Pass INT-30A with Acoustic Zen Adagio


I'm currently using a Pass INT-30A with a pair of Acoustic Zen Adagio speakers.  Based on all review I've read, the reviews of both the speakers and the amp led me to believe that this would be a very smooth, musical combination.  However, I'm finding it to be rather analytical.  Good recordings sound fantastic, but any recordings that are just a hair short of spectacular come across as sounding very bad.  This is not what I was looking to get into, having only a portion of my music that I can listen to due to this problem.  

I have been racking my brain for days now trying to decide if I should switch out the amp or the speakers.  The amp does so many things so well, but so do the speakers.  I was considering a pair of LSA2 towers, since I used to own the LSA1 bookshelves and found them to be the smoothest, most musical speakers I've ever owned.  On the other hand, I could swap out the amp and go back to tubes and get that smoothness back that way.

Has anyone had experience with this amp, the speakers, or even both in combination?
jwglista
That is a very nice integrated amp. I've thought of getting one for myself. I think your instincts are correct, i.e. you might benefit from getting different speakers. I think one of the underrated speakers presently out is Silverline Prelude Pluses. Small and tall. Easy to drive (as are all Silverlines). Silverline has used Pass amps to drive their stuff at shows. Not very expensive. Check them out. There are others in that line that are also very good but they can get pricey.
Newbee thanks for the response.  I do agree that the amp is amazing.  I'm just wondering if I'm out of my element, seeing as how I was a tube guy for quite a while.  I really would like to make the amp work for me, but I've been chasing my tail for about 1.5 years now trying to find a good, musical system to just sit down and enjoy, but I haven't had much luck.  I had a good thing going, then tried to change it up, and have been making adjustments ever since.

I tend to be sensitive to hyper-detail and accented treble, which is one of the reasons I was drawn to the Pass, based on everything I read.  The Pass is definitely not forward, aggressive, or bright, but I also wouldn't quite describe it as the lushest solid state amp I've ever heard.  It can definitely sound analytical if paired incorrectly.

My preferences definitely lean towards warmth, tonality, musicality, and expression.  I really could care less about imaging, soundstage, detail retrieval, etc.  Those all come second for me; I need to be able to connect emotionally to the music, and not sit there and just listen to "sound".

Would you describe the Silverlines as having a very warm, lush sound?

"rather analytical"...

  This is exactly my impressions of this integrated with various speakers .I owned Pass in the past and got away from their line ,way too pricey for what I heard coming out,just my opinion.Im sure you can find something to pair it with but for me after thinking about what was ahead of  to much of a hassle and struggle so I opted out and went in another direction. They do have a super great customer service which I had to use more than once for service on a new amplifier.

Missioncoonery: I appreciate the response.  Glad to hear there is someone else that shares this opinion.  I was trying so hard to figure out if it was my speakers or amp, but I have heard a few other amps with the Adagios, and I did have them sounding pretty decent at one point.  It really is a shame because the Pass is such a quite, well-posed, dynamic amplifier without any sort of grain or hash in the treble.  I don't think I've ever heard strings produced so nicely and accurately.  If the presentation was less on the analytical side, this would have been it for me.

What speakers did you try with the Pass amp?
Depends on which model you select I suppose, they are all voiced differently. But except for the late model Sonata which was a 'bit hot' they are fairly balanced with a warm(er) upper-bass midrange.  On older model Preludes (or other models) you might want to be careful of ones that have metal tweeters, and you will note that the Prelude Pluses have nothing in common with the earlier Preludes at all. They have also gotten excellent reviews.

A confession first. I was thinking about the Pass 30.5 integrated, not the earlier model. That said, I will also admit that what has kept me back from buying one is that I really do prefer tubes, not just the the good things that they can bring that is hard to get with SS but also the ability to tailor the sound to match speakers and other components in the system by just changing tubes.. 

I share your priorities, especially after having spent many years chasing the affordable audiophile dream as set forth by the magazines/ reviewers etc without finding anything that really fit. I then stumbled onto the Silverline Bolero's when you could get them at a more reasonable price. And they do it all for me. The have all Dynaudio drivers including Esotar tweeters (which really are a BIG deal). If you have a large room the LaFolia speakers might do well for you and are occasionally available at reasonable prices. They share many of the same drivers with the Boleros but do have back firing woofers that can be a drawback if not considered. Some of the Sonnetina's are also excellent as well. Fortunately there are quite a few reviews and threads on these speakers to help.

At the time I auditioned the Boleros at Silverline's shop I also listened to the small Minuets (stacked) driven by an inexpensive SS amp and unimpressive CD player. I dammed near bought them instead of the Bolero's, they were that good. 

