Comparing the Pass Labs XA30.5 to the XA 30.8

As many here know, Pass Labs has come out with their new .8 series. However, to date there isn’t much written on the difference in sound quality between the XA.5 series and the new XA.8 series. I just finished an A/B comparison between the XA30.5 and the new XA30.8, two of their popular amps for those on a budget like me but still want the best class A sound possible for the money. I hope some of you will find this helpful who are trying to decide if you should upgrade to the .8 series.

Read no further: For those who just want the basic results that we heard, they are as follows in brief: The XA30.5 sound is more lush, very musical; slightly more pronounced in midrange; is holographic; has slightly more fine detail and texture in the upper midrange and highs and induces little to no listener fatigue. The XA30.8 sound is cleaner, more controlled with less noise, more dynamic and holographic, more accurate or convincing, constructs a deep, accurate soundstage, has excellent imaging and is also musically involving with little or no fatigue. Ok, so if you want to read on, please feel free; otherwise, that’s basically what we heard.

I haven’t written much on this forum at all, but have enjoyed the many posts by those far more experienced and knowledgeable than I. BTW, I am not a dealer of any audio gear; just a family man with bills to pay, a kid applying for college and a limited budget. I also have a relentless love for music. My apologies for such a long review; if you want to get to the chase, read the last seven paragraphs when you get a chance.

I have a good friend who is a sound booth technician and has managed the sound for countless live concerts and other events. He helped me in setting up this A/B test and I’m very grateful for his advice in this. All Pass gear was loaned (and eventually purchased) from Mark at Reno Hi-Fi ( He and his staff saw to it that my auditioning and purchasing experience was absolutely flawless from beginning to end. I felt like I was his only customer. He really is as good as everyone says and I highly recommend him to anyone seeking Pass or First Watt products.

Anyway, here’s what we did to test the sound of the Pass XA 30.5 vs the 30.8: We let both amps run 24/7 for two weeks to be sure they were broken in. The amps were connected to a new (but also broken in) Pass XP 10 preamp. The IC’s used were by Mike Burley (Mike is a technician at Pass Labs). They are used by Nelson Pass himself, so I figured it was good enough for me! They can be purchased from Mark at Reno Hi-Fi. With my Harbeth SHL-5’s placed in the center of the listening room, side by side, 2 inches apart and 6’ from any walls, I connected the left channel to the Pass XA30.5 and the right to the XA30.8. All variables were isolated so the only differences in sound would be from the amps.

During the listening tests, I was able to instantly switch back and forth between the two channels using my balance controls on my laptop which fed into a Audioengine D2 (24/96 signal) and into the preamp. This quick switching allowed me to remember and detect subtle differences between the two amps.

For five consecutive days I sat and listened to many tracks of as much variety as possible, from solo acoustic instrumentals and vocals to classical, big band; drum solos; blues; Sanatra, pop; R&B; talk radio; acoustic guitar solos; sound effects; samba; Led Zeppelin; you name it, I threw it up there. I heavily dampened my listening room to isolate the pure sound of the speakers only. Digital was used because I do not yet have an adequate system for playing vinal. An example of some of the more dynamic tracks I listened to can be heard at //

We also did listening tests with speakers in their normal positions and both channels connected to the same amp to get the true soundstaging, air, imagry, etc. From all of this listening, I and others who listened also made the following observations:

Lower and mid base: The XA30.8 produced an extremely clean, fast and solid lower and mid base sound that dug deep and was well defined on every track. Various instruments were very well separated. I was teased by its elusive quality, wanting to hear more of it. My Dynaudio C1’s (the original, not the SE’s which are base shy, IMO) came to life as never before and filled the room with very pure, clean, detailed base tones and they had texture as well, like you could tell what kind of woods the cello was made from. The 30.5 threw a very full, open and more lush sound which was also deep, solid and sounded very real, but not as detailed and defined. The .5 can become a drama queen with base tones, really dishing it out on some tracks and getting you more emotionally involved, which was fun to experience. Perhaps I was hearing some of the “noise” that was quieted in the design of the .8, but it was very delightful, involving and easy to listen to. When cranked to near full volume, both amps produced room filling thunder but the .8 rumbled my guts more, almost like the base and kettle drums were right there in the room. Under the .5, my Dynaudio C1 started clipping but not with the .8. Ok, so the .5 is extremely lively, emotionally full yet can cause clipping. The .8 never broke a sweat, was more dynamic and in control. I wish I could have both worlds here; the tubie, organic, full, involving base of the .5 with the clean, controlled, rock solid stability, dynamics and realism of the .8.

