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  1. #1
    Ajani
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    Emotiva XDA-1 Initial Impressions

    So here are my initial impressions of the XDA-1 with no burn in and just a few tracks played:

    Let's start with the bad -

    There are 2 really frustrating design choices that might be a deal breaker for some persons;

    1) The gain is way too high... Considering that Emotiva amplifiers already have way too high a gain, the combination with my 90db speakers is that a volume level of 2.5 out of 80 (not 8, but 80) is a comfortable listening level... So clearly I could never use this combo with a a high efficiency pair of speakers... Also it means that you have very little control over the volume range.... While the extra high gain is about the same as my Benchmark DAC1, there are 2 things to consider; 1. The DAC1 has internal attenuators so you can drop the gain down 30db if you so desire 2. Emotiva has a line of products and by default they should be designed to work well together - So the XDA-1 to XPA-2 should be designed to have an appropriate gain when combined, with average sensitivity speakers...

    2) WHY does Emotiva insist on over-tightening the screws??? I almost had a fit a few weeks ago when I had to replace the fuse on my XPA-2... At least in that case, they could argue that a user may never have to replace a fuse... The problem with the XDA-1 is that in order to use the remote (change batteries or just remove the paper inside the battery compartment that stops the remote from working initially) you have to unscrew the backplate of the remote... I may need to seek professional help to remove these screws, as I have been unable to use the remote so far...

    So chances are you might find yourself severely frustrated before you even play your first track... Which is is a shame since the DAC has very good sound quality... I can't give a serious impression of the sound yet as I have not given it enough time and also I'm still really pissed about not being able to unscrew the remote, but my quick swap with my Benchmark DAC1 suggests that the XDA-1 is a more than respectable option, though it seems to fall just short of the DAC1... NOTE: That opinion may completely change when I give the XDA-1 more time and if I'm ever able to use the remote...

  2. #2
    Administrator Site Administrator atomicAdam's Avatar
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    humm... i'm sorry to hear that you have problem w/ screwing.

    But I agree with you, that much gain at that low a level is pretty frustrating, especially with equipment from the same manufacturer.

    That is, in a since, my only complaint so far w/ this Melody MK88 I have in so far. The level is barely off zero and the listening level is perfect. I've had it up higher for sure, but I don't think ever even past halfway.
    This is a test to edit sig.

  3. #3
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by atomicAdam
    humm... i'm sorry to hear that you have problem w/ screwing.
    Hopefully a few blue pills will solve it

    Quote Originally Posted by atomicAdam
    But I agree with you, that much gain at that low a level is pretty frustrating, especially with equipment from the same manufacturer.

    That is, in a since, my only complaint so far w/ this Melody MK88 I have in so far. The level is barely off zero and the listening level is perfect. I've had it up higher for sure, but I don't think ever even past halfway.
    Sadly minor annoyances like that can detract from a really good product... having had some more time to listen to the XDA-1 I am very impressed with it's sound quality... It's really not that far off from my DAC1 at this stage... So who knows how good it might sound with a decent amount of playing time...

  4. #4
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    Ajani, the XDA is quite the value if rivaling the Benchmark at a fraction of the price.
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  5. #5
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    Ajani, the XDA is quite the value if rivaling the Benchmark at a fraction of the price.
    Well it's a great value... Though I'm trying to be careful not to oversell it... So far the Benchmark is definitely better, but the Emo is not embarrassed in a comparison... And when you consider the price difference, I could easily see someone buying the Emo instead of a Benchmark and putting the remaining $700 towards improving their amplification or speakers...

  6. #6
    _ Luvin Da Blues's Avatar
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    Does this have true balanced outputs or just quasi-balanced? I would be interested in hearing about the quality of the XLR connections.

    The reason I ask is that my Music Hall doesn't sound that good with RCAs but is a whole different puppy using the truly balance connections.
    Back in my day, we had nine planets.

  7. #7
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luvin Da Blues
    Does this have true balanced outputs or just quasi-balanced? I would be interested in hearing about the quality of the XLR connections.

