McIntosh MC601 vs Pass Labs XA 100.8 (or 160.8)

Hello folks. I’m new to the forum and could use your help. I have Wilson Audio Sasha, series 1, speakers and have been using Krell 350 MCX amps and want to upgrade the amps. I’m thinking about the Mac MC601s, which I will audition in my house this coming weekend. I’m also thinking about the Pass Labs XA100.8s but I don’t have a Pass dealer in my city so all I can do is rely on reviews and comments on forums. I have a moderately sized dedicated listening room and Pass tells me that the 100.8 will most certainly drive my speakers. Any comments you have about either pair of amps would be most helpful. Also, if anyone has experience between the XA100.8s and the XA160.8s, that would be helpful too. Is there much to gained by buying the more expensive amps when the cheaper ("yeah right"!) ones will drive my speakers anyway? Thanks.
I've lived with Pass amplifiers for a long, long time. From Nelson's Threshold days, with his Aleph amplifiers to his next to current designs.
We currently have a pair of XA-200.5's for our Sasha I speakers, MIT Oracle cables, Meridian 800 series digital components and Sound Application line conditioner.
Our room is ideally set up (if there is ever such a thing) and recreates the illusion of a live performance, especially small venues - very well.
A very neutral, natural and revealing system. It's very easy to recognize the acoustic environment the performance was recorded.
I explain so you understand the level of our system and what I'm about to say.
BTW - at this level, software - well recorded music - is critical.
Pass amplifiers are the most natural amplifiers I have found that are reasonably priced. I haven't heard the .8 series, nor have I heard Soulution, Constellation or other very expensive SS gear. The amplifier I've heard that sounds closest to the Pass amplifiers we have are the $50k D'Agostino Momentum monoblock amplifiers.
The Pass amplifiers provide the best fidelity of the recorded performance at anywhere near their price range. I could wax poetry about their strengths, but it's easier to explain by asking if you're looking to recreate the performance as it was recorded. If you are, I haven't found better anywhere near their price.
The McIntosh MC601 do not perform the same way. They sound very nice, but they homogenize things. They help bad recordings sound better because they are more forgiving and not as revealing. They don't provide the insight to great recordings and can make many recordings sound similar. If you are not as critical a listener, and want to enjoy more music that may not be recorded critically well - the McIntosh may be attractive.
Driving the Sasha Series I's.
These speakers can be difficult to drive, because their impedance dips low (somewhere in the mid-base region if I remember correctly). I've auditioned the Sasha I's with Lamm Ref 1.2's and Spectral gear - both were very good but I preferred the neutrality and organic reproduction of the Pass (Lamm's were SLIGHTLY base heavy and the Spectral equipment was SLIGHTLY dry - just MHO).
Because the Sasha I's can be a challenge, I'd recommend the 160's. Will the 100's sound good - no doubt, but the 160's will perform better not just because they'll have the extra muscle to provide the drive when the music demands it, but because each step up in the Pass amplifier line is a better amplifier, it's not just the same amplifier with more power. This was explained to me by Kent English (a WONDERFUL GENTLEMAN) and I'm sure he'd be very happy to discuss things with you and answer any of your questions - especially considering you have no local Pass dealer. I do have Pass dealers local and Kent was very insightful and generous with his time.
Mark at Reno will let you try the Pass amplifiers, and if you can - compare them side by side to the 601's (either the 100's or the 160's) using well recorded performances and you'll understand exactly what I'm referring to. 
Without trying to sound offensive, this presumes your system is at a level of performance that will reveal these differences.
Most importantly - enjoy your music! Life is too short not to listen to music that stirs our sense and moves our souls!

That was such a well thought out and wonderful explanation. Thank you for adding to this discussion. I have to agree with your opinion. 

