One correction. Crown calls there amps Class I amps not Class D. Class I is a proprietary patent they hold.
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"But can someone who is and has listened to both a Crown XLS and a high-end Class A amplifier in their system tell me how much of a difference there really is?"
A huge difference. I tried a QSC as well. Those amps are perfect if you are building a music/HT system and have a limited budget. You can use them to power your center, surrounds and subs cheaply, so you can put more money into the amp for your front main speakers.
I've been reviewing and writing about the 1500. So far, so good, with the exception of some noise going from consumer to pro. Therefore I bought a Henry HD and hope that this resolves some of the noise when the output gain on the amp is pushed past noon.
However, in spite of this, and as long as I keep it at noon, the amp so very good and is an easy choice for someone that needs amps and watts to drive more difficult speaker loads.
1extreme, I would also suggest that you try the XLS at various levels of gain. I also found mine to sound best at between noon and 3 o'clock on the dial. Easy enough to play with. And a lower gain setting on the amp gives you a more sensitive volume control on your preamp.
As for the amp itself, as usual there is the matter of system synergy. I compared the XLS 2000 to the much raved-about Hypex nCore DIY Class D amp, and with my power hungry SP Tech Revelation speakers, we preferred the XLS. Though on my buddy's system we preferred the nCore. Again, when comparing the XLS to a Rogue Stereo 90 Super Magnum edition, the XLS won out on the SP Tech speakers, but the Rogue was better on my Von Schweikert VR-4s.
Glad you are also enjoying these amps.
Thanks for the tip on the gain settings. My Y connection cables came in today so I will be setting up the 2500 XLS as I originally planned, horizontally bi-amped on the woofers with my Adcom on the uppers. The dual channel gain controls on the XLS will make it easy to balance the amps even though they are of different watts and gain.
I have never listened to a top of the line Class A amp so I can't speak to differences. If there is a "huge" difference then I have got to listen to a Class A setup to hear it for myself to justify the exponential increase in cost over the XLS. Just a couple of weeks ago I was seriously considering buying two used Class A mono amps in the 100W plus range. Is the huge difference in sound also exponential to justify the exponential cost difference? I will just have to find out for myself somehow.
One concern I do have is the impact of near term evolution in Class D or Class I or whatever amp technology on the resale value of Class A amps? Paradigm shifts have a tendency to alter valuations significantly and I wouldn't want to be stuck on the wrong side of that one. Finding myself with a $7,000 room heater that takes 1 hour to warm up would not be fun, and that is a used room heater price.
Well, for now, I believe my weakest link in my system has shifted from my amplifier to my pre-amp so that is likely what I will be focusing on upgrading next.
I'm still waiting for the Henry to arrive but in the mean time I've settled on a gain structure that provides the lowest noise. Yesterday I was kicking out some Steely Dan, a few hi rez analog transfers I made, Aja and Gaucho, as well as a 24/96 version of Everything Must Go. Needless to say it sounded impressive for such an inexpensive amp. No it is not reference quality. It is a bit dry on top with some slight midrange hardness. But the lows are tight and extended and overall dynamics are good.
So, for an e-bay special BIN new price of $209.00, this seems like a great deal and I really don't think anything can touch it at that price or maybe for 3 to 4 times the price.
This is a great way to have fun without spending serious cash. Shoot, it affords everyone to put together a great garage system for practically couch change.
Anyway, I'm sure the 2500 is cut from the same cloth as the 1500, but with more power.....not that I can imagine needing more than 300 watts into 8 ohms or 565 watts into 4 ohms, and should also be an exceptional value.
"I have never listened to a top of the line Class A amp so I can't speak to differences. If there is a "huge" difference then I have got to listen to a Class A setup to hear it for myself to justify the exponential increase in cost over the XLS."
Class A operation isn't, and shouldn't be the defining characteristic of any amp. Its just a feature. And like any feature, it has to be well implemented in order for it too sound good. Not all Class A amps sound the same. Not only that, just because an amp runs in Class A, doesn't automatically mean its the best sounding design. I've had some great sounding Class A SS amps, like Pass, but I still like my Ayre's better. Some people don't like Ayre at all, and that's OK too. Its just personal preference.
This is an old thread I started but wow has my perspective changed since then. So much so that I consider my original post bordering on disinformation and I feel obligated to correct the record.
