Review: Krell FPB-200 Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Virtually every type of amplifier design has been around for a long time. Even the latest thing, SETs have been around for over sixty years. Solid state is really the new kid on the block, so to speak. A person has to wonder, after all these years how much better can they still get?
I have long been a fan of Solid State designs, and have gone through many variations on the same theme. The first separates I bought were a JVC M3030 dual mono amp and an APT Holman pre-amp. They certainly sounded better than my Harmon Kardon receiver. Since buying the JVC I have also owned a Forte Model 5 and more recently an Aragon 8008 st.
Looking for a new amp after owning the Aragon was much harder than buying before. The Aragon is a very good amp and replacing it with something better is both difficult and expensive.
I have long been a fan of Krell equipment, and have owned two of their pre-amps over the last several years. Buying an amp from them is a more expensive proposition. Krell amps are not cheap and the reasons are obvious. There is a lot of work and material that goes into them. My brother-in-law Greg always called me to help him move his latest Krell purchase. Sometimes just going from the trunk of the car to the music room was quite an ordeal. Those things are heavy!!!
After much looking and penny pinching I was able to buy a FPB 200 amp. This is the smallest of the FPB line. FPB stands for Full Power Balanced. The amp contains many new features along with some older features, which only Krell employs. To over simplify the point an FPB amp operates in the current mode part of the gain stage to simplify the signal path. The Sustained Plateau Bias II serves to allow the class A amplifier to run cooler than class A amps typically can. The FPB 200 is a 200 wpc amp with wattage doubling each time the impedance of the speakers halved. This is the same rating as the Aragon, but in this case the numbers meant little. Another nice feature is the 5 year transferable warranty.
The look of the amp is a continuation of the evolution from KSA to KSA S series. Features are not quite as macho looking. There is a little rounding to some of the trim. They are still unmistakably Krell.
The front of the amp has a pyramid of three blue lights. When all three are on the amp is ready to be used. The power/standby function works from the remote of my KRC 2. This was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
The main power switch is located on the back of the amp. There are inputs for single-ended and balanced cables and the best binding posts for speaker cable I have ever seen. Using them is a breeze compared to other amps I have owned or used. I was unhappy with the IEC plug required though. The 15 A IEC on the DIY PC I have did not work with the layout on the back of the Krell. Otherwise everything was great. The location of all the plugs and sockets made using them very simple.
Wouldn’t you know it, the day I got the amp I was sick, feeling weak, and Greg was still at work. I hauled the amp down stairs myself but then I still had to get it out of the box. It turned out to be easier than I expected. Krell has a new packing system with handles that makes removing the amp much easier. I was impressed before I ever plugged the amp into the wall.
I know you’re supposed to break things in before listening, but I couldn’t resist. I had to do a little listening before starting the break-in process.
I started with the Bob James CD “Grand Piano Canyon.” It has been a favorite for many years now so I know how it sounds. The sound with the FPB 200 was polite and reserved, very laid back; possibly even muted. The height of the soundstage was very short. But everything was not bad. Even with the things I mentioned the Piano had a very “real” timbre to it. I could hear both hands on the keyboard. The soundstage from front to back was very deep, but the width was only to the edge of the speakers. After ten minutes the soundstage was blooming, it offered more height than it had only minutes earlier.
Next I listened to Blackmore’s Night, mostly acoustic guitars and female vocals, for those who don’t know. The vocals were reserved but the soundstage on this recording was much deeper. Lower midrange and bass were much better than I had with the Aragon. The sound was faster with greater impact, but the upper treble was obviously rolled off.
I noticed the volume was set at a higher level than I normally used, but the music did not seem as loud.
Continued listening revealed better separation of multiple voices, and a more natural decay of instrument sounds. Several times while listening I had the feeling that I should pull the speakers away from the back wall so the music could get into the room. I had the impression that music was coming from farther back than the boundaries of the listening room.
To give the amp a good workout I listened to a UHQR copy of Alan Parson’s “I Robot.” There are some passages, which might reveal shortcomings in a lesser amp. The Krell showed no shortage of reserve power. On this recording I observed lots of definition and separation between instruments. Sound was audible outside the boundaries of the speakers. This is one of the reasons I turn to this recording. It has by far the widest soundstage of any recording I own. There seemed to be plenty of sound with lower sound pressure levels. The Krell does not seem to be working as hard as the Aragon to produce the same music.
For the next twenty hours I ran the Purist Burn-in CD constantly. My wife hates this part!
Day 2 I began the session with Keith Green’s “No Compromise.” The midrange was much fuller and smoother. The vocal presence had improved overnight. The wimpy treble was not as rolled off as yesterday, and the bass was tighter. Again I noticed the separation of voices. Songs which had sounded like there was only one singer, or background singer now had additional voices. Sibilants were not as “spitty.” On track with just voice and acoustic guitar I could see where the guitar was and where the singers mouth was.
Day 3 After another twenty-four hours of the Purist CD running I listened to Babbie Mason’s “Timeless” CD. Vocals were less recessed then previously. Vocals had not sounded recessed the day before, but when listening again the sound was more “there.” The front-to-back soundstage contained more inner detail.
The treble was even smoother than before. Viola, violin, and bass were so lush I don’t know how to describe it. The horns were right up front. Not buried in the soundstage. Snapping fingers did not sound like someone breaking a pretzel.
The bass had always, even out of the box been full, but it is much tighter and controlled. I continued to hear things I have not heard before. I know that is a cliché, but there is a reason people use it.
Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was an eye, or should I say ear opener! The ringing of the church bell on “Funeral for a Friend seemed to go on forever. The bass of the organ rumbled the concrete floors of the listening room. I have listened to this recording innumerable times and the soundstage was bigger and fuller than I have heard before. I have read the lyrics before so I know what Elton is singing, but this time I could actually understand him!
By way of comparison the Aragon sounded thin and constrained.
By day four and five the system sounded like another layer of grunge had been removed. The grain and muddiness I had never noticed before was gone. Sound came out of nowhere with a startling suddenness rather than easing out through a sheet of sound. Sound seemed to begin in many places within the soundstage rather than everything coming off of the same plane. Vocal inflections were more obvious. The plucking of an acoustic bass resonated like a real instrument.
By day eleven the differences between bad recordings and good ones was much more discernable. Beautiful music floated effortlessly into the room. Choirs had many distinct voices rather than the blended single voice I heard before. I can hear sound filling the body of guitars and basses.
I think I understand what people were talking about when they used the phrase “liquid midrange.” There is such purity and cohesiveness that I can’t think of any other way to describe it.
As you can see, I have listened to a huge range of musical styles. Some music I used to test with that was not mentioned is Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” and Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony. Comments about the sound are in the review, but they were not mentioned specifically.
After several weeks of listening I have concluded that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the Solid State category. Krell proved it by being better than the other comparable amps.
The amp did not disappoint me at any point. Everything I threw at it was handled with style and authority. Is this the perfect amp. No, there is no perfect amp. It is a very good amp that costs a lot of money, $6000, are it worth it? It is to me. The buyer gets a lot of amplifier for their money.
If you are looking for a new amplifier and can fit this into your budget, whether new or used you owe it to yourself to audition the Krell FPB 200!

