Pass Labs INT 60 VS. Primaluna Dialogue Premium HP VS. Arcam A49


Tying to decide between the Pass Labs INT 60 integrated amp and the Primaluna Dialogue Premium HP integrated tube amp. I currently have the Arcam A49 which is excellent but looking for something with even more detail. All three have many excellent reviews, looking for input to make a decision. I have Wilson Audio Sasha 1 speakers, an Arcam D33 DAC, Rega Apollo-R CD, Clearaudio Performance DC turntable with a Manley Chinook phono stage. 
kenepeters
I only have experience with the PL HP. Been enjoying the HP for 2 years. You will have a VERY nice sounding system if you choose the HP.

Your other 2 choices are great..but they’re SS, and simply won’t have the tube realism the HP has. Just as a tube phono sounds more convincing than a dead quite, precise SS unit, the HP will have a huge impact on your record listening.

Subjective, and it’s just YOUR ears that make the final call. Your gear is first rate, the HP will put them in their best light.




I agree with tablejockey all the way. I have owned many great solid state amps, including Pass labs, and a fine tube amp like the Primaluna Dialogue HP will simply give you more "realism", and suck you into the music for hours on end....You will have a hard time turning it off and going to bed!
I too agree with the above responses. Over the past 40 years I've also owned many great sounding SS amps including Pass, Classe, Modwright and Hegel. On a whim I bought the PL Dialogue Premium about 2 years ago and my system came alive. The sound is more musical, fuller sounding and much more enjoyable even at lower sound levels. Another advantage of the PL amp is tube rolling to fine tune the sound. I suggest you call Kevin at Upscale audio and he helped me get the best sound for my system.     
I agree with unsound. The load of the Sasha is inappropriate for a tube amp. Proper amp/speaker matching is necessary to achieve good results.
INT-60 user here. VERY happy!  Talk to Mark at Reno HiFi for great info.

My system:
Ayon CD-3sx cdp, Acoustic Zen Crescendo mkii loudspeakers, Pass INT-60.

I agree with Unsound and Tls49. And especially in the case of the specific tube amp in question, compared to many other tube amps, given its unusually high output impedance. See the third and fourth paragraphs here (although these measurements are for the non-HP version; the HP version may be somewhat better in these respects given the doubled complement of output tubes).

You may or may not like the sound that would result from the Sasha/PL pairing, but given the very considerable risk of disappointing sonics that is suggested by the impedance characteristics of this speaker and this amp, it would seem to make sense to pursue the much less risky solid state alternative.

Good luck. Regards,
-- Al

http://http//www.stereophile.com/content/arcam-fmj-p49-power-amplifier#xOPVkVORGFOUHhdF.97

I agree with unsound, tls49 and almarg. You might want to check out this review of the Arcam P49, which is the power amp portion of your A49. JA compares it to the Pass XA60.5

That might help you get a handle on the sonic differences of Arcam and Pass.

Cheers,

Scott


The Pass Labs is a beast and should pair very well with your Sashas and this from a tube lover. 

Kenepeters,
On paper I’d agree with those who strongly suggest a SS amplifier given the load characteristics of the Sasha. However there’s usually more to the story. Some speakers are designed with the expectation that they’ll be driven by a transistor amplifier.

Will you be able to hear either amplifier prior to buying? Listening to an amplifier paired with the speaker of choice will answer all questions. The P.L. Premium HP is noted for high level built quality and excellent transformers. As some others have posted here I also find tube power amplifiers "generally" sound more musical, natural and realistic (with a suitable speaker match). My gut leans towards the Primaluna (Particularly with the KT 150 tubes). Without an audition the Sasha’s specifications suggest the Pass Labs amp the safer bet. Anecdotally I've heard the larger Wilson speakers with tube amplifiers and the sound was very good. 
Charles
Kenepeters,
Earlier this year someone named orionpcgames who owns Sasha speakers had a similar thread. His dilemma was Pass Labs 250s or Cary 211c push pull tube amplifier. He ultimately chose the Carys and he was "ecstatic "(his word of description )) with the results. He was suitably cautioned about this choice but did so anyway.

He may have been as happy with the Pass Labs if he’d went that route (who knows?). Just an example of listening results that are contrary to well reasoned caution based on known specifications.
Good luck,
Charles
As almarg mentioned, the high output impedance of some tube amps is what would concern me. 

