Krell Showcase Pre/Pro and 7 Amplifier Page 3

Naturally, you haven't truly tested a seven-channel amp until you ask it to fire all seven channels at once; so, over to Phantom Menace I went, using a Dolby EX setup with two speakers in the back of the room, each being driven independently—by the amp, at least. Here, the Showcase 7 finally showed its first signs of fatigue, but only at punishing volume levels with especially dense material. During some of the explosions in the pod-race sequence (chapter 20 and beyond), compression at high volumes has been evident with almost every amplifier I've tested. Considering the Krell's relatively modest power rating, I would've expected it to show signs of fatigue well before it did. But again, power ratings are slippery at best. The Showcase 7 has obviously inherited the family skills in current delivery, and you'll have to push this amp much harder than most people ever would on a consistent basis to get it to show any chinks in its armor. What chinks there are were over as quickly as they started. Used in conjunction with speakers of relatively normal sensitivity and impedance, power should never be an issue for the Showcase 7, even when you push it hard for long periods of time.

Back in my home environment, the difference between the two setups and rooms played out as much with movies as it had with music. Again, there was more top-end sibilance than I like to hear, although I'm far more forgiving of it with movies than with music. A potent, dynamic combination like the Krell electronics and Energy speakers simply needs a more-controlled environment—or, at least, demands that you use the Krell equalizer—to contain the upper frequencies without diminishing their clarity.

The system's midrange and bass were beyond reproach. In the midrange especially, this speaker/electronics combo was simply magic. Until we get high-resolution movie soundtracks, you'd be hard-pressed to find a system that can offer more mid-range resolution and accuracy than this one did. This leant a stark, gripping realism to soundtracks, especially with dialogue. Watching Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the way you should—in Mandarin with English subtitles—gives you an interesting opportunity to concentrate more on the sound of the words than the words themselves, and this was especially evident with the Krell/

Energy combo. Granted, the Energy V2.0C center channel is a good one in just about any application, but I don't know that I've heard any electronics that I've run it off of in the last six months unveil it better—and that includes some stiff competition. Dialogue was harsh and immediate when it was supposed to be, silky and subtle when called for, and always clear and intelligible, even when surrounded by all of the cacophony in the overdriven center signal found on most 5.1 soundtracks.

At this price, you should expect—and do receive—first-rate peripherals. While both the pre/pro and amp manuals are well done, this obviously matters much more for the pre/pro, which will likely be the only one people will need to dig into. As a good high-end pre/pro is, the Showcase is a complex machine, but the manual and well-executed onscreen menu system should get most people through it without issues. The wafer-thin remote is slick, both aesthetically and ergonomically, but it's basic for such a complex pre/pro. It also isn't backlit, which is always a drawback for anything that will see substantial time in a darkened room. As usual, once I got accustomed to the remote, it grew on me, but I still would've liked to see less dependence on the front panel and onscreen menus and more control from the remote itself. Aesthetically, the Showcase gear is top-shelf. Slick, silver faceplates adorn both units. The Showcase 7's front panel maintains the demure look of an amplifier, while the Showcase pre/pro's front panel adds some button functionality and a red LED that only stays lit as long as it needs to.

At $9,500, this Krell system isn't the least expensive separates combo you can get. But it presents an opportunity to enjoy Krell quality and technology at a price that you usually can't get it at, and it's a strong indication that Krell and other companies like them are keen on offering lower-priced options alongside the cost-no-object components they're known for. This Krell gear sounds good, looks good, and has some high-end tricks like balanced inputs and outputs to set it apart from the crowd. Competition is already stiff in the lower price points of the separates game, and it looks like it just got stiffer.


• High-end tricks o'plenty
• Clean, transparent sound

Showcase 7:
• Power beyond the specs
• Balanced inputs

Showcase Pre/Pro and 7 Amplifier
(203) 799-9954