It has been a while since we last reviewed this heavyweight budget amplifier – more like four years actually. Now it is back – more expensive, seemingly identical. But that`s only by appearance!
By Anders Rosness (translated by Audiofoni)
Xindak XA6950 (09E) has now turned into a hybrid amplifier with tube amplification in the pre-stage and 2x3 pair Sanken transistors in the output. The original XA6950, which still is being produced, had 2x4 pair Sanken transistors and was rated 30w Class-A and 100w Class-AB. The 09Edition is rated 130watt/8 ohm and uses one 6922 tube per channel in the preamplifier section.
The 09E also has a USB-input - an internal USB DAC in other words. It is also worth mentioning that the Norwegian importer equips the amplifier with a good power cord (Xindak PC-02) – great! It has become significantly more expensive but still it seems to be a huge and very competitive package at its price tag. The weight has increased a couple of kg and the price per kg is still less than 500NOK – very acceptable. Also worth mentioning are the huge heat sinks, the big power supply, the electronic volume wheel in front, the massive remote control and the explicit blue display. Accordingly as before. And the far eastern design? – Still a matter of taste I guess.The rear shows three RCA-inputs (one main in) and one XLR-input in addition to the mentioned USB-input. Everything is made of high quality components - the loudspeaker terminals included. They handle both solid spades and banana plugs. Luckily the power cord is replaceable – as mentioned you do get a power cord replacement of extra high quality from the Norwegian distributor. Audiofoni also replaces the standard tubes with two Tesla high quality New Old Stock tubes and two Duende Criatura tube rings. In addition this power-station is also equipped with high quality feet made of rubber or some sorbothane like material. Great!
This time, unlike the last time we tested this amplifier, we were prepared. This huge power-station takes control, and even though it was a bit coarse-grained at first, we still had belief in that everything would settle after a while – and of course it did. This amplifier needs thoroughly warm-up to be fully enjoyed – your power contractor will be happy!
It is the reproduction of the lowest octaves in particular that separates this Xindak amplifier from all other budget amplifiers we have tested so far. The tight and very deep bass fundament and the authority-like control this amplifier exercise on any given loudspeaker, at any level, is remarkable. We used several different speakers during the test period; Dali Mentor Menuett (our budget reference), Dali Royal Menuett (the original), Snell(AN) J/III (my personal favorite nowadays), Dynabel 2S (prior reference) and Patos Basic 400 (Fidelity's first reference budget loudspeaker). Each and everyone driven to very high levels with a convincingly tight and record-like bass reproduction – even for the smallest (the Menuette's) concern.
Off course I had to take a peek into my old notes – a lot of the impression then were the same as now. Yes – relaxed and articulated, enthusiastic and big. The new edition is definitely by same gender, but the tubes in the pre-section seem to make it even more mighty and powerful. Take for example the Plant/Krauss “Rising Sand” – the reproduction is not far from full blooded high-end! So big, so deep, so spacious and convincing! It roars like a Sumo wrestler – most competitors will seem anorectic in comparison. At the same time the sound is both relaxed and with warmth and makes you want to turn up the volume a little extra. Fact is that one often plays a lot louder than normal when using this amplifier – without even knowing. This is an indication towards high quality and natural sound reproduction in my book.
What about Pat Metheney then? OK – “We live here” easily lives up to my expectations. Loads of life and dynamics – and the crescendos are reproduced without their brakes on. “Marvelous weight in the arrangements” track 3, “excellent Lyle Mays piano solo” and “what a thunder after 9 minutes and 15 seconds!” track 4, “low viscosity like and unstrained no matter what level” and “full drama” on track 5 – great!
You stay seated for a long time in front of this amplifier – it procures music with true convincement and high credibility. And how wonderful it is that it never slips or gets dyspnoea – without a doubt more than a touch of real high-end!
A lot of bass management material was used during the test period. James Taylor`s “Hourglass”, Jeff Beck and Richard Strauss had to be played - but nothing seemed to affect this amplifier. One thing is for certain; if you have thought about buying a subwoofer or not – don`t, try this amplifier instead. It will force most speakers deeper and juicier than you could ever have imagined – at least in this price range! Rock and pop sounds great, and the solid fundament is also very much enjoyed when playing classical music as well. The piano and clavier gets a complete tonal register, and especially the lowest octaves are present with full weight. This weight combined with the big soundstage fits symphonic rock and prog like a glow – superb when you want to play really loud!
The USB-input functions very well with my MacBook – and the quality is surprisingly good. But I did use the Music Hall cd35.2 (our new budget reference cd-player) most of the time during the test period. And how is the XA6950(09E) compared to our new reference tube amplifier from Germany – Twinsound CST-80 mkII? There is no doubt in the bass area – the Xindak is superior. A lot deeper and a lot better impulse response in the lower octaves. The Twinsound is skinnier, but gains back in the midrange area. The rhythmical elements are being better preserved. The transients are quicker and even more convincing in the important midrange area. Both amplifiers sharpen the listeners’ attention – they pull you towards the music and the musicians.
In direct comparison the Xindak might seem a bit over weighted – even though many will prefer its vigorous heavy way of reproducing the music. Both amplifiers offer great perspective and huge soundstages. But the Twinsound, with its 40 watt, off course collapses a long time before the Xindak is even close to being stressed. Viz. it takes a lot – and will probably cost you a few new drivers when it happens. During the whole test period the Xindak never seemed to be stressed at all. In my ears the Twinsound is a little bit better in the highest frequencies as well – when using the Snell Acoustics. When matched with the DynaBel speakers – with the famous Danish Radiator tweeter – it was more of a close race - very high class from both candidates. The DynaBels`s tad bright tonal balance is balance very well by the mighty Xindak. The resolution is probably also of the same high quality in the Xindak – but the Twinsound is more disconnected and organic in the upper frequencies – the cymbals are more natural and the strokes are more distinct. It becomes more transparent and even more true to nature. The transients get a slightly different and even more natural race with the weaker tube amplifier. On highly efficient speakers like Snell or Klipsch I guess most people would prefer the Twinsound if AB-tested - but as always you have to try them by yourself. But remember that you get neither remote control nor all the other future proof accessories with the Twinsound – this one is purely back to b