The KR Audio Electronics “Kronzilla” Monoblock Power Amplifier

Hot on the heels of my review of the KR Audio Electronics VA340 Single-Ended Integrated Amplifier, comes this review of KR’s flagship model, the colourfully-named Kronzilla (they are designed by Ricardo Kron). Priced much higher than the integrated, and conceived on a grander scale, the Kronzilla DMs (dual monoblock) make a statement that cannot be ignored. Once setup in a listening room, you will recognize instantly that these post modern monoliths have something to say — the massive T-1610 power tubes grab your attention immediately. They want to be warmed, heated, then played. And boy, do they play!

Designed as single-ended’s, the massive monos put out a whopping 42 watts each. For SE aficionados, that is a lot of power. The lovers of the design espouse the ultra clean presentation, the gorgeous instrumental and vocal timbre, but are somewhat hampered by the usually limiting power constraints (10 watts or less a side is not uncommon) and the need for very efficient speakers. I am a fan of single ended’s. As such, I was more than a little concerned when Canadian distributor Alfred Kayser discussed the idea of reviewing the Kronzilla and told me of the power behind the tubes. I was unsure how that much power would translate into the liquidity (or obscure it) that I love from the best in single ended designs.

The Kronzillas look industrial, but not unkempt. The fit and finish is excellent. They have an Eastern European look about them, but are decidedly more Common Market than Comecon. Towering above the black lacquer blocks are the KR produced, T1610 power tubes. These unique tubes are the power behind the throne. They look fantastic. I was in awe of them during their stay, as were all my visitors.

The amplifiers are heavy and unwieldy. Two audiophiles should be part of the setup team. If you have carpet, they’ll need a support of some sort. I used a couple of old BBC Boards that I had in the basement. They fit perfectly and looked great. Once the amps are hooked up, the tubes take about 20 minutes ’till optimum temperature is achieved. The pair that I had for review were well broken in.

The technical specifications are as follows: Tubes 2 x T1610 in parallel, Maximum Output Power 42 WRMS (THD=5%), Output Impedance 4, 8 Ohms, Frequency Response 20Hz – 20KHz (-3dB), Feedback Zero, Dumping Factor Approx. 2.8, Input Sensitivity 1V RMS / 90k (at 41W), Input Impedance 100K Ohms, A/C Power 230/115VAC, 50/60 Hz, Power Consumption 260VA, Operating Temperature 5C – 40C, Dimensions Approx. 38.5 x 41.5 x 55 cm (Each – Including projecting parts & controls), and Weight Approx. 36Kg /ea. Price is USD$19,900/pair.

The magnificent T-1610 tube is an ultra-linear, low frequency, high power triode tube that is capable of producing 22-45 watts of pure class-A power. As the KR site states: ‘The T-1610 is an exceptional tube for those special applications requiring 50 watts or more of class-A power. There may be bigger transmitting tubes that one can convert to audio operation, but the T-1610 is a true triode designed specifically by KR Audio for audio use. All KR Enterprise tubes are warranted for a period of 2 years’.

Once again, Kayser was invaluable during setup. Like my experience with his VA340 integrated indoctrination, Kayser’s discussion of the Kronzillas was both educational and entertaining. As soon as the setup was complete and he left for the evening, I fired the monos up. The amps looked so inviting, it was difficult not to turn up the volume until the twenty minutes stabilization passed. What followed was also as educational as entertaining.

The sound had the fullness and depth that is evident in the best single ended’s, it also had that essential power reserve that one feels with really good solid state designs. It seemed a little naughty to be able to get the best of the single ended topology in addition to the one attribute that I admire in solid state. An embarrassment of riches. The sound was so rich, but maintained a very clear soundstage, similar in fact to the best solid state amplifier I have heard, the Burmester 911 Mk. II. The wonderful detail I heard previously in the KR integrated’s sound was there, too, but with much richer instrumental and vocal timbres, even better imaging, and great reserve power. It felt like biting into the richest cake, bursting with whipped cream, then being told it had zero fat and calories. Guilt, indeed!

As always with new gear, the first CD in the Accustic Arts tray was Thomas Newman’s American Beauty. The opening theme is a cornucopia of percussion, both melodic and indeterminate — it sounded superb on the KR integrated, but was even better on the Kronzilla. It had the super-detail of the Burmester, but with the richness and presence of a great SE. Interestingly, the bass was a knockout, too. Yes, it matched the incredible bass from the Burmester. I never thought Burmester’s benchmark would be bettered chez nous. I was wrong. If pushed, I’d have to take both (the Burmester’s soundstage was so clear, the memory of it still gives me goose bumps).

The Kronzilla is a “fast” amp — no whizzing scale escapes its deciphering. For example, the synthesized glissando just after the intro in American Beauty needs the best “speed demon” if the listener is to hear Newman’s wonderful orchestration. Both KRs and the Burmester laid out the scale brilliantly. Attack, separation and decay all in the blink of an eye. The American Beauty theme is a gem for audiophile reviewers; I have heard it so many times and still admire the ingenuity of the composition. The Kronzillas did this track proud.

I usually stay away from the heavier rock stuff during the review period. I don’t like most of the music. Binaural, by Pearl Jam, is no different. But, I thought I’d give it a go on the Kronzillas just to see if they could do the noise justice. They did. Eddie Vetter “sang” his grunge, the KRs spat it out. Loud and proud. Not one blip, even during the loudest passages. This amp goes to 11!

Classical music and jazz were the my genres of choice if I wanted to hear the amps sing. Whether a string orchestra, trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s desert island mono LPs, lieder and opera, piano recitals, or big band sets, the amplifiers imitated the ease of presentation of fine solid state and shone via the single ended topology. Really something. The sweetness of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields’ violins in Dvorak’s Serenade was brilliant, but still maintained the essence of the resin on strings. The amp did not enhance, simply realized. Same for The Boss Brass’s Song for Shelly. Guido Basso, Toronto’s flugelhornist extraordinaire, has a special way with slides and smears. Each was heard so clearly through the fab Model 1s. Basso’s unique ‘portamento’ adds much to ballads. It was a pleasure to hear how great this LP sounded after many years of simply admiring the technique. The emotion was placed directly on the sleeve. This emotional connection was heard through umpteen CDs and LPs.

And the emotion is why Ricardo Kron’s design of this great amplifier is such a fine achievement. The tubes glow, the light is low, the music perfect and the sound stunning. Not much more one may ask of metal and glass. As such, serious tubeophiles should try to hear the Kronzillas. The amp is limited only by its odd, muscular name — they look wonderful and will stand pride of place in any high end listening room. “Kronzilla”, to me, implies large, cumbersome and somewhat unsophisticated. The monoblocks are the complete opposite. Paired with a fairly efficient loudspeaker, the KR Audio Kronzillas may well be your amplification life partners. Highly recommended.

Further information: KR Audio Electronics