HELP ADVICE FEEDBACK PS Audio BHK 300 - Hegel H30 - Pass Labs X250.8 or Pass X350.5 amp


HELP ADVICE - FEEDBACK - PS Audio BHK 300's or Hegel H30 or Pass Labs X250.8 or keep my current Pass Labs X350.5 - Considering amp options

There is a strong PS Audio sale going on right now and a dealer just reached out to me from a conversation we were  having a couple weeks ago when I was looking to change my preamp.

I ended up trading my BAT VK-32SE preamp for Mark Levinson No.326s preamp.

All that said it has me considering doing an amp change also but I must admit I really like my currant amp the Pass Labs X350.5 amp but you know how it is. If I can upgrade then I would like to do just that. 

ANY FEEDBACK - THOUGHTS - IDEAS would be so appreciated.

I am in the middle of total system re-fit and have made many changes - I am sure too many but I am quite happy now but this PS Audio sale has peaked my interest. It has lead me to really considering the Hegel to be honest. That is the direction I am thinking and would love some feedback.  

Can you guys provide any feedback about any of these. I like to hear from you guys. I read all the reviews on all of these are all well and good but I always get the real ho-down low-down from you guys - good or bad.

                                                ** Back Ground info**

** Room is
14 x 24 w/Cathedral Ceilings - 16 Foot a peak

** Music likes:
Assorted Music no metal or loud hard rock anymore really - not much Large Scale classical either but everything else.

** Likes / Priority:
Transparency - Delicate - Linear - High resolution - microscope but not sterile not etched or lifeless - I know there is a fine Line here but I'm looking to walk the line as close as I can - real see through into the music - transparent to the source because I love my DAC - extended and to remove as many layers without being clinical - image and sound stage lover - tight bass - hate flab - like speed and transparency but needs to be musical.

** Perspective
Just traded my BAT VK-32SE brand new tubes / certified pre-owned, mint same as new preamp. Wrong match. Just looking to go total other way. Not what I was looking for. The Mark Levinson No.326s preamp is the newest addition to land on next Wednesday.

** More Perspective - I have been running my Bricasti Direct M1SE to my Pass Labs X350.5 amps and really starting to love it. I want to expand on this sound a bit. Little more depth, width of stage, bass, dynamics but don't want to add veils or give up a lot in transparency - I know I will give up some vs direct in doing so. That was why I was looking for the very best SS preamp I could get in my price range via trade and cash.That was why I landed on the Levinson but we shall see how all the pares out. 

I wanted some feedback on these amps.

I have heard the Hegel and with Magico speakers and loved it. Not in my system but it was the H30 and Magico S5 Speakers and the same Kubula-Sosna Emotion speaker cables and I loved it. Obviously tons of other variables, room, source, IC's PC's but I did get to hear it and absolutely loved it.

Wasn't really even looking at changing my amp and not sure i will but that PS Audo BHK offer peaked my interest so these are the amp options I am considering and would love any and all feedback. 

I get there are a lot of changes and probably too many but it is what it is so please I understand that. 


System:
https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/5160

Magico S5 Loud Speakers

Bricasti M1 Special Edition DSD DAC

Pass Labs X350.5 Balanced Stereo Amplifier

Mark Levinson No.326s Preamp

PS Audio P10 Power Plant Regenerator

Kubala-Sosna Emotion 2.5M Speaker Cables

Nordost Heimdall 2 Balanced XLR Interconnects 

Assorted premium PC's for clean power

Digital PC based front end that I have been tweaking and evolving:

Transport: microRendu 1.4 and Full Suite of UpTone Audio Premium Power Supplies (2)x LPS-1 and (1) JS2 LPS - (2) Regens - the new ISO and an Amber and all powered with premium/custom Canare / Oyide DC cables for all power supplies plus the great Tellurium Q Black Diamond Reference USB cable and a Curious Regen Link USB Cable.  

