Holographic, 3D Solid State Amp under $6k


Greetings! I’m looking for a $4-6k tube preamp + ~$6k solid state Amp combination - an Amp with Preferably a high impedance inputs, and XLR inputs. I want to combine the holographic, 3D imaging and wide soundstage of a tube preamp to the dynamics, control, and extension of a solid state amp. I’d like to see Class A for the first 10-15W. I’m looking for something that compares sonically with Pass, but I can’t go with Pass again.

I had a demo Pass X250.8 and XP-22 for 1 wk. Sounded beautiful, but the low gain of the XP-22 was too low on several sources to power the X250.8. The Volume had to be turned up to 80/99 for decent levels. Unfortunately, there were also QC issues on the Pass - the hum on the XP-22 was intolerable, and the XLR connectors wobbled on the X250.8. I was told that’s how the XLR plugs are on Pass. It didn’t inspire confidence, so I had to send it back with a restocking fee. So No Pass!
88man
I'm very surprised to hear of your problems with Pass equipment as I'm using a 250.8 with the XP 10 pre and have never experienced any of the problems you seem to have had. I'm using XLR connections and have total silence no wobble on connection but a nice secure locking fit. I've never had to go beyond the 60's volume levels and this is using power hungry 3.7i Maggie's.
Hi johnto, the XP-22 has a paltry 9dB of gain. The dealer warned me that you have to really turn up the XP-22. However, it couldn’t drive the X250.8 to decent levels unless the volume was 80/99. I tried an Odyssey Tempest Preamp, and a Don Sachs Model 2 Tube Preamp on the X250.8 - Stellar results with much lower gain settings of 25% on each preamp.

It’s sad that the XLR connection is so wobbly on a 100lbs amp, because I would have loved to keep the X250.8. It sounded amazing with a tube front end. The XP-22 was decent, but the hum was intolerable up to 10ft. from the speakers. That’s the problem buying demo equipment, I guess. $14k was no chump change either.
If you are willing to buy used, then I would suggest and Atmasphere MP-3 and Ayre MX-R monoblocks (non Twenty).
I used them on my Treo's to great acclaim.-And, the XLR inputs are nice and tight.
Unfortunately, they are hard to find used.-but, worth the wait.
Bob
I’m calling bullcrap on the Pass issues. Or, that dealer blows, or if that gear was shipped... it was dropped from a decent height.

People may not like Pass gear, and that is up to their ears. But Pass is nothing but responsive and top notch on QC and support.

I’ve owned lots of Pass gear new and used. Never an issue, and Pass is incredibly responsive to questions. IF that unit had issues, at a minimum that dealer would/should not have charged restocked. I’m sure Pass would agree.

250.8/XP22 is spectacular.

Yes, depending on your speaker efficiency you do tend to have to turn pass gear up a bit into the 70/80 range.






I’ve had the XP22 and X250.8 combo. I drove Salon2 speakers and Focal Diva utopia with this gear and (although I did need to turn it up a bit like 60/70) did not experience any of other the problems mentioned. If you call Pass directly, they are very good at trying to resolve your issues.

I have no skin in the game, as I don’t own any pass equipment at the moment. I am just saying what my experience with that gear was - great.

Try to call Pass directly if you have not already.

If you are looking for other gear however, you can look at Balanced Audio Technology (BAT). They are also excellent and might be more to you liking. Consider the VK52SE (or the newer VK53SE) preamp used and VK655SE Amp used. You might love this combo.

Good Luck
@jmarshak 

Agree, if I didn't own Pass.  BAT would be high on my list.  

My biggest problem with the OP and the Pass comments are that I just don't see any reputable dealer saying "that's just how the XLR plugs are on Pass".

Just using any basic logic, at the prices Pass goes for, they wouldn't sell too many units with wobbly XLR plugs and hum's from the pre-amp.

But, yes BAT - good stuff from all my Demo's, and for a short while I had a VK-200 Solid State amp in my system.  Great amp.
Thanks everyone, but I’ve already returned the Pass to the dealer. I spent hours trying to eliminate the XP-22 hum, and dealer said wobbly XLR connection is normal on Pass Amps, so I had to pay a hefty  restocking fee.

Speakers weren’t the issue - I tried 8 pairs from 87 to 104 dB with known impedance curves. On the 87dB and 91dB speakers, I had to turn the volume to 80/99 for engaged listening.

Sonically, the X250.8 was superb, dynamic, punchy, refined, and a huge soundstage. However the XP-22 didn’t wow me over as much as my Don Sachs Model 2 Preamp with the X250.8.

