Does anyone own the Pass Labs X1 preamp?

There is almost NO discussion of this pre on Audiogon. Archives are bare bones.
Some earlier threads, not sure where I read them, suggest the X1 is a little thin in the mid range. This is not saying that it is not good though, the X1 is extremely transparent and matches well with warm amps (especially Pass) and speakers. I've heard the X0 and they give a wonderful and open soundstage.
The Absolute Sound's Tony Cordesman did a review of the X-1 and the XOno phono stage awhile back. He found the X-1 to almost as good as its big brother, the X0. A friend has an X1 and is is not thin in the midrange at all. We have compared his X1 to my X0 and they are real close. Since I have upgraded to the X0.2, the gap between the two preamps has widened considerably.

What amps are you planning on using it with.
Currently I have Krell amplification. Not exactly the standard for warm. My goal for my system is (1) to improve resolution and detail (it is already EXTREMELY good at this), I want to hear instruments and voices individually - [well enough to score the music]- and (2) to hear each instrument sound naturally as it should. As I pursue these goals, world class soundstaging has been an automatic fringe benefit.

I have listened to tubes. Much to love here, but no sale so far. I would really like a solid state pre - but edgy is out. The pass labs X1 is in my price range, and I hoped might provide the resolution, separation between instruments and natural accuracy I want but without glare. The X0, is out of my price range.

Thanks for any feedback you can provide.
I think the Krells matched to the Pass would be OK, but not exactly synergestic.

A good interim between tube and solid state is the Herron preamp, a tube heart but the soul of a solid state (did I really just write that?). Tight bass, fast transients, and liquid like mids and highs without the dark signature of tubes.

If it means anything to you, TAS, Ultimate, Listener, and Stereophile all have voted for the Herron.

Good luck. (It's about $2,000 used)
Switching to a Spectral preamp (DMC-30S) from a Sonic Frontiers Line 3 made a significant difference in the two areas that you mention. The Spectral is much faster, more transparent, and very free of distortion. I didn't realize how grainy the sound of the Line 3 was until I replaced it with the Spectral preamp. More significant improvements came when I switched from a Krell FPB-300 amp to a Spectral DMA-150Mk2 amp.

Switching to Spectral components brought significant improvements in resolution, clarity, separation between instruments, and natural accuracy. You should definitely look into a Spectral preamp -- and possibly even a Spectral amp.
With all due respect, I don't see what a plug for Spectral has to do with an inquiry about Pass Labs?


Quin - Read Judit's post on 9/22. Note the use of Krell amps and the goals that Judit listed. I achieved EXACTLY those goals when adding the Spectral preamp (while still using my Krell amp).

Also, Judit mentions "I have listened to tubes. Much to love here, but no sale so far. I would really like a solid state pre - but edgy is out." To me that sounded like an open door for other recommendations particularly since Judit closes by saying "Thanks for any feedback you can provide."

Quin, I have at least attempted to provide some value. Your post doesn't offer much of anything. What do you recommend?

I guarantee you that Judit would be DELIGHTED with a Spectral preamp -- I certainly have been delighted with mine. (I couldn't resist sneaking in another plug for Spectral.) :-)

Hi Ken,

Nonetheless, he started the thread inquiring about the Pass Labs X1. "Does Anyone Own the Pass Labs X1 preamp?"

Since you apparently do not, then plugging Spectral(twice) seems quite deviant from the initial inquiry. :-)

Having some experience with Pass Labs products, I would politely suggest that the X1, utilizing the Supersymmetric gain topology that Pass uses in their X power amps, offers a dynamic, transparent, and musical presentation. It has plenty of gain (sometimes too much for sensitive speakers), excellent instrument placement in the soundstage, and a lively characteristic that is quite faithful to the source information presented to it. Combining the Pass with the Krell would enhance the bottom end slam that K is known for, allowing also for excellent control of the lower registers. Plus, the X1 is airy enough and somewhat less analytical than the Krell preamps, so it might ease the Krell as would a tube without compromising dynamics, and certainly without any of the maintenance issues.
The Supersymmetric circuit topology that Pass uses effectively reduces noise and distortion by an order of magnitude compared to other such gain circuits. This allows for very fast transients and explosive peaks.


How expensive is the Spectral DMC30S?
The DMC-30S lists for $6500. It is just slightly more expensive than the X1, which lists for $5990.
This is just my opinion so please bear with me. But I have heard several all spectral set-ups in an ultra-high end store and yes they are very transparent and offer high resolution, but I found them very dry, analytical and non-musical. It might have been the associated components, but I did not like them at all-I prefered Pass and Rowland. Again, JMHO
I had never considered Spectral myself because of hearing other opinions similar to yours Platsolos. What changed my mind was hearing a Spectral system at Overture in DE. That system was anything by dry and non-musical. As a result I couldn't help but to purchase a system for myself. I can say for sure that my system is more musical now than ever.

The Spectral stuff is very revealing of what is going on upstream. Bad sounding CDs and LPs sound a bit worse than they did with my previous system. Use of compression on recordings, for example, is much more noticable (and more annoying).

On the plus side though, recordings that previously sounded just average have taken on new life. Removing the layer of noise that was present in my other components has allowed me to better appreciate the sound of average recordings.

I would imagine that Spectral might not be everyone's cup of tea. I do think though that their stuff is worthy of an audition. JMHO

Quinn, your X-1 review was right on. Keith Yates is a renowned designer for big bucks theater systems and always has an eye open for the best. This is what he has said about Nelson Pass products:

"I typically specify the speakers, subs and processors that go into my
projects. I'm increasingly being called on to spec the power amps and
source components, too.

Pass Labs, in my opinion Nelson Pass is the only real genius circuit
designer in high-end audio. There are a few others whose parts- and
build-quality are at least as good (Burmester and Rowland come first to
mind, and maybe Spectral, Levinson and Boulder, too), but no one
combines execution and sheer circuit-inspiration as completely as

Gotta put a plug in in for the SF Line 3. It doesn't sound at all grainy to me. Not saying that it is the best tube preamp but it definitely is on the short list of the most for the money tube preamp. The only complaint that I have is that it doesn't have quite enough gain to drive my Bryston 4BST when using the digital TV box for a source. OK, I know that I am off topic and will get back to the thread. From looking at Pass Lab's specs and reviewing owners comments one thing that stands out is that NOBODY complains about the Pass Labs products performance. It looks like state of the art SS to me. If you buy the X1 then you probably will have no complaints.
I owned the Pass X1 for about a year, then sold it. Not because I disliked it, but I wanted to get away from using any preamp, and rely instead on my CDP's volume control. The X1 is very transparent, slightly lean/dry in the mids, very tight in the bass, and highly refined in the treble. Soundstage is just what's in the source, no more or less. I prefered X1 to comparably-priced preamps like ARC LS-25 and Levinson 380S. But if your system is already analytical, the X1 may take it over the top. Really should try it out if possible....