Dave’s Faves – Emotiva XSP-1

Emotiva XSP-1 Stereo Preamp, $1200


Emotiva power amps have always earned respect in the market place. They have delivered the most power for a given buck. More power helps literally every speaker.

Specifically, the Emo XPA2G3 at a grand with 300×2 into 8 ohms and BALANCED design is an unbeatable power amp value. Its sound is CLASS CRUSHINGLY clean and dynamic.

The XSP-1 preamp is an equally PRICE SHATTERING performer. The first thing that separates it from its competitors is that it is a TRUE BALANCED, DIFFERENTIAL preamp. What that means, in a nutshell, is that parts wise, it needs two of virtually everything instead of one. No wonder nobody else provides a true balanced preamp for this price. The canceling properties of the true balanced design provide a dead quiet noise floor. Fine musical detail is heard more clearly- because the background is black, instead of gray.

Before we worry about this feature or that, this button or that, the number one reason to lust after the XSP-1 is its gorgeous detail. It’s within spitting distance of its $4-6k competition and comes with a 5 year warranty. Literally everyone else at this price offers a non balanced, non differential preamp. In fact, they’re virtually all chip based at this price point, not discrete. In short, it’s not even close. Just cuz a preamp has XLR ins doesn’t mean it’s a balanced design! XSP-1 is the real deal, a truly dual rail BALANCED preamp.

XSP-1 is an all analog piece. Emo chooses NOT to put a DAC or streaming feature on board to preserve audio purity. The phono preamp is outstanding and supports top level MM or MC cartridges. The background level is as black and quiet as it gets. The bass control, wide dynamics and SLAM are equally impressive. Depth of field and definition are right there with the big boys.

To be able to appreciate the skill of speedy fingers on a piano or guitar, or the spacious breath around a vocal, we need electronics with a dead quiet background that are fast enough to get out of the way of the music. It allows vocals to peel back your speakers’ grill cloths. It’s uncanny how XSP-1 lets you “see” into the music while most $1k-ish preamps are a bit murky. Short of going to a Bryston for about $4k, XSP-1 is as good as a preamp gets!

My bottom line is that for only $2200 you can get XSP-1 and XPA2G3. To beat them you’ll have to spend $10k, and even then it’s very close. You would be wise to buy the Emos and spend the lion’s share of your money on speakers, where you’ll really hear that $ pay off.

XSP-1 has:
Input 1: XLR and RCA
Input 2: XLR and RCA
Input 3: RCA
Input 4: RCA
Phono: Supports MM and MC

The Main output runs XLR and RCA
XSP-1 has a subwoofer crossover ON BOARD
It features three outputs, L, R and Summed
You can adjust low and high pass points.

We have many customers that use subwoofers with their R&L speakers. To have this flexible crossover built in- is more than clever. It’s a powerful tool!
XSP-1 has high and low frequency trim-tone controls.
XSP-1 has a Home Theater Bypass feature.



Emotiva XPS-1 back