Krell 400xi vs NAD M3 vs Music Fidelity A5 vs Naim


I am an newbie, but I have been regular reader of the forums. I need to get an integrated amp to use with a SlimDevices Transporter and a pair of NHT Classic 3's,

I would like to choose between the integrated amps that I have been reading good things about.

Krell 400xi
Bryston B-100 SST
Music Fidelity A5
Naim Nait 5i

My musical preference is mostly rock, alternative rock and some classical.

With those budget, the Naim doesn't suit that and you should replace with Supernait instead of Nait5i. Then, it will be fair....
Those were all on my short list.
Krell 400Xi - the one I went with. It has a Krell house sound that at first sounded overly forward but I grew to like it quite a bit and became a Krell convert. Very detailed and open soundstage. Clearly separates the instruments. Feels strong across the board and sounds great at low volumes.
Bryston - didn't hear one but have heard a number of people say the Brystons are lively and have a dull, leaden sound. I think they get a good rep because of the 30 year warranty or whatever it was they used to carry.
NAD M3 - had NAD separates and they are a step down from, say in every way from, say, the Krell. Looked at the M3 and it looked cheaply built on the face and all. The top of line NAD separates were also cheaply built hardware-wise. Good sound for the money I guess. Lows ok but not particularly detailed. Also didn't have the gas to drive my Aerials.
MF - Personally, I don't care for the MF house sound. It has a kind of false warmness or presence that take the detail out of the music. I think a lot of people like MF because it hides the harshness you hear on a lot of systems.
Naim 5i - Great sounding little amp. Nothing like their high-end stuff but very nice. Underpowered for anything but efficient speakers or an office or bedroom system IMO.

regards, David
Save yourself some loot and get a Plinius 8150 or the 8200. I bought an 8150 as a quick fix because my main system is in storage. I was absolutely stunned. Musically the 8150 beats my Pass X-250 in my A system. I'm using the 8150 with a pair of mini monitor PSB B-25's. I'll match this sound with any amp/speaker combo for under 1K under the sun.
I have owned the Plinius 9200, NAD M3, McIntosh MA6900, LSA Signature, Dussun V8i and DK Design MKII. I have auditioned the Krell 400xi and now own the Blue Circle BMPH. The best I've heard has been the Blue Circle, Plinius, and LSA in that order. But, everyone will give you an opinion. You may want a smoother sound with your source and speakers. I would say Blue Circle or Plinius. Both excellent.
I own a Krell 400xi and Plinius 8150. I like both of them but I do agree with Krelldog, A Plinius 8150 or 9200 gives you a great tube-like sound and is big bang for the buck. I have not heard the amps you mentioned or the Blue Circle.
I meant to say Plinius 8150, 8200 or 9200.
I've just bought a used MF A5 on here and all I can say is "wow" when it's paired with my B&W N805. A big improvement over my soon to be on sale MF A3.2 integrated amp.
NAD M3 Rules !!! I have had the Krell 300 and 400 series driving the Krell Resolution 3 Monitors ( which btw are so good I bought a second pair for the downstairs system). The M3 is far more musical, involving, and smooth. The Krells sound like industrial mechanical beasts in contrast. Forward as one post said is a bit of an understatement - in you face/skull is more like it. M3 has great pacing, rhythm, staging, and thereness that the Krell sorely lack. The build quality on the M3 is oustanding despite comments to the contrary - cheap build ? hardly !!! Have owned the spectrum of highend arc, rowland, krell, et al do not let the low brow bargain past positioning of NAD color your choice they are a serious player ready to compete with the giants at a less than giant price premium. This is the BEST BARGAIN IN 2 CH today.....
You won't know which integrated will provide the sound you want until you have it connected to your NHT's for a week or so. Beyond that, everyone's opinion is not relevant unless they have the same gear you have, with your cables, room and quality of electricity. You're going to have to gamble, try one of the integrateds and if it does not synergize well and make the NHT's sing, you'll have to sell it here and try the next one. If you can audition the integrateds first that's ideal, but I'm sure you're buying used and that's not possible with used gear. It can be a long process finding the right integrated to get the best from a pair of speakers. I previously owned the NAD M3 and was able to audition the Krell integraed in my home with my speakers. I have owned at least 6 high end integrateds and that's my point of reference to your situation. It's hard, but try to be patient. Good luck.
I just bought a Cyrus 8vs2 to replace my old McIntosh MA 6200. Great sounding amp...
Check out the Simaudio Moon Evolution i-7 and Gamut DI 150. Much better than the Krell.
While I do believe hearing is subjective I have too question a few people posting within this thread.

