Back in June of 2011 a freak storm from no where hit the area and my house took a bit of a hit in the form of EMP from a direct strike out back. It fried all the digital components in my home theater. That meant it was time to upgrade. This amp ended up replacing a Parasound HCA series amp. I had read a lot about Emotiva on the net and as they had a no questions asked return policy I gave them a go. Their web site was very easy to use and the amp arrived very quickly. First off, this amp is very heavy and as it has no handles on the back, was a bit difficult to get into the equipment rack. It was hooked up with a Raymond power cord, Monster M1000i RCA's and speaker cables by Zu Audio, Libtec. When I first powered every thing up, I was a little mortified. Grunge. Harsh. Bright. I also had a problem with the power cord as it was to stiff to bend in the new required radius. The XPA-5 was a full 2 to 2-1/2 inches longer than the original Parasound amp that it was replacing. In the end the Raymond was replaced by a Zu BoK. The Monster M1000i RCA's replaced by a set of Zu Wylde RCA's. As the cables were new, I played the amp every chance I had as a back ground as loudly as I could for several weeks and went back. The grunge, gritty hard sound was now replaced with a middle of the road sound that was detailed. Natural. Time to run it through the paces. First start was Middle Brother. This band is a mixture of the guys from Deer Tick, Delta Spirit and Dawes. I listened to Day Dreaming & Blood and guts. This allowed me to demo a bit of guitar and well, power, blood and guts. Let me say, it is all there. The sound stage is very good. The bass is very controlled. The mid's are forward but not in your face and the highs are all there. At times I did feel as though the highs might be a bit rolled off, but that was more attributed to the recording because I did not have the same experience with the following recordings. Next up, Pink Floyd's Meddle. Track 2 & 6. I always felt that these tracks has a magical sense of ambience with in the music. The delivery was very pronounced with the emotion (that the name Emotiva was named for) pouring through the speakers. Now it was time for a break. After which, I loaded up Norah Jones. The album "Not to late" tracks 1 and 3 were recorded with great dynamics and sound stage. All of which are definitely portrayed. Now it was time for power. Raw. Pure. I loaded Armin Van Buuren's "Love you more" EP and selected the club mix. The volume nob was set to ludicrous. Shake the house it did. This amp has power. Make no f'n mistake. I was a bit nervous when I saw the 68,000 secondary cap. But this amp had power and head room. Dynamic. Now I am thinking to myself holly 5hit did I get a good deal on this baby! The bass is very tight. This amp can drive and drive and drive. And it does it with authority. Control. Precision. I am a big fan of Parasound and John Curl the man. So, I was a bit biased going into this. This amp made a believer out of me. It did every thing and did it well. After all was said and done, my 2 cents are that this is a good amp period. Not just oh it's good for, you know," the $800 I paid for it". But regardless, a good amp. I felt that over all it was warm and inviting. Had speed. Sound. Attack. Texture. Ambience. This can be hard when you look at the beauty and beast aspect of amps. I also felt that the XPA-5 along with the UMC-1 pre/pro, was very generous to less than perfect recordings. All cables by Zu Audio and Aural Thrills. Speakers are Wharfedale Opus. Source was Sony ES SACD. Power by the Monster 7000. Dedicated dual 15 amp circuit through a PS Audio premier outlet. Very Highly Recommended.
Note during the over all burn in phase, I had swapped a few cords in and out in an attempt to tweak a few things that I felt had tolerance issues. While doing so I had contacted the Emotiva support group WRT cables and tolerance. They felt that there was no difference when using quality products. I would just like to say I respectfully disagree with that statement.
Having a similar system to DrMarkS, (Ikon 6 and Outlaw Audio LFM-1EX sub) my XPA5 is being fed by a new Onkyo TX-NR809. With the wonderful features of this receiver, I can't help but think they should make a separate pre/pro at reasonable prices to feed high powered amps like this.
I can't help but be biased when I consider the space allocated to the amplifier section of a receiver, compared with a separate amp in a generous sized chassis with a large dedicated power supply.
But Emotiva also gets it right in all the other components and this is evident in the large soundstage, the depth, and dynamics of the sound.
The differences may not be immediately noticed at normal listening levels and standard programs. But crank it up a bit and put on some quality 2 or multi-channel source material and the advantages begin to reveal themselves in the clarity of notes, the authenticity of explosions, and loudest screams, the softest sighs, the sweetest notes.
It's a level above 'good listening' IMO And a true value at that. Let those who will turn their nose up and the 'low price) origin of build, and unknown name plate. If you keep it a secret (just try!) it will be one of your most treasured.
This is a review about the XPA-5 emotiva amp. This is a 5-channel, 200-RMS unit.
Equipment used in my system.
Denon 3800BDCI Bluray RCA out, with Burr Brown PCM-1796 DACs
Monster AVS-2000 voltage stabilizer
Dali Ikon 7 mains
Dali Vokel 2 center
Dali onwall surround
SVS PB12 Ultra2
Cabling used, I have enjoyed music and home theater since the late 70’s and spent a ton on cables. Most of my cables were bought from companies in the late 80’s and early 90’s, which are out of business.
