- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 06 May 2013
For these amplifiers, I used my big Carver Mark IV ribbon speakers. Also in the setup were an OPPO BDP-105 universal player and a Pass Labs XP-20 preamplifier. Cables were Wireworld.
Although you might not realize it, when the hammers strike the strings of a piano, there are very intense transients, and even if you are listening at medium overall volume, a high overhead capability in the amplifier makes a big difference in the sound.
For example, in Daniel Barenboim's interpretations of the Chopin Piano Concertos (Arthaus Music), the amplifier must not only reproduce the piano's transients, but keep them distinct from the supporting orchestra. The Emotiva XPR-1 did this easily, because the average output was about 20 watts, and this allowed transients of 200 watts or more, which are well within the linear part of the amplifier's response. I never saw the power meters go all the way to the top, which means I always had additional head room.
Rachmaninov represents an entirely different challenge, not only in the complexity and difficulty for the pianist, but the dynamics. His Concerto No. 2, "Movement 3: Allegro scherzando" (Surround Records 6-43157-40010-3) has one of those melodies that keeps playing in my head long after the listening is over. From f to ffff, the sound quality never waivered from start to finish.
The violin is another instrument that is difficult for a sound system to handle. This von Karajan Memorial Concert recording contains Beethoven's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, with Anne-Sophie Mutter as the soloist. If there were significant IM distortion, her placement on the soundstage would have been indistinct, and the strings in their lower register would have been harsh. Such was not the case with the XPR-1 in the system. Even her highest notes were clean, detailed, yet crisp on the attack.
I listened to many of my SACDs in stereo, including some late re-issues of classic jazz, and I have to say that for $1,500, the XPR-1 is a sweet deal. Its sound is neutral and packed with massive power.