Since I purchased the Crown XLS 2500 I have acquired some other higher fidelity amps that taught me what musicality really is and the Crown XLS 250 just does not reach even a minimal level of musicality. I just didn't know better until I compared it to the other amps I acquired all of which I bought used at great prices. Those other amps in order of purchase are Yamaha MX-1000, Yamaha B2 (Vfet aka SIT), and finally a Cary V12R Tube amp (called V12 because it has 12 EL34 tubes).
In fairness to the XLS, it probably is ok for someone who just wants to play head banging heavy metal music, or uses it as a musician playing loud live music. But in a home system where one is going to really listen to music it just does not cut it.
I am learning the same thing right now.
I have a W4S ST1000 that I thought was the cat's meow with Maggie 3.6's as the amp had the power to wake them up.
Got a pair of Thiel CS5's and the amp did not sound so good.
So in the last month I have tried a Pass x350 and a Levinson 533. Both are better than the W4S with the Pass having more texture & mellowness and the Levinson having tighter bass and cooler sound. Both capture more detail than the W4S.
I am currently auditioning a 15 year old Proceed HPA2 at half the price of the other two; and I am thinking that it has the most "live presence" and bass of all four amps.
I thought I was having a problem with my Pass Labs X150 amp. Had some distortion on the right channel. So I decided to pull out a Crown XLS 1000 amp I was intending to use for pro audio. I am surprised how good this little amp sounds. Almost thought about selling the Pass amp, it is that good.
I listened to the Crown for two days and appreciated how well it presents the sound stage, imaging, nice natural warmth in the mids, bass nice and tight and clean, with a somewhat subdued high end.
Curious, I hooked up the Pass amp again to find out the little XLR copper jumper was dirty and cleaning it made the distortion go away.
After letting the Pass amp warm up again, I have to say it does sound better than the Crown. The cymbals now have a see though quality the Crown amp tends to smear a bit. The Pass amp had much better drive to the music (current output?). The bass seemed fuller. Not sure if the crown amp is just a little more detailed through the midrange, possibly. The Crown seems a little warmer through the mids which I like, but overall the Pass is a better amp and not going into the Audiogon classifieds. The Crown amp is spectacular for the $$$. I don't believe you can do better for the bucks with these dollars. I was hoping it was better than my Pass amp so I could pocket the extra change and apply those funds to more upgrades! Won't happen. I am running Eminent Technology VIII speakers with upgraded caps, a Supratek tubed preamp, and a Schiit Dac. The rest of the system is up to par to easily identify any changes in my system. Even power cord changes make a significant change in sound. (not to open that can of worms!)
1extreme, i believe the lesson learnt here is that Crown amps are very good if you chose wisely where to use them - as a brute amp to drive a bass cone/panel. Most of the time Crown amps are used in professional settings - studios, traveling bands, concerts, PA systems, malls, etc.
In RMAF 2013 that I attended, Scaena was driving their stand-alone bass speaker (which had 3 12" or 15" woofers one-on-top-of-the-other) with a series of vertically stacked Crown XLS amps. I remember that Scaena demo as being very good sounding (was in the Hilton across the street).
They are class-D amps - that class-I designation is just marketing. The class-I, if i understand it correctly, is what Crown calls a "grounded bridge" circuit on the output stage. Usually you have the push output devices connected to +VCC or +B & the pull devices connected to -VCC or -B & the center is where the speaker binding post it & it is usually floating but in Crown amp's case, that center terminal on the black speaker binding post (NOT the red binding post - only the black) is grounded. Crown holds a patent on this particular design & claims that it allows all of the +/-B voltage to appear at the speaker binding post (unlike all other amps). They claim that is one technology that allows them to get these very high output powers. Just FYI.
So just over a year and a half since I started this thread. Cracks me up reading my personal evolution over that time.
@bombaywalla - you are so right. I almost sold the XLS 2500 but had put it away in a closet instead. I just pulled it out and connected it to the bass / low end of my Infinity Kappa 9’s and they really do well pushing the bottom end. It does very well at 3/4 gain. I wish all amps had a gain control per channel. It is so useful when bi-amping. The XLS 2500 also has a built in low pass active crossover setting so I can tailor it to just pass the low frequencies needed by the woofers.
I have tube amps (CAD 805AE’s) pushing the top ends of the Kappa 9’s and the combo is great. Seems kind of silly pairing amps on the top end that cost me a factor of over 15 times the amp on the low end but hey, if it sound good it sounds good.
The XLS 2500 is awful as a high fidelity amp for the upper end. But as a bass cranker bi-amped with a higher end amp on the top end it does just fine.