Suffice it to say, all cabling is at least 12 gage or better.
I hooked this beast up with the help of my lovely wife and had at it. Denon setting, stereo. For about 45 minutes of listening, I was concerned with the very harsh sound at the high end, mid range was overly warm. Playing with the settings of the receiver, I switched it to direct mode and this cleared up the problem.
I am not armed with meters, just my ears. This is not a review with sine curves, etc. Just my impression from before, then the addition of the XPA-5.
First disk up, Pink Floyd – Dark side of the moon. Original master recording, MFSL., Inc aad, 1973UDCD 517. This is a 24k gold master.
3 tracks listened to.
4. Time, The heart beat and then going into the clocks striking. In the past I had a Phase Linear 400b (bought in 1978) and a Bryston 4b (bought in 1991) amp. The pulse of the heart beat always seemed to give the phase linear and the Denon trouble. At the height of the pulse, the sound would lose some of the solid clarity and seem to distort. The Bryston was the only amp I owned that was able to render this with clarity. As it transitions to the clocks striking, the high pitch would inevitably turn to a shrill and all blend together. I don’t know why, but this transition from full mids/low to an abrupt high is a difficult transition for an amp. The pulse usually starts out strong, but the tail end of each, seem to trail and distort.
The XPA-5 changed that. Each pulse was solid and firm, no hint of distortion. Rather than lose control, the XPA held on to the sound with tight control and allowed it to complete with authority. As the music transitioned into the clocks, each strike was clear and held with clarity. I was able to hear each strike on its own and pick each out. Rather than all the clocks turning into the shrill blur as they chime together. Each one was distinct and rendered with subtlety.
5. The great gig in the sky. Clare Torry was front and center. No hint of distortion at the high end of her voice. Firm and full sounding. I was pleased that no harsh rendering of her voice was present.
6. Money, Nerdvanna. Pure adulterated pleasure. I found myself swaying and remembering the concert in the 80’s in Phoenix. Pink Floyd performed at an open air venue. This was truly one of the all time great concerts, I had ever been to. Prior to this, I would remember the sound as harsh and muddy. Each base note was clean, clear and complete.
Ludwig Van Beethoven Symphony No. 9. Telarc recording 1985 CD-80120
Bass recitative, and chorus, through Chorus:Prestissimo.
Robert Lloyd BASS, Janice Taylor Mezzo-Soprano and Carol Vaness Soprano.
I have yet found a “recording” of this I enjoy. This is the piece that got me hooked on classical. From the bass to the soprano, I have been stuck hearing a lot of sound, blended together. No real distinction between the instruments. I now hear distinction, as the voices travel; I hear violins, bass section, actual instruments used to make this a memorable listening session. As Carol hit the highs in the past, the note was blurry and meshed together with the string section. Not the case now. I hear her voice hit the highs and can still pick out the instruments.
If anyone has a recommendation for a better recording of this piece, share it please.
Mickey Hart: Planet Drum. Rykodisk aad, 1991 recording
7. Temple Caves. In this recording Mickey used a wide variety of instruments. The most noteworthy are rain stick, split bamboo, shakers and earth drum. The rain stick always seemed to be the most difficult to render. They always seem to blur and distort at the high end. When I first listened to this, I was fully expecting to be disappointed. I expected to hear nothing but shrill fuzz. This was not the case. The rain stick was tight, no distortion. While not able to pick each sound, the sound was not fuzzy. Each bass note was firm and tight. When the earth drum and rain stick are intertwined, I am used to hearing just a lot of distortion and blended noise. Not the case with this listening session.
Michael Murray recording of Bach Toccata & Fugue in D Minor. Telarc CD-80088 1983 DDD
I really enjoy this recording, each note is not killed fast, but a little linger is allowed. It reminds me of some cathedrals in Europe, where I have heard it played before. Some recordings do each note hard and fast. When the end of the note is complete, they kill it hard. I remember the light echo of some cathedrals that give the music life. This recording always brings me back to that point in my life. Unfortunately, poor quality equipment kept me at home and annoyed. No lingering sound, just a lot of noise and distortion.
The XPA-5 and my Dali Ikon7’s seem to be a match in heaven. Each note took my back 30 years to England and Germany. I remembered sitting, looking up at the murals. As each note was hit…. Well you get the point.
The initial problem was wondering if I was making a mistake going back to separates. I had been disappointed in the 70’s and 80’s with all the hiss and noise. Trying to get the perfect note/sound. All my separate gear was dumped in the mid 90’s and I went to a do-it-all receiver. While I never got the perfect sound, I knew one thing, I was listening to sound, not music. I now have a great combination that allows me to hear music.
This amp does what is says, power and stability. I never once clipped and I don’t remember hitting the wall of distortion.
What this does is point me in the upgrade direction
Phase 1. Dali Helicon 400 speakers
Phase 2. XPA-2
Phase 3. 7.1 processor to replace the 3808ci
I think I will be in nerd heaven then.
Now to see if CD’s have improved since my 1980’s purchases. Any recommendations?