Disappointment with Pass Labs - I'm looking for something else


Hello, I am new to this forum and my mother tongue is not English, so please forgive me if I make mistakes as I use a translator.

I recently bought an XA30.8 and an XP12. I was very happy but as time went by I began to not feel comfortable with the sound.
After doing many tests, I find that the XA30.8 sounds very very sweet but actually too much. I find it to be a loosely defined amp, somewhat muddy and lacks a lot of air and grip. The soundstage is very closed.

The XP-12 is the worst of the two. It is a previous that removes a lot of resolution and information, without transient attacks and sunken mid frequencies. Instead it brings warmth.

Has anyone of you found the same?

If you ask me, I have a Klipsch Cornwall and a dCS BArtok.

Now I want a capable amp, forceful, something warm, decisive, airy and with a great soundstage.

At first I thought of changing my XA30.8 for X250.8, and changing the XP-12 for a second-hand Audio Research Ref5. I am afraid of this change and continue with Pass, since I can go back to the same thing a bit.

On the other hand I have thought of going for a Luxman 900 combo, since it has very good reviews and from what I have read it could be the winning ticket.
opm
Welcome, opm.
I'm sorry I cannot help you, I am just here to say your English is better than a lot of Americans on here.
Welcome to the forum, and I agree with thecarpathian.  

It has been my experience that all Klipsch speakers are happy with tubes. If I were you, that's where I'd start my search.

Oz



Hi opm,
I must first admit that I am very biased toward tubes. For many years, I was a dedicated single ended triode guy. Anything SS always disappointed and turned me off. Solid State still pushes me away.
After 50 years in this hobby, my final amp and preamp is Atma-Sphere. I have M-60 amps and MP-1 preamp. I suggest you read some reviews on Atma-Sphere gear. I have never read anything negative only very, very positive. Owners of Atma-Sphere are a dedicated group. And Atma-Sphere’s Ralph Karsten is a frequent and highly respected member of this Forum. You may want to give him a call. He has become my “guru” on all things audio. Every question and problem I have is immediately responded to by Ralph. I am assured that he has truly become dedicated to my enjoyment of my stereo. I have never experienced such a relationship in all my years. The normal is that a company or a dealer will be attentive as long as they can sell me something. Not Ralph. He has become a real friend. Give him a call and tell him that Mike referred you.
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Hi,

I don’t live in the USA.

I am also in the process of changing the Cornwalls. Although I am happy with them, I am looking for more definition.
Gryphon Diablo 300 integrated unless you want to go with tubes. Question is can your Klipsch handle that much power? If they can, this combination can be unbeatable within this price range.
By the way, my choice of speakers is different, so it has nothing to do with my set up. I would probably choose Soulution or D'Agostino for myself.
Well, you could consider D'Agostino too, I suppose.
Japanese transistors make no sense to me at this level. They are nice and all but they got no real dynamics and bite.
Try Gryphon and D'Agostino.
Jump on d'Agostiono  mono blocks ASAP!!!!!
Thank you for your advices. D'agostino is a lot of money for me, I can't reach them. Outside the USA it is very very expensive.

Gryphon Diablo is much more accessible, especially in Europe and Soulution has a distributor nearby.

Can you elaborate on Gryphon or Soulution?
Get a KT88-powered tube amp.
The only tube amplification that I have liked is the Jadis 120 monophonic blocks. Really brutal, an incredible push, an incredible detail recovery. But they have a problem, that they make a lot of noise while they are silent. Changing all the tubes is a lot of money.
Hi @opm
I think the Pass Labs X250.8 / AR 5SE combo might work very nicely for you. I had the exact set up. Very airy, pungent and natural sound. Not too sweet. I don’t like too sweet either. The X250.8/XP-22 was a great combo as well, but if I was to go back now, I would gravitate towards the AR 5SE.

If you are really considering a tube amp(s), the Balanced Audio Technology tube amps are fantastic!

Good luck.
30 watts is 30 watts. That being said, Pass is not the weak link. But 30 watts might be.. Just about zero in overhead.

I think with 40-80 watts A/B with 6L6 or KT88 valves you might really like it.. Because I’m a Mac guy and have heard just about every Klipsch ever made on them.. I say you picked the wrong amp.. plane and simple..

