Krell Resolution 1 Loudspeaker
|Krell Resolution 1 Loudspeaker
Welcome to the Jungle
Watch That Quicksand!
Man, It’s a jungle out there. The high-end thicket is lush with such a great variety of speakers, providing an embarrassment of riches for the audiophile on the hunt. Every day, hundreds of speaker companies fight for floor space in dealer showrooms around the world. Many companies have taken to, selling directly to the public as well. Many of these manufacturers will even offer to pay for the trip to their facility for a private demo if the trip results in a purchase of their speakers.
This intense competition has lead to the extinction of countless well-intentioned companies, which due to a variety of reasons, got stuck in the quicksand of the fierce and unforgiving marketplace. Like watching a wildebeest fall prey to a patch of quicksand, struggling for a last gasp before its snout disappears beneath the muck, the vanishing of a high-end company is never a pretty site.
If that scenario doesn’t keep a perspective manufacturer out of the jungle and planted firmly in the Land Rover, then trying to sell a speaker the size of the Resolution 1 could. A speaker of such generous proportions as The Resolution 1 faces the onslaught of the aesthetically pleasing but sonically wimpy in-wall speakers that your interior designer and pleading spouse would love to see you get. But I know you would never let someone talk you into such a thing. Also, at or near the $11K price point, there are some really competent designs amidst a contracting market would subject newbie manufacturers to plenty of sleepless nights. Not to mention the countless models landing on our shores from Europe and the Far East. Also, there are the speakers that exist below the Krell’s price that tout claims of performance beyond their price (what speaker doesn’t claim this?). As far as I’m concerned, the $10K price point represents the threshold beyond which a really well-executed speaker can provide more than a taste of what $15K to $20K designs can deliver.
“Snakes, I Hate Snakes!…”
As we all know, Krell is no ordinary company and Dan D’Agostino is no ordinary CEO. With the bravado of Indiana Jones raiding a Lost Arch, Dan has ventured in designing amplification, then into digital, and now he’s crossing over the forbidden lands and into the speaker business. His first leap into digital, while risky, was not nearly as perilous as taking on the manufacturing of loudspeakers. For obvious reasons, the technology used in producing a competent speaker involves not only a clean sheet of paper but a whole new notebook, maybe two.
Krell’s first foray into the speaker game actually came in 2000 with the enormous Master Reference Sub woofer. A year later, the $40K LAT-1 (LAT stands for Lossless Acoustic Transducer), found favor with some well-respected reviewers and at the time of this writing, is still in production. The LAT-2 monitor soon followed and soon after the LAT 2 center channel speaker filled out the line. While the LAT series came clad in extruded aluminum, the Resolution series wears a quite lovely if more familiar cherry veneered 1” MDF side panels and 2” MDF for the baffles. The four-way bass reflex design incorporates two 10” aluminum drivers, an 8” mid-woofer with a magnesium cone, one 4” polypropylene midrange driver, and a 1” dual-concentric ring tweeter with an integral wave-guide. The midrange and tweeter are housed in a sub-enclosure, assuring isolation from the resonant effects of the bass drivers. There are two ports: one for the bass and one for the mid-range and tweeter.
The crossover is a display of Krell’s rather robust approach to all things mechanical. According to D”Agostino, most crossovers appear as a “funnel” to current, essentially choking off the power before it is sent to the drivers. Drawing from his experience designing amplifiers, he wanted a crossover that acted more like an amplifier, sending power to the drivers as unimpeded as possible. Each group of drivers (woofer, midrange and tweeter) has it’s own 1” inch thick, double sided fiberglass crossover. Multiple capacitors are connected in parallel and air-core inductors wound with oversized wire in effort to minimize parasitic inductance and resistance. These features allow each driver to handle the signal with minimum strain, maximum linearity, regardless of the level of power being delivered. The frequency response is 28Hz-20kHz +/- 2.5db. 90-db sensitivity and a 4-Ohm impedance makes the Resolution 1 a fairly easy load by today’s standards.
The Grill has been licensed from Sonus Faber and is rather ingenious. Two support brackets stretch a web of elastic strings from the bottom to the top of the speaker. When fixed, the taught bands create a semi-transparent view into the baffle, and create a near lossless sonic presentation. The speakers also come with either spikes, or no “lethal” feet attachments.
Typically, I would let a speaker break in for a substantial period of time before sitting down and getting to it. However, it took little time to realize that the Resolution 1 was a speaker that made an immediate impression. Before I move on, I will be using my $32K Talon Firebird speakers as a reference. At nearly three times the price of the Resolution1, the direct comparison of the two while not entirely fair, proved instructive.
