Clarion XH7110 Mono Amplifier
Clarion’s newly suited XH7110 mono amplifier fills the void created by two prior models. It has big shoes to fill but the real question is, does anyone really need any other mono amplifier?
- Friday 3rd December, 2010
Flawless performance across every facet. Ample power for most buyers. Excellent build quality. Costs just $599 – what more could you ask for?
Could be a little shallower to aid under seat mounting.
Generally speaking, I reckon amplifier design has reached a plateau, and that there are no great leaps in development left to be achieved. Sure, there will be the odd improvement in packaging here and the incremental upping of power output there, but all in all we’ve reached amplifier design perfection. Job done.
There are a few reasons for this. Primarily, I reckon we’ve already arrived at a balance point where customer expectations of size versus price versus performance have been met or even exceeded by the manufacturers already. Secondly, and this one is a bit left field but in my view largely relevant, but I reckon manufacturers are spending most of their R&D dollars on OEM equipment and not on aftermarket targeted stuff. There’s just not much merit in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for such a small incremental gains when OEM contracts are so much more important to their balance sheets.
So, welcome to the Clarion XH7110 mono amplifier, which fundamentally is no different to the previous generation DPX1851 mono from last year. I’ve included a couple of ‘ampguts’ shots to show you the identical PCB boards shared between the two models. And that’s absolutely fine by me because I’ve used the DPX1851 for about 18 months now and it’s performed absolutely flawlessly for that entire time.
So, is that the end of the review? Well, no actually it isn’t, because while the XH7110 is indeed somewhat of a proverbial ‘Grandpa’s Axe’, Clarion have seen fit to apply a vastly different looking heatsink to the circuit board. Besides, while I use the DPX1851 myself I have never actually critically reviewed it. In fact it has been somewhat of a benchmark amplifier against which all MEA mono amplifier reviews have been compared.
Furthermore, I think someone officially needs to discuss the whole ‘Robert Zeff / Nicola Engineering Clarion versus Arc Audio’ hoopla that’s been raging for a few years now. Let’s get one thing straight, there is no directly identical model for the XH7110 mono in the Arc Audio range. The closest is the KS500.1, which is 13-inches in length compared to the XH7110 at 13.5-inches. Now, while they look similar when you compare the positions of the controls and connections, since the XH7110 uses all of its 13.5-inches for PCB length the KS500.1 must either be a smaller internal board or Arc Audio have conservative tape measures.
Either way, the KS500.1 is only rated at 500WRMS and is geared to do so into 2ohm or even 1ohm loads, while the XH7110 is rated to produce a far higher 850WRMS but only into loads down to 2ohms. Lastly, the KS500.1 has two 30-amp fuses whereas the XH7110 has no internal fusing, but given the Arc Audio’s recommendation to drive lower impedance loads yet make no more power it’s hardly a coincidence that fuses are fitted. So, while Mr Zeff and Nicola may indeed be responsible for the engineering behind both series, there is no direct ‘identical yet more expensive’ version of the Clarion XH7110 on sale.
Let’s hope that clears up the confusion about this particular model, though that’s not say other models don’t match up more closely. The Clarion XH7110 needs to be considered purely on its merits versus price alone, and if you want to consider it a ‘poor man’s Arc Audio’ go for your life but there’s not much point.
Features & Specifications
All Clarion amplifiers adhere to the CE-2006 specifications, so the XH7110’s rated power outputs of 450WRMS x 1 into 4ohms and 850WRMS x 1 into 2ohms arrive at 1%THD and when it’s supplied with an ideal 14.4V. While there are physically more compact amplifiers that are equally or more powerful, there aren’t many that can claim to make this much grunt for $599RRP. The overall size and shape of the sexy all black heatsink – while a little tall – shouldn’t pose too many problems come installation time either. So if you don’t need any more than 850WRMS there may not be all that much reason to spend any more dollars.
Certainly this seems to be Clarion’s thinking, since they’re dropped the larger 1550WRMS model from the range and left the XH7110 to fly solo. It makes sense when you consider the XH7110 can be strapped to a second one to achieve 1700WRMS into a 4ohm load. Clarion reasons that if you need more power than 850WRMS just buy two XH7110s - makes sense.
