Big Karan amps

Anyone with experience of the bigger Karan amps.
I am interested in the new 650 Monoblocks.
How does Karan amps sound compared to for example BAT VK-600, Theta Citadels, Ayre MX-R, Burmester, MBL and others?
I have Aerial 20T's.
I have heard the entire line of these bad boys and they are truely spectactular. In my humble opinion, they are the finest solid state amps available at any price. They are liquid smooth and have gobs of class A power and do not run hot. I will eventually buy the kam 1200 monblocks when I have 45K to burn. OF all the brands you mentioned, I owned the BAT vk 600s, the thetas, and the Burmester, as well as the big mac mc 1201's as well as clayton audio m-300's if that helps. The karans don't get much hype here because they probably don't kick back anything to the reviewers hence they seldom get reviewed. I am not affiliated with any of these brands and have owned them for a period of time with various speakers but nothing in solid state moved me like the karans. They are almost tubelike without all the fuss and have incredible head room to drive anything. Hope this helps
Optarchie, thanks. I have Rowlands 301 in my setup now. I like their power and finesse, but I am missing some warmth and more tubelike sound. Your opinion of the Karan amps really sounds promising. I have just ordered the review of the Karan M 650 monos in the Hifi+ Jan 2008 issue. Have to check these out more!

BTW, which Theta amp did you have? And how did you find it compared to the BAT VK-600 (mono/stereo?) ?
I had the citadels and I found them a little more accurate than the bat 600s, a little more sterile and not as warm. I think the karan smokes them all by a large margin
What's the retail on these?
Optarchie, the M1200s are $57k the pair. The M650s are $38.5k.

I had a KA S450 ($28.5k) here for a while and would like to get one. It drove the Sound Labs effortlessly.
Has anybody compared Karans to the like of top line from Boulder, Spectral, Gryphon, Golmund or Soulution??
Most of the amps you mention are out of question for me. Maybe expect from Boulder and Solution I think they are colder sounding and more analytical than the Karan and hence closer to my Rowlands. I have not heard all of them, but that is the impression I have from what I have read.
I'm just trying to get a feel of the Karan sound here. If they turn out responded better than most I have listed by fellow gon'ers, it sure is a worthwhile contender to look up and audition one myself too. Have you had the chance to compare them to Burmester 911mkIII or MBL9011 as yet?
Sorry, previous last line I was meant to say--should you later have the opportunity to such exposures do shed us some light here.. Cheers!
For Aerials, why not consider the Lamm 2.2s monoblocks ?
These amps should have enough power to drive them well.
Thanks for your reply on this thread. I am sorry, but I have absolutely no experience with Lamm. So can you plz give more insight in why you think I should consider Lamm compared to the other amps I am leaning towards (Karan M 650 / Theta Citadels 1.5 / Burmester 911)?
that's fine. I hope any who has personal experience with Karan amps will find this thread and share some information with us.

I understand from other threads that you have FM Acoustics 611. I have always had the impression that FM products are something very special. Do you live in the USA or in Europe? And do you know what the retail price is for the 711 amps or will be for the 711 mkII's?
FM 711mkII is supposedly to be a direct replacement of the 611X (now discontinued). Don't know price yet. As for 115 they are comparable to the 611 power wise but in mono version and where much technological advances of their current flagship 1811 have been implemented into, as do the latest 711mkII (was told by the importer). Last time i checked (Aug.'08) lists were ar.--115 CHF80k, 811mkII CHF100k and CHF125k for the 1811.

I am actually now looking for a second amp to alternate with my old workhorse (611) which has been serving my home hassle free beautiful music for more than 15yrs. You see, if only those latest FMA's are more reasonably priced, I definitely wouldn't have any second thoughts. However, before plunging the range of 100k for an amp, I certainly need to do some homework and be on the lookout for possible better bargain elsewhere too--without sacrificing any sonic merits whatsoever of course.

Having said the above, a friend has actually done his round earlier this year with a number of highly touted best of the best ultra hi-end amps most retailing north of 50k. To cut story short, he ended up with a pair of 1811s. Does his set-up sounds like one hell out-of-this-world musical mega buck system--YES!! Do I like the cost--absolutely NOT!! As Karan is amongst the few brands that was not present during the shoot-out, I am very much curious of how they'd fare.. Tough--but who knows I'll be getting my bargain here.
Yes, I agree. FM amps are not typical bargains! Karan amps more so I think.

I will try to audition some Karan amps soon. They will be in other setups, but I still hope to get some impression on their sound.
Having said the above, a friend has actually done his round earlier this year with a number of highly touted best of the best ultra hi-end amps most retailing north of 50k.

< Oops..I meant early last year--2008! Sure doesn't feel we've passed it..
Karan's amps have the bottom end control of solid state, along with a sweet mid-range. They would probably keep the same company as Lamm, Dartzeel, Pass XA series. However, their power is in a league of their own. They may not have the speed and slam in the lower end as Krell or Boulder, but that is OK.