If you think the Krell 400xi is mechanical sounding then I would suggest your source isn't up too snuff. Perhaps a change in source or interconnects would fair better results. I find the Krell faithfully neutral, if anything it's more warm and open then cold and analytical.

I find it hard to believe somebody would mention a SimAudio i-7 or Gamut piece within this thread as both units are many more times the price of all the integrated amplifiers mentioned within this thread and therefore should sound better. The question is how much better. 3-4 times better? I doubt it.

The Krell 400xi is a true music loves amplifier which hides nothing and requires a superior source. I find a constant resentment towards the product because it has sold in such large quantities in a hobby populated by flavors of the month from exotic one off brands.

Based on your musical selection and associated speakers I would suggest the NAD, Musical Fidelity and Krell. All would provide you with great sound for the price and with the money saved from 'cheaping' out with these amplifiers you could save yourself $5k and buy a few hundred of your favorite CD's or LP's. Think real hard about that last statement before doing anything else with your money.
At a recent audio get-together, we heard the Krell 400xi, the Marantz PM11-S1 (had only about 5 hours o it) and a YBA integrated, sorry, don't remember the model. The Marantz and YBA are quite a bit more expensive than the Krell.
The Krell sounded downright strange. Very mechanical and shouty, like you were putting your hands up along side your mouth and speaking. The bass seemed to be doing good things, but not noticably better than the other two.
There was unanimous agreement about this among the dozen or so people I spoke to. Very easy to hear.
YBA was very smooth, Marantz had more life in the treble but again was far from broken in.

What you didn't mention was who's unit you listened too, what associated equipment was used and the media you listened too. Perhaps the integrated was broken?
I think Mfsoa makes a good point for the other side of the equation. The Krell does sound different. I think one man's shouty is another man's well-defined. First time I listened to Krell, I thought it was too forward. Later, after listening a couple more times I started to notice how dependent the sound from the Krell was on the source and recording. I was eventually won over and bought one.

It didn't hurt my opinion of the Krell when I saw a salesman drop on its corner a 400Xi from belly high onto a solid concrete floor. He looked extremely pained - even somehow cut his hand when it slid out and his boss walked in. He picked it up. You could barely see a mark on the corner where it hit and it literally chipped the concrete. They hooked it up, turned it on, and much to all of our amazement it worked like a champ. You would have had to see it to believe it. The build quality is incredible. Of course that doesn't make the sound.

I have Marantz and I'm familiar with the YBA. I think Marantz makes very good sounding equipment. I'm always on the lookout for a PM. They don't show up much.

The YBA - I can't think of any other way to describe it - has *sweet* sound. It's much like a sweet piece of candy, great at first but then cloying. It's all sweetness but somewhat lacking substance IMO.

After I bought the 400xi I kind of thought something wasn't right about the bass. I a-b'ed it against my top of the line NAD separates and the bass was just as good as the NAD but the mids and highs were so different that in contrast it had made the bass sound different. After that I started doing some critcal listening to the Krell.

I was struck by two things. First I heard things in very familiar music I had never heard before. Good things. Secondly I noticed clear separation of instruments that was far ahead of the NAD and even the Marantz. I eventually figured out the Krell took whatever I gave it and laid it out in spades. In other words revealing. Bad disks sounded worse and great ones sounded, well, great - better than they ever had before. Especially acoustic and classical.

I concluded the NAD was very forgiving but at the expense of definition and clarity. You could throw on about anything and sound was decent.

The Marantz was gentle but lacking soul. It not bad though. I would put the sound near Levinson and not far from Ayre. Some of the reference stuff I think might be very good.

I would compare Mfsoa's listening test to the Pepsi Challenge back in the 80s. If you recall "The Pepsi Challenge" alarmed Coke executives to the point that they thought they had to reformulate Classic coke to new coke. Pepsi was legitamately winning the taste tests. Coke executives thought they need something sweeter. What they didn't consider and what resulted in the New Coke debacle was the sweeter Pepsi was winning a *sip* test. A single sip of something sweet will always win that kind of Challenge. What Coke executives didn't consider was people buy a Coke to drink 12~16 ounces. That much of a sweeter soft drink wasn't good. People didn't want that much of a sweet drink. It just made 'em feel yucky. Whence the New Coke disaster.

