CJ ET250s or Pass Labs XA30.5 ---for Harbeth 7ES-3

I’m debating between these 2 amplifiers for my Harbeth 7ES-3 speakers. As you know, the Compact 7 is relatively easy to drive but I want the amp to be more versatile so that I can use it for other speakers down the road.

FYI, I mainly listen to vocals, pop songs, jazz, symphony and some rock music and I’m looking for natural, accurate mid-range for vocals presentation, smooth and extended treble and dynamic and weighty bass.

How would you compare and characterize these two amps – one is hybrid and the other solid state, in terms of soundstage, imaging, clarity, noise, dynamics, bass, etc? I also plan to get a pre-amp to match either amp and have the following on my list:

Ayre K-5xeMP

Audio Research LS26 or LS17SE or Ref 3

Conrad Johnson ET-3 or other similarly priced models (CT, Premier 17 etc).

Aesthetix Calypso linestae

Pass labs XP10

If you have any other recommendations, please explain from your experience. Thanks for your feedbacks.
limiting myself to the options listed, I'd go with the Pass amp and the Aesthetix linestage. If your open to a tube amp, recommend McIntosh MC275 paired with Aesthetix preamp.
Per Alan Shaw:

Harbeth speakers will work with any normal grade, audiophile or regular grade amplifier that is performing within its original specification. They will work better with a really good amp, but they will work well with even a modest hi-fi receiver-amplifier. Remember - amplifiers like people age, if it breaks-down it could damage the speakers.

Harbeths present an easy electrical load to their driving amplifiers. They are deliberately designed to be so. There are tens of thousands of Harbeth speakers in use around the world and we do not have enough knowledge or staff to handle inevitable questions such as 'will Harbeths work with XYZ amplifier?'. So, we have always made absolutely certain at the design stage that Harbeths will work will any credible amplifier. You do not need to ask this question, because the answer is, if the amp is working properly, that yes, it will work with your Harbeths. More on amplifier selection here.

This question (or as I say, non-question) about speaker-amp matching does arise from time to time. I try to explain our position; here again is a summary.

Harbeth speakers do not need big amplifiers. Generally speaking, 25W per channel is a sensible minimum across the range. That will get you going but 25W won't produce the maximum loudness that a Harbeth is capable of: for that you'll need a bigger amp. If you play soft, late at night or you don't want to annoy your neighbours then a few watts will be enough power. What if you have a really powerful amplifier? A bigger amp, like a bigger car engine, will give you a power reserve which you may or may not ever need depending on your music listening habits. Obviously, if your children take control of your hi-fi then a more powerful amplifier could/may/will do more damage just as a powerful car driven too fast can/may/will. In brief: use whatever power you have responsibly.

Harbeth speakers will work with any type of amp: solid state (transistor, MOSFET) amps, digital amps or tube (valve) amps.
Thanks for your comments. If I’m open to other options, what other pre-amps would you recommend that have a good synergy with Pass Labs XA30.5? Also, how do I make sure the pre-amp’s output impedance matches the input impedance of the power-amp (i.e. the rule of 10 to 15 multiples of pre-amp’s output impedance)?

Pass Labs XA30.5’s input is 30Kohms(for balanced) and 20Kohm s(for RCA input). Any particular brand/model of pre-amps that have good synergy with the XA30.5? I read that Audio Research LS 26, Ayre K-5xe, Aesthetix and obviously XP10 are commonly used with the XA30.5. How about Leben’s tube pre-amp?

I would prefer a pre-amp that is quiet (without much hiss or hum noises from the tubes). Which tube pre-amp is more stable and quieter – Audio Research, Aesthetix, CJ or Leben?

If you want to play it safe use what the Harbeth dealers use.
Leben, Naim, Lfd.
Hi guys, I'm leaning towards the Pass Labs XA30.5. Any experience with Conrad Johnson ET3 pre-amp? Will it be a good match?

How would you characterize the sound of ET3? Is it typical tube pre-amp sound?


The conrad johnson ET3 is a giant killer, IMO.
Last year I heard it mated w/ the CJ classic sixty driving a pair of B&W 802D, the sound was phenomenal. That little power amp was completely controlling those big B&W floorstanders.
6MOONS website has a review of the XA30.5 with a Harbeth speaker.

They liked the combo very much!