There are few things in the AV market right now that excite me quite so much as the melding of high-end two-channel audio with the latest in video connectivity. Let's face it: those of us who build wall of separation between our two-channel and AV rigs are dinosaurs at this point (though, in my defense, I mostly do so more out of habit, lifestyle, and the necessities of testing than anything else).
That's why a product like Krell's K-300i Integrated Stereo Amplifier makes my bits tingle. The K-300i undoubtedly follows from a tradition of two-channel excellence on Krell's part. The unit employs the company's proprietary iBias technology to deliver the sonic benefits of Class A operation without doubling as a space heater, and without the crossover distortion typical of Class AB designs. All in all, the K-300i delivers 150 watts RMS per channel into 8? and 300 watts RMS per channel into 4?.�
The K-300i also boasts a respectable number of stereo inputs, including a pair of balanced XLR ins and a trio of single-ended stereo RCA inputs. The optional Digital Module, which tacks $1,000 onto the $7,000 price of the base analog integrated amp, adds a Toslink optical input (with support for PCM up to 96/24), a coaxial digital input (192/24), and a pair of HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 inputs (and one output) with support for HDR10, Dolby Vision, Audio Return Channel, and 4K video up to 60Hz, as well as PCM up to 192/24 and DSD up to double-rate. The Digital Module also adds two USB inputs (one Type A and one Type B) and support for USB and network streaming of MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, FLAC, and ALAC up to 192kHz, as well as Bluetooth with aptX, with support for A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, and HSP profiles.
In addition, the Digital Module unlocks connectivity via the mconnect Control app for iOS and Android, which adds support for vTuner Internet radio, Tidal, Deezer, and QoBuz. The K-300i with Digital Module is also a Spotify Connect device, is Roon Ready, and decodes MQA.�
Aesthetically speaking, the K-300i shares a lot of DNA with Krell's Illusion II Preamplifier, save for the missing vertical cove in the front of its semi-cylindrical bulge, and the fact that its fa�ade is monochromatic, either silver or black, not the two-tone design that dominates the rest of Krell's lineup. With dimensions of 4.12 by 17.25 by 18 inches (hwd) and a weight of 52 pounds, the chassis is beefier than it looks at first glance, mostly a result of its gargantuan power supply and husky internal heat sinks.�
Being the binding-post fetishist that I am, the first thing I noticed about the K-300i upon unboxing it and prepping for installation in my two-channel room were its gorgeous, meaty speaker connections, which are designed to accommodate spades (5/16-inch), bare wire, or banana plugs, the latter being my preferred connector. The back panel also includes an RS-232 port, an RJ45 Ethernet port (10/100), a RC5 3.5mm input for 5-volt IR from advanced control systems, and 3.5mm 12-volt trigger input and output.
Setup in my stereo system proved to be easy and straightforward. In my two-channel audio room, I primarily rely on my Maingear Vybe media and gaming PC as a source, with a USB connection. No driver installation was required on Windows 10, and I was up and running within minutes. Speakers in this system were a pair of GoldenEar Triton One towers connected to the integrated amp via a pair of ten-foot ELAC Sensible Speaker Cables.
Moving the K-300i into my bedroom AV system proved to be a little less plug-and-play. While the integrated amp does provide stereo preamp outputs, which can be used to drive a subwoofer, it offers no internal crossover for sub/sat situations. And my go-to subs for this system, a pair of RSL's Speedwoofer 10S, don't feature speaker-level outputs. So, I swapped in a GoldenEar ForceField 3 sub and a pair of RSL's CG25 LCRs. I connected the K-300's HDMI output to my old Samsung JS9000 UHD TV, ran my Oppo UDP-205 into one of its HDMI inputs, and a Roku Streaming Stick+ to the other.
In addition to the issues detailed above related to the operation of the K-300i in a 2.1 system, other potential aggrievances start to raise their heads when employing the integrated amp in an AV system. We'll touch on these in more depth in the Downsides section, but suffice to say here that the system's remote isn't well-laid out, and navigating its setup menus is less than intuitive. Another potential gripe is that the K-300i comes with CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) turned on, and indeed, CEC is required for Audio Return Channel functionality, but the amp doesn't actually used CEC for any control functionality. If you're connecting the unit to a display via HDMI and you're not using ARC, you should probably turn CEC off to avoid any errant input changes.
As mentioned above, though, the unit does support RS-232, IP, and IR control from advanced control systems and Krell provides a list of IP and serial command codes on its website. Unfortunately, I could not locate any pre-written drivers for Control4 systems, but Krell could conceivably develop those pretty easily to enhance the K-300i's appeal for dealers.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...