I used one for about 18 months. It is certainly built beautifully, with a neatly layed out circuit board. Ultimately, I found it a bit unenvolving. This maybe because I was using it for a summer backup to my SET amp, when I could'nt stand the heat generated.
The Karan is neutral, uncoloured, but a bit lacking in dynamics. Perhaps this is unfair, as I am pretty much sold on the magic of tubes. The 22 SET watts I use, seemed to give a better grip on my 89db speakers, than the 180watts of the Karan. I prefered the Lavardin IT I used before the Karan, but the Lavardins, of course, would not be powerful enough for the Watts.
If I was to go for a SS integrated again, it would be Accuphase. Again I am not sure if they have an integrated, powerful enough td justice to the Watts.
I had a Karan KA I180 for two years. I switched to a Burmester 036 power amp and like it better than the Karan. I bought the Burmester from a fellow Audiogoner who sold it because he liked his Accuphase better. I've never heard tha Accuphase, but he choose it as well as David12 recommending it. I'd think that you might want to check one out, as well as a Burmester that I highly recommend.
As far as the Karan goes though, I've heard a few times that the KA S180 and KA I180 do not have the typical Karan sound that all of the bigger amps have. So I wouldn't exclude auditioning one of the bigger Karans at some point if you can afford one.
I haven't had the oportunity to hear the Karan's amp but I'm in the same boat, Burmester is my first option to pair my Cremonas M basicly I am between the 036 and 956 MK2 model but go for the Karan KA S 180 would be a blind purchase even do is a risk I wouldn't mind to take.
I've heard both the 036 and 956 Mk2. I didn't heard a 'different' sound between the two. I bought the 036 because I didn't have the money for the 956 Mk2. If I had, I would have gone with the 956 Mk2. Why, because of the power and the headroom.
I would bypass the Karan KA S180, the same as I suggested to Richard_Stacy, and audition the KA S270 if I had the money to buy one if I liked it.
When you're dealing with this kind of money, personal auditions, and especially in home auditions are a must, and dealers ought to understand that.
Thanks for the input so far. These are all difficult amps to get a handle on as auditions are near impossible in Ohio. I have not listened to Burmester or Accuphase (which all I have seen are pretty low powered). I am also unable to afford the larger Karan ass Krellman suggested as my interest in the 180. It is always interesting to hear these experiences with some of the more unique products to my area.
Where are you in Ohio? There is a Burmester dealer on the northwest corner of Indianapolis, IN, Ovation Ultimate. They have a complete Burmester Classic line set up that makes you want to just sit there and bask in the music for hours and hours. James is the person to talk to there.
Karan, I believe is at a dealership in Chicago, IL. You'd have to call Darren at Avatar Music to see who and where they are.
I haven't really looked for an Accuphase dealership since I'm more than happy with my Burmester.
I want to upgrade to an stereo amp since months and as I live in Germany I have heard the Burmester in a variety of system but the reviews and specifications from Karan keep me captivated but lamentably there is no dealer in Germany, the KA S 270 is over my capacity and you still can find very good deals on Burmester amps from very respecful dealers.
Thanks Chuck, Columbus (insert your go buckeye comments here...). Maybe a road trip is in order but those are far. I get to Chicago now and then but I will have to ditch the wife for some serious listening.
I might be able to help here, as I currently run a set of Wilson Watt Pup's and power them off of a Karan KA I-180 integrated.
In a nutshell: Unless you are trying to fill a big room with 97 to 100+ db of sound, the Karan should have zero problems powering your Wilson's. The Watt Pup's are fairly efficient loudspeakers and do not inherently require gobs of transistor muscle to sing well.
I must also respectfully disagree with David12's assessment of the Karan integrated. For starters, this is the first time I've ever read or head anyone use the word 'un-involving' while referring to a Karan product. Second, the Karan is not a perfectly neutral piece (what is?). Though it is an exceptionally well balanced piece in just about every regard, it still has a character, a character that most would classify as 'dark'. I also found that the Karan presentation imbues just a touch of organic warmth. This subtle voicing lends itself very well to speakers like the Wilson's. Though the Wilson's really don't need much help in the linearity department, I feel that their lower treble/upper mid's can benefit from just a _touch_ of bloom, and that's what the Karan does for em'.
