Looking at the range of Emotiva XPA series power amplifiers, it is easy to guess that we are dealing with a modular platform, and all the variety of models is formed by installing different amplifiers in the same typical case. As a result, the choice is extremely wide: from the XPA-DR1 kilowatt monoblock to the 11-channel XPA-11. We’re going to look at the stereo version of the XPA-DR2. The letters DR in the model designation indicate that the design uses Differential Reference amplifier modules.
These modules have a fully differential, or in more familiar language – balanced circuitry. That is why each module occupies two slots in the housing, and the output terminals are arranged in an unusual way – one per slot. The advantages of differential circuitry are well known: reduced distortion, noise immunity, high power. In contrast to simpler solutions, when the signal ceases to be symmetrical already in the input stage of the power amplifier, the Emotiva XPA-DR2 retains the principle of signal symmetry throughout the entire length of the sound path.
For this reason, all of these benefits are present in their entirety, from XLR input to output terminals, delivering 120dB S / N and less than 0.1% THD at maximum load. Besides, let’s not forget that a differential stereo amplifier by default consists of two unconnected blocks that do not have a common ground. This means we have a dual mono circuit with excellent channel separation.
With doubled dynamics
In addition to the balanced circuitry, the Emotiva XPA-DR2 can boast of another advanced solution: its amplifier modules operate in class H. In fact, this is a completely traditional class AB – only on steroids in the form of a dynamically varying supply voltage. Up to a certain volume level, it works in pure class AB, and then the increase in the signal is accompanied by an increase in the supply voltage, which gives the amplifier a multiple power reserve.
In the case of Emotiva, a certain proprietary Soft-Switch technology is declared, which, apparently, is responsible for the smooth connection of additional power without compromising sound quality. The manufacturer also notes that in class H, the amplifier’s electronic components operate in a more economical and sparing mode than in class AB of the same power, which prolongs the life and consumes less energy.
The power supply plays an important role in the operation of any power amplifier, and if we are talking about class H, its importance cannot be overestimated at all – in fact, the power supply circuit is another amplifier in which the usual class AB is “embedded”, and from the ability of the power supply to increase the output without any delay depends on the dynamics of the sound. Since a conventional transformer is inert to one degree or another, the developers used a modern switching power supply, not forgetting to ensure effective smoothing of ripple and suppression of noise that can negatively affect the sound.
As a result, it was possible to provide power as clean as from a transformer power supply, but with better dynamic response. And also the pulse circuit turned out to be much more compact, lightweight and energy efficient. In the XPA-DR2 model, the output power of the power supply is 3 kW with the output power of the amplifier itself 2 x 800 W (RMS) at a 4-ohm load, which gives a good margin, even purely mathematically, not to mention that in operating mode the output power of the amplifier will be significantly less.
It will not be superfluous to tell about the little things that make up the general impression of the device and the manufacturer. To begin with, it should be mentioned that, in addition to global design innovations, developers also widely use modern technologies in detail. For example, the XPA-DR2 has a state-of-the-art high-tech protection circuit that prevents the amplifier and the load from failing in any abnormal situations and does not affect the sound quality.
There are many subtleties that make the work easier and more convenient. When connected to the electrical network, the supply voltage is selected automatically, emergency protection is provided not by a one-time fuse, but by an automatic switch. The amplifier has a trigger control input and output for integration into the automation system, the light indication on the facade can be turned off if the LEDs are in the field of view and distract attention. And only the type of input symmetrical / not symmetrical will have to be selected manually with a toggle switch – this is the only function done “in the old fashioned way”.
I would also like to note the consistently high-quality manufacturing of the case with an aluminum front and the brutal design, successfully balancing somewhere between professional and home appliances.
And yet a classic
Having thoroughly studied the hardware, I expected to get the most modern sound from the Emotiva XPA-DR2: extremely smooth, collected and fast, but everything turned out to be completely different. The powerhouse produces a large-scale, warm and juicy sound in the best traditions of AB class models from the golden era of transistor circuitry.
The high power and damping factor of 500 allows it to easily handle any load, so there is no reason to assume that the characteristic thick, enveloping bass is due to the inability of the output stages to control the low-frequency section of the connected speakers. Nothing like this! It seems that this is exactly how it was intended. In any case, on the most complex compositions with a large dynamic range or in confusing double bass parts, neither the character nor the degree of bass control changes.
The middle of the XPA-DR2 is perfectly focused, detailed, warm and rich in timbre, with lots of nuances and shades. The upper ones are a little distant from the listener, sometimes they are perceived to be too strict and even dryish – you want to add air and after-sounds. The sense of space, volume and localization of the scene, at the same time, raises no objections – in this matter the amplifier behaves very decently.
In keeping with today’s demands for amplification, the XPA-DR2 delivers high resolution and solid dynamic capabilities, yet it has a character that leaves its mark on all playback content. This footprint is not large enough to make the system uniquely genre, not playing a good half of the music library, and the objective characteristics of the amplifier are good enough to cope with any content. However, the sound invariably contains the same warmth, integrity and vitality that the best representatives of classical transistor circuitry filled with music.
My traditional test CD with the Guru Groove Foundation album “Call me up” revealed this feature from the very first notes. In this mix of live and synthetic sounds, the amplifier gave preference to live ones, and literally made synthetic ones alive. The composition “Shine” sounded as if it was not a studio work, consisting of half of processed sounds, but live, performed on live instruments in a jazz club right here and now.
The whole album was reproduced in warm analog tones, was presented very closely, in one piece, without dividing the music into instruments and any other components. In the performance of XPA-DR2, in principle, it is difficult to hear individual instruments and sounds, what it reproduces is, rather, melodies and rhythms, and since both the Guru Groove Foundation are doing very well with both, the disc was listened to on one breath.
The sound of Dire Straits was a real revelation, starting with “So far away” and further on to the legendary album. The immersion in the 80s atmosphere was literally instantaneous, as if someone flipped a switch. I immediately remembered the clips and concerts of the group, watched to the holes from VHS tapes on a warm tube TV.
Right after that, the XPA-DR2 played well with modern metal, delivering very fast, powerful sound and giving the genre the resolution it needs in the mid / low range. Experimental and alternative music with more complex rhythmic patterns did not become a problem. I liked the sound of RATM – “Killing in a name of” very much.
On the one hand, the amplifier sounded comfortable, without any harsh, harsh, ear-cutting sounds, and on the other hand, it conveyed the band’s proprietary “explosive” energy – at times even frightening and chilling to goosebumps, extremely reliably. And the guitar sounded tasty and juicy in this track. But this is a separate pleasure altogether, as well as listening to modern Hi-Res recordings of jazz, academic music and many other releases that can be understood and experienced anew with the XPA-DR2.
Emotiva XPA-DR2 is just that device about which we can say with confidence that it plays music and only music that must be listened to, loved, and enjoyed without detached contemplation and analytics. The amplifier is absolutely competitive against the background of representatives of the modern sound school in terms of resolution and sound stage building, but it is old-school in terms of working with bass and treble.
At the same time, it gives out an absolutely luxurious, lively middle, plays warm and analog to the extent that not to spoil the recording, but to make the playback more comfortable and expressive. In a word, we have a typically homely, music-loving approach to sound reproduction, without studio composure and sharpness and without focusing on details. And this, by the way, is well suited not only for music, but also for home theater. Take note.