Krell 20I CD Players

4.25/5 (8 Reviews) MSRP : $9000.00

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Reviews 1 - 5 (8 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by ecclezia a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: August 18, 2004

Bottom Line:   
This 20i is the first "mega-buck" player I have purchased, made possible only by a friendly dealer that had this unit for sale second-hand. My previous digital source was a Jadis JD3, later "upgraded" by the addition of the (much-revered and equally much-maligned) Perpetual Technologies P-1A and P-3A processors.

I have to first admit that my purchasing decisions are somewhat influenced by build quality and aesthetics, more so when the outlay is substantial (I think this is justified, given that most of us don't listen to music wearing anoraks in dark basements). As far as these qaulities are concerned, the Krell is beyond reproach - it is built like the proverbial tank, seems to weigh as much as one and to me at least, it looks the part of a deadly serious, take-no-prisoners digital player. The controls are tactile and pleasant to use, apart from the electrically-operated CD well cover, which emits a rather industrial whirring noise in operation. I am also impressed with the attention paid to the suspension of the transport, including what appear to be spring-loaded rubber feet which allow a small amount of vertical travel if you press down on the unit with a little force. All told, I think the Krell's build quality fully justifies its high-end reputation and original selling price of USD9,000.

I have not heard all that many "megabuck" CD players in my time, certainly not for extended periods anyway. Fleeting demos of the Levinson transport/DAC combinations, Oracle CD2500, dCS gear and the MF Tri-Vista are the closest I have come to true high-end CD players. Plus, I have very little exposure to vinyl playback (practical considerations being the main reason), so my comments on the 20i as a front-end should be taken in perspective.

Having said that, and having used the 20i for almost a year now, I seriously doubt I will be in the market for any other "red-book" player anytime soon. CDs played back through the 20i sound noticeably different from the playback I have experienced. The music seems to recover pace, rythm and timing with no perceptible "digital" artifacts. Bass extension is outstanding -- for me, the improvement in this area alone justifies the upgrade cost. There is a palpable sense of air, distinct lack of grain and hash, and an expansive soundstage, all of which consistently eluded my previous sources. The overall presentation may be a little forward, expecially in the mid-range, but I prefer that to an overly laid-back sound. Extraction of detail is stupendous. On an limited edition of Sarah McLachlan's "Fallen" CD, which comes with a bonus disc of live performances, I can actually hear what sounds like a cell-phone beeping in the background at the beginning of her live rendition of "Fallen", which I had never noticed before.

It is very difficult to find fault with this component, and its weaknesses can only be described as miniscule compared with the overall sound quality it produces. For one (small) thing, because the player puts out a slightly forward presentation, it can exaggerate sibilance on poorer quality recordings. Another minor niggle is that the unit improves perceptibly after warming up, after about an hour or so from starting it up cold.

I understand from technical literature on the 20i that it has an extremely well-suspended transport, something like 11 stages of cascaded power supply regulation, 20-bit proprietary reconstructive software with 16x oversampling (to 705.6 kHz) and is fully-balanced from input to output. Which feature is principally responsible for the outstanding sound, I may never know. But I don't particularly care either, as long as it continues to give me the sort of playback from "red-book" CDs I enjoy from it now.

Three final points. Firstly, I believe this unit is now close to eight years old, yet every single function on the 20i operates without a single glitch, which says something for the durability of its design and construction. Secondly, my system is run in balanced mode from the 20i right thorugh to the power amps, which may make a small difference to the sound quality. Thirdly, I use a Marantz mid-level SACD player as a secondary source, and I consistently find myself preferring "red-book" playback through the 20i to SACD playback through the Marantz. I have also fed 16/44.1 digital output from the Marantz into the 20i using the latter as a processor, and the results are noticeably superior to the CD layer output from the Marantz.

The rest of my system now comprises Krell KAV-250p pre-amp and KAV-150a power amp (I'm not big on amps) and Sonus faber Cremona speakers, wired with Nordost Blue Heaven balanced ICs and speaker cables. An Audio Agile power conditioner and power cables are used throughout.

