Emotiva XPA-11 Gen3 11-channel power amplifier

hccbestbuybadgev3Steve Withers finds out if this 11-channel power amplifier can drive today's immersive systems without breaking a sweat

US audio brand Emotiva set itself the laudable goal of building high-end products 'at prices that more people could afford'. It aims to achieve this by keeping operations lean and focusing on relatively few product lines, and using a modular approach that lends itself to certain economies of scale. It also designs and assembles its entire range in its homeland – something of a rarity these days.

Its third-generation XPA-11 is the perfect example of this ethos, using a modular design to create a multichannel power amplifier that can drive eleven speakers simultaneously. Best of all, it achieves this feat while maintaining a keen price point. At £2,400, the XPA-11 Gen3 can be considered 'affordable', and the cheapest option in an admittedly limited segment of the market.

Why there are so few single-unit 11-channel power amplifiers available to buy is a mystery to me. In the 3D sound era, eleven channels is the minimum required for a genuinely immersive 7.1.4- or 5.1.6-channel setup, and while you could use multiple power amps to drive your system, mixing the two-, four-, five- and seven-channel options that are more widespread, most people will prefer to keep the number of boxes in their rack to a minimum.

Of course, if space is a premium, there are numerous 11-channel AV receivers available, where processing and amplification is handled in a single unit. However, using a separate processor and dedicated amplification pays dividends, especially when it comes to power and headroom. And thanks to Emotiva's inventive power supply, the XPA-11 can deliver plenty of both from a single chassis.

Choose Your Weapon
The XPA range uses a modular architecture, with the same heavy-duty steel chassis on the outside and a choice of customisable amplifier modules on the inside. You can choose the number of modules you need when first purchasing your XPA amp, but also add more later by sending it off to Emotiva for an upgrade.

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The chassis houses the power supply, the protection and control circuitry, and Class AB amplifier modules. There's a basic 300W mono module and a 2 x 65W stereo module, and room for between two and seven in total. These slot in at the rear, and there are status LEDs on the front for each one, along with a large illuminated standby power button.

A single chassis can be configured with anything from one channel at 600W to fourteen channels at 65 watts each, allowing you to gradually upgrade your amplifier as you expand your system. The XPA-11 uses three mono and four stereo modules, delivering 300W (8 ohm) or 550W (4 ohm) into each of the front three channels, and 65W (8 ohm) or 100W (4 ohm) into the others.

Such a configuration makes sense as the front three channels are critical for music, as well as creating a solid LCR soundstage with clear dialogue. The remaining eight channels handle surround and overhead or height speakers. Each channel of amplification employs a fully analogue Class AB output stage originally developed for Emotiva's first- and second-generation XPA devices.

Aside from the modular design, Emotiva's other major innovation relates to the power supply. The XPA-11 uses a high current, switch mode power supply (SMPS) that, says the company, allows for substantial long-term power capacity and significant short-term dynamic power reserves. It also reduces the weight of the amp by 30 per cent, making installation easier on the back/rack, and runs cool.

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Emotiva
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