Lower midrange: Both amps sounded wonderful here, with the .8 coming out slightly “quieter”, yet still able to dig out a very natural timbre when called upon, all with concrete-solid control and slightly superior separation of instruments. The .8 renders such a realistic sound to any and all instruments and vocals, like you were “there” in the event. The .5 could become very flush with overtones at times, adding to the musicality and emotion. Again, the .8 made me want to hear more of what it was producing and had a very pure and “right” sound, not recessed, just more controlled which can give the illusion of being recessed.

Mid and upper midrange: Starting with female vocals, through the .5, I could hear the subtle nuances of the vocal chords, oral cavities and breathing patterns. The .5 midrange is a little more present and responsive here. The .5 renders all of this fine detail with such naturalness and ease; like a good quality tube amp. The .5 dishes out more air around the players, more inner detail and a smooth, dry, almost crispy texture. But with the .8, all of this air and nuance is slightly quieter, yet more authentic and convincing. The .5 was overall the most non-fatiguing at higher volumes (not that the.8 is in any way fatiguing, just that it has higher micro-dynamics which made me want to reduce the volume a little on some female vocals because they were so intense but that’s just my ears here). With the .5, I was able to understand more about the nature of the skins on which the brushes were moving. This same experience repeated itself with most of the other instruments and voices I heard as well: I was able to hear the valves opening and shutting on brass instruments so clearly I could tell you what kind of material they had on their surfaces. Background noise was picked up easier. Whispers and wine glasses tinkered on some live tracks more clearly. The .8 was not able to retrieve this information as well, being slightly more quiet and controlled, yet projected a more dynamic and convincing atmosphere. With the .8, I could understand more about each instrument as a whole and how it interacted within the recording venue. The .8 managed to get the tones so eerily correct including the voices that it fools the mind into thinking you’re in the event. If you like to hear artists breathing and guess how many nose hairs the singer has, the .5 would be better for that. Perhaps in an attempt to reduce noise (which was a major goal with the designing of the .8), some of this fine nuance and inner detail was diminished a bit but these differences were slight and both amps did a wonderful job of bringing me into the music, IMHO. I don’t know if any of the higher XA.8 models can bring out more detail than the 30.5; it would be fun to hear from anyone on this.

On acoustic instruments: Over the last 30 years, I have played many acoustic guitars and am quite familiar with the signature sound of the various makers and the tone woods typically used to build the instruments. So in solo guitar tracks, I can say that the .8 series renders a slightly more true to life presentation of these instruments and with more dynamic energy across the frequency range. Both amps throw a very deep, musical, detailed and emotionally involving soundstage. The .5 sounded warm, airy, crisp detailed and weighty all at the same time. The .8 did a better job of allowing me to guess what kind of woods the guitars were made of. It brought out that “nutty” essence on some woods, for lack of better words. Cedar sounded like actual cedar. Spruce was warm and crisp over deep, dark rosewood. And Hawaiian koa was warm, dry and oh so sweet as it should be. And that inner air and echo was so right on each piece I heard. Both amps created the illusion of the guitar being there in the room, with the .8 rendering slightly better pinpoint imaging. Someone remarked that the .8 imaging was slightly smeared; I did not hear any smearing at all; both the .5 and the .8 can cast pinpoint imaging when the recording dictates it.

The above observations were made over several hundred switches and sweeps between the two channels and the results were consistently the same, no matter which speakers I used or the volume levels. I also switched the channels. I also tried various USB cables and IC’s from Audioquest and Gabriel Gold and the results were the same except for some very slight differences.

Mid highs: much the same as I have described above, with the .8 being slightly more dynamic, cleaner, realistic and “pure” sounding. The .5 has a delicateness, airiness, crispiness and dryness of tone and timbre, very easy to listen to that the .8 does not present quite as much.
Highs: The .8 has very smooth subtle, liquid, clean and real sounding micro-dynamics yet very slightly more tamed compared to the .5. Cymbals take on more weight, substance and air around them with the. 8 which I preferred, but the .5 digs out more “tink” and crisp detail of the metal. Occasionally with the .5, I would hear more whistling and hiss from someone when pronouncing the letter, “s”, but for me, I’d rather have that level of detail than not. Here both amps were very easy to listen to, not fatiguing at all.

