Below Book. Krell KPE MC Reference phono preamp and power supply. This KPE and power supply was $4000 in 2010. I purchased it in 2010 from the original owner, I'm the second owner. It has been flawless for the past six years. I have all original packaging, the unit is in very good condition, a couple of scuffs are on top of the KPE itself (not very noticeable, see pictures), I rate the unit 9/10 sound quality, and 8/10 in physical condition. This phono stage sounds phenomenal. I have over a decade of 100% positive feedback, I ship the same day payment is received, and I’m including PayPal/AudioGon fees, shipping, insurance, everything to your door. Please note, the Krell KPE MC phono reference is for moving coil cartridges ONLY.
Also, the 16th, last photo is a picture of my Purist Audio Design, 25th Anniversary Krell KPE silver DC cable. This cable pushes this KPE+power supply into super phono territory. This cable is available for an additional $500. It's mind blowing, as all Purist cables are. The DC cable improves transparency, bass, resolution, detail, speed, separation, soundstage, and basically everything. :-)
The KPE Reference is available in a standalone chassis for $3000. Everyone will also need the standalone's external power supply for $1000—the Reference is designed for use with MCs only. The KPE is pure Krell: The hybrid composite amplifier is fully buffered from the RIAA network, in order to present a constant impedance to the network; the amplification section is internally shielded with mu-metal to cancel RF and 60Hz noise; biasing is class-A; all components are discrete; all circuitry is direct-coupled; and all circuitry is complementary as well.
Rocker switches mounted to the board control gain and cartridge loading. Voltage gain is adjustable in 6dB increments from 58dB to 76dB, and there are eight loading settings: 10, 25, 47, 100, 249, 475, 825, and 1000 ohms. These settings are clearly marked, and the switches can be easily engaged with a thumbnail or jeweler's screwdriver.
Dream is the theater
No matter the gain setting, the KPE Reference is preternaturally quiet. The Krell is the quietest MC phono stage I've ever (not) heard—the background was black, dead silence, and the music was rendered with (apologies to Gene Pope) dynamic fidelity.
Stereophile's recent LP release, Sonata (STPH008-1), with its huge dynamic swings, can present as great a challenge to a phono section as it does to a tracking stylus—and for the same reasons. For much of Liszt's B-Minor Sonata, the level is subdued; throughout those passages, the KPE Reference constructed a believably physical piano and placed it believably in the acoustic of Albuquerque's United Methodist Church. However, there are some powerful crescendos that pianist Silverman plays at 100dB and more—and this is where the Krell came into its own. It was flat-out unflappable, maintaining the believability of that Steinway D no matter how grandly Silverman played. Many phono stages run into dynamic limitations in situations like this. Not the Krell.
And detail? If it's there, the KPE will sort it out. Salterio (M•A Recordings M025-AVLP), by Begoña Olavide, contains oodles of detail: psalteries, viheulas, and various drums and cymbals are all employed—sometimes together (footnote 1). Add to that the richly reverberant acoustic, and you have one whompin' mess of discrete sounds to sort out. The KPE Reference kept the scale of each sound intact, while connecting them one to the other with crystalline purity—all while preserving the deliciously long decay of Santa Espina's stone chapel. The contrast between the delicate psalteries and the boom of the huge tar was physically thrilling.
Many people love the purity of the upper frequencies as rendered by MC cartridges, but feel that MCs often lack body at the lower extremes. The Krell has shown me that what those folks are hearing may not have that much to do with the cartridges—they're probably hearing the limitations of their RIAA sections. If you're a bass head, then the KPE Reference will satisfy your most physical cravings. This doesn't mean that the Krell is bass-heavy—just that it can put it out there like you've never heard it before.
This phono section might just convince you that you've never really heard accurate vocal reproduction before. Taken by this aspect of the KPE's performance, I pulled out James Taylor's Sweet Baby James (Warner Bros. 1843) one late night and felt as if, in the 25 years I've been hearing the title song, I'd never heard it sung by a living, breathing, present Taylor before that instant. I had to play it again before I could believe it. In fact, even now I find it hard to credit. Excuse me a minute....No, just checked again—I was right the first time. Remarkable. Sounds pretty near perfect, don't it? Well, maybe it is—damn close, anyway. If I had to cavil—and I guess that's in my job description—I'd say that the KPE Reference falls just on the dryish side of harmonic warmth. This could merely be the flip side of the full-bodied bass issue. The lack of warmth or sweetness could be a lack of coloration—a sign of the KPE's fidelity. Even if it's not, it's a very, very minor flaw—one I could live with contentedly, given the overall performance of the KPE Reference.
The KPE Reference is a steal. You get Class A performance for a bargain price: even at $3000 you'd have an awfully hard time finding the Krell's equal—and forget about finding anything better. It's easy to configure for practically any moving-coil cartridge available; it's also quiet as a tomb, and dynamic as a thunderclap. Add to that Krell's superlative build quality and bulletproof construction, and you have a contender for the State of the Art. And when was the last time that was a bargain?—Wes Phillips
The phono input impedance measured just under 126 ohms and the unit was noninverting from the phono inputs to it’s outputs. Voltage gain measured 66.8dB at 1kHz. The S/N readings were 62.5dB (unweighted, 22Hz–22kHz), 55dB (unweighted, 10Hz–500kHz), and 73.9dB (A-weighted), these all excellent. Reducing the voltage gain to the 58dB gain setting gave improved S/N Ratios of 76dB (22Hz–22kHz), 65dB (10Hz–500kHz), and 86.5dB (A-weighted).
The RIAA error (fig.1) is within ±0.3dB from 20Hz to 20kHz; the downward tilt of the response will probably be audible as a subtly warm sound on phono, everything else being equal. Of course, it never is, and since many moving-coil cartridges show an upward tilt at the top end, the KPE's small RIAA deviation will probably be more than overridden by the response of the cartridge.
The Krell KPE's crosstalk is rather unusual in that the usual increase in crosstalk at higher frequencies is minimal in one channel and decreasing, instead, in the other. Channel separation is still excellent, however. As is our usual practice for this measurement, I kept the input levels high here to override the effects of noise. The same is true of the THD+noise vs frequency plot shown in fig.3. The increase in distortion in the phono curve at high frequencies is likely due to this relatively high input level (2.9mV at 1kHz in this case—the typical moving-coil output is closer to 0.5mV at 1kHz).
Finally, the Krell's phono overload margin (defined as 1% THD+noise) of the was not particularly high: 3.16mV at 1kHz (16dB), 14.4mV at 20kHz (9.2dB), and 0.35mV at 20Hz (16.9dB). The input signal used for the latter measurements was unequalized and the variation with overload margin with frequency is due to the characteristics of the RIAA curve. Since we were dealing with a very high overall voltage gain, I rechecked these measurements using the 58dB gain setting (measured gain here was 55.3dB at 1kHz). In this configuration, I measured the 1% THD+noise point for the phono stage at 12.1mV at 1kHz (27.7dB), 14.3mV at 20kHz (9.1dB), and 1.345 mV at 20Hz (28.6dB).—Thomas J. Norton
Reference KPE MC FREQUENCY RESPONSE
20 Hz–20 kHz +/-0.1 dB
SIGNAL TO NOISE RATIO
“A” WEIGHTED w/ 0.5 mv input
58-76 dB in 6 dB increments
Adjustable from 10 Ohms to 1 K Ohms
7.1w x 2.4h x 12d in. 18w x 6.1h x 30.5d cm
8.3w x 2.5h x 6.5d in. 21.1w x 6.4h x 16.5d cm
WITHOUT POWER SUPPLY
Shipped 12 lb., 5.5 kg