Crown XLS 1500

For giggles I'm putting together a budget system. Starting with a pair of PSB Gold-i's and using an Audible Illusions M3a's secondary variable outputs. Anyway, I needed to come up with cheap power and current that could drive low impedance upper bass, e.g. dips at around 2.6 ohms. I didn't want to toast my Rogue M120's.
After researching I came across some good reports on the Crown XLS 1500 and decided to pull the trigger for a whopping $239, new! I was hoping to get it last Thursday but no such luck. The amp arrived the other day, or a day late for the Grateful Dead Chicago run. I had to use a self powered PA for my outside, projection, big screen system. A bit of a disappointment but in the end it worked out better as I didn't have to worry about the PSBs getting messed up.
Anyway, I plugged the unit in yesterday and gave it a quick listen and cold, out of the box I was not happy but figure it needed to burn in so I kept it playing for about 30 hours and then gave it a listen. I still was not happy, feeling that it sounded rolled off in the highs, a bit muffled in the lows and somewhat canny sounding in the mids. I was starting to feel that I wasted my money and that the saying that "there is no free lunch" was true. However, I was willing to let it burn some more.
So, while cooking the amp, and casual listening, I decided to make a new run of Canare 4s11 speaker cables, which I was planning on using for the new system but felt that ultimately this might be waste of my time because it was beginning to look like a failed system. 45 minutes later my cables were done and I put them in, replacing the temporary double run of Monster XP I made, which was left over from the outdoor deck system. After install I turned the amp back on and then turned up the wick. Holy cow!!!!! All of a sudden everything opened up and snapped into place. I now had extended highs, articulate bass and clean and sharp midrange. What a difference. This is what I was hoping for when this straw was pulled.
I won't give a full report until I get some more time in but for $239 new I can already say this is a great deal. This amp sounds good and delivers watts without strain. It out does the Adcom 555 I owned back in the day, which could poop out when pushed hard. As to some of the reported noise, yes, if I put my ear right up to the tweeter there is some low, low level buzzing. I can not hear it from a foot away, or needless to say, from my listening seat.
Lesson learned; don't judge a component until your rule out other variables. My guess is that the Monster is high capacitance and caused all kind or uglies with the system. Ridding myself of these cables brought me from Kansas to the land of OZ!
For those that care, I'll report back in a few to let you know how things develop.
Try Crown K2 used $350...450. It's discontinued, but available used. If you give that one a chance, you'll realize that high-end home audio amps won't make a sense at all.
It's fanless and has incredible power. It makes speakers sing.
XLS 1500 is newer cheaper version.
Back in the 60's, Crown was considered high-end (especially their tape recorders).
They were based in Elkheart, Indiana -just a stones throw from my home town, Chicago. I think they decided to turn to the pro market -Pity.
I do have to keep the output gain on the 1500 at around noon in order to keep the noise down. Most likely due to the difference between consumer and pro input voltage. More output gain causes too much noise at low volumes. Note that the noise does not increase with input gain.

Fortunately I have a pre that can put out lots of gain.
So I've gotten a bit more time into the amp, as it has been
my primary listening system over the past week, and here is
what I can say; it is inexpensive and will work better than
most inexpensive consumer grade amps for systems which
require amps and watts. Although, it is a bit noisy if you
turn up the amp's output gain past my case. I do
have a pre-amp that puts out a good amount of voltage, so I
can get around this issue and it is not much of an problem.
However, ultimately, when doing so, it appears to take some
dynamics away from the amp.

Therefore, I have purchased a Henry Matchbox HD to convert
the consumer voltage and impedance to the pro standard. This
should eliminate all noise and allow me to operate the amp
at its maximum capacity.

I imagine that this might also change the signature of the
amp, too. Therefore, final judgement on how good the amp can
be must be put on hold until a later time. Note, adding the
Henry to the system adds another $100.00 possibly making it
less of a value. Maybe? If it can push it to the next level
it might be an even better value but I'll have to wait and
Here is my next installment on this on going review. No, I didn't get the Henry yet but still a few tweaks has brought this amp to another level. I shifted the phase on my subs to better integrate the bass and give a tighter presentation. I also reconfigured how I had wired the system and finally I lifted the ground. The last, although not my favorite long term solution, did wonders to bring the noise down to where I could substantially increase the amps output gain.