Soundstaging: The .8 throws a very “correct” stage, placing instruments and vocals where they should be, all with very realistic air and echo, all in a deeper, slightly taller area with sound extending well beyond the speakers (the speakers disappear completely). With the .5, overtones flew out freely into space in a coherent manner that sounded true to the character of the instruments which also had very good placement in the room. With the .8, vocals, piano strikes, plucks and snare drum strikes, etc. seemed to come forward (or bring me in) with more intensity, creating a slightly more dynamic and holographic effect. I had the sensation that I had been transported into the live venue more than with the .5. The .5 seemed to cast more overtones and echoing effects which accentuated the venue with all of its air and the “noise” of the recording area. With both amps, instruments had excellent placement in the room, were wonderfully detailed, lively and real sounding. The .5 can create a holographic effect as well, with the right recordings.

In conclusion, the Pass XA30.5 and XA30.8 are both marvelous amplifiers, each with their own attributes, each able to serve up the music with such realism, fine nuance and involvement, all in a very non fatiguing way, IMHO. My friend the sound technician agrees. I chose to keep the XA30.8 as it just seems to float my boat more. It has been a thrill to listen to the two and compare them and I hope I have helped someone who might be trying to decide between the two.

Listening room: 14’ X 19’ X 11’ tapered to 8’ ceiling, customized and dampened as needed.
Power: Pure 12 Gauge copper from meter with HQ copper outlets and Groneberg Quattro Reference power cables.
Preamp: Pass XP 10
Amplifiers: Pass labs XA30.5 and XA 30.8
Spekeres: Harbeth Super HL5 Anniversary Editions. Also tried Harbeth Compact 7ES3, Harbeth P3ESR, Dynaudio C1, C3 and Contour 1.3SE’s.
Velodyne DD15 Plus sub
Transports: PS 1 player, Laptop with Audioengine DAC-2 connected with Audioquest Carbon USB cable: Audioquest Carbon, Forest and others
IC’s: Burley Wire balanced IC’s (built by Mike Burley of Pass Labs and used by Nelson Pass) Gabriel Gold Reflection, GG Rapture R Audioquest King Cobras and AQ Cheetah (PSS)
Speaker cables: Gabriel Gold Rapture R
Thank you for taking the time to do this demo testing and write the review. A job well done, and interesting reading.
Best regards...
Nice write up!

Does the power consumption of the point 8 bother you?

XA 30.5 200 watts Vs 375 Watts on the point 8

I have the XA60.5's (200 watts per mono block) and found they sound best after being on for at least 24 hours. I listen daily, and leave the amps on most all the time, for quick warmup, rather than power up and wait an hour for good sound.

My electric bill went up about $30 per month leaving the amps on 24/7.

They do not heat up my room much at all (heat like 4 100 watt light bulbs).

I use to own the XA30.5 and thought it was great!

Seems the choice here is one of flavor, and I favor the point 5's.
Thanks for that.

Thanks for the kind words; they mean volumes coming from you. I'm afraid I rambled on too much here, but it was a pleasure to listen and describe what I heard. Hopefully it will help someone out there.

Best Regards,

Superb review Sonicray. It is very well written and the descriptions are very
clear. I am not a musician, so I am astonished at your ability to hear,
distinguish and then to describe the different types of wood on those guitars.

The only thing that confesses me a bit is that you mention the lower noise of
the .8 which I would think would reveal more detail and nuance from the
recording, but you seem to describe the .5 as having more of this despite it's
higher noise floor. I wonder if the extra sibilance of the vocals and the
sparkle in the cymbals with the .5 is not in fact a bit of distortion at those
higher frequencies to give the perception of heightened detail.

You describe the .5 in very nice ways with the overtones, rich, full and
emotional sound. I love that and hear that in my system, but in the end, if the
.8 sounds more like real instruments, I understand why you would choose that

I sat in on a couple of direct comparisons between the XA160.5 and the
XA160.8 in a friend's system. I own the 160.5 but preferred the 160.8 in his
system with his Wilson Alexias. In that case, the difference was mostly in the
.8's ability to handle the extremely difficult load of the Alexia speakers.

Thank you for sharing this review. It is a very enjoyable and informative read
and the most comprehensive comparison I have read to date. Extremely well
THIS is a great article and many thanks to the writer. however, without a side by side comparison, and without a VERY accurate pair of speakers, my overall impression is that the Point-8 amps are not worth the extra money unless you are upgrading from a NON-XA type SS amplifier to begin with. also, you are using an AudioEngine D2 which is not the last word in transparency.
French_fries, I came to that same conclusion when I considered upgrading my XA160.5 to the XA160.8. The price jump is simply too much for me. But, if coming from another brand, tube amps or even the X or X.5 line, it might very well be worth getting an XA.8 amp. The one I heard is extremely good.

The only way to know the value is to listen to one in one's own system. RENO Hifi makes that very easy.
Sorry to everyone for not responding sooner; busy entertaining relatives!

