McIntosh is one of the most dependable brand names when it comes to high-end audio systems. For years the brand has been recognized by audiophiles throughout the world as equipment that delivers clear and consistent quality in music. McIntosh is probably best known for its amplifiers and preamps, but the company produces many other components and parts for stereo and home theatre.
What are the specs for the Krell KAV 500?
- Power output:
- 120 watts per channel into 8Ω (stereo), 100 watts per channel into 8Ω (5 channels)
- Frequency response:
- 20Hz to 20kHz
- Total harmonic distortion:
- 23 dB
- Signal to noise ratio:
- Speaker load impedance:
- 4Ω (minimum)
- 6.25 x 19 x 17 inches
What else to know about the Krell KAV 500?
"The saying, "Beauty is only skin deep" does not apply to audio equipment, since the inside is even more important than the outside, and the KAV-500 has awesome build quality. Krell has a rather unique upgrade path for this product. Unlike most multi-channel amps, the KAV-500 is modular. You can start off with a two-channel version ($3,000), which is the minimum. Then you can move up to five channels anytime by just plugging in an amplifier card. Each channel is an additional $500. But why buy it if you only want two channels? Well, I suppose if you must own a Krell but can't quite afford the full-blown package, this is a way to get your foot in the door.
The KAV-500 is rated at 100 watts per channel into 8 Ohms and 200 watts into 4 Ohms, with the option of bridging two channels for 400 watts. Instead of having a power supply for each channel, the Krell has one massive supply to provide juice for all of the channels. This way if any given channel needs momentary extra power, it can pull from the reserve. The only time this might cause trouble is with a slamming soundtrack that has all five speakers in the system pushing air. But the chances are very slim this will occur, unless you are watching a DTS disc, which MOST appear to be overdone (too much ooomph). To test this possibility, I threw several DTS LDs at the KAV-500, and it prevailed with flying colors.
One thing that bothered me about the amp was the heat. I could deep fat fry chicken on this thing. I have never had an amp that doubled as a space heater before. Perhaps it has something to do with the 1000 VA toroidal transformer and 104,000 μF of filter capacitance, with a Krell history of heavy bias into Class A. This amp has a power bandwidth high frequency 3 dB down point of 100 kHz, which compares to 240 kHz in Krell's big Class A power amplifiers (Krell's specs). This suggests a little less stability than the big brothers.
I used the amp to power five Mirage loudspeakers (OM-6 plus center channel) with material on LD, DVD, and CD. All processing was done with the Meridian 565 using single-ended connections only (the Meridian does not have XLR output jacks). I left the gain switch in the 0 position which allowed me to use minimal channel attenuation on the 565. With my other amps, I often have to cut the surround channels quite a bit, but with the dB switches on the KAV-500 I was able to get by with very little attenuation.
I started my listening session with music, which, I feel is the best way to judge the performance of an amplifier. Movies have the kaboom, but most of us do not have the opportunity (fortunately) to hear gun shots, explosions, and other special effects first hand, so it is difficult to compare the movie sounds to what we hear in real life. As usual, I started off with my Holly Cole albums (did I mention I am seeing her in concert on March 1st in Seattle? Oh well, she rocks!) In straight stereo, the sound was detailed and sweet. After switching to Trifield mode (the addition of a center channel and surrounds, a Meridian music surround mode), it was that much better. There seemed to be a little more detail than what the Sunfire Cinema Grand and Parasound HCA-1206 could deliver, although I did not find the separation to be as good as the Sunfire, and the bass was not as tight as the Parasound. A tradeoff, every amp has its strengths and weaknesses. But the added detail made up for its shortcomings in other areas.
After Holly, I tossed in the new "Best of Enya" CD, and here I did most of my listening in the Ambisonic mode. Ambisonic is another surround matrix mode designed for music, and if you have a CD with Ambisonic encoding and a processor that can decode it, you are in for a special treat. Again, the first thing that comes to mind is detail, so this seems to be where the Krell really shines. I played CDs from several other artists, such as Fiona Apple and Behan Johnson. The Krell is a very musical amplifier that just happens to be aimed at the home theater market.
For movie viewing I used a CL-97 LD player and the Sony 7000 DVD player. On the LD side, I listened to "Jurassic Park", "The Lost World", and "Casper", all in DTS. The DTS titles appear to have more sonic information than their DD counterparts, but if you turn off the dialog normalization on DD discs, the two formats become much closer in sheer sound pressure. All three of these DTS titles have sound coming from all five channels throughout the film, so they really give home theater systems a good workout. Not once did the Krell seem to stress or have any problems reproducing the soundtracks in my room (just ask my neighbors!) On DVD, I listened to "The Delos Surround Spectacular", which I feel is the best example of what a multi-channel music recording should be like! It sounded wonderful with the Krell. I also took a DVD ride on "Airforce One" and "George of the Jungle". Both of these discs have great soundtracks and really showed me what the Krell is capable of.
The KAV-500 is a great sounding amplifier. But at $4,500 for the full five-channel version, it is not within everyone's budget. I am able to get just as much enjoyment from other amplifiers at half the cost, putting up with a slight loss in detail. But, if you are into things like Calvin Klein, BMW, Rolex, and all detailed nuances of recorded sound, the Krell will fit you nicely. All kidding aside, it is a top-notch amp that is able to reproduce music very accurately. You should head out to your local high-performance dealer and listen for yourself." - Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity
Brief History of McIntosh
Long mapped-to Binghamton New York – the current headquarters and manufacturing center for Krell Labs – not many people know the brand was originally launched outside of the Nation’s Capital in Silver Spring Maryland, in 1949. In 1956, the brand built their original facility in New York, according to the official brand website.
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