One one of my biggest audio disappointments was getting a 60 watt tube integrated that I came to find out had on unusually high output impedance. My speakers had 12" woofers and a low impedance of 3.2ohms. The amp could not do anything with that woofer. I had nothing but mids and highs and very weak lower mids and bass.

Now, I had a sixteen watt SET 845 tube amp from Art Audio that ran those same speakers beautifully; some of the best sound I have had. To this day I can't get the sound of that amp out of my head. It was fantastic and I wish I still had it.

I guess the takeaway from this would be try before you buy if you can. It could be fantastic or it could break your heart.

Cheers,

Scott
Sumac,
Yes, this is why I am such an advocate of the listening experience  (when possible). Very likely that the 16 watt SET amplifier has better quality power supply and output transformer than the 60 watt tube amplifier.  

Also very likely that the SET Art Audio would be considered a poor match for your speakers if judged solely on specifications. With the failure of the 60 watt amplifier what led you to try the subsequently sucessful SET? I happen to find measurements and specifications useful as a screening mechanism  but know they aren't capable of revealing the entire story as your experience confirms.  But you have to begin somewhere and listening isn't always an option before purchasing. 
Charles 


@charles1dad


It was a long time ago when I was just getting into the audiophile hobby thing (actually, I didn’t even know I was getting into it, I was just looking for a great sounding system).

I did just what I wouldn’t advise anyone to do. I bought it without hearing it. One of my favorite reviewers, the late John Potis, wrote an outstanding review on the the Art Audio Carissa. John was one of the best. He had a great ear and could describe the sound of gear beautifully.

http://http//www.6moons.com/audioreviews/artaudio2/carissa.html


Your right, it had a big stout power supply. The 60 watt integrated came from a very high end tube amp manufacture and should have had a great power supply and been outstanding as well. But it bit me in the backside hard.

The Carissa is one piece of gear I wish I could get back.

Cheers,

Scott


John Potts as you say was a very good reviwer.  He had the ability to effectively discover and describe the essence of an audio component. I always enjoyed reading his work. I recall reading his reviews of Art Audio and Canary  amplifiers ago. 
Charles 
Scott, thanks for your inputs. Here is a corrected link to Mr. Potis’ review of the Carissa:

http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/artaudio2/carissa.html

Interestingly, it is described in the review as being a "no negative feedback" design, but having an output impedance of 1.2 ohms, which is on the low side for a zero negative feedback SET design. While at least in its present version it is described at the Art Audio UK site as incorporating 9 db of feedback, which is a substantial amount, that would tend to reduce output impedance significantly. Both references, however, indicate that maximum power capability has been sacrificed somewhat in order to "double available current" in comparison with traditional designs.

All of these indications (1.2 ohms output impedance, 9 db of feedback, doubled current capability) are consistent with low output impedance, certainly in comparison with most SET designs, and in comparison with JA’s measurements of the PL Dialogue Premium, and I suspect also in comparison with the PL Dialogue Premium HP. (I would assume that the reference to a 10 ohm output impedance that is provided at the Art Audio UK website refers to optimal load impedance, rather than to amplifier output impedance).

In contrast, the interaction of an "unusually high output impedance," such as Scott described for his former 60 watt tube integrated, and a speaker impedance that is low in the bass region and higher at other frequencies, will produce exactly the results he described ("very weak lower mids and bass"), compared to the results most well designed solid state amps (and many other tube amps) would have provided.

BTW, I was one of those who suggested caution regarding the Cary tube amplifier in the thread Charles referred to. I did note in my post in that thread, however, that the output impedance of the Cary amp was unspecified, as was the corresponding damping factor (damping factor and output impedance are inversely proportional), and that measurements of those parameters did not appear to be available.

Also BTW, in saying all of this I’ll add that like several of those who have posted above I personally am firmly in the category of being a fan of tube power amps. But I am also not a risk-taker when it comes to questionable pairings.

Best regards,
-- Al

@almarg 

Thanks for correcting the link. For some reason I had a hard time posting it and did not know that it was not correct/working.

