Krell S-300i Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

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The Downside
The volume knob looks like the one on the Krell Evolution 707 $30,000 AV preamp, but it doesn't feel like it. It feels a bit light and plasticky. I guess compromises have to be made somewhere but if you use the unit without the remote - the volume control is a bit chintzy. The rest of the unit looks fantastic and the build quality is very solid.

Speaking of the remote, it's a total audiophile brick. It's big. It's not backlit. It's hard to use and it weighs a ton. Literally, a $299 Harmony Remote would be better and I could see many using just that for a Krell S-300i based system. In my case, the entry level Crestron worked great via RS232, especially considering the fact that the amp was installed in another room.

The integrated amp is a balanced design but it doesn't offer balanced outputs, which limits you using the Krell S-300i as a preamp as your system grows. The unit does have unbalanced outputs; thus you can use it as a preamp but it's not a balanced preamp per se. Nitpicking, I know.

Heat is somewhat of an issue but it's easily solved by installing the unit with enough room to breathe. Like a fool, I didn't do this at the start and ran into issues. I should have known better. As mentioned earlier and with most all Krell products - weight is a consideration. The S-300i doesn't weigh in like a 402e or the Krell FBI but it's also not an Onkyo receiver. This is a heavyweight fighter so prepare to give it some room.

Conclusion
With Andrew Robinson's review of the stunning Krell 402e stereo power amp, we got some reader feedback complaining on how we could call an $18,000 amp a value. Compared to $30,000 and $50,000 amps - the Krell sounds better, looks better and uses less power, but we also hear what the readers are saying as it's a Recession and not everyone has a cool $20,000 to plunk down on an amp to meet their audiophile needs. That includes me. That's why I popped for $2,500 for the Krell S-300i amp. You get the most audiophile bang for your buck without going the digital amp route (which I seriously considered) while delivering audiophile power with Krell style.

Sonically, the highs on Krell amps have improved vastly over the years. In terms of bass - it's hard to do better than Krell even with their entry level integrated amp. As with the music examples above and when using a media server like the AppleTV/Benchmark combo - the Krell S-300i reeks of audio relevance while dripping in audiophile credibility. In a world where I can get gear for free or on loan - I wrote a check for the Krell S-300i. It's that good. It's an integrated amp that has changed the way I enjoy music by getting me out of the dedicated theater room and into the main part of my house. Additionally, like the NAD receiver of my youth - the Krell S-300i has inspired me to buy more audiophile gear, including the Benchmark DAC and a pending investment in a 65-inch plasma to replace my 50 inch model. I couldn't ask more from a $2,500 integrated amp or be happier with my investment.


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HTR Product Rating for Krell S-300i Integrated Amplifier

Criteria Rating

Performance

4

Value

5

Overall

4.5

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