Really appreciate any help you can provide on these amps. If you would like more info please let me know - all comments and feedback are most welcome and deeply appreciated :)


Thanks guys/gals

Fsmithjack
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Zero chance I'd trade the 350.5 for either of those.  I wouldn't do anything until you get your preamp into the system.
Thanks !!! I remember hearing the H30 and loved it but you know that goes. Different system - room - source - different time - etc. thanks for your feedback. You’ve been super helpful! 
The Mark Levinson No.326s preamp is the newest addition to land on next Wednesday.
+1 @hk_fan . I wouldn't do anything until the dust settles on your preamp change.

From what you describe, the only change that may intrigue me is the X350.5 to the X250.8. I say this because the newer .8 series of Pass Labs amps are a bit more resolving and transparent than the older .5 series. Now some folks like that, and some folks prefer the richer, fuller sound of the .5 series.
Since you seem to be looking for more resolution, perhaps the X250.8 is just the ticket.

Again, though, I would wait until after the dust settles with the ML 326S.
When I was thinking about replacing my Jeff Rowland 625 S2 amplifier, I had a home audition of the PS Audio BHK 300 mono-amps. To my ears, in my system with the BHK 300s I lost detail, spacing, and the soundstage collapsed. The Rowland just sounds natural and live in comparison to the BHK. That being said, there are no absolutes in Audio, only preferences! You may love it in your system.
The Nordost Heimdall 2 Balanced XLR Interconnects should be replaced with something higher up the Nordost line assuming you like the Nordost sound in your system. I suggest Tyr 2 or Valhalla 2.

I would not change my amps until my cable were able to properly resolve the differences.
I wish I could buy those IC’s. The cables I have are fine though for now. I have Siltech - Verestarr - Nordost Valhalla 1, Nordost Quattro Fil, Nordost Buldur, and a bunch of others. The Heimdall 2 are better than the Valhalla 1, thicker, Fuller, richer maybe not a resolved but close and the Verastarr is better than them all but single ended. I believe in Cables and have a lot of money invested in my assorted group but I would need to sell my Pre and amp just to buy those cables. I am targeting Kubala-Sonna Emotion IC’s XLR but I buy my all cables used due to financial reasons such as they are 50% to 60% to 70% off which is substantially less money used and already broken in.

There are a couple nice pairs of Emotions out there but they are single ended and Pass and any fully balanced component really is much better with XLR Cables. If I just sat and waited for a certain cable to show up Used that would be no fun. All that said if a nice pair of Ty2 XLR showed up for a good price I would jump on them. 

Also, if the IC’s are that much of an upgrade then they will upgrade a better amp as well. Rather put my limited funds into gear but I do respect the IC’s just on the look out for a good used pair is all.


Pass X250.8 over the X350.5 .  not familiar with the others
Just thinking out loud... If you have extra funds for another upgrade maybe instead of an amp find a way to get a listen of the Luxman 900 PRE in your system. I have a feeling if you hear it in your system you will find a way to trade up for it.   : )

I have a second option for you also...
(((Pass Labs X350.5 amplifier with input Impedance 30k ohms Balanced or 20k ohms Single ended*)))

I think you should at least try listening to an Ayre KX5/20 Line stage. Its got a way more sophisticated volume control than anything above and it will drive your existing amps input imp properly Imho will easily outplay the Levenson with enjoying music, and great product support
 JohnnyR
 Audio Connection
Have you considered trying a Devialet amp?  I'll admit I wasn't a fan of an all in one setups and didn't care that much for their phantom speakers, but I came across a used one for a good price about two months ago and figured I'd be able to sell it for the same price I got it for.  Within 2 weeks I listed my 2 mc275s, c22, chord hugo 2 for sale and I didn't even hesitate.  I currently have the Blade 2's and a devialet D400 and I've just ordered the D1000.   Doesn't hurt also that my electric bill has dropped significantly...the d400 draws about 30 watts under load.

I've always been intrigued by the Magico's and thought they are a really great looking speaker and of superb build quality - probably nicer build quality than the Blades.  I've had my Blade's for about a year (evolved from LS50, to Reference 1s to Blade 2s) and I absolutely love them.  They really do disappear and it is very difficult to position the speakers with your eyes closed.  Hearing they require hundreds of hours of breaking sounds bogus to me - why would they ever stop breaking in then?  Why do all speakers seem to get better with breakin time?  Are there any speakers that get worse?  Seems to me like it's more getting used to a particular speaker signature just like you get used to living in a new place.  The blades took a few positioning tweaks adjustments over a few days when I got them new, but no break in time for me.
Nice - sounds like a great set up you have.

i have not tried or considered one of those amps but have heard great things about them.

