I deliberated over Emotiva gear for a long time. I finally plunged into an XPA 5 Gen 2 a few weeks ago and ultimately I have decided to return it. I'm not upset, but just sad that it didn't seem to live up to the performance that their excellent marketing and tech support seems to have suggested. I initially dealt with some noise issues which I found troublesome. It prompted me to take it to a buddy's place to try it on a system that I was very familiar with. Here is a quick synopsis of my findings that I have also posted to the Emotiva forum, starting with my first post after receiving the amp, and my latest post after having a shootout this weekend with other amps. My search continues!
That said, the Emotiva sounds better than the Anthem PVA7. Sound staging is far better, detail, transparency, and bass is far better. But, I am not sure if I can live with the noise.
The Electrocompaniet blows the Emotiva out of the water for transparency, detail, and imaging, but that might have something to do with its internal pre-amp being fed by the balanced DAC line out of my Oppo. I am using the Oppo BDP-105 as a pre-amp/DAC into the XPA5 Gen 2, and I'd be willing to bet that if I had a good pre-amp to compare both, it would be a much closer comparison.
I was first trying to narrow down the noise issue with the XPA5 Gen 2. I determined that the amp just has more noise than I am accustom to. The Anthem PVA7 and the Electrocompaniet ECI MKII are dead silent by comparison. The Rogue Chronus Magnum was slightly less noisy than the Emotiva. I also found that there was transformer hum coming from the XPA5 Gen 2 amp itself. This was the deciding factor in prompting me to return the amp. The XPA5 Gen 2 has several great things going for it, but it doesn't completely fit my needs.
Based on my short time with the XPA5 Gen 2, the build quality and overall design is 110% of what I would expect. The highlight for me is the solidly constructed and even more solidly mounted RCA connections. I like to wrench down tightly on my locking RCA connectors and it's a very impressive feature to have hard mounted RCA posts instead of PCB mounted types like all the other guys. The overall chassis is also incredibly solid. I never felt like the amp was made of cheap materials, unlike the Parasound amps that I have encountered.
Despite the noise, the Emotiva sounded better than the Anthem. But it was nowhere close to the transparency, detail, and accuracy of the Electrocompaniet or the Rogue. Oddly enough with the Kudos C30, the bass from the Emotiva had a lot less impact compared to the Electrocompaniet or the Rogue despite its gobs of power. But, on my Swan Diva 6.2F at home, the bass is great with the Emotiva. I felt that the sound staging, transparency, and detail on the Emotiva out shined the Anthem.
I was hoping to find a single multi-channel amp that could give me the ultimate 2 channel performance and serve purpose for multi-channel as well. A pipe dream, sure, but I was still hopeful. Overall the XPA 5 Gen 2 sounds very good. Without a doubt it will add responsiveness, clarity, and depth to almost any integrated amplification system from an already strained AVR. But I require 2 channel performance first, so my needs will only be fulfilled by a dedicated 2 channel amp and probably a better preamp. If not for the noise of this amp, I very likely would have kept it for multi-channel and 2 channel duty until I could find a better 2 channel amp/preamp or mono blocks. But the noise is just too much for me to be comfortable with.
Sorry the Emo didn’t live up to your expectations.
As a counterpoint, all four of my Emotiva amps are totally silent in use - both mechanically and electrically. I can turn the MV up to 0dB and no noise whatsoever can be heard. My amps are 'first generation' though. I don't know if this makes a difference and the gen 2 amps are noisier. The specs would indicate not - maybe your unit was faulty?
I'd also add that sighted listening tests aren't meaningful. If the listening comparisons between the different amps had been done according to well-established scientific procedures, it is extremely unlikely (read: it's never happened) that anyone would be able to reliably differentiate between modern SS units, assuming none of them is broken and they are not being pushed into clipping.
It is likely that any differences heard were as a result of the flawed test methodology. Factors that could result in an audible difference would include:
- The amps were not level matched to +/- 0.1dB
- The test was sighted (expectation bias etc)
- The test content was not able to be switched instantaneously from amp A to amp B at the will of the listener
- Different content was used at different times for each unit under test
- There was more than a 3 or 4 second gap between unit swapping
All of the above individually will invalidate the test. If used in combination, well... Bottom line: the differences heard are a result of the flawed test conditions not a result of audible differences between the amps.