Help with Preamp selection


Hello Everyone, I am building a new system and I am having a hard time with selecting a preamp to be paired with my Pass Labs XA-30.5 Class A amp. I am no audio engineer and to be honest I really don't know what to make of all the specifications. I have read where the Pass amp like low input gain from a pre-amp but other than that I am unsure what else to look for. I definitely want a pre-amp with balanced inputs and outputs so I can experience everything the balanced PASS labs has to offer. I am leaning towards solid state vs tubes only because their seems to be more balanced offerings and less maintenance.

My budget is $1000-$2000 for a used or new unit. Here are some of the choices I have been mulling over:
1. Wyred 4 Sound STP SE
2. Lower end Ayre Unit (This is $3500 new but have seen as low as $2K on used market
3. Parasound JC-2 (out of my range even used)
4. Cary Audio SL-100 (New)
5. Audio Research (So many units to choose from would be interested if they are in price range)
6. Jolida Fusion

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Lastly - any recommendations on budget speaker cable and interconnects? I am looking for well made but at a reasonable price. Budget for 10' speaker cables $200-$250 and XLR connectors $100-$150.

Thanks in advance for your responses.
Neil
nmiller1202
Given your budget, I would go with the Wyred 4 Sound, because it has a passive mode. If you had a higher budget, then maybe go with something else that's active.
Grace Design M920. Excellent headphone amp on board. Excellent DAC on board. Remote available. Full complement of digital inputs and two analog inputs, one balanced and one RCA. NO PHONO input. Can be purchased on line through pro audio sources. Priced way below any competition you can find.
I would second the W4S STP SE at this point in time as I am on a similar journey.

I run an W4S ST1000 amp and have tried in home auditions of an ARC LS26 and Rogue Magnum 99 with it and feel that the W4S STP SE is better than those two. I think that it has a lower noise floor.

One thing that I thought was telling is that I have tried Classe CAM 200 monoblocks with the STP SE and I could hear the difference compared to the W4S amp. The Classe monoblocks have a very low noise floor. My point is that the W4S preamp allowed this to come through and be heard.
Would be helpful to know what aspects of sound reproduction are most important to you, what preamp you're replacing, and what you're looking to improve.

You should shoot for a minimum of a ratio of 10:1 between the input impedance of your amp and the output impedance of the preamp, and preferably higher.

Last thought -- given the price level of your components you might be under spending on the cables and interconnects. Would be a shame to possibly compromise the performance of all your $$$ electronics with cheap wires. Personally I'd go to the level of something like Acoustic Zen Satori cables and Silver Reference interconnects, used of course. Lots of other good options out there too.

All that said, there is a Pass Labs X1 preamp for sale here now that's in your price range and might be worth a look. Best of luck.
"Last thought -- given the price level of your components you might be under spending on the cables and interconnects. Would be a shame to possibly compromise the performance of all your $$$ electronics with cheap wires."

And yet, Nelson Pass himself does not recommend expensive cabling. maybe he knows a thing or two that most audiophiles don't??
i would check with reno HIFI to see if they have a used xp10 or other pass preamp. Always good pricing and get 10 day test drive with full refund if you dont like them. I chose the xp10 and havent looked back. it will be on the high end of your range but imo matched well with my xa30.8
Yeah, I would go with the XP10 or the older XP1.
"02-06-15: Rlwainwright
"Last thought -- given the price level of your components you might be under spending on the cables and interconnects. Would be a shame to possibly compromise the performance of all your $$$ electronics with cheap wires."

And yet, Nelson Pass himself does not recommend expensive cabling. maybe he knows a thing or two that most audiophiles don't??"

Overall, I would definitely have to agree with that. Cables do make a difference, but there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. If you set out to buy a cable at a certain price point, you'll most likely succeed. If you expect that cable to sound good in your system, flip a coin.
Thanks for your response ZD542. I think I read where the Wyred 4 Sound preamp would mostly stay in passive mode for lower level listening and go active if pushed. Would passive preamp be a good match with the Pass Amp? Would I be missing out on any dynamics of an active preamp or can you bypass the passive on the W4S?
Hi Soix - to answer your question I am building a 2nd system from scratch so no pre-amp before. The system I have been using for the last 6 years is a Yaqin 300B SET integrated amp with Shanling Tube CD-1000. Speakers are just Tannoy studio monitors I believe PB-8? So I do like my current system and will probably keep in my office but wanted to take the next step up the ladder and decided to do seperates instead of integrated.

I ultimately would like to end up with a PASS XP-10 or XP-20 but my thinking was to upgrade later after I have save more cash. So right now I would like to find something that could bridge the gap between now and later. Same with the cables. Start off with entry level and upgrade later.

I have been eying the X1 on here for sale but it would probably have some miles on it by now? What about 7-10 years old maybe?? Are these built to last a lifetime?
I have a Pass x250.5 AB model and had good results with both my Cary SLP-98 and older Forte F44 preamps.

