Better than Emotiva XSP-1 for similar money? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 05-07-2013, 09:19 AM - Thread Starter
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I need a stereo preamp that has balanced XLR outputs and a minimum of 3 inputs. Bonus points if it has a phono preamp built in. In terms of sound quality is there anything out there better than the Emotiva XSP-1 under $1500 or so?

I'm not saying the XSP-1 is bad, I've not yet heard it, I just want to be fully informed about what else is on the market.

Thanks,

Matt
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post #2 of 15 Old 05-07-2013, 11:18 AM
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I have the USP-1 and in my very limited experience, the built in phono preamp is the best I've had. I definitely can recommend the USP-1, so I would think the XSP-1 is fantastic as well. I hope to get one eventually. Lots of good feedback from members at the Emotiva lounge, and from the reviews they say its a powerhouse for the price.

I would say just try it out, save some money too. You can send it back of course, but I bet it will work out for you. Good luck!
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post #3 of 15 Old 05-09-2013, 10:09 AM
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There is almost nothing else for that price that has balanced inputs and outputs.

I love my Audio Research LS-26 preamp which has both balanced and unbalanced inputs on all 7 inputs, and 2 sets of balanced and unbalanced outputs, but it was $5995.

If you could find one used, that would be a great deal for you, but it would still probably be a lot more than $1500.

The Vincent SA-T8 is an excellent preamp that has two balanced and four unbalanced inputs and both balanced and unbalanced outputs. I would highly recommend it if you could manage $2495.
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post #4 of 15 Old 05-10-2013, 05:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by volta View Post

I have the USP-1 and in my very limited experience, the built in phono preamp is the best I've had. I definitely can recommend the USP-1, so I would think the XSP-1 is fantastic as well. I hope to get one eventually. Lots of good feedback from members at the Emotiva lounge, and from the reviews they say its a powerhouse for the price.

I would say just try it out, save some money too. You can send it back of course, but I bet it will work out for you. Good luck!

Concur, I needed a pre-amp with a 2.1 HT by-pass and thought I’d use the Emotiva USP-1 as a stopgap but still hold on to my Bryston BP25P, well to my chagrin the Bryston is gone as the Emotiva in my set-up just did everything better including vinyl playback.
I’m also looking forward to pick-up the XSP-1.

Associated gear:
Pre/pro’s : Emotiva USP-1, UMC-1 Sources : Bryston BCD-1,Rega P3/2000/Sumiko Blue Point II, Sony BDP S550,Apple TV2
Amps: Bryston 4BSST FL/FR, Emotiva UPA-1 CC, XPA-200 LS/RS
Speakers : Dynaudio Special 25's Main, Contour Center and Contour 1.3MKIIs for surrounds
Sub Velodyne SMS-1/SPL1500R

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post #5 of 15 Old 05-13-2013, 08:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by VBallerLefty View Post

I need a stereo preamp that has balanced XLR outputs and a minimum of 3 inputs. Bonus points if it has a phono preamp built in. In terms of sound quality is there anything out there better than the Emotiva XSP-1 under $1500 or so?

I'm not saying the XSP-1 is bad, I've not yet heard it, I just want to be fully informed about what else is on the market.

Thanks,

Matt

From what I’ve been reading the XSP-1 has been so far regarded and appreciated as a definite step-up from the USP-1 .
I’ve yet to get word when the XSP-1 will be re-released for international shipment so cannot comment directly on it’s performance but one form member has asked my opinion on the sound quality between previous Bryston BP25P and the Emotiva USP-1 and seeing it may give a little more insight on the XSP-1 I thought I would post it here.


“Hi Marty

Coincidently I was just putting my thoughts down with regards to the two pre-amps, first off though I’ve sold off my BP25P a few weeks after getting the USP-1, but over the weekend to get a better handle on the differences or similarities, now that I’m better acquainted with the EMO sound, I was using the pre section of my Bryston B60R.