I have spoken to quite a few people recently about solid state amplifiers, and many people find the typical contendors to be too analytical. I never heard anyone speak of Karan as overly analytical.

In addition to the unlimited power and a midrange that is musical and dynamic, I like the added bonus that they do not run hot. That way, they stay on all the time, and always sound their best. My experience with Pass is that it took quite a few hours of being on to sweeten, preferrably more than 24 hours. Very difficult during the summer.
I have never heard a big Karan amp, but have owned a Karan KA-i180 integrated amp. It is rated at 180wpc into 8 ohms. I used it with Merlin VSM-M speakers and hated it. I think it was more the speakers then the amp. It played loud effortlessly, but so do allot of other solid state amps. I have moved onto class D amps and tube preamps and found the sound much more to what I like. The Karan was fast with great bassand smooth highs, but so are my Hypex class D amps. You should demo the Kharma MP 350 class D mono amps.
I will start off saying I am completely biased as we are the North American distributor for Karan Acoustics but I have been a audiophile for over 30 years, long before this ever became a business. I was looking for a new line of solid state amps to audition and the Karan intrigued me as they had outstanding reviews.

I have had most of them in my system (not the KA M 1200s) and am currently breaking in a set of KA M 650s on a pair of ribbon speakers as well (Piega). I have compared them to a number of other amps and thought very highly of them (no big surprise I liked them enough to want to carry them). They sound much different than class D and that would be a matter of personal preference. They are very musical and not overly analytical, useful when powering ribbons in my opinion. They have huge amounts of power, which translates into great bass control. The other amplifiers you suggest are wonderful, and I have heard some in comparison but certainly not all (and you should be cautious about anything I have to say). The build quality and fit and finish is superb, as long as you are ok with black. As Rtn1 notes they run very cool, I can't really get them to run even warm to touch.

I would add at this level I would never buy an amp of this cost without auditioning it my system.

One final note is that unfortunately, depending on the model, the age of the amp may be older than you think and thus you may not be hearing the most up to date sound Karan Acoustics has to offer.

If anyone has any questions drop me a note or I will try to respond on the post.

All the best

While I agree with Rtn1 about the midrange and their power I disagree somewhat on what he says about their bass, speed, and slam. I think they are incredibly fast but more liquid in their presense. I think their sound is more accurate or real where krell is in your face and colored. I have owned krell solid state on and off for over 15 years and it has been love at first site and than I lose interest after a month or so. The Karans truely do something magical and correct. IF you want musical nirvana, hook the karan 1200 monoblocks up to a pair of Avalon ISIS and you will never have to buy anything again. Another great match is with the coincident pure reference speakers. I know it's over kill but man was that setup magical.
I just have to post this as my own response to my initial posting. In my own system, magic just happened. It is called synergy! What did I do: I finally placed a Valhalla XLR between source and preamp. Should have done a long time ago... Now I have Valhalla all the way from source to speaker. What a difference! And what a relief. I have for some time felt something was missing, but not anymore. I guess the Karan amps are very good, but my interest for switcing amps just dropped to almost zero because of what just took place. I don't think I will test other cables or amps for a while, but just listen to my albums!

PS: Thanks to all of you who sent me personal messages and gave me this advice instead of thinking of replacing my already fantastic Rowland 301 amps.
I was in your positioned, felt that magic of Valhalla too! If they sounded right in your system, leave the rest as is like what my 'cruel' dealer did, and just substitute a single pair of Odin XLR from your source to pre! Believe me, it will further propel your system to new heights! A magnitude of difference--more organic, more body, just more live across the board, most noticeable being in the mids! Since you are sooo..close, do at least try them out and have them in for a couple of days and see if you can go back to Valhalla.. =))
yes I know, my goal is to replace the Valhalla from source to pre with Odin, also to add onw or two Odin power cords for front end components.

The Brittish Hifi+ magazine has a review of the Odin power cords in the current issue (no 62) and come to the conclusion that you should upgrade to Odin power cords before you upgrade elsewhere in the chain and that you should start from the wall socket. They have such a tremendous effect. They say "As good as the Valhalla power cords are, Odin is in a different league, bringing solidity, presence, a physicality to instruments and the space in which they are recorded, that the Valhalla can only suggest.... Switching to the Valhalla lead robbed the piano of weight and the track of stability, the voices of presence and pyhiscal substance, the music of flow and progression..." Wow!
So it's more or less similar improvements wrought with their ic. However, to me spending on Ic first is still the better investment though. And do tread carefully, try not to get overboard and spend too much on particular makes of cable. Because (like me), when you change equipments later only to find them not being the 'best' match, there will be much wasted $$$ stack unused in your drawers.. =((
yes I agree with your thoughts. I have recently invested heavily in Burmester reference gear, both the 069 cd and 077 pre, and have no plans of replacing them. They are truely wonderful sounding! Nordost is also preferred brand for Burmester, so I feel this is the right path for me.
The only Karan product I have experience with is the KA I-180 integrated. In fact, the unit is sitting on my rack as I type. This has been its home for what is approaching a year now – and for a self admitted audiophool whose listening space is a glorified revolving door of hi-fi exotica – it is quite the welcome guest (dare I say, resident). I guess you could say, I’ve been pretty content with it.

