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  #1  
Old October 29th, 2011, 8:38 AM
Skye Skye is offline
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Amp Recommendations?

I plan on using the HB-1 mk2 in a two channel listening system for high quality music reproduction on a budget.

I believe I may have found the "Hsu of amps", in that this brand is good quality, cheap because it is sold direct instead of through costly distributors, and extreme value enabling it to surpass similarly-priced equipment to compete with equipment two or three times the price. This brand is Emotiva.

1) Does anyone have any experience combining Emotiva amplification with Hsu speakers? In terms of system synergy and resulting sound?

2) Does anyone have an opinion on Emotiva in general?

3) What other brands are recommended for superior value 2-channel music playback?
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  #2  
Old October 29th, 2011, 2:11 PM
monkuboy monkuboy is offline
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I had the HB-1 Mk2's paired with an Emotiva XPA-2 and they worked very well together. I am a big fan of Emotiva (as well as Hsu). I would suggest reading over the threads at their forum, and asking for advice over there. My feeling is that you get really good value from their products, especially their amps.

I own or have owned (I've recently "simplified" my system because I have too much stuff) their XPA-2, XPA-3, UMC-1, USP-1, ERC-1, XDA-1, and their 6.2, 6.3 and ERM-1 speakers. The UMC-1 pre/pro is rather controversial because it did have a lot of bugs when first released and some people still have problems with it, but mine works fine and I have decided to use it to control everything and sell off my USP-1 two channel preamp and XDA-1 DAC. I preferred the Hsu bookshelf speakers over their 6.2's although I feel both are excellent. Emo gear is made very well and is of excellent quality. They also offer a 30-day refund policy and, like Hsu, have excellent customer service. And as with Hsu, I have no hesitation whatsoever enthusiastically recommending their products (except maybe the UMC-1).
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  #3  
Old October 29th, 2011, 2:26 PM
Sputter Sputter is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by monkuboy View Post
I had the HB-1 Mk2's paired with an Emotiva XPA-2 and they worked very well together. I am a big fan of Emotiva (as well as Hsu). I would suggest reading over the threads at their forum, and asking for advice over there. My feeling is that you get really good value from their products, especially their amps.

I own or have owned (I've recently "simplified" my system because I have too much stuff) their XPA-2, XPA-3, UMC-1, USP-1, ERC-1, XDA-1, and their 6.2, 6.3 and ERM-1 speakers. The UMC-1 pre/pro is rather controversial because it did have a lot of bugs when first released and some people still have problems with it, but mine works fine and I have decided to use it to control everything and sell off my USP-1 two channel preamp and XDA-1 DAC. I preferred the Hsu bookshelf speakers over their 6.2's although I feel both are excellent. Emo gear is made very well and is of excellent quality. They also offer a 30-day refund policy and, like Hsu, have excellent customer service. And as with Hsu, I have no hesitation whatsoever enthusiastically recommending their products (except maybe the UMC-1).
I have no reservations recommending Emotiva amps. (i own the xpa-5)
I expect i'll be standing in line when the XMC-1 is released.
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  #4  
Old October 29th, 2011, 6:58 PM
monkuboy monkuboy is offline
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Originally Posted by Sputter View Post
I have no reservations recommending Emotiva amps. (i own the xpa-5)
I expect i'll be standing in line when the XMC-1 is released.
I'm waiting for a nice sale price on the XPA-1's!
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  #5  
Old October 29th, 2011, 9:21 PM
Skye Skye is offline
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Thanks for the reply, Sputter and Monkuboy.

This impression of value is exactly what I have been reading about. It won't be the last amp you will ever buy, but it is a serious contender well beyond its price range.

Monkuboy, you've owned so many of their products. Maybe you can provide some thoughts for my purchase? I was planning on getting the UPA-2 for the amp and the XDA-1 for the dac. I was also planning on using the XDA as a preamp, since my primary source is digital, until I can afford a USP-1 for a preamp. These are a few of my thoughts, perhaps you can respond in order:

1) Emotiva makes better amps, but I was going to aim for the UPA-2 even so. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I had the idea you should aim for amplification costing half as much as your speakers. And if the HB-1's are so cheap, maybe they don't justify more costly amps. If I were to choose higher-end amps (at that point costing more than the speakers) shouldn't I also find higher priced speakers? (No offense at all to Hsu, from what I've heard they have incredible sound for their price, but it likely won't be the last system I'll ever buy.)

2) Is there a sonic cost for using too much Emotiva? One listener hinted that several stages of Emotiva (dac, pre, amp) caused his system to be bright, which could be an advantage for mellow speakers. However, if the speakers aren't mellow, then perhaps the USP-1 should be replaced with something warmer with tubes. What is your impression?

3) What are your impressions of the XDA-1 overall? And do you think it could make an effective digital preamp?

4) What other gear have you had or do you currently have that can provide a reference for component sound quality or system synergy with the Hsu speakers?

