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Emotiva XDA-2 Review and Issues

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 

Hello fellow Head-Fiers, I am pretty new to the forum, but have been enjoying it immensely. I am a long time audiophile, but new to the high end headphone world. As I found relatively little information on the Emotiva XDA-2 DAC and headphone amp, I wanted to share my personal thoughts and feelings.


First, I want to start off by saying that I only received my XDA-2 2 days ago. You would think that I would wait longer to do the review, but, my unit is already dead.That's right, it worked for exactly 1 day of actual ownership (it stopped working yesterday). However, I am not ready to give up on it yet, and we will see how Emotiva's customer support handles the situation. I will now walk you through my initial impressions, and listening impressions.


Initial Impressions upon pulling it out of the box were a mix of amazement and joy. This unit retails for $400, but is on sale at Emotiva for only $250 - yet it looked extremely well built, and is quite attractive. The entire unit feels very sturdy. The remote is quite possibly the most impressive remote I have ever seen - the entire housing is constructed of aluminum. It looked great with my other components (A Rotel CD Player, and a Marantz integrated amp that due to a recent move to an apartment has been relegated to a headphone amp - hence the newfound interest in headphones).


Hooking the XDA-2 up was simple, and installing the drivers for the XDA-2 (hooked up by USB) onto Windows 7 was a breeze. That however, is where the first sign of trouble began. After following the instructions to the letter, I got no audio through the PC. My computer showed that it was hooked up properly, and I could see in the "Playback Devices" window that audio was flowing through to the XDA-2, but I was getting nothing. After fiddling with connections for a bit, uninstalling and reinstalling the drivers for the XDA-2, I gave up and called Emotiva. I spoke to a somewhat grouchy gentlemen who suggested that I hook up the CD player, and see if I got audio through that. He suggested I call him back when that was done (I would have appreciated it if he would wait on the line, as it would only take a minute - but maybe that is just me). So, I switched it over to the CD player, and I still got no audio. I then called back, and much to my chagrine - all tech personnel were busy, so I had to leave a message. After getting off the phone, I proceeded to mess around with the unit some more. I turned it on and off multiple times, switched inputs, etc. - but it was to no avail. Then, as a stroke of desperation, I unplugged it, and plugged it back in - BOOM, audio!


I have no idea why this worked, but it did. I now had audio, and wow was it glorious audio! I quickly listened to all of my reference tracks, and was extremely happy with the sound quality I was getting through a $250 DAC and the $400 Hifiman HE-400 headphones I was using. The headphones sounded at least as good as they did through my Rotel CD player and Marantz integrated amp, if not slightly better. If anything, the XDA-2 seemed to produce slightly better response and sharpness, and was slightly more neutral than the marantz (which is by no means "warm"). I did notice a bit more harshness in the highs on the XDA-2, but overall it was an extremely enjoyable listening experience. 


I listened to it for several hours the night I got it, and a few more the following day - then, disaster. Upon turning on the unit for an afternoon listening session, I got a LOUD buzzing sound from the headphones, followed by a low hum. I tried everything to correct it, but to no avail. I posted the following video of the problem on youtube, and a picture of it in my setup for reference. 


To be honest, I think I just got a lemon. Emotiva offers a 30 day in home trial, and a FIVE year warranty, which in my opinion is pretty good. I will update this review when the issue is dealt with by Emotiva, and let everyone know how that experience went. If this was indeed an anomalous example as I suspect, the XDA-2 would represent tremendous value in terms of both sound quality, features, and aesthetic appeal.



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post #2 of 41
Thread Starter 

Well, dealing with the Emotiva customer service was not a great experience. I decided to upgrade to the DC-1 instead of get another XDA-2, and although the tech area definitely agreed that my unit was broken, I was told by various reps that I needed to speak to another department and that they would call me back. This happened 3 or 4 times, and I was never called back.


Finally, I got a hold of a guy named Damon, who actually took care of me. He is issuing me an RMA# for the XDA-2 (they will pay shipping back to them), and I purchased a new DC-1. So, I should be receiving the DC-1 in a few days. 


As long as my DC-1 arrives, works as it should, and they issue me a refund on the XDA-2 I will be happy enough. However, they seriously need to consider hiring more people for their office, and find a better way to organize their dealings with customers. Fortunately, I got the impression that they genuinely did want to help me, they are just understaffed and poorly organized.

post #3 of 41

Interesting , thanks for the information !

post #4 of 41
Thread Starter 

No problem! I will say that provided you get a unit that is in good working order, I don't think you can do better than the XDA-2 at its price point.

post #5 of 41

So how about some comments on the DC-1?!

