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Emotiva BasX A-100 Review (stereo amplifier)

sofrep811

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I’m no great reviewer but have owned over 20 amps and components the past 25 years.

I’ve owned this amp now for 8 months and the only thing I use it for is my Rega P1 and Ifi Zen Phono. It’s lacking a little power but is very much worth the money. The build is very stout and the weight is hefty. Power sounds clean and precise — which any amp should. I can turn it up to 11 and no scratching or fuzz sounds.

Purchased mostly as a headphone amp and that’s where it shines, IMO. I didn’t notice the warm up aspect until I read this review. Likely didn’t notice because I leave it on most of the time. If you want to isolate a component and use it as a head amp it’s a no brainer at $229.
If you changed the logo out and slapped a high end logo on it I think the price point would be $1200. I’m a solid tube guy and this amp has impressed me beyond the cost.
 

GGroch

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.....Purchased mostly as a headphone amp and that’s where it shines, IMO......If you changed the logo out and slapped a high end logo on it I think the price point would be $1200....

In what ways does the A-100 outshine the competition as a headphone amp? In terms of measurement it certainly has more power than any of them...but I do not understand why that would be an advantage in 99.9% of real world use. I do not think most tube guys think output power determines sound quality.

Have you compared it to other headphone amps? What is better about the A-100 sound?
 

AVKS

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In what ways does the A-100 outshine the competition as a headphone amp? In terms of measurement it certainly has more power than any of them...but I do not understand why that would be an advantage in 99.9% of real world use. I do not think most tube guys think output power determines sound quality.

Have you compared it to other headphone amps? What is better about the A-100 sound?

I have an A-100 and THX 789, and IMO/IME the A-100 gives a rounder sound vs the 789, particularly with the jumpers out due to the 200-ohm output impedance. It's also nice and convenient to be able to put the jumpers in and get the full amp power and current ability from the headphone jack without needing a separate speaker tap that can add its own complications.
 

GGroch

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..... IMO/IME the A-100 gives a rounder sound vs the 789, particularly with the jumpers out due to the 200-ohm output impedance.....

I have no experience with the A-100, but a quick google of high output impedance results in the derogatory descriptions of “woolly” or “bloated” bass. Are you saying that wooly is subjectively a good thing on some headphones, or do you disagree with the common consensus?

Are there headphone specific amps with purposely very high output impedance?
 

Helicopter

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I have no experience with the A-100, but a quick google of high output impedance results in the derogatory descriptions of “woolly” or “bloated” bass. Are you saying that wooly is subjectively a good thing on some headphones, or do you disagree with the common consensus?

Are there headphone specific amps with purposely very high output impedance?
Pretty sure those adjectives can be defined as 'more bass at specific frequencies' and that could be a good thing with certain headphones or for certain listeners.

Obviously some good PEQ parameters will do much better, but it is one way to go.

I am reminded of my Darkvoice 336SE tube HPA with Sennheiser HD6XX. These two pair in such a way that the DV improves the FR of the HD6XX compared to a neutral amp like Hel without EQ.
 

AVKS

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I have no experience with the A-100, but a quick google of high output impedance results in the derogatory descriptions of “woolly” or “bloated” bass. Are you saying that wooly is subjectively a good thing on some headphones, or do you disagree with the common consensus?

Are there headphone specific amps with purposely very high output impedance?

Yes, I'm saying that the interactions that arise with high output impedance and how it can impact tonal response, particularly the bass region, in lower-impedance headphones can be a desirable thing - it's one reason that people can prefer tube amps. For someone who doesn't want such an impact and/or may not understand why it's happening, it can be undesirable and lead to use of the adjectives you note.

As firsthand experience my DT-1990s were sharp with the THX-789, but plugging them into the A-100 and changing nothing else gave things a more pleasant and round tonality. It can perhaps be achieved with EQ but I was not able to replicate the effect through the 789 with the EQ tools at my disposal, so I always just listened to the 1990s plugged into the Emotiva.

My A-100 gets way more use as a speaker amp powering my desktop pair, Revel M16s, and is fantastic for this as well.
 

