Emotiva XPA-1L Class A Monoblock Amplifiers Arrive for Review



The Emotiva XPA-1L monoblock amplifier can be run in either Class A or Class A/B mode.

Emotiva turned many heads with the release of their XPA-1L monoblock amplifier. On paper, the specs of the unit are impressive. The XPA-1L is a fully balanced, fully discrete, quad differential design with a high current, short signal path.   The XPA-1L will put out an incredible 250 watts into 8 ohms at 0.1% THD and double down to 500 watts into 4 ohms at 0.1% THD.  If you ask Emotiva directly, the XPA-1L is supposed to be stable into speaker loads that dip below 4 ohms but it is not explicitly listed in the specs.  The power supply is stated to deliver 90,000 uF of storage capacitance.  Weighing in at 35 pounds each, the amplifiers have significant weight and heft.

The Emotiva XPA-1L Monoblock amplifier has two huge internal heat sinks and a massive toroidal transformer and a power supply stated to deliver 9,000 stated to deliver 90,000 uF of storage capacitance

In addition to the rated power output, the real buzz around the XPA-1L was the ability to run in pure Class A mode for the first 35 watts—for under $699 (note: Emotiva has just launched the XPA-1L Gen2 models and dropped the price to $599 each).  After 35 watts, the amps would transition into Class A/B and deliver their full-rated power.  Choosing to run the amplifiers in Class A mode or completely in Class A/B is accomplished via a front switch.  If you choose to run the amplifier in Class A mode, it will run at 35 watts for 8 or 4 ohms.  It will not double its class A power into a 4 ohm load like it does for Class A/B.

A toggle switch on the front of the amp lets you choose to run it in Class A or Class A/B mode.
The XPA-1L monoblock accepts both balanced and unbalanced inputs.  You chose between balanced and unbalanced inputs by flicking a toggle switch.
There’s both an input and output trigger inputs allowing you to daisy chain multiple units (more on that later).  There’s also a status LED on and off switch. This only affects the status LED on the main panel and not the LED that illuminates the ring around the power button.  This may be a problem for some users as I’ll go into further detail below.
The rear panel also features high quality binding posts.  The distance between the binding posts is significant.  Such a wide layout of the binding posts is uncommon with monoblock amplifiers—even in high end brands and exotic designs.
Some, if not most users, may find that their current speaker cables will be unable to reach the positive and negative terminals.  I have custom 14/4 cabling in my setup and I had to re-terminate my speaker cables to make them able to reach the two ends of the XPA-1Ls.   They just would not reach with their initial termination.



My two units arrived with shipping carrier wear including signs of distress on the outer boxes.

My pair of Emotiva XPA-1L monoblock amplifiers came with shipping distress on the outer boxes.


The XPA-1L is double-boxed and the shipping distress transferred a bit to the inner box.

The amplifiers come shipped double-boxed with ample molded protection—enough to withstand significant shipping abuse. The XPA-1L monoblock amplifiers come wrapped in a black, static-resistant bag that attempts to give the impression of a premium product unboxing experience. It’s a nice touch.

The Emotive XPA-1L comes wrapped in a branded, black Emotiva covering

The XPA-1L monoblocks come with an accessory box that is oddly labeled, “Spare Parts.”  But this wasn’t spare parts!  It was the power cord, trigger cable and a pair of extra fuses.  I don’t know why Emotiva chose to do that.  Logically, it should have been labeled “Accessories”.

Labeling aside, it’s a nice touch to include a trigger cable with the unit and I appreciated the inclusion of two —not just one—spare fuse.

The power cord, however, was a problem. It had a strong, terrible, rubber “plus something” smell to it.  This was the case with the power cord included with both units. Even after a day plus the smell was there and it lingered.  For my review period, I chose to replace these stock power cords with others because of the smell.  To have such a stink from something as basic as a power cord is unacceptable—even in a product that is targeting a value-conscious audiophile audience.


The XPA-1L mono blocks are straightforward to set up.   I set up my pair with balanced cabling from my Anthem preamp.   As I previously mentioned above, the only complication came when I needed to re-terminate my 14/4 cabling to fit the width of the Emotiva XPA-1L binding posts.   I set both monoblocks to start up with the trigger and daisy chained them together from the Anthem.  Daisy chaining the XPA-1Ls to each other causes a 3-5 second delay between the first and second XPA-1L powering up.  Because I’m using all the trigger ports from my Anthem, I kept it in this configuration.
I did, however, notice a very bizarre behavior with the trigger function on the XPA-1L.  With all the amplifiers I’ve owned from Anthem, Lexicon, and Proceed, I’m accustomed to the standby power switch being defeated if you’re using the trigger.