Now, instead of blathering on like a raving lunatic on how it absolutely abolishes like products, I’m going to come clean and admit that it’s no different from any other piece of electronics: it’s not perfect, and it won’t fit all situations, nor will it appeal to everyone’s personal taste. That said, its charming balance of audiophile goods, exceptional musicality, and downright world-class balance is good enough for these tin can ears. I cannot claim to have owned 40k worth of gear, but my audio rack has rubbed elbows with higher end McIntosh, mid-line Boulder and Lamm pieces in this space. While all were exceptional in their own way (respective to their design goals), I ultimately found it difficult to deviate from what the Karan has to offer.

It’s a shame that Karan is not better known here stateside. A lot of people are missing out on some exceptional gear. I haven’t had the pleasure of acquainting myself with Milan’s big bad-ass amplifiers. I’d be scared to hear them, because there’s no way in hell I could afford them!
i am currently using the Karan 650 mono block with my rockport mira grand II.. it does not sound like tube but the smoothness of the amp is like moving from cd to LP gear.. i replace my levinson 33H with these amp with the recommendation from my dealer and friends. i now feel no desire to change the amp anymore. it just sit and dissapear in my system, now i just look for other tweak here and there to make my system sound right

hope this help
As this has turned, more or less, into a Karan love fest....

I recently put a KA i-180 (recent model, 18-months old) into my system. All I can say is "wow!". Easily beat, 2 different sets of well-regarded $11,000 separates in my system (Herron M1/1a-166, and ARC LS26/SD135) that I have been auditioning. At the Mac dealer, I also heard the Karan and McIntosh MA2275, and the Karan had all the musicality of tubes, but a much more dynamic presentation, much more extended, and real. The step up from the DNA-125/Ultraverve to both separates was noticeable, but not huge, yet the Karan exceeded the performance of the separates by a wide margin. Not just a "hey, that sounds a little nicer" but a "wow, I hadn't heard that instrument before, who washed the windows?" sound. Many have said the Karan stuff is comparable with amps 2x the price, but in this case, it is 100% true, not just typical review hyperbole. Unfortunately, anyone who doesn't read Hi-Fi+ or has a friend with one probably hasn't heard of them. Unfortunately, financial pressures will likely force me to sell the KA i-180, but I am hooked, and will be back!

Do youb have 20T V1 or V2?

Do you use 1 pair of 301's or two?

I have V1 and am using a Rowland 304.
I have 20T v1 and one pair of 301s. The 301s have double binding posts and I use two sets of speaker cables.

I thought you had Ayre MXR amps. Have you replaced them with the Rowland 304?
Cappuccino, did you ever get to hear the Karan product and if so what was your take.

At one point I read that you were going to or actually had a pair of Burmester 911 MK3 amps to compare, did this happen and if so what was the results.

Dev, I contacted a Karan dealer in Norway where I live, but he hasn't even contacted me back or followed up my interest... Meanwhile, I experienced that all Nordost cabling in my system has transformed the sound to a new and unbelievable level. I have decided to keep the Rowland 301s. I must admit I am very happy with them they way my system now sounds.

I am planning to build a second system, but of practical reasons that has to wait a bit. I am leaning towards Avantgarde or Acapella speakers in this system. The plan is to later move my 301s to this system and maybe also add the new Criterion preamp from Jeff Rowland. By that time I will have to get some new amps in my main system and I am almost 100% sure that will be Burmester, 911s or preferrably 909 monos if I can afford them.
Dev, I don't think there are any numbers on the new Dartzeel monoblocks published yet. You could call Jonathon Tinn at Bluelight Audio if interested. The big Karans sound very interesting also.
Dev, The Karan Ka M1200 does sound like it may be a great pair of monoblocks. I see that they each have one pair of binding post. Would you be going from bi wiring your MBL's to jumper cables? I also see the the North American distributor is located in Canada. Is that not near you?
Hi Husk01, yeah when I saw the back I was not all that impressed with the layout and being so tight including the single binding post, I don't know if you are aware but each amp uses two power cords also.

I am currently already true bi-wired with two pairs of Stealth Dream speaker cables and will be staying that way. I have not confirmed but I would think that the post should offer enough allowance for two sets of spades on each post.