No El34, that won't work WELL, wonderful mids and highs. I use them with VERY efficient speakers, but NEVER bass duty.. KT88. 90, 120, 6L6 great bass..

It (the Pass) requires a VERY good speaker.  It would push a Tekton all over the place. Really not the other way around. A certain kind of amp will work better for the Klipsch. A MC240. a pair MC60s or MC275, would REALLY liven those speakers UP...

An A/B Pass would do it. 60-100 watts look out.. No class A, wrong kind of speaker.. Maybe 10-15 watts of A, BUT total of 60 - 100 watts at 8 - 16 ohms.

A MC240 all dolled up at 8 or 16 ohms will whip the pants off that Pass, I assure you on Just about any horn, like Klipsch or JBL.. They were made for each other... No need to reinvent the wheel.. A MC60 or 275 would match the SQ but NEVER run out of gas. SO in reality at higher volumes the Macs would outperform the 30 watter hands down.. I love Jensen Imperial too, just magic..

IF I was pushing a monitor section (no bass). That PASS, would be my go to amp, in a medium size room..
I just don’t like the price.. Though I love his products.. it's not uncommon to see 40K+ attached to PASS. No thanks.. They have NEVER EVER been that good.. LOL
YET I just sold a MC225 that I paid 1100.00 for (15 years ago) 3100.00 + Go figure.. Where will Pass be in 60 years?

Regards
sorry but i find mac electronics terrible. I've been listening to the mc275s and I didn't like them at all. they had little delicacy compared to Pass.
I suggest settling on your speakers before doing anything else.
I think the Pass Labs X250.8 / AR 5SE combo might work very nicely for you

that is an option
I am a much bigger fan of Luxman than I am of Pass.

Another really good, but different sounding, solid state amp you might want to listen to is Ayre.
I suggest settling on your speakers before doing anything else.
I guess that's what I'll do I have heard some impressive Usher BE10s although it is not exactly what I am looking for and the second hand price is very good.

also, I wanted to talk about electronics Luxman, Gryphon or Sooulution .....
I am a much bigger fan of Luxman than I am of Pass.

Another really good, but different sounding, solid state amp you might want to listen to is Ayre.
could you describe the differences?
Well OP that says it all for me.. You enjoy what ever you dig up..
Klipsch are not know for their razor sharp imaging, lol they are Klipsch after all. They were actually made for each other. Mac and Klipsch.
It’s not the match that’s the issue.. It’s what you think you can get out of THAT speaker. .WITHOUT the right gear I just offered what was actually made for them.

There are a couple more..

You say you have 1/2 the fix and say you don’t like a product..

The Preamp is your biggest problem, you have to have tone control with a Mac, and their older valve amps, they are made for each other. AGAIN, just like the Klipsch. with NO tone control, won’t work...correctly. 1/2 the gear, = unhappy no problem, as you see.. Together MAGIC.. 50 years with Mac, JBL, Klipsch, VMPS.

Mac and JBL Everest series.. In my dreams..

I KNOW a C20 or C22, a MC240,60,275,40,75, would straighten the whole mess up.. Just all mixed up on gear, to tell the truth.. I was trying to be nice..

Pass and Klipsch.. Water and oil, without tone control.  A Luxman with tone control, HIGH quality gear. Fair price!
Good choice.

Regards
I found my sound with Ayre. If you haven't heard, suggest you check out.  You will know if it's right for you.  IMO, sonics that incorporate the best of tube/solid state sound in an innovative and beautiffuly made (in the USA) package.
A few options...Check out the Art Audio Opus 4.  Tom designs all of his amps to work with horns as the core offerings are 300Bs and he is highly conscientious in terms of noise.  The Opus 4 is a KT88 based unit and his gear will compare with Jadis.  Would be brilliant with a DM VPS preamp.  

For Class A, check out Sugden.  Not huge power but very good sound and you don't need huge power.  Only issue is that it is also Class A and may be more of the same. 

AVM...the SA6.2 and PA5.2 would be a good match. the PA5.2 has a tube input stage and offers a little bit of sweetness while the SA6.3 is a warm class AB and will give you plenty of slam and refined bass without being bright.  