I’m not sure what the KEF Uses for Caps but I think Conrad Johnson said it best. Lew would say “ I have no idea why our preamps sound better after a few hundred hours but they do.” Maybe the Caps forming and breaking in or the wires or transformers or boards or who knows really? The ears make those calls. I myself do not pretend have enough knowledge about all of the technical stuff but from talking to Nelson Pass where we can measure everything but can’t say something measuring great will actually sound better to the human brain verse something else that doesn’t.

All those old Carver $200 amps measure really well and in some cases better than his .8 amps and does anyone think for a second those amps sound better than his new Pass amps. He measures to get everything in line and close and finishes by ear as many but not all do. Ironically I think Magico is more prone to follow the measurements much more closely but I also think amps and speakers are quite different.

The reason I believe or rather know break in really matters is because I hear it with my own ears. That’s the best way in my opinion to decide on anything by seeing, hearing, tasting, feeling or smelling something ourselves. Once we do that we don’t need someone’s opinion about any of those things as we just experience it ourselves and no one can explain to you how something tastes verse actually tasting it yourself.

Fist hand tangible - actual experience is where it’s in my opinion but again that’s just my take. Maybe other people taste food but don’t want to decide what they think until they hear from others first. That’s certainly not my take on things but I respect people wanting to live their lives the way they want. That’s what everything is all about really. 

Someone can state that’s not what I’m hearing and I’m not arguing so I’ll say ok and then think to myself how can someone else even pretend to tell me what I hear but to each there own. This is in general not toward you. Speaking generally about the idea or concept of breakin.

That’s awesome you didn’t need any break in I’ve heard that from others as well which is cool. That’s what you hear which makes sense to me for sure.

Thanks for your feedback.

For what’s its worth I pulled the trigger on the Hegel H30 amplifier. Yeah probably should have waited until I got my ML Pre but I buy my gear used so need to pull trigger when the deal available - don’t aways get to chose or dictate the time line so must make those calls on the fly and my gut said go so I went. We shall see. New pre and amp coming.

Out goes the BAT VK-32SE 
In comes: Mark Levinson No.326s

Out goes: Pass Labs X350.5 
In comes: Hegel H30 

We shall see. I’m trying to get closer to the music. More transparency, more vivid, higher resolution, more dynamic, more clarity, more bass control and nuance and detail down low but also must be smooth with no etch or sterile or white wash or chalk.

I’m hoping Levinson and Hegel combo provide that over BAT and Pass but we shall see. I actually preferred my Bricasti direct way more than with the BAT so at worst I’m hoping I like Bricasti direct to Hegel over direct to Pass. Or better yet like Levinson / Hegel over Bricasti direct to Pass but we shall see. 

Appreciate the comments and feedback.


All that matters is that you can tell the difference.  Wish there were more blind tests done, but I don't doubt given there are moving parts that things can change.  Enjoy!
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I think like most things the actual truth is probably somewhere in the middle give or take a bit each way. We staunch break-in believers more than likely attach more to break-in when many other factors im sure are contributing overall. Like our brains acclimating to the new and different sound im sure plays are larger roll than we can understand or appreciate I'm sure.

I'm excited to try this new Hegel H30 amp. 

I have made plenty of mistakes and part of the fun for me is my not worrying about making the mistakes. Well as long as the new buys are grounded in relative, data driven, intelligent purchase decisions. Obviously buying used allows this bring em in and if not what I was hoping move them out approach possible.

I know today it is not nearly as easy to do as it was a decade ago but still if one is patient it can work. Moreover, the opposite it true also (me doing an amp deal before even getting to hear my pre with old amp) as I must be willing to jump early. I think both patience and the willingness to jump when not ready is what can allow the coming and goings possible with regards to making audio mistakes and keeping them form becoming monetary mistakes. 

The goal is getting closer to the music but also making what I think is informed decisions without fear of being wrong. 

