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Review and Measurements of Klipsch PowerGate DAC & Amp

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of Klipsch PowerGate Multifunction streaming power amplifier, DAC, Bluetooth and phono preamplifier. It normally costs USD $499 but for some reason it is on Amazon for USD $150 including Prime shipping! This puts the PowerGate in direct competition to SMSL AD18 and Topping MX3.

The front panel of the PowerGate is plastic and not all that nice looking:

Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Audio Review.jpg

The buttons and rotary control have good feel though. Strangely the LED bar showing the level only goes 2/3 of the way up on the left and not all the way around.

There is a headphone jack which I will be testing in the review.

The back panel shows a very feature rich set of options:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Back Panel Audio Review.jpg


For this testing I focused on USB and analog input. I did not test streaming functionality in the interest of time.

AC power supply is built-in which is very nice.

RCA input is shared between phono and regular input so not controllable with remote. There is however an AUX input with 3.5 mm which can be selected independently (I did not test this input).

Speaker terminals are decidedly nicer than the bargain units in $150 price range. Overall, it is clear that the PowerGate is designed to be a $500 and not the clearance price of $150.

DAC Audio Measurements
I was pleased that I could use the PowerGate as a DAC by leaving the speaker jacks disconnected and the unit operating up to max volume. Others often shut down due to the amplifier going into protection mode. Sadly the performance of the DAC is quite poor:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier DAC Audio Measurements.png


Output level of 1.8 volt is shy of 2 volts we like to see. The much bigger issue is high levels of distortion which cause the SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) to just 77 dB (averaged across both channels). This puts the PowerGate squarely in the fourth quadrant of all DACs tested:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier DAC SINAD Audio Measurements.png


That is worse than all of our multifunction devices I have measured.

Frequency response test shows that despite advertising playback of up to 192 kHz, the DAC filters its output to just 38 kHz:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier DAC Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


Very odd.

For grins, I ran the linearity test:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier DAC Linearity Audio Measurements.png


The "good" channel loses accuracy starting at -60 dB (10 bits). Being generous we can allow some error up to -75 dB which translates into just 12 bits of resolution.

The red channel is even worse in the way it reverses direction in its error amount.

Phono Preamplifier Audio Measurements
Testing for proper RIAA equalization shows a very slight error in mid to high frequencies:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Phono Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


The dashboard response is good:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Phono Audio Measurements.png


It puts the PowerGate ahead of a number of dedicates phono stages:
Best Phono Amplifier Reviewed 2019.png


Notice how the SINAD is better than the DAC performance!!!

Signal to noise ratio is good too:


Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Phono Signal to Noise Ratio Audio Measurements.png


Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements
Let's look how power versus distortion at 300 ohm:

Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Headphone Power at 300 Ohm Audio Measurements.png


Not good for a desktop product. Output level is the same as Topping DX3 Pro in low gain. Good news is that it doesn't clip so you can use the full volume out of the unit.

Clipping comes with 33 ohm load which emphasizes current delivery:

Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Headphone Power at 33 Ohm Audio Measurements.png


This is not good with distortion setting in at just 5 milliwatts and getting worse progressively until large clipping.

Output impedance is just "OK" at 12 ohm:

Best Headphone Amplifier Output Impedance Measurement.png


This is much worse than Topping MX3 and SMSL AD18 which were around 1 ohm.

As with the DAC, the headphone out seems to be a checklist item than one where attention was put for great performance.

Power Amplifier Audio Measurements
This is the key area for these multifunction devices as our other desktop products usually don't have power amplifiers. So let's see our dashboard at 5 watt:

Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Analog In Power Dashboard Audio Measurements.png


This is middle of the road performance losing to likes of Amazon Link Amp but bettering the Topping MX3 and SMSL AD18 by a good bit.

Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Analog In Power SINAD Audio Measurements.png


Measuring full performance shows quite a bit of power available:

Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Analog In Power Audio Measurements.png


At 112 watts, the PowerGate exceeds its specification by 20% which is nice. Even better, it does so at less distortion than stated. At this level, it matches the Amazon Link Amp with even distortion in each channel (unlike Link Amp which was worse in one channel).

