Karan KA M2000 Monoblock Amps with Crates
Excellent condition with original crates.
Despite their heavyweight tank nature, the Karan flagships are civilized monsters. Their size is rather reasonable and they produce no heat. Only the weight is a challenge when you have to move them particularly with stairs involved. Another impressive feature of Milan Karan’s very best is their high damping factor. The ratio between load resistance (loudspeaker + cable) and amplifier output impedance is one of the highest in the solid-state market. This should confer outstanding ability to drive any speaker with large impedance swifts and produce great definition in the low-frequency range. Of course high damping factor basically means low output impedance. But electrical damping will mainly depend on termination. Reduce the length of your wire and you should benefit from higher damping. Ribbon and planarmagnetic speakers are very particular mostly resistive loads and the necessity of high damping is far less obvious than with a cone design. Magnepan’s new flagship ribbon/quasi ribbon dipole 3-way needs more power and very accurate positioning inside the listening room rather than high electrical damping
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Another impressive feature of Milan Karan’s very best is their high damping factor. The ratio between load resistance (loudspeaker + cable) and amplifier output impedance is one of the highest in the solid-state market. This should confer outstanding ability to drive any speaker with large impedance swifts and produce great definition in the low-frequency range. Of course high damping factor basically means low output impedance. But electrical damping will mainly depend on termination. Reduce the length of your wire and you should benefit from higher damping. Ribbon and planarmagnetic speakers are very particular mostly resistive loads and the necessity of high damping is far less obvious than with a cone design. Magnepan’s new flagship ribbon/quasi ribbon dipole 3-way needs more power and very accurate positioning inside the listening room rather than high electrical damping. But let’s now focus on the specific design of my amp loaners.
First off, these power monsters look impressive but finish and dimensions don’t make them particularly intrusive. I can even say that the silver version is quite elegant despite its weight and size. In that sense they are in total opposition to the Chord SPM-6000 I hosted a few months ago. The external design’s sole particularity are double power sockets per channel. That will require four power cords to make for painful expense if you opt for exotic costly cables.
Their design allows you to use them at all times and under all weather conditions. They remain cold thanks to a special sliding bias technology. Extremely efficient power management applies real-time analogue sliding class A bias with always 20% more current at the output than strictly needed for a given input signal.
The Karan KA M2000 are true balanced designs derived from the previous KAS 600 stereo amp. They are also fully DC coupled to eliminate signal-path capacitors for higher linearity (condensers act as filters on both frequency and phase response). Karan use custom-potted toroidal low-noise 1’500VA transformers with low inductance that enable faster energy discharge by means of a triple-twisted instead of single-wire secondary.
There are eight stages of voltage regulation per channel. The power supply caps are custom made to Milan Karan’s specs by a leading German factory which also OEMs for Mundorf and amount to 132’000uf per side. Their extremely fast discharge rate is partially achieved by decreasing the capacitors’ self inductance.
The electronic circuitry and 24k gold-plated circuit boards were designed for widest bandwidth and highest possible speed thanks to an ultra-short signal path. Internal parts can process signal up to 20MHz to guarantee proper phase for upper harmonics. Offset voltages are controlled by DC servo circuits. Minimizing phase shift in Karan amplifiers should result in perfect image focus, increased stage depth, heightened soundstage resolution and natural unadulterated timbres.
Milan Karan uses a current feedback topology with no global negative feedback for 0.02% IMD at full rated power into 8 ohms. The KA M2000’s power rating is a massive 2KW into 8Ω, 3’600 watts into 4Ω and 5’400 watts into 2Ω. With such figures I can’t imagine a single speaker beyond their grasp. To generate these numbers Milan relies on no less than 40 ultra-fast Sanken RET devices for a shocking total current potential of 800 amperes. S/N ratio is better than -112dB again at full rated power. Damping factor exceeds 10’000 into 8Ω across the full audible bandwidth and frequency response is DC-300kHz ±3dB.
