XTV A-800 Review
Thanks to Audio Sanctum for the sample.
Okay, I hadn’t planned to separately review this amp but I like it, I like it a ton so I’m going to do a quick little review on it specifically. That means it’s going to be pretty quick and not going into vast detail. This is largely due to the a fore mentioned reason and that swapping speakers around is a pain and my desk is currently more speaker than useable surface.
The speakers that I first tried these with was the S-800, the speakers that they come with. I assume you have already read my review of that. So due to being intentionally meant as a package the Dirac stuff on this amp relates to that speaker. In short it seems XTZ decided it was simpler to make a speaker and rather than faff with it to make it behave as they want just make a fancy EQ to do it. So with any other speaker all that jazz is pointless.
Connecting the A-800 up to the Acoustic Energy Radiance 1’s and the first that strikes me (compared with my normal FiiO A1 amp) is how much warmer and heavy it sounds. The speaker takes on a much richer and organic feel to it and I must say, I love it. The A1 is rather dry and the naturally treble happy Radiance can be rather tiring on my ears after a bit. The A-800 though I just kept wanting to burst into song with. It was a fantastic combo. A friend did still prefer the dryer pairing to the A1. He does prefer dry and bright though which is my nice way of saying he’s wrong.
The pairing here is just what I want. The warmer nature of the A-800 counter balances the very, very good but very abundant treble of the Radiances. They and their rather exquisite little Ring Radiators just sing oh so beautifully. I must confess that this amp isn’t allowing them to perform at their best but I can live with that. It’s a £140 amp/DAC so I think it’s doing a fine job. Still the A1 is better technically but I don’t care. I find the presentation here to be sooooooooooo much more to my tastes. The mids are much more me too. They are much more in the middle, maybe a touch on the liquid side rather than the dry of the A1. Here they just seem to flow effortlessly around your ears. I’m not quite so quick to say the A-800 is the better of the two but I think it is, it’s more a preference call.
The low end then, so much fuller, rounded and powerful than running off the A1. It’s almost like a different speaker. The warmer more organic sound plays so well in the lows and possible due to being the more powerful amp the lows ore much more abundantly driven. The funny thing is that it’s abundant enough to slightly annoy me and skip a few songs because I have neighbours you know. I don’t want to be THAT guy with the thumping bass all the time. In a speaker I like to turn it down and you can’t so much do that. Funny given the sub out functionality (I’ll address later) XTZ could have really gone with something bass lighter pointing out if you want more add a sub. Still it’s nothing more than a petty gripe, the lows are fantastically articulated, clean and quick but with enough expansion to still be rich and smooth. I like it very, very much.
Want. It’s as simple as that. I want one.
Next I tried the Audica CS-S1’s. These are intended as satellite speakers for a home cinema set up, i.e. they do little in the way of a low note. Now I recall seeing that the A-800 has a sub out, by seeing I mean reading. Looking at the back of the thing I can’t see one so I go a Googling and I find something. There are two line out sockets and it says they can be used as sub out sockets, weird but I think let’s find me a sub cable! Well, what do you know, it works. I can only hope that the low notes are the same on both channels but so for it seems to be fine. Odd they didn’t just stick on a dedicated sub out or seem to bother advertise the feature. Maybe it’s not intended?
Anyway, listening to the set up I am both happy and annoyed. For a long time I wanted I wanted to use these speakers in a little 2.1 setup being driven by a nice little T-amp. Could I find one? Could I buggery! As much as I do like my Radiance’s they take up a big chunk of desk space, if I had known this amp existed I would have bought it. XTZ, why the hell aren’t you promoting and advertising this ability? Do you know just how much I wanted a small, good amp with a sub out? Of course it doesn’t really matter for me now but I wish I had known.
Acoustically there is a lot of fun here. The mids are superb and prominent. The lows are a bit disjointed but I really cannot be bothered setting the level just right as its not to be a permanent set up. It’s also pretty weird that the lows now go more or less right to the floor. Oh and of course it has massive power. Its insane but these tiny little speakers could now be a fully-fledged party machine. It’s like living in crazy town. The highs, well they are a bit gritty but this I think is a combo of it being neither’s strengths. I cannot however fault the energy and liveliness of this set up. I like it a lot, a hell of a lot. Would it be wrong to have 2 complete amp and speaker setups on your desk? Or maybe 3?
Headphone amp: As an additional added bonus this thing has a headphone amp on it. It’s like the speaker side in that it’s a richer, warmer sound. Now I found this very enjoyable with my HD-600 but it’s not the most revealing amp in the world. I could see it going very well with a Grado but here, well I liked it but then I like a warm sound and I could happily live with it. The thing that does get me is I know it’s not extracting all the detail and openness that it should. It’s not like I expect or should anyone else it to be the ultimate headphone amp, it’s cheap and it’s not the devices primary function. It’s not stellar but its good enough.
Conclusion: I love this little amp, I wish I had discovered it before I bought the Radiances so that I could have and be happy with the tiny Audica satellites, let’s face it I’m never going to wire them up as 7.1 rears because the wire would trail doorways. I could have had them, bought a little sub to go with them and been happy. I blame XTZ for not better publicising you can hook a sub up to it (and I know you can get subs with high level inputs but the sub I wanted to use didn’t have them.) so trying to skip past all that, the amp paired with the Radiances sounds fantastic. They are a touch on the dry side and a bit bright at times with that rather good Ring Radiator tweeter. The A-800 injects a dose of warm and liquid in there that while it may not so well suit something already warm like a pair of Quad Classics (the 12L I found just stupidly warm when I demoed them once.) Pairing with something brighter and crisper though is very enjoyable. It’s a tiny little amp oh and DAC that just sings. I guess it’s a bit pricey compared with some T-amps out there but it does give you the DAC and I think uniquely the ability to plug in a normal sub line out. I know of nothing else that lets you do that.
I really couldn’t find anything to fault or even dislike about this little amp. Well maybe one, if XTZ could make the next version stand upright or give the option to stand either way then it would be perfect. I love it.