Krell S1200 or Yamaha CXA5100?


These 2 seem to be close in used price 1500 for Yamaha and 2K for basic S1200 Krell.  I am looking for best quality performance through HDMI DTS MA and Dolby TRU HD. I am using a Panasonic UB900 which seems to be a good digital transport compared to the other BR players I"ve had and since it has dual HDMI outs I don't care about video capabilities of the processor and don't care about the atmos feature since I'm only using 5.1 speaker setup. Just audio from HDMI is mainly all I'm concerned about.
nak127

The audio quality of the Krell S1200 is going to be significantly superior to anything the Yamaha will be able to produce. I own the S1200 and have auditioned many other HT processors. However, there are some quirks in the S1200 that you’ll have to live with if you want to go this route.

- Krell has unstable audio (cannot lock onto audio or audio with beeps/clicks) when decoding compressed DD/DTS using "HDMI A" mode. This can be worked around by setting up another input that uses "HDMI S" mode. "HDMI A" mode must be used when decoding DTS-HD or TrueHD bluray sound. However, be aware that blurays will typically have the previews and menu audio output using compressed Dolby Digital. I usually use a "HDMI S" input when I first put a bluray in. When I click on "Play movie" from the menu, I immediately switch to the "HDMI A" input.

-Krell has bugs in "DTS-HD MA 48k 5.1/7.1" mode (which is what most blurays use). The dynamic range compression is applied even though the menu settings indicate it is off (Krell has 2.0 patch for this). Also, Krell ignores any crossover settings for speakers and plays each speaker at full range (i.e. even though fronts may be set to 80Hz). The ".1" LFE channel still works correctly. Krell does not have any patch for this at this time.

Krell has no problem with the "96k DTS-HD" mode (but this isn’t used by movies).

You can avoid both of the problems above by configuring your Panasonic bluray player to output PCM for all audio (instead of bitstream). Krell S1200 has no problem handling 5.1 PCM and the sound will still be superior to the Yamaha CXA5100. However, the Krell has a very slight improvement in sound quality when decoding DTS-HD/TrueHD when compared to 5.1 PCM. However, it’s still leaps and bounds above the Yamaha.

Oh, there might be some things that you will have to use the standard COAX digital input for.  One example is a source that uses "Dolby Digital Plus".  Some others I have found are some very old DVD titles (for some reason, it only works through COAX s/pdif).

Hello Auxinput,

Thanks for info. I'm used to Krell bugs. I have AVS standard which locks onto dolby 2.0 but sometime forgets to load DTS after movie starts but cycling through inputs again fixes that. This makes decision easier and I also found out Yamaha dropped internet radio on this processor which I loved on their receivers. Do you know if firmware can be updated over net/USB on Krelll? I know AVS and HTS that I previously had required IC's  to upgrade.

Firmware update on the S1200 is still done through RS232 serial port/cable.  Krell has a special software program you can install on a laptop/computer to write new firmware to the S1200.
That's good to know about the firmware. I was just thinking- I do have 3 higher end preamps all krell and connecting to multiout analog of Panasonic. In your opinion would the s1200 be superior to this or about same?
Which specific Krell preamps do you have connected?
I don’t have them set up like that yet but was considering it. Audio video standard,Kav300r(has preamp out), and Kav250P. Currently using AVS as Ht unit. It is not competitive compared to newer offerings at HT but is really good in 2 channel in my opinion. My previous HTS 7.1 killed it in HT but I preferred preamp and PCM 2 ch on this(has same basic circuits as studio) Preferred looks on AVS also.

The sonic signature of the S1200 is going to be very similar to the HTS 7.1, but better in my opinion due to supporting hi-res audio/bluray and a better digital section (Sabre DAC with TCXO clock). The HTS 7.1 was the first line of products from Krell where they made the analog circuits much higher bandwidth. This gave us a faster sound, faster attack, more clarity and detail. Some people also feel that it is too bright/forward sounding ("in your face" sound). I personally love this sound for both music and movies because it gives a sense of realism that warmer systems do not have. If this is not what you’re looking for, then maybe S1200 would not be a good choice.

The AVS / KAV300r / KAV250P were all older devices back when Dan D’Agostino was influencing the design and all had a warmer and more laid back sound. I have found that Dan likes designing towards a warmer/richer sonic signature. While you could use a combination of these three preamps to handle the analog output of the bluray player, it is going to be nearly impossible to match the volume output of each as you turn the sound up and down during different movies/music (each preamp has a completely different volume indicator and may have different steps). For example, even having the center channel 2 db less than left/right will cause vocals to sound very far away and hard to hear. If you wanted to do something like this, you would want 3 of the exact same preamps, such as 3 KAV-250P, so that you could use the same remote to control the volume steps. In addition, the analog output of the UB900 is going to be sub-par.

If I went that direction, I would want an bluray player with an extremely good analog stage, such as Oppo BDP-105 or something. You could also look at a 7-channel analog preamp, such as Parasound P7. This ultimately would be more money than buying a used S1200.

Since you liked the warmer/richer sound of the AVS, I would look hard at the Marantz AV8802/AV8802A as a modern replacement. The only difference is that the "A" model supports the new HDCP 2.2 protocol. The Marantz sound is slightly on the warm side of neutral, but still very detailed. Many people love the "musicality" of Marantz. It also has excellent power supply and discrete fully-differential balanced audio circuits (in case you want to use XLR cables). They are ranging from $2300 to $2700 used. There’s a 8802 on ebay now for $2300.

