World Premiere Review!
Emotiva BAS X PT-100 Stereo Preamplifier, DAC,
Phono Stage And FM Tuner
An outstanding audio bargain!
Review By Ron Nagle
review of the outstanding Emotiva BAS X PT-100 review as a follow up to the Emotiva BAS X A-300 power
amplifier review that appeared in Enjoy the
Music.com's Review Magazine in October 2016. With both the preamplifier and the power
amplifier in my possession, I seriously considered combining both of them and
writing a two component system evaluation. However, after much consideration the
answer has to be no. Logic dictates that most buyers would only purchase one
component at a time. Even if later on they purchase another Emotiva power
amplifier. It is more important to understand how the PT-100 preamplifier
performs and if it is compatible in another component system based on its sound.
What's Up With That?
Ok, we need to have a talk, about bolts and the body main and
things around the back. The PT-100 review sample has a MSRP of $299 Dollars. The
unit is painted matte black and housed in a steel slip case. The front panel is
a 3/8" thick 17" wide slab of black anodized aluminum. The chassis dimensions
are 17" wide, 2 5/8" high, 12.5" deep and the weight is 9 lbs. Front panel
functions moving from left to right is a headphone output jack, next there are
two small push buttons labeled Input.
These buttons are used to move forward or back to select which input you want to
listen to. They will/can perform different functions when used as part of the
In the center is a blue VFD (Vacuum Florescent Display). The
display brightness is adjustable in the setup menu. Directly below the VFD is a
power button with two positions, these are standby and power on. When first
powered up the unit defaults to standby mode. Pressing this front panel button
the preamplifier will turn on. However the mains AC power switch is located on
the back panel. And lastly over on the right front is the Volume Control knob.
This volume control serves two separate functions. The first is of course is to
adjust loudness. However pressing and turning the volume knob or the menu button
on the remote control will bring you to the main menu. The main (first) menu
screen is: Tuner, Trims, Setup.
Also the remote control can alternately provide access and duplicate the main
menu and sub menus. In Tuner mode
you can select station presets for the tuner. Additionally when the display
shows Trim the remote and the
volume control knob allows you to adjust bass and treble and adjust right or
left channel volume settings. In the Setup
sub menu you have access to additional controls.
Now some people have referred to a dual or triple level
functional control as a (Goo-E). This term refers to the acronym, GUI (Graphical
User Interface). This control system requires 'Drilling Down' to make
adjustments from some menu functions to reveal additional sub menu functions.
While this may not be my personal favorite way to make settings choices, the
user manual states "Some
of the options in the setup menu may operate differently than you expect, so we
suggest you read the instructions before using it." As it turns out,
this statement proved to be only cautionary because some of the instructions
were nonspecific and lacked details. To summarize, there are three functional
controls you might employ to page through the adjustment/setup menus.
There are the two small push buttons on the front panel that
will scroll through the input choices. This same function is repeated as part of
the dual function volume control knob. Also the remote control can do the same
thing while providing up and down volume control and when in a sub menu provides
menu selection. For example in the Trims menu you can adjust: Bass,
Treble, Balance. And the last sub menu is the Setup containing, Dim,
Version, Reset, Autotune, Tunezone. Some of the radio stations that I
listen to do not image directly in the center between my speakers. The same
thing can happen when you change CD's and even when changing vinyl recordings or
when switching between any sources. Before assessing the imaging capability of
any audio component the channel balance and center image should be precisely
centered between the speakers. And of course any channel imbalance will be
annoyingly obvious when listening through headphones. I found this feature
essential during the evaluation process.
Emotiva T-100 Rear Panel Features
Note that all interconnecting audio cables are unbalanced RCA
for analogue sources. Scanning from left to right you will see a Phono Grounding
lug, below that a cartridge gain switch marked High or Low output, and then a
pair of RCA phono cartridge input jacks. Next there are line level CD and Aux
inputs, followed by a pair of subwoofer jacks and the left and right channel
preamplifier output jacks. After that there is a FM Antenna connection, the
supplied antenna is a short length of thin wire. Next side by side we come to
four digital input connections. They are labeled Coax, Optical, USB. In a
separate box there is an Emotiva supplied plug in Blue tooth receiver. Following
that is a 12 VDC trigger output that can turn on a second compatible device. The
separate USB Bluetooth receiver will accept a two channel digital input up to
24-bit/192kHz. And last the mains power switch and just under that is a
polarized C7 style AC power cord socket.
Initially I started conditioning the PT-100, (for lack of a
better word), by playing music from an FM radio station. Clearly there was an
audible slightly warm liquid quality to the sound of the PT-100 FM radio. Note:
I connected up my roof mounted radio antenna, not the short length of wire
supplied with the preamplifier. The radio sound can be described as
subtle intonational shadings difficult to characterize. It was as if a sense of
calm permeated the sound. The music seemed to flow without edgy sound bites.
However I do not think that anything was missing, the whole range of musical
nuance was there with everything remaining intact. Moving on let us see if this
characteristic prevails as we sample other line level sources. Understand the PT-100 has so many features and ways to optimize them that I only mention a small
sampling of the music sources that I listened to. Let's spin up my reference CD;
it contains a female voice that I know very well. The CD is Basia, Time
and Tide. The first song is called, Promises.
At the very top the treble frequencies are indeed slightly warm by virtue of
(another struggle to find the right word) compression. But the overall effect is
to move Basia at the center stage farther back in the space between the
speakers. This as it turns out is not really a bad thing. It reminds me of the
tonal structure and characteristics of some tube powered amplifiers. The whole
music performance paints a deeper center image than I expected in part because
the treble frequencies effect in the performance seem to be less there.
