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Review and Measurements of Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Amp

amirm

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#1
This is a review and measurements of the Emotiva XPS-1 Phono stage/pre-amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The XPS-1 costs US $199 from Emotiva or Amazon.

The XPS-1 looks and feels fantastic despite its bargain price:
Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Pre-Amplifier Audio Reviews.jpg

It reminds me of a very high quality piece of instrumentation than home audio gear. Shame that the form factor will probably relegate it to somewhere behind your regular audio gear.

The XPS-1 is powered by a 12 volt/0.5 amp universal switching power supply that is barely bigger than a mobile phone charger.

As you see, the XPS-1 supports both moving coil (MC) and moving magnet (MM) cartridges. There are a set of dip switches which seem to set the input impedance of the XPS-1. To wit, setting it to the lowest value of 47 ohm, severely reduced the output from my analyzer which has an output impedance of 20 ohm.

All in all, the XPS-1 nails the industrial design of a budget phono amplifier.

Phono Stage Audio Measurements
I have been testing phono preamps by adjusting the input until I got 1 volt output. I was chewed out by a couple of members (looking at you @restorer-john :) ) saying I should set the input to fixed level of 5 millivolt and letting the output fall where it may. So I have done that here:

Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Pre-Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


I had to play a fair bit with grounding to get the mains noise at 60 Hz lower. As it is, it is still dominating the response being even higher than our dominant third harmonic at 3 kHz. This is why I was driving the input higher as to make the hum from being the most signficant. Doing so bought me a couple of dB more (not shown). Going with what we have, this is what we get:
Best Phono Preamps 2019.png


Note that the rest of these bars are with 1 volt output. Had I done the same with XPS-1, it would have landed in second place.

Signal to noise ratio shows what we already know:
Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Pre-Amplifier SNR Audio Measurements.png


That the mains noise limits it.

Instrumenting the noise from the unit with nothing driving it (but connected to my analyzer) shows this:

Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Pre-Amplifier Noise Spectrum Audio Measurements.png


We see the classic sloping down curve of phono pre-amps (due to RIAA equalization). That aside, we see the power supply and mains noise clearly at 60 Hz and harmonics. Switching power supplies tend to have leakage from input to output in order to pass regulatory certification so that is likely the cause here.

Frequency response measurements show a very slight RIAA equalization error for MM input and bit larger for MC:

Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Pre-Amplifier Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


For MC, I have tested it at both 1K ohm and 47 ohm showing the significant voltage drop for the latter.

Testing for overload and THD+N versus output level we get:

Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Pre-Amplifier THD+N vs Level Audio Measurements.png


I fixed the issue that was causing the timeout on the analyzer and showing the "T" symbol in the past so ignore that. We see that the XPS-1 starts pretty close to Cambridge Audio Duo but distortion starts to set in and it gets quite a bit more unhappy than the Duo with higher output cartridges. If my math is right, the MM input hits clipping/overload at 73 millivolts.

Conclusions
The Emotiva is very attractive device which belies its low cost. It gives a pride of ownership that is very hard to find in budget audio products. Electronic performance is not as good but only loses to our class leading Cambridge Audio Duo.

Overall, I am happy to recommend to the Emotiva XPS-1 for the combination of good looks and good measurement results.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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amirm

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#4
What's the noise and distortion like for MC?
YOu can see that in the THD+N versus output. It is the upper pair of lines without "T."
 

DonH56

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#12
If it is a SMPS as stated then a different supply won't help... Must be ground/mains leakage or just coupled 60 Hz noise. Phono preamps mean a lot of gain with huge LF boost.

I was chewed out by a couple of members
Surely you meant "gently, kindly corrected and presented with an alternative test methodology"? :)
 

MZKM

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#13
So is it worth ~$150 over the Art DJ PRE II if only using MM? Their measurements look pretty similar (other than an the Art having clipping earlier/having less gain).
 

restorer-john

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#15

amirm

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#16
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#17
As comparisons with the well-testing Cambridge Audio Duo inevitably get made, I'll point out that the MM-only version, the Cambridge Audio Solo, sells for about $100 less, and generally for less than the Emotiva. The only difference vs. the Duo is the lack of the high-gain stage.
 

amirm

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#18
Does the hum change with a better supply?
Here are the results with my Agilent lab supply:
Emotiva XPS-1 Phono Pre-Amplifier Linear Power Supply Audio Measurements.png


The mains 60 Hz goes down by a few dBs resulting in similar improvement in SINAD.

I tried it with my other linear power supply and there, the hum got much worse. So don't go blindly replacing the power supply. These phono stages are very susceptible to ground loops and there is no way of predicting that. I would listen for hum and if you don't hear it, you are good to go.
 

restorer-john

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#19
The Agilent supply looks pretty messy with a bunch of higher supply harmonics IMO.

Agilent power supply artefacts, 60/120/180Hz subdued, but look at the 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th 13th and 15th (300, 420, 540, 660, 780, 900)

1558059016186.png


Original supply, much cleaner but with a stronger (relative) 60Hz:

1558059091259.png


I reckon the only way to really clean it up would be a dual tracking +/-18V supply bypassing the internal buck/step up.
 
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