FWIW the Silverlines are all designed by Alan Yun, one of the premier speaker designers in the business who, interestingly, is not a slave to some 'industry standard'. He has a really good ear, I think.

Hope that helps a bit. Oh, FWIW, if I were starting over today, I would get the Prelude Pluses and a good integrated tube amp and wait for the rare occasion that a pair of Boleros came up on the used market! :-)
It would be helpful to know the rest of your system, cables in particular. Particularly if you are coming from tubes and are using silver cables, to make a gross generalization, the combo of SS and silver can certainly come across as bright or analytical. Perhaps some experimenting with ancillaries might be done before you start swapping out equipment and speakers.
 I had a Pass x250.5 and a 150.5 amp a few years ago,Focal Utopias,Dynaudio C4 and then Raidho C3s at that time as well..The best combo was with the C4s with the Pass stuff .I wound up with a Plinius amp running the C4s which I really liked if I remember correctly then a MC402 which actually sounded better to me as it had less speed and accuracy I guess,if that makes sense.A far as this integrated you have I heard it with Dynaudios(not sure of the model) which always seemed a speaker paired with Pass and Wilsons.I actually just bought a newer Plinius this time as  an integrated,havent received it yet but hoping it will do what I want it to.I know this is vague but I wasn't taking notes and have no speaker suggestions for you.
Forgive another brain fart on the Pass 30A which I find IS based on the 30.5 amp. But you knew that. :-)
+1 Jond's comment.  I'm not familiar with the Pass Int-30A.   But, I’ve owned Acoustic Zen Adagio Jrs. for over 8 years . My pair has the Response Audio modified cross-overs which makes them even more sensitive to HF.   Last night, I was in heaven as my listening session segued from hard rock to opera. At concert level volume, these monitors (along with active subwoofers) punched way above their weight class. They filled the room with great tone and dynamics.   Zero fatigue.

This wasn’t always the case. Over the years, the sound has ranged from overly dull to overly sharp. Success came after much experimenting with wiring and power supplies - with extra attention to the digital sources. With my modest budget, I could only dabble with affordable SC’s, IC’s and PC’s.   It took time, but eventually found a good mix.   This wiring synergy is true with both my 35w tube monoblocks (Class A) and a recent addition of a 100w SS amp (Class A).

Lots of great input here on the topic, thanks guys.  

Newbee: If you prefer tubes like I do, then I'm afraid the Pass may not be your way out of tubes completely.  I thought it might be the way for me, but I am not realizing that dream.  It's very difficult building a system based on reviews and articles online.  For a while there, I was staying firm on my personal policy of never buying anything before I heard it, but due to the limited selection at dealers in my area, I had no choice but to buy online.  I then tried sticking only to online sellers that have a trial period, but I even slipped on that one too and got bit by that.  I'd love to try the Silverlines, but could only do it if I had a way to try them risk-free.  But they do sound promising based on your description.

jond: The rest of my system leans towards warm sounding ancillaries.  My interconnects are both balanced and single-ended Acoustic Zen Matrix Ref II (PCOCC copper), and Acoustic Zen Satori speaker cables.  These cables are some of the most organic sounding I've heard for the money.  My DAC is a PS Audio DirectStream running the 1.2.1 firmeware, which I find to be the most organic sounding of all the firmwares.  My analog setup is a Rega RP3 with Elys 2, and a Vincent Audio PHO 8 phono stage.

missioncoonery: the Mac amps have sort of been on my radar, since they seem to have a sound that I would like.  However, I've always got the impression that they were a tad overpriced.  I've read that they haven't changed their designs much in the last 30 years, but not sure if that is entirely true.  Either way, value is all in the eye of the beholder.  If they provide a sound that is irreplaceable, then I may find it well worth the money.

steakster: I have tried a few different amps with my Acoustic Zens.  I've actually only owned the Adagios for about 3 months so far.  Prior to that I owned a pair of Golden Ear Triton 3's.  For several years, I owned a PrimaLuna Prologue Two and a Yamaha A-S2000 (winter and summer time systems, since my listening room used to be a small upstairs bedroom).  I upgraded to a PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium before I got my Adagios, and found the combination to be a tad too aggressive for my tastes. This was the main reason for me getting the Pass INT-30A, as I thought it would be the end-all-be-all in terms of smoothness, liquidity, and warmth.  I was rather disappointed to find that this was not achieved when combined with the Adagios.

