Innovative Circuit Architecture You Do Get
The number-crunching heart is based upon a pair of dual-core
32-bit Cirrus Logic CS497024 DSPs performing 1.8 giga-operations per second.
Digital signals are then routed to 32-bit ESS Sabre DACs. Proprietary Krell
preamp circuitry is discrete current-based Class A, direct coupled with no
op-amps or ICs in the signal path. Analog inputs bypass digital circuitry and are
routed directly to a balanced ladder resistor-type volume control.
Surround Processor connector
What is said to be Krell-developed “intelligent” HDMI
switching uses circuit- and software-based solutions to produce near
instantaneous switching among the ten HDMI inputs, all of which are always
active. The system stores in its non-volatile memory useful information such as
individual source resolution and audio formatting. Although I never had more
than two or three HDMI sources connected simultaneously, it worked as promised.
Buy a Krell, and your dealer will most likely do the setup,
but if you’re used to some of the more elegant setup systems found on far less
expensive pre/pros, you’ll find the Foundation’s less so, especially since
there’s no onscreen menu system.
Instead, you’ll be monitoring everything on the front
panel’s LCD screen, which has all of the visual excitement of a 1980s era
computer running MS-DOS. It’s less than attractive and less than intuitive. The
incomplete instructions don’t help, nor does the heavy milled aluminum remote
control populated with rows of identically sized, tiny buttons. If your idea of
fun is messing with preamp/processor setup parameters (and I know you’re out
there), you’ve come to the wrong place.
The Foundation’s iPad remote is intended to also assist with
setup and is said by Krell to be the reason the company skipped the onscreen
display. When you use it, the Foundation’s front-panel readout is blacked out,
and I found that some of the virtual buttons didn’t work and were fringed in
blue, though Krell noted as we went to press (after I no longer had my sample)
that the app is now working perfectly.
Navigating through the menu system can be frustrating. After
I’d run the ARES program’s EQ function and not liked the attenuated bass, the
only way I could remove the settings and return to audio ground zero was to
restore all factory settings and that’s after I’d named the inputs and
configured inputs, outputs, and trigger functions.
Perhaps there was an alternative method that wouldn’t have
required complete setting erasure, but I couldn’t figure it out, nor did I see
it in the sketchy instructions.
Breathtaking Sonic Performance That You Do Get
Switching to the Foundation from my moderately priced but
sonically accomplished Marantz AV7005 and especially from the previously
reviewed Integra DHC-60.5 was transformational. It was as if the entire system
had been changed, including the Sonics By Joachim Gerhard speakers.
With the Foundation in place, you could stare down all five
speakers (and the subwoofer) and not hear sound emanating from any of them.
That is a high-performance audio quality rarely heard in commercial home
theater, particularly from the usually easy-to-identify center-channel speaker.
When watching local news becomes enticing because the
anchor’s voice sounds so lifelike and transparent, you know something special
is happening. What does that mean? Instead of metallic and/or boxy, muffled
sound smeared against the speaker, a properly sized, three-dimensional,
delicate, and transparent vocal bubble hovers in the same physical space
occupied by the speaker.
The sonic attack is sharp and precise but not edgy or mechanical.
That’s followed by a lifelike vocal sustain and an equally believable decay.
Sibilants sound natural as they do in real life, though all of this is somewhat
colored by what microphones-even the best ones-do to the human voice. But
because it is timbrally coherent and the various events are timed perfectly,
the result is a believable illusion, easy on the ears and overwhelmingly
intelligible even at ultra-low sound levels.