I had the Krell. It was OK, but the Ayre is in a completely different league.
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I have the Ayre integrated and I WAS a tube guy. Ayre is as good as any SS gear I've heard ever. I have owned Krell in the past and am selling off my Stealth DAC. The Ayre gear is just correct and the build quality is probably better than what Krell has since Dan was tossed out. Honestly you may even want to consider upgrading to an Ayre amp too. Honestly, their integrateds blow away most separates I've heard too. thats' why I went that route. I've brought my int amp to many a listening session and even the dealers were blown away and their separates cost two to five times the price of my amp. Just listen to the two vs each other and it will be obvious right away. I find that I like it better than most tube gear too. You have to get into the CJ, AR or Aestheix ref gear to get better sound and honestly, it may not be better.
I didn't have more time to leave a more thorough post, but I pretty much agree with everything Ctsooner says. There's really nothing that sounds like Ayre. Its the cleanest, purist most liquid SS I've ever heard. Also, the K1 hasn't been out of production too long, and if its not already so, it can be upgraded to its most recent version. The Krell was a pretty good preamp 15-20 years ago. The Ayre, in my opinion, was close to state of the art. There's just no comparison between the 2. You'll never need to buy another preamp.
Funny as so many will say they don't like Ayre or that !@##%$ is better or that Ayre isn't as revealing......well, then they hear the Ayre and they realize how subtle it is. It just gets it all right and the higher priced units really are worth it. They aren't just higher current/wattage.....They actually sound much better and you get value for your money. I"m still amazed and only have the AX7e....I think that getting the Ax5e would be the BIGGEST upgrade I could do to my system. It is THAT much better. Balanced mode is the only way to go. I don't have a balanced phono stage and I'm already looking at getting one.
+1 on the Ayre. I have owned it and it's a fabulous piece of gear. Relaxed, generous and subtle, it definitely has all that solid state can offer and has the midrange delight of good tube gear. To my ear, the Ayre preamps are their strong suit and they are a great all around design and manufacture company. The K1xe made me realize that I could have a ss pre and be happy with the sound....and THAT kept my speaker's drivers from getting blown by turning gear off and on in the wrong order by non-initiates...the biggest bonus of all!