Crown K2 Amplifier
By Mark Farmer
Amplifier technology has come a long way from the days of Woodstock
and using big home amps to power live sound reinforcement systems.
Anymore, there is a fight to see which amplifier company can manufacture
the best sounding, lightest weight, lowest noise, most features
for your purchasing dollar. Crown has been right in the ball game
with their own key advancements with the IQ system and offsetting
power (wattage) on sides of an amplifier (24x6 and 36x12), or
the monster of amps the Crown 10,000. With this in mind, Crown
once again set out to surpass others in the forefront of amplifier
science and designed the newest in the Crown line, the K2.
The K2 is a very advanced amp in many ways. Foremost this amp
has no fan, yes that is correct, no fan. With no fan and a sealed
enclosure there is also no need for filters (or cleaning) which
also means less damage on the internal electronics and less noise.
In the creation of the K2, Crown invented BCA which stands for
Balanced Current Amplifier, producing one-tenth of the heat most
amplifiers produce and twice the output energy of conventional
switching amps. The circuitry used in BCA allows for higher temperature
levels and higher wattage without damaging components. Crown cast
the front panel and case out of aluminum to help dissipate the
small amount of heat produced. According to the handy manual,
in a worse case scenario the amp will produce the heat of two
100 watt light bulbs. Even if this amp did get hot and begin to
go thermal the TLC or Thermal Level Control would begin to bring
down the output of the amp until either the input is reduced or
something was done about air circulation. A pair of red LEDs
are provided on the front to alert the user of the amp going into
TLC. Also, the greater into TLC the K2 transcends, the brighter
the LEDs become. Other protection devices are a slow soft start
turn on, subsonic filters set below 8Hz and above 30kHz, external
20-amp fuse, DC protection, and even protection from shorted outputs.
So what about power, can it keep up with the competitor, indeed
it does, rated to deliver 1250 watts per channel into a two ohm
load, 800 watts for 4 ohms, and 475 watts at 8 ohms. These measurements
were done with 1kHz and both channels driven receiving a total
harmonic distortion of only 0.1% or less. On the bench, signal
to noise was very clean with measurements of greater than 100dB
below rated power. Damping factors greater than 3,000 between
10Hz and 400Hz, is of the finest I have ever seen on any amp.
Frequency response also measures up to the other standards of
the K2 embracing the entire spectrum from 20Hz to 20kHz at plus
or minus 25dB.
The sensitivity switch, now external, on the rear provides either
1.4 volt or a fixed voltage gain of 26dB.
Weighing in at a mere 38 pounds and fitting into a 19 inch rack
space (2 rack spaces) this K2 is also nicely balanced with the
majority of the weight on the front rack ears. Setting the amp
apart visibly, is the beautifully designed rounded out front panel.
The main power switch (new rocker type), Level 1 and 2 controls,
a enable LED, and four pairs of LEDs are recessed into an area
on the right with the giant lexan Crown K2 logo on the left.
The three other pairs of independent LEDs watch over signal input
(green), the IOC or Input/Output Comparator sensors (yellow) which
keep a close eye on distortion by turning on way before distortion
is audible. A complicated circuit that analyzes the existent waveforms
of the inputs and outputs. And for the first time in 50 years,
Crown has included Clip LEDs (orange) to the K2 line for keeping
an even closer eye on the amplifier and its status.
In the rear of the K2, Crown has added a few items and not incorporated
other ones. Left out of the new amp design is the availability
for Crown's slide in devices (cards) like the IQ (computer control),
PIP (Programmable Input
Processor). Moved from within the rear of the amp to the outside
is the sensitivity switch. The sensitivity switch has been moved
from within the rear to the external panel for easier accessibility.
One of the best inventive additions ever to an amplifier is the
Y Input switch, which couples both left and right XLR/1/4 balanced
inputs together. In comparison to the Crown Macro Tech series
of amps the K2 inputs have been moved far left, the power cable
to the center, and the handy five-way binding post outputs kept
on the right. The Bridge Output switch is centered up between
the XLR inputs next to the Y Input switch. Some of most outstanding
amp wiring, layouts, diagrams, explanations, and drawings are
included inside the best amplifier manual I have ever seen.
When I took the Crown K2 out of the box, for my burn in period,
I set it out in plain sight at a corporate event I was set to
provide sound reinforcement for. During set up I noticed a few
of the audio visual company employees had gathered around the
K2 looking at it with intrigue. I thought, what a great start
for reviewing a product that not only attracts crowds but amplifies
speakers too. Fortunately I have become very familiar with the
Crown line over the years and know the limits and durability of
the Crown name.
With this, I set out to test the full range sonic qualities of
the K2 verses the Macro Tech Series of amps. I split the amp power
on each side of the room with the K2 and a Macro 2400. Each amp
channel, powered two pairs of speakers per side, completely separating
four speakers hung on each side of the room on different amplifiers.
Each speaker was passively crossed over between a 12 midrange/woofer
and a 1 horn driver. My first listening involved no equalization
with familiar compact discs played at a moderate volume. Some
of the definite differences, at first listen, between the two
different amplifier types was volume on the K2 side also was a
louder, more articulate, and dynamic sounding. I took some time
to equalize both sides of the room with a microphone and more
familiar music. With a vocal mic in front of the speakers, the
sound seemed to exit the cabinet like lightning compared to the
K2 powered speakers compared to the Macro Tech side. The horn
response was more translucent and the bass response sounding more
controlled and harder hitting. This type of bass would be ideal
for keeping large low frequency subwoofers in check.
Regarding heat, I left the signal hammering the K2 on for the
afternoon, the K2 top was warm to the touch. With more of the
K2 amplifiers in a rack, external fans would be needed, especially
during the summer in the elements
Crown has definitely out done themselves creating a new radical
looking amp that sounds as superb as it looks. With this new technology,
hopefully we can expect Crown to build on the K2 lineup in the
future, keeping other major amp manufacturing companies on their
toes competing with the fan-less design.
Once again, the pristine highs, dynamic lows of this amp, superb
construction, power output, and monitoring LEDs, all make this
an amplifier that will set a new standard in amp design and distinction.
With a retail price of only $1795.00, let your speakers have this
amp for the sound they need.
Mark Farmer is a live sound engineer for Live Technologies in
Columbus, Ohio and a regular contributor to Pro Audio Review. Mark can be reached via the Internet at: email@example.com
Crown K2 Amplifier
+Crown quality of design and construction
+Recessed gain knobs, monitor LEDs,
and power switch
+No fan, no filter, no cleaning, no noise
+studio reference sound
- No Crown card slots
-AC cord in the middle
of the rear panel (Im nitpicking here)