Budget Esoterica Review Magazine
January 2023 Issue
XH-Electron XH-M541 Mini Amp + JBL Control Monitor Bookshelf speakers
The XH-M541 Mini Amp is a very small digital amp that uses the TPA3116d2 chip technology. It comes in an aluminum case with a 3.5 mm aux input located on the front and a power jack on the back that can be used with a 12-24 volt power supply. Also on the back of the amp are 4 screw clamp speaker outputs that can be used with 16 gauge or above speaker cable.
Build quality is surprisingly good, but there are no feet on this amp. I used 4 large rubber isolation pads at each corner with good results. I connected the amp to a Sony DVD player using an Ultralink stereo interconnect and an Audioquest adapter. For speakers , i used the JBL Control Monitor speakers mounted to 20 inch Target speaker stands. For power, i used the Indeed 12 volt power supply with an entry level Audioquest power cord. Audiophiles that long for more power will definitely want to upgrade to a 24 volt power supply. I purchased the amp from the Hifidiy store on Aliexpress. Price was around $13.
The JBL Control Monitor speaker is apparently a rather rare beast that sold a short time ago for around $300. This is a two way speaker that uses a 5 inch polyplas woofer and a soft dome tweeter that extends to beyond 40khz. This is important if your dog likes listening to music. The woofer goes down to 50 hz. These are very respectable specs considering the small size of the cabinet. Peak power handling is listed at 240 watts. It also uses JBl's EOS waveguide technology for a smooth frequency response. The speakers are 10 inches high and weigh 6.6 pounds each. The JBl's are fairly easy to drive. I got pretty good volumes using only the 12 volt power supply.
I found out that this amp has a sense of mid range warmth and refinement that is not always found in an amp priced under $15. Try anything with vocals on it and you will see what i mean. Norah Jones, "It's A Wonderful Time For Love", had the same sense of refinement and warmth in the vocals that i hear from my classic Marantz stereo receiver. Perhaps the XH mini amp is the poor man's Marantz?
Listening to "I Get A Kick Out Of You", by Jamie Cullum i hear the same vividness and tube-like sound that i hear from my Denon integrated. Perhaps the XH Electron is the poor man's Denon? On the song "High And Dry", the XH amp had bass control at low volumes that was almost as good as the Marantz.
"Late In The Evening", by Paul Simon had a little bit of the same 3 dimensional rounded sound as the Denon with a little less clarity. The XH amp captured a little bit of the Marantz character on the song "Spiral Highway". This song sounded sweet and fluid with a little bit of warmth. Kudos to the designer of this amp for giving us a taste of both worlds.
Can this tiny amp and small pair of speakers do any bass? Yes! Check out the song "Neighbours" from the Rolling Stones , Tatoo You. The bass sounded accurate and tight with a little bit of bounce also. The last track " Waiting On A Friend", had a nice organic sound with a tight and slightly thumpy bass.
Okay, Kiddies , if you want to get a taste of the big boys, mow your dad's lawn a couple of times and buy yourself a taste of the good life. The XH Electron mini amp! Oh and the JBL speakers aren't bad either!