Pass Labs amps and Avantgarde speakers


Does anyone has any experience with matching Pass Labs XA30.5 poweramp with Avantgarde Acoustic Duo speakers?

The XA30.5 is getting great reviews all the time but in my part of the world it's a little hard (say impossible) to audition on my Avantgarde speakers before buying.

My plan is to drive the XA30.5 directly from my dCS Debussy dac.


Best regards,
The Norwegian
Seems like it would be a good match.
The Avantgarde are very efficient, and the Pass a great amp.
I would go for it.
You could also consider the Pass First Watt F5 or J2.
Mohano, my brother is using 2 Pass First Watt F3 bi-amping his Avantgarde Unos. 1 for the horns and the other for the sub. 1 amp is sufficient but 2 is a very nice improvement ... more headroom, ease to the music, more detail, open ...

XA30.5 SHOULD work with your Duo's ... good luck!
sounds like you have a great plan.. Besides, if it you don't like it, authorized dealers have a return policy with perhaps a restock fee...
I have no idea whether your amplifier choice will work or not, but please report back with your findings. There are quite a few of us horn users who wouldn't mind a bit of feedback :)
I agree, the XA30.5 along with the Avantgarde Acoustic Duo speakers would be an excellent match.
I go with the consensus and think the gamble will pay off.

I own the 30.5 and am impressed with how well it does at low power levels which is where I would imagine you would be with your AG's.

Below is a quote from Nelson Pass's paper, "Leaving Class A" at the Passlabs website:

"We apply a single-ended Class A bias at about 10% of the push-pull Class A bias. This is sufficient to improve the performance around 1 watt and below." also that single ended class A is considered the "king of class A".

Food for thought:

If a speaker is rated to give 100 db from 1 watt, it will take 1/10th of a watt to produce 90 db, 1/100 of a watt for 80, 1/1000 of a watt for 70. Of course other factors like room size and distance from speakers have to be figured in but I believe that not only that "the first watt" is important but the fractions below it are too, especially if you like low level listening and/or the decay of notes/sounds. Good luck.
Have you been running your DCS directly to the amps in the past? Why are you replacing your existing amps? Have you tried any preamps between the DCS and the amps?

I only mention these items as I used to have a DCS stack and tried with many different amp and speaker combos running the DCS direct. Never got quite the same results running direct as I did with running the DCS through a preamp. I only bring this up as a possible consideration if there is something you are finding is not just quite perfect with your system.

I like the all class-A Pass amps. Just sold an Aleph 5 which was/is designed as a SS class A SET based amp, per Nelson P.
Sorry for being a bit of topic but I hope you will not mind my little story.

A few months ago I have attended an Avantgarde demonstration. I had about 1-1.5 hours till the shop was closing and my plan was to listen first the UNOs and then the DUO Grosso speakers. The dealer was king enough to switch the Audio Note integrated initially used with an Accuphase E-560 class A integrated amplifier (I own the previous Accuphase class A integrated, i.e. the E-550). I was so blown away by the Accuphase E-560 – Avantgarde UNO combo that I could not stop the music and go upstairs to listen to the DUO Grosso – I had to listen all the material I brought with me.

Since the Accuphase E-560 integrated (and the E-550 too) deliver 30 class A watts into 8 ohms you may also want to consider these integrated amplifiers.

Good luck!
For the past five years, I've owned Avantgarde Duo Primos. Prior to that, I owned Avantgarde Duos for four years. During that time, I have owned or demoed many many amps with Avanatgarde loudspeakers. I'm currently running the First Watt M2 with Avantgarde Duo Primos. The sound is warm, engaging & very musical. Very tubelike. I have pretty much owned or demoed most of Nelson Pass's Class A lower powered offerings (Pass Aleph 3, Volksamp Aleph 30, First Watt Aleph J, First Watt F2, First Watt F3, Pass XA30.5 and First Watt M2). The M2 being the best of the bunch followed very closely by the First Watt F3. I think you should really focus on the First Watt offerings in lieu of the Pass XA30.5 with your Duos, as the First Watt amps seem to be tailor made and at home driving horn loudspeakers. Good luck and let us know what you end up with.

Thanks for all the responses and suggestions! Since I posted my question in april I have been auditioning these amps:

- Pass Labs XA30.5
- Cary CAD300SEI
- T+A V10
- Border Patrol SE300B
- First Watt F2
- EAR/Yoshino V20
- DOXA 62 (handbuild Norwegian solid-state amp)

All of them have been auditioned over at least a couple of days, some for weeks and even months. These are all great amps and a number of them could have been the first choice (including the XA30.5) - it's basicaly a matter of personal taste, sonic preferences and how well it performes in your system.

