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Home Electronics: The Theory of Evolution

Brent Butterworth

Designing an audio amplifier can be as frustrating as designing a men’s navy blue blazer; like the blazer, the amp has been refined to the extent that now any attempt to add a creative twist usually produces an embarrassing result. Why, then, would Krell Industries, a company with an unsurpassed reputation for fine audio electronics, completely rethink its designs?

“Technology has finally caught up to our engineering goals,” explains Dan D’Agostino, Krell’s CEO and chief engineer. “The new Evolution line exceeds everything we’ve done before.” Coming from a man known for building the audio industry’s most powerful amplifiers, this is a bold statement. But according to the few audio experts fortunate enough to have heard the Evolution prototypes, D’Agostino’s description is hardly hyperbolic. “The new products have a seamless, juicy, musical sound that we have never been able to achieve before,” he continues.

The breakthrough that enables the Evolution products to achieve such stellar performance concerns bandwidth. Just as greater bandwidth benefits an Internet connection, it also facilitates superior sound quality. The more bandwidth an audio product offers, the higher the frequencies of sound that can pass through it. Most audio amplifiers filter out frequencies above 50 kilohertz or so. According to D’Agostino, the Evolution amplifier’s bandwidth approaches 500 kilohertz, and the preamp’s bandwidth is 2 megahertz.

We found that the greater the bandwidth we can achieve, the more musical the products sound,” says D’Agostino. He credits the Evolution products’ extraordinary bandwidth to new transistor designs and to advances in surface-mount manufacturing that place the components of circuit boards closer together so audio signals need not travel as far.

The new Krell line currently includes the $45,000-per-pair Evolution One monaural power amplifier and the $35,000-per-pair Evolution Two monaural preamplifier. A stereo system would require a pair of each, and each amp and preamp has its own separate power supply. Thus, an Evolution system consists of eight different components—enough to fill an audio rack on its own. “Breaking out the power supplies into separate chassis protects the audio circuitry from the noise produced by the supplies,” D’Agostino explains. “It also allows us to build better power supplies. The result is a much cleaner sound with less background noise.”

By the end of this year, those who embrace the theory of Evolution may need to add a second rack to accommodate the upcoming Evolution Three universal disc player. The Evolution Three plays DVDs, Super Audio CDs, and DVD-Audio discs, and consists of three components: a DVD transport, a digital-to-analog converter, and, of course, a separate power supply.

The Evolution line’s industrial design is as audacious as its engineering. The retro look recalls the props in early science-fiction films, which is a fitting reference considering that Krell takes its name from the technologically advanced race portrayed in the 1956 classic Forbidden Planet.

Krell Industries, 203.799.9954, www.krellonline.com

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