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Amplifier Alchemist Kraken review

As legendary sea monsters go, the Kraken’s bark is far worse than its bite, though you might still sizzle your hand on its steaming-hot heatsinks. For Alchemist’s Kraken turns out to be a fairly ordinary amplifier, albeit one packaged with extraordinary flair.

Its contouring and green hammerite finish lend it the appearance of some Gothic artefact, which makes a distinct contrast with the brilliant gold livery of Alchemist’s Genesis, Freya and Odin amplifiers.

The Kraken is the latest in a line of highly distinctive amplifier designs. It’s available in line-only guise for ?399 or with either MM or MC phono boards at ?444 and ?454 respectively.

Up to four line inputs and one tape deck are accommodated in what is, frankly, an enriched Class A/B power amp equipped with an attenuator (‘passive’ volume control) and selector switch. As a consequence the Kraken will tend to cool down as it beats out its music.


Sound quality

‘Sounds like a loud but little amplifier’, remarked one listener, a sentiment swiftly reinforced by our other panellists who suggested its midrange was rather messy, and tended to shout rather than sing. Marty Paich’s sax was bereft of its customary ambience; instead we were treated to a closer and coarser rendition, an unwelcome insistence that carried over into all styles of music.

Rock and pop suffered this same spotlit effect, isolating percussive detail in all too obvious a fashion. Bass was satisfyingly ‘grumbly’ but was equally prone to sounding splodgy and diffuse — hardly lightweight, but lacking tautness and definition.

The foundation, of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet hinges on both double bass and low woodwinds, but the music careered aimlessly along, even though its introduction, announced by the shimmer of strings and wood blocks, had sounded reassuringly atmospheric. This is a classic case of RF interference where the breakdown of space, separation and subtlety seems directly linked to the complexity of the recording.

Conclusion

The Kraken boils with Class A heat, but this is no guarantee it’ll enjoy the archetypal Class A sound. Quite the opposite in fact, as its frightening sensitivity to RF interference promises a highly inconsistent performance from system to system. Cure this and the Kraken may truly wake up, otherwise it’s an intriguing but expensive gamble.

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