- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 29 April 2013
I tested the Emotiva XSP-1 with an OPPO BDP-105, Emotiva XPR-1 1,000 watt monoblock power amplifiers (reviewed here, and they are terrific), and Carver Mark IV ribbon speakers. Cables were Emotiva and Wireworld. All connections used XLR.
First of all, I should say that the XSP-1 sounded amazing, even without the also amazing price. If I had been given a presentation not knowing what the preamp was, I would have guessed, by the sound quality, that it was much more expensive. The amount of detail, the neutrality, lack of background noise, everything about it said, "$$$$$". Fortunately for all of us, it is $.
Beethoven may be most famous for his Symphony No. 5, but the library of his compositions is immense, including sonatas, concertos, symphonies, all kinds of things, and much of it when he was stone deaf. Apparently, at that point, when he conducted his pieces, the orchestra didn't look at him. Notwithstanding all of his works, one of my favorites is his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, especially IV: Presto; Allegro assai (Sony LC-00316 DSD). The XSP-1 felt right at home with this sometimes thunderous symphonic masterpiece. Of course, with the XPR-1 monoblocks in the system, I cranked it up. I saw the wall AC voltage drop here and there, indicating that the power amps were doing their thing with a lot of current, and the preamp gave me everything I could ask for, particularly detail in the stringed instruments that go mushy when there is significant IM (wait until you see the bench tests).
Classical piano is also on my love-list, and I found this disc that has high definition video taken from the 35mm film shot during the playing, and PCM stereo (EuroArts 8-80242-66094-7). The disc has Mozart's Last 8 Piano Concertos, with Daniel Barenboim not only playing, but conducting at the same time! You already know that I loved the Emotiva XPR-1 monoblocks, but with the Emotiva XSP-1 in the mix, well, it was nice to have all that dopamine flooding my brain. Clarity, detail, neutrality, and as a result, very musical and delightful.
Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856) composed some years after Beethoven and Mozart, and this DSD recording (Channel Classics CCS-SA-28709) has 24 short pieces on it, with names like "Frisch", "Mit Humor", and "Wild und lustig". One of them, "Ungeduldig," is only 0.42 min. So, you never have time to get bored with the melody, because by the time you might want to pick up the remote control and advance to the next piece, the one you didn't like is already over. But, I liked them all, and piano is difficult to record, difficult to play (Rachmaninov is notorious for stretching the limits of human hand speed and dexterity), and difficult to reproduce on an audio system. But, reproducing was no problemo for the XSP-1. Even those low 28 Hz notes came through so intensely, I could feel the vibrations in my chest.