Well it's official. A friend of mine who is a musician and has a pretty good pair of ears and I both agree. The Crown XLS 2000 trumps an Acurus by Mondial A250 power amp.
Last night we did some amp testing between my XLS 2000 and Acurus A250, which was Acurus' top of the line power amp circa 1993. The Crown seemed more at ease, sounded more open and had a broader sound stage. I have absolutely no idea how this can possible, but I heard it with my own ears.
The gear involved was as follows:
An older Sony DVP-S7000 as a CD transport => an Emotiva XDA-2 DAC with the volume turned up 100% => an Emotiva Control Freak volume control (XLR version for the Crown and RCA version for the Acurus) => XLS 2000 with gain controls maxed in stereo bypass mode & Acurus A250 power amp => 2 identical sets of 12 gauge Planet Waves speaker cables with banana plug connectors => NHT Super Two speakers
We listened to just 2 CDs - Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Donald Fagan's Morph The Cat. Neither of us felt there was any need to listen to anything else. The Crown won. Afterward I switched the Crown over so that it was using the RCA version of the Emotiva Control Freak as both of us thought the XLR connection was giving the Crown an unfair advantage. In truth it didn't seem to sound quite as good using the RCA inputs as it did when using the XLR inputs, but the breadth of the sound stage was still much wider than with the Acurus A250.
About a week prior to this we did another test putting the Crown XLS 2000 against an Acurus A150. On this test things were a little different because I used an Acurus L10 preamp to control the volume for the Acurus A150. The Crown used the same Emotiva XLR Control Freak as above. All the rest of the equipment was exactly the same.
On this test the sound from the Acurus A150 was much darker. We both surmised this was probably due to the Acurus L10 preamp as the difference was much more noticeable in the first test than the more recent test. I did not use the RCA Control Freak on this first test but should have.
Vive la Crown!