Review: Panasonic SA-XR55 Amplifier
Hello. I recent had a chance to do a direct a/b between a very low budget and a somewhat mid-end system and to my amazement the budget held up so close neck-to-neck with this mid-end system. Below are the details of the two system:
2 xpa1, dhc9.9 audyssey pro calibrated sweet spot, martin logan spires originally but I use the Klipsch CF-2 version 1 for this test (using home depot wires to be fair), playing from a laptop via optical cable out of a sb x-fi 5.1 with mostly flac files and ape files ripped from original CDs.
Klipsch cf-2 version 1, panasonic SA-XR55 ($175 speakers + $75 xr55 = $250 total plus home depot wires), same source as above
Okay so the xpa1 + audyssey of dhc 9.9 gives the mid-end system decent sound and pretty much maxed out every ounce of performance out of the pos cf-2 no doubt. But the purpose for this test is the $250 budget system for dorm rooms and small appts when compares to the mid-end system. Below is my findings:
1. First turned on, the POS xr55 is unbearable at any volume, mid is too harsh and bright. High is even worst than mid range. Absolutely unbearable for my ears and listening for more than 5 mins and my very sensitive ears feel like they are starting to bleed out blood. Surprisingly the bass is extremely clean, tight and not boomy. cf-2 sucks really bad in the low freq but it seems the xr55 cleaned it up a bit and yes the bass sounds weaker than the 2xpa1 but cleaner and tighter and I am not kidding lol.
2. To fix the brightness, I decided to turn down the trebble so I went into the tone control menu of the xr55. At first, it went down -1db trebble. I used a radioshack spl and crank the volume to about 70db of my favorite album "don't know why by norah jones". This album is well known to be brightly recorded from the source so I think it is perfect to test. At -1db it is still too harsh for any kind of enjoyment. -2db still bad. -3db sounded nice and I let the entire CD play then when it started playing the 2nd time and to track 5 (2nd time) my ears began to be uncomfortable. So there it goes down again to -4db. Took a break of two hours then I came back and I let the same CD play again while I do some reading on my ipad. After about 3 hours later my ears are fine and absolutely no listening fatique.
3. So the mid and high adjustment is done at -4db. Next up is to fix the weak bass when compares to 2xpa1. Since I felt that the xr55 produces cleaner bass and a tiny bit somewhat tighter than the 2xpa1 with audyssey xt pro, I increased the bass inside the tone menu of the xr55 to +1db (tried +2db and that is a huge no go because too boomy and sounds muffled). The result is perfection and the base is still tight and clean and it is much more powerful than before and now can stand neck-neck with 2xpa1 at the low end.
There you have it. A very low budget system for students and broke audiophile that will get at least some what of the hi end sound. The xr55 has a horrible noise and distortion issue so as long as you keep it below 80db you should at least enjoy your music. My next system when I have money will be definitely class d amp (monoblocks). I think red dragon or w4s is very tempting. Couple this with a high end dac with room correction like dhc 80.3 and all of my flac and ape collection will shine. Dhc 80.3 with audyssey pro calibrated with a 17 points measurement from low front to high back around the sweet spot in my 12 x 16 listening room would be sweet. Need a new pair of speakers as well. Perhaps the b&w 803s because b&w sounds warm and full and not bright and thin technically so should balance out well with class d amps in general. Please let me know what you think of my review. I will probably won't touch another class a/b amp for as long as I live after hearing the bass response from a cheap class d amp like the xr55. I seriously think class a/b has no chance when it comes to low freq against class d amps but class d is known to be bright so has to mate with something like b&w 800 series and all is well.
Klipsch CF-2 version 1 with one 6" ported vent.
Integra DHC 9.9 + 2 XPA-1