Wow. Thanks very much to everyone for the compliments, comments and questions. It has made this project worth my time. Let’s see... in response...

To Don_c55: Yes, the listening room does get about 3 to 4 degrees warmer or so with the .8 running 24/7. On these hot summer days I started turning it off upon bedtime. Upon turning it back on, it sounds fantastic cold and just grows more liquid and real as it warms up. I haven't seen the electric bill yet; too busy enjoying the music and I've got the wife paying the bills (but she doesn't see the PayPal statements or I'd have to set up my system in the dog house). Yes, I could easily live with the .5 for its qualities. Really, the .8 is well worth the extra temperatures right now. Last night, I was startled at a background voice on one track I've never heard; I really thought someone was standing in the doorway, singing softly to me!

BTW, I am kind of sympathetic toward circuits that endure heat (not that there would be any issues with this in Pass amps though), but I run a very quiet fan in back of the amp which keeps it barely warm to the touch. Its a very nice table fan made by Matthews Fan Co. It moves a lot of air but is super quiet and of that heavy, industrial quality, nice for summer.

To Cal3713: You're very welcome.

To Peterayer: Yes,both amps can bring out those organic textures of acoustic instruments to those familiar with their nature. The musicians among us will vouch for that. Its like getting into your own car blindfolded (don't do that); you can identify it immediately. The .8 renders such correct sound it was easier and I felt right at home with those guitars! Noise can add a thicker atmosphere and I suppose more fine nuance. But I heard the artists breathing and lips moving, etc. Is that noise? I'm not experienced enough to say. Is it distortion? It seems hard to believe if it is. I wish I could own the higher XA models but those are for others to enjoy. Thank you for your kind words. Cheers!

To French_fries: Very insightful. Yes, I wish I had done this comparison with better gear; the results would have rendered the two amps as more distinct and probably accentuated the differences I heard. The AudioEngine D2 at 24/96 was transparent enough to give me the detail I needed to write the review, FWIW. The fact that the same results were heard across all five pairs of high end speakers says something and the Harbeth SHL5 seemed the most accurate and brought out the most information, having that supertweater by Seas. Best to you.

To Peterayer: "The only way to know the value is to listen to one in one's own system. RENO Hifi makes that very easy."

Well said and that's what i did. Gear always sounds better in my own room anyway, go figure. Mark knew one amp would be coming back. He predicted it would be the .5 and was right. I was willing to let go of considerably more money for the .8. And for the big boy XA.8 monos, I'd have to let go of my son's college tuition and get some better source gear as well (which I'm intending to do anyway, not the tuition, just the source). Get this: I paid by money order for the XP 10 preamp and Mark credited me the PayPal fee that he didn't have to pay! He's true blue.

Thanks again to everyone and cheers to all. You have encouraged me to keep listening, tweaking, enjoying, reading, listening, enjoying...
Not to piss on the parade here, but I won't ever deal with Mark/Reno due to his pushy, rude, and impatient attitude. To be fair, other high end dealers are like this too. They need to get off of their high horses and realize that money does grow on trees! For most audiophiles, it takes time to save up to get that new shiny new amp or preamp or both.

Anyway, thanks for the detailed and insightful reviews. I found them interesting and entertaining.
OOps! What a typo! Monet DOES NOT grow on trees! lol.
Money, even, not Monet, lol. Sheesh...
I had a great experience with Mark. He didn't try to steer me to a more expensive model at all
I've had nothing but GREAT transactions with RENO HiFi and find Mark's personality very pleasant and helpful.

Yours is the first negative comment I've ever read about RENO. Sorry to hear it.
Well, there's a first time for everything. So forget that first negative comment stuff. Anyway, the guy got real impatient with me because I wouldn't buy when he wanted me to buy. Then he got pushy and rude. And then he jacked the prices up on me *after* he said he would give me a discount. So basically, I hung up on him. There are in fact better dealers than him in that part of the country. Hr is not the be all end all and the cat's meow of Pass Labs dealers. Again, money does not grow on trees, and I wish more of these dealers would realize that.

Sorry you were not happy with your experience with Mark. According to the many comments about him though, he does work hard to do right by his customers and should be given credit for that. Its hard to do everything right all the time. Again, sorry to hear about your experience.

Blame me for inciting this; I had to mention his name in my review because I was so impressed by him. Having said that, can I ask humbly that we stay on the subject of the performance of the amps here?
Yeah, sure, no problem. I'll shutup about Mark. I made my point, and there's no reason to mud sling with you guys.
Excellent review! Thanks for taking the time and effort to
do it.