Associated equipment:
Sources: Bryston BCD-1, Rega P3/2000 with Sumiko Blue Point II,
Amp: Bryston 4BSST
Speakers : Dynaudio Special 25's on Target HR60 24” stands, lead and sand filled
Sub: Velodyne SPL1500R with Velodyne SMS-1

To me the two preamps present somewhat of a different perspective in my set-up but I should mention a bit of my background.
In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I spent a fair amount of time involved in Electro-acoustics as a composer and technician so needless to say I’ve done my fair amount of recording.
I’ve been a Bryston user since the 80’s and have always considered them true and neutral to the source which is what I consider foremost in monitoring and audio system.
Although I’ve been aware of their presence it’s only in the last year that I’ve become acquainted in owning and using some Emotiva gear and have come appreciate Dan’s and Emotiva’ s enthusiasm, philosophy and commitment to offer real equipment at an affordable price for real people.

Now having said that, my most previous all Bryston set-up up until recently was a BCD-1 CDP, BP25P pre and 4BSST amp, although neutral and satisfying I’ve always somehow felt what shallow in it’s staging even though I felt at times the performers were present in the room.
The Emotiva USP-1 much to my surprise while remaining neutral, somewhat like the Brystons, was in fact much cleaner or may I even say crisp with even more detail so that stage depth has now become much more noticeable, this became more evident with each recording be it CD or vinyl. The USP-1 may have a slight rise in the upper harmonics which accounts for the extra detail but I would not say it is bright and with female vocal and wind instruments such as the flute it sounds correct.

Now here’s where it gets interesting in my opinion and the best way that I can convey the experience is that the USP-1 either makes me feel that I’ve been transported to the venue because of its better exposé of detail and stage (hall) depth or it brings me back to being in the recording booth with a live feed, the BP25P I find leans more toward placing the performers in the room at the cost of the original ambient cues of the recording space, both preamps are satisfying to listen to and neither portray a generic insight.
Clearly this has a lot to do with my room acoustics and my setup, but both preamps do crossover so it not black and white but as mentioned one leans more to one acoustic presentation than the other. The fact that the majority of recordings are mixed down in the studio, logic would say that the Emotiva is correct but feeling the performers are present in the room is psychoacoustically satisfying. I’m torn between the two so obviously I’ve been struggling with which is actually more accurate.

Not too sure if you are aware of this, but the XSP-1 was initially due for release 2 years ago and was in production until the owner Dan Laufman of Emotiva stopped the assembly, feeling that he could take the performance of the XSP-1 to a level that would compete with the best available.
Bryston on the other hand, and as much as I’ve been a die hard user and supporter for a long time have been using the same basic design for almost thirty years with minor modifications in circuit layout and the substitution of newer (better) components in their current amps and pre-amps and so may be getting a bit long in tooth.
Their build quality is exemplary and on a much higher playing field than the Emotiva gear but at a cost that does not necessarily equate to better sound or reliability.

From this point I’m hoping to get a bit more feedback from XSP-1 users, from reading the results (reviews) from other members I get this gut instinct that the XSP-1 may give me the best of both.

Hope this helps"

Robert
Toronto, Ontario

 

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post #6 of 15 Old 05-13-2013, 12:29 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rob80b View Post


Not too sure if you are aware of this, but the XSP-1 was initially due for release 2 years ago and was in production until the owner Dan Laufman of Emotiva stopped the assembly, feeling that he could take the performance of the XSP-1 to a level that would compete with the best available.

[/I]

A little more visual insight of the initial XSP-1 and the current one.

2010/2011

http://emonatics.com/XSP-1.shtml

and

2012

http://shop.emotiva.com/collections/processors/products/xsp1

Basically a full internal make over.

Robert
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post #7 of 15 Old 05-17-2013, 08:31 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rob80b View Post

From what I’ve been reading the XSP-1 has been so far regarded and appreciated as a definite step-up from the USP-1 .
I’ve yet to get word when the XSP-1 will be re-released for international shipment so cannot comment directly on it’s performance but one form member has asked my opinion on the sound quality between previous Bryston BP25P and the Emotiva USP-1 and seeing it may give a little more insight on the XSP-1 I thought I would post it here.


“Hi Marty

...
Not too sure if you are aware of this, but the XSP-1 was initially due for release 2 years ago and was in production until the owner Dan Laufman of Emotiva stopped the assembly, feeling that he could take the performance of the XSP-1 to a level that would compete with the best available.
Bryston on the other hand, and as much as I’ve been a die hard user and supporter for a long time have been using the same basic design for almost thirty years with minor modifications in circuit layout and the substitution of newer (better) components in their current amps and pre-amps and so may be getting a bit long in tooth.
Their build quality is exemplary and on a much higher playing field than the Emotiva gear but at a cost that does not necessarily equate to better sound or reliability.