Above was with analog input. Switching to digital input we can compare available power against Topping MX3:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier USB In Power Audio Measurements.png


On top of having less noise, the PowerGate pulls way ahead of the Topping MX3, delivering nearly four times more power. And this is end-to-end performance including its DAC.

Signal to Noise ratio likewise is decent:
Klipsch PowerGate Streaming Amplifier Analog In Power Amplifier SNR Audio Measurements.png


Headphone Listening Tests
Sorry, I have a cold so skipped this.

Conclusions
There are two weak subsystems in Klipsch PowerGate: the DAC and headphone amplifiers. The phono preamplifier is very good however as is the power amp. As a $500 device, the PowerGate would have gotten a thumb down from me. But at $150, it is a great value that will far outperform other multifunction devices at this price range when driving speakers. So run, run fast and buy one from Amazon before the supply runs out!

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

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#2
Amir, thank you very much for your review. I was one of the pestering ones urging you to do this review. I appreciate your work on this.

I was just waiting for your approval to buy one. I'm clicking the "Buy Now" button right now.

This is indeed a steal at $150.

Thank you again.
 

Xulonn

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#4
The 30% Amazon negative reviews (1 & 2 star) - all on reliability issues (shuts down, stopped working, etc.) - indicate caution in buying this product unless one lives in the U.S., and is willing to gamble on being able to return it if it fails. Perhaps there is a reason for the low fire-sale price.

If you get one and it is reliable, it appear to indeed be a good bargain. Based on Amazon reviews, your adds are 70% for getting one that keeps working.
 
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#5
agreed...was waiting for this review before pulling the trigger, and have just ordered (will use as power amp only). some reports indicates the latest firmware fixes the power off issues. if not, amazon return policies are decent -- just make sure you give it a shake down cruise within 30 days.
 
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#6
The 30% Amazon negative reviews (1 & 2 star) - all on reliability issues (shuts down, stopped working, etc.) - indicate caution in buying this product unless one lives in the U.S., and is willing to gamble on being able to return it if it fails. Perhaps there is a reason for the low fire-sale price.

If you get one and it is reliable, it appear to indeed be a good bargain. Based on Amazon reviews, your adds are 70% for getting one that keeps working.
I've read the reviews, and most of the buyers complained about the software side of the unit. Not as often though, the buyers may be forcing the unit on areas where the Powergate don't shine. But if one use it just as a power amp (or as a phono stage), the unit should be reliable. I'll tell you when I get one.

BTW Amir, do you happen to open the Powergate to look at what Class D chip is being used?
 

BillG

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#7
I am glad you talked me into getting one. It is a hidden bargain to be sure.
Thanks for this.

Just out of curiosity, have you opened the unit to have a look at the amplification subsystem? I'm curious as whether it's Klipsch's own design or if they used something else, like a Texas Instruments or whatever.

Regarding the linearity test, what is that a measurement of and how does that effect the sound? I've done a web search to find out for myself, but I'm coming up empty.

Kind regards
 

BillG

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#9
agreed...was waiting for this review before pulling the trigger, and have just ordered (will use as power amp only). some reports indicates the latest firmware fixes the power off issues. if not, amazon return policies are decent -- just make sure you give it a shake down cruise within 30 days.
I suspect the power off issues were mostly a result of users not reading the manual fully: the unit goes into a power saving mode after being idle for ~15 minutes when no input is detected. This is stated in the manual. However, it's right at the very end of it, in less than obvious print, if I recall correctly... ;)
 
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#10
hopefully, but also read neg reviews of it powering down permanently after a period of time. have also read that it runs hot, but a usb powered fan appears to have fixed the issue.
 

BillG

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#11
hopefully, but also read neg reviews of it powering down permanently after a period of time. have also read that it runs hot, but a usb powered fan appears to have fixed the issue.
The power supply section of the unit, which is on its right side from the front, does run a bit warm. However, certainly not hot, in that if I tried to cook an egg on it I'd probably be waiting over a week for a firm one if I attempted to.
 

restorer-john

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#12
The dashboard response is good:
I do question setting an output level (1V) for the phono stage rather than a fixed and consistent input level. Phono stages are tested with a specific input level, not backwards from a target output level.

