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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Krell Industries Launch a NEW Integrated Amplifier the K-300i
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

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 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 palce 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

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. 

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.
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!

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

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