5) Lastly (and most importantly), did you already sell your preamp and dac? If not, may I buy them?
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  #6  
Old October 30th, 2011, 1:03 PM
monkuboy monkuboy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skye View Post
Thanks for the reply, Sputter and Monkuboy.

This impression of value is exactly what I have been reading about. It won't be the last amp you will ever buy, but it is a serious contender well beyond its price range.

Monkuboy, you've owned so many of their products. Maybe you can provide some thoughts for my purchase? I was planning on getting the UPA-2 for the amp and the XDA-1 for the dac. I was also planning on using the XDA as a preamp, since my primary source is digital, until I can afford a USP-1 for a preamp. These are a few of my thoughts, perhaps you can respond in order:

1) Emotiva makes better amps, but I was going to aim for the UPA-2 even so. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I had the idea you should aim for amplification costing half as much as your speakers. And if the HB-1's are so cheap, maybe they don't justify more costly amps. If I were to choose higher-end amps (at that point costing more than the speakers) shouldn't I also find higher priced speakers? (No offense at all to Hsu, from what I've heard they have incredible sound for their price, but it likely won't be the last system I'll ever buy.)

2) Is there a sonic cost for using too much Emotiva? One listener hinted that several stages of Emotiva (dac, pre, amp) caused his system to be bright, which could be an advantage for mellow speakers. However, if the speakers aren't mellow, then perhaps the USP-1 should be replaced with something warmer with tubes. What is your impression?

3) What are your impressions of the XDA-1 overall? And do you think it could make an effective digital preamp?

4) What other gear have you had or do you currently have that can provide a reference for component sound quality or system synergy with the Hsu speakers?

5) Lastly (and most importantly), did you already sell your preamp and dac? If not, may I buy them?
Well here are my thoughts about your questions:

UPA-2/XDA-1: The Hsu bookshelves are pretty easy to drive and unless you play your music at deafening levels, it should be enough power. Some things to be aware of, though: the UPA-2 is being discontinued so there is no 30-day return privilege (although if you get a defective one perhaps that is an exception). I did have a UPA-2 myself before, which I used to drive the surround speakers, so I can't comment on how they are driving the mains. But like I said, Hsu speakers are pretty efficient and easy to drive. If you get an XDA-1, the same holds true that it is being discontinued so no 30-day returns. The original XDA-1 came out with a logarithmic volume control, meaning that out of a scale of 80, just putting it up to 4 or 5 made it very, very loud. Subsequent models had a linear volume control meaning that it was more like a conventional one and so you could fine tune it better. They offered the mod to people for free if they returned it to Emo but I never had it done because I didn't use it as a preamp. If you don't use it as a preamp then you don't need the mod since the volume should be kept at 80. So if you do buy an XDA-1, make sure that you get one that has had the modification done to it to make the volume control linear. Also, the UPA-2 has a gain control for each channel. The other thing to consider, which has nothing to do with the amp, is that if you are like many of us, you just keep getting upgraditits and want something more and more powerful whether or not it is necessary. Like I said, the UPA-2 should do well for the Hsu's but if you wind up with other speakers later on they might need more power.

(1) The Hsu's are indeed pretty cheap but they are not just good for the price, they sound good, period. When I went to the Newport Beach audio show in June, Hsu was my first stop (one, because I wanted a free t-shirt and two, because I wanted to say hello to Pete and hear the VTF-15h). The Hsu setup compared favorably to a lot of systems there, regardless of price. Sure, some were better but then they cost at least 10x more, some a lot more. My own rule of thumb is you can never have too much power. Even though the Hsu's are inexpensive, they are very well designed. Dr. Hsu knows what he is doing and he doesn't subscribe to all this mumbo jumbo stuff that other companies do. For example, the Hsu setup had just a plain receiver and regular cables. No fancy equipment, no thousand dollar cables like some other rooms were using. And it sounded good.

(2) Some people have said that Emo equipment has a brighter-type sound. I really don't know. My own feeling is that it is neutral. However, their equipment does have a higher gain than most other equipment so it sounds louder and maybe that's why they think it is brighter. I dunno, if you read the forum threads some people say it sounds bright, some warm, some thin, some this some that. I think you just have to listen yourself but my own opinion is it is neutral but you have to remember to take into account their equipment will seem louder at the same volume knob setting than other equipment because of the gain. Don't let that fool you into thinking there is a difference in the audio quality. I had the ERC-1 CD player and the XDA-1. When I listened using the ERC-1 analog output through my USP-1, versus using the ERC-1 digital coax output through the XDA-1 to the USP-1, I could not hear any difference at all. Some folks claim to hear a big difference but I didn't hear any - either through speakers or headphones. I think a lot of the difference people claim to hear is all in their head, or is an example of justifying having spent more money on new equipment.

