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  1. #1
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    Path to Pass Labs

    My system is currently a Pass Labs XP10 pre with X250 power amp, hands down the best system I've owned. I'm finally set again after a couple years on the merry-go-round. It's good to hear a variety of gear but sometimes you find something you'd like in your own system, or maybe we just want something different. It began with trying different speakers and not quite finding what I was looking for until hearing Revel F52's. They sounded good with my Conrad Johnson gear but they really come alive with current so something I didn't think would happen, I began looking and trying other gear. When I chanced upon a Threshold S300 I picked it up for it's classic status but I was really impressed with it's sound. And, surprisingly the S300 had a magical synergy with my CJ CT-6, however, I used a Van Alstine Fet Valve pre with the S300 for it's better focus and detail. So I began to wonder if the Threshold is this good, how good is current Pass Labs? The answer, much better, outstanding. So many words have been used to describe audio gear I struggle to find words to do justice to the Pass Labs. Although it's solid state the presentation resembles tubes in that "your there" sense, there's transparency and detail in spades. Most important to me the Pass is engaging and has what I call "musicality" meaning I get the sense of proper rhythm and melody. I'm really surprised that electronics this good isn't in more audio shops.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
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  2. #2
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Wow! I'm really envious; Pass Labs gear is my ideal, at least in concept since I have never seriously auditioned them.

    Unfortunately there is NO path to Pass Labs to me since even used, Nelson's equipment is far beyond my means.

    Pass attributes his sound to low negative feedback; I'm sure I entirely agree with this approach, but one can't argue with his success. So ... would you say that the Pass Labs truly better tubes in general, (or CJ in particular), in every respect? Or just ones that are key to you?

    XP-10 ...
    xp-10_main__large.jpg

    X250.5 ...
    x250.5_main__large.jpg

    But I have to operate at far more frugal level, and in this realm I believe class D is the best choice, most likely combined with at passive preamp, which is what I've got

  3. #3
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    I haven't heard the top of the line CJ gear so I can't say which is better overall but I suspect the Pass is better. Pass gives me the musicality of the CJ I was addicted to while providing the control and higher current needed, the Pass is also more transparent. My current Pass also provides more macro and micro dynamics than the tube gear I had which is surprising but brass is fabulous as well as vocals. The CJ has a bit of edge with a slightly larger sound stage and sense of depth, the Pass is good in these areas but the CJ excelled.

    Feanor, from reading your posts I don't think you would like the CJ, although I really liked the CT-6 it still had more of a sweet sound, probably not as neutral as you would like but certainly enjoyable to me. Frenchmon wasn't a big fan of my CJ gear for that reason but I think he and I focus, or drawn, to different aspects of audio presentations.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  4. #4
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    Oh, a couple of interesting things about the Pass units. The preamp has no power switch, it remains on all the time, I can turn off the display though. Both units had to be plugged in for at least 24 hours before it sounded the way it should, this is not "break in" it's like the gear has to charge or warm up, I think it's due to the Class A and high bias topology Pass uses. If I were to unplug it for some reason once plugged back in I have to wait that period before it gets back into it's zone. Pass also indicates his gear is designed to use the balanced connections, there's a patented technology.

    From what I've been told Feanor you would love the X1 and X250. These pieces, especially the X1 are said to be very neutral and although well reviewed I guess a bit too neutral for some Pass fans, the current models are said to be more "warm" than the X1.

    Pass makes a few series of amps, there's the "X" series which are Class A up to a point then go A/B to provide more power, there's the "XA" series that are pure Class A, I'd love to hear one of those high powered versions, then he also has several models in the First Watt line.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  5. #5
    Aging Smartass
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    Like others who've posted on this thread, the price of Pass Labs equipment is beyond my reach. For what it may be worth, the amp I own, and have owned since the mid 90's is the Adcom GFA-5800, which was designed by Nelson Pass. I read somewhere that he said it was the best sounding amp Adcom ever made. Whether that's mere self-congratulatory talk or not, I don't know, but I've been delighted with the amp and the years of service it's provided me. It easily drives my Dahlquist DQ-10's, and allows them to play quite loudly with a good deal of dynamic range - not something they were ever noted for.

    There always seem to be used GFA-5800's available, and at reasonable prices, so they may be worth checking out. I know if mine ever fails, I'll try to snap one up (unless a genuine Pass Labs amp with about 250 watts per channel becomes available for around $600!).