The end result, so far, is astonishing, to say the least. Even if the Henry does nothing, what I currently have is a winner in spades.

Compared to my Rogue m120's the Rogue offer a bit more body and depth of soundstage. But, by golly batman, this amp is a sonic wonder for the price. $209 will get one delivered to your door and it sounds more like a $1500 to 2000 amp. Yes there is still a bit of midrange glare but hardly so. And, it is still a tiny bit dry up top but all of this is not significant and what it does right is simply incredible, honest.

I'll give one last report after receiving the Henry, but consider this review almost complete. So, buy now or cry later. It is a steal of a life time.
Sounds like you need balanced power.
Raymonda, You've just debunked all high-end audio gimmicks.
Sounds like you need balanced power.

Ultimately, yes, which is why I have a Henry ordered. However, it is not necessary and good results can be had with cable management and ground lift.

You've just debunked all high-end audio gimmicks.

This amp is a freaking deal at $209, however, it is not going to replace my Rogues, nor would I have sold my Classe or highly modded GTA SE 40 for it. It does beat the pants off of many mid fi products.

I used it briefly on my Maggies last night and it did a nice job on them, too. It has a signature, which I have described above, most notably a up front presentation that highlights the mids and upper mids and less 3D than better amps. But what it does give you is silly, stupid for so little.
Yeah, I had miraculous result with star quad speaker cables before as well, also Canare.

However, do note that ground lift creates a really bad filter:
Well, I dunno about high-end gimmicks seeing that this praise is your opinion. Not everyone will agree that the sound is what you hear. Are there high end gimmicks? Yes. But, the really good stuff is not dirt cheap. I'm talking solid engineering based companies like Accuphase, McIntosh, Bryston, etc. Is it overpriced? I would guess so, but compared to the very esoteric stuff like Boulder and FM Acoustics (which do sound great buy the way, but just tremendously overpriced.) Anyway, my point is, you get what you pay for. That Crown merely punches above its weight.
Which is cool, but it doesn't make it automatically beat the snot out of the better high end amps.
Accuphase isn't just overpriced it's overoverpriced just like Prada, Gucci and all other boutiques. Fanless Crown K2 can compete with audiophile units priced over $3k.
Bryston used to be reasonably priced, but now it's reasonably overpriced as well. McIntosh is popular product even among non-audiophiles and it's also considered audio boutique.
That Crown merely punches above its weight.

That has always been my claim, nor more of no less.
Well, the Henry has arrived and I immediately threw it in my system. Well, well, just as I thought. Gone is the noise and gone is the need for the ground lift. Also, I now have more gain than I would ever need.

Initial impressions with the Henry in place remain as before but with a very, very low noise floor, so that this is no longer an issue and on a subjective level this amp can now be called quiet and without any noise issues what so ever.

It is a dynamic amp that has an up front presentation, that gives you incredible sound for pocket change. For someone starting out and on a limited budget, this affords them to allocate more funds for source components or speakers. It is also ideal for H.T. systems, surrounds, second or third systems, or like me, to just plain have fun with trying new things that won't effect your bank account.

It does have some limitations. To perform its best it should be run balanced or you should use a consumer to pro level matcher. Right now I'm getting good results with the Henry Matchbox HD. I would suggest not using the basic Matchbox, as it might not provide a level of performances needed for critical listening.

Also, it might not be a good match with speakers that are aggressive or up front in the mid and upper mid-range.

Back in 1986, I bought an Adcom 555 for $550. This was considered a good choice as a budget reference. In today's dollar that would be around $1,200 to 1500. The Crown 1500 can be had for $209, delivered, including taxes and it clearly beats what the Adcom offered. Yes, that is almost 30 years ago but it just shows how far technology has come and what can be had for much less money.

