Krell is as about as lofty an audiophile brand as there is in the market today. With the creativity and design sense of creator Dan D'agostino, Krell makes some of the single most important AV components on the market today ranging from their somewhat affordable KID iPod dock all the way up to their Krell Evolution 707 AV preamp that packs a hefty $30,000 price tag. While Krell gets a lot of very deserved ink for their power amps, often Krell doesn't get the credit they deserve for their source components, which brings me to the Krell Evolution 505 CD/SACD player.
Priced at $10,000, the Krell Evolution 505 player is in the upper echelon of players on the market today. However it is far from the most expensive stereo source players that money can buy. The recently reviewed EMM Labs products that grace the racks currently of HomeTheaterReview.com's Associate Editor, Ken Taraszka, are significantly more than double the cost. The Krell 505 is a player that can play traditional Compact Discs as well as stereo SACDs that are either hybrid, single layer and/or dual layer discs. Anyone who knows Krell products knows that they are built like a brick shithouse, which really helps the performance of an audiophile source component. The rigidity of the chassis and the beefiness of the actual transport mechanism are keys to the success of any player at this level. Krell's circuit design uses Surface Mount Technology, which through miniaturization reportedly lowers the density of electronics in the signal path. The Krell Evolution 505 uses Krell's CAST system for a proprietary connection for those using an all-Krell system, which limits the number of voltage gain stages to one. In audiophila more often than not - less is more.
Another signature Krell move is to spec in the most over-the-top transformers into the power section of a product, and despite the fact that the Krell Evolution 505 is a source component - you get a transformer that would make most audiophile amps feel insecure. $10,000 isn't cheap for a Compact Disc and SACD player, but with the Krell you are getting a lot of physical technology. Lastly and possibly most importantly, Krell's internal matched 24 bit 192 kHz DAC chips are used on all channels, which allows CDs to be upsampled to a higher, more high definition resolution. While all audiophiles wish they could get access to native 24/192 audiophile for mainstream music, the fact is that Compact Disc is still the standard audio format for most audio enthusiasts. Making Compact Discs sound better is the most important goal of a player like the Krell Evolution 505.
Cutting to the chase - how does the Krell Evolution 505 sound? It's filthy good, that's how it sounds. Quiet, accurate and resolute come to mind for starters. As you might expect the player can replay the top-of-the-line source material and make it sound truly fantastic. However that's not what impressed me most with my time with the Krell Evolution 505 player. What was most impressive was the way the player could make mid-level and crappy sounding Compact Disc and SACD titles sound truly fantastic. Thriller on SACD (Epic) is one of the musically most important releases on the now dead audiophile format, but to be honest with you - I had pretty much written the stereo release off as a chunk of audio crap. That is until I played it on my system using Krell Evolution electronics (Transparent Cables and Wilson WATT Puppy speakers). "P.Y.T (Pretty Young Thing)" was nothing short of incredible when every other time I spun the disc (mostly on a cheaper, mass-market Sony SACD player) it sounded thin, lifeless and digitally hashed out. On the Krell, the bass was so much more taut that I was dumbfounded.
Others, like HomeTheaterReview.com's Managing Editor Andrew Robinson also heard what I was talking about. "P.Y.T." was no fluke either. On "Human Nature," an album that I have heard hundreds of times including in mastering studio environments, I had never heard the chimes in the background of the main verse so clearly. The level of musical layering was fantastic. Dark Side of the Moon on SACD (Capitol), which is normally much better as a 5.1 demo sounded better in stereo through the Krell Evolution 505. Peter Gabriel's early records (Geffen), which can sound very dull even via stereo SACD, had more life than I have ever heard them in my room under any circumstances than when using the Krell Evolution 505 player as my source. "The Wanton Song" from Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti (Swan Song), which is one of the most aggressive, upbeat tracks from the band's vast catalog of jams, sounded powerful and together. I wouldn't say the Krell Evolution 505 was as liquid sounding as the $20,000 Meridian 800 CD/DVD/DVD-Audio player, but unlike most other players, the Krell had the ability to keep up with the dynamics of John Bonham's bombastic, complex and musically important beats. Most players (like most drummers) simply fall over dead trying to keep up.
- Despite the high price tag, you get a lot for your money with the Krell Evolution 505 Compact Disc - SACD player. It's built like a tank yet has the finesse that you would expect from a player that exclusively played HD disc formats.
- The Krell Evolution 505's look is stunning, especially in silver. I wanted it in my rack badly. My checking account wouldn't comply but that doesn't mean I don't think about the player lustfully. Take one look at the player and you physically want one.
- The ability of the player to make poor recordings sound better than you have ever heard before is why the player is worth its asking price. This is the core reason why audiophile gear is worth the investment.
- At $7,995, you are telling me that Krell can't find a transport that also plays DVD-Audio? I know SACD and DVD-Audio are both basically dead formats at this stage, but I need one player that plays every music disc I have. My former reference Meridian 800 player wouldn't play SACD so I needed to keep a Sony player in my rig. Now the Krell won't play DVD-Audio, which means I need another player for some of those fantastic discs. Its $8,000 and I want it all for that price.
- Krell needs to offer a backlit remote.
The Krell Evolution 505 Compact Disc and SACD player is at the top of the audiophile pantheon of disc players. Compare the unit favorably with the best units from EMM Labs, Audio Research, Mark Levinson, Meridian, dCS and many others. Its build quality is top notch. Its price is, believe it or not, lower than most of the aforementioned players and the musical performance is top notch. You simply cannot go wrong with this player as the front end of a true audiophile system.