What Hi Fi Sound and Vision Mon, 4 Aug 2008, 11:00am

Krell KID

Tested at £1350
100100
5

A forward-thinking system which can deliver superb sounds from digital music

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For

  • Solid, smart and well-built
  • five-star Krell dock is versatile and impressive
  • stirring dynamics, fine detail, staggering stereo imaging

Against

  • Four-star Martin Logan speakers'
  • sweet-spot is small, while bass is a bit loose and could be better integrated

Our interest was piqued when the press release for this product dropped into our inbox: "The ultimate iPod system" was the billing, and with a fairly eye-watering price. So, our hands were tied – we had to get hold of this high-end iPod affair to see if it lived up to the promise.

Slowly but surely, even the most hardened of two-channel enthusiasts is coming round to the idea of the iPod. Thanks to vastly increased hard disk drives, it's possible to store your music collection as ultra-high quality files, with formats such as WAV, FLAC and AIFF allowing for lossless, even uncompressed, CD-quality sound.

Solid and well-built, the £1350 Krell KID iPod dock is clearly designed to perform, but at the same time offers more than a cursory glance to style.

The KID comes with a cushioned, 'self-locating' cradle, as well as balanced XLR, phono, composite and S-Video outputs (there's a 3.5mm mini-jack input, too). There's also a fully operational, if rather dull, remote control.

Such a high-quality dock requires high-quality speakers, so we partnered the KID with a pair of Martin Logan Purity speakers costing £2390. These large, tall designs combine electrostatic panels with coned bass drivers, in an effort to counter the trouble electrostatics have delivering bass weight. They're fully active, so you'll need to provide mains power to release the 200 watts of amplification built in to each.

Concentrate hard on the detail
We put the system through its paces with an uncompressed WAV of the Gladiator soundtrack. The results are unnervingly stirring, delivering terrifying dynamics, with rasping brass and sinister strings brought to life by brilliantly accurate stereo imaging and fine attention to detail.

Switch to Burial's haunting Shell of Light and the system offers a clear, crisp treble that's given endless room to breathe. The snatched, chopped vocals have bags of texture and emotion, too, and come laden with plenty of subtlety and punch as necessary.

However, it's not all plain sailing. The speakers are fussy, offering a small sweetspot – outside of which, they don't sound that great. Bass can sound a touch woolly, too, albeit powerful, and at times integration between treble and bottom-end grunt could be better.

Having experimented with different components, we'd rate the KID a five-star dock, but while the speakers are undeniably excellent at times, they're not quite faultless all-rounders, so the system as a whole gets four stars. The combination is very capable, sometime brilliant, but harder work than expected.

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