One question. Is XA30.8 the same as XA30.5 in terms of how
it operates in Class A and Class A-B? For example, into an 8
ohms load, first 30 watts of XA30.5 is in Class A mode and
it goes into Class A-B up to 100+ watts once it passes the
first 30 watts. It is indicated on XA30.5 meter by pegging
to the right side when it goes into Class A-B mode. Is
XA30.8 the same?

I'm currently looking to upgrade to XA30.8. I have XA30.5
and XP-10. But I could not find any info on the question
above anywhere on the net. This is important for me because
I do play music quite loud from time to time and I know my
XA30.5 goes into Class A-B mode at some of the peaks.


Good question. First of all, the XA30.8 operates deeper into class A than the XA30.5. The result is that you will get more watts remaining in class A as you increase the amplitude or volume. I do not know at what point on the volume dial it actually leaves class A and enters class AB; for this, I can only watch the meter on the amp and assume that when it moves to the right, I'm entering class AB. I did notice that the meter does not move as readily as with the XA30.5 did when both amps were at the same volume levels, so I do believe it is exceeding 30 watts and still remaining in class A (but I could be wrong). Furthermore, the sound is so clean, I cannot tell any difference in sound when it switches to AB mode. Now for the fun part: On a few occasions, I've dropped in my Dynaudio Confidence 3's (6 ohms, 200 watts) in and cranked the XA.8 to almost the max. The plaster falls off the walls (ok, I have some loose plaster) and the room shakes. The meter jumps to the right up to about 80% of its range, or about 2:00 on the dial. At this volume, there was absolutely no apparent distortion or clipping. I couldn't remain in the room comfortably, so I went into the kitchen about 45 feet away. I could swear there was a live performance going on in my listening room, the sound was so pristine and "real" sounding. No, it did not have the gut slamming impact of a 100% live kick drum (that would require thousands of watts), but it had all of the realism and yes, plenty of slam that I could definitely feel right in the gut. This amp never breaks a sweat, period. I say all of this to reassure you that this amp has plenty of AB resource to please those who like to turn it up. And I do not believe that going into AB regularly will pose any risk to this amp (but I could be wrong); it has huge heat sinks compared to the XA30.5. Having said all of this, the best thing to do is to go to the creator of these beasts, Nelson Pass himself and try to get your question answered that way. For some technical info, here is a link to the user's manual for the XA30.8 which addresses the Class A nature on page 7:

I'm very glad I went with the .8 and have never looked back.

I hope that helps.
@ Sonicray

I admire your choice of the XA30.8, but you could have gone for the XA60.8 mono blocks and felt the same way!

I owned the XA30.5 and traded it in for the XA60.5. I like my choice and feel no need to change.

The 60.5 mono blocks have an advantage over the stereo 30.5, but with twice the number of output transistors and power consumption.

I found the 30.5 was a little more tubelike, and rich, in the midrange than the 60.5s, but it did not quite have the dynamics, higher playback volume levels, or details of the 60.5s that I desired.

I feel that the Pass Labs XA.5 or XA.8 series are the best buy in solid state amps today, and have tube sound characteristics, that put most all tube amps to shame!

Which you choose is a mater of taste, and type of recording quality you like.


I wish I could have listened to the XA60.8 monos. I imagine they would render everything mentioned already but with more dynamics and refinement, your monos included. Nelson Pass says that each .8 model has its own signature sound which only leaves us with our imaginations to contend with!

So 240 peak Pass watts with your XA60.5's eh? Nice. There's definitely more dynamics available to be shaped into better soundstaging, holographics, etc.

The XA30.5 and .8 seem to sound bigger than their rated outputs. And especially with the .8 its eerie how realistic Pass has gotten these things to sound. I have now been fooled several times on some unfamiliar tracks into thinking there's someone standing in my doorway singing or there's a snare drum in the room. I can't imagine the effects of his XS series.

It would be nice to hear from other, higher model owners of either the .5 or .8 series and see what "signature" sound they're enjoying.
Hi Sonicray,
Thanks again for sharing your experience and thoughts.

I did email Pass Labs and had a few email exchanges with Desmond. What he explained in general is that "Point 8 has a single-ended current source that skews everything. XA30.8 will output 90W @ 1% into 8 ohms and almost 150W @ 1% into 4 Ohms." And assured me that XA30.8 will be able to drive anything the XA30.5 could and more.

And based on your comparison test with your Confidence 3s (I also know Dynaudio are harder to drive than my Focals), it seems XA30.8 has more driving capability than XA30.5. I currently have XA30.5, with which I have no complain with my listening habit, I guess I can safely assume now that XA30.8 will not have any problem in that department as well.

