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Crown XLS 2502 : My Review of Sorts...

Home Theatre Systems

jsmithe

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I think I purchased the Kenny G FLAC album from HD Tracks. It is on my external hard disk connected to my computer through USB 3.0. It was played through PotPlayer. The Tidal Master video is on the other link.

The following music (FLAC) is downloaded from your link and played from my local hard disk. Please let us know if you can hear any issues.


Thanks @ssf Appreciate you taking the time to fulfill the request so quickly. It sounds fantastic and no, I did not notice any timing issues etc. with this track nor with the previous two tracks you demo'd.
 

ssf

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Thanks @ssf Appreciate you taking the time to fulfill the request so quickly. It sounds fantastic and no, I did not notice any timing issues etc. with this track nor with the previous two tracks you demo'd.
Glad to help. I have another unit of Crown XLS 2502. I will test that too when time permits. I would have preferred to have a Crown without the ADC and DAC as I don't use it's DSP features. I think Harmon has implemented the DAC quite well considering the limitations of the budget.
 

jsmithe

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Thought I saw a post on another forum that implied the DSP might only be used for crossover duties. IIRC, the earlier 1500/2500 models had a DSP bypass kind of switch that was removed on the 1502/2502 models.
 
Last edited:

rburra

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@drkrack Well written review. I bit the bullet and got myself a 2502 too. Well, to be honest I am quite impressed. I will be posting a detailed first impressions on the same thread maybe sometime this week.

However, at this point of time, I can tell you that people who shun the Crowns are just biased. The highs are very detailed. I am very sure you can change the coloration with DACs, preamps and ICs.

Experiment: Try hooking up this amp to even a fairly sensitive speaker which needs some decent muscle (In my case, it was the Dali Zensor 3 which is 88dB at 6 ohms). Comparing a NAD integrated which is 75wpc in 8 ohms vs the Crown which has headroom for days, I was taken aback when I saw the Zensors behave very differently to the Crowns. It was although the speaker never portrayed any fatigue or a demand for any more power. Everything just became more detailed and clearer. The NAD smoothness was gone but I liked the detailed sound more than the smoothness.
But surely, that smoothness is addicting (more in tubes) and I am sure I can get it back with a NAD preamp or a Tube in the chain.

TL;DR - At the end of the way, if you want pure power to drive some speakers that are notoriously hard to drive, then you can look at this. Is it audiophile grade and can it live up to thousands of dollars of amplification? To my surprise, yes.

I have been talking to various other members of other forums and a good number of them suggested to get a tube pre in the circuit. And these are guys who run expensive equipment ranging from Sonus or Focal or even more.Check out the following photos for your reference:

View attachment 35650
A Crown XLi hooked up the Sonus.

View attachment 35651

A Crown standing upto a beast of a Krell.


When spoken to the user, he says he is taken aback by the Crowns because unless you go over 4-5 times the price you pay for amplification, you will not hear a difference in the staging or the depth of sound achieved. He says the highs and mids stand right up the Krell and if done an A/B test, he can only call the Krell apart based on the sound signature rather than sound quality.

And to me, that says a lot!

(A detailed impressions on Crowns with my PSB Synchrony Ones coming soon)
Great set up!
 

samgurung

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Mar 15, 2019
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1.Initial Impression

My First Impression with Crown XLS 1502 was paired to MA Silver Floorstanders, The Sound was pretty Harsh, coupled with boomy bass; a typical Noisy DJ sound which put me off instantly. Had concluded that it would probably do good for HT purposes where a cheaper amplification is required and an AVR will adjust for Room and tonality etc. This also lead me to abstain looking for Class D solutions to my amplification requirements.

During a period of time I used a variety of amplifiers , Listened to various amplifiers; Mostly Class AB or A, from Krell, Plinius, Martin Logan, Gryphon , Parasound, Vidar, NAD, BAT, NHT, Sansui etc to Name a few.

If you don't want to Get Bored with my Journey of indecisiveness , You Can directly move on to review of XLS 2502 on Para #4 or Conclusions #9.