Overall, the Resolution 1’s balance is big, bold, and extremely lively. From the first track of Cowboy Junkies’ Lay It Down, the quality and power of the bass rendered by the Resolution 1 was extremely impressive. Track one, “Something More” moves along on a foundation of deep, tight, and tuneful bass. As the bass line moves from the upper regions on down, there is no roll-off, no thickening of textures, no favoring of any one frequency band that leads notes to jump out and call attention to themselves. Compared to the Resolution 1, the Firebird’s bass while not quite as impactful, does have greater neutrality/purity and an overall sense of lower distortion.
What is also so impressive about the Resolution 1’s bass is its integration into the midrange. Male vocals such as Chris Isaak’s from San Francisco Days [Reprise 45116] had not a trace of “chestiness” or added warmth. In other words, the bass stays exactly were it should. And with a speaker sporting as many drivers and as potent a bass as the Resolution 1, that is important and very impressive.
Moving on to soundstaging and imaging. Where the Firebird is rather laid back, the Resolution 1 moves the listener right up to the edge of the stage. Instruments have a size and impact that is really engaging. A long time favorite of mine is Earl Wildplaying Greig Piano Concerto on Chesky [CD50]. The image of the piano was damn near the size of a real piano and with the impact of a real piano. The left hand coming down hard reveals a wealth of texture in the resonating strings (wire) making that unmistakable sound that only a grand piano can make. As the orchestra comes to life, the stage remains stable and fairly open, highlighting each instrument with just the right sense of image outline combined with inner detail and image density.
On the studio side of production values, “War Heads” off Extreme’sThree Sides to Every Story [A&M 31454], opens with, among other things, a jet flying from outside the left speaker across the stage, and I kid you not, to about 25’ outside the right speaker. Meanwhile a helicopter does a fly-by over my head and hovers above and behind my seat. I have been listening to this track for a decade and have only heard these Q-sound (I’m guessing) effects reproduced equally well by my Firebirds. In fact, disc after disc revealed the Resolution 1’s ability to clearly reveal all the finest instrumental and vocal images contributing to the mix and presented with great body, texture and size. And for such a big speaker, the Resolution 1 did a very good job dissolving into the soundscape. Compelling? You bet.
Staying with War Heads, the Krell Resolution 1 demonstrates the ability to reproduce rock like few other speakers anywhere near itsasking price. The dynamic impact was staggering. Even at these extreme levels, instruments remain locked down in position with little sign of compression, collapse or overt distortion. Going really, really loud did produce a slight forwardness in the upper mids as most speakers do, typically though, to a far greater degree than the Resolution 1. For all you rockers looking for some serious head-banging, look no further, the Resolution 1 is THE one.
From the mid range on up to just below the treble, the Resolution 1 falls off center just a bit exhibiting a mild sense of opacity and a fine powder-like grain. This becomes most evident on closely mic’d voices such as Holly Cole Trio’s Musical Truth promotional CD from Energy speakers (DPR-313). I am probably more sensitive to this than most as I am spoiled silly with the Talon Firebirds as they have an unbelievably grain free mid-band. Compared to the 10-year-old Avalon Raidian’s I still own, the Resolution1’s mid-band is far superior in timbre, dynamic capability and resolution. That speaker was $10,500 then, so in current day dollar valuation, the Resolution 1 presents itself as a great value. If you are moving up from a mid-fi or entry-level high-end speaker, you will not be let down by this shortcoming.
The treble performance surpassed my expectations as well with it’s ability to integrate with the midrange and a relative lack of grain or sizzle. This is the spot I would have guessed the Resolution 1 would stumble as most speakers at this price can. The tweeter has, dare I say, sweetness without the penalty of lacking detail. The downside would be that the treble does not seem to extend to the stratosphere which in turn, places an emphasis on the midrange aspect of the image and a bit less so on the surrounding acoustic.
So do we have a great speaker here? Lets recap.
Yes, the Resolution 1 has great bass drive, texture and extension.
Yes, the Resolution 1 has an enormous, well-defined soundstage.
Yes, the Resolution 1 has a great sense of presence and intelligibility.
And yes, the Resolution 1 can seriously rock.
Where the Resolution 1 begins to perform closer to it’s price point is with the presence of a slight midrange coloration compared to the very best and a slight upper midrange forwardness at the highest volume levels. Mind you, my reference is a $32K speaker. Given that disparity, the Resolution 1 showed my reference speaker a thing or two in the bass region and that, my friends, is not something I swallow easily. Taken in total, what you get is a very well-balanced design that performs in many areas at a reference level, and at the very least, at the top of it’s class.
Now just because you may not have Krell electronics, do not hesitate to give these speakers a listen. Partner the Resolution 1 with gear and wire that is as grain free and open as possible. Strap it to an amplifier with as much power as you can afford without compromising sound quality then hold on to your hat. You’ll be in for a wild ride.
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