Krell Evolution 202 Stereo Preamplifier Reviewed

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krell-evolution-202.gifAmazingly, at $15,000, the Krell Evolution 202 two-chassis stereo preamp is in the middle of Krell's lust-worthy line of no-holds-barred audiophile electronics. Dressed in sultry silver, this ultimate-level audio preamp speaks of total overkill - the kind of overkill that you might just kill to get into your rack. You just better hope your judge is a practicing audiophile, or the "justifiable homicide" defense won't keep you out of the pokey. Just know that I will know why you did the deed, as will anyone who has ever had the pleasure of listening to this stereo preamp. The Krell Evolution 202 could inspire a man to desperate measures in order to get one to grace his rack.

Unlike the Krell Evolution 2 preamp, which has 219 different volume stages in its digital control of analog volume, the Krell Evo 202 preamp has a 16-bit balanced resistor ladder. According to Krell, the transient response of the preamp is not affected by the volume control, the way less sophisticated designs are. There are inputs galore for both balanced and unbalanced sources on the control unit, while the power supply unit houses a monstrous transformer that is purposely kept from the sensitive electronics. Krell's technological design philosophy with the Evolution 202 preamp is based around providing a 1.5 MHZ open loop bandwidth design with zero feedback. Some preamps today favor a negative feedback design, yet Krell bucked that trend with results that are nothing short of breathtaking. The sound of the Krell Evolution 202 is resolution defined. There is no coloration whatsoever, yet there is a sense of air and space to the music. I used the Krell Evolution 202 with Krell's Evolution 505 SACD player and was able to get performances from stereo SACDs that make you understand why you buy gear at the lunatic fringe. Peter Gabriel's Security album was more open than I have ever heard it, yet it still retained the analog warmth that is native to the master tape. Gabriel's So album can sound "early digital," even on very good audiophile systems. When on the Krell Evolution 202 preamp, using the CAST connections offered by Krell, songs like "Sledgehammer" had a less shiny sound. The mids were more three-dimensional and open. Tony Levin's Chapman stick (a type of bass guitar) was stunningly vibrant and rich in overtones, yet not lacking in that fast, low bass that is part of the signature Krell sound.

High Points
• You have to be kidding me that Krell makes a better, more elaborate, higher-end preamp, as the Krell 202 two-chassis stereo preamp will take on any reference-grade preamp made by any audiophile big boy in the market today.
• The Krell Evolution 202's design featuring a two-chassis system is smart and results in a preamp that is nothing short of magical.
• You would be hard-pressed to find a handful of better-built, better-looking or more extreme stereo preamps.

Low Points
• While I love the extreme nature of the two-chassis design, it does make this preamp larger and a little more complicated in your rig. I can live with this issue, but other top stereo preamps find a way to get their sound in one box.
• If you are looking for a preamp that adds something to the sound of your system, you are looking at the wrong preamp for your system. The Krell Evolution 202 is about transparency and a three-dimensional, open sound. If you want that buttery, warm tube sound, you know the names of the preamps you should be considering. Certainly not Krell.

The Krell Evolution 202 makes me think of ultimate superlatives, such as "the best preamp money can buy," yet Krell actually makes a better stereo preamp. Go figure. If you are looking for a preamp that will pass your audio signal from your best, highest-resolution sources to your reference power amps, I can think of no better solution. The Krell Evolution 202 is the preamp of your dreams and, if you can find a way to buck up for an Evo 202, you are in for the audio experience of your life. Just save enough money to make sure you also get some Krell Evolution amps, too.
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