All said and done, this 20i is a player I would be happy to live with for a long time to come.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   1996

Price Paid:    $3200.00

Purchased At:   Used

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by hans a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: December 20, 2001

Bottom Line:   
By my estimation the KPS20i is becoming something of an audio legend. Although it was designed in the mid '90 its level of quality is still very close to the state of the art. However those in the know are keeping it silent.

How's that? Well, take notice of the following. Martin Colloms reviewed the $8,5k KPS28sc in the januari 2002 issue of HiFiNews and give this player an unreserved recommendation on the basis of a score of 42 points with classical material and 35 point with rock and jazz on his subjective rating scale.
At its price point the KPS28sc should be regarded as the successor to the KPS20i (which originally retailed for $9k), but Colloms curiously avoids a direct comparison. This seems odd, because he regularly compares new models to older ones in his Krell reviews to underline the progress in sound quality.

So why not in this case? The answer is very simple and more then a little embarrassing for Krell. As it so happens, Colloms reviewed the KPS20i for the same magazine back in 1995. In that review the player reached a landmark score of 48 points and was regarded by Colloms as the best cd player on the market. Consequently Colloms has used the KPS20i/L (the version with analog volume control) for years as the reference player in his own system.

Comparing both reviews that are separated by more then 5 years - an ETERNITY in digital audio - makes one thing perfectly clear. According to Colloms rating system the KPS20i is a far better player than the new model.
Of course this comparison wouldn't look good on the new model, so it was decided to avoid it. As a result Colloms' recommendation of the KPS28sc smells a little bit funny.

What can we learn from this:
1. Colloms' rating scale is hopelessly inconsistent and therefore useless
2. the so called progress in digital audio is a myth created by marketing people.
3. The KPS20i was an exceptionally good cd player for its time

The previous poster worries about the lack of upgrades. I wonder why. The KPS20i is still very close to being the ultimate 16bit redbook cd player. Every now and then you see it advertised on Audiogon for $3,5k or even less. If you can find one you will be getting the biggest high end bargain in all of audio. It replaced the 300cd in my system (which retailed for $3,5k). Nothing quite prepares you for the transformation that will take place in your system. All the usual digital nasties are not diminished as you usually experience when making digital upgrades. Instead, they are completely vanished, GONE.
I will never buy another cd player and just hope it will run forever. In fact this is my only worry, as the Philips CDM9 Pro transport mechanism is discontinued and supplies of the laser assembly have run out.

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Used product for:   3 months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1997

Price Paid:    $3800.00

Purchased At:   second hand

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:3
Submitted by Stephen McLeod a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: June 28, 2000

Bottom Line:   
I am very keen to hear from anyone with a Krell 20i/l who can help me to understand what upgrade options exist for 24/96. In speaking to the factory it seems that it is "impossible" - seems strange considering that Wadia and ML have done the impossible though a wide range of their products. Are there any known ways of overcoming this?

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Used product for:   1 to 3 months

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   1997

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by mmt a Audiophile

Date Reviewed: May 19, 2000

Bottom Line:   
Sound quality of the Krell 20i(with Delta 09 upgrade)is in my opinion still outstanding. (I prefer it to the Marantz CD-7)
It is fairly neutral throughout the spectrum, mids and highs are clear and sweet (no grain) and the bass is extraordinary.

The soundstage is large, deep and precise.

You will need balanced connections, Kimber Hi-current power cord, ( or similar ) and very high quality system components to show its best.

Krell 20i D09
Pass XO
Krell Audio Standard II's
SF Amati Homage
Hovland Gen III XLR's
Yamamura M6000 Sp Cable.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audiophile

Product model year:   1997

Overall Rating:4
Submitted by Manoj Kumar a an Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: June 30, 1999

Bottom Line:   
We Purchased this player(20 I) from ULTRALINEAR INTERNATIONAL PTE LTD, SINGAPORE, and it is excellent system which we are using along with Krell 20 C Preamp and Krell 300 S Power Amp. The problem which are facing is the system is not working in Analog Mode. It is working well in Digital Mode. But We do not have Digital Receiver. Why is this not working in Analog. Kindly let us know a nearest local service centre and personnel who can check this player and service the same. If required we can send the CD player to the service centre.
Kindly reply immediately.

We are sending the message here as we do not know your Email Address.

Manoj Kumar

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Duration Product Used:   an Audio Enthusiast

Reviews 1 - 5 (8 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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