|Much has been said of the Nelson Pass’ XA.5 series. They are among the most reviewed and most recommended amplifier on these pages. And yet, I feel compelled to add my contribution by heaping some additional praise. I have said there is no such thing as a perfect amplifier. Now I am starting to think that if Nelson has not achieved it, he certainly comes very close. The Pass Labs XA200.5 has exceeded all expectations. Coming upon 12 months, my enthusiasm has not diminished. This amplifier has put me into a state of satisfaction, placing it solidly in a 'final destination' category.|
Over the past year, I have spoken to many enthusiasts and dealers about amplifier choices. One could get as many recommendations as people you can call. Although I was curious about Pass amps on my current speakers based upon past experience, many dealers were characteristically unenthused. I went out on a limb with the Pass. If you think you know the Pass line based upon the X or X.5 series, then think again.
The XA.5 lets music soar. The words that come to mind are ‘majestic’, ‘natural’, ‘relaxed’, and ‘flowing’. There is a texture and depth to the midrange that I believe is unique to a handful of solid-state amplifiers. In addition, there is what I call the paradoxical midrange, wherein a sense of warmth is also accompanied by increased detail. Many amplifiers create a sense of ‘warmth’ by adding a haze over the midrange. The Pass is totally clear and open across the mids. The words dry and clinical do not even enter the mind. These mids are wet, plump, and juicy.
The bass is just natural, full, and controlled. The entire presentation is effortless, controlled, and delineated, with no strain or compression even with the loudest climaxes. The higher frequencies have energy and detail without glare or hardness. There is no added background noise, and music rises and falls into a natural acoustic space. The music is dynamic, interesting, and compelling. Music can be delicate and subtle one moment, and powerful and fierce the next. These amps are fun, exciting, and thrilling.
The Pass is expensive, but not as expensive as its competition. I don’t need to say anything further about customer support, build quality, or reliability. I do not like to tell people what to buy, but one should definitely consider auditioning these Pass amps in your search for that elusive amplifier. Combining this amp with a quality tubed preamp (BAT Rex), the Tripoint Troy, and Jade Audio cables has really created a very natural presentation that has brought me closer to live music that transcends debates of tubes vs. solid state. I feel that these 4 pieces in combination are at the heart of my system.