Crown, which has been a top name in amplifiers for decades, has just re-released their XLS line of amps ($429 – $692). But can this new line, which is more consumer-based and less expensive, still deliver the quality expected from the name Crown? Can the XLS series compete in a market taken over by lightweight high-power amps?
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, club, installation
Key Features: Two-channel, lightweight, two rack spaces, both banana and Speakon outputs
Price: $692 (XLS 202 – $429, XLS 402 – $519)
Contact: Crown Audio at 800-342-6939, Web Site.
+ Great warranty
– No signal meters
The Score: Overall, an excellent performing amp at an excellent price.
Review Setup: Yamaha M2000 console; Shure Beta 98, Beta 58, SM 57, SM 56, Sennheiser MD 421, AKG 391 microphones; Countryman Type 85 DI box; Sony XE 400 CD player; EAW SB250, EAW SM500 speakers.
Crown has three models in the XLS line, the 202, 402 and 602. The new XLS line consists of two rack space units, different from their predecessors that were three rack- space units.
The 602, which I reviewed, has a power output of 840W per channel into 2 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms, and 370W into 8 ohms. The 602 can be bridged to mono with a 4 ohm rating of 1,680W. The 602 has an input sensitivity of 1.26 volts RMS, which is higher than the more traditional Crowns. Frequency response is rated at 20 Hz to 20 kHz ± 0.75 dB at 1 watt. Signal-to-noise ratio (20 Hz to 20 kHz) A-weighted is rated at >100 dB. Crosstalk is rated for 1 kHz at -82 dB. Load impedance is rated to be safe from 2 to 8 ohms in stereo operation and 8 ohms in bridged mono configuration. Total harmonic distortion at full power is rated at <0.5 percent from 20 Hz to 1 kHz.
Inputs are on electronically balanced XLRs. Outputs are on one four-pole Speakon or binding posts for each channel that will accept banana plugs or bare wire. Voltage gain at maximum output is 31 dB. The controls for the XLS line are very simple: just a power switch on the front panel and two level controls (one for each channel). There is a circuit breaker at the AC input for overload protection. Cooling and ventilation are provided by internal heatsinks that incorporate forced air from front to back for rapid and uniform heat dissipation. There are indicator lights located at the front panel for clip (when the signal is being overdriven), power and fault (for when the amplifier has gone into protect mode). XLS Series amplifiers provide extensive protection, including output current limiting, DC protection, circuit breaker, and special thermal protection for the unit’s transformers. Crown also features a three-year, full, no-fault warranty for every new amplifier.
I had the opportunity to use the XLS 602 in many different applications as a monitor amp and as a subwoofer amp. In both uses I was amazed with the versatility this amp provided. Power was full across the spectrum and had the drive one would expect to hear from the larger touring amps. When using it as a sub amp I was powering two EAW SB250s at a total net impedance of 2 ohms. The XLS 602, nominally just a medium-powered amp (840W at 2 ohms), handled the task very well. I have always found that Crown amps possess a more driving sound than some other more powerful switching power supply amps. There is just a distinctive sound that Crown has always had. I know that might sound odd, but anyone who has used many different amps in live situations will agree.
When using the 602 as a monitor amp I was powering two EAW SM500s (full range speakers) per amp channel. The XLS 602 worked fine all night under very hot conditions. This is an important accomplishment to me, knowing that some older Crown amps, even though they sounded great, would go into thermal shutdown before other amps would. This can make or break your show outside on a steamy, hot, June day in the Nation’s Capital. Needless to say, the show went well and the amp performed flawlessly.
I was disappointed with the lack of signal meters on the front of the amp. I have always liked it when companies place even a three- LED tower to show signal level per channel. It can become really useful in tracking down any signal flow problems that can arise; and let you know the amount of headroom before amp clip. The XLS 602 is very lightweight (only 27 lb.) in comparison to the older version, or any other traditional Crown amps.
In all, I was pleased with the XLS 602. Crown has produced a quality, reliable, medium-sized, moderately priced amp. It took all the abuse I could throw at it, between the heat and long hours I think it outlasted me. The light weight and efficiency of the 602 makes it a great buy for a club or band on the road. I not only like the amp but have already recommended it to a local band looking to make a new amp purchase.