2. Class D Revisited


While I was contemplating an upgrade for my MA Silver FS + matched amplification , & I was looking for Options for speakers to buy, impulsively bought Flying Mole Class D 100WPC Monoblocks (stop Gap) as my Vidar was Sold . I was pretty intrigued with the Laser sharp stereo image they were capable of producing, with highly resolving bass signature. Almost neutral , devoid of any specific sound signature you can easily ascribe them to.

Recent whatshifi show in Mumbai, there was a interesting Floorstanders made of toughened Glass (yes Glass) called Waterfall Audio, which really excelled in the most neutral presentation. They wer being driven by a Yamaha PXA 500 a Pro series amp mated to Denon AVR as Pre . On asking the French Speaker designer was pretty clear about the higher amplification required to drive them and felt the Yamaha did drive them according his expectations. My reservations with Pro amps & Class D, almost resolved.

Out of the Speakers that I liked, on the top was ATC SCM series which ,with poor sensitivity , usually demanded higher amplification than 100wpc. ATC with the suitable Class AB Amplification was always going above my modest budget for the combo and I was stuck with indecisiveness. Various othe speakers I listened,Which included B&W 700 series, Klipsch 8000f, MA Gold, Heco GT, Sonus Faber Venere, Dynadudio had their own strengths and weaknesses but nothing really came close to the comprehensive signature I was looking for. So the shortlist included ATC SCM 19or40, Magnepen 1.7i , Heco GT & Audionote Level 1 etc. The option of Highly Sensitive Speakers with Tube amplification was dropped because of high intensity Rock /R&B/ Electro/ Bollywood genre I currently listen to. So Warm speakers with matching/overwhwelming amplification was the route I was left with.

3. Magnepan Mc 1 Happened
I loved the soundstage, vocals & highs of Maggies but the my Bass oriented listening , always didn't click all the check-boxes. Finally after much deliberation I Picked Maggies from HFV Classsifieds & with 80hz lower limit , I was clear about using the Subwoofer. @tuff recommended to get Crown , if you want to extract the best out of Maggies.

4. Crown XLS 2502
In spite of my not so impressive initial impressions I went ahead with Crown, saving few bucks instead of Qsc RMX. Gati Screwed up with Maggie delivery, I had lot of time to check the Crown with PMC 20.26. Chain Looked like this.

Roon PC – Gungnir Multibit DAC – Marantz SR7010 (as Pre) – Crown XLS 2502 – PMC 20.26.

Initially again the boom, and harsh Highs & seemed nothing has changed, I was patient enough to give a burn in for 30 odd hours, when the amp started getting more listenable. At 50 + hours it became pretty good and continues to improve from then on. The pairing with Maggies was really magical, with unbelievably huge soundstage and beautiful Highs and vocals, LF below 80 Hz was supported by XTZ 12.17 and the blending was nearly perfect. Apart from Maggies & PMC I tried the XLS with ATC and I got unbelievably lovable SQ response. Not Only Crown drove the ATCs easily , but excelled at every parameter of SQ.

5. Operation:

It is quite intutive, important advantage of this Pro amp is having RCA inputs along with XLR inputs. Only one input works any time and no way to switch between inputs. Prefers XLR input over others. Has input Sensitivity selection 1.4mV (balanced or when youre picking up Noise with Lower sensitivity) or 0.775mV when RCA is used. The LEDs for Clipping and Thermal cannot be switched off via menu, but all other LEDs including LED Panel can be completely shut off without any kind of distraction, Quite useful when using for HT Purpose. Comes with Channel 1 & 2 seperate Gain Control dials, Quite useful for balancing the L?R channels.

It has few Modes to Chose from the Front LED Menu, Stereo Mode is Default, You can Chose Bridge Mode and Y mode etc. LF Pass mode whenyou need to Biamp to drive only the LF driver is quite useful. Has a fan at the back, but I never heard it switching On or any fan noise was heard during my listening (it is probably super quiet).

6. Class & Differences in SQ

These are My comparative observations of Crown XLS with Class AB amps ,YMMV.