I will definitely try out XA30.8 in the coming months. Just added a Hidiamond P4 powercord and I may have to wait a little longer before seeing that beauty on the rack.

Thanks for getting that information from Desmond. That really helps explain the large sound stage, etc, of the XA's and the dynamics of the .8's particularly. Really, I would not wish anything of greater volume on any of my speakers than what the XA30.8 can put out. Anything more would seem abusive to fine monitors, IMO. Let us know how that power cord is working in your system will you?

Now I'm wondering if I too can get any more transparency, detail and air out of this amp by switching to another preamp like a Kline 7 for example. Should I get back on the merry-go-round again, or be content with the (marvelous) combination of the XP 10 and XA30.8? When I sit down to listen, I forget why I'm considering anything better so I think I'll just let this one ride for a while and enjoy it.

Try a home trial of the XP 20 from Reno Hi Fi!

It does not cost much if you are not satisfied and return the preamp.

In most circumstances best results are found with the same brand amp and preamp IMO.
Hi Sonicray,
I had high expectation on HD P4 because of all the HiDiamond threads that praise P4 highly and my own experience with P3. After some settling time in my system (I bought it used) which is about 7-10 days, not continuously playing music though, it exceeds all my expectations.
Nicely! done sonicray.
Pass is the company to beat right now ( no pun). These guys are just doing everything so well. I concur the XP-10 is very sweet and the XP-20 is even sweeter! I can only imagine how the XP-30 performs...Thanks! for the shout-out to Renohifi.
It is important to recoginze boh positive and negative dealers/retailers out there. Happy Listening.
Thanks to Reno HIFI, I was able to demo the Pass Labs new X350.8 against my X350.5 with my Pass Labs XP-10 Preamp.

Perhaps the different models have variations in performance. But, to my ears and system, I thought the .8 was muddy sounding compared to my .5 unit.
A late post to this thread. I just read Srajan's 6moons review of the 30.8, which I highly recommend. In it, he does comparisons with two of Nelson's First Watt amplifiers and talks about their "lit from within" quality compared to the relatively fuller and weightier and, presumably, darker quality of the 30.8 Can anyone who has compared .5 and .8 Pass models comment on their differences in the context of that notion of "lit from within"?
My sense of Srajan's thorough if exhausting review is that he never got around to the relevant short strokes of trying the 30.8 with speakers that present a more difficult load than optimal for a flea amp. I've not had a .5 series amp in my system, but after hundreds of hours of break-in I have nothing but respect for XA-160.8 monoblocks. And it does take the patience of several hundred hours of break-in to hear what the new Pass amps have achieved. Their perceived lack of distortion convinces that "lit from within", "weighty", and "dark" can co-exist without compromise in one SS amplifier.

There is certainly confusion in the reception of the .8 amps. In December Stereophile John Atkinson rates the XA60.5 as his 2014 amplification Product of the Year-- without reference to this year's .8 release. This is yesterday's papers.
I own a 30.5 and have been following all comparisons between the two models since the introduction of the .8 series. My summary impression is that they are different, not that one is better. That seems to fit pretty well the message implicit in Nelson's numbering scheme.
I don't think Nelson Pass agrees with you Cal. Here is what he says in the brochure for the .8 amps:

"We’re excited! Because we’re celebrating our 23rd year by presenting the best amplifiers we’ve ever made. Our New Point 8 Series, X.8 and XA.8, operate “higher” into Class A than ever before and bridge the gap between measured performance and subjective experience.

Designed for audiophiles by even more demanding audiophiles, they invite listeners into the music as never before. Even more, they represent a summation of our expertise in designing amplifiers, while elegantly expressing our philosophy of more amplifier, more progress and more music. Seven years in the making, the Point 8 Series demonstrates our belief that the best products must be carefully adjusted until their components operate in harmony—then subjectively fine-tuned. Not satisfied with measurements alone, we put the amplifiers’ state-of-the-art engineering through an extensive, rigorous listening process using six different sound systems to deliver peak musical experiences."

Nelson is not known to be prone to hyperbole, so that reads to me like he thinks the .8 amps sound better.
He goes on to directly compare .5 to .8:

"Point 8 / Point 5 amp Differences:

The Point 8 amps present a more accurate representation of the recording venue. The dimensionality of the sound stage does not change no matter how complex the material. Layering of the instruments in the orchestra allows the orchestra to seem present in the listening room. There is more space and air around instruments, which leads to a
greater sense of ease and music flow. The bass goes very deep and the highs are extended with out being edgy.
That doesn't mean that many people won't prefer the .5 amps though. Everyone has different tastes in amps. Not to mention that we all hear differently too.
I know this is a thread to compare the 30.5 and 30.8 Pass amps --and their brethren-- but I am also interested in a possible even contender...
Has anyone heard and/or compared the .5 or .8 to the Wells Audio Innamorata or Innamorata Signature??? The Innamorata seems like it should easily take on either... I would like to hear both / all three and how the Wells compares to the Pass offerings... Any thoughts on this???
Tomcy6: Thanks for the details, as I said, I haven't personally compared, so that's good information.
So, finally XA30.8 is in the rig today. It was one tough job to unbox and have it set up alone. It's a brand new unit and can't wait until it's fully broken in.
Congrats. I'm sure you will love it.

