Krell K-300i Integrated Amp/DAC Page 2

Although the circuit design is all-new, the basic amplifier technology here is familiar Krell stuff. 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, the amplifier exceeds these claims with ease, and certainly in use the impression is always one of an effortless delivery of the music.

sqnote 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.

919krell.remWith 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 groundshaking 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.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
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.

Krell Industries LLC
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
0208 971 3909