Though new portable PA speaker enclosures are increasingly self-powered—encompassing lightweight, high-power Class D amplification—many professionals still require separate amplifiers for their preferred passive speaker enclosures. Recognizing the needs of these end users, houses-of-worship (HOWs), theaters and other institutional environments, Crown Audio—arguably the first name in live sound amplification—has given its popular and affordable XLS DriveCore Series a significant facelift in its second incarnation, DriveCore 2. Here, I review the XLS 1502, a relatively simple and straightforward two-channel Class D amplifier capable of 1550W at 4 ohms, bridged (300W at 8 ohms, dual), featuring a bevy of new and handsome DriveCore 2 perks.
Key features of the updated DriveCore 2 Series include expanded DSP capabilities with band pass filters; user-controllable lighting and a display sleep function; selectable 1.4Vrms or 0.775Vrms input sensitivity, allowing virtually any sound source to be driven to full power; a complete cosmetic overhaul, adding to the appeal of DriveCore 2 for front-of-house and various institutional settings; and Crown’s “No-Fault Fully-Transferable” 3-Year Warranty.
Upon powering up, the front panel of the sleek XLS 1502 glows courtesy of dual blue LEDs and a centered back-lit LCD screen, which allows crossover, amp mode and system configuration adjustments; it’s quite attractive overall and notably well illuminated—a nice touch for typically dim rack-mount scenarios. Usefully, the blue LEDs blink while the amp is in sleep mode. Below the LCD screen reside three buttons—Menu, Prev, and Next—which allow intuitive adjustment to all amp parameters. Two gain controls, one per channel, are each flanked by a five-segment green/red LED indicator display. The XLS DriveCore 2’s perforated steel front panel encompasses cooling vents featuring quiet front-to-rear forced airflow; a rear-mounted fan pulls the air through.
On its rear panel, the DriveCore 2 Series features comprehensive I/O, making it most useful in portable PA applications and, for example, in HOWs and schools where semi-pro audio components are often worked into the mix. A balanced XLR, quarter-inch and RCA (phono) input are provided per channel; each quarter-inch input can also be used to “loop-thru” signal to additional amplifiers. Output is available via dual 4-pole Speakon connectors accepting 2- or 4-pole versions and binding post output jacks accepting banana plugs or bare wire. Channel 1’s Speakon connector is also wired for both channels; it can be used for Bridge mode wiring or stereo wiring of two speakers to a single Speakon.
During my review period, I used the XLS 1502 in a variety of live and installed sound applications: as a portable PA amplifier coupled with passive JBL two-way mains/wedges (small/medium club, large auditorium and medium sized HOW) and as installed sound amplification (swapped out with a similarly powered two-channel amp at a local HOW). That said, I believe that reviews of relatively simple power amplifiers should be, likewise, relatively short—and this one is. The XLS 1502 is clean, powerful, quiet in operation and flexible in use across the board, not to mention comforting in the fact that it’s backed by Crown’s impressive warranty and their hard-earned reputation for good customer service. The DriveCore 2 Series simply works well, an “out of sight/out of mind” kind of investment once installed—other than its lovely glowing blue front fascia, of course. And to top it off, the amp is bargain priced, at a heartwarming $399 street.