    The reason I ask is that my Music Hall doesn't sound that good with RCAs but is a whole different puppy using the truly balance connections.
    This is a fully balanced design... My XPA-2 amp is not... So Emotiva intends for this DAC to be ideally connected directly to their XPA-1 fully balanced monoblocks...

    I've only used the balanced outputs...

  8. #8
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    Ajani, if you've only used the XLR then try the RCA, XLR are about 6dB hotter than RCA outs. The RCA may offer a better match in gain with your amp.
    Mark Levinson #512
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    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
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  9. #9
    Loving This kexodusc's Avatar
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    I had the same damn problem with the remote screws on the upgrade remote they sent me for my UMC-1. It's a nearly identical remote to the ERC-1's which wasn't overtightened at all. Probably some machine or worker getting a little trigger happy.
    Very frustrating, even though I'll never use the factory remote.

    You've got me awful tempted to try this thing out...

  10. #10
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    Ajani, if you've only used the XLR then try the RCA, XLR are about 6dB hotter than RCA outs. The RCA may offer a better match in gain with your amp.
    Problem is that the RCA is not supposed to be as good as the XLR... I have the same issue with the Benchmark... by RCA it is good, but the XLR (once you change the stock attenuation from -20db to 0db) is what the reviewers have raved about.... I only made that switch recently and saw the DAC1 really come alive... So even though limited volume range is annoying, I'd rather have better quality sound... But I will try the RCA anyway, just in case their isn't a noticeable drop-off in sound quality...

  11. #11
    Ajani
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    Mr. Peabody,

    I just tried the RCA's and I could barely detect a difference in volume between them and the Balanced... So I went back to balanced...

  12. #12
    Forum Regular audio amateur's Avatar
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    Have you been listening through the headphones or technics speakers?

  13. #13
    Ajani
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    Speakers... The XDA-1 doesn't have a headphone amp... and my DAC1 only has digital inputs...

  14. #14
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by audio amateur
    Have you been listening through the headphones or technics speakers?
    I think I know where you are going with this, The technics speakers might not be revealing enough to give a real good indication on the dacs performance in comparison to the benchmark unit you already have. I have heard your Technics speakers or at least ones like them and they don not sound bad for a budget speaker but I can see where possibly a set of higher end headphones might give a better picture of the difference between these two dcs instead of the Technics speakers until you get the speakers that you are waiting on.

    yamaha htr5560 receiver (HT)
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    Adcom 545 mk2 power amp(rear channel amp)
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    Dayton 8" HO custom sealed subwoofer(2 channel)
    Yamaha NS-c444 center channel
    Emotiva ERD-1 surround speakers
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    Samsung 46" LED TV
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  15. #15
    Ajani
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    The ideal tool for testing out the differences between the DACs would be my Cans, but as I have no plans to buy a separate headphone amp anytime soon, the real test of the XDA-1 will come when I change my speakers... But the Technics work for now as I am very familiar with their sound...

  16. #16
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    Have you for sure picked out your speakers or are you waiting to make sure what you want. I know how I am and I will do research and look at different options many many times before I make my decision on what to buy. I looked for a year or so before I bought all of my newer stuff it just so happened that I bought most of it within a few months of each other. I think I am going to get a new preamp and some new rear speakers for the ht part of my system and call it quits for a while as far as equipment goes. The only thing that I might play around with after that will be cables and room treatment.

    yamaha htr5560 receiver (HT)
    Nu Force P8 Preamp (2 channel)
    Pass Labs X150.5(2 channel)
    Adcom 545 mk2 power amp(rear channel amp)
    Dynaudio audience 60 mains
    Dayton 8" HO custom sealed subwoofer(2 channel)
    Yamaha NS-c444 center channel
    Emotiva ERD-1 surround speakers
    JBL e250p subwoofer highly modified
    Samsung 46" LED TV
    OPPO BDP-83 blue ray/multi format player
    ps-audio NuWave dac (2 channel)
    Dell I660 music server running fidelizer windows 8 audio optimizer
    PS Audio Quintet power center



  17. #17
    Ajani
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    My speaker options are pretty open... I've been patiently deciding on speakers for a very very long time... Revel is a top choice as it and Monitor Audio are my 2 favorite brands... and more importantly, Revel is available locally, so I can avoid the nasty shipping cost to Jamaica...

