XPA-2 ($799 new / $650 used) vs. Pass Labs Aleph 5 ($3800 new / $1400 used)
XPA-2 specs (more here - http://emotiva.com/xpa2.shtm
• Topology: Path Class A/B
• Power output (all channels driven):
500 watts RMS @ 4 ohm (0.1% THD)
300 watts RMS @ 8 ohm (0.1% THD)
• Input Impedance:
Unbalanced - 23.5kohms
Balanced - 33kohm
• Transformer Size: 1,200VA
• Secondary capacitance: 45,000uF
• 12 Output stages
Aleph 5 specs (more here - http://cygnus.ipal.org/mirror/www.pa....com/a5lit.htm
• Secondary capacitance: 120,000 uF
• Power Output:
60 watts @ 8 ohms
90 watts @ 4 ohms
•Fully balanced input, single ended output
•Input Impedance: Unbalanced - 10Kohm
• 2 Output stages
Source - Dell E1505 Laptop > M2Tech HiFace BNC > Belden 1694A BNC > Matrix Mini-i DAC (fully balanced - preamp built in) > Monoprice XLR > Power Amplifier > Canare 4S11 cable > Wharfedale OpusII-3 loudspeakers.
Fourplay - Chant
I've seen this used a lot in reviews so I decided it'd be a good place to start. The first thing I notice is the Bass with the XPA-2. The track starts with kick drums, and they just rock the dual 10" subwoofers. I mean wow does this thing kick out the power. The XPA-2 has great bass extension, just powerful. The soundstage was both wide and deep; The imaging was solid. The XPA-2 amp was very fast and very accurate. One thing about the OpusII speakers is just how smooth they are, they never get tiring to listen to - I can go on for hour and hours. This is really a great pairing for the XPA-2 amp, and one of my favorite tracks to listen to using this amplifier.
Hooking up the Aleph 5 and giving it a good hour to heat up I began listening. What I was expecting was a lack of bass and not being able to play as loudly. I was wrong. Dead wrong. This little cube of 60wpc couldn't VIBRATE the room, however, what came out was a large expansive kick drum where I could hear the decay / vibration of the air around it after the hit. The initial wind up sounded just as powerful yet more tuneful or more accurate and life like sounding. The rest of the track was very similiar in sonics with a few differences. Those difference were namely air. It was hearing the acoustics of the room they recorded in, the decay and timbre were more Live sounding. The soundstage while large and deep on both the Aleph was clearly larger to an extent that the speakers disappeared in the room a lot more so - it sounded less like 'listening' to a CD and more like sitting at the venue, which I think is the ultimate goal of listening to music at home.
Norah Jones - I've Got To See You Again
This is really a great song. The one thing I notice in the song roughly a minute in is a guitar plucking on the far right side of the room of the right speaker, or at least it should be. This track really can give a great sense of 3 dimmensionality. The vocals here are dead center with the XPA-2 but very forward sounding. The guitar plucking sounds huge, but lacks a 'guitar' sound - very metallic sounding, the imaging however, was spot on left to right. In comparison the Aleph 5 pushes her vocals much further back and higher up in the air, almost hanging beautifully. What the Aleph does to this track is just a sonic treat in comparison to the XPA-2. While the guitar plucking doesn't sound as Big or even as Loud out of the Aleph, it makes up for in natural sound that eases into the room with more liquidity.
If I had to summarize - The XPA-2 is really a PHENOMENAL bargain, the sound quality is really great for the price. What it does well is bass depth and extension in any song that has a lot of bass. It also does reproduce the sound cleanly and clearly. The Aleph does everything the XPA-2 does, but better (except in SLAM) - The Aleph does have plenty of bass and honestly just sounds more natural to my ears. But the lowest level of details - the echo of a vocal recording, or live events it just scrapes every last ounce of detail from the recording and puts in the air around you in a vastly deep holographic 3D soundstage. At the end of the day, I could live happily with the XPA-2, for the money paid it's a killer deal in the audio industry. However, for music only listening (I didn't review in HT) - the Aleph just takes it to a more realistic airy listening experience that these ears just love.