Krell Phantom II review

A hugely capable preamplifier that has the ability to dig deeply into any recording Tested at £12000

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A hugely capable preamplifier that has the ability to dig deeply into any recording


  • +

    Detail resolution

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    wide-ranging dynamics

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    low noise floor

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    convincing tonal balance


  • -

    It values analysis over ultimate musical engagement

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Krell has been a major player in high-end amplification for decades. Through the ’80s and ’90s it dominated the market with its hugely muscular power amplifiers and no-nonsense brand of over-engineering.

The company’s pre-eminence may have waned slightly in recent years as a result of some tough competition, but with products such as the brand-new Phantom II preamplifier and the mighty Evolution 402e stereo power amplifier it remains true to its traditions.

The preamplifier is a simplified version of the original Phantom, which remains the company’s current range-topper. The most obvious difference between the two, apart from the £5000 price difference, is that the new model is a single-chassis product, while the more expensive box takes an even more purist approach and houses its power supply circuit outboard.

Krell Phantom II: Tech specs

Take a look inside, and you’ll find the Phantom II has essentially the same audio circuitry as its big brother. That means it is a dual-mono design, which aids stereo imaging, and features such technical niceties as a precision-resistor-ladder volume-control, which promises greater transparency than traditional volume potentiometers.

It also boasts no negative feedback and circuitry that works predominantly in current mode rather than voltage. The whole electrical design is geared towards maximising transparency and reducing the noise floor.

Krell Phantom II

Krell Phantom II

The Phantom II’s connectivity is good. There’s a plentiful provision of balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs. The front panel display is clear, but quite old-fashioned in appearance, as is the chunky, metal-cased remote control handset. It’s quaint to see a button for DVD on this system’s remote too.

Krell Phantom II: Performance

Its resolution, wide and stable sound staging and tonal evenness are much appreciated, but what it lacks is just a hint of magic.

Compared with the likes of Burmester’s 077, the line stage of Aesthetix’s Io or even the similarly priced Audio Research Ref 5, there’s just a touch of tangibility and low-level expressiveness missing.

For all its considerable strengths the Phantom II remains admirable rather than essential.

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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