at Krell since 1987, said:

We discovered that with modifications to the output stage, we could vastly improve sound quality, across the board, to all of our amplifiers.

The result is a deeper, darker, blacker background that provided significantly better macro and micro dynamics, more silence between the notes. Vocals and midrange took on an organic, yet more vibrant tone, enabling us to hear much more body, and even though our amps were great before, there was a very significant improvement.

Welcome back, Krell!

KRELL IS BACK ON THE MAP WITH NEW K300I-XD INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
KRELL IS BACK ON THE MAP WITH NEW K300I-XD INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER

Finally, there's some good news coming out of Connecticut's Krell headquarters. Discerning audiophiles have embraced the iconic US brand in the world of high-end Hi-Fi since 1980 when Dan and wife, Rondi D'Agostino founded the company.

Since those early days, it's endured changes of ownership and direction, while Dan D'Agostino moved on leaving ex-wife Rondi at the helm.

More recently, a series of unfortunate events and circumstances may have created some doubt as to Krell's future, but we are now being reassured that Krell is back!

Industry veteran, Walter Schofield has joined the company as Chief Operating Officer (COO). Across his career, Schofield has worked for SVS, Meridian, Linn, Mark Levinson, and more recently, Emotiva in the role of Vice President of Global Strategy.

Schofield told StereoNET:

We have a busy season ahead of us, but our most important job is to ensure that every product bearing the Krell logo is unquestionably reliable and delivers ultimate performance, now, and for years to come. It’s our main, laser-like focus, and our commitment to our dealers and customers.

Schofield has been quick to communicate with dealers and distributors around the world, acknowledging the mistakes made in the past, but also promising that the future is positive for the Krell brand. The message from Krell is that its business as usual, and “they will be silent no more”. Very encouraging!

And to back up those claims, Krell has announced a brand new product that is expected to become available in Australia in early 2019.

The Krell K300i-XD is a 150w Class A Integrated Amplifier with DAC and streamer, packed with features and connectivity options.

Boasting a 770VA Transformer and 80,000 uF capacitance, Krell's Current Mode topology is used with fully differential circuitry that it says runs from the input stage through to the last output gain stage. This, according to Krell, “provides extremely linear and extended frequency response curve with smooth, effortless highs and extremely dynamic bass energy.”

Available in two configurations, the 'Classic' and the 'Digital',  the latter version includes an ESS Sabre Pro DAC and network streaming audio renderer supporting all major file formats and up to 192kHz/24bit resolution from UPnP servers and NAS devices.

Latest trends have not been overlooked with the XD Digital version also compatible with MQA and Roon Ready, along with provision for popular streaming platforms including Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Qobuz and vTuner Radio.

Krell has also realised the importance of HDMI in most user's applications today and has delivered with HDMI 2.0 inputs and outputs, supporting 4K UHD and HDR to allow for integration into Home Cinema systems.  

A single USB port is available on the front panel with other USB ports on the rear, and there's also a Bluetooth aptX Receiver for streaming from your smartphone or tablet, while an internal web server offers a remote graphical user interface for control.

The K300i-XD features two pairs of balanced XLR inputs and three pairs of RCA inputs, digital inputs comprising coax, EIAJ optical, 2 x HDMI, and USB inputs.

StereoNET first wrote about the upcoming Krell K300i back in July this year. Since then, the reported price has increased not insignificantly. However, this reflects the company's renewed direction and commitment to quality and the ongoing Krell legacy. 

The initial K300i prototypes utilised Chinese sourced mainboards, whereas, under Schofield's direction the new release now uses only US factory sourced mainboards, a decision he says was a necessary move.

Further revisions and developments have also been realised. David Goodman, Director of Product Development at Krell since 1987, said:

We discovered that with modifications to the output stage, we could vastly improve sound quality, across the board, to all of our amplifiers.

The result is a deeper, darker, blacker background that provided significantly better macro and micro dynamics, more silence between the notes. Vocals and midrange took on an organic, yet more vibrant tone, enabling us to hear much more body, and even though our amps were great before, there was a very significant improvement.

Welcome back, Krell!

Awards

KRELL K300 Integrated amp - SOUNDSTAGE - "PRODUCT of the YEAR award 2019"

"Yes, it is in the upper price bracket. On the other hand, when will I own a Picasso painting? K-300i is a work of art, and moreover, a work of art that makes you enjoy other works of art in a truly breathtaking way. Imagine if painters made great paintings for centuries but kept them under a veil that only hinted at their true beauty. Suddenly somebody comes around and pulls the veil away and lets you see the paintings in their full glory, every stroke of the brush and every speck of paint. K-300i did that for me, for the music. Get it if you can."  - SOUNDSTAGE - "PRODUCT of the YEAR award 2019"

Testimonials

KRELL K300, among the best audiophile amplifiers available.

"Krell Performance is as always, not only with endless power, but also has a balance in sound staging and performance that places it among the best audiophile amplifiers available. Thanks to the digital module and other amenities, this is a real all-rounder.”…. PowerHouse Mag (Germany)

Videos

KRELL K300i Integrated amp. How I became a KRELL convert

Krell has announced a new stereo HiFi amplifier, the K-300i

Krell has announced the launch of a new high-end K300i HiFi stereo amplifier w 300w @ 4 ohms

Krell Audio, Krell Industries, Krell amplifiers, Peter MacKay