Your phono preamplifier THD+N tests can therefore not be compared to one another in the bar chart comparison due to the fact each preamp tested is getting different input levels. (Cambridge 11.3mV, Art dj/U-turn 5mV etc)

In this particular case we have a 'test' input level of approximately 18mV- hardly a typical phono stage rated sensitivity. At 18mV input, the phono stage may be giving a considerably better S/N than it will achieve in typical use.

Typically 2.5mV into 47k is specified for MM RIAA stages. Below is a random selection of service manual phono stage sensitivity specs from several different manufacturers:

01.JPG


02.JPG


03.JPG


05.JPG


06.JPG


07.JPG


08.JPG


09.JPG


10.JPG
 
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amirm

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#13
In this particular case we have a 'test' input level of approximately 18mV- hardly a typical phono stage rated sensitivity. At 18mV input, the phono stage may be giving a considerably better S/N than it will achieve in typical use.
That was an issue and I was uncomfortable with dialing up the input so much to get 1 volt. That said, the SINAD is dominated by distortion there, not noise level.

With no standardization of gain in these products, coming up with the same set of test parameters is hard.
 
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#14
The power supply section of the unit, which is on its right side from the front, does run a bit warm. However, certainly not hot, in that if I tried to cook an egg on it I'd probably be waiting over a week for a firm one if I attempted to.
Thanks. No reviews left specific temps (hate when that happens) so am only going by what i've read. I do have a couple IR thermometer's, so will be able to give some specifics once the item ships.
 

restorer-john

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#15
With no standardization of gain in these products, coming up with the same set of test parameters is hard.
That is true, but with a fixed input level (say 2.5mV or even 5mV) it will become a leveled playing field with directly comparable numbers.

People will be able to see RIAA stages that are anemic in terms of gain and may respond better to high output cartridges and the opposite- ones that are hot, gain wise, and could be used with lower output cartridges.

For instance, someone using this MM stage with a moving iron Grado would not have a pleasant experience IMO, whereas a Stanton 505 high output (6mV) may be a better choice.

Did the phono stage clip and at what input level just out of interest?
 

amirm

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#16
Did the phono stage clip and at what input level just out of interest?
I did not run that test. With these multifunction devices I am running a subset of my usual tests.
 

restorer-john

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#17
I am running a subset of my usual tests.
It's a pretty big subset you did. More like a mega-set. You could spend days testing this thing. :)
 

GGroch

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#18
Thanks for this Amir!

We now have very useful performance comparisons of streaming amplifiers, in the Sonos Amp, Amazon Link Amp (I see your owner review is up on Amazon), and this Powergate. This may be an important new product category, with emphasis on ease of use and good-enough performance that lets normal folks enjoy the benefits of high quality passive speakers.

For this target audience, features and ease of use are probably most important. The Klipsch Powergate is particularly interesting in that it comes with a remote control (so you are not forced to use your phone), and because you can stream anything from its analog or digital inputs to other Play-Fi compatible devices, including the currently $33 Klipsch Gateway.

Most Play-Fi devices, included these Klipsch, and the Paradigm PW-Amp and PW-Link, can now be used with Alexa Echo devices for voice control. Since the Amazon Link Amp also requires an Echo device for voice control, and does not allow streaming from direct analog digital sources or come with a remote, the Powergate has some streaming advantages.

I hope you will test the similar Paradigm PW-Amp which is discounted to $225 direct (perhaps less if you make an offer to Paradigm on their eBay listing), placing it between the Powergate and the Link Amp in price. It seems to be similar in power, but has only a single analog input and no remote. It does have rather nice Room EQ built in.
 

amirm

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#19
I hope you will test the similar Paradigm PW-Amp which is discounted to $225 direct (perhaps less if you make an offer to Paradigm on their eBay listing), placing it between the Powergate and the Link Amp in price. It seems to be similar in power, but has only a single analog input and no remote. It does have rather nice Room EQ built in.
Thanks for the informative post. Didn't realize these devices can be controlled with Amazon Echo.

I do have the Paradigm amp that was sent in by a member so look for that review soon....
 

daftcombo

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#20
If we just want a speaker amp with RCA input, is it better to get this or a Behringer A500 for instance? (or something else).
Getting the Klipsch Powergate on Amazon to ship to Europe would cost around 200$ with shipping & taxes.
 
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