Regardless, the Krell Vanguard is the size of something like an Arcam integrated amp, but weighs as much as two and a bit Arcam integrated amps, and unless you are ready for that, it comes as something of a shock. OK, some perspective is in order: a shade under 18kg is as nothing when you recall the hernia-inducing 79.2kg of the Evolution 900e monos!
In standard Vanguard guise, the amp sports three single-ended RCA stereo inputs and one balanced XLR stereo pair. The blue fluro display on the front panel can be used to adjust (trim) input level and assign names to the inputs. It features a ‘Theater Throughput’ mode, and has the standard 3.5mm jacks and 12v trigger for use in traditional home automation systems. But it also comes with an Ethernet port as standard, designed for a more sophisticated external control. This means you can control everything through your Vanguard’s own home page, and in the unlikely event that anything should go wrong, it can send error logs to your dealer or Krell itself. This means diagnostics and potentially updates can be handled without the need for call outs or downtime.
The Vanguard as tested came in this standard guise, but there is an upgrade coming. The back panel has a removable panel, and an optional digital audio module can be installed. This will include USB, coaxial, and optical digital inputs, plus HDMI input and output ports. It also activates the front USB input for using USB sticks (I’d prefer that to come with a little rubber cover as standard, to prevent confusion, because in its standard guise, the Vanguard doesn’t speak USB at all). The digital module will expand the functions of the Ethernet port to support music streaming, controlled by the company’s dedicated iOS and Android apps. Finally, the module adds apt‑X Bluetooth connectivity. However, to reiterate, this module is currently in late design and was not available in time for review, so I cannot speak to how it performs or functions.
Despite the Ethernet connectivity and digital module, I don’t think the Vanguard is ‘future-proofed’, because ‘future-proofed’ is functionally impossible. No‑one would have guessed in 2000 that the audio world of 15 years hence would be made up of streamed music and LP, so trying to imagine what we will be playing in five, 10, or 20 years from now is an exercise in pointlessness. So, let’s quietly lock ‘future proofed’ away in the cliché dungeon. However, it’s entirely possible the Vanguard will still be making music for someone in five, 10, or 20 years from now. The secret is making the product robustly ‘now proof’ rather than crystal ball gazing. And the Vanguard is about as ‘now proof’ as it is possible to get.