While we are playing my reference CD let's consider
the lower frequencies. The bass portion of the music sounds slightly muffled.
This is because the bass is lacking some transient speed and details that I know
are on the recording. Also the lowest bass frequencies seem more prominent. But
again this is not necessarily a bad thing if like me you like the sound vacuum
tubes lend to music. Then you may like the harmonic structure of the bass. Once
again it is reminiscent of a tube amplifier, this along with the treble response
only adds to the overall PT-100 tubular tonality. Again hunting for the right
words, the all-important midrange I would characterize as sounding polite.
As for a distinctive sonic signature, neutrality prevailed for
the most part, though at times the T-100 conveyed warmer, darker shadings. With
certain recordings this manifested as a pleasant warm tonality. This was most
noticeable when listening with my headphones. FYI, the front panel headphone
jack is 3.5 mm in diameter. Of my two sets of headphones the better one has a
1/4" phono plug. Most headphones manufactures do not provide a 1/4" to 3.5 mm
Emotiva T-100 Phono Cartridge Amplifier Section
There is a switch on the rear panel for MM or MC cartridges. I
chose the moving coil setting for my Denon 103 cartridge which has a specified
output of 0.3 mV. The MC gain setting proved to be more than adequate. One of my
vinyl reference recording is, Another Page
by Christopher Cross. The track called
"All Right" contains layers of backing vocals in the center space.
That center space when listening to vinyl again can be described as yet another
pleasant deep centered sound stage with a hint of a tubular presentation. And
the last input connection to the Emotiva PT-100 is the digital USB plug and the
provided Bluetooth dongle receiver. I was able to establish a link to the
receiver streaming free Pandora music. Some old vinyl music recordings I still
have are on 45 rpm records, these have obviously been remastered to digital.
By comparison to the original recordings the separation
between elements in the performance was much better. These remastered files
breathed new life into some of my old favorite songs. I really enjoyed
rekindling some of my almost forgotten memories. However what I listened to
cannot be used to define the ultimate sound of this preamplifier. You would be
correct to assume that most of the music quality was sourced from compressed MP3
files. This digital link performed flawlessly.
PT-100 preamplifier is not the end of the road for a diehard audiophile.
But it leaves me wondering how the hell they did it. Everything I hear may not
depict the razors edge of speed and fine details. But where these qualities are
lacking something that is consonant and very musical replaces it. Words like
polite and or warm may seem repetitive but it denotes a consistent quality that
follows the sound from every source. Priced at $299 you might imagine that it
was actually two tin cans (nice tin cans) connected by a length of string.
Remember the $299 Emotiva PT-100 has a built in FM radio with autotune or station
presets. Also a DAC that can accept a 24-bit/96kHz USB digital input and
24-bit/192kHz direct, add to that a plug in USB Bluetooth dongle. Then add in a
separate headphone amplifier and a switchable moving magnet/moving coil phono
stage. And throw in a separate subwoofer output. Given the many versatile
features and incredibly low price of this preamplifier there can't be much of
anything out there in audio land that can compete with it. Based on that, I can
without any hesitation recommend it, it is an outstanding bargain.
Remember to enjoy the music and, from me, Semper Hi-Fi.
Type: Solid-state stereo preamplifier with FM tuner, DAC and MM/MC
2 pairs – stereo analog line level inputs (CD, Aux).
1 pair – stereo phono inputs (switchable; moving magnet or moving coil).
1 tuner – FM (with external antenna input; 50 station presets).
Coax (S/PDIF); 24-bit/192kHz.
Optical (Toslink); 24-bit/192kHz.
USB (DAC input); 24-bit/96khZ; no drivers required.
Bluetooth receiver (requires optional AptX Bluetooth dongle).
1 pair – stereo main output; stereo, unbalanced.
2 – summed full range outputs (for connecting one or two subwoofers).
1 – stereo headphone output (front panel).
Analog Performance (line level)
Maximum Output Level: 4 VRMS
Frequency Response: 5 Hz to 50 kHz +/- 0.04 dB.
THD + Noise: < 0.0015% (A-weighted).
IMD: < 0.004% (SMPTE).
S/N Ratio: > 115 dB.
Crosstalk: < 90 dB.
Analog Performance (Phono)
Frequency Response (MM and MC): 20 Hz to 20 kHz; ref standard RIAA curve.
THD+Noise: < 0.015% (MM; A-weighted); < 0.06% (MC; A-weighted).
S/N Ratio: > 90 dB (MM); > 68 dB (MC).
Frequency response: 5 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 0.15 dB (44kHz sample rate).
Frequency response: 5 Hz to 80 kHz +/- 0.25 dB (192kHz sample rate).
THD + Noise: < 0.003% (A-weighted; all sample rates).
IMD: < 0.007% (SMPTE).
S/N Ratio: > 110 dB.
12 VDC trigger output.
115 VAC or 230 VAC @ 50 / 60 Hz (automatically detected).
Controls and Indicators
Power: rocker switch; rear panel.
Standby: one front panel push button; halo ring changes color to indicate status.
Two front panel pushbuttons: Input Select; menu operation.
One front panel knob: Volume; Tuning; menu operation.
Display: high visibility blue alphanumeric VFD display (dimmable).
Compact full-function infrared remote control.
Menu and Control System
Simplified, highly intuitive menu system.
(Includes Setup options, Bass, Treble, and Balance controls).
Dimensions: 17" x 2.625" x 12.5" (WxHxD).
Weight: 9 lbs
135 SE Parkway Court
Franklin, TN 37064
Voice: (615) 790-6754