Associated gear
Benz Micro Glider Cartridge
Sota Star Sapphire sIII Turntable
Rega RB-900 Tonearm
Sony SC-D777es CD Player
Krell KRC-2 Preamplifier
Krell FPB-200 Amplifier
Sony SS-M7aes Speaker
Purist Proteus Interconnect
Cardas Neutral Reference Interconnect
Purist Colossus Interconnect
Cardas Golden C Interconnect
Tara Labs Pandora S Interconnect
Monster Cable M 2.4 Speaker cable
Home made power cords Power cord
Tice Audio powerblock 2 AC filter

Similar products
Aragon 8008 st
Forte Model 5
JVC M3030
Krell gear with Sony speakers?! Consider replacing the Sony's as your next upgrade step. Bonus points awarded for Blackmore's night.
A good amp specifically this one will make allot of speakers sound great.
Most people don’t get it! Enjoy your purchase
Nrchy,can you tell me more about Blackmore's night? Is that Ritchie Blackmore or an album? Glad to hear about the Krell amp,your system looks very nice. I'd like to have that TT in my system.
I just meant that one would not normally couple Krell with Sony- system seems a bit out of balance IMO. Indeen Blackmore's Night is the one and only Ritchie- links at the Deep Purple homepage.
Blackmore's Night is indeed Ritchie Blackmore. As Rainbow began to fall apart Ritchie snagged Candice Night to sing for him. She's the best singer he's had since Ronnie James Dio! Their music is much different than what he has done in the past. The first Rainbow LP is probably the closest to this. There is some Rock and Roll there, but there are more acoustic numbers than he's done previously. I have "Shadows of the Moon," and "Under a Velvet Moon." Two good outings from this group. The first CD has Ian Anderson from Jethro Tull playing flute on ine track. It's worth checking out!
Linkster, since I have long been a proponant of the "all things being equal, speakers are the least important componant in the system" school of thought, I have had to wait till they were the weakest link before replacing them. As bizarre as it may sound these Sony speakers are actually quite good. As good as Thiels and others costing thousands more! Check out the review I did, it might offer better insight than these brief comments.
I am in the market for new speakers though. I'm looking at some Soundlabs, Talons, Usher Audio, Von Schweikert, and Magnepan.
I hope to have them in place soon, but we'll see.
Thanks Nrchy,I will check them out.
Good review. I know what you mean since I have a krell amp myself. I am also a fan of Blackmore's Night. I also listen to most of the same stuff you do especially Alan Parsons and Carmina Burana. By the way, the Sony speakers that you have are considered quite good.
Agree that the speakers may be a little tougher to upgrade than the amp was, but that's based on second-hand info, not personal experience. Anyway Nate, I'm glad the amp upgrade worked out as well as you had hoped when we last visited the topic in your "System" post (if you'll recall, we were on the same wavelength here). And thanks for a very informatively-written review - warms my heart! (BTW, was this all done with the stock cord, and what are your plans on the AC cord front?) Let us know what you think of the Maggies when you go...
I am trying to find the right IEC connector so I can use my DIY powercords. The socket on the back of the Krell is not the standard 15 amp connection. I think it is a 20 amp, but I'm not sure. I have a couple people working on it for me. Everytime I put a new PC in it made a real difference, I hope it will here too.
I'm stilling pulling at what little hair I have left over the speakers. I found a pair of Usher Audio speakers I really liked, but I found out they were made in China. I refuse to buy anything made by slave labor! So the hunt goes on. I'd like to find a pair of Magnepan 3.6's that someone is absolutely giving away!!!
Nrchy, I applaud you for not wanting to support slave/child labor. My wife and I always try to buy American or European. Unfortunately I think that in a few years' time we will have no clothes !
Sean the lack of clothes would probably be okay around the house but it makes it tough to go out for dinner.
I know it can be very frustrating to shop. I had to pass on several Christmas gifts for my boys because I could not find them made anywhere but China. I hoped to buy them an electronic dartboard or a better foosball table. They did not get either of those.
Before the Holidays I heard about an expatriate Chinese who said virtually all Christmas light are made with prison labor by either pastors and priest or political objectors. They are given no tools and are required to assemble strings of light with their hands and teeth. If the strings do not work they are beaten with a board comparable to a 2x4! I will never buy another string of lights from China or anything else, but I have been boycotting them for many years now.