Krell I think is an acquired taste. That's why you have all these Krell diehards. They know what they like. Of course you have others who can't understand how anyone like Krell with its "shouty" sound. No doubt it sounds different from other equipment out there.

All the amps listed have a different sound. And all have their followers. Probably the best thing to do if you can't audition them is buy one used based on what you think you might like and then resale later. Or buy several integrateds and resale what you don't like. If you're married, you have to think about placating the wife. Wives don't understand why we need so many pieces of equipment. :)

regards, David
It didn't hurt my opinion of the Krell when I saw a salesman drop on its corner a 400Xi from belly high onto a solid concrete floor. He looked extremely pained - even somehow cut his hand when it slid out and his boss walked in. He picked it up. You could barely see a mark on the corner where it hit and it literally chipped the concrete. They hooked it up, turned it on, and much to all of our amazement it worked like a champ. You would have had to see it to believe it. The build quality is incredible. Of course that doesn't make the sound.

Now that is not built like a brick but more like built like concrete! I wouldn't do that on purpose though. Last time I heard about an amp that wouldn't break even dropping it three floors up was the Bryston 4B-ST.

I do agree with the posts above in that Krell is an acquired taste. I have owned the Krell KAV-300i for a short period and listened to KAV-400xi. To me, the former has an unrefined and harsh sound but punchy and dynamic. Not a good match with neutral or upfront speakers but great with laidback ones such as Sonus Fabers. The KAV-400xi is a much refined unit and does not sound as raw with better control across the spectrum.

I have also listened to the YBA Integre and concur with MFsoa and Wireless in that it is one sweet and musical amp. Matched with my B&W's, the sound was so sweet and musical that at one point I was considering this integrated although my system was more or less settled. Maybe one day when I decide to set up a 2nd system I'll look into getting the YBA.

Getting back to the topic, not being familiar with your speakers, the Krell and Bryston is worth looking at with the former having the advantage in being more powerful. The Naim is also quite good but would have problems driving speakers with difficult loads. I would also agree with several suggestions on Plinius integrateds. Difficult to describe the sound so it would be best if you could listen to one.
If you going for an integrated, listen to supernait before any commitment. What ever your choice afterward, doesn't matter.
I tested a Krell 400xi vs an NAD M3 and it was no contest - the NAD M3 was in an entirely different league. The 400xi had an odd, industrial sound. Excellent recordings could sound very good on it, though. The NAD M3 made everything sound fantastic and three-dimensional and allowed me to just enjoy the music rather than analyze it. I also heard things in my music that I had not heard before when using the NAD M3.

My impression is that the 400xi is a "love it or hate it" kind of product - it will either work well with your sources, speakers and hifi tastes or it just won't. For me, its character is too harsh and analytical and it is not very musical. I think there are better choices.
Drobbins, I agree with you on the Krell, it did have an industrial rather mechanical sound in my room, but I will say in fairness that I only had it for a weekend audition so my feelings are skewed by the shortness of time. I'll say that with the right speakers and source (possibly the Krell Standard?) running balanced, it could be a different story with the 400xi. Once again that old synergy and matching issue with speakers and ancillaries can change the whole presentation of an amp, integrated or separate. After all the integrateds I've tried, I eventually learned that I really had a lot to learn. Many of the pieces I've owned or auditioned could have been a completely different experience based on changing out the gear and cabling being run with them. I've coined a new term I like to describe high end gear, "chameleon." Many high end integrateds while having a partcular house sound and sonics can change like a "chameleon" depending on the speakers, cabling, and other ancillaries involved. Often I don't believe I've really known what the gear I've owned was actually capable of because of cabling, speakers and other ancillaries.
what about the Krell S-300i? i Have the JBL TL 260 limited edition speakers. Was thinking about the M3 too.
f one can afford Krell, they don't need anyone telling them what to buy; they can afford whatever they want. I, myself, have had NAD for over 20 years and not only is there nothing cheap about them, the only thing that sounded better than my 3400PE was the 2400 sister amp with a nice tube preamp; all the sweetness of tubes with power and headroom to drive any loudspeaker. I don't think I'll ever again be satisfied with another integrated.