Originally Posted by dstew100
New XPA-3 installed!!
Tried to do a listening test, far from ABX though. Right after delivery just before install I listened to 2 fairly familiar songs all the way through twice. I have listened to them several times over the last few days to prep for the comparison. I used the SPL to match levels, with the Marantz receiver(105wattsx5) I had it on -10db and these songs were 75-80db with an avg. of around 77 or 78. I wanted to remove any volume increase as a perceived SQ improvement. The XPA-3 had a 2db increase so the receiver (now preamp) was set to -12 when listening to the XPA-3. The source was vinyl, pure analog all the way through the system listening in 2ch Stereo. Speakers are B&W 805s (8 ohm but they dip, slightly less then 4ohm min). They are fairly inefficient power hogs (88db). I chose the sound level to attempt to ensure it was fairly loud, but not causing the receiver to struggle. On the Emotiva test I listened to the 2 songs once at equal volume, then I listened to them again cranked up.
First let me say the Marantz pushing the B&Ws sounds good. With the layout I have a good sound stage and good imaging in my untrained opinion. In the first 15 seconds with the Emotiva (after volume match and song restart) it seemed a little better, I felt like it was a little more full with more/better mid bass. However, the more I listened the more I didn't think there was a difference. Especially when I started to think, what if this was a blind ABX test. I will say all sounded very nice though IMO. I do not believe people could consistently blind ABX pick between the two at these volume levels. If there's a real difference, it is very subtle.
The Emo quickly showed me where my modest investment went when I started cranking it up. There was a large noticeable difference at higher listening levels. I've had this receiver almost ten years (I know, I know, upgrade the processor; it's on the list) so I'm familiar with its performance when pushed. When approaching 0 / reference it sounded strained. It felt scary to push it much passed that. It's been at +5 for very short periods and I was certainly a little worried. In comparison the Emotiva sounded good, it was very loud, but it didn't seem loud or cause discomfort. It showed me how harsh the receiver really sounded at those higher levels. The system sounded awesome cranked up, very clean I suppose is the term I should be using. Although I've heard it at high end audio stores, effortless can be used to describe my system at high listening levels now!!! Today is the first day my Marantz ever displayed +11 on the volume, sweet. At least in the first 4 hours of ownership, I am a happy man and pleased with the purchase.
Already much too long but there's 1 more point I'd like to make. Value. I have been reading, listening, and comparing amps for a month or two now. I wasn't unfamiliar before. I looked at the usual suspects in my range, Rotel, NAD, Sunfire, Carver, B&K, Outlaw etc and even looked at some higher end stuff like Mcintosh, Krell, etc (mostly dreaming with these). The alternative was to go used with one of these, something like a Rotel 1095. I was really looking at 7-12 year old amps with virtually the same specs for more money. The holiday sale was too good for me not to give the Emo a shot. I'm now looking at brand new very good sounding gear, not wondering how honest the previous owners had been, with the power / volume I want, and a warranty that's transferable. And you know what, it cost less then the other options I was considering. For me, that is value.