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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: Kenwood KA-87 Integrated Amplifier (SS) by Tuneman

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REVIEW: Kenwood KA-87 Integrated Amplifier (SS)

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Model: KA-87
Category: Integrated Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $50.00
Description: 2x 100 watts@ 8 ohm intergrated amp w/ 7 band eq
Manufacturer URL: Kenwood
Manufacturer URL: Kenwood

Review by Tuneman ( A ) on February 03, 2003 at 18:59:04
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for the KA-87

I have never been a big fan of Kenwood's electronics. Too many bells and whistles, not enough refinement in sound. This was a different day for me. I came across a modestly priced intergrated amp that seemed to be well built. Could this be a Kenwood product? Yes it is. Back when Kenwood still made seperates and intergrated, not unlike other manufactors, they made them just a step above a receiver of the same price point. First here are the nuts and bolts, as I got a nifty instruction manual with the unit. 100 watts per channel minimum, both channels driven @ 8 ohms from 20Hz to 20kHz with no more than 0.05% THD. This seems to be believable, but the 225 watt rating max power at 8 ohms, seems to be a bit far out there, this was evident when the volume was pushed until the two red power meters to 0 Db.It has led power meters, as they are cheaper than needles, a feature that I could live with out. The 7 band eq does little to contor the sound, but it is defeatable with the push of a button. Now on to what I was listening to: First up, the Dixie Chick's new Album "Home" With the first set up I tried,(CR8's, Teac eq, Sony CDP-C225) the song "Landslide", a Fleetwood Mac classic sounded a bit congested and nasal, leaning a bit to the bass heavy side. The second set up fared a bit better, as I switched the CR8's out for a set of Mini Monitors and reset the eq to get a "closer to flat" sound. I made it all the way to song number 5, "white trash wedding" The banjo's stood out a bit more and the treble was a bit more pronounced. Now onto Sting's "Brand New Day", a favorite of mine to demo gear as it seems to be pretty well recorded. The title track really stood out, as it had a tad more punch than when I was using a Yamaha CR-620(35 watts@8 ohms) Where the little Yamaha strained to crank out the volume, the KA-87 still had some headroom left. Now I wanted to see if it would crank out the volume. Time for some Metallica. I threw on "Loverman" off Garage inc. I kept the volume at the 11 o'clock postion the whole time. Halfway through the song, I had to back the knob down, as the unit started to clip, so much for that 225 watt max rating. I then switched to the Apex Digital AD1200 dvd player for some MP3's. Tom Waits and other selected goodies. I think I made it through "Going out west" & Downtown train" then I just had to turn it off. I think the Combination of MP3 and a really cheap dvd player got to my ears. I had to play something a bit softer, so I threw on Dan Fogelberg's "Love Songs" "Hard to say" did not sound as good as I remembered. I concluded that the Apex dvd play was just junk. I should have saved the 50 bucks I spent on it for a decent bottle of Scotch. It gave a whole new meaning to noise floor and bright. On the shelf it went. I then got out my Sony CE275. I proceded to hook up the titans, replacing the XP wire with 2 runs of 18 guage zip cord. A sound a bit more like when I was using a Audiosource AMP1, which is to say a bit bright at times, most notable when cranking "Power of Love" at full blast. I lowered the 2kHz slider on the eq 2 Db and listened to a CD of cover songs I have. From Anthrax doing "Cowboy song" to UB40 covering Elvis, this set up was not bad, but not as good as the first set up. The best set up seemed to be when I used my hombrewed IC's, Monster XP, Mini Monitors & the EQ set to lower the bass, rolling off -2 Db @ 120Hz, -4Db @ 60Hz and -6Db @ 30 Hz and the treble slightly lowered by -2 DB @ 4Hz. After I set it all up like this, I listened to "Billy Joel's box set" from start to finish as it was time for critical listening for a while..err I mean just plain old fun. I only ran into a slight clipping problem on "The Downeaster Alexa" and "Goodnight Saigon", but when I sat closer and kept the volume under the 11 o'clock mark I did not sense any strain. I tried some more female vocals, like Beth Hart & Joan Osbourne, alone with some Diana Krall" Live In Paris" Then it was back to rock vocals by the likes of Dire Straits. "In the gallery" & Sultans of Swing" sounded pretty good, nothing to knock your socks off, but none the less not too bad. My foot was tappin' along, so fun was had by all. The last test was the Denon DR-M30HX tape deck and some live Dead and Gov' Mule my brother gave me. Tapes that were claimed to be made "straight off the board", and they are pretty well recorded in my book, having never seen either band live. My listening session ended on a good note, as I think I may have found a budget sleeper intergrated amp for light use. All in all the KA-87 is not a bad unit if purchased for under 100 dollars or so. While not a "Reference quality" intergrated amp, it still may prove that Kenwood did make a few good products....

Product Weakness: Will not run a 4 ohm load with ease, a tad heavy in the bass region.
Product Strengths: Can be had for a modest price, Rock solid construction, lots of room inside to modify...

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: same under review& Yamaha CR-620
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): none
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Sony CE275, Sony CDP-C225(14 guage cord), Apex Digital AD1200 DVD player
Speakers: Paradigm Mini Monitor, Paradigm Titan, Boston Acoustics CR8
Cables/Interconnects: Homebrewed, Radio Shack's best, Monster XP, double run of 18 guage zip cord.
Music Used (Genre/Selections): see review.
Room Size (LxWxH): 25 x 12 x 7
Room Comments/Treatments: Too much stuff in the room!
Time Period/Length of Audition: 2 weeks
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): Homemade Leviton 2 outlet extention cord Teac EQA-20 eq
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Kenwood KA-87 Integrated Amplifier (SS) - Tuneman 18:59:04 02/3/03 ( 2)