My local dealer sells Rogue Audio amps, and I am planning to do an audition sometime this week.  Based on the reviews, I'm not sure that it will have the sound that I am craving.  It puts out 100 watts push-pull with KT120 tubes, but 100 watts means it is driving those tubes hard.  I expect to hear a decent amount of grain (also something that the Pass was absolutely exceptional with), but as long as that does not manifest as aggressiveness in the treble, I may be ok with it, as long as I get a nice enjoyable musical sound.
Used tubes off and on for 50 years.  Switched a few times to SS and then back to tubes. Most recently switched to the 30a and couldn't be happier.  Using mine with Merlin's and find the sound devine.  
I used a Pass INT30A with a pair of Focal 1007Be and it was very smooth and detailed. Prior to the INT30A I had a Cary SLI-80F1 and the Pass was much better throughout the audio spectrum; I sold the Cary. Sources are a modded Sony scd-1 and VPI Classic TT with a Herron VTPH-2 phono-stage all HGA cabling SIlver DNA interconnects and x32 Speaker Cables. I listen mostly to classical and female jazz vocals.

Chuck
Anyone want to comment on the Pass INT30 & INT 60 models?

Keep  me posted & Happy Listening!
May I suggest Musical Fidelity as another option? Lower price point that McIntosh and similar sound. I think you may find them less analytical than the Pass. I might also suggest Simaudio or Ayre but those are in the same price range as McIntosh.

Can you find a local dealer that would let you try out at home for a while?

I'm currently using a Musical Fidelity integrated amp with a pair of Adagios and think it works very well. I also lean more towards the warm, analog side of things.
I am currently demoing a Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum II integrated.  I am noticing the same thing I did when I used my PrimaLuna Dialogue Premium with the Adagios.  There is a bit of grain somewhere in the treble that these speakers seem to emphasize.  Overall, the Pass is clearly the better amplifier, but the rogue is more forgiving of poor recordings.  But not all is good; for example, the higher octaves of stringed instruments sounds rather strident and aggressive through the Rogue, whereas on the Pass they are presented very well. 

At this point since I am using two different amplifiers and neither of them seem to fit the bill totally for these speakers, I think I should take that as a sign that the speakers need to go.  I think my ears may just have an issue with ribbon tweeters.  I had this same problem with my previous speakers, the Golden Ear Triton Three.  I am probably better off with something that implements a smooth treble using a silk dome tweeter.  It seems harder to find speakers that are voiced more towards a musical sound rather than analytical, since "more detail" is probably what sells.
@jwglista  I am with you on ribbon tweeters silk or even a good metal tweeter sounds much smoother and with plenty of highs for my ears. I will also say the Pass is relatively high end as integrated amps go but both the Primaluna and Rogue are more very good budget gear. Perhaps not just tubes is the answer but better tubes?
Any other thoughts/impressions on the Pass INT amps ?
I have no thoughts on the amp, but I can speak to the speakers. I had them in my system about 6 years ago, and strident or harsh in the high frequencies are the last descriptors I ever thought I would hear in reference to them. I'm glad you are exploring other aspects of your sonic chain to find a solution. 

The ribbon tweeter never induced in me the anguish metal tweeters had in the past, and just like you, I am overly sensitive to those HF nasties. I drove mine with Red Wine Audio 30.2 amp and their Isabellina preamp. Tone, body, warmth, and detailed transparency aplenty.
@jond  I would agree with the high-end vs. budget comment.  However, I've opted to get rid of the Pass and keep the Rogue.  I tried a few different pairs of speakers with the Pass, and it sounded analytical through all of them, including the Adagios.  I have a very strong preference for musical and non-analytical, so it just was not a good match for my ears.  I've been very happy with the Rogue.  It really is an amazing amp for the money.  

@adamaley I wouldn't describe the Adagios as strident at all, it was mainly the Rogue that sounded that way (and it was actually mainly because the amp wasn't fully burned in yet).  What I notice is that with ribbon tweeters, it's like there are ultra-high frequencies being blasted at my ear; frequencies that are most likely truncated with dome tweeters.  This ultra-high frequency noise could be coming through the electrical lines, the amp, etc., but when it's there, it shreds my ears.  I will be staying away from ribbon tweeters from now on, because I've noticed this on three different speakers with ribbon tweeters.
I've had AZ Crescendos for a couple of years now, first with a Pass INT-150 and now since last summer with the INT-60.  Although I haven't used tube amplification in my system with these speakers, I have heard them paired with the (expensive) Triode monoblocks a few times.  My opinion would be that unless you are willing to go up to that level of amp quality you may not improve noticeably on the Pass.