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Krell FPB200 Amplifier

Virtually every type of amplifier design has been around for a long time. Even the latest thing, SETs have been around for over sixty years. Solid state is really the new kid on the block, so to speak. A person has to wonder, after all these years how much better can they still get?
I have long been a fan of Solid State designs, and have gone through many variations on the same theme. The first separates I bought were a JVC M3030 dual mono amp and an APT Holman pre-amp. They certainly sounded better than my Harmon Kardon receiver. Since buying the JVC I have also owned a Forte Model 5 and more recently an Aragon 8008 st.
Looking for a new amp after owning the Aragon was much harder than buying before. The Aragon is a very good amp and replacing it with something better is both difficult and expensive.
I have long been a fan of Krell equipment, and have owned two of their pre-amps over the last several years. Buying an amp from them is a more expensive proposition. Krell amps are not cheap and the reasons are obvious. There is a lot of work and material that goes into them. My brother-in-law Greg always called me to help him move his latest Krell purchase. Sometimes just going from the trunk of the car to the music room was quite an ordeal. Those things are heavy!!!
After much looking and penny pinching I was able to buy a FPB 200 amp. This is the smallest of the FPB line. FPB stands for Full Power Balanced. The amp contains many new features along with some older features, which only Krell employs. To over simplify the point an FPB amp operates in the current mode part of the gain stage to simplify the signal path. The Sustained Plateau Bias II serves to allow the class A amplifier to run cooler than class A amps typically can. The FPB 200 is a 200 wpc amp with wattage doubling each time the impedance of the speakers halved. This is the same rating as the Aragon, but in this case the numbers meant little. Another nice feature is the 5 year transferable warranty.
The look of the amp is a continuation of the evolution from KSA to KSA S series. Features are not quite as macho looking. There is a little rounding to some of the trim. They are still unmistakably Krell.
The front of the amp has a pyramid of three blue lights. When all three are on the amp is ready to be used. The power/standby function works from the remote of my KRC 2. This was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
The main power switch is located on the back of the amp. There are inputs for single-ended and balanced cables and the best binding posts for speaker cable I have ever seen. Using them is a breeze compared to other amps I have owned or used. I was unhappy with the IEC plug required though. The 15 A IEC on the DIY PC I have did not work with the layout on the back of the Krell. Otherwise everything was great. The location of all the plugs and sockets made using them very simple.
Wouldn’t you know it, the day I got the amp I was sick, feeling weak, and Greg was still at work. I hauled the amp down stairs myself but then I still had to get it out of the box. It turned out to be easier than I expected. Krell has a new packing system with handles that makes removing the amp much easier. I was impressed before I ever plugged the amp into the wall.
I know you’re supposed to break things in before listening, but I couldn’t resist. I had to do a little listening before starting the break-in process.
I started with the Bob James CD “Grand Piano Canyon.” It has been a favorite for many years now so I know how it sounds. The sound with the FPB 200 was polite and reserved, very laid back; possibly even muted. The height of the soundstage was very short. But everything was not bad. Even with the things I mentioned the Piano had a very “real” timbre to it. I could hear both hands on the keyboard. The soundstage from front to back was very deep, but the width was only to the edge of the speakers. After ten minutes the soundstage was blooming, it offered more height than it had only minutes earlier.
Next I listened to Blackmore’s Night, mostly acoustic guitars and female vocals, for those who don’t know. The vocals were reserved but the soundstage on this recording was much deeper. Lower midrange and bass were much better than I had with the Aragon. The sound was faster with greater impact, but the upper treble was obviously rolled off.
I noticed the volume was set at a higher level than I normally used, but the music did not seem as loud.
Continued listening revealed better separation of multiple voices, and a more natural decay of instrument sounds. Several times while listening I had the feeling that I should pull the speakers away from the back wall so the music could get into the room. I had the impression that music was coming from farther back than the boundaries of the listening room.