Cheers,

Scott
I own a number of amps all except one that I can think of are Tube Amps.  I am firmly committed to them but only with reasonable speakers .  I decide what reasonable is, somewhat arbitrarily .  If I owned Sashas, I would use solid state. 
That said I do own or I should say am trying to retrieve, two powerful tube amps.  A Jadis DA-60 with 8 KT-88 (Gold Lion), rated at 60 watts but that is not likely the true output which I believe is higher.  I also own a pair of Opera Consonance Cyber 800 monoblocks with 4X EH fat bottle 6CA7 each.  Rated at 78 watts. 
Still I wouldn't think they would be a good match , the Cyber 800s are truly exceptional for there pedigree, nonetheless, I just don't know?
Perhaps a cautious audition 
So to keep it related to this thread, I would choose the pass which I have heard and think is superb.
The best comparison to the Prima Luna is the INT 30. I'm an ex tube freak who finds class A to be a bit sweeter if paired correctly. My Accuphase E600 is noticeably sweeter than any tube amp I've heard though my Harbeth's.

The Pass Labs dealer says the INT 60 will work tremendously with my Sasha 1's. He says there will be a huge difference from my Arcam A49. The Arcam A49 has the power and is very good and my Arcam dealer says I would need to spend over 13K to really make a difference. My Primiluna Dialogue PREMIUM HP dealer says this tube amp will better the Arcam and the Pass Labs & will work incredibly well with the Sasha's. Since I have to order the units I have no way to try them out with the Sasha's. Wilson Audio believes the Primaluna Dislogue PREMIUM HP would work very well, as well as the Arcam & the Pass Labs. 

The dealer won't allow you to do an in home listening test??

Find a new dealer.
Kenepeters-

looks like you have plenty of information to digest here.

This recent Stereophile review on a speaker of equivalent retail price may have some value. The 2nd page mentions the HP able to produce satisfying performance against some upper end SS amps. Not the exact specs as your speakers, but more perspective on the HP which may be useful. 

http://www.stereophile.com/content/yg-acoustics-carmel-2-loudspeaker-0#GIFxXDoBW4Em47mP.97

All of the technical stuff mentioned along with end user worship of the HP won't replace an audition. I took a leap of faith and purchased one only because of owning a lower level model for several trouble free years. Fortunately, I  picked mine up before the MSRP increased! 


It's encouraging that Wilson Audio themselves gave a strong reply in regard to the P.L.Premium HP and didn't attempt to steer you towards SS amplifiers exclusively. This is a very good endorsement from them as they're obviously  intimately familiar with the Sasha. 
Charles 
Pass labs INT-60 is terrific.
I have always owned SS gear including a Pass XA-30.8.  The Pass was amazing.  I then sold it and purchased an HP int and sold it soon after because it did not sound "real" at all.  
Thank you for your input, for less than $280 (shipping) I can try out the Pass Labs INT 60, I know I will love it, just do not know if I will like it more than my Arcam A49 to justify the cost. I think the Primaluna Dialogue HP would be completely different, I have never had a tube amp before & it gets great reviews, but probably system dependent. 

OP-

at this level of performance, you must audition these amps prior to any purchase.  The Pass Labs, PL HP or Accuphase will drive your speakers- well.
I love my primaluna. It replaced a YBA Designs integrated but the PL put it to shame. I agree you will have a hard time ending your listening session. My PL with EL34 tubes is nirvana.
I have PL Dialogue HP Int and recently picked up Pass INT150 also.
Both sound wonderful. Am using the KT150 tubes because they power the Revel F206s better. With Mullard CV4003s also. Forced to choose, I suppose I prefer the musicality of the PrimaLuna setup. YMMV.

I used Pass Labs Xa30.5 and now have Xa100.8 with my Sasha 1. I prefer SS with these speakers. You will be happy with the Pass Int 150.  
Pass integrated your best option with your speakers. Heard Wilson's with low power class A tube amp, sounded very good but lacked necessary power. Pass excellent amp and will outperform Arcam significantly. Best wishes.
alfa100 & leotis, I will only be able to get a demo Pass Labs INT 60, not the 150, I believe the INT 60 will perform fine with the Sasha 1, although now I have 400 watts (4 ohm) now. I had an Arcam before this with half the power & I was not happy with that. My main concern with the Pass Labs is the brightness with digital high rez files and Tidal. I have not heard this amp, just read excellent reviews. My turntable sounds great , especially with the tube phono stage (Manley Chinook). 
Even many ss integrateds might find the sub 2 Ohm load spec challenging. How ever the fairly high sensitivity might mitigate this concern somewhat depending on desired volume output in the given room.

http://www.stereophile.com/content/pass-laboratories-int-60-integrated-amplifier-measurements#ZWJzQw...

http://www.stereophile.com/content/pass-labs-int-150-integrated-amplifier-measurements#I3P9vEMyi85oH...