Does it sound better that any of the fine Classe amps I've owned or nice tube amps? Well, probably not but it won't necessarily keep you up at night dreaming for that perfect amp. Well, maybe not for a while anyway. Meantime you can buy that cartridge, pre-amp, speakers or that source component that you have been wanting.
Raymonda, you have me thinking seriously about trying my Crown XTi 2002 (which I am using in bridged mode to drive my 15" passive Tannoy sub), and try it out with my one-off Tannoy HPD 315 speakers.

Currently, I am using, for the most part, some Class D Audio amps, or for a change of pace, an SET 300B amp.

The XTi 2002 does an incredible job with the Tannoy sub. I'm going to have to try it out with the 12" stereo pair.

I agree, Crown still is a great value in this crazy, overpriced, audio world.

you have me thinking seriously about trying my Crown XTi 2002

Sure, I would give it a try, too. What do you have to lose? However, make sure it is not too much amp for your speakers.
I demoed the XLS1500 in my system several months ago, and agree that it is a mighty fine amp for the dollars asked.
THe best sound (for me) was using the XLR inputs (I used a custom RCA-XLR IC) and the SpeakOn connectors. And topped off with soft 'squissy' footers.
The stock RCA in and banana-speaker post exhibited that harshness you are hearing. If you look inside, you will see that the banana post connects to the circuit board via a two piece plated brass metal strip which are bolted together to complete the circuit. THe SpeakOn is a single continuous silver plated conductor per pin into the circuit board.

My Stillpoint definitely was not a good match for the Crown, too 'hot', had better lock with BDR cones, bamboo footers, and soft type footers.
I also had slightly better sounds with a little conditioning.

I won an XTi1002 which I thought was more to my sonic tastes, it had a more 'juicy' midrange and fuller mid-bass. With the XLS showing superior 'air'.
I use the XTi for bass duties mostly since I Biamp.

CAT SL1.>1. Marchand crossover @250Hz >RA 3205Sig.(modified Jolida 502B)> mid/hi panels, 2. Crown XTi1002 >VMPS RM1(modified) twin 8" bass drivers.
Fanless Crown K2 can compete with audiophile units priced over $3k.

Has this particular statement of yours been proven? Can you prove such a bold claim? I know you're gonna say by any blind testing, but where and when was the testing, where is the proof and documentation? Thanks.
Raymonda, the Class D amps I'm using are 500 Wpc into 8 ohms (in bridged mode, which is how I use them), so I don't think it'll be too much amp. Don't listen as loud as I did when I was young.

Fanless Crown K2 can compete with audiophile units priced over $3k.

Has this particular statement of yours been proven?

It is an opinion and doesn't need to be proven.
Dan_72, I believe that it's been doc-u-mented and signed.
Yeah, right. I don't believe you, and that's *my* opinion.
My opinion, consumer market is full of feces and pro market has mostly real stuff that is properly valued and specked. Out of carefully selected pro-audio components you can build system that will cost a small fraction of what you would spend in consumer audio with same performance or actually better. How many times it was mentioned that for $200ish XLS1500 is solid performer here in this post?
Dood it's documented and documented several times by different folks here as you've requested prior, but did not realized it. Crown K2 is actually better amp than XLS1500 praised several times here.
Check the PDF:
Just like with anything audio, it varies so much, that to make a blanket statements like that is absurd. You're writing off all of consumer audio? And you mean to tell me there's no duds in pro audio? Gimme a break! Your bias, and may I say ignorance, shines very brightly in this last post of yours!

