I haven't compared the XP with the Calypso. However, I run the XP-10 with a Aesthetix Rhea and it's superb. I also run an X250.5 ..........
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I use a Aesthetix Calypso, Pass Xono phono, Pass Aleph 2 monos. I have had all the previous generation Pass Labs pre amps X-1, X-0.2 etc.but have not heard the XP line. I think the Calypso mates better with my system and room. I believe it's all about personal taste...try them both you can't go wrong with either line stage, I enjoy rolling tubes through my Calypso...that's what made the difference for me.
I've never tried Pass gear, but had the Calypso for three enjoyable years, then regrettably sold it to save some money by going with a few different integrated amps. Now I've realized how much I missed my separates and have purchased a Calypso Signature and I'm happy with my system once again! The great thing about the Calypso is you can tailor/change up the sound of your system by rolling different tubes. Really can't say enough good things about the Calypso. I'll be hard pressed to sell it again and make the same mistake twice.
Swanny - I'm really surprised that you think the build quality of the Calypso is suspect? I've owned quite a few preamps from the likes of BAT, Joule Electra, YBA & Conrad Johnson and have enjoyed my time with the Calypso the most, by a very wide margin and I've never had a hint of a problem... and they are noise free. Did you experiment with high end NOS tubes when you had it... Amperex, Telefunken, Mullard? If not, you really didn't get to hear what the Calypso is capable of. Night & day difference with the Calypso when using high quality NOS tubes vs. the stock tubes.
To other posters who mentioned the X1, The X1 Pass is not comparable in any way to the XP series. I had the X1 before I moved up to the XP10. Completely different sonic signature and attenuation/gain. Pdreher, I had an issue with a used Calypso that I purchased here, and when it arrived there were some nuts that had loosened up and were knocking around. I opened the unit and did not like the build quality versus other gear I have owned, like the Pass. Not in the same league in my opinion. The casework does not compare to other equipment I have used. But that is only my brief experience. The tubes were new standard issue tubes. I did not try other tubes. The noise to which I allude is the excessive gain the pre provides (and i had it on the low setting, but that was too much gain for my system, Bel Canto Ref 1000 mk 2 amps, which are completely silent noise floor, so you can hear up the chain easily. I decided I am really a SS guy for my stereo, even tho I play a tube guitar amp.
Terryakhan - I think you have very good tubes. I can recommend you try Telefunken 12AX7 smooth plates to get another perspective.
In the 6922 slot's, I've been happy with Amperex orange label, but preferred the older & more expensive Amperex (Phillips branded) white label SQ's. Currently using IEC Mullard's white label from the mid 60's with very good success (not commonly available). So I can recommend all three listed above and feel you can't go wrong with Amperex... they are readily available, albeit not cheap.
In the 12AX7 slots I've had good results with the following:
- Telefunken smooth plates (these are the best IME... awesome mid's, dynamic & liquid but slightly shrill high's on some notes)
- Mullard CV4004 Platinums (very good, balanced all-around sound)
- Mullard / Bogen branded white labels (very warm, good bass & lower mids, strong with vocals, but erring far on the warm/dark side of neutral)
I tried Amperex Bugle Boys, but found them to lack focus... maybe just had some mismatched tubes... hard to say. I also tried the much heralded & mega expensive Mullard 10M gold pins, but found them to be too warm and veiled for my taste... once again, maybe the tubes were note well matched, nor did I buy them from a reputable dealer. I also tried new production tubes from Sovtek & Mullard New Sensor, but they all sucked, to be blunt.
Ultimately, I think there are many good tubes / choices, but think it probably pays to buy closely matched tubes from reputable dealers or at least from an Audiogon member that can verify the tubes came from a good supplier (i.e. Tubeworld, Vintage Tube Services, Upscale Audio).
So I just finished a multi day direct A/B of the Pass XP10 and a Aesthetix Calypso. The sessions were in my home with the only changes being the pre amps, including level matching. The pass has more detail but ultimately I chose to stay with the Calypso because it sounded more realistic and had more depth to the sound stage. It was kinda like listening to a live band with a slight vail over the band. When switching to the xp10 the vail was lifted but suddenly the band disappeared and I was left with a couple speakers. The pass sounds good but just doesn't convey the depth and realism of the calypso. I plan to buy the XP20 in the next year or so. I figure the 20 may give me the added warmth and depth of the calypso while maintaining the detail of the xp10.
Magnepan 3.7's on myestands
Esoteric SA10 SACD player
Pass Labs XA100.5 amps