    However, other than Revel, I'm really tempted by the Zu Audio Omen, Tekton Lore, Building my own Open Baffle with 12" Audio Nirvana Full Range Drivers, Totem Rainmaker & Axiom M60V3.... So we'll see what choice I actually make when the trigger gets pulled...

  18. #18
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    I'm looking to try a set of the Omen Def. When considering Zu, one should call to talk with them or notice the impedances, some are 12 or 16 ohm which might not be a good idea with solid state. A new place is carrying Totem and I want to give them a listen as well.
    Mark Levinson #512
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  19. #19
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody
    I'm looking to try a set of the Omen Def. When considering Zu, one should call to talk with them or notice the impedances, some are 12 or 16 ohm which might not be a good idea with solid state. A new place is carrying Totem and I want to give them a listen as well.
    The Omen line is supposed to be more SS friendly than the Soul line... Worse case, I end up getting a MiniWatt SET or a DIY Class D amp like Feanors to drive them...

    I actually didn't think all that much of Totem when I auditioned them years ago, but they were driven by NAD gear at the time... And I remember how much better my speakers (from that same store) sounded once I ditched the NADs... So I suspect Totem and Emotiva would be a sweet combo...

  20. #20
    Ajani
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    Anyway if anyone is interested there have been a load of reviews of the XDA-1 on the Emo forums... Some positive, some not even close to positive...

    Some persons find the XDA-1 too bright... Others say it's too dark... some claim they hear little difference between it and higher end DACs, others think it is comparable soundwise to price compatible DACs...

    After using it for awhile now, I'm convinced it is a level below my DAC1, lacks a bit of warmth (my speakers have reverted to sounding bright again) and I find the poor volume control implementation annoying... the volume is supposed to move in 0.5db steps, but instead it is changing the voltage in equal increments... meaning that the volume is high by about 3 out of 80... So fine volume control is not possible... Members of the Emo forums are anxiously waiting to see if there will be a user serviceable fix to the volume implementation or whether they'll have to return the units to Emotiva...

    EDIT: I initially expected the volume problem to be corrected on all future units being shipped... However, since the Emotiva website adjusted the wording from saying that the volume controls operates in 0.5db adjustments to just 0.5 adjustments (whatever the hell that is supposed mean), I fear that there maybe no intention to resolve the issue...

    Note: if the volume issue is not resolved, then I won't be recommending any Emotiva products in the future....
    Last edited by Ajani; 12-15-2010 at 06:05 AM.

  21. #21
    Ajani
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    So my last update on this topic unless a resolution is found, is that Emotiva is working on a solution for the volume problem. Until that happens, I can't recommend the XDA-1 as a Digital Pre and my Emotiva gear will vanish from my signature.

  22. #22
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    Well thats that. Sometimes when a product seems to cheap to be that good it has a drawback somewhere. Not to say that there is not some components out there that for their price woop the hell out of units that are 5 times their price but for the price of the XDA 1 I would think it would be kind of hard to compete with the likes of PS-audio and benchmark in any regard and especially all since the Digi link and the Benchmark are 1000 dollar and over units retail. I looked into the Emo dac and to found out that the dac chip in it is a older chip that most dacs no longer use, not to say that the dac chip is not the only part of a dac that controls the sound quality and features and the quality of the outputs and other stuff are very important as well. It is good to know that this unit needs some work before too many people buy one just to return it because of the same issues that you are having. I understand that they are working on the problem but I would think that they could have seen this problem in pre production or prototype level and take care of them before the unit gets released to the public. I am more glad now that I chose the psaudio unit and have been very happy with the smooth musical sound it gives me that gives me the sound I was looking for with my digital setup.