Califmike33

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I have this amp and can tell you with 100% that it sounds very very good for 229 dollars and now on sale for 199 dollars. Maybe you people will realize that alot of measurments you cant hear with the human ear. This amp produces clean detailed power thru speakers and amazing amp for headphones with jumpers or not. I have it hooked up to Triangle Borea Bro 2 speakers desktop and its outstanding setup. I have Sennhiser hd 560s thru the headphone jack and its clean clear and really good, so much for measurements. Every review on this amp on the net is good except here cause it dont measure well, your missing a steal on a great amp.
 

Bruce Morgen

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I have this amp and can tell you with 100% that it sounds very very good for 229 dollars and now on sale for 199 dollars. Maybe you people will realize that alot of measurments you cant hear with the human ear. This amp produces clean detailed power thru speakers and amazing amp for headphones with jumpers or not. I have it hooked up to Triangle Borea Bro 2 speakers desktop and its outstanding setup. I have Sennhiser hd 560s thru the headphone jack and its clean clear and really good, so much for measurements. Every review on this amp on the net is good except here cause it dont measure well, your missing a steal on a great amp.

Actually, it didn't measure all that badly -- but a solid-state amp needing six minutes to stabilize is inexplicable and inexcusable in 2021. Even a 50+ year old tube amp is ready to go much faster than that. I'm not surprised you're happy with it -- like I noted, it's not a bad performer otherwise and the fact that it works well with headphones is a big plus for some folks. Compared to products like PS Audio's $600 Sprout100, it's in the "steal" category -- but, as pure amplification, a sub-$100 Aiyima A07 + SMPS combination is every bit as good and doesn't need that multi-minute warm-up.
 

Veri

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I have Sennhiser hd 560s thru the headphone jack and its clean clear and really good, so much for measurements. Every review on this amp on the net is good except here cause it dont measure well, your missing a steal on a great amp.
With that pretty massive output impedance, your HD560s will not sound the way they were intended. But whatever floats your boat :p if you like it that's fine.
 

Veri

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My 560s s sound fabulous on this amp you people are just hung up on measurements
Like I said, it's all fine if you like the sound, no need to "convince us" of that. But note that on a traditional amp your HD560 will likely sound different due to more correct dampening factor. So don't be surprised if don't get the same sound if you ever change gear. You are introducing additional variables. I personally would not like what that high output impedance would do to my headphones' FR but if it works for you, excellent.
 

GGroch

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Nearly every happy A-100 owner who posts here points out what a great value it is, worth far more than its asking price. In some ways they are certainly right.

The A-100 weighs 11.8 pounds and measures 8.5"x3"x15". It has a thick cast faceplate, and when you pop the top there is real stuff inside including a sweet looking toroid and big caps. You get a nice hunk of stuff with a headphone jack that looks handsome on your shelf for less than $17 a pound. By comparison, the Aiyma A07 runs over $34 a pound, looks like a toy and has no headphone jack.

Helicopter compared the A-100 to his Darkvoice tube amp and I think his affinity to it (and mine to my Little Dot MKiii) is in some ways similar. The Little Dot just seems like a lot better value than my JDS Atom. No question its heft, glowing tubes, and heavy smooth-turning volume knob impact both pride of ownership and subjective sound quality. I can see why some owners might find the comparison of an A-100 to the Aiyma 07 ridiculous.
On the other hand, I picked up a 28 pound NAD 2600a on eBay for what an A-100 costs. Just $7 a pound, it satisfies my cravings for big block class A/B power with substantially more dynamic headroom.
 

AVKS

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Nearly every happy A-100 owner who posts here points out what a great value it is, worth far more than its asking price. In some ways they are certainly right.

The A-100 weighs 11.8 pounds and measures 8.5"x3"x15". It has a thick cast faceplate, and when you pop the top there is real stuff inside including a sweet looking toroid and big caps. You get a nice hunk of stuff with a headphone jack that looks handsome on your shelf for less than $17 a pound. By comparison, the Aiyma A07 runs over $34 a pound, looks like a toy and has no headphone jack.

Helicopter compared the A-100 to his Darkvoice tube amp and I think his affinity to it (and mine to my Little Dot MKiii) is in some ways similar. The Little Dot just seems like a lot better value than my JDS Atom. No question its heft, glowing tubes, and heavy smooth-turning volume knob impact both pride of ownership and subjective sound quality. I can see why some owners might find the comparison of an A-100 to the Aiyma 07 ridiculous.
On the other hand, I picked up a 28 pound NAD 2600a on eBay for what an A-100 costs. Just $7 a pound, it satisfies my cravings for big block class A/B power with substantially more dynamic headroom.