On the signal processing front the XH7110 certainly wants for nothing. All manner of adjustment can be made and every one of them is variable. The low pass filter offers 24dB per octave slopes variable from 30 to 250Hz, the bass boost is variable from zero to 15dB with a variable centre frequency between 30 and 125Hz, while the subsonic filter is variable between 10 and 60Hz. Only the phase adjustment is fixed at zero or 180-degrees, which is required given the strapping capability.
For inputs you get the choice of speaker or line level, with a small three position switch choosing the input voltage range. This can stretch from as low as 200mV to as high as 6VRMS, and adjacent to the RCA inputs are the master/slave inputs/outputs for strapping. Lastly, there’s a supplied female port to connect an optional remote dash level controller. It doesn’t come with the amplifier since most sources the XH7110 will be connected to will invariably have a dedicated level control of their own, so you aren’t forced to pay for it.
At the opposite end of the chassis are the gold plated insert style power and speaker terminals, and you’ll easily get 4-awg into the power and earth inputs while speaker outputs will gobble up 8-awg cable if required. Of note is that Clarion employs Philips head type grub screws, while I personally find it easier to work with allen head type.
This just leaves the new heat sink, which isn’t actually a heat sink at all. In truth, the large black cover you see is really just a thin metal cover plate. The amplifier’s PCB is actually mounted to a large extrusion that forms the bottom panel of the amplifier, and this provides fans that run the full length of the chassis that are sandwiched against the PCB itself. The larger internal thermo fan blows air out across this heatsink, meaning that the cover panel serves only to hide the amp’s internals. It also means, in theory at least, that you could take the cover panel off and mount the PCB and bottom heatsink into a custom installation to show it off – though I won’t be held responsible for any warranty claims if you do…
What has improved over the previous generation thanks to the new heatsink deisgn will be the neatness of installation. The new XH series of amplifiers all feature removable end caps that neaten up the wiring mess you’d normally find at each end of the amplifier. They’re a nice touch and a welcomed addition.
To say I expected a foregone conclusion with the road test of the XH7110 would be an understatement, but I went through the motions of installing it in place of the DPX1851 all the same and took time to carefully match all the levels and settings as best I could. Speaker load was my normal triple 10-inch array with a nominal 2.66 ohm load and a easy 1500WRMS total power handling.
Sure enough, firing up the XH7110 revealed the exact same transparent and effortlessly powerful performance of the DPX1851. There are zero untoward turn on/off noises, a totally silent noise floor, and an abundance of power with headroom to spare. From a sound quality perspective there’s nothing more to wish for. In fact, I think that the XH7110’s level of signal processing is probably more useful to tuning and tailoring than any pure fidelity aspect.
The only one gripe I have with the XH7110 is that the metal cover panel is probably a centimeter too tall, which means that some buyers who’d like to install it under their front seats may not be able to do so. Aside from that, the Clarion XH7110 is probably the absolute definition of a great modern mono amplifier. At 850WRMS it makes more than enough power to suit 99% of buyers on the market, it performs and sounds absolutely flawless from every aspect, its engineered and designed beautifully, and it costs just $599. I can completely understand why Clarion has only focused its attention on a cosmetic upgrade over the previous generation. If it ain’t broke…
- Number of Channels, MONO
- Maximum power output, 850w
- MOS-FET Power Supply
- Power @ 4-Ohm, 450w x 1
- Power @ 2-Ohm, 850w x 1
- Adjustable Low Pass Crossover @ 30 ~ 250 Hz
- Adjustable Subsonic Filter, off/15/30Hz
- Input Voltage Sensing
- Precise frequency selector
- Variable Bass Boost; 0-15dB @ 30-125Hz
- 2-ohm mono stable
- 1-ohm mono stable
- Variable bass boost control
- Gold Plated Connectors; RCA/ Speaker/ Power
- Speaker Level Input
- Dimensions(W x H x D)(mm), 230 x 67 x 407
Clarion Australia Pty Ltd.
Telephone: (03) 8558 1115
Facsimile: (03)9551 0377
Business Hours: Monday -Friday 9am-5pm