Pass Labs X-1 vs XP-20

I recently decided to explore upgrading my Pass Labs X-1.  Reno HiFi supplied the Pass Labs XP20 for consideration.

My current system is as follows:

  • Primary Source: Michell Gyro SE (upgraded powersupply HR and Orbe Clamp) SME IV and Shelter 90X (on a SolidSteel WS-5 wall shelf)
  • Pre-Amp: Pass Labs X-Ono and X-1
  • Amp: Pass Labs XA100.8
  • Speakers: Magnepan 3.7i and two (2) DWMs
  • Cabling: Audience Au24 SE
  • Power: Audience aR2-TO and dedicated 20A circuits (two pairs of each)
The XP20 is in a different league with regard to detail, transparency, soundstaging laying and especially quietness.  On first listen, it didn't seem much better.  I gave it a few hours of warming up (mind you its used unit so break-in wasn't the main concern) and listened again.  Music appears from far blacker blacks.

The remote is night and day better than the older model.  As I use many of the functions (ext amp power, display reduction, mute, etc), it is much more useful.

On the negative side, it is a bit brighter than the X-1 very occasionally sharp depending on what you feed it.  An although can reach higher dbs than the X-1, one could switch the X-1 into high gain mode.  The XP20/XA100.8/Magnepan 3.7 combination can reach loud levels but not unneighborly loud levels. I would say the X-1 gave out a bit more but at the expense of audible grain.

Minor nit-pick, the unit is a bit larger and doesn't match the X-Ono.  The X-1and X-Ono, like the XA100.5 series are a bit more industrial looking and beautiful in my eyes.  The XP20 may even be a slight bit lighter.  Also a very minor nit-pick, I actually liked the smaller black box external powersupply that could hidden away.

Before pulling the trigger and switching to the XP20, should I consider anything else.  I imagine the XP30 would be even a bit better and give a bit of the X-1 more romantic glow.  Its really a bit out of my price range right now.

Thank you for reading, and your thoughts are appreciated.

I don't know if you are looking for a different flavor than the Pass,  but Coda 07X has a very similar sound signature as the Pass.  I do know of 2 People that have chosen it over Pass products.  Coda has a returned unit listed on ebay right now for about 1/2 price... I've heard this unit a few times with Bill from Legacy.  It is certainly in the league.

I hope this helps, 


I’ve owned a number of preamps over the years. Had a CJ Premier, and a total of 3 Pass preamps, among others. The XP20 is the best preamp I have ever owned and not by a small margin. Do use balanced connections with Pass gear if you can- it makