Pass Int-150 or Int-30A for PMC Speakers?

I have listened to PMC speakers (GB1i, FB1i, OB1i) with various integrated (Bryston B100&135, Simaudio 340i, Krell s300i, NAD M3) and was not closed to being satisfied. So I have decided to splurge a little to get Pass Labs integrated. Has anyone tried Int-150/30A or their amp version (x150.5/XA30.5) with PMC FB1i? What's each combination like?

Seems like many people match OB1i with Int-150 but am curious to hear what PMCs sound like with the Pass Labs Class A setup...

I will be using NAD M51 as DAC.
The Int-150 is the only Amp of Pass which I think is not that good. I owned: XA100.5, xa60.5, xa30.5 and now the X250.5. Control of Int-150 is very average, focus is poor. I don't think it is worth the name Pass to be unnest. I had it for 2 months to take a listen. I tried it with many different speakers. I would not want it even for free!
I am curious to see the responses as I am thinking of buying
an INT-30A which will replace a Cary SLI-80 and drive a pair
of Focal 1007Be monitors. My Focals are 4 Ohm and are 89 SPL
and the Cary did a great job even in Triode which is where I
kept it most of the time. I looked up the specs on the PMC
FB1i's and read that they are 8 Ohm and 90 SPL so I would
think you would be ok. Reno offers a 10 day in home trial
which is what I am going to take advantage of if I decide to
try the PASS. I am also looking at the Ayon Audio Spirit III
which is a tubed unit.

There is a review comparing these two Pass integrated amps in Positive Feedback online Issue #58.
If none of the integrateds you've tried worked well with the PMCs, I'd be doubtful that the Pass ones will. Presumably you've heard the PMCs sound great with something? What was it?
Hi Chuck,

My thoughts are exactly the same. FB1i is the most sensitive of all PMCs. Pass Labs website suggest Int-150 for speaker less sensatice than sensitivity 87 or below and Int-30A for 87 and above. Therefore the FB1i should be matched with the 30A for being at 90. That's why I am curious to hear people experiences with matching Pass amps with PMCs. or PMCs. Still waiting...


You must be a veteran in the AV world... I heard the most detail out of Krell s300i (with Bryston DAC) on OB1i and GB1i. However, the staging and the tonal texture was both false and foul. The most popping and exciting performance was FB1i with NAD M3 (with NAD M51 DAC). This combo lacked half of the detail. It made classical music sound like pop. This is especially true when I heard it with out the M3.

I am certain the PMC FB1i can bring me the symphony hall experience, but with which integrated amp?! After reading many blogs/posting/reviews, it's down to Pass Labs and Plinius. Living in Toronto, I don't get to hear Plinius. So Pass wins by default. Now the question is, will it be the Int-150 or Int-30A?!
I guess I don't get it. You have yet to hear sound you really like from PMC speakers with any combination of electronics but you're going to buy them anyway and pair them with a Pass integrated, which you've never heard? Or maybe I'm not understanding your situation.
Hi Drubin,

You are right. I am a little out of my mind by playing this guessing-matchin game. I have yet heard The PMCs sounded exactly the way I want them to on one system. I figured since the speakers are capable of the giving me the detail from one system and the tonal texture from another, this speaker can do the job. I know the sound Pass sound, just not on the PMCs. I enjoyed the XA30.5 over the x150.5. I don't remember what speakers I was listening though. So here I am at this guessing-matching game...
The 30a will be about 100x2 in a/b @ 8 and about double that at 4ohms.

If you audition the 30 amplifier and the meter doesn't move, the integrated will perform exactly the same way.

Keep that in mind as well as listening habits....
Do you like it really loud?
If so, you may be better served with the 150......

PS: with the exception of bias circuitry the 2 amps are remarkably alike.
how would you describe the difference between the XA100.5 monos and the X250.5? Is the 250.5 really better than the 100.5???!!!
My friend, do you already own the speakers? If you don't own them yet, and you have not been close to being satisfied with the sound of them in auditions, why are you buying them? They must be a tough speaker to match an amp with? That sounds like a bad idea to me.