My thinking was this at this point. I am looking to push and get a bit closer to the music while not getting to close so to say. We are always looking for the equilibrium. Some warmth but not too warm as we don't want to loose that detail. Immediate but not in your face. We want that depth but not too far back. We want to lighten up with entire stage without being too bright. Liquid but not too smooth. A dap of coolness for the detail but not being clinical. We all know there is no free lunch and synergy is key to oh so many moving parts before we even consider break-in and the like.

I've been looking for a pre but in a certain price range. If money was no object things would be much easier but still not easy.

So the Pass X350.5 is known as a warm, powerful and beautiful sounding amp. An excellent amp in any event. 

The Levinson No.326s is a very good solid state preamp but the knock on it seems to be its known to be a little laid back and not the most vivid or exciting but it excels at most everything else.

It seems if your system is already a bit warm and could use a little infusion of vividness or immediacy then thing pre will not push it forward but it is otherwise thought of very fondly. Much of it is like the great No.32 preamp which most everyone loves.

My thought with the Hegel H30 is to get an amp that is a bit more immediate, dynamic, transparent and a bit more more resolving and this may match the Levinson No.326s a bit better and I maybe able to get a bit closer to that elusive equilibrium we all are looking for.

Sure it is tough to part with the outstanding and beautiful sounding Pass X350.5 but you know the saying - no pain no gain so I'm taking a shot. The safe would be to keep the gorgeous sounding X350.5. 

Trust me I don't claim to be some expert that has all the answers. I am the exact opposite. Not on purpose but I understand but I'm really just sort of just throwing darts but honestly unless you hear in your own system with your own gear that's really all any if us are really doing. I'm trying to do in a way that if it doesn't work well then bring on the next one but I hope it does as I keep learning and hope I score on a much higher percentage of these shots!  Thats may take anyways...

    
Got the Mark Levinson No.326s preamp today. Wow what an upgrade. It’s really my first reall good solid state Preamp. I’ve had tons tube preamps and loved most of them in my other systems but what a nice add this Preamp was.

What I like the most is that it took what I liked most about running my Bricasti direct and really improved upon that. Very nice. I had a quite a few people say this or that about this Preamp but it’s quite vivid and impressive. People stated it’s sort of laid back but not in my system. Hope it matches his well with the Hegel H30. If not serves me right for pulling trigger on an amp deal before hearing this match because it’s an excellent match! Made the Pass X350.5 less warm and more linear - go figure! 
You would get a ton of bang-for-the-buck improvement if you upgraded your microRendu to a SOtM SMS-200 Ultra with tX-USB Ultra and master reference clock like the Mutec Ref10.
Really ??? I thought with LPS-1 x 2 and JS2 and ISO Regen I was in good shape? Been considering a Sonic Transporter I7 because I’m fixing to add the Bricasti M1SE Ethernet player upgrade media player they just released. He’s still working out the Roon bugs and it’s mainly just a JRiver unit now but Brian is close - just finishing up firmware - I use JRiver now which is fine - I have both - think JRiver sounds better. Is that an upgrade you made? Thanks 
Guys - getting used to my new Mark Levinson No.326s Preamp. Still getting familiar with it but this is an outstanding preamp.

Some people told me it was a decent preamp but it was sort of laid back and not super exciting? I don't hear that at all.

This to me in my system is Vivid, Relaxed, Dynamic and a very Transparent device that is refined and sophisticated at a level I just wasn't ready for. I mean for its price it should be outstanding but was sort of hedging my expectations and am quite happy now so color me impressed.

I mean most of this pre is based on the No.32 so it that alone should make it great and according to ML says it is much better sounding then the No.32 because it uses more modern parts and improve technology but I wasn't buying any of that. The 32 is a world beater and much more money but if it got close I would be happy. Well I am quite happy!  

Just goes to show its good to get feedback and as much info as you can but then one must go into it with an open mind and open ears because system matching is so different among different systems you have to hear for yourself. This is a great pre.

I was thinking it was going to be similar to the excellent and always over-performing Ayre K-5xeMP. I loved this Ayre preamp and still do and for their used prices it is one of the best preamp values going but this Levinson in on another planet which = :)
Thanks! for the pre-amp update fsmithjack.
Happy Listening!