Krell K-300i Integrated Amp/DAC

hfnoutstandingWe're a long way from the old idea of hairshirt hi-fi here: the latest heavyweight integrated amp from Krell's Connecticut factory comes fully-loaded – and then some!

You need to do some serious rethinking on first encountering the Krell K-300i. If you're expecting a simple device all about massive power and minimalism, you're going to be disappointed, but for those looking for an amp able to handle all the needs of the modern music listener, this one could just be bang on the money.

Of course, being a Krell, that's bang on quite a bit of money, at least by the standards of the European competition. Available in a silver or black finish, the K-300i comes in at £7500, with the optional digital/streaming module that was fitted to the review sample bringing the price up to the £8800 mark.

Mind you, writing this review just after returning from Munich's High End show, where almost everything I listened to seemed to have one more zero on the price than I'd been expecting, that tag seems anything but outrageous. In a world where the high-end industry seems firmly on a course of 'premiumisation', as I heard it described, the pricing of the K-300i almost seems modest.

States Of The Art
That's particularly the case when you consider what you get for your cash. This is the most affordable route into Krell ownership, and the size of the amp is well suited to European tastes, being a standard (ish) 43.8cm wide and just 10.4cm tall. What's more, while weighty enough at around 20kg, it's hardly a monster. For all that it does look impressive, especially in the black finish of the review sample – never been too sure of the silver – and with its use of thick metal and substantial construction. And, of course, the K-300i is still made in the USA…


As standard the amplifier comes with five analogue inputs – three on stereo RCAs and two on balanced XLRs, with the option of 'home theater' bypass on one input to allow it to be combined with a surround receiver or processor. A single set of speaker outputs, on high-quality combination terminals, is backed up with RCA preamp outs, and that's about as complex as the amp gets, though there is an Ethernet port as standard, alongside RS232, infrared remote in and 12V trigger sockets, to allow it to be controlled in 'custom installation' systems. A matching, metal-clad system remote handset is also supplied with the amplifier.

It's possible to rename inputs to suit your requirements, and trims are also available to enable levels to be equalised across all sources. One can also change the IP address of the amplifier when its Ethernet port is being used for control, error reporting, and also for downloading and installing firmware updates.

High-End Hub
However, things get much more interesting if you specify the optional digital module, which turns the K-300i into a complete digital/analogue hub. Based around an ESS Sabre Pro DAC it gains conventional S/PDIF optical and coaxial inputs, a USB-B port for computer connection, and a front panel USB-A socket to play music from memory devices. There's also a trio of HDMI sockets – two in and one out – that take sound from video sources using the Audio Return Channel part of the HDMI specification, while passing through 4K HDR video to a suitable monitor.

While becoming slightly more common on stereo amplifiers these days, such a provision is still a comparative rarity in this sector, even though it's standard on AV receivers. It's a welcome addition here, and a sign of the real-world thinking behind this amp. While some may still be lucky enough to have their music system in a separate 'sound only' room, many will find their hi-fi sharing space with the TV, and this provision allows very high quality sound to be enjoyed from TV via the main system speakers.

The same goes for the streaming capability of the K-300i when fitted with the digital module. Using the dedicated Krell Connect app running on an Android or iOS phone or tablet, or the generic mConnect Control app, it turns into a network audio renderer able to play AAC, ALAC, AIFF, FLAC, WAV and WMA files up to 192kHz/24-bit, as well as DSD up to DSD128, from UPnP-enabled computers and NAS units. It'll also play online services including Spotify, vTuner Internet radio, Tidal (with MQA decoding for Tidal Masters), Deezer, and Qobuz.

The K-300i is also Roon-ready, so it can be played to as an endpoint by a Roon core, and has Bluetooth with aptX for wireless music streaming.

Krell Industries LLC
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
0208 971 3909