Canada is a pretty well spread out country, the North American distributor unfortunately isn't that close but in another province, we have already been speaking which has been a pleasure, nice guy. Where I'm at right now is awaiting to hear this Joule Destiny set-up that "Dob" heard with the MBL's when he was in TO. recently and raved about but now I'm not sure if it's going to even happen as the owner has now bought Fischer SL1000 speakers so I'm just chilling and awaiting him to contact me back.
Dev, I think the single binding post kind of kills the deal for me two. Too bad because I have a feeling that they might be a very special monoblocks.
It is worth mentioning that Karan distributor Avatar Acoustics, located in the Atlanta, Georgia area, has exhibited the products at CES and RMAF numerous times.
Husk01, why does only having single binding post kill it for you?
As always, the disclaimer that I am a dealer and the distributor for Karan Acoustics in North America.

Dev and Husk01

For what its worth I think there are two points to raise. The first is that, at least on the 650s, the posts are fairly substantial and I have had to sets of spades on them. I realize this is not optimal but possible. I also don't know for sure the size of spades you are talking about. The other consideration is that some cable companies make biwired cables where the amp side has only single ends and then split to biwire (crystal cable ultra and dreamline do for sure - I am not advocating anything just making you aware of this). Unfortunately this would not help you with the current cables. By the way Dev, it has been great chatting with you. Good luck with whatever way things go.

Brian (Essential Audio) Though I think I made it clear above, Westside Music and Cinema is now the distributor, not Avatar. We are looking into CES next year.

Finally Cappuccino, I am sorry to hear that no one ever contacted you. If you still have any interest I would be happy to try and make sure this happens but from the sounds of it you have already resolved your dilemma.

All the best

Hi Westside_music (Gary) it's been nice chatting with you also.

Gary regarding the amps only offering single speaker binding posts and your reply mentioning that you have connected two sets of speaker cables with spads is just what I suspected. Are they the same speaker binding post being used for both the 650's and 1200's. Due to these amps actually having to be ordered and built would it be possible to order them with two sets of binding posts which would resolve this issue in question? I have and would be using my current Stealth Audio Cables "Dream", two sets per speaker so two spades per speaker binding post, will these fit okay if the two sets of binding posts is not available?

Personally I would not want to go from running true bi-wire running two pairs of speaker cables back to a bi-wire configuration where they actually split the wires etc.

I'm looking foward to learning more about Karan amps along with obviously hearing them.
Hello Westside_music,

My speaker cables (Elrod Gold Signature) are terminated by Bocchino spades which many consider to be simply the best - are very massive. What is the width of the space your binding posts allow for the spades?

Thank you

Thank you

I will have to look into this and get back to you about it. I have measured the binding post widths (WBT) and it is 5-6 mm. I tried again and can get two spades in without an issue but that of course depends on the size of the spades. I will be in touch with Karan Acoustics as to any possible options.

I understand what you say about not changing wires but I have done the comparisson of separate sets of cables versus the single (still true biwire but not separate cables) crystal ultra and I could discern no difference. I suspect it has to do with the type of insulation used. I did look up the stealth and understand their take on the topic. I too look forward to you listening and garnering your thoughts.


The Bocchino spades I am not familiar with, but did look them up. They look very impressive, is the sound commensurate? Depending on the model they are 3.5 to 4.5 mm thick so this would definitely be an issue. I am going to see what options there are, as the KA M1200s are custom built.

I will post again when I know. If you have any questions drop me a note.

Thanks to all for their interest in Karan Acoustics

Thank yoy Gary,

You can't install two sets of Bocchino spades. Does Caran binding posts accept bananas?

If so Bocchino bananas or WBT NextGen bananas will work fine - however, many audiophiles do not like bananas because their grandmothers told so and you will have to try to accomodate two sets of spades.

Regarding your question: "The Bocchino spades I am not familiar with, but did look them up. They look very impressive, is the sound commensurate?"

The answe is yes, yes and yes - particualrly in low frequency area. My comparison was only with WBT NextGen Silver locking bananas and spades. Be aware that supplier is not highly reliable and its a hell to deal with....but worth it. VERY EXPENSIVE TOO !!!!!

Thanks again

You are very welcome. The Karan will accept bananas. There is no option for a second set of binding posts.

Take care

I have the Karan Acoustics M 1200 monoblocks on my system page, if anyone cares to take a look. I believe this is one of only two pairs in North America.
I have the Karan 450 which I am using with Hovland HP100. I find that this is really not that matching. Anyone has good experiences with other preamplifiers with the 450?

I have also tried the Karan Ref and find that too analytical. Prefer a tube pre to go with the 450.
Does anyone tried the Karan amps driving MBL speakers, in particular the MBL 111?
I'm also considering MBL 9007 and Plinius SA Reference amps.

Any suggestion?
-- Ale