Review: Krell Papa Dock Amplifier and KID
This Krell two-piece system has been engineered to get the best performance possible from an iPod.
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June 15, 2009 by Robert Archer

Krell has embraced Apple’s iPod, taking the iconic music player to new heights with a dedicated iPod/iPhone docking and playback solution.

Krell’s Papa Dock amplifier and KID (Krell Interface Dock) iPod Dock is a two-piece system that has been engineered to extract the best possible performance from an iPod, giving installers a dedicated audio/video solution that is easy to control and looks nice.

System Features

The Papa/KID combination brings a lot to the table, including an amp capable of delivering 150 watts of power through a 450-watt, 40,000 microfarad power supply. There’s also the physically isolated left and right channels with a discrete, direct-coupled topology design.

The Papa’s speaker connection uses WBT hardware that can handle spades, banana and bare-wire speaker cables.

The KID portion of the system, which can also be used as a stand-alone dock, can be viewed as an iPod preamplifier that optically isolates the digital circuitry to facilitate signal transmission through Krell’s 256-step volume control.

To couple the KID’s connection to the Papa Dock, Krell uses a balanced circuit with a customized connecting link to feed its output stages to ensure complete signal integrity. The combination also includes:

  • Composite and S-video outputs
  • RS-232 port
  • A 12-volt trigger

Setup of Instant iPod System

The smaller KID unit and larger Papa units assemble in a matter of minutes to create an instant iPod system.

I started by unscrewing a protective plate on the bottom of the KID with the supplied Allen wrench. With the protective plate removed to expose the female docking port I placed the KID into the Papa Dock.

With the dock secured I attached the iPod guide to the KID via its spring-loaded screws and I finished up by attaching the IEC power cord and some QED speaker cables with banana terminals.

How the System Performs

Beginning with some iTunes files from my iPhone, I checked out some music from Eric Clapton, Elton John and Brian Setzer. I was surprised at how un-iPod like these advanced audio codec (AAC) 128-kps files sounded.

Moving onto some Apple Lossless files (ALAC), I listened to some U2 and was amazed at the warmth, balance and midrange detail.

Stepping up a notch, I chose some uncompressed Audio Interchange File Format (AIFF) songs like “Trademark” and “Glasgow Kiss” from Eric Johnson and John Petrucci, respectfully. These files were played back with a liquidy midrange that featured tons of resolution.

After about 50 hours of break-in on the equipment I got back to the Krell system.

Listening to an iTunes download of Joe Bonamassa’s “If Heartaches Were Nickels,” I immediately noticed the tonal balance of the Krell in how it added weight to this low-res file without sounding bloated on the bottom end and overly tinny on the top end.

Lack of Versatility

The components deliver every bit of the performance that the company is known for. But the lack of versatility limits what can be done with it from an applications perspective.

Judging purely on performance, a case could be made that it’s the best sounding dock on the market. The system is hindered by an awful remote, a lack of secondary inputs to support other sources and an LED interface window that is difficult to read.

The good news is that it integrates into an advanced control system and should appeal to well-heeled consumers that want the best.

MSRP for the KID: $1,500; MSRP for the Papa Dock: $2,500


Krell Papa Dock amplifier and KID

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Robert Archer - Senior Editor, CE Pro
Bob is a dedicated audiophile who has been writing about A/V for Electronic House sister publication CE Pro since 2000.

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