If you have them already, I would contact PMC or PMC dealers and get some feedback on integrateds to match with.
Hi Picfink,

Thank you for the tip on the meter. I never paid attention to that. I think I should pay the Pass dealer and spend more time on the amps.

I don't listen to music loud since I have very young kids in the house. That said, I hope to have all the detail and staging at a not-so-loud level. Like most people, I only crank up the music when I not getting the detail and the staging.

I just read a blog where XA60.5 was used on PMC IB2i. Quite amazing...
Fiddle, INT30A! That's one sweet sounding amp. I have XA30.5 and Desmond of Pass once told me its actual output is closer to 60 watts class A into 8 ohms.

Czbbcl, Focal Be and Pass class A are quite an amazing match. I had 1008Be and now 1028Be, both sets are driven by XA30.5. Meter rarely move (if at all) in my 18x25 room.

What are you using for a pre-amp? And what type of music do
you listen to?

Thanks Chuck
Hi Chuck, I have Pass XP-10 pre. My music preference are rock, jazz (vocal), EDM and some classical.
Thanks, How do you like the XP-10 ? Have you heard the XP-20 if so how do you think it compares to the XP-10? Have you heard any tubed pre's like cj? Sorry for all the questions I am looking into either an INT-30A or XA30.5/XP-10 or XP-20 with the possible exception of a cj tubed pre either the ET-5 or ET-3 driving my Focal 1007Be's.

Thanks Chuck
I like XP-10 a lot (granted never had a tube pre in my rig and that's one of the things I'd like to try sooner than later). Haven't heard XP-20 but based on my experience with the 10 and what ppl told me, 20 should be an amazing piece. Obviously XP pre-amps offer truly balanced circuits (and other benefits of having a good pre - soundstage, noise level, etc) over the volume control of INT30A or INT150, but it's subjective if the added cost is justified. XP pre also has HT by-pass, one of the features I need. INT models do not. One thing to note here also is it sounds better when I have my AVR passed through XP-10 pre to XA30.5 using balanced connection than connecting AVR to XA30.5 unbalanced directly. My AVR doesn't have balanced outs.

If you don't need HT by-pass and want to get an integrated than the separates, I'd go with INT30A and use the rest of the fund towards upgrading from 1007Be to either 1028Be or Diablo Utopia. :)

For a tube pre to pair with either XA30.5 or X150.5, I'd make sure the pre's output impedance is <1k ohm across the board (not just the rated output impedance).
Thanks for the response..

I don't need HT by-pass and I had a Cary SLI-80 Tubed
Integrated that I liked but the Power Tubes are a pain and I
actually had one blow and it was not pretty. My wife and I
were standing right there, had we not it could have been
much worse; my wife was not happy.

Well I like to stay within the same Brand of amp and pre-amp
for system matching. I figure they design their equipment to
work together and be the best it can be.

I listen to primarily classical (Symphonic works and small
chamber stuff) and female jazz vocals (Jacintha, Krall and
Barber) along with some classic rock (Zeppelin, Floyd) at
what I would call moderate levels in a 14x24 ft room.

I have the opportunity to get a good price with a trade in
policy on an INT30A. Also has a 10 day return policy so I
may take a shot and see where it leads.

I like the Diablos but must confess I have never heard them.
The Focals are so transparent and throw a huge soundstage. I
really like them and they are much better than my previous
speakers and much more efficient.

Sorry to hear your tube blowing up incident. That doesn't sound pretty.

What you said is exactly the reason I went with XA30.5 and XP-10 combo. XA.5 amp input impedance isn't very high and I also felt XP-10 might just be the best matching ss pre.

I thinking you're talking about Mark. A good guy to do business with.
I just pulled the trigger on the INT-30A from Mark .... Great
person to deal with ......

Congrats on the purchase Chuck. Let's us know how it is compared to your Cary. I know it's tube vs. ss, but I think it'd still be very interesting.
Hi Kz,

You are absolutely right. To my ears, the X.5 and the cooresponding XA.5 has the same power. After spending some time doing A/B comparison with XA60.5/X250.5 and XA100.5, XA really is the only way to go with Classical lovers. XA just has more appropriate soundstage, tone has more smoothness and texture, yet retains the speed and dynamic of X.5. I am officially jealous of Mark.