I think the A-100's unique form factor gets lost in these discussions as well. It takes up way less real estate on a desk or in a setup than other products while still being A/B.

No arguments from me about performance. It is what it is and for anyone not looking for such a form factor there may better choices out there.
 

Califmike33

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Well most people buy this as a headphone amp they don't buy it to use with speakers it's known on the internet for headphones. I've had several headphone amps this sounds as good as any of them I've ever owned you're putting too much weight into measurements.

You probably believe in $500 headphone cables also that they change the sound. Measurements do count but so minutely it's what it sounds like to the human ear people here don't even give stuff a chance because it measures bad which is ridiculous.

What amazes me is how many people come on this forum and follow everything that Amir says based on his measurements and his little tiny listening review that he adds at the end people hang on that and turn away audio equipment based on that and I find it ridiculous.

In fact this review that he gave here is the only bad one I can find on it and in the end he says I can't recommend it so what do all the followers of this forum do they blow off the emotiva and many other things that he's reviewed that he can't recommend that sound amazing I read other reviews on here of other stuff that he can't stand his approval on that I've listened to and they sound fabulous the problem is people here don't even give things a chance if this guy doesn't give it his approval.
 
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Namesbuck

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I owned the A-100 previously and purchased the Ayima based on this thread and the ASR review. From a physical perspective the Ayima is tiny and measures better but I still have the A-100 in my "good" speaker room and use the Ayima instead to run some backyard speakers. I liked the Ayima so much I bought another for the kids playroom which power a pair of thirsty Micca RB42s. The amps diminutive size and 2 channel no fluff focus make it an excellent choice for simple setups. Neither amp hisses, clicks, or fusses and I cannot tell any audible difference during the warm up period for the A-100. I like the additional features and quality of construction of the A-100 and it in no way detracts from my enjoyment of my humble Wharfdale 12.1's. A/B amps will be loved for a long time like vinyl but I can accept that the future is probably elsewhere. We all know speakers, room acoustics, and placement are the biggest factor anyway.
 

Veri

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I think the problem with this forum is you have a lot of measurement snobs that hang everything on measurements won't even consider a product if the cross talk is not good if this is not good they won't even listen to it and make a judgment for themselves because half of that crap you don't even hear it in everyday use.

No I'm not trying to defend the a100 I guess I sort of am I'm not claiming it to be $1,000 amp I'm just claiming that all of the measurements that you guys are griping and bitching about don't make a bit of damn difference it's a $200 amp.

I challenge some of you measurements snobs on here to go listen to something that doesn't measure good on this site and listen to the damn thing for yourself and come to your own conclusions because guess what there's stuff that measures well that doesn't sound good in everyday use.
God damn you are trying to defend the A100, it's all you've done so far in this thread. Here's one for you. I owned a BasX A100. There was nothing that made it sound better to me than other amps I've owned. I found it quite subpar for headphone usage, and overall it hasn't got the lowest noise floor. So I sold it to a guy that probably loves it more than I did. And I moved on to less hefty/weighty amps that fit better in my room. People prefer different things. That's a fact.

Now stop with the whole "snob" thing, the only one sounding positively prejudiced over here is you.
 

Bruce Morgen

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Now stop with the whole "snob" thing, the only one sounding positively prejudiced over here is you.

Amen to that. Gear reviews are like a pre-purchase filter and they are very useful in an age where we generally don't get to audition gear before we buy it, and I certainly trust what Amir has to say much more than any of the strictly subjective reviewers who opine without any technical know-how to speak of. Science-savvy reviewers like Amir and Erin have never led me astray, whereas the likes of industry cheerleader Steve Guttenberg have given out recommendations that I followed with disappointing results -- never again!

Now, back to some music with my Amir-approved Behringer U-Phoria's DAC driving my Kali 3-way active monitors. To be fair, Amir has yet to review the particular "Second Wave" Kalis I bought, although I was able to infer their excellence from Amir's review of the previous generation of that product and Erin's review of another "Second Wave" Kali model. Like I noted, those guys have never let me down!
 

Kegemusha

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Science-savvy reviewers like Amir and Erin have never led me astray, whereas the likes of industry cheerleader Steve Guttenberg have given out recommendations that I followed with disappointing results -- never again!
and Amen to that, totally agree about the ytube aficionados!

