We live in a bizarre world where automobile commercials tout
peripheral accessories while omitting mention of engines, transmissions, and
brakes. What’s more important: Stopping distance or voice-activated Bluetooth?
So it’s not surprising that in much of today’s home theater
electronics, sound quality takes a backseat to features and widgets. Backseat?
In some, sound quality doesn’t even go along for the ride.
Krell’s new Foundation 7.1-channel processor-the company’s
least expensive-eschews the widgets and gadgets in favor of sound quality-not
that the Foundation is bereft of useful features.
By making use of technology and circuitry originally
developed for the $30,000 flagship Evolution 707 and scaling back the rugged
chassis, the massive milled-aluminum faceplate, and full feature set, Krell
brings to market a $6,500 pre/pro that is said by the company to sustain its
reputation for superior sound quality.
Features You Get
While the Foundation lacks the Evolution’s visual flash,
it’s still a handsome-looking piece with a smartly arranged front panel that’s
sized to fit on a standard-width and -height shelf or rack. Obviously, it
decodes Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS, DTS-ES Discrete,
Matrix, and DTS-HD Master Audio, in addition to Dolby Pro Logic IIx, DTS Neo:6,
and high-resolution PCM as well as Krell’s proprietary surround modes: Party,
General Admission, Front Row, and On Stage.
It offers nine rear-panel HDMI 1.4a inputs and one on the
front panel, plus two ARC-capable HDMI outputs to transmit sound from your
monitor’s Netflix and other widgets back to the Foundation.
Also included are two composite and three component video
inputs, as well as three each coaxial and optical digital inputs. You’ll also
find RCA single-ended and balanced analog stereo inputs, and both RCA and
balanced outputs for all seven channels plus two subs. All the video inputs are
strictly for switching the Krell does no up conversion on any incoming signal.
Surround Processor at CES 2013
The Foundation can connect via Ethernet cable only (no
Wi-Fi) to the Internet, and only for software updates (a few occurred during
the review period, though you have to regularly look for them since there’s no
onscreen alert). Once connected to your network, you can type the Foundation’s
IP address into an iPad Web browser to access a virtual remote control panel.
It also includes an RS-232 control port for use with home-automation systems.
The included non-backlit remote control is a heavy affair, built from extruded
aluminum with multiple rows of silver buttons.
Krell also includes its proprietary ARES Automatic Room
Equalization System used in conjunction with a supplied microphone for both
initial automatic speaker setup and optional equalization. The EQ function can
be set to full range or limited to selectable lower frequencies. A second audio
zone lets you simultaneously play different audio in two locations.
Features You Don’t Get
As noted above, other than transcoding the two composite and
three component video inputs so they can pass via HDMI, the Foundation does not
do any video processing. It doesn’t scale to 4K, but it does pass video up to
1080p/60 bit for bit. There’s no onscreen menu system or onscreen anything.
Surround Processor at CES 2013
Also, you don’t get height or width channels, an AM/FM
tuner, XM/Sirius, Netflix, Pandora, or any widgets whatsoever. It’s not THX
approved or kosher for Passover, nor does it have a 5.1-channel analog input,
which is a notable omission in a $6,500 pre/pro but will only affect users who
own high-performance, multichannel SACD or Blu-ray players with built-in
high-end DACs that exceed the performance of the Krell’s own circuitry (see
below). The Foundation doesn’t have Bluetooth or AirPlay or USB iPod
connectivity, though here you could add one of the higher-quality Bluetooth
adapters to gain the ability to stream straight from a phone or tablet.