I heard the amps with XP20. It's very neutral. If your goal is neutral, then XP20 is what you want. To me, it sounds a little cold. But the instrument separation and details are amazing.

Hey Chuck,

Congrats! I was looking to buy that exact same unit from Mark. You beat me to it! That's makes my decision easier...

After listening to Pass again, X.5 is just too much for me. The details were too sharp with a flat soundstage. So XA it is! The shocker went to Electrocompaniet, the ECI5 MK II. Electrocompaniet's soundstage was even more vivid and 3D than Pass, but the depth of the soundstage isn't as deep as Pass. It was very interesting.. The detail was much less sharp than Pass but the tonal texture was completely smooth and round. It was a complete concert hall experience. Many people talk about neutrality and what a recording should sound like. I just want to turn my living room into a 24/7 concert hall. Some reviews also said Electrocompaniet is the closest solid states to tube. Detail vs. real lifenss... I still have more listening to do. Anyone who has listened to both, please share...
I use all tubes with Fb1i Signatures, which seems to work nicely. Then again, I flat out prefer tubes, even though they are occaionally troublesome (but less so than a wife, ime.) Are you sure you will be happy w/ SS sound? What SS have you heard that leads you to think so?
Based on your descriptions it seems the Electrocompaniet is closer to the live like pesentation. I find this type of music reproduction provides more long term and complete satisfaction vs the "neutral" camp.I know this divide has been discussed ad nauseum and there`ll always be two sides.

Reading your post it appears the Electrocompaniet has made a stronger emotional impact than the Pass amplifier.The emotional involvement is what music is about.Don`t ignore your natural response to what you hear.
Good Luck,
I agree with Charles1dad that Music is all about emotion and
you should buy the component that gives you the most
emotional impact.

I too have been a tube guy (Conrad Johnson, Cary SLI-80)
which makes me think I may not like the Pass. And if I don't
I will be sending it back to Mark per our agreement.

I will post my thoughts once I have a chance to listen to

Problem is I had a power tube go with my wife and I standing
right there and it was nasty. So my wife now hates tubes in
general along with not liking this hobby much.

You guys are so right. I have only heard tubes once, but I think that's the way I am leaning towards. I must admit that I am a lazy audiophile. Switching tubes and searching for them is too much. The appearance is another thing. So I think I might have to stick with solid state that are very warm. Can anyone suggest any integrated amps like that?

Electrocompaniet was almost love at first sight. Before I take one home, I want to check out other brands. Got to make sure the sound is ripe and a live while details are vivid. I heard the Audio Research integrated is quite good. Anyone has any experience? Other suggestions?

I already have a system with Classe and B&W 802D. That's already quite a warm combination. It lacked details and the soundstage is recessed. Now I am looking for something for forward and vivid.
Tubes just may not be for you(at this momment). The Electrocompaniet seems made to order for your taste,don`t compromise.
Tubes can be a real hassle and I always felt that I was
burning out those expensive NOS tubes every time I turned it
on. The Tubes need to be biased and then there is the heat
issues so your location must provide good ventilation.

My Cary SLI-80 was a beautiful sounding amp and very flexible.
Between the tube rolling and the triode and pentode
capabilities it was fun to play with and also looked good.

I went back to the Electrocompaniet dealer today with my CDs. I was there for quite a while and played through all four of their integrated amps. The clear choice was ECI5 MK II. The sound stage was huge, separation of instruments was clear and nicely placed. When I played Rubinstein playing Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, the strings were almighty while the piano was clear and moving. Then came Mozart's two Sinfoniaconcertante for violin&viola and violin&piano. Midori's Del Gesu sounded as cut-throat as all other Del Gesu violins. Imai's Andrea Guarneri viola was warm yet penetrating. When Midori partnered with Christoph Eisenbach on the piano, I heard the chemistry between these two musicians. They meshed well. The orchestra was clearly set back in the background.

