The first movie I watched was the 3D edition of Life of Pi.
It sounded as it looked: truly three-dimensional and not just due to the
surround mix. Each channel’s delicate 3D sonic bubble, made up of individual 3D
sonic elements, contributed to the floating sonic sensation. With all of these
elements coherently merged in a single sonic bubble, the result was a giant,
floating, shimmering, non-mechanical ether in the room approached but once
before in my room by the even more minimalist Cary Audio 11a. The bubble’s
borders extended well beyond all of the speakers’ physical boundaries,
producing an enormous yet well-defined space, in which were placed solid yet
The Foundation lifted to exalted, billowy sonic heights
Mychael Danna’s ethnically complex musical score filled with delicate, exotic
Eastern percussive and wind accents as well as sweeping strings and familiar
Franco-accordions. The Foundation maintained the clarity, dimensionality, and
ease of even the most timbrally complex, dynamically challenging passages.
At one point, I chose to lie down on the couch. Despite the
close proximity now to the left surround speaker, the room-filling 3D bubble
maintained its integrity. I did not hear the left surround dominate, or in
fact, the left surround at all. Instead, so three-dimensionally coherent and
stable was the room bubble that the only change was a slight perspective shift.
The 192-kilohertz/24-bit Blu-ray Discs in Neil Young’s
Archives Volume 1box set reinforced the Foundation’s high-performance audio
bona fides. On “Heart of Gold,” Kenny Buttrey’s kick drum approached the size,
weight, and textural solidity I get on my big two-channel high-end rig
downstairs. Of equal importance, the kick drum didn’t intrude into the physical
or timbral space reserved for other instruments. Tim Drummond’s bass never
merged with the kick drum to produce incorrect, a musical “mega-bass.” Young’s
harmonica had an effervescent reediness and his voice an airy believability.
You can easily and separately hear Linda Ronstadt’s and James Taylor’s
On “Old Man,” the acoustic guitar’s metal strings ring, the
snare on the left channel has that special live shimmer, and the echoey
envelope surrounding the pedal steel floats in space. Young’s voice hovers
Going back to my reference Marantz AV7005, good as it is for
the money, produced a big let-down. Everything tamps downs spatially,
harmonically, and texturally, airy reality quelled. What accounts for the
Foundation’s sonic magic?
Technically, I cannot tell you, but I’m sure any person
reading this could easily distinguish between the two renderings of these
tracks or more critically, not fail to be swept away and mesmerized by the
Foundation’s sonically transportive qualities. Even the cable difference
deniers (often also pre/pro sonic difference deniers) could easily distinguish
between the Foundation and all (not most) of the less expensive mainstream
If a relatively small company like Krell can produce these
seductive, startlingly superior sonic riches, surely the big companies with
their technological savvy and greater financial resources can too. For now,
though, much to Krell’s relief, they seem to not be interested, perhaps
believing that consumers aren’t either.
Krell Foundation Surround
Yes, the Foundation’s user interface is clunky, and it
doesn’t do much other than pass video and decode surround sound. You won’t get
Pandora, Spotify, THX, and all of the other costly, licensed add-ons.
Do you want swell gadgets or melt-in-your-ears sonics?
During my listen to the Mobile Fidelity SACD version of Billy Joel’s “Say
Goodbye to Hollywood” on my high-end two-channel system downstairs, then
brought it up to listen on the Krell. I got upstairs much of what I got
downstairs. Unlike every other “commercial” name-brand preamp/processor that’s
passed through here, the Krell Foundation made me want to sit and listen. And
that’s what it’s all about.
Auto Setup/Room EQ: Krell ARES
Video Processing: None (trans-codes composite and component
video sources to HDMI)
Dimensions: 17.06 x 3.47 x 16.03in
Video Inputs: HDMI 1.4a (10), component video (3), composite
Audio Inputs: Coaxial digital (3), optical digital (3), stereo
analog balanced XLR (1) stereo analog single-ended RCA (4)
Additional: USB (Mini for firmware updates, 1), Ethernet (1),
IR remote (1), 12-volt trigger (1)
Video Outputs: HDMI 1.4a (2 w/ ARC)
Audio Outputs: 7.2-channel balanced XLR (1), 7.2-channel
single-ended RCA (1) Zone 2 stereo (1)
Additional: RS-232 (1), RC-5 (1), 12-volt trigger (4)
Krell’s aptly named, sonically sophisticated Foundation
counters a foolish industry trend toward sacrificing sound quality for
useless and/or redundant features.
Audio Performance: 5/5
Video Performance: 5/5