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Emotiva Announces Major Update with XPA Gen 3 Amplifiers

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Emotiva XPA Gen 3 Modular Amplifier Seven Amp Channel Modules

Emotiva XPA Gen 3 Modular Amplifier Seven Amp Channel Modules

Summary

  • Product Name: XPA Gen 3
  • Manufacturer: Emotiva
  • Review Date: December 21, 2015 16:00
  • MSRP: $999 - $1,999 depending on channel configuration
  • First Impression: Gotta Have It!
  • Buy Now

Full specifications have not yet been release for the XPA Generation 3 lineup and will be forthcoming.

Emotiva’s amplifiers have long graced the pages of Audioholics.  Seemingly every time Emotiva has launched a new product, audiophiles and home theater enthusiasts alike have taken note. Emotiva’s latest announcement about their updated XPA Generation 3 line of amplifiers had us doing a double-take.

While the XPA Gen 2 amplifier models were an evolution, the XPA Gen 3 update is a full-out revolution.  Emotiva’s XPA Gen 3 Amplifiers are not simply a redesign, but rather an entirely new paradigm in form, customizability, and design.

Unlike previous incarnations, the entire XPA Gen 3 lineup shares exactly the same chassis and power supply that is completely customizable to your individual system.  In other words, the XPA Gen 3 is a complete line of highly flexible, modular amps.

Emotiva Airmotiv, Emersa, and XPA Gen 3 Interview with Dan Laufman at CES 2016

Customization Galore

You can choose to configure the Gen 3 amplifier to accommodate anywhere from 1 to 7 channels in a single chassis and choose multiple power levels per channel.  For example, let’s say you have a two channel system today, you can order a stereo configured XPA Gen 3.  If you upgrade to 5.1 later, you can upgrade that two channel amplifier to 5 channels—all the way up to 7 channels by simply adding an amp module per channel at a time.  The minimum recommended module load, according to Emotiva is two channels with the standard modules.

Emotiva XPA Gen 2 Amplifier

Emotiva's XPA Gen 2 Series, such as the XPA-200 above, was an evolutionary step over the Gen 1 models.  The new Gen 3 series is a revolution

 According to Emotiva, all modules are capable of 350 watts into 8 ohms.  However, if you go for a 5 channel version, you’ll note that the power is a bit lower.  This is not a limitation of the module but rather has to do with the total power capability of the Switched Mode Power Supply (more on that below).  Emotiva told me that any channel can be driven to maximum power.  However, when all five channels are driven simultaneously, the total power per channel is reduced slightly. That’s certainly not a big deal, but a footnote we wanted to mention since here at Audioholics we always like to see amplifier specs full bandwidth rated and with all channels driven. 

But what if you want a monoblock design like Emotiva’s Gen 2 XPA-1?  Well, for audiophiles who want the purity of monoblocks, Emotiva will be releasing a high power, “double-wide” balanced mono-block module.  The XPA Gen 3 chassis will be able to accommodate up to three double-wide modules.   Each high power module will allow for an incredible +500 watts at 8 ohms. As you’ve come to expect from Emotiva both the double-wide and standard modules are stable into 2 ohm loads.

Because the entire architecture is modular, you can upgrade any XPA Gen 3 amplifier at any time to grow as your needs grow.  Upgrading your amp, however, won’t be user-installable.  You’ll need to ship the amp back to Emotiva or have one of Emotiva’s qualified international distribution partners do the installation. 

Emotiva says that each channel combines differential input, fully complementary, short signal path Class A/B amplifier circuitry, and an optimized Class H power topology to deliver both audiophile-grade sound and high efficiency.  

Emotiva Gen3 XPA Amplifier

Emotiva XPA Gen3 Amplifier- note the removable modules

New SMPS Power Supply Promises Higher Efficiency and More

Emotiva XPA Gen3 BackBut it’s not just the modular architecture that’s major news.  These new amplifiers feature Emotiva’s new high performance universal switched mode power supply (SMPS) that the company says delivers exceptional efficiency and excellent low noise performance.  

Why an SMPS as opposed to a linear power supply with a large transformer?  There are several reasons why Emotiva chose to go in this direction.   First off, the SMPS is compact and lightweight and makes the amplifier much easier to handle and reduces freight and the potential of handling damage.  

Secondly, it’s a regulated design, which means that the rails stay solid even under high current demands.  Emotiva told us that they feel this leads to better low end control and impact.  Additionally, under high and low AC line conditions, the rails stay put, reducing the unnecessary stress on the electronics.  This allows for consistent performance.

Third, Emotiva says that they have virtually eliminated low frequency line noise and hum.  The result is that the new XPA Gen 3 series low frequency noise floor is lower than the Gen 2 models.  Through this careful design of the power supply and paying attention to EMI and RFI performance, Emotiva says that they have a better sounding, quieter, and more powerful amplifier design that also has the added benefit of flexibility.

Fourth, the XPA Gen 3 uses Emotiva’s Class H power supply design for high efficiency and low losses so that the amps barely get warm when in use and remain cold when idle.  Emotiva was able to apply far more intelligence and actively control and monitor the SMPS versus a conventional transformer design.  Emotiva says this leads to higher reliability.

Finally, Emotiva told us that the SMPS is capable of over 3kw of power output at 230 VAC.  The maximum power dissipation is line limited to 120 VAC.

As you can see, Emotiva has put a lot of thought into the implementation of the new SMPS and leveraged many benefits.  

Assembled in the USA!

Another major piece of news about the Gen 3 amplifiers is their place of assembly.  Unlike previous Emotiva incarnations, which were both manufactured and assembled in China, the XPA Gen 3 models assembled right here in the USA at their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Nashville.  The major subassemblies are still built in China but this heralds a significant shift for Emotiva.  In fact, the XMC-1, Emersa, and Ego products are made in the USA including the PCB assemblies.  These lines are primarily sourced and assembled in the USA down to the board level.  We're seeing a decided shift here.  Emotiva is making a concerted effort to bring more manufacturing in-house.

Emotiva assembled in the USA

Emotiva's new XPA Gen 3 amplifiers are all assembled in the USA.  Emotiva is moving more and more of its assembly and manufacturing to its Nashville, TN plant.  The XMC-1 processor (shown above) is now made in the USA.

Here at Audioholics, we’ve long admired Emotiva’s amplifiers. Emotiva’s lineup has featured real, raw power without stratospheric pricing that’s out of reach for mortal men.  In fact, all the Emotiva amplifiers we’ve put on the bench have had nearly textbook performance specs.  Therefore, the prospect of a USA-assembled lineup of amplifiers with a new SMPS and a module architecture is something we’re excited to see up-close.  

Alas, we’ll need to wait until CES to see these amplifiers up-close. Everyone else will get to see them sometime in early 2016, when they are scheduled to begin shipping. 

Pricing for the new XPA Generation 3 amplifier configurations is as follows:

  • XPA-2: $999
  • XPA-3: $1,119
  • XPA-4: $1,399
  • XPA-5: $1,599
  • XPA-6: $1,799
  • XPA-7: $1,999

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Theo Nicolakis has been reviewing high end audio, video, home theater, headphone, and portable music products for the past 14 years. His reviews have appeared here on Audioholics as well as Techhive.com, PCWorld.com, MacWorld.com, and more. His reviews span high end two-channel and home theater systems, AVRs and immersive audio processors, headphones, DACs, DAPs, music servers, sound bars, and display technologies.

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