Submitted May 16, 2016 by Brenton Hancock in Louisville, KY
First off I'm a budget-fi enthusiast not a professional sound guy and have built some great systems over the years. I've been away from the hobby for quite a few years as I was raising a family. I loved building stereo systems on the cheap then watching the color drain from friends faces as my second hand gear walks all over their system costing many times the price. Recently I decided to put a home theater in the basement with an emphasis on music. After reading many reviews I purchased a marantz sr6009 "refurbished" and a pair of JBL J7's "wow what a pair of speakers". I was extremely impressed with the sound from the marantz but I found it lacking in power. 110 "2015" Watts is not the same as 110 "1975" Watts for sure. The JBL's are rated at 450 Watts 6ohms, pretty hard to drive for the marantz. I decided I needed a high current amp to make em sing. I have been reading about class d amps for there efficient, low power, cool operation. I had a pair of Krell mono blocks that would run you out of the room with the heat they produced and would give you that sinking feeling like you left the iron on if you forgot to shut them down. My only concern was early reviews of class d amps being harsh and lifeless. After a lengthy search I stumbled upon the crown xls series amps and at the price point they are offered at I pulled the trigger and ordered a 1502. The Crown definitely gave the JBLs the juice they craved. The highs were great, the mids were great and the lows were tight, punchy and accurate. The amp delivers a very good sound stage, basically it gives you everything you had before just more of it. One thing it didn't do was add that little extra, that little extra that leaves you with a tear rolling down the cheek as you say "WOW" under you breath. So again to eBay I go, I then purchased a Yaqin tube buffer with a set of National Union 6sn7 tubes. All I can say is that I now live in the promised land, I let the tubes warm up and put in "Dark Side of the Moon" always the first. My first impression was jaw dropping. The highs, oh the highs! So airy and precise. The mids are like Irish butter, rich and smooth. The lows suffered a little from the tubes but was still great just not as tight. As for the sound stage .... Holly cow! Notes fly around my head like I'm in a tsunami of sound. This is the most holographic sound I have ever heard other than a tube amped full range speaker set up I had years ago, that system would throw sound behind you, listening at home alone, hearing footsteps behind you really freaks me out. My conclusion is that this is a great amp, especially if you have a finished basement and have limited power available. My power conditioner has a amp meter and has never passed 2 amps. It runs cool to the touch, the fan has never come on to my knowledge. What you put in to this amp is what you get out of it, but if you put some really great stuff in the Crown will reward you in spades. A well known audiophile wrote in a review that he now uses a Crown xls as his reference amp and after my experience I believe him. Now for another one to bi-amp the J7s, it never ends my friends once one has the bug. Oh, and yes the sound did leave me in tears of joy.
Punk to classical.
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