I went with the Border Patrol SE300B which in my system balances everything perfectly and simply creates magic with the Duo's!
Nice ! bet it sounds great Mohano. Enjoy !
Hi Mohano,

I purchased the First Watt M2 about 7 weeks ago. I believe it is by far the best sounding solid-state amplifier I've ever heard with my Avantgarde loudspeakers. It is so tube-like and musical that I find myself listening for many hours at a time. The M2 has really surprised me. Last week I had a couple of friends over to listen. Each of them have been in the hobby for 50 years and are huge tube gear lovers. They were shocked at how good & tube-like the M2 sounds in my system. They were very impressed with the M2 and could not get over at how good solid-state can sound. If you get a chance, try and demo the M2 and tell us what you think. Nelson Pass is a genius! Take it easy
Your choice does`nt surprise me, a well bullt-high quality 300b SET with those speakers should sound wonderful! Congratulations.
Late followup to the original post.

I have just finished setting up these speakers with the Pass XA30.5 as my final music system.

This combination is purely amazing, both for music and movies. No lack of power for movies with the highly efficient speakers. Pure class A sweetness and dead silent noise floor (similar to Class D amps). The music when coupled with my BG radia in-wall BGX subs is musical sex. It is like being touched by God... goosebumps for everyone that has heard them. As close to heaven as I am liable to get on earth.

I did build a major room to go with this setup including a great deal of diffusion and bass trapping.

Look up Blazar on AVSforum and you will find my thread there with all the pictures.

The amp doesn't even get into temperature extremes which is also nice since I have the amp in a rack.

All of the optimistic speculation in this thread turned out to be basically true.
Blazar, great system and the room. I looked-up your thread on AVS Forum, very involved construction process.
It so happens, I have the very same speakers, Avantgarde Duo Omega G2, and my speaker placement is fairly similar to yours, at least in terms of the proximity to the rear wall.
My room is slightly smaller though, 21x 16x 8.
I wonder, what are the sub settings on your Avantgardes?
the volume and the crossover point? Just the number on the dial.
I am crossed over between 4-5 and volume is at at 7.

I am allowing the Integra DHC 80.3 to run Audyssey processing on the main speakers and also allowing the Audyssey to crossover at 50 to allow the BG Radia BGX system to take over the sub-bass region.

If you compare the speakers with and without Audyssey, the system sounds overall better with Audyssey so far compared to "direct" listening.

Most audio purists are going to freak out over my decision to use Audyssey, especially with horns... but Audyssey makes everything sound so... right.

Bass equilization in particular is fantastic with the Audyssey.

I am so addicted to these speakers in this room... when I am away from the room or on vacation, I find myself wishing I was home.

It really is a religious experience!
I was hoping someone would try the fist wat SIT amps with AG. Surely a worthy combination? I am tempted
Mohano, i have Avantgarde Uno, Debussy DAC, and i will buy soon Pass Labs XA 60,5, to replace my Avantgarde Model 3; Did you drive you Debussy directly to the amp, and is it fine, including sound level? Best regards
I have added a pair of JL Audio Fathom 212 subwoofers sitting behind each of my Avantgarde Duo Omegas. It just happens that this is is the perfect location for best response from each of the subwoofers. I was able to crossover the subwoofer a bit high at around 100hz and crossover the Duo's subwoofer higher. The Duo's subwoofer is simply not that great for electronic music that I like and will bottom out during movie passages if the speaker is set to "Large".

The JL Audio Fathom's are so vastly more powerful, they match the extreme efficient horn speakers much better.

I find myself wishing for a pair of Avantgarde Trios to match with the JL Audio Fathom 212's. The Trios each down to 100Hz which would be perfect.
I just tried the First Watt F3 which sounded pretty muddy in the midrange and weak on bass control with the Duo Omegas. Had to send it back, not as good as the Pass Labs XA30.5

Even better than both of those however is the XA30.8... this unit is nirvana with the Duo Omegas. Worth the extra price. Super quiet, no hiss, sound extremely transparent and excellent bass control. The best amp I have heard so far in my system.

Beware it does not fit in a standard audio rack however.

I highly recommend the XA30.8. Honestly I doubt it gets any better than this in the entire universe of amplifiers. It excels in every way you can imagine.

I bet the reviews on the new Pass Labs Point 8 series are going to great
I would absolutely run a low powered SET into those speakers unless you are against tubes. A shame to own the AVs if indeed you are against tubes.
Mohano hi:

You have the bass of the Duo's sorted as they have their own 250w amp correct?
So all you need to drive is the mids and tweeters at over 105db effecient with a very easy load I believe over 10ohms, and easy low -phase angle.
So the ideal amp here is, for one of Ralph's Atmasphere OTL's on these.

Cheers George

Cheers George
You might want to have a listen to TRON, a bespoke UK valve amplifier company. Graham Tricker, the designer, distributes AG in the UK and has designed his amplifiers specifically to run with AG and other high efficiency horns. He has a distributor in Heggedal, Norway

I use a TRON Voyager to drive my AG Duos and am extremely happy. The TRON sounds great and it has zero circuit noise - so it’s silent unlike some valve amps with AGs. If his current amps are too expensive, he is planning to launch a new lower cost 300B SET called the Atlantic at Munich in May.
I've tried 300B and 2A3 amps with my Duo Omegas - both far outclassed by the Lamm ML2. Even at 107dB sensitivity and with powered subs, the Lamms make a huge difference in bass performance (taken at speaker level, not line level), musical flow, depth, ease.
The new Pass Labs XA30.8 sounds EXCELLENT with the Avantgarde Duo Omegas. It is simply not possible to get any better than this that I can imagine.