The icing on the cake was a female vocal recording. I was completely surprised. The typical solid state sound would have been a strong image standing in front of you, singing to you through a microphone. The ECI5 MK II had a very different presentation. The voice was strong but not over powering. It was absolutely exquisite. Her voice was very refined. It was if she was seducing me, not just singing to me. It also felt as if she was singing straight to me, not through a microphone. Alright, I exaggerated a little, but you get my point.

I heard the integrated with the Thiel SC2.4 and Pro Ac Response D40R. I am looking forward to hooking up the Electrocompaniet with my FB1i.

Will let everyone know in a bit... Seems to be very promising that I found I can really enjoy...
Sounds like the right choice,you were clearly moved and connected to your music.What`s better than that?
Hi Charles,

Yes, I thoroughly enjoy the electrocompaniet... But I must also admit I miss the Pass XA. The Electrocompaniet gave me a big soundstage and puts me at the 5th roll of the concert hall. The Pass XA puts me on the conductor podium. Its soundstage is even bigger and the instruments almost feel lie they are situated around me. That intimacy is quite amazing. I just wish the tone is warmer and rounder, like the tubes... Ahhh! So I haven't completely given up on Pass yet...

Does anyone use pass XA amp with tube preamp or a very warm solid state preamp?
Fiddler I appreciate your dilemma as no component is perfect and tradeoffs are always present.Which amplifier do you believe would keep you happier with frequent use long term?
Ooo... That's a tricky one! Realistic speaking, it will probably be the Electrocompaniet integrated ($5500, or $6000 with DAC) because the tone is smoother and much comfortable to the ears... Plus, to reproduce the Pass system effect I heard, it would most likely take more than the Pass integrated amp ($7150) since I heard heard it on the XP20 preamp and XA100.5 through a Berkeley Alpha DAC. That's a $30,000 worth of electronics... Musically wise and money wise, the Electrocompaniet wins...

I just got my PMC FB1i today... I hope to get the Electrocompaniet gear soon. Would love to share my experience with other Classical music lovers on here. I hope there are many more music fans out there who enjoys the musical experience of a system rather than the neutrality of the electronics...
Congratulations on your new additions, I think you made the right call.Exceptional musicality and emotional involvement are more valuable(to me) than hifi qualities if a choice has to be made.I want components that involves and connects me to music rather than analyze and observe it.I don`t believe you`ll have any regrets or 2nd thoughts.
Hey Chuck,

How's the int-30a treating you?
It is a fantastic Amp and much better than the Cary especially in the bass department. It has much better control over the speakers and gives better transparency and clarity to voices. The timbre or air around the instruments is better along with better clarity as well. I am hearing things in my recordings that I haven't heard before.

I really like the fact that I don't have to worry about the vacuum tubes and them burning out (wearing out) or the maintenance associated with them.

In general I would say the Cary put you more in the back row of the performance where the Pass puts you more up front. I am really enjoying the amp and not looking back.

The Cary was a F1 model with NOS tubes. Bugle boys (6dj8) in the pre-amp position along with Sylvania 6sn7wgta's in the driver position and new issue Genalex KT-88's / KT-77's and 5ar4's in the rectifier position.

The associated equipment is a VPI Classic 1 TT and a Herron VTPH-2 phono stage with NOS Telefunken Tubes in all 5 positions. HGA cabling (X-32 Speaker Cable and DNA Interconnects); Benz Micro Wood SL MC Cartridge. A Sony Highly Modded SCD-1.
Oh boy! Sounds like I really should find an int-30a to listen to. When I heard the X100.5 with XP20 (listen through a computer and Berkeley Alpha DAC), the tone was still somewhat of a solid state sound. It's definitely warmer but I wouldn't say it's close to tubes. Do you find the same with Int-30a or does it really sound like the concert hall with real instruments? Do you listen more to the vinyls?
Hi Chuck, congrats on INT30A! As mentioned, IME, Focal Be and Pass class A are a match made in audio nirvana. With that air and energy at high frequency with a touch of sweetness leading the way, everything becomes very transparent, clear and seductive. With 1007s being 89db 8ohm (min 4ohm), INT30A shouldn't break a sweat taking control over the drivers, even at loud levels.