I own a pro amp, well it's called one...the Bryston 4BSST PRO. I bought it 8 years ago before the price hikes. You probably don't consider it one, because it's not Crown, QSC, Crest, Behringer, etc. Not only that, you just bashed Bryston as a boutique brand. I dunno, have you heard a latest Bryston amp in an all Bryston system, including their speakers? It's pretty damn good, and it's still much less in cost than Krell, Levinson, McIntosh, let alone Accuphase, Soulution, and Vitus.
I mentioned Bryston USED TO be reasonably priced even consumer gear. Now not anymore and it is became audio boutique. I know how Bryston gear sounds and feels.
Guys, guys, guys!!!!! Consumer can be great and Pro can be great. The point here is not that one is better than the other, but rather that technology has begun to provide cost effective solutions! On that note, Crown's XLS 1500 is one of them.
Raymoda, you've brought an excellent point of building a system on the budget using pro components. I try to expand the ideas of saving funds and be somewhere in the same nirvana by spending 10 or more times less.
Has anyone researched Alesis RA100 amplifier mainly used for near-field monitors? New model RA150 is sold for $140 shipped at Amazon. Biamp with same model and you're capable driving most of consumer market speakers with ease.
On the same token, die hard "boutique" fans don't consider Bryston true high end but consider it pro or semi-pro gear. I don't know anyone besides you Czarivey, that considers Bryston a boutique brand. Yes, they did jack up the prices to a lot of people's chagrin, but they're still the solid engineered units that they used to be, don't use ultra fancy metalwork on their amps, and sound better than they have in the past.
Yeah, boutique consumer audio market is full of snake oil sellers *cough* Direcstream *cough*

Mass market consumer audio market is not as bad though. I'm also increasingly fond of the pro market, their stuff just works, 100% of the time. No break-in of your brain BS either. Sounded perfect right out of the box.

(The stock RCA in and banana-speaker post exhibited that harshness you are hearing. If you look inside, you will see that the banana post connects to the circuit board via a two piece plated brass metal strip which are bolted together to complete the circuit. THe SpeakOn is a single continuous silver plated conductor per pin into the circuit board.)

I made the change to speakon this week and it did wonders. It eliminated the harshness. Thanks for the tip!
I own the Crown XLS 1500 and I will tell you that this amp is a major overachiever and is ridiculously good at its price point! It is a Class D switching amp with a switching power supply and the chip is designed by Texas Instruments. It will sound as good as the preamp you choose to pair it with, although it does have level controls on the front and can be used without a preamp if you choose. Further it is a very transparent and detailed. An audiophile friend recommended this amp to me and stated he will never part with his, neither will I. Must allow this amp to burn-in for 400 hours before reaching any final conclusions also using a good aftermarket power cord with the XLS 1500 makes a heck of a lot of difference!
Anyone have a good source for Speakon speaker cables that are terminated in bananas or spades?
Just buy the speaakon connector oh ebay and terminate them yourself.
I have been using a Crown XLS2500 for over a year now. It was originally driving a pair of Tekton M Lore speakers (Eric Alexander is the one who recommended the Crown XLS amp) and now it is driving a pair of Tekton Lore Reference speakers. I never turn the amp off, and am using the balanced inputs, from the balanced outputs of my Oppo BDP105. I feel it sounds significantly better using the balanced inputs. I keep the gain controls on the amp at about the 2 o'clock position. Barely any audible hiss....need to put ones' ear at the tweeter to hear anything, and nothing coming from the woofer. I believed early on that the amp had promise, and I have used the best interconnects and ac cables I could afford, which are all Triode Wire Labs. The amp responds to any and every change I make, instantly. It is that transparent and neutral. I have been into this hobby for around 40 years, having had all many of tube and solid state gear in the many systems I have owned. This amp does so many things so well, it's crazy. The thing is, it really needs to be treated like a more high end amp or you won't realize how good it is, and that begins to run contrary to the reason one may have purchased the amp in the first place - to keep costs down.
I've not had any issues with hiss in fact I can't hear any detectable hiss at all regardless where the level controls are set. Maybe this is more of a impedance mismatch with the preamp.

The XLS series all share the same design philosophy for the exception of power output. These particular switching amps do not use B/O Ice Modules but rather conventional Mosfet outputs and the interior reveals a neat but well designed preamp using quality parts.
Just curious what other more expensive switching amps you've heard, Phd. The XLS2500 appears to be something special, but I have not actually heard other class D amps out there.
Stewg, I purchased the PS Audio HCA-2 (first switching amp to come to market), the problem was that it only excelled with big efficient speakers. I've used Wyred 4 Sound, and Nuforce. All good amps but I think the Crown is more dynamic with the exception of the HCA-2.