Krell Home Theater Standard 7.1 surround processor Page 3
We all hope for even better sound from digital now that we have SACD and DVD-Audio. But there's still not a wide-enough selection of program material in either format, and we're all still groping around a bit in the multichannel music soundstage.
Nevertheless, I popped a few DVD-A recordings into the Kenwood DVD player to test the Krell's bypass quality. It performed extremely well, with a single caveat: the above-mentioned lack of a lowpass filter on its subwoofer output in this mode. If you don't roll off the sub's top-end response by using the lowpass filter in the sub itself (which may be a little inconvenient, because you probably won't be using the sub's filter for film playback), inherently clean, open-sounding recordings—like Paul Simon's You're the One (Warner Bros. 47844-9) and the soundtrack from AI: Artificial Intelligence (Warner Sunset/Warner Bros. 48096-9)—can sound a little muddy. Good organ recordings, however, like Ton Koopman's Organ Spectacular: Famous Organ Works by Bach (Teldec 8573-82041-9), were less affected by this (assuming the sub is positioned so that localization is not an issue), since they tend to sound warm and rich in the first place. In any case, if you're using full-range speakers in all channels, or an outboard bass-management box such as the Outlaw ICBM, this will not be a concern.
The music surround modes could be fun, but to get a better handle on what the Krell would do music-wise with familiar program material, I listened to it primarily with some of my trusty 2-channel reference CDs in stereo mode. For starters, the Krell easily sorted out the differences among CD/DVD transports used from their digital outputs, the Proceed PMDT easily bettering the much less expensive Kenwood DV-5700 and an older Pioneer CLD-99 laserdisc/CD player. It also revealed differences among digital cables with little difficulty. I know, I know—many audiophiles are highly skeptical when they read reports of such differences. I can only say that I heard them through the Krell, which speaks highly of the HTS 7.1's powers of resolution. (Or, if you're in the show-me camp, it might make your head spin. Lie down for a few minutes and it will pass.)
In any event, the HTS 7.1 in 2-channel stereo mode left little to be desired. Imaging was superb, even with a 40-inch Toshiba RPTV in the center of the soundstage (though a couple of feet behind the plane of the speakers). Coloration was extremely low, and good recordings had just the right balance of detail and warmth. Overly bright recordings weren't made to sound sweet and smoothed-over, but they didn't bite back, either. Closely miked voices and instruments were up-front, but there was plenty of depth when called for. Bass was strong, deep, and punchy. In short, I couldn't find much of anything to complain about.
Components produced in relatively low quantities, like the Krell HTS 7.1 and products from other high-end manufacturers, are inherently expensive. But for your money, you get not only top performance, but superb build quality and the services of a company small enough to provide the kind of customer support that's hard to find these days. Yes, you can get excellent sound for less, but that last 10% of performance is always expensive. If the HTS 7.1 can't quite fit into your budget, you might want to look into Krell's new Showcase processor. We haven't tested it, but at half the price of the HTS 7.1, it's certainly worth a close listen. If the Krell Home Theater Standard 7.1 is within your reach, however, you won't be disappointed.