I used tubes, pass, threshold, mac and more with my cornwalls and just never was totally content.  Swapped out the klipsch for Coincident and have been delighted since.  Kkipsch can be awesome but not all of the time for everything.
Have you tried removing the preamp and driving the power amp direct from the Bartok?
Yes. in fact it is how I currently have it. more resolution, more dynamic, more clarity but less warmth and depth
I'd get rid of the Klipsch speakers before I'd get rid of the Pass gear.  And I like and own Klipsch speakers.
Correcto. Creo que es el paso más sensato. aun así, la serie xa tiene serios problemas de fuerza y ​​definición.
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I'm with @unsound.  This conversation is not worthwhile if you're changing speakers.  System synergy is the critical factor.  I've heard gear sound terrible on one system and spectacular on another.  

Once you buy new speakers, start a new thread and ask for recommendations.  Then send that list to the speaker manufacturer and ask if they've got any favorites from the list, or any others you should really audition.  I don't think enough people use their manufacturers' knowledge to maximize their outcomes.
I have Cornwall IVs paired with a PrimaLuna EVO 400 integrated...it’s a match made in heaven if you ask me.
what version of Cornwall's do you have? if its the older ones that's probably your issue they were not great at detail. if its the mk4's I'd suggest a Tube amp like the LTA linier tube audio, Finale Audio /Triode labs. Luxman is another good suggestion I'd stick with their class A amps though. 

 you do not need the power of those big Pass amps X250.8 waist of money regardless of what others here say. the heritage line are quite efficient and do not need a lot of power to come alive.

I've had Heresy 3, Cornwall 3, and now LaScala's all similar and all very good with the right amplifiers. if you have older Cornwall's i recommend you look at upgrading the crossover to bring the crossover point down to 4500hz from the 6khz you will need to upgrade the tweeter as well if you go this way. google Bob Crites for more information on Klipsch upgrades, there's others but he seems to be the most common and reasonable  pricing.  the new ones have this already. 

I've tried some M60 Atmas-phere amps and they are lovely but for high efficiency i found them a little noisy could have been tubes though.





@cal3713  is right on.  I think system building starts with the speaker choice and the room you're putting them in.  That determines so much of the sound signature you are going to live with, for the most part.  And then you need to find a great amp to mate with those speakers.

I owned the Pass XA30.8, too, and I came to precisely the same conclusion that you did.  Too over-warm and a bit vague sounding, just like a blanket was thrown over the music, IME.  It, of course, didn't sing with my primary speakers, TAD CR-1's (not a happy pairing at all, and under-powered), but I also didn't like my very high efficiency Teresonic Ingenium Silvers (the reason I tried the Pass), for the reasons you find.  And I would note that both of these speaker options come from my "up front / bit brighter" camp, which would normally be a better match for a warmer amp.  The Pass just doesn't fill the bill.

I now have a Luxman M900u, and it has the attributes you say you are seeking - - a lot of definition, wondrous soundstaging, while still retaining a smidge of warmth.  And they do have plenty of drive, their Japanese pedigree aside (where did that blanket statement above come from?!).  However, I honestly can't see it with the Klipsch.  But since you're going to throw everything up in the air with a speaker change, I've offered my amp comparison, FYI.
Just get the NAD M33 Integrated, streaming 200 wpc amp with Dirac Live room correction as well as tone controls and balance control.  Simplicity in a revolutionary, distortion free amp.
Agree with mglik- AtmaSphere and Ralph rock😎
If you are after the Pass Labs sound and you are not happy with the XA30.8 then I’d thoroughly recommend the XA25 as a cheaper alternative. I sold my XA30.8 and bought an XA25 for a similar reason to the OP. I felt that as nice as the XA30.8 was, it was too warm and it didn’t have tight enough bass. The XA25 has that Class A relaxed sound but it coupled with a lower noise floor and high levels of speaker control (lower output impedance). It also has fairly similar power output to the XA30.8 (Stereophile measured 90 watts into 8 ohms). Pure Class-A extends to about 25 watts which is similar figure to the XA30.8 from memory.
It also weighs about half as much so you won’t get a hernia lifting it (ask me how I know)......
Also, if you did buy the XA25 you still really don’t like the Pass Labs preamp, I’d heartily recommend the PS Audio BHK Preamp. I use mine with Telefunken tubes and it is sublime.
I find that the XA30.8 sounds very very sweet but actually too much. I find it to be a loosely defined amp, somewhat muddy and lacks a lot of air and grip. The soundstage is very closed.
If this is your experience with the pass xa30.8, you either got a bad sample of the amp or it’s your speakers.  My pass xa30.8 into harbeth 30.2s is the exact opposite of what you describe.  Pinpoint imaging, precision, tight bass, glorious soundstage.  Damping factor is healthy 150 I believe.
I’m going with a push pull tube amp next, but not because of any real deficiencies with the pass. Just looking for a different sound.  

