PRODUCT: XA SERIES
MAGAZINE: HIGH FIDELITY, POLEN
EDITOR: WOJCIECH PACULA
Yes, the XA-PRE offers amazingly smooth sound. Silky. Regardless of the recording I listened to. That preamplifier blends into the system very smoothly. Midrange and treble are of absolute clarity, but also rich, well saturated.
Tonal balance is slightly shifted up compared to the TAD and the Ayon, and it seems more or less the same as that offered by the Soulution. There is also very well extended, well defined bass, very nice midrange and amazing treble with great sense of openness.
Bass deserves special attention because that's another aspect where s-s preamps show advantage over tube preamps. None of reviewed tube preamplifiers, nor even my own Ayon, offered so well defined, so well differentiated and so rich bass as the AA did. It was obvious for me that the “no capacitor in the signal path” policy, and direct DC coupling between input and output did their job very well.
It translated damn well on bass differentiation on the *Eighteen** track from Pat Metheny Group's album *Offramp**. In this track the piano and the bass simultaneously start to play very fast. Both instruments have very similar timbre and you cannot hear them separately all the time. This time I got rich texture and well defined space relations between those instruments. They were not “cut-out” from the background, not really separated from each other but each of them was still a separate being on the stage and a clear separate sound source.
I also definitely liked the treble. Cymbals had their own, proper weight and were nicely differentiated one from another. There was no roughness in their sound, they were not edgy – in fact they sounded a bit like with tube preamps. Well, not so much “tube-like” as with the TAD C-600 or the Audio Research Ref5 SE, but surely I wouldn’t call them “solid-state-like.” There was this tube-like softness and silkiness but also a solid-state purity. That resulted in amazing presentation of reverberations, acoustic ambiance and so on, as these were shown in a very distinct, strong way – clearly better than by my reference preamplifier. The Ayon presents them in a bit shorter, “fatter”, thumped way. Here each sound’s decay was long, clear and really nice.
I think that credit for that goes to remarkable selectivity offered by this device and its impressive resolution, too. Obviously Matthias managed to achieve a perfect balance between these two attributes, as there is clarity and depth to the sound and all that without it being super-detailed.
Please check the Highfidelity website for the full review:
(HIGH FIDELITY, Wojciech Pacuła, POLEN)