Class D runs Cooler, Quieter & provides maximum Watts per buck. The Sound stage, precision etc nothing to complain about. More like garbage in garbage out system, faithful reproduction of what you feed in, no coloration, no rounding of frequencies. Definitely Lacks the micro dynamics and subtle musicality offered by Class AB design Amps and XLS tends to sound more Clinical/Lifeless at times. Class AB sounds more full bodied in general. If you can afford Class AB then it is certainly a preferred approach, make sure to take into account the matching of other components. Adding a tube somewhere in the preamp stage could benefit so will be digital Room correction , I certainly felt more analogish and likable when paired with AMR DP-777 DAC/Pre. XLS is quite powerful and can drive most of the speakers available.

7. Modifications : That Helped to Achieve a decent SQ from the Crown XLS 2502 , compared to my initial experience...

  • Re-Positioning the Speakers: You need to check Positioning of speakers again when you change major components, Pulling the speakers away from front wall and Reducing the Toe in totally, helped in this case.
  • Cables: The stock Power cable isn't pretty good, when I used a Thicker Accuphase 40th Anniversary (Copy) Power cable SQ improved a lot. Going for Thicker guage speaker wire from Kimber 4Tc (used Last time) – to Kimber12 Tc and then a Warmer cable lIke DAC 2 Extreme reduced the harshness by a lot. Even the IC s Changed to Cardas Golden Ref instead of BJC LC1 used earlier. Do try with a 3rd party Power cable with XLS, it works well.
  • DAC: Previously it was a SMSL Su-8 with ESS chipset, was bit brighter compared to Gungnir Multibit, which worked way better when Balanced Connection directly to the DAC was used. Volume was controlled by Roon DSP. Avoid Pairing with Brighter Electronics.
  • Burn in of 50 odd hours, It takes Sweet 30 Minutes to Warm up every time. I didn't have a proper warm up last time.
  • Speakers Themselves : Less brighter (Warmer) speakers should do very well with XLS amps
  • AVR as a Pre (with Audessey) was a better match than SYS Pre used earlier
  • Used Isolation Control Spike/pads for Amp which gave a more precise frequency demarcation (Advisable)
  • Finally the comparison between personally bought XLS vs Loaned XLS ; will have some observer bias

8. Specifications: XLS 2502
  • Number of Channels:2
  • Power Class:Class D
  • Watts/Side @ 8 ohms:440W
  • Watts/Side @ 4 ohms:775W
  • Watts/Side @ 2 ohms:1200W
  • Watts Bridged:2400W @ 4 ohms, 1550W @ 8 ohms
  • Inputs:2 x XLR, 1 x stereo RCA, 2 x 1/4"
  • Outputs:2 x speakON, 2 x Binding Posts
  • Cooling System:Efficient Forced-air Fans
  • DSP:Yes
  • Filters:Yes
  • Rack Spaces:2U
  • Height:3.5"
  • Depth:10.7"
  • Width:19"
  • Weight:10.8 lbs.
  • Price Rs 29000 (Offline Prices are Cheaper)

Genre Tested : Rock, Vocal Jazz, R&B/Pop ,Contemprory Bollywood & AR Rahman.

9. Conclusions:

Strengths
  • More Watts per Buck, Pretty Powerful
  • Runs Cooler , Quieter
  • Audiophile quality in budget, if you can get the correct component matching and few modifications
  • Plenty of Modes, Inputs , Gain Controls to suit most of your needs
  • Neutral Signature, Adequate details & Non Noisy
  • Pairs very well with Maggies & Warm speakers
  • 3 Years Comprehensive, Robust Warranty from the house of JBL


Weaknesses
  • Sounds Clinical/Lifeless with bit less dynamics and musicality
  • Less full bodied sound (Not too thin either)
  • Sounds pretty harsh if not carefully matched
  • Not for everyone. (need to invest further time and money in tweaking)

Hopefully I have answered your Queries @anirudhchandrashekar & @celester340

View attachment 35648 View attachment 35649
Great review! Was looking at the XLS 2002 or the 2502 to add to my HT setup to drive my front LR speakers to improve stereo performance. I run dual subs as my AVR has two sub preouts. The AVR also can work as a preamp with front pre-outs so connecting the crown will easy. However will it run the dual subs? Am confused about that. Would want the subs for stereo setup too and to seamlessly work for HT. Thanks for any advice/clarification you can offer! You'd be helping out a relative noob ;)
 
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