post #6 of 41
Thread Starter 

Sorry Ben - I have chronicled my DC-1 issues on the DC-1 page. I got the DC-1, and it actually sounded great - with one exception. It had a buzzing sound when using USB as the input and while in Asynchronous mode. I spoke with their tech support, and they said that the buzzing should not be there. I tried multiple computers and cables - the problem persisted. I ended up returning it to Emotiva as well. 

post #7 of 41

Dang man.... Not looking good for Emotiva. Thinking Ill probably just go for the Schiit UberFrost w/ USB for my DAC...

post #8 of 41
Thread Starter 

Ben - as I mentioned on the DC-1 page, it appears my problems with Emotiva units are probably an anomaly. MOST people seem to have great luck with their products, although I have heard from a few people through private messages that they have had a few problems with Emo units as well. To me, it seems that they make a product that is well built, and is much cheaper than the design and quality would normally demand. It seems that the corners they have cut to produce a good product at a cheap price are:


1.) Manufactured in China (as are most DAC's)

2.) Poor Quality Control

3.) Too few staff to operate their call center. This is based on numerous calls to them over several weeks. Nearly every time I called, everyone was busy and I had to leave a message. Sometimes it took days for them to call me back (although usually it was later the same day)


All in all, I think that if you get a good unit from them (which according to the rave reviews on this forum and on the Emo forum is most of them), then you have a good performing product at a good price. If it has problems, they do offer the 30 day return policy - and the only hassle is to deal with their customer service. I just simply got tired of dealing with them and decided to spend a few hundred more dollars to get the Dangerous Source - which arrives Friday!

post #9 of 41
Thread Starter 

So, I received the Dangerous Source today. I should mention that in between the Emotiva DC-1 and the Dangerous, I tried a Burson HA-160DS amp/dac combo that I bought off of this site. I also got a pair of Audeze LCD-2 cans and some HD800's. For the past few weeks I was listening to these headphones on the Emotiva and then the Burson (primarily the Burson). I always felt as if they never sounded quite right - not the way they had when I auditioned them in the store. Good - but not great.


Well as I mentioned - I got the Dangerous Source today. HOLY CRAP ON A CRACKER!!! This thing is seriously amazing. I know in Gary's test, he determined that the DC-1 and the Source were "indistinguishable" - and I believe him, because he was using the DAC only, NOT the built in amp. He did mention that he much preferred the headphone output of the source to the DC-1, but I can't overstate how huge the difference is here. Not just between the DC-1 and the source, but the Burson as well. This thing completely eclipses both of them. Clarity is about the same, but the depth of the sound, the fullness of the sound across the spectrum is vastly improved. Most surprisingly to me - the soundstage is at LEAST double what it was on either of the other two units with the LCD-2's, and a bit wider with the HD800 as well. This is contrary to what Gary experienced (he said he felt the soundstage was smaller) - but he must have been using a better separate amp) 


It even tamed the highs of the HD800, which were previously so shrill that I noticed I would physically cringe while listening to them. I could only handle a song or two on them before my ears were hurting, even at modest volumes.


Neddless to say - I am sold!

post #10 of 41

Anyone know how to get 32bit/192khz to show? When I first installed my xda-2 and got it setup it was an option. So I clicked it. I turned everything off. Went to sleep and it then defaulted to 48khz so I shut it down again and restarted and it went back to 192khz. And now all it shows is 48khz. Any ideas ?


I got the xda-2 solely for the dual XLR outs. No matter what cables I used my rokit 8 were picking up static. I switched to dual xlr and its almost gone.

Edited by Folex - 2/23/14 at 5:31am
post #11 of 41

If you're using a Mac, just go to Audio Midi Setup.

post #12 of 41

This is on a PC and I've been able to reproduce the problem every time now.


If the xda2 isn't on BEFORE the computer boots up it defaults to 44khz and does not give an option for higher.


If at any time I hit the standby button it deletes the driver.


When the driver gets deleted I go into device manager and manually install the driver it goes back to 44khz without an option to go higher and puts the volume @ 100(max).


I've using windows 8 and I've tried installing the windows 8,7,vista,xp and letting windows install its default driver. All default to 44khz with no option to go higher.

post #13 of 41
Well, oddly enough, I have the same problem on Mac too. The driver isn't deleted, but the OS doesn't read the XDA properly and I can't get sound to come through.
post #14 of 41

I don't know if this solves your problem or not, but I've found that if I turn off the XDA-2, unplug the USB cable from the computer, turn the XDA-2 back on, and then plug the USB cable back in, it goes back to normal. I've emailed Emotiva about this, but haven't heard back yet. It's seriously irritating!

post #15 of 41

I don't know if it is the same for W8, but if you are using W7 then:

Plug the USB DAC in.

Switch it on.

Go to the Audio Control panel and then manually set the default audio device to USB audio.


If you leave it to the OS to automatically select USB audio when it feels fit, then the OS will drop the USB audio connection whenever it feels like it.

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