Not so with the XPA-1L.

If you trigger on your setup and the XPA-1Ls are powered on with a trigger, pressing the front panel button will turn off the XPA-1L!  Moreover, if you then turn off your preamp, the XPA-1L that you turned off manually will then turn on even though the rest of your equipment is off.  I found this out accidentally and it was something that was characteristic of both units.

I’m not exactly sure why this behavior exists, but it reminds me of the older pulse trigger standard before 12v was everywhere.  This can be maddening!

I strongly suggest that prospective buyers be aware of this and that the units aren’t in areas where little fingers can accidentally press the button.  Again, this is really a non-issue in real world use, but I did find it odd.

The XPA-1Ls are nicely laid out and present themselves as having decent build quality.  When I compared the XPA-1Ls to my much more expensive Lexicon amplifier, however, there was a noticeable difference in the thickness of the faceplate and chassis between the two.

The Lexicon amplifier’s faceplate and entire chassis were both thicker, more solid, and rigid when compared to the Emotiva.  How much value one puts on the chassis is a personal preference.  However, I felt it important to note the difference since some make a direct correlation between the chassis and overall build quality.

Placement and planning of the XPA-1Ls is essential:

First, you need to give these amps room to breathe (as you do any amp of course) but they do get very warm even in A/B mode.  The XPA-1Ls got much warmer to the touch than my Lexicon amp.  I strongly suggest that you have ample ventilation and follow the guidelines in Emotiva’s manual for ensuring proper air-flow.

Secondly, these amplifiers have no way at all to dim or defeat the LED status ring around the front power button. Let me tell you, the light is bright.  If you have the amplifiers directly in front of your listening position and you are in a home theater setup, then you will notice them at all times.  The only way to dim or defeat this bright blue LED is to cover it with tape, paper, or a film.

Luckily, I had the Emotiva’s in my rack, which is off to the side of my setup. For me, the lights did not become a problem.  However, I did initially set up the XPA-1L directly under my TV and they were a bother during TV and movie watching when the lights were down.

The XPA-1L status lights are incredibly bright.  I kept them in my rack, which is to the right of my TV and behind a closed, perforated door for ample air-flow.
I also highly disliked—ok, I hated—the orange-yellow, standby color of the units.  To me the color is ugly and doesn’t match the color (normally red) of other devices that are in standby or power off mode.  That’s just a personal preference and I know others may like it.  To each his own.
When Emotiva chooses to refresh this model, they need to deal with this LED issue.
My initial setup also brought one more bizarre anomaly.  This one really drove me crazy.  After powering up the amplifiers, I would hear a loud click–exactly like the sound the amplifiers make during their soft startup.  The sound would normally come anywhere from 5-15 minutes into listening.  I couldn’t tell from which amplifier the sound was coming from.
I decided to contact Emotiva support to see if they had any insight.  To their credit, they were courteous, prompt and spot-on with their diagnosis.  According to Emotiva, there was a small batch of amplifiers that had their heat sink screws adjusted too tightly.  Therefore, when the amplifier was warming up and the metal expanded, it would make this noise.

They assured me there was nothing functionally wrong with the units.  They sent me this diagram below and suggested that I simply loosen the screws slightly and that I would likely find one that was overtightened.

Emotiva asked that I slightly loosen the screws holding the heat sinks.  Doing so solved the audible anomaly I experienced.
I turned over both XPA-1Ls and proceeded to loosen the screws as instructed.  Sure enough, one screw was distinctly tighter than all the rest.  To be on the safe side, I loosened and then retightened all the screws myself.
From that point on, I never experienced the audible anomaly again.   Emotiva’s support was correct with their diagnosis.  And, while you could argue that you shouldn’t have to do that remedy, it was painless and permanently effective.

Initial Conclusion

First impressions of the Emotiva XPA-1L were clearly a bit of a mixed bag.  On the one-hand, there’s the promise of unbelievable power, performance, and value.  Class A sweetness for under $600?!  On the other hand, after unboxing,  there were detail-oriented and potential build-quality issues that made me scratch my head a bit.  Once the popping sound was solved, none of these issues were deal breakers.
When put to the test, did the XPA-1Ls disappoint or did they really shine with their performance? Check out our full, in-depth listening review of the Emotiva XPA-1L Class A/Class AB amplifier here.


  1. The reason Emotiva includes two fuses and not just one is that they blow in pairs. I know from experience – I have a pair of these and one unit is very finicky about remote triggering: blows fuses often, to the point where I have stopped remote triggering it until I find the time to ship it back to Emo for repair. 🙂

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