  6. #6
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    ...
    Feanor, from reading your posts I don't think you would like the CJ, although I really liked the CT-6 it still had more of a sweet sound, probably not as neutral as you would like but certainly enjoyable to me. Frenchmon wasn't a big fan of my CJ gear for that reason but I think he and I focus, or drawn, to different aspects of audio presentations.
    I think I like a more neutral sound than a lot of people -- of course so many audiophile insists his preference is truest to "live" sound; you might be different is admitting that you have liked "sweet" sounding equipment.

    BTW -- and I think it's very important -- having experimented successfully with equalization, I find that truly flat response is too bright. I roll off high- frequency smoothly starting at about 4kHz so it's down about 6dB at 10-12kHz. To anybody who feels that their equipment is too bright, rather than spend thousands on a new amp or speakers, they ought to first try equalization. My equalizer is a digital and works inside my computer music player: it's free!!

    I have said for decades that the main determinant of good sound is the recording, not nearly so much the medium, (vinyl vs. CD), or equipment type, (tube vs. s/s). IMO, very clearly, too-bright flat response is the result of dubious recording practice.

  7. #7
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    For any one on a budget wanting a taste of Pass I would suggest looking for a Threshold. I bought my S300 for under $500.00 but I wouldn't take that for it. I've had a few Adcom amps but not the 5800, I have had a 5500, the Threshold S300 is in a different league of performance. I haven't heard them but there is also the Aleph amps designed by Pass.

    Very true on the recording, certainly when letting some one hear our system we know to play certain albums and certain ones we find more enjoyable. With the CJ it wasn't so much a sweetness that attracted me as much as a "musicality" I hadn't experienced before, CJ gave pace, timing and rhythm to the music, as well as a depth and texture. Fairly dramatic switch from the prior Krell. The trade off being the Krell definitly more control, dynamic slam and neutrality.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  8. #8
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    Pass makes a few series of amps, there's the "X" series which are Class A up to a point then go A/B to provide more power, there's the "XA" series that are pure Class A, I'd love to hear one of those high powered versions, then he also has several models in the First Watt line.
    Don't forget the new Xs line at the top.

    My 31 year old Stasis 3 soldiers on quite well in the vintage garage system. One of the reasons I bought it originally is its ability to drive the reactive loads of electrostatic speakers. Back to the 800A in 1976, Pass designed his amps to drive the poster child for tough loads, the Dayton-Wright electrostat. Never had any trouble with the unit over the many years. I proactively replaced the Mallory power supply caps a while back just because. And added some film bypass caps which is now standard practice. If you follow my Systems link, you'll find a pic. Your X250 should give you at least the same trouble-free lifespan.

    Clearly, Nelson Pass has been one of the most innovative designers of his generation. The SIT based amp in the First Watt line is a brilliant design in its elegant simplicity using near unobtanium level output devices custom made for him.

  9. #9
    Forum Regular blackraven's Avatar
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    Glad to hear that you are enjoying the Pass gear. I have had the upgrade itch as you know Mr.P. College tuition and a lower paying new job are preventing me from doing so.
    Pass Labs X250 amp, BAT Vk-51se Preamp, Pass X-1 Preamp
    Magnepan QR1.6 speakers
    Van Alstine Ultra Hybrid Tube Preamp and Ultra Hybrid Tube DAC
    Martin Logan Original Dynamo Sub
    Parasound A21 amp
    Vintage Luxman T-110 tuner
    Magnepan MMG's, Grant Fidelity DAC-11, Class D CDA254 amp
    Monitor Audio S1 speakers, PSB B6 speakers
    Vintage Technic's Integrated amp
    Music Hall 25.2 CDP
    Adcom GFR 700 AVR
    Cables- Cardas, Silnote, BJC
    Velodyne CHT 8 sub

  10. #10
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    Aw, come on, nothing a good credit limit can't cure, LOL

    I'd like to hear the A21, it has a rep of being an over achiever.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  11. #11
    Lurker Hyfi's Avatar
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    Mr P,

    On your travels on the merry go round, did you get a chance to hear any of the newer VAC gear?
    There is a guy over at AudioAficianado that just took delivery of the latest Signature 2a Pre amp and is drooling all over about what he got. I guess for $10k it better be the sheet, huh.

    Anyway, congrats on the Pass gear. I meant to respond to your recent email but it got lost in the shuffle.
    Hyfi
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    Main - Rotel 1072 > VAC CLA1 MKII > Counterpoint NPS 400 > Clearfield Continentals > Synergystic Research
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    Secondary - Oppo 93 > Hafler 945 Pre-Tuner >Odyssey Stratos Plus > JM Labs Tantal 509s > Tara Labs

  12. #12
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    No, VAC is not in my area and I wouldn't know where to listen, and $10k is way beyond my budget. I had the Van Alstine FET Valve pre and power amp which were good and could have worked but didn't due to circumstances. I still have the preamp and it's excellent. I heard an ATI 3007 which was a monster of a power house and made the sound stage project forward but with a short audition I wasn't convinced of it's fine detail ability. Buying the Threshold really changed things for me, I never intended it to be my main amp but once I heard it in my system it stayed until I got the courage to try Pass. The Threshold passed my expectations so much I just knew in my gut that if Nelson kept improving from there it had to be something special and it is.

