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February 2017
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
World Premiere Review!
Emotiva BAS X PT-100 Stereo Preamplifier, DAC, Phono Stage And FM Tuner
An outstanding audio bargain!
Review By Ron Nagle

 

Emotiva BAS X PT-100 Stereo Preamplifier, DAC, Phono Stage And FM Tuner Review

 

  Consider this 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 setup menu.

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.

 

Emotiva BAS X PT-100 Stereo Preamplifier, DAC, Phonostage And FM Tuner Review

 

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 BAS X PT-100 Stereo Preamplifier, DAC, Phono Stage And FM Tuner Review

 

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.

 

Emotiva BAS X PT-100 Stereo Preamplifier, DAC, Phonostage And FM Tuner Review

 

The Sound
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.

 

Emotiva BAS X PT-100 Stereo Preamplifier, DAC, Phonostage And FM Tuner Review

 

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 adapter.

 

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.

 

Emotiva BAS X PT-100 Stereo Preamplifier, DAC, Phonostage And FM Tuner Review

 

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.

 

Bottom Line
Emotiva's 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.

 

Tonality

Sub-bass (10Hz - 60Hz)

Mid-bass (80Hz - 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz - 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise

Value For The Money

 

Specifications
Type: Solid-state stereo preamplifier with FM tuner, DAC and MM/MC phonostage

Analog Inputs
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).

Digital Inputs
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).

Outputs
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).

Digital Performance
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.

Trigger
12 VDC trigger output.

Power Requirements
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).

Remote Control
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
Price: $299

 

Company Information
Emotiva
135 SE Parkway Court
Franklin, TN 37064

Voice: (615) 790-6754
Website: www.Emotiva.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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