At your budget you may want to consider saving on cable costs and add those later. Adding cables later as a stand-alone change is a great way to test/listen and determine to what extent (if any) they actually improve the sound.
Thanks Oilmanmojo - I have been checking Reno Hi-Fi website every few days to see if one came up for sale. I should probably just call them and get on a waiting list. I definately would like the XP-10. I don't think I could go wrong with that pairing.
Thanks for your comments Dsper - It does seem the W4S STP-SE has a lot of good press out there. This may be the way to go interim until I can upgrade. Or maybe I will be happy and thus spend the money on other components.
Hi Rlwainwright - thanks for your comments. To my non audiophile freinds $200 for a cable and they say I am crazy to spend that much. Any recomendations on entry level cables?
Hello Macrojack - Nice looking unit. Never heard of this company before? Can you speak to it's performance first hand and if so what have you compared it to? It seems to have a world class DAC and headphone amp but my main use will be as a pre-amp with a CD source.
Thanks Abrew19 - I agree with waiting on cables. My plan is to get entry level and then upgrade later one connector at a time. Any recommendations on good entry level connectors, used or new?
Speaking of the Pass preamp I noticed they recommend leaving the preamp on at all times, They say it cost less than a cup of coffee per month? This kind of turned me off. Is this common with most preamps? I understand Tube equipment requires warm up time but the Pass stuff is solid state.
Nmiller1202,
It is very commonly suggested by most preamp manufacturers to leave the preamp on at all times, especially solid state. Leaving a tube preamp on at all times would shorten listening time for the life of the tube. My current preamp, an Ayre, doesn't even have an on/off switch.
J.
Many SS manufacturers recommend leaving their gear on 24/7. Many people feel that SS gear takes days to sound it's best. Whereas tube gear tends to warm up in an hour or so.
Thanks for your input JMC - would this hold true for the pass amp as well?
"Many SS manufacturers recommend leaving their gear on 24/7. Many people feel that SS gear takes days to sound it's best."
Nelson Pass designed Preamps typically don't have power switches anyway so when they're plugged they are "on." But a preamp is just a line stage and doesn't draw enough to even worry about in the slightest. So relax and enjoy the music : )
And even tubed Preamps (like my Cary) can also be left on practically all the time. Tubes in Preamps will last thousands of hours. Turn off the tube pre when you know you won't be listening for days or when you're traveling. Tubed POWER amps are a different story however!! : )
Nmiller, one of the standard classic entry level interconnects lots of folks recommend are the PBJ model from Kimber. I've never tried them myself however. I have Kimber Hero and they are good. I usually only buy interconnects when I can find a good deal because my theory is that audiophile cables are ridiculously overpriced for what they are (Copper wire). I've tried the AudioQuest Diamondback and king Cobra. and they are good enough to recommend too. In fact both of those have been discontinued from the AQ line so you can find some great closeout prices at places like Music Direct. King Cobra are quite good and at clearance prices can be considered entry level price. I only purchase Cables from reputable places because supposedly online there are counterfeits out there. Good luck!
I have an ayre k5xe mp that I have been meaning to put up on agon for $1,650. Just too lazy to take the photos, etc (and still playing with its replacement, Jeff Rowland Criterion). The Ayre blew my mind when I heard it and punches way above its weight class. Im in NY. Tough to beat for $3500MSRP. Havent heard anything with the organic, uncolored sound at that low a price. It unsorts the strings and unleashes the dynamics quite nicely.
Cerrot - what color is your k5xe MP? Silver or black?
"02-07-15: Nmiller1202
Cerrot - what color is your k5xe MP? Silver or black?
Nmiller1202 (Threads | Answers | This Thread)"

I just have to point out that neither black or silver is a color. He even points this out in his post. And I quote "uncolored sound at that low a price".
I have the silver faced unit. You can see it on my system
shot (full room, on the rack).
Cerrot - very nice set-up you have. If you still want to sell the Ayre I would take it. Any scratches or marks on the faceplate or sides and tops. This would not be used in a rack on my end and would be displayed on top of credenza so appearance must be mint.
Abrew19 - thanks for your input and suggestions on entry level cables. I did see where Music Direct has the 40% off on AQ king cobra so that looks like a good option.
Canare star quad is really all you need for the xlr and speaker cable, they really clean up the sound.
I would grab this great piece asap, if I hadn't already got one myself. It has done wonders for my system. JA/Stereophile rates it a "solid Class A".

Here's a link to a good discussion on the Ayre K5-xeMP, with some brief comparison to ARC, VTL and even its big brother, the KX-R.

http://www.audioaficionado.org/ayre/11647-ayre-k5xe-mp.html

Happy listening.
J
Hey Jon2020 yes it seems to be well praised across the board. At this point it's between used Ayre 5K and the Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE.
Nmiller - it really looks perfect to me. no scratches, I have the remote. lovely piece. I can email you photos. I can put up on agon for you so you can have a track record. what ever is easier for you. I got a great deal on my new preamp so no issues letting this one go. ddechiara@kncinc.com is my e.
So I pulled the trigger on the Ayre K-5xe MP preowned. Thanks to all for the advice in this thread as it was very helpful.
Neil, keep us posted on how it mates with your Pass amp.
Did you buy Cerrot's?

Cheers,
John

PS: Leave it on 24/7. The only SS piece I own is a Plinius phono preamp, it is on 24/7, sounds much better that way.
JMC, I will definitely let you know how it goes - yes I bought Cerrot's - so glad he chimed in on this thread - really great guy to deal with!
Congrats! You won't be disappointed. Keep us posted as to your experience with it.
Cheers! J.
Thanks Jon - will do. You definitely reinforced my decision. I made an offer on another Ayre k-5 a couple weeks ago but missed out to another higher bidder. I stayed patient but kept researching and you know how it goes you start second guessing yourself. In the end I got the one I wanted at the price I needed. Very happy!
For your budget, you consider Kimber interconnects and speaker cables such as 4TC or 8TC. Here's a good site for knowledge base.

http://www.hifi-advice.com/reviews-Cables-Speaker-Cables.html

Happy listening. J.
Buy an old Counterpoint SA-2000 and send it to me. I will change the preamp so it is better than what you are considering.

Happy Listening.
"02-16-15: Bigkidz
Buy an old Counterpoint SA-2000 and send it to me. I will change the preamp so it is better than what you are considering."

How?