    A couple things I heard outside my own system was Boulder, super transparent and controlled but honestly the audition didn't live up to it's hype to me. It was good indeed but I wasn't engaged as with some other gear. I heard some Octave Audio separates that if it wasn't for the price I could have owned and never have gotten to the Pass. The Octave Audio is the best tube gear I've ever heard, I've not heard tube gear with such control and transparency while being both engaging with presence. I heard some Sim Audio Evolution that I thought was pretty good until I heard the amp was 5 figures. A friend also has a Levinson set up with a 532H. The Pass is not cheap but comparing to other stuff I heard it is a great value at it's price. My friend and I were talking about swapping amps for a bit, it would be interesting to see how it compares to an $8k Levinson.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  13. #13
    Lurker Hyfi's Avatar
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    Thanks for the feedback. It's always good to hear what others get to audition.

    Yeah, the VAC stuff is pretty pricey. My pre listed for $5400 back in the 90s so I suppose it's relative to todays pricing. $40k for the amp is a bit over the top though but I am sure it sounds terrific.
    Hyfi
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    Main - Rotel 1072 > VAC CLA1 MKII > Counterpoint NPS 400 > Clearfield Continentals > Synergystic Research
    --------------------------------------------------------------
    Secondary - Oppo 93 > Hafler 945 Pre-Tuner >Odyssey Stratos Plus > JM Labs Tantal 509s > Tara Labs

  14. #14
    frenchmon frenchmon's Avatar
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    P...if you guys do switch amps, let me know.
    Music...let it into your soul and be moved....with Canton...Pure Music


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    Vincent SA - T1/Vincent SP-331 MK /MF XRAY v8 /MMF-7.1/2M BLACK/ Creek OBH MK 2/Canton Vento 830.2

  15. #15
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    My HE-6s are engaged with an F1 First Watt. Certainly gives all the current the 6s care to use. Most impactful bass I've heard on headphones.
    d HC b

  16. #16
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    Who makes the HE-6, that would be quite a set up powering them with a First Watt.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  17. #17
    music whore Happy Camper's Avatar
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    d HC b

  18. #18
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    Ah, I haven't heard Hi-fi Man but do hear good things about the product.
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

  19. #19
    Audio Hobbyist Since 1969 Glen B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Peabody View Post
    My system is currently a Pass Labs XP10 pre with X250 power amp, hands down the best system I've owned. I'm finally set again after a couple years on the merry-go-round. It's good to hear a variety of gear but sometimes you find something you'd like in your own system, or maybe we just want something different. It began with trying different speakers and not quite finding what I was looking for until hearing Revel F52's. They sounded good with my Conrad Johnson gear but they really come alive with current so something I didn't think would happen, I began looking and trying other gear. When I chanced upon a Threshold S300 I picked it up for it's classic status but I was really impressed with it's sound. And, surprisingly the S300 had a magical synergy with my CJ CT-6, however, I used a Van Alstine Fet Valve pre with the S300 for it's better focus and detail. So I began to wonder if the Threshold is this good, how good is current Pass Labs? The answer, much better, outstanding. So many words have been used to describe audio gear I struggle to find words to do justice to the Pass Labs. Although it's solid state the presentation resembles tubes in that "your there" sense, there's transparency and detail in spades. Most important to me the Pass is engaging and has what I call "musicality" meaning I get the sense of proper rhythm and melody. I'm really surprised that electronics this good isn't in more audio shops.
    Beautiful. Pass Labs components would be my ultimate goal, but I'm happy with my Classé and Marantz Reference gear. At this time in life, I would rather spend big bucks on a couple of vacations every year, one with just the Mrs. and me, and the other with our oldest grand-kid along to see the world.

  20. #20
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    And, it's not like Classe and Marantz Ref is entry level
    Mark Levinson #512
    Pass Labs XP-10 & X250
    Clearaudio Performance DC, Dynavector 10x5, AcousTech Ph-1p
    Clarus Crimson loom - AC outlet to speaker terminal
    Revel Performa F52 main/center & S30's
    SVS PC13 Ultra (sub)
    Marantz BD-7003 > AV-8003 > LINN 5125
    Transparent cables / Tributaries HDMI
    PS Audio Quintet

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