I’m looking for something similar sonically to the X250.8 (but with a better user experience).

I’ll look into the Atmasphere, Ayre, and BAT...
Why does China knock off come to mind...
The Clayton Audio S100 would be a great Pass substitute as it’s also Class A, and it has a convenient Hi/Lo bias switch so you can leave it on without heating the room or assaulting your electric bill.  Best of luck. 
ayre’s power amps (several models), hegel h20 h30 are two excellent sounding makers that deserve consideration

too bad the pass amp didn’t work for you... rarely see that happen


If your equipment had poor XLR connectors the manufacturer should have refunded your money (or refunded your dealer their refund to you).  This is an equipment defect.  It does not speak well of your dealer and/or the manufacturer that you had to pay a "healthy restocking fee."
SS amp (10-15 first class A watts) in that budget ? Parasound Jc5 and pick your tube preamp. The xlr connections are very solid!
BAT is outstanding in all regards, as a company and as product.
I presently own the BAT VK-33SE preamp (tubes) and VK-255SE power amp (SS).  New, they are $10K and $9K, respectively.  That may be above your budget so finding them used could be an option.  I am more pleased with these two units than any other combination of products I've previously owned.  My speakers are 88db efficient and reaching VERY loud volume gets me to about 86 out of 140 steps on the volume control.  Most of my listening, at a rather 'lively" volume, is at around 82.  The volume steps are in 1/2 db per step.  It makes for really perfect volume settings.  The amp is stellar.  The 3D effect, soundstage and imaging with these two components is astonishing. 
Best of luck to you.
If you choose BAT and don't have an authorized dealer within a reasonable distance, than I highly recommend contacting Upscale Audio.  They are excellent in knowledge and customer service.  They are an authorized BAT dealer and that is where I purchased my BAT products.
Having not heard of any other complaints about wobbly Pass XLR’s, despite countless posts here on Audiogon about Pass Labs gear, raises serious doubts about such a claim. Ditto the hum issue. I think you a legitimate claim to get your restocking fee refunded. As far as having the volume control at a high setting, ordinarily that’s a good thing, offering more range of control. More often than not the volume control acts less like an accelerator, and more like a brake. Better to not ride on the brake so much.
BAT and Parasound JC5 look very desirable! 

Unsound, I sent the dealer a video showing the 5-10 degree of wobble with XLR cables connected. Again, I was told that this is normal for Pass, and that’s why I had to pay the fee. The hum on the XP-22 I used cheaters, shut circuit breakers, plugged into 2 different homes, etc. - same hum! The manufacturer was never involved in the conversation because I bought from the most reputable and largest Pass dealer in the U.S.
Again, sonically the Pass was stellar, however, buying demo equipment - watch out!
I don't get it, I've never heard of bad XLR connections on pass gear. You should have put a call in to pass to find out what's going on. As far as the gain goes, that is about perfect, you don't want to only use half of your volume control. The gain also can be low if your source is of low voltage. Most systems have to much gain.
Invalid, Listening to Diana Krall CD, I had to turn the XP-22 to 84/99. Same source on different my Odyssey or D. Sachs preamps produced better gain characteristics @10-11 o’clock. Personally, I don’t like turning up the volume beyond 12 o’clock. Here >80% sounds a bit too much where the gain seemed too low for the X250.8, heck almost unity gain like a passive pre. Balanced input was a bit better. 

The X250.8 sounds beautiful - holographic, dynamic, 3D, wide soundstage, refined, extended, etc. If the X250.8 had better XLR connectors, I would’ve easily kept it, and my back would’ve thanked me too. Wow! 100 lbs. was a nightmare to repack! Apparently, wobbly XLR connectors are part of the design to serve as cable stress breakers. That’s where I disagreed politely with the dealer, and sent everything back.
Agreed with the many posts here. 

With MIT cables and Pass amplifiers, my XLRs locked in and wouldn't move at all.  Shame on your dealer for claiming that was normal (you should name them so others can avoid). You should not have had to pay a restocking fee to send that back.

And too bad you couldn't figure out where the ground loop was for the preamp.  Again, it's not normal for Pass gear to be affected by this issue (moreso than other equipment).  Of course there's a possibility that this dealer actually sent you a broken unit.  I'm leaning in that direction given everything else included here.
Also @unsound makes a very good point.  The *only* reason to be concerned about the gain level on your pre-amp is if you can't make the volume loud enough.  

In a perfect world, you'd be using the preamp with the VC at 100%/full throttle.  This produces the least signal degradation.  Of course that also means that you can't ever turn it up to get more volume, so very few of us actually live in that state.