I tried a 10 watt amp and I have to say... folks who use less than 20 watts for Duo's are simply not doing them justice. They send very anemic and simply cannot keep up and higher volumes such as electronic music, rock, or movies.

I am seriously toying with the idea of the Trios ... just not sure if I want to blow that much money yet...
I tried a 10 watt amp and I have to say... folks who use less than 20 watts for Duo's are simply not doing them justice. They send very anemic and simply cannot keep up and higher volumes such as electronic music, rock, or movies.

10 watts is more than enough power for any Avantgarde speaker. The meters of my Accuphase A-65 power amp (which are very accurate) show that very often I use less than 0.01 watts, i.e. less than a hundredth of a watt. This is actually the problem, very many amps are not design to play music properly in the centi or milli-watt regimes. It is like expecting a car to operate at optimal parameters when driving it between 0.05 and 0.5 miles per hour.
I agree with Nvp, with this speaker you're using mere fractions of a watt the
vast majority of the time. The quality of the first watt is what you hear.
Preference is of course subjective taste. Chadeffect owns this brand's Trio
speaker and has used many different amplifiers and chose the 2 watt
Yamamoto 45 tube SET. Does that mean it's better than the Pass amp? No,
it a matter of individual preference and desired goals/ sound . I'd probably
prefer the Yamamoto over the Pass amplifier but naturally there are others
who would choose the Pass, it just depends.
I would definitely use a small SET tube amp on those speakers.
To say that one needs 20 wpc on 107dB sensitive Duos is...misinformed. I can run mine on 3.5 wpc 2A3 amps with plenty of headroom; it's just that qualitatively the Lamms are the best I've heard to date, at 18 wpc.
I agree that with AG Duo's it is fractions of a Watt that are required in most situations. I have Duo Omegas and using an Atmasphere S30 OTL amp. This is fed directly from a Berkeley Alpha DAC. With the Atmasphere you can remove the driver tubes to reduce max power. With 5 tubes each side you get around 35W. The amp has an output dial that can show power per channel - at deafening levels the meter is barely moving so I reckon well less that half a Watt!

I have tried a number of amplifiers with the Duo's and all have been able to deliver excellent results, so I would expect the Pass amps to sound really good.
I have owned Avantgarde duo 2.2 speakers for the past 8 years...I am using the least expensive Prima Luna amp (35 watts/channel tubes)..and the sound is quite good..this is the combination used by the owner of Upscale Audio in his living room..and he has the choice of many amps, obviously. It is way more than enough volume setting through my Cary slp98 pre-amp cannot be set past 10:00 without producing volume levels far past any level one would need in a medium sized living room: mine is 14' x 18' with 16 ft. ceiling.
Fascinating and highly informative discussion-especially for those contemplating solid-state amps with high efficiency speakers. As impressed as I am with the performance and value of the Pass XA30.5 and the hands down raves that the XA30.8 has received, has anyone with AvantGarde or other >95db speakers driven them with the First Watt J2?

I live in a co-op unit and my room is only 19 x 14 x 8.5. My speakers are well over 93db and the impedance certainly won’t drop much below 8 ohms. I have to consider the neighbors’ ears-and mine, so I’d want my average listening levels to be where my midwoofers play down to 70Hz at about 72db max. That’s because I’d want 70Hz to be equally loud to my ears as would a 1Khz pure tone’s level at between about 57db and 62db max, as per the (2003 revised) Fletcher-Munson curve.

Hopefully, I’m interpreting the Fletcher-Munson effect correctly.....??

My midwoofers are cut off below 70Hz, where my pair of Jim Salk Rythmik powered subs take over. So my mains in my size room need all but flea power. The single -ended J2 does 25 wpc into 8 ohms; 13.5 wpc into 4 ohms. But the big question is how does the J2 perform subjectively? Does it have a 3D soundstage and with extension beyond the speakers? What of its imaging and spatial placement of vocals and instruments? Do its highs sound too bright or brittle, or sweet and airy? Does the midrange have the holographic magic of a 300B SET amp? Does it do midbass with authority down to 70Hz?11

I hope to own a good 300B SET amp or even mono blocks in the near future, and by all accounts even those in the $5.5K range would smoke all but the very best solid-state amps in terms of subjective sound quality, at least with speakers and rooms like mine.

But has anyone here used the First Watt J2? And please also recommend a 300B SET power amp or mono blocks ~ $5.5K. My DAC likely be the Exasound e22. Thanks.
Hello ajant,
Get in touch with audiogon member Snopro. He has the First Watt J2 (and I believe also the Pass Labs XA 30.8 ) as well as a Coincident 300b mono block SET. He had them driving Zu speakers but now has the Horning Eufrodite speakers. I’m sure he can provide you with valuable insight.
Thanks Charles1dad, for this great lead.