For several years now, Crown’s XLS Series of amplifiers have represented an option for value-conscious portable PA users who desire reliable, no-nonsense amplification backed by the support of a reputable company. The XLS Series has recently received a complete overhaul, which represents a number of significant changes, most notably featuring DriveCore technology: “a proprietary hybrid analog-digital integrated circuit (IC) developed with Texas Instruments that drives the front end of the Class D output stage,” as explained by Crown documentation.
The new XLS Drive Core lineup includes four models, which are also aimed at the MI and portable PA market. Power ratings range from 350 watts per channel at 4 ohms to 775 watts per channel (4 ohms) and unlike their predecessors, each of the models is stable down to a 2-ohm load. Thanks to the Class D technology and switched-mode power supplies, the heaviest amplifier in the lineup (the XLS 2500, reviewed here) weighs in at less than 11 lbs. All of the models fit into a 2U chassis and additionally include basic DSP functionality, which provides a fourth order Linkwitz-Riley filter for each channel (high-pass or lowpass, from 50 Hz to 3 kHz, adjustable at 1/12 octave centers), and a new limiting system that purportedly produces less audible artifacts than previous versions. (The crossover and limiter are controlled via the front-panel interface).
Crown has provided a variety of audio I/O options on the new series. The amps feature XLR, 1/4-inch and RCA inputs. On the output side, two NL4 Speakon connectors are provided, as well as dual binding posts. Like the previous XLS Series models, these DriveCore models carry Crown’s 3-year transferrable warranty.
I evaluated the XLS2500 ($1,099) in various configurations with my inventory of loudspeakers in my shop, then in the field. In one use, I put the XLS2500 on monitor duty during a church service. The wedges in use were two Electro- Voice T221 speakers, running in passive mode, each on its own mix. The previous amplifier that was powering them was much bigger and much heavier than this DriveCore amplifier. I set the amplifier to dual mode, and set the high-pass filter on each channel to 100 Hz. The amplifier worked as expected, and the worship leader commented that he perceived the sound quality in the monitors to be cleaner than usual.
The XLS DriveCore Series amplifiers offer an enhanced level of value compared to their predecessors and represent a good value for small- to mediumsized portable PA systems (or installs) requiring no-nonsense amplification at an affordable price.