Thanks! for sharing- unsound
I am strongly considering a Pass Labs INT myself.
All this information and now a new amp choice came in to play, the T & A (Theory & Application) R2500 built on the HV platform which is close to the same price as the Pass Labs INT 60, but with more power. 

OP: When you mention a concern about brightness re: hi-rez files and Tidal, that brings into the equation other factors dealing with the digital source(s). It’s one thing to find the right amp to drive the speakers, it’s another to clean up any digititus.
Jafant, did you notice that both Pass integrateds seemed challenged by 2 Ohm loads?

Post removed 
Deep down I really wanted the Primaluna Dialogue HP but ended up going with the T+A PA 2500R because I knew it was a sure bet, it has the power & warmth I wanted, even more than the Pass Labs. When I can save up I will also get Primaluna Dialogue HP for my other system. 

I would disagree that using a tube amp with the Sashas is ’inappropriate.’
I had WATT/Puppies for 8 years, and used mostly tube amps with them, and this was back in 1987, when their impedance in the top octave dropped to 1.7 (not a huge difference than it is now, but still...). But for a more recent appraisal, one might want to read Art Dudley’s review in Stereophile, where he used Shindo monoblocks with the Sasha for the review and had no problems with them.
While I am sure solid state would handle the speakers more easily, Dave (Wilson) voiced no objective to my using tubes. This was when he and I were both California-based (his factory was in Novato, CA, about 30 minutes from San Francisco) and I was one of the earliest customers. From what I see, the Sasha now drops to 2 ohms. And one of the principals at the late Fi Magazine used tube amps with his WATTS as well. I heard no problems.

I understand the concern, but it’s not really verifiable without listening. Some tube amps will crash and burn, but certainly not ALL of them.
Why don’t you simply call Wilson Audio and just ask them if THEY have any objections if you ever want to acquire a Primaluna? They’ll tell you outright so you can at least continue to consider it or - if they object - remove it from consideration.

Wilson Audio representatives have told the OP that they believe the Primaluna Premium HP would be a good and suitable choice for the Shasha. I'd trust their assessment. I think that this would be a very natural sounding musical pairing. 
Charles 
TY- unsound.
It is hard to believe that Pass Labs cannot build an INT for 2-Ohms stable?
I concur- gbmcleod

the Sasha and Sophia can handle a tubed power amp like ARC.
The way it was explained to me- if user enjoys electric guitar/electric bass-driven music, then, a robust SS power amp is the order on Wilson speakers.
^^perhaps the Pass int 250 is up to the job?
Though there are a few intergrateds that can handle 2 Ohm loads, that kind of load is typically where separates are called into duty.
^That doesn't make sense to me, perhaps an explanation is in order.

That Wilson says it's ok, doesn't mean that much to me. Speaker manufacturers often say such things so as not to lose sales and embarrass their retailers. What will work, and what will work best are different things.

Unsound, thank you for your input. I only have space for an integrated amp and want to make the right decision. The Arcam A49 powered them very well, just looking for a change and something with even greater detail. I believe the Sasha's are 4 Ohm. 
Unsound, 
That's a fair point but I don't believe that Wilson would offer that advice in a generic manner for the sake of politeness and not wanting to offend. Given that they have used tube amplifiers during presentations and there's ample feedback from Shasha owners who've happily used tube amplifiers. 

I'm left to conclude that both tube and transistor power amplifiers can and have been used successfully.  As is always the case it is depends on what type of sound character and presentation a listener seeks. I'm well aware of the speaker's test measurements yet also recognize the very good outcomes attested to from the use of an appropriate tube amplifier in numerous systems. 

This and other forums are replete with experiences of happy Shasha/tube amplifier owners (and SS amplifier owners  as well).
Charles 
Charles1dad,  I'm not trying to make this a tube vs. ss debate, even many ss integrateds would be challanged by the sub 2 Ohm load coupled with a difficult phase angle.