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This review first appeared in the August 2009 issue of hifi & stereo magazine You can also read this review of the Krell S-300i in its original German version. We translated it through a syndication arrangement with our German colleagues. As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of or Krell. - Ed.

Reviewer: Martin Mertens
Sources: Analog - Thorens TD 160 HD (with TP250 arm & Benz Micro MC Gold pickup); digital - Creek CD 43 Mk II, Logitech Transporter
Phono - Lehmann Black Cube SE II; integrated - Jadis Orchestra, Exposure 2010 S, Myryad MXI2080
Speakers: Expolinear T 120, Gaithain ME150
Cables: Low-Level - Vampire CC, high-level - inakustik LS 1002

Review Component Retail: €2.750

Most connect the letters FBI with the American Federal Bureau of Investigation but if you prefer hifi to crime novels, you’ll also recognize Fully Balanced Integrated as the best-known integrated of the American firm Krell. With 300/600wpc into 8/4 ohms, a fighting weight of nearly 50kg and a champion purse of ca. €19.000, it’s probably as exclusive as a job acceptance at the FBI whose stiff entry tests and exams are legendary. In many flicks, the good cops of the FBI have troubles with the bad cops of the CIA whose workings for the Central Intelligence Agency are often far from transparent. Krell recently authored a new integrated but neither called it CIA nor proposed anything sinister. Christened a harmless S- 300i, CIA wouldn’t have been entirely off had it stood for Chinese Integrated Amplifier. Built in the PRC, it explains why one can now afford to own a Krell for less than €3,000. Contrary to the FBI’s massive profile, the CIA – er, S-300i is rather more modest. This is due its low-rider height of 10cm while width and depth extend to ca. 44cm. There’s nothing wall flower about the ‘small’ Krell when you pick up its solid 20kg.

Comfortable - and not black
. Cosmetically, Krell’s S-300i emulates the big FBI with the centrally situated design cue of highly polished pistol-chamber volume control. Electronically actuated in 151 fine and practical steps, advancing volume is accompanied by small clicks, a bit peculiar but otherwise not disturbing. The ‘dynamic’ behavior of said volume control takes getting used to. Turned slowly, it takes about two revolutions to advance from 0 to 20. Give it a peppy twist and accomplish the same with a quarter rotation. To the right of this control shines a sizable blue display to confirm chosen input, attenuation and balance setting. In tandem with this display, the central knob can accomplish further tasks like setting sensitivity for each input to equalize between different sources; and input naming.

Very welcome is the display intensity adjustment which can turn off shortly after commands or remain off entirely. My favored settings were low brightness and timed display. To the left are the input buttons, the standby control and the mute and menu controls, the latter to select various software options. Surround sound too is anticipated with the theatre mode which bypasses the built-in volume control for one input to let a pre/pro take control over the output level of the two main channels.