    yamaha htr5560 receiver (HT)
    Nu Force P8 Preamp (2 channel)
    Pass Labs X150.5(2 channel)
    Adcom 545 mk2 power amp(rear channel amp)
    Dynaudio audience 60 mains
    Dayton 8" HO custom sealed subwoofer(2 channel)
    Yamaha NS-c444 center channel
    Emotiva ERD-1 surround speakers
    JBL e250p subwoofer highly modified
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  23. #23
    Ajani
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    Quote Originally Posted by harley .guy07
    Well thats that. Sometimes when a product seems to cheap to be that good it has a drawback somewhere. Not to say that there is not some components out there that for their price woop the hell out of units that are 5 times their price but for the price of the XDA 1 I would think it would be kind of hard to compete with the likes of PS-audio and benchmark in any regard and especially all since the Digi link and the Benchmark are 1000 dollar and over units retail. I looked into the Emo dac and to found out that the dac chip in it is a older chip that most dacs no longer use, not to say that the dac chip is not the only part of a dac that controls the sound quality and features and the quality of the outputs and other stuff are very important as well. It is good to know that this unit needs some work before too many people buy one just to return it because of the same issues that you are having. I understand that they are working on the problem but I would think that they could have seen this problem in pre production or prototype level and take care of them before the unit gets released to the public. I am more glad now that I chose the psaudio unit and have been very happy with the smooth musical sound it gives me that gives me the sound I was looking for with my digital setup.
    I'm sure you made the right choice... The PS Audio is in the class with the Benchmark (which you prefer is really more about individual tastes and the rest of your equipment), while the XDA is a clear step below... I think the sound is more than acceptable for the price, but I have had a few too many issues with it + I am not even remotely impressed with the way Emotiva has responded to complaints about the volume control (that thread on the emotiva forums got really heated and was locked a few hours ago)...

  24. #24
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    Boy, you must be miffed, you were happy with your amp and you even took that out. I wonder if it was a rush to market, no testing of the product or they just didn't think it too big a deal. This can't be a good thing for Emo, they were growing fast by word of mouth and things could go the other direction just as quick. And, in this economy to boot.

    Are you past your return period?
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
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    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  25. #25
    Forum Regular harley .guy07's Avatar
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    I was looking at the XSP1 preamp for a while as well but when I heard that they have been telling people that it was in the works for a year or longer and have not brought it to the market and with their dac that they have been talking about for ever having these problems right off the bat I don't think I am going to go that route with my preamp decision. I was already at that thought anyway since studying the design and seeing that this preamp will not be able to add much to my present set up and probably not mate up well with my dac,speakers and amp that I have decided to look at the fact that I am going to have to spend a little more to get what I want with it be with a tube pre or SS I believe there is better out there just like with this dac. I do agree with Mr Peabody that it is probably a good sounding unit for the money I also know for sure that PS audio would not come out with a new dac if it had these problems to hinder its abilities. I don't know if Emo is resting on there new success or they are cheapening up their stuff for profit reasons like so many brands of gear that have came out and changed the price to performance ratio only to crank their prices up or suffer quality wise soon after. As a study of circuit design I see that Emotiva is a great starter for someone looking for a beginning to go past the receiver speaker setup but for someone looking to really see what separates can do over a receiver or what a really good dac can do I think one needs to look elsewhere from what I see.

    yamaha htr5560 receiver (HT)
    Nu Force P8 Preamp (2 channel)
    Pass Labs X150.5(2 channel)
    Adcom 545 mk2 power amp(rear channel amp)
    Dynaudio audience 60 mains
    Dayton 8" HO custom sealed subwoofer(2 channel)
    Yamaha NS-c444 center channel
    Emotiva ERD-1 surround speakers
    JBL e250p subwoofer highly modified
    Samsung 46" LED TV
    OPPO BDP-83 blue ray/multi format player
    ps-audio NuWave dac (2 channel)
    Dell I660 music server running fidelizer windows 8 audio optimizer
    PS Audio Quintet power center



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