BTW, I've had 2 other sets of speakers from well known brands with Pass XA30.5 in my rig, but pairing with Focal Be is what floats my boat.

Hi Fiddler,
I've heard nothing but good about Electrocompaniet. The only experience I have had with them though is their old ECD-1 dac. One word (or two) that can describe is "beautiful mid-range".
I listen mostly to vinyl and I would say in general it is a more refined amplifier than the Cary was. I listen to the sonic performance, do the instruments sound natural do hand claps sound real. I really don't want to let the design architecture (tube or ss) drive my sonic expectations.

Hey guys,

Thanks for talking to through this. I think I just have to "hear it" to believe it. Now I just have to find an int-30a to try. I think I can't go wrong with Electrocompaniet or Pass, especially when one of the reviews compares the int-30a to Leben. Stay tuned... I will have to report back only I final choice and share my experience.
It`s very possible that sonically you may prefer the smaller Pass amp to the larger one you heard.
Mark at Reno offers a 10 day in home trial all he asks is
that you pay the shipping if you decide to return it.

I am really surprised at how good this amp is. I was so
biased against it when I bought it figuring I would send it
right back. I have been curious to try a Pass Amp for
sometime so I figured this was a good opportunity. The only
reason I would send it back would be to move further up the
Pass line and Mark offers a generous trade in program so how
can you lose.

Good Luck on your search.

I wonder how good the Pass Phono Stages are? I have a Herron
VTPH-2 right now and it sounds great but can't help wonder
how the XP-15 sounds in comparison.

Hi Chuck and Fiddler,
Any updates? :)
In the end the amp went back. Just not enough horsepower to drive the speakers on larger Symphonic works. Great Amp Though
and it played beyond what it's 30wpc would indicate.

Wow, that was unexpected, Chuck. Less horsepower for those passages than the Cary?
Actually the Pass revealed the Cary's short comings as well and was the better amp of the two; more refined. So I am looking to move up in the Pass line at least at this time just not sure exactly which amp / pre-amp.

Chuck, just to make sure...your speakers are 1007 Be, correct? I had 1008 Be and felt the bass was a little lacking in my 18x25 room. So I moved up to 1028 Be and still find XA30.5 drives these 3-way floorstanders without a sweat (meter stays on the left side even at very loud level).
One other thing to note is when I had 1008s, at one point I did A/B XA30.5 with Bryston 4BSST2 (300wpc) and didn't feel Pass gave up anything to Bryston in any way. Bryston may drive a lot more difficult load better, but for speakers like 1008s, my experience is Pass is in another league.
XA30.5 is the only stereo in XA.5 line and all the others are mono. Maybe X250.5? Mark once told me X.5s have more bass slam and XA.5s are about seduction and refinement.
Hey Chuck, sorry to hear the amp went back. I think you will enjoy the analogue playing with the XA amps. The sound staging is much more 3D and the bass sounds natural and real. Please do let me know what you end up with.

Hey Kz, I am trying to work out a deal with my Electrocompaniet dealer. Not sure what I will end up yet... I am also eyeing on the Lyngdorf TDAI2200 that's up for sale on Audiogon...
Yes they are the 1007 Be's. One of the issues with the INT-30 is that it doesn't have a meter so I really could not tell what was going. With some recordings Telarc Tchaikovsky 1812 overture, the digital canons for example, I thought the amp ran out of room. This seemed to occur on other recordings with a lot or percussion type passages. But it is hard tell for sure if it was the amp or the recording as recordings can vary greatly. I do know I ran the amp into the high end of the volume control. It maxes out at 63 and I ran it into the high 40's low 50's. This concerned me as I have never run a volume control this near it's max value.

But in general the amp was very good bettering the Cary in every way imaginable. This is why I think a jump up the Pass line perhaps the XA60's with a XP-10 or 20 would work very well and take away any issue with regards to power.

Fiddlerontheroof I agree I need to stay with the XA series of amps as they are wonderful in their presentation. And I am sure mated with a XP 10 or 20 pre they would make a wonderful combination. And who knows I may end up with a pair of 1038 Be's.

Love your moniker by the way.