From this point I’m hoping to get a bit more feedback from XSP-1 users, from reading the results (reviews) from other members I get this gut instinct that the XSP-1 may give me the best of both.

Hope this helps"

The XSP's origins 2 years ago are not accurate, at least according to Lonnie at the time it was announced that the XSP-1 would go back to the drawing board. Lonnie said in a podcast(with Dan there too) that when they connected the XSP-1 to the XDA-1(their brand new DAC at the time) the XSP had a detrimental effect on the soundstage. Lonnie said it didn't collapse the soundstage but it degraded it. So they decided to scrap the XSP prototype and start over. I was paying very close attention to this at the time because I had money in hand to buy the XSP as soon as it came out, then bought the XDA because the XSP kept getting delayed. About a year later they announced the end of the XDA-1 after scrapping the XSP because it didn't play nice with it. The now released XSP-1 should be a nice unit, though I don't care for the SS house sound of Emotiva after owning 3 of their components. Hopefully the sound is evolving.

The other thing is, at this point, Bryston makes lousy preamps, so I'm not surprised to find a comparison where it is bested.
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post #8 of 15 Old 11-24-2013, 01:46 PM
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Be aware that a lot of amps or preamps that have balanced inputs-outputs are indeed pseudo-balanced. The best example is in Emotiva group itself - Sherbourn PRE-1 as a preamp and Emotiva's XPA-100, XPA-200, XPA-2, XPA-5 and even top off the line XPR-2 and XPR-5. But XSP-1 is a true balanced preamp , which, for this money is extremely rare...In fact, I do not know any other true balanced amp or preamp under 900 bucks.
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post #9 of 15 Old 11-24-2013, 03:21 PM
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Balanced inputs aren't needed in most home audio setups. Balanced inputs are *needed* in pro audio setups due to the long cable runs they often use - and a near-must for microphone cables. There simply is no reason for balanced cables in a setup where the cables are probably no more than 3-5'. But if you think it looks cool then knock yourself out.cool.gif

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post #10 of 15 Old 11-24-2013, 05:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Subdusted View Post

Be aware that a lot of amps or preamps that have balanced inputs-outputs are indeed pseudo-balanced. The best example is in Emotiva group itself . . .
Quote:
Originally Posted by Knucklehead90 View Post

Balanced inputs aren't needed in most home audio setups. . . There simply is no reason for balanced cables in a setup where the cables are probably no more than 3-5'.
Which means that you shouldn't feel the need to buy equipment with balanced input/outputs. As Knucklehead pointed out, they aren't necessary, and as Subdusted pointed out, they are most likely single ended anyway.

The only reason that I know of to have balanced or pseudo-balanced outputs on a pre-amp would be if you had a pro-amp that required the input-voltage levels that a balanced output provides.
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post #11 of 15 Old 11-25-2013, 02:34 AM
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Balanced connection is a preferable way , it reduces noise, thus provides better quality audio. But it makes sense only if the entire setup is truly differential. In my case, I use Modwright Oppo 95 ( balanced stereo output ), Emotiva XSP-1 quad differential preamp and quad differential monoblocks Emotiva XPA-1L. So the entire setup is balanced without any signal conversions into unbalanced. That's the only way for balanced connections to be used , otherwise it's a waste of money. If an amp, let's say, Emotiva XPA-2 has only balanced inputs but then the signal is converted into unbalanced, it's better to use regular RCA.
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post #12 of 15 Old 11-25-2013, 02:43 AM
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I'll quote Audioholics website :

" In order for a balanced system to be effective in reducing common-mode noise not only must the interconnection cable be balanced, but the terminations must also be balanced. Using transformers or balanced amplifiers are two possible approaches to providing balanced terminations."

http://www.audioholics.com/audio-video-cables/balanced-vs-unbalanced-interconnects/balanced-vs-unbalanced-interconnects-page-2
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post #13 of 15 Old 11-25-2013, 05:12 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Subdusted View Post

I'll quote Audioholics website :

" In order for a balanced system to be effective in reducing common-mode noise not only must the interconnection cable be balanced, but the terminations must also be balanced. Using transformers or balanced amplifiers are two possible approaches to providing balanced terminations."

http://www.audioholics.com/audio-video-cables/balanced-vs-unbalanced-interconnects/balanced-vs-unbalanced-interconnects-page-2

Having been involved from both a design and usage perspective with pro audio and balanced connections for decades, and worked with systems that had upwards 100 balanced connections each, I can tell you that the above somewhat overstates the situation.

