Originally Posted by grigorianvlad
That is what I thought as well, but it turned out not to be the case.
I bought this XPA-3 used from a fellow avsforum subscriber. We haggle on the price, he throws in 3 Canare RCA cables but warns me that he never tested them because he uses XLR cables. A paragon of integrity, this seller. He went out of his way for me.
He fedexes the XPA-3 to me only a few hours later. The amp arrives a few days afterwards.
Excellent shape, looks perfect. I connect it to my Pioneer Elite VSX-53 with the Canare cables and the first impression is not good. Sounstage, imaging, sound body are all worse than the Elite produces with my Polk LSi-9s. Even the volume is lower. If before Emotiva my normal volume was between -40 and -50, with the Emotiva I have to crank it up to -30 to get the same level.
At this point I am not sure whether the amp is defective. I am not an audiophile. "Audio fool" describes me better. I have never owned a power amp before, but I am pretty sure it is supposed to improve the sound, not to make it worse or quieter.
I decide to go with the process of elimination. The thick Canare cables are disconnected and replaced with a pair of old premium RCAs. Since I only have a pair, the center retains the Canare. The sound marginally improves in Stereo mode. I Google the cable model and it turns out to be a special video cable, not an audio cable. Still, I am not out of the woods yet. The sound is still muddy, slightly worse than receiver's alone, but not as much as before. Could it be that this the Emotiva's best? Are my expectations too high?
I decide to calibrate the Elite as you guys suggested. It improves the volume difference between different channels, but overall quality of Polks sound still lacks clarity. They dont exactly sound like a pair of white van speakers, but pretty close to them.
I hit both Emotiva's and Elite's manuals. The first one is only a few pages and doesnt help me much. The second manual is overwhelming. Still, I go step by step and change everything that can be changed. Since Elite is a feature rich product that takes me a while. Equalization, full phase control, x.over, speaker sizes, tone, DRC, bunch of other things - nothing helps.
I am about to give up and shut the Emotiva down - thinking it is defective - when it hits me.
I recalibrate the Elite for the second time, this time with Advanced Equalization Setup (1c5c.Adv.EQ Setup).
I create a different memory profile for this calibration.
Here are the settings:
Time Position: 30-50ms
EQ Type: ALL CH ADJUSTMENT (Calibrates with emphasis on frequency response)
Standing Wave Multi-Position: NO
The Elite does its trick and in 10 mins I can test the sound again.
I try a few DTS-HD Master Audio music discs (I convert them from Stereo to 5.1 as a hobby) and immediately realize that the problem is solved. The music becomes muti-dimensional even in Stereo mode, just like you opened a pop up 3D book. It expands, deepens. The tweeters are now awake, working overtime. Midrange sounds much clearer than VSX's, it isnt mumbling to itself as before. Every instrument is distinct, clearly pronounced. The crashing of cymbals is suspended in the air a second longer, it does not overshadow the vocals or guitars anymore. Instruments, voices are not reproduced, but rather completely reincarnated in their original glory. I can enjoy nuances I didn't even know where originally recorded (and I heard these BluRays a thousand times before). It isn't just listening to music anymore. It is experiencing it, like you are actually there, in the recording studio.
Another interesting difference is the absence of AVR interference with the sound since at high volume.
The bass doesnt change much as the subwoofer has not been touched (Sunfire HRS-10), still connected directly to VSX-53.
I cannot describe my relief. I had no recourse with the seller because this was not an Amazon or Ebay purchase. I just PM-ed him on another forum and he graciously agreed to sell it. So, if the unit was defective - which it clearly wasn't - I would have been stuck with it.
Anyway, I wanted to go on the record and describe this ordeal if someone has a similar problem. I am not sure why default calibration of the Elite did not make the changes and made the Emotiva sound worse than the AVR by itself. I am also not sure what exactly the AVR did frequency response-wise that I could not do with 9 channel EQ the Elite provides.
I couldn't be happier with the XPA-3. Now I have a chance to re-discover my old tracks. I have ordered new speaker wire, banana plugs and RCA cables on Monoprice, arriving next week. Can't wait.