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.