Though I agree with Krell_man's advice for listening as much as possible before buying (especially when dealing with this level of gear), I understand how difficult it can be to audition esoteric audio gear. I have damn near nothing around me, so in order to find out how something sounds, I have to plunk down the cash ahead of time. Kind of a bummer. That said, I will briefly weigh in on the other suggestions:
Accuphase amps are great products. They have a more traditional class A sound to them. Incredibly warm/organic midrange. Good detail and air, but its not a very detail oriented sound. Weighty bass thats not the last word in control, but I don't think too many would call it slow either. I wouldn't take one over a Karan, but that's just me.
Burmester makes a damned fine amp. Of course, with their entry level integrated retailing for the cost of a new sports car, thats how it should be. Though I admit to not having spent a lot of time with Burmester gear, I always walk away with the impression of them being incredibly well balanced, and sound a bit more open and airy than the Karan stuff. I wouldn't say one is inherently better than the other *unless you want to count cosmetics, and then IMHO its Burmester hands-down*, just different. Then again, take the Burmester comments with gallons of salt, as I readily admit to not being qualified enough to comment definitively on their sound.
Anyways, there you have it, from the ramblings of some random audiogoner. Before I sign off of this post, I will say this much: I'd focus your attention on warmer sounding transistor components with the Wilson's. Another good match for Wilson is a surprising one, and that is... Naim. Though Naim is anything but linear and "hi-fi", the Naim/Wilson combo works quite well. Something to consider, especially if you don't feel like breaking the bank.
After having heard or owned ALL Karan gear as an importer in Holland since 1999, I now consider that most sources are the weak point in the chain. That is because Karan topology is such that it can control virtualy all available speakers, due to its very low output resistance. Even KAI180mk1 or KAI180mk2 integrated manage Audiostatic LT speakers ( which fall below one Ohm at certain frequencies ) with ease. Ask any electrostatic designer what do they think of Accuphase or Yamaha's coupled to reactive load before investing your OWN funds in such a combination.
Karan amps have extreme frequency response and are DC coupled. Amplifier itself is meant to virtually disappear. My own experience is that source must have high enough resolution and dynamics in order to fully engage Karan amplifiers. Older phrase is GIGO ( garbage-in, garbage-out ), so take care that you connect the best source before even thinking of calling Karan 'uninvoling', please.
Actually, having Karan amps present in the audio chain enables me to fairly quickly source the fault in the system that should sound great, but doesn't.
Anyone interested in a demo is welcome, just contact me and I would try to help the best I can.
I agree with Karanacoustics. If your looking for false dynamics and unwanted added distortion/energy anywhere in the frequency spectrum, these are not the amps for you.
I rather maximize my front end for maximum resolution, pre amp that yields highest purity and immediacy, ac conditioner and grounding device that removes noise without adding artifacts or dynamic compression, cables of higher purity that don't add more coloration. Now your left with natural instrument warmth and lifelike speed that these amps can deliver. Truer to the recording than any tube design. Folks who complaint about lack of musicality or accuse these amps for being unenvolving have something upstream that need to be fixed.
Himiguel...Just wanted to say that is a beautiful system you have assembled! I'm sure it sounds amazing. Congrats!! I have been curious about Karan amps for some time now. I've bounced around some and pretty much always go back to Spectral, always my amp of choice. I have read so many positive comments about Karan and all seem to match my taste in an amplifier. Unfortunately, trying to hear a Karan amp in Ohio is a tough task:(
I've heard several of the big Karans and have enjoyed them greatly in systems setup by those that really know the brand. The 180 and Intergrated are somewhat different beasts. IME you really will need to try one. I've heard the 180 sound dreadful in a couple of systems and from decent source's, latest dCS and Wadia. In the same systems an amp change has made all the difference. Not saying they arn't a great amp just that they seem a bit more sensitive to the system they're plugged into than some.
Defride, thanks for your post. When KaranAcoustics posted that the KA I-180 required a good source to sound its best, I knew that was not true.
I had both the Accustic Arts Drive 1/DAC 4 combo and the Wadia 581se when I had my KA I-180, so a quality source was not the issue in my system.
System matching and synergy, like you said, sounds much more plausible.
Krell_man...i read on forum that you had a dynaudio c1 and karan i180 and that it sounded great...so please if you can describe your experience with that combo little longer(what types music did you listened, how did speakers played on various volumes, what did most impresed you etc.) i have c1mk2 and karan i180mk2 in mind....so i would be very interested in your opinion...tnx