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Putting Good Sound First Krell Foundation Surround Processor (Part 2)

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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.

Description: Krell Foundation Surround Processor connector

Krell Foundation 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.

Clunky Setup

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.

Description: Krell Foundation AV preamp

Krell Foundation AV preamp

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.

Description: Krell Foundation owners thread

Krell Foundation owners thread

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.

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