The common mode rejection in a balanced system is at the input to the related equipment. There is a ton of professional audio gear where the balanced output is half passive - in some sense not genuinely balanced, yet the balanced input that it drives provides effective common mode rejection.

A piece of equipment with an unbalanced output can be beneficially connected to a balanced input using a cable that is wired like this:



http://www.rane.com/note110.html
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post #14 of 15 Old 11-25-2013, 03:43 PM
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Hi Arny,
Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

A piece of equipment with an unbalanced output can be beneficially connected to a balanced input using a cable that is wired like this:



http://www.rane.com/note110.html
The above is most often true, but there are conditions that render it ineffective. Thankfully, in those situations, the shield allows it to be at least as good as a normal unbalanced connection.

In order for the receiver circuit to effectively subtract-out the common-mode noise, that noise needs to be equal on both the positive and negative legs (pins 2 & 3). That requires that the source impedance be equal on both legs at the source, otherwise the source will attenuate the noise on one leg more than the other (making the "mode" less "common). If the source was floating with respect to the receiver, (as your diagram implies) than it typically works as a balanced driver.

However, if one was to connect the shield of that cable to the chassis of the source, then you would greatly attenuate the noise on the black wire. The noise would no longer be common to both legs, and only the remaining noise on the black wire would be subtracted from the red wire. But as I said, it would still work fine as an unbalanced line, since it is shielded.

The risk of having the source floating is that it could "float" outside of the receiver's "common-mode range". That's not an issue if the receiver is a transformer, as a transformer's common-mode range is almost unlimited. An op-amp based receiver (or an instrumentation-amp, as I typically use), would need some protection to insure against damage.

That brings up the main difference between balanced and unbalanced transmission lines: A unbalanced system depends on shielding to prevent noise from entering the system, while a balanced system subtracts-out whatever noise does enter the system. That's why some balanced systems aren't shielded at all.
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post #15 of 15 Old 02-18-2014, 08:35 PM
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Not sure if this is the right forum to discuss my question...seems most of you in this forum appreciates Parasound. I am looking for a preamp and trying to decide between the P5, JC2 bp, Mcintosh c50, or Emotiva XSP-2 Gen 2. Anyways I know there are huge price differences in each. If I could spend less or get the best bang for the buck than I'm all in. I currently own a Mcintosh mc452 amp and to find a good preamp to go with it. I have read from many other forums that Mcintosh is best with Mcintosh but if I can avoid spending another 7.5k on a preamp I would much prefer. The Parasound JC2 bp has awesome reviews and if I was going to spend 7.5k on a Macintosh preamp then might save a couple thousand and go with the JC2 bp. However, I stumbled across the P5 which seems to have more features than the JC2 with the sub out and built-in dac. However, my understanding the JC2 is dual mono design and is supposed to be one of the quietest preamp on the market today. Not sure how much difference I will truely notice. Then I came across the Emotiva XSP-1 Gen 2 which seems to look awesome on paper. Not sure if the Parasounds or Mcintosh is a fully differential balanced stereo preamp and not sure how much that will benefit me. I will be running balanced inputs however. The speaker I will be using (don't laugh) is the Kef ls50 for now until I can come across a good price on a the used market for either Kef 207/2s or Paradigm Signature S8s. I just sold my Kef 205s hence was the original reason why I have the Mcintosh mc452s to power them. But I really had to hear what the most talked about speakers "Kef Ls50s" were all about. I know my amp is overkill but I don't plan on cranking it. Any thoughts on a preamp? Or is there a preamp I might have overlooked? Looking for the best bang for the buck. I'm not an audiophile in the sense I understand technical terms. i just go by sound; what I hear and what pleases me. Looking for neutrality and a balanced stereo sound smile.gif Any help would be much appreciated. Thank you!
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