(3) I thought the XDA-1 was neutral. I used it for a Sonos box, and the ERC-1 CD player. Personally, I didn't hear any difference between using the XDA-1 versus just using the analog outputs from the Sonos box. If you just have simple digital sources, the XDA-1 would make a nice preamp. Simple, but effective. Some have said it sounds "thin" but you have to consider the prior equipment. Sometimes the prior equipment was not flat or neutral and you get used to that sound, so something else that has a flatter response will sound thin. Just like if you have a boomy sub, then a tighter sub will sound thin even though it is more accurate.

(4) Other gear I have had.. well, I only drove the Hsu with XPA-2's for the fronts. I had an XPA-3 driving the other three (I used to have 5 of the HB-1 Mk 2's). All I can say is they are easy to drive, and blended well with the subwoofer (VTF-2 Mk 3). My opinion is they need a sub.

(5) Sorry, I sold the USP-1 and XDA-1 last week. Same guy bought both.

Good luck, and best wishes in putting together just the right combo. I think Emotiva makes great stuff.
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  #7  
Old October 31st, 2011, 8:11 AM
Skye Skye is offline
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Thanks again for all your help. I suppose I could dig for gossip other places on the web, but you are so knowledgeable with the brand and do seem to have the inside scoop, so:

Why are the UPA-2 and the XDA-1 being retired? Are there replacements in the works? If so, are the replacements designed to fit roughly the same budget? Or are they designed to be in a different league with a higher cost?
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  #8  
Old October 31st, 2011, 7:13 PM
monkuboy monkuboy is offline
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Originally Posted by Skye View Post
Thanks again for all your help. I suppose I could dig for gossip other places on the web, but you are so knowledgeable with the brand and do seem to have the inside scoop, so:

Why are the UPA-2 and the XDA-1 being retired? Are there replacements in the works? If so, are the replacements designed to fit roughly the same budget? Or are they designed to be in a different league with a higher cost?
You're welcome. I hang out on the Emotiva Lounge (forum) all the time so I just pick up the scoop there, plus I have purchased a lot of their products. I just bought a pair of XPA-1's (used) which should arrive Thursday. I am very curious to hear how much difference there is between them and the XPA-2. A couple of people I trust have told me there is an audible difference but I guess I won't know until I hear it myself.

Regarding the XDA-1, it is being discontinued because a replacement is coming out which I think they are just going to call it the XDA-2. Unfortunately I don't keep up with the threads on that so I don't know what the differences are. As for the UPA-2, I don't know why it is being discontinued as it was pretty popular. It looks like they will have a gap in the lineup. That will leave just more expensive amps - the XPA series and the new XPR series which will be even more powerful and expensive.

Sorry I wasn't too helpful on these!
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  #9  
Old October 31st, 2011, 7:43 PM
Skye Skye is offline
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I'm jealous. I wish I had the money for this stuff, but I just can't compete. The whole reason I was choosing Emotiva was for their low prices, but if they are dropping off the bottom end of their product line...

Man, I saw the pictures of the coming preamp ... fully balanced with stereo bass management designed with defeatable crossovers ... just wow. The only thing it is missing is parametric EQ for the subs only.

Hypothetically, if I could afford Emotiva's fancy, new offerings, do you think it would be too much amp for Hsu? I wonder if Hsu will ever release higher end speakers? I read in some interview that Dr. Hsu likes the challenge of designing products to be as affordable as possible, which I take as a marketing twist on the classic "no". Then again, I do the same thing when I shop for gear. I not only want it to sound good, I want it to be competitive beyond its league. I want nothing short of astounding value. So maybe it wasn't just marketing twist: maybe he feels the same way.
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  #10  
Old October 31st, 2011, 9:02 PM
monkuboy monkuboy is offline
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Well Emotiva is coming out with quite a few new products and there might be a replacement amp line that is similar to the UPA series - the best place to check would be to look at their forum, maybe ask about it.

I think the UPA-2 would do just fine powering the Hsu bookshelf speakers, because they don't need a whole lot of power. If you've ever seen/heard them demonstrated, Hsu uses a receiver to power them, with regular cables and cords. Nothing fancy at all and they sound great. Getting something more powerful than a UPA-2 to power them is probably overkill.

Even with the new stuff, Emotiva is still priced well below comparable equipment but I guess they realize they can raise the prices and still be very popular. The speaker most similar to the Hsu HB-1 Mk 2 that they make is the 6.2. I preferred the Hsu, although I liked both of them.

My problem is I am always thinking something else is going to be better. I don't need those XPA-1's and really don't know if I am going to hear a difference, but I figure this is the end of the line as far as upgrading, at least for a long time. I also got curious about subs and put my VTF-2 Mk3 up for sale because I wanted to try a sealed sub. However, I came to my senses and realized I could not get anything near what the sub was really worth and I'd have to pay a lot more to get something comparable so I took it off the market. The sub is really very, very good.
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