To give the amp a good workout I listened to a UHQR copy of Alan Parson’s “I Robot.” There are some passages, which might reveal shortcomings in a lesser amp. The Krell showed no shortage of reserve power. On this recording I observed lots of definition and separation between instruments. Sound was audible outside the boundaries of the speakers. This is one of the reasons I turn to this recording. It has by far the widest soundstage of any recording I own. There seemed to be plenty of sound with lower sound pressure levels. The Krell does not seem to be working as hard as the Aragon to produce the same music.
For the next twenty hours I ran the Purist Burn-in CD constantly. My wife hates this part!
Day 2 I began the session with Keith Green’s “No Compromise.” The midrange was much fuller and smoother. The vocal presence had improved overnight. The wimpy treble was not as rolled off as yesterday, and the bass was tighter. Again I noticed the separation of voices. Songs which had sounded like there was only one singer, or background singer now had additional voices. Sibilants were not as “spitty.” On track with just voice and acoustic guitar I could see where the guitar was and where the singers mouth was.
Day 3 After another twenty-four hours of the Purist CD running I listened to Babbie Mason’s “Timeless” CD. Vocals were less recessed then previously. Vocals had not sounded recessed the day before, but when listening again the sound was more “there.” The front-to-back soundstage contained more inner detail.
The treble was even smoother than before. Viola, violin, and bass were so lush I don’t know how to describe it. The horns were right up front. Not buried in the soundstage. Snapping fingers did not sound like someone breaking a pretzel.
The bass had always, even out of the box been full, but it is much tighter and controlled. I continued to hear things I have not heard before. I know that is a cliché, but there is a reason people use it.
Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was an eye, or should I say ear opener! The ringing of the church bell on “Funeral for a Friend seemed to go on forever. The bass of the organ rumbled the concrete floors of the listening room. I have listened to this recording innumerable times and the soundstage was bigger and fuller than I have heard before. I have read the lyrics before so I know what Elton is singing, but this time I could actually understand him!
By way of comparison the Aragon sounded thin and constrained.
By day four and five the system sounded like another layer of grunge had been removed. The grain and muddiness I had never noticed before was gone. Sound came out of nowhere with a startling suddenness rather than easing out through a sheet of sound. Sound seemed to begin in many places within the soundstage rather than everything coming off of the same plane. Vocal inflections were more obvious. The plucking of an acoustic bass resonated like a real instrument.
By day eleven the differences between bad recordings and good ones was much more discernable. Beautiful music floated effortlessly into the room. Choirs had many distinct voices rather than the blended single voice I heard before. I can hear sound filling the body of guitars and basses.
I think I understand what people were talking about when they used the phrase “liquid midrange.” There is such purity and cohesiveness that I can’t think of any other way to describe it.
As you can see, I have listened to a huge range of musical styles. Some music I used to test with that was not mentioned is Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana,” and Tchaikovsky’s 6th symphony. Comments about the sound are in the review, but they were not mentioned specifically.
After several weeks of listening I have concluded that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the Solid State category. Krell proved it by being better than the other comparable amps.
The amp did not disappoint me at any point. Everything I threw at it was handled with style and authority. Is this the perfect amp. No, there is no perfect amp. It is a very good amp that costs a lot of money, $6000, are it worth it? It is to me. The buyer gets a lot of amplifier for their money.
If you are looking for a new amplifier and can fit this into your budget, whether new or used you owe it to yourself to audition the Krell FPB 200!

Associated gear
Benz Micro Glider Cartridge
Sota Star Sapphire sIII Turntable
Rega RB-900 Tonearm
Sony SC-D777es CD Player
Krell KRC-2 Preamplifier
Krell FPB-200 Amplifier
Sony SS-M7aes Speaker
Purist Proteus Interconnect
Cardas Neutral Reference Interconnect
Purist Colossus Interconnect
Cardas Golden C Interconnect
Tara Labs Pandora S Interconnect
Monster Cable M 2.4 Speaker cable
Home made power cords Power cord
Tice Audio powerblock 2 AC filter

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Nate 01-21-03

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