Review: Krell KAV 400xi Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

My musical tastes primarily center around acoustic jazz, 20th century classical and some classic folk/rock. The aspects of sound that are most important to me are tonal accuracy, timbre, dynamics and transparency..soundstaging is of course integral as well for an involving listening experience. The worst thing a system could do is offer incorrect tone and be overly analytical/cold sounding. I have owned a 400xi at several of my homes over the years (4 If memory serves)along with various components and it has always served the music well. My current purchase was to be temporary (again) until I decide on a new direction...what happened on the way to the audio forum was startling!! I had picked up a Krell SACD standard on the cheap a few months before and had also swung a great deal on a pair of Resolution 2 speakers. When I lashed up the system with my newly upgraded MIT V2.2 cables and Transparent MM power cords I new I was on to something I had never quite experienced before. Music emerged in the most pure, unhyped, transparent and dynamic way as I have EVER HEARD BEFORE...ANYWHERE!!! This stuff replaced my Krell EVO 505, 202, 402 combo; an ARC ref3, HD220 combo most recently. I am completely addicted and unable to stop buying and digging out music...some stuff I thought I would never be able to enjoy again, but now could! At low volume levels the dynamic shadings and rich tonal color are imbued with an ease and sense of transparency that befuddles all who hear should not sound this good...or should it? I revisited the manual to find out what is so special about this combo..what is it that this gear does that none of my other (100K+ systems couldn't deliver).

OK, the 400xi has power and a good transformer with a direct coupled output stage..great, but so do alot of other brands. It uses a class A input stage..Hmmm, and it handles the fully balanced signal in the current were talkin. Signal path and parts count are low of course in an integrated, but it also uses surface mount technology for quicker signal transfer and has a bandwidth out to 300Khz!! Lack of capacitors allows more low level impact and greater transparency as well. The volume control responds gradually without over shooting the signal (too loud too fast effect). Couple these attributes (which no ther component has)with the fact that the SACD standard feeds the 24bit/196khz signal directly from the DAC's to the 400xi in the current domain, bypassing the voltage conversion stage of other front ends, and I began to understand. The simplicity and engineering involved was so synergistic and pure that it could allow the music on the discs to come through unscathed. The sound is huge, dynamic like crazy, utterly transparent, effortless, smooth, richly colored and extended from DC to beyond hearing. It sounds like all the best attributes of tubes and solid state sounds like music played live!!! The only weakness would be if your speakers are just too inefficient or way too efficient....the krell likes a challenge but not a cake walk! I am crying and emotional again about my music and that syas it all...I am keeping this system for along time!!!!

Associated gear
Krell SACD Standard V2
Krell Resolution 2 speakers
MIT Oracle V2.2 spkr and IC
Transparent MM power cords

Similar products
Seperates from BAT, ARC, Levinson, Mcintosh, Classe, Musical fidelity.
Just wanted to post an update to my review above. The system sounds utterly amazing and reminds me of the days I would spend in my basement as a kid listening to is astounding!! At this point I can safely say that the system synergy outperforms the best vinyl I have heard (Walker proscenium, Avalon's and Atmosphere amps). The round palpable 3D effect with tremendous action and authority is startling. The audiophile in me can revel in disc after disc without concern for being a critic. Everything is as I imagined it should be but thought would never be...I am home again!!
"Check out my review of the HD220 on A'gon! It has turned into one of the finest amplifiers ever to grace any of my systems. Words can hardly describe how happy I am with my is reference caliber sound for sure!! The HD220 controls my Res 2's with great finesse....kick ass dynamic, full of life and detail with no grain or strain. It re-creates the event of a live performance like few other amps can...phenomenal with my Ref 3"

and again what does the integrated do that this baby does not?????!!!!

I'm cone fused
After full break-in and the newness factor wearing familiar material being played more often, it became clear that what I was hearing was not musical...just hyper detailed and dynamic!
Still lovin the 400xi/sacd std...addition of new MIT V2.2 IC completes the magic...(better than vinyl..shhh, don't tell anybody)!
Dave, not musical? I never seem to be able to understand how music played back though good equipment can sound this way.

Oh well...
I truly believe that the main problem with sound reproduction has been the advent of the compact disc playback technology. Vinyl sounded good even on cheap equipment. It is ironic then that I should find that same sort of musical sound on a relatively inexpensive setup such as the 400xi/sacd this instance the technology works! I don't even think Krell quite understands what they have or could have marketed for true high end buyers, but they chose to dumb down the amps and go for off the shelf parts. The idea of class A direct coupled, current domain signal transfer direct from the DAC's via surface mount circuitry is unique, pure and only available in it's simplest from from the 400xi/sacd combo. I had the evo stuff and it just wasn't as pure and magical!
I to believe , just as Dave that true High Fidelity has been hurt by the introduction of Digital Sources . And that many of the things we hear when we audition equipment that we do not like has its roots firmly place at the feet of digital sources . I do believe that the digital medium as a source has advance up to a point where it is competitive to a good Pure analog medium but when you compare both one to another , hands down the analog medium always wins in almost all categories that are important in the musical arena.

Agreed Manny55, but if you heard my rig currently you might be convinced that analog has nothing more to offer...especially when you consider the lack of noise, hum, feedback, tracking errors etc.. If ever in Pa, let me know:)