If you think the 30.8's were tough, try a pair of 160.8's!
Thanks Madfloyd. I can't imagine myself setting up a pair of XA160.8 by myself. :o

By the way, I enjoyed reading yours and Peter's comparison of XA160.5 and XA160.8 on WBF a lot. I always wanted to ask you what prompted you to move to Magico S5 from Alexia? Maybe you can post a picture or two of S5 there on WBF. hehe (sorry if it is OT here)
Saw your S5 pictures with XA160.8. Very nice!
Great to see all the happy Pass owners. Nelson Pass truly is a genius. I've been following this thread with interest. Having owned the 60.5's, 160.5's and demoed the 100.8's in my system extensively. The .5, to me, is warmer sounding. Very smooth, almost calming in nature. The .8's are more neutral, but with a complete lack of grain that you can only spot in the .5's when you go back and forth. The .8's definitely have tighter bass control and lack the slight bass puffiness that the .5's have.

Personally, I was torn between the 160.8's and the XS150's. I ended up with the XS150's and XS Preamp. It was a major stretch for me, but I'm glad I made the leap.

But at the end of the day, I really felt the .8's were indeed an evolution in sound over my .5's.

I used to have the XA30.5's and ultimately sold them because of the bass hump you mentioned. I liked it initially, but as time went on it became a thorn in my side. How would you compare the .8's with the XS?
Erndog - I was only able to compare with 100.8's and to be honest, they are the whole reason I went back to Pass after a short diversion away. I really liked them. I had sold my .5's and moved on to other amps. A friend insisted on loaning me his 100.8's while he was away for a few weeks and I really fell for them. To me, .8's aren't "warm" like the .5's, and they aren't "sweet" like the XS, they are more neutral, but still with a good bit of Class A goodness, and without any graininess and much better bass control than the .5's.

I was totally torn between going for the 160.8's and XS150's, but ultimately went for the XS150's.
I did not read all of your review and I did not read any of the comments. I would like to know how you determine real and liquid in your descriptions.

On acoustic instruments: Over the last 30 years, I have played many acoustic guitars and am quite familiar with the signature sound of the various makers and the tone woods typically used to build the instruments. So in solo guitar tracks, I can say that the .8 series renders a slightly more true to life presentation of these instruments and with more dynamic energy across the frequency range.

What makes one amp sound more real to the other amp? I know what I am thinking but would like your description so I can understand what you are thinking that makes one more real than the other. Same goes for you saying true to life. I also played guitar professionally for 50 years so I think we are thinking the same way.

congrats on the purchase. My first venture to separates was the 30.8 and i will first agree, tough to unbox and set up. At 60 yrs and not quite as strong as i used to be, it was a chore similar to setting up my Maplenoll apollo!
However, once i got it going, i finally recognized what guys have been telling me for a while. I really never recognized what i had been missing. Its like listening to music for the first time. I recently went to a Leo Kottke concert in Illinois then promptly came home and listened to his several albums. The combination of the ZYX cartridge through the xa30.8 was like being there, center stage seats. It is really uncanny how realistic the music was to his concert.
Hope you enjoy!
I am in the process of buying one of these amps right now. I was going to pair a 30.8 with a tube pre, most likely the CJ ET5. However, at the suggestion of the dealer an XP20 would provide the more lush sweet musical sound I typically like over even the CJ or an XP10. He also said the XP10 and 30.5 would be a good match with my taste in sound.

I like my music to be rich, fat and delicious in the lower and mids and a touch etched, airy and detailed in the upper. To summarize, fat bottom and thin top.

Does anyone have experience with these combos and similar tastes?
Busaganashi - admittedly, that is a strange combination. I demoed a pair of Pass XA100.5's with an ARC REF5SE. An ARC preamp with the 30.5 might be something to consider and give you the sound you so desire. Your dealer might also be right about the XP10 with the 30.5, but I haven't spent enough time with it to comment. I heard and XP10 with some Classe CAM600's and it certainly didn't add any body, so again, your dealer might be on to something.
My system is a XP-10 with XA 30.8. I have a set of AudioPhysics Caldera II (3 box set). I mainly listen to vinyl on this setup with my front end being Maplenoll Apollo, ZYX UNIverseII and a recent RCM sensor Phono. All SS obviously. Plenty of body though with some its a little analytical especially compared to my former Khorns and much less Marantz SR9300.