I wish more people would refuse to support evil regimes like the Chinese government.
This makes me appreciate our admittedly flawed country even more.
I have to say (not that I know), the Xmas light story sounds pretty apocryphal to me. One could make the argument that capitalism in countries like China is what is dragging them into the modern world - yes, for worse as well as for better, but ultimately leading inexorably toward democracy. There do exist Western companies that manufacture in places like China for the low labor costs, but are involved enough to ascertain a desired minimum level of pay and conditions for the workers, albeit below what is common in the free world, but maybe better than what is available for them otherwise. I embrace your concerns, but am just not so sure the issue is always cut-and-dried.

Anyway, I believe you are correct about the Krell IEC connector being a 20-amp variety, and in fact I think Krell recommends 20-amp lines for their amps.
Zaikesman ... I hear what you're saying. I'm not anti globalization, because, as you point out, it is hauling a number of countries into the 21st century. However I think that the number of western companies who are using 3rd world labor with any regard for the living conditions of the workers is the tiny minority. They do it so the execs can make a fast buck and cash out enormous stock options. Is anyone else wondering why only 2 years of downturn after the biggest economic boom (bubble) in US history hundreds of companies who have survived since the depression are filing for bankruptcy. I'm afraid corporate america (and probably much of Europe) has become a kleptocracy, aided and abetted by the politicians. Sorry .. off topic. I feel better for getting that out. Now I must go and turn the heating up because it's cold being naked all the time.
Seandt, I guess I'm partly hoping that audio electronics aren't as bad in this regard as clothing might be...
Zaikesman, that's a real concern now. I have read in Stereophile that there are other companies producing product in China. I wish I had paid closer attention so I could tell you who they were.
I am in business and understand the need to make a buck, but at what cost? The idea of good honest American or European, or even Japanese companies building in a country that has long been known for brutalizing it's own population is unconscienable!
I personally have a lot less problem with illegal aliens coming here and making a better wage than US companies going to China and making...whatever!
Now I have to be careful because we can get into the whole union thing.
I don't disagree with your point about supporting companies that build here in the US. I'm just not persuaded that companies taking their assembly business to China is necessarily bad for assembly workers in China. But as you imply, there are many other good reasons to try and keep your business with America. (I have a harder time seeing reasons to care very much about keeping your business with Britain or France or Japan, for example, other than to get the piece of gear you want.)
I don't think taking the business to China is bad for the workers. The workers though probably don't benefit much. My sister-in-law lived there, and the impression I have is for the most part it doesn't matter where you work the wages are all bad. I think the Chinese government is the one that really benefits from the influx of American businesses. They make money brokering all the deals and having their greasy palms greased again.
I don't mind helping the Chinese people, and would buy from China if the money went to the people who do the work. I do mind supporting their government. The communist government has murdered over sixty million of it's own people since slaughtering their way to power. I feel sorry for the person who is not appalled by that information.
Me too - that's way more than our government has murdered...(I think)...
I have my FBP200 running with a Pass Aleph P pre-amp, Martin Logan Re-Quests and Magnan Signiture speaker cables. My interconnects are Nordost SPM's and Quattro Fil's

It is a very revealing system, and never ceases to amaze me with its sound quality. Female vocals are to die for, and it is perfect for jazz listeners.
It's funny you would mention the female vocals because that is one thing that has pleasantly surprised me lately. I find myself gravitating toward female vocals because I like how they sound.

Wierd huh?