Sound. The Karans definitely reside on the warm side of big solid-state amplifiers. They handle any musical genre with impressive ease. They deliver a very dense sound whilst preserving a kind of natural delicacy that I found neither in the Chord SPM-6000 nor in such big expensive contenders like mono amps from Soulution and Gryphon. Their dynamics and bass control made for a truly convincing pairing with my Vivid K1. Though an overused expression, they definitely were iron fists in velvet gloves. In terms of imaging, the KA M2000 delivered the widest soundstage I ever experienced with my Vivid speakers. They also impressed with transient speed, dynamics and their overall level of detail especially in the low midrange.
Moving to Magnepan’s flagship, the Karans in my listening room met their most demanding partners. This most current release from the North American company relies on huge amounts of power to match the dynamic range one would expect from a more conventional bass-reflex design. With most amplifiers the 20.7 planar tends to flatten dynamic contrast. These latest Maggies run a newly designed quasi ribbon midrange driver of half the mass of what’s in the 3.7 to better blend with the light ribbon tweeter. They have great bass extension. The KA M2000 amps also highlighted outstanding treble as was the case for any speaker I threw at them. This sensation was perhaps strengthened by the initial assumption that they might be all brawn and no finesse. Despite power reserves which for all practical intents and purposes were unlimited, these godzillas also showed the warmth and delicacy of the best transistor amps. Somehow the Karans seemed so solid and unperturbed by any load that I had the impression of unprecedented freedom from listening to physical/mechanical transducers. Yet despite their obvious transparency and accuracy in the treble, As previously mentioned, unlike many big solid-state amps, the KA M2000 demonstrated a delicacy and fluidity uncommon in the upper spectrum as well as very low bass. Their bandwidth appeared devoid of any harshness. The upper midrange was natural and transparent, i.e. precise, smooth and consistent all at once. On voices the benefit of high three-dimensionality was obvious to create the most holographic soundstage I ever culled from the K1. The most impressive feature of the Serbians thus was this wide holographic soundstage that I’d compare to what I got from the big Soulution monos but with a bit more finesse in the treble and less weight in the lower midrange. In my opinion the Karans have just the right density to avoid the ethereal rendering of valves and the oppressing midrange of big transistor brutes. The power reserves were so huge that the dynamics never seemed an issue. But it wasn’t really their energy that impressed me but rather their complete lack of compression under all circumstances. Do you need muscle? They will gladly ridicule Conan the Barbarian. Do you look for sensitivity? They will make Boy George look like the prince of Death Metal. With the KA M2000 everything gets bigger, wider and deeper.
Listening to the 1981 Flamenco/Jazz live recording Friday Night in San Francisco [Philips], the ambient detail of the Warfield Theatre’s audience was astonishing. The level of detail in the lower midrange with its harmonics provided very realistic guitar timbres and a lifelike atmosphere. The tonal balance was indeed on the warm side but I believe that a live recording with microphones close to the guitars should and does lead to warmer results than we’d generally expect from an acoustic studio recording. I would not consider the Karan performance completely neutral since it was slightly warmer than I’m used to. But it was definitely pleasant and very organic. Again, the soundstage was wide but particularly deep and holographic. I had the sensation that the three guitarists were physically present but also that I could move freely all around them. And that I have not really achieved with other big power amps.
They more than did the job and perhaps went beyond my expectations on the Vivid Audio and Lawrence Audio speakers. They really are a kind of wall breaker. Under all circumstances they produced a wide and large scenery with a very hard-to-match holographic sculpting. With the right balance between density, authority and fluidity, they succeed in taking advantage of both vacuum and solid-state strengths. Of all the bad boys I‘ve taken for a spin yet, these most represented the famous image of the iron fist in the velvet glove. Thus should you find yourself looking for unlimited power, warm tones, extended bandwidth and have the financial wherewithal, these most definitely should be on your very short list. Just check first that your particular speakers will actually benefit from their very high damping factor.