I have found that great recordings are phenomenal with this setup. I primarily listen to rock and jazz but occasionally listen to classical I put on a Westheimer Labs Bolero-Ravel that i used to test out my new RCM. I like it because its a tough album with the soft start building up with the cresendo. Lots of complexiety and body to the album on the right system. I was blown away with the sound. Of course everyone likes their new toys, but I have been working to get a major improvement since i moved into my new home and had to give up the Khorns. This sound reminded me of my last visit to George Merrils shop in Memphis where he auditioned a set of quicksilver amps and Jolida preamp with his personal set of speakers. Where the lushness was not equal to his setup (ie his speakers cost more than my entire setup) it was the closest i have ever been.

I have heard about the sharpness or brightness of SS, but in my experience, this setup is by far the warmest of any set i have owned. I know the Amp/Preamp combo is a major part of it because i still have my SR9300 (my video setup) that i have swapped back and forth since getting the Pass equipment and the warmth is definately coming from the amp/preamp combo.
Hope this helps
Well everyone, happy new year and thank you for sharing your experiences. Since originating this post, I have swapped out my XP10 for the XP20 and indeed the new combo has brought out more sweetness, smoothness, a deeper soundstage, even better base control and the air around the instruments is even more convincing, IMO. Its just as Pass describes in his user manuals. The XP10 is still marvelous though, one I could easily have lived with blissfully. Both preamps are great with the XA30.8, just different in their presentation, enough to be noticed for sure, especially after a couple of weeks of playing time. My Pass gear seems to sound better with each visit to the listening room, especially at night when things are quiet and the RF's are not as prevalent. One thing I like to do is turn it up, leave the room and do a few things around the house while pretending there's a live performer in my listening room. I know that sounds immature to the more seasoned here, but its fun. Critical listening leaves me in bliss. I'm "off the merry-go-round" of upgrading, tweaking, experimenting and for now, its "time to rest". I wish the same for everyone here; that you enjoy whatever it is you're doing and please . . . keep sharing!

To Bigkidz, I play only acoustic guitars, so I was referring to the virgin sound qualities that emanate from the body of the instrument itself with no amplification, not what one might hear in a concert which is of course going to be amplified. In that case, one hears the nuance of the instrument and the amplification, however good that may be. With the XA30.8, I heard such an accurate and realistic rendering of the instrument only, including the air around the various parts of the instrument which produce different tones (string attacks, sound hole overtones, outer body and fretboard work for example), I could pretend I was in the venue itself. And it did the same with live concerts of various artists and genres and all of the echoing, amplification and audience presence that was there. You can picture what the room must have looked like when the recording was made.

Again, much appreciation to everyone.
Thanks for the update, Sonicray. In addition to what you described above, did you notice any improvement in the timber and harmonic complexity of instruments and improvements in musical flow (timing, rhythm, the ability to follow musical lines) with the XP20 vs the xp10?

I am considering trying an XP 20 with my 30.8.

Basis2001, Yes, it seems the XP20 takes all of what you mentioned and brings it to a noticeably higher level, although the XP10 does all of the following extremely well too. Both XP's do magic with harmonics, especially when listening to acoustic instruments which have their own characteristic blending of frequencies from within their bodies, if that makes sense. Regarding timbre, when the speakers are positioned just so, I hear what sounds through the XP20 to be virtually identical to what one would hear if a real acoustic guitar were being played, unamplified, right in front of him / her, (except of course for the dynamics of the real instrument which I hear no system has been able to reproduce perfectly). The frequencies come together to render a tone so accurate, I can identify the kind of tone woods Leo Kottke's guitar is made from for example. This speaks volumes to the tonal accuracy of Pass gear; it can sound warm, crispy, dry, sweet, lush, dark, etc., you name it, depending on the track. I can assume that many other instruments will sound very very real indeed as well, and they seem to with almost all tracks. Ok, regarding timing and rhythm, music seems to pick up extra swing with the XP20; when Sinatra sings, "Fly Me To the Moon", it takes on a larger, almost slower, deeper groove and you get caught up in that. I wanted to get up and dance to it. This is hard to describe and I hope someone with more wisdom can take it from here . . .
I have just placed an order for the Xa 100.8.
I hope i have done the right thing as i have not heard the .8 yet.