I own this amp, I bought it as 2nd hand very cheap and I am pleased with it as a desktop setup driving passive speakers and headphones. Sounds good to me here in the desktop env. But the amp was not good sounding in my main stereo setup. For desk is ok, I dont want to have many things connected here to the mains.
I do notice the left channel has a lower out level, sounds lower when use headphones so I need to balance that.

Anyway I am not sure I would have bougth this one new.
 

Ezees

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In what ways does the A-100 outshine the competition as a headphone amp? In terms of measurement it certainly has more power than any of them...but I do not understand why that would be an advantage in 99.9% of real world use. I do not think most tube guys think output power determines sound quality.

Have you compared it to other headphone amps? What is better about the A-100 sound?
The Fostex t50rp mkiii with the Mayflower mod needed the power - or any headphone that's less efficient and could use more power. The A-100 did what other HP amps could not, at a price that I could easily afford. I would've had to spend extra $$$ to get a good HP amp, a preamp, and a speaker amp. P.S., I bought the A-100 used for a very good price to drive the Fostex and other cans and I'm glad I did. It'll have a place on my desktop for a long while because of it's versatility with cans and speakers (and Class AB sound quality). I use it now as an amp for my Energy bookshelves and run it with a Gustard H20 headamp/preamp. It can hiss with the jumpers installed on some very sensitive HPs but it doesn't affect most cans over 30 ohms. I've not one complaint and remain satisfied for the $$$ I spent.
 
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mr.at

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Hi guys.

Well, truth be told, here's my experience - please note I'm not much of a number guy, I just do and don't consider numbers at the same time so I'm very neutral and indifferent about how things show on paper. I still account for it in my decision making, but I don't want to be myopic about it.

The following is my personal experience - it is exactly, and very clearly what I heard. I'm mostly and EDM listener so consider that I would have tried pretty much across the whole frequency range when testing the Emotiva BasX-A100.

I have the BasX A100. I also have an ifi micro DSD (the non-black one).
Yes, I got it after zeo's raving video. I installed the jumpers too. Yes, I got it in November of 2017, and it was a new purchase, around $230ish I believe.

Funny as it is - and I've used the 6XX and my EMU Teaks and then one odd more cans to compare, just some light comparisons.

At some mid level volume matching, the ifi was much more dead (in the noise-floor department), yet it had more bass dynamics and punch - MORE than the unleashed 50watts a channel monster.

Now don't get me wrong - the emotiva is a fantastic build, feels just underpriced (for the quality and the components used). But given any chance to opt for this or the ifi to be used solely as a headphone amp, I think I would take the ifi.

Yes, the placebo does make you want to use the emotiva - you look at a big arse dial lit up, you can see a big CHUNK of metal where your cans' wire is running into - you pat yourself on the back that you grabbed this monstrosity while it was still the big new thug and the talk of the town, and u know you're controlling a class A nuclear warhead that's sitting right there on your desk when you delicately and fearfully turn that big round knob up, one little pinch at a time - but it's mostly in the mind.

The ifi is simply the better amp. In every way. Such a small footprint in comparison, yet a more COMMANDING sound and control. Mind you, this thing is also bonkers when in turbo mode - and I think it wasn't even turbo but normal mode that I compared the two in.

I will be back with my amps in a few days. I will also be able to compare this with my SMSL SH-9 and have a wider shootout. I will make another post after I have done some more comparisons and tests. But I still stand by my current thoughts and opinions.

But I'm just saying - for purely headphone amps, you can do much, MUCH better, if that is your focus. Even the ifi - even the black labels, aren't the final word in amps anymore. There's prob $150 headphone amps which would be way, WAY cleaner now. There's so much more amps out there now (putting the ifi to shame too) in the standards that they are available today.

I would now be using this primarily with some speakers TBH and just plug in cans on rare occasions for the fun of it. Of course, the BasX ownership alone gives you some bragging rights. You have (on paper), a SpaceX rocket on your hands that you call a headphone amp. I want to feel good about it. I tell myself that. But I also have to be honest with what I'm actually hearing - cuz that's where the buck really stops, doesn't it.

I could probably recommend the emotiva for speakers - and as a dual speaker/headphone amp ONLY if your budget is so tight that you need to kill two birds with one stone.

For everyone else, consider this a speaker amp - and consider your options there too. Headphone amp only? You can do much better.
 
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