I am surprised.

You will be really hard pressed to find anything better than the Pass Labs (maybe I am biased, I listened to many, Pass just not only killed them, it demolished them).

But then again, I guess it is your money.  Audition before you buy.

I agree with some of the above, the problem isn’t Pass, it’s the synergy with the rest of your gear. Several reviews mention though the XA30.8 to be similar to your description, and in head to head reviews, the XA25 wins in most areas. It also hits way above its rated output. Having said that, Pass amps do have a character all their own, the .5’s the .8s and now the XA25 all have their own characteristics. Here is an excellent paper on where Nelson is leaning these days... the XA25 is mentioned.

https://www.firstwatt.com/pdf/art_the_square_law.pdf
The 30.8 is NOT a 30 watt amp.  It is 30 watts of class A, but goes well beyond 30 watts.  It has lots of headroom.  If you are lacking definition and if it sounds muddy, I would say the speakers are what is causing your issue, not the Pass.
OP you're not alone in your findings, the longest running thread on here by a member that buys and tests some of the world's best gear said the Pass preamp was the worst he has had in his system.
You should check out the SIM audio Evolution, absolutely gorgeous sounding equipment but very pricey.
voy a aclarar las cosas.
Sé perfectamente cómo son los Cornwalls III: grandes, dinámicos, cálidos pero no tienen definición.

el pase 30.8 también sé cómo es, pero en comparación con otros amplificadores es vago y carece de autoridad.

Sé que si quiero más definición tengo que cambiar los altavoces, pero cuando he probado otras amplificaciones he descubierto que mejoraba la autoridad, la claridad y el aire. Con todo, los Cornwalls volvieron a la vida y fueron más vibrantes. con el pase es ultra dulce y muy agradable pero es aburrido, sobre todo con el xp12.
I now have a Luxman M900u, and it has the attributes you say you are seeking - - a lot of definition, wondrous soundstaging, while still retaining a smidge of warmth. And they do have plenty of drive, their Japanese pedigree aside (where did that blanket statement above come from?!). However, I honestly can't see it with the Klipsch. But since you're going to throw everything up in the air with a speaker change, I've offered my amp comparison, FYI.
I appreciate your appreciations
First, Pass labs amps take at least 200hrs. to sound their best. How many hours do you have listening to music? Have you set a counting timer to keep track? A friend once told me that he listened to music about a 100hrs. a month i loaned him my timer to see exactly how long he did listen to music each month and it was not 100hrs. but 60hrs. so as Pass amp would take him three and a half months to get sounding it`s best.

Don`t throw in the towel too fast with the Pass equipment i have heard the 30.8 sounding great with none of the issues you describe, personally i own the XA25 which to me is the best of tubes and SS.

I`m not a fan of your speakers which i once owned for several years for me they left a lot to be desired. A nice pair of Watt Puppy`s 5.1 and up or Devore Nines sound magical with Pass and can be found in the price range that you sell your Cornwalls for.
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If you do go with the Pass X250 and AR Ref 5 pre ... take a close look at the gain matching. I have Pass XA 60.8, AR Ref 6 and Avantgarde UNO speakers.  The I love the sound of my setup but I can’t turn the volume control past 5 without blowing my ceiling off (so to speak).  I had to add attenuators.

One other thought, if the new speaker you find has a powered woofer you may not need to change your amp.
I’m currently running a Bartok direct into Pass XA25 and it is not loosely controlled or overly sweet. Sound very fast, transparent and neutral to me. Maybe not warm though. Excellent soundstage air and detail. It’s all personal taste of course but it may be the speakers. Or cabling?
I would very much like to be able to test the Xa25. You in the USA have it very easy because the manufacturers offer demos at home but in Europe it is not like that.
The wiring is not the problem.