Thanks for your detailed response tjassoc. I've got a call in to Mark at Reno Hi Fi (he's in Southern Cal buying Pass products!) that I'm waiting to be returned. Can you tell me how to reach Kent English?
I live in Canada, so getting amps from Reno Hi Fi on an audition is not an option - due to fees required when the amps cross the boarder which can't be refunded. 
I've got a dedicated listening room I completed about a year ago, with in-wall wiring from JPS labs, rhodium outlets from Furutech and 3 20 amp dedicated lines (one for each amp and one for the front end equipment). My digital front end (which is mostly what I listen to) is a Meridian Sooloos system feeding a MSB Signature DAC IV (via an Audioquest Wild RCA cable) with Signature power supply which I run directly into my amps via Audioquest Sky wire. I use Stillpoint Ultra 5s under the Sashas and amps and Ultra SSs under the DAC. The room sounds good with the exception of a nasty standing wave problem between 200 hz and 50 hz, which I've mostly tamed with bass trapping room treatments. The system has been setup very carefully (over the last 10 months of agony - audionervosa is far too strong in me, I'm afraid!) and sounds very good to my ears. I'd LIKE to just listen for pleasure but end up listening "critically". Things need to be "right" before I can relax into the music (which I can mostly do with how it's sounding now). My goal with new amps is to increase the "musicality" of the system.  I assume I can achieve that result with Pass amps and figured I could with the Macs too but I don't want to loose any resolution, which I'm afraid I might with the Macs. 
BTW, I see that you were wanting feedback re ethernet cables.  I was playing around Audioquest ethernet cables a couple of months ago, auditioning the Forest, Cinnamon, Vodka and Diamond. In my system they made a ridiculously impressive improvement! Transparency, bass definition, sense of space and just giving a strong sense of "life" or "aliveness" (mid range presence I suppose) to vocals blew me away. I ended up buying a Diamond and a Vodka (couldn't afford two Diamonds). Performance improved with every cable in the line, as with all AQ wires, in my experience. They are a worthy investment in a high resolution system in my experience. 
If you can tell me how to reach Kent English I would love to give him a call.
Not a great data point for you, but I compared Mac (MC402) and Pass (XA-30.5) products much further down the line and felt the Pass was better in every way possible.  I've seen some people go the other way with a very similar comparison though.  System synergy I guess... I had Thiels at the time though, go figure.

To contact Kent (I really loved interacting with him as well, very honest information about the products), just e-mail or call their customer service number, 530.878.5350.  It's all listed on the contact page of the Pass website.
Pass IMO is the obvious choice for the reasons the above poster mentions. I have heard Mac equipment on a few occasions and always walked away thinking how bland it sounded. I own Pass xa100.5's and a Pass xp-20 pre.

So, I just want to update you regarding my search for new amplification. Thanks to Cal3713 and tjassoc for your tip on talking to Kent at Pass Labs. I did speak to him (and two other people there as well) and to Mark at Reno Hi Fi. Kent particularly was helpful. Actually he recommended either XA60.8 or the XA160.8 saying that they are both warmer than the XA100.8 and therefore would be a better match for the Wilson Sashas! I spent the last 5 days with the McIntosh 601s in my system. I must say that I was very impressed with them! They are totally different sounding amps than the MC501s, which I tried out a couple of years ago (albeit with a different front end, different cable and in a different room). I didn't like them because the high frequency range was MIA. The 601s were considerably more transparent than my Krells (and the 501s), which surprised me. They were very dynamic and produced a very strong sense of presence of the recording venue, which I was also surprised by. The highs were extended and smooth, but not overly smooth; I would describe them as somewhat "relaxed" sounding, but again, not overly so. The bass was actually more controlled than my Krell mono blocks - maybe that's their age showing. Very nice amps. I believe I could live happily with them. This of course, makes for a problem: do I buy the Pass amps (probably the 160.8s, which, BTW, Kent described as "one of the best amplifiers ever made, in my opinion" - and he didn't strike me as man prone to hyperbole!) without hearing them, risking being disappointed if I don't like them as much as the Macs. Or buy the Macs and be happy that I liked them so much and know I can be happy with them long-term. My "gut" tells me that the Pass amps do all what the Macs do but even better. (Kent mirrored  tjassoc's feelings about their ability to bring the recording venue into the room, saying the .8 series is even better at this than the .5 series. As I said, the Macs were pretty good at this too, and I found it VERY compelling!!) So, I've got some thinking to do over the next couple of days and a hard decision to make. If anyone else out there has any experience hearing these two amplification systems, I'd VERY much appreciative hearing from you. 
I happened to review this post and wanted to ask what you decided / did?
Hope you're enjoying both music and your system.
Most sincerely, Thomas
Sounds sounds like a pass labs commercial