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Reviewer: Joël Chevassus
Financial Interests: click here
Source: Esoteric K-03, Lumin A1, MSB Analog DAC, Apple iMac Lion/Audirvana, Trends UD-10.1, MacBook Lion with HiFace USB bridge
Amp/preamp: Coincident Technology Statement Line preamplifier, SPL Volume2, Luxman C-800f, Luxman M-800a x 2 (bridged), Karan KA M2000, Coda CX [on loan], Trends TA-10.2
Speakers: Vivid Audio K1, Magnepan 20.7 [on loan], Lawrence Audio Violin [on loan]
Cables: Skywire Audio 2020 digital cable, Naturelle Audio interconnects Live 8 MK2, Grimm Audio TPM interconnects, High Fidelity CT1 Enhanced speakers and interconnects.
Power Cords: Audio Art Power 1 SE, Supra, DIY
Stands & room: Music Tools Alicia furniture, DAAD 4 bass traps, Microsorber room insulation, PYT Panels.
Review component retail in France: €45’200/pr

Weightlifting chapter III (part I here, part II here): Milan Karan’s flagships were the heaviest pair of amps that has yet come upstairs into my first-floor listening room. They were the first monaural amps to create serious back pain moving them downstairs again at the end of my review period. And they undoubtedly were one of the best illustrations of what he-man hifi and associated weightlifting are all about.

I had opportunity to assess these massive Serbian amplifiers thanks to their very first European distributor, Zoran Filipovic from Hermes Netherlands. It was a complicated story to import this brand-new pair from Serbia to require extra mileage by Zoran to finally get them to me in France. The delivery van was stopped at the Hungarian border because its back doors weren’t sealed. This kicked off a slew of customs issues. You can imagine the nightmare when you get embroiled having to explain anything to customs. In short, I think there are very few distributors who would have tolerated getting this deeply involved to accommodate a simple review request. Hence I must begin by thanking Zoran Filipovic and his crew for all their efforts to make this review possible.

These bad boys from Serbia’s Novi Sad—I mean the amps!—are an ultimate form of answer for the need of serious power. They were previously written up by Marja & Henk as a review of Franck Tchang’s ASI Grand Stereo amplifier which must be considered a further upgrade to Milan’s KAS600 designed and built by Karan to Tchang’s specifications. I’ve not had opportunity to listen to Franck’s version of the Karan amps. I thus won’t begin to speculate on how Karan’s monos would compete against the ‘special edition’ ASI Grand Monos in terms of sonics.

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. But today they remain big boys given a current trend for downsizing à la Dan D’Agostino’s new direction. 20 years ago nobody would have predicted that the founder of Krell would one day specialize in compact high-power amps.

Relative to all that Milan Karan sticks to the bulky hand-made tradition. It's why this small relatively isolated company sells to anywhere in the world. The main question becomes, do we really need this much raw power? Our choice of amplifier remains based on the electrical match with our loudspeaker. You will never get the best results with an amplifier that was chosen without regard to whether it could drive them properly. On paper the powerful Karan amps would seem to suffer no particular limitation for driving even the most difficult of loads.

But the quest for any perfect partnership relies also on particular compromises. Deciphering specifications on paper is unfortunately not always guarantee to success. The finest sounding speakers are often those which require the most artful compromises. That’s why I used three pairs for this review: a very easy one (Lawrence Audio Violin); another bass reflex design with more power requirements (Vivid Audio K1); and a rather complicated load (Magnepan 20.7).