Alternatively, you could look at Marantz 7702/7703. They are cheaper and maybe more in your budget. However, the main power supply on these is half the size of the 8802 and the analog audio channels are all condensed onto one board. The 8802 has 13 individual boards for each analog channel. Sound quality is not going to be as good as 8802.

Thanks for detailed thorough overview of the equipment. I knew 8802 was trop notch but thought it was hovering in the 3K range which is out of ,my ballpark. If I had that much to spend Id probably get a non 4k foundation since I've heard it's best out there. . I do prefer the HTS type sonic signature for movies just not as much for 2 channel. That's one reason I had considered Yamaha-had compared a Yamaha rx-a3010 in preamp mode to the HTS on movies. In regular DTS and dolby the Krell killed it but when I put Yamaha with the Hi res audio stuff it was almost dead even HTS winning by a hair. So with Hi Res but basically same preamp section as HTS the 1200 sounds like the one to get for me. I could run through 250P in theater mode if I don't like 2 channel as much as old ones. I'm also decent at working on Krell processor and CD stuff if it has problem but not so much on the Denon/Marantz.

By the way, the bugs I mentioned above are for the newer "3D" version of the S1200, which has an HDMI 1.4 board (same as 707). 

I don't know if this affects the older non-3D version of the S1200, which had the HDMI 1.3 board.  These two versions also have completely different firmware.

Ah, when you send hi-res audio to the HTS 7.1 using the digital COAX input, the Krell will automatically down-convert any sampling rate to a maximum of 48Khz before sending it to the DAC. Both 24/96 and 24/192 are downconverted to 24/48. The 24/88.2 and 24/176.4 are down-converted to 24/44.1. This could be the factor of why the HTS was similar to the Yamaha receiver.

The S1200 has this same behavior through the digital COAX input. However, when you play hi-res audio such as 24/96 from a bluray player and send it through HDMI using a "HDMI A" configuration on the Krell S1200, the Krell will receive and do DAC conversion on the full hi-res sampling rate.

Just for your information, many receivers and processors will downconvert sampling data to 48khz anyways because it’s internal DSP bus is limited to 48Khz communications. This can be happening even though the receiver/processor is displaying "24/96" or "24/192". It’s a little known fact.

There are a few HT processors out there that will truly do full bandwith DAC processing. Bryston SP3 is one of them. I think the Krell S1200 could be another.

Yes I realize this. What I was saying is the 16bit DTS on Krell sounded about same as the 24bit DTSMA signal on Yamaha and when comparing apples to apples (both DTS only) the Krell won easily. I'm sure due to much better gain stages of Krell. I think this particular Yamaha can take up to a full 192khz and really do it-I remember reading about it somewhere. Higher end Yamaha's receivers are not slouches on DSP just not great preamps (older Z9 being the exception).
Just thought I'd give a late update to direction I went here. I ended up going with Yamaha CX-A5000 since after doing research it was about same unit as 5100 minus the Atmos and a few other features I didn't care about. The CX-A5000 also has comprehensive Internet radio section which was discontinued on the 5100. It was also about 500 bucks cheaper and I think excellent value for a grand. When using this as a HT processor it easily bests anything I've ever heard although I haven't heard anything newer than it so just wanted to be clear about that. I did see in some reviews that the 5100 did match the high end Marantz in HT just not in 2 channel so guess you pay the extra money to have both. I was pleasantly surprised at the 2 channel of this unit. It was much better than their 3030 receiver which has some of the same chips as this unit. Much smoother than that receiver which I thought a bit bright. Compared in 2 channel to the Krell AVS the Krell does beats it although the Yamaha is still very good. I never got to hear a S1200 which I probably would have preferred but just went this route due to price and good reviews I've seen. .
Thanks for the update, nak127!
Hey Auxinput I just re read one of the posts you did. Must have overlooked it. You mentioned some processors will not do tru full bandwidth processing. Do you have list of those or a link?

Unfortunately, I do not have a definite list.  I know that the Theta Casablanca will limit everything to 96khz, which is really good (but it's not going to be the same as a 192khz DAC).  I believe that I read the Classe SSP-800 will automatically convert everything to 96Khz before it sends the data to the DAC chips (they state that 96khz is the best rate for those specific DAC chips).

There are many processors that will use an off-the-shelf DSP board or similar.  These DSP boards have a backplane data bus that is limited to 48Khz.  This means that everything is automatically "sample rate converted" to a maximum of 48Khz regardless of the source media.  Most receivers will do this and some processors, depending on what the manufacturer is doing.  This is perfectly fine for home theater and movies as blurays will not be produce higher than 24bit / 48Khz (except maybe for 1 out of 10,000).  But it will still be a limiting factor if you are trying to use the processor/receiver to play 2-channel hi-res audio (such as 24/96 or 24/192).  This has been going on for years.

It's difficult to say what is really going on inside a receiver.  This may be changing as manufacturers may be implementing better DSP modules and backplanes.

If you are primary using a processor for movies or analog preamp, you're fine.  You can use an dedicated external DAC for doing any of the critical 2-channel music.