a little over a month ago I added an xpa-5 to my set up using polk monitor series ii speakers. 70's as mains, 60's as wides, 40's for surrounds, cs2 center and dual 505's for low end. below is a copy and paste of my initial reactions to the inclusion of the amp that i posted in the polk thread.
I have really put my system through its paces with a variety of music and it all has sounded sooo good....good as in clear and clean. I had a co-worker over for an evening of music listening. She is in her own right a budding audio enthusiast. Her dad is a consultant for a custom installer and she has had the opportunity to listen to a variety of gear when growing up. She like me is a music lover first. She was very impressed with the clarity, loudness and fullness of my set up. She never heard of emotiva before, and now she wants me to help her set up a system for her in a few months and she is very open to emotiva gear, especially when i told her the price tag of the amp.
I have only watched one blu-ray movie since the xpa-5 install...Ted...good comedy flick, but not much for reference demo material. I have however been re-watching the first season of Babylon 5 on dvd, again not the best "reference level source". This particular TV series on dvd was always difficult for me to dial in to sound "right" before. Especially with respect to the voices. I would either have to turn it up to where voices started to sound a bit harsh or I would have enable dynamic volume in order to get it to sound "right" to me, which of course changes the dynamic range of the source. With the xpa-5, this is no longer the case. It is very clear and I can fully understand the dialog and can have it at a nice volume level to fully experience the "fullness" of the surround mix. I was not expecting this and am very impressed. My set up is not my first experience with hi-fi gear. I grew up in a house hold where dad always had the latest and greatest a/v stuff and have heard a variety of speakers, amps, receivers etc over the years. However, finally I feel like I am on "par" with what I remember hearing when growing up...even though my speakers themselves are not exceptionally high-end.
One interesting thing I have discovered in regards to HBO broadcasts. I have read here on avs about members experiencing small static pops when watching HBO, even at moderate and low volume levels...evidently it has something to do with the way HBO compresses their content. I never heard them previously, but while channel surfing I landed upon HBO playing Galaxy Quest and I watched a few minutes of it and l heard the popping noises for the first time. I can only guess that either the xpa-5 is more sensitive to picking up this compressed distortion or that dish network has changed the way HBO is fed to me within the last week.
Something else that I have done set up wise with the inclusion of the xpa-5 is that I have set my crossovers much lower. Previously I pretty much did the 80hz crossover thing, even though audyssey in conjunction with onkyo's auto cal routine would measure the -3 frequency response in my room of my speakers at 40hz. I did play with the settings sometimes, and would sometimes prefer a 60hz crossover on my mains. Now with the xpa-5 in the mix it allows the lower notes to be played much more easily and I have left all my speakers at 40hz after running audyssey. I must say that there is a noticeable increase in volume and clarity of mid bass frequencies. Also keep in mind that my subs are not the best out there either (dual psw505's). I haven't decided for sure if I am going to keep my crossovers at 40hz, but it does sound really good crossed that low now. Much less boominess with the lower crossover, though I didn't have a ton of boominess before, there was just enough to be annoying sometimes. For this reason alone I may keep my crossover lower for now until new speakers and subs arrive at my doorstep...but that probably wont be for at least a year if not longer.
All in all in am very pleased with the inclusion of the xpa-5 into my set up. When I moved into my new house late last year and ended up with a larger space then I previously had in the old house, my gear just couldn't keep up with the volume levels I desired at the distance I now use. Previously my main listening position was just under 7 ft from the speakers, now I am much closer to 10.5 ft. That bit of difference along with the increase volume size of my new room was just enough to show the weakness in my avr. Now does everyone need an amp?....not likely, but in the right circumstances adding an external amp can certainly overcome weaknesses when higher spl levels are desired. I also plan to add some room treatments to my room in the near future, as I do get a fair amount of resonating throughout and it is sometimes annoying, but until I add them, I can just turn up the loud knob until I can no longer hear the room resonating tongue.tongue.gif
And now having it for a little more then a month I can still say I am very pleased with the amp and how it has increased the clarity of the midbass as well as being able to listen at spl levels at or near reference with no harshness. did the amp change the sound tonally from the onktyo running audyssey xt....well no...but sound performance has increased in positive ways...better midbass clarity and can go louder without being harsh...both good things in my book. would room treatments have been a better performance gainer for me...likely yes and they are pending...sometime this spring i should have the room fully treated.
did my low/mid level set up need an amp based on the often recommended budget guidelines frequently posted, again no...and in some ways my gear as a whole is "backwards" when it comes to where I spent my money. but i would like to point out that I built my set up over time, aproaching 3 years now. I started off with just the monitor 70's and a denon 1611 and expanded from there. If i was able to invest all the money i currently have in my system all at once, then i can say with certainty that different decisions would have been made. the biggest reason why I added the amp to my set up In my old house I had a much smaller room so the onk didn't have to work as hard to put out high volume with no or little harshness. Late last year I moved into my new house and have a march larger space to fill and the last several weeks I have noticed the onk was having trouble giving me clean sound at high volumes....unable to get the desired spl levels at my seating distance with out harshness/distortion. the onkyo 809 (and the old denon 1611 for that matter) worked really well sitting 6.5-7ft from the speakers, but not so much sitting 10-11 feet away in a larger room.
I guess what I am saying is, adding an xpa amp to the op set up can be worthwhile, and depending on the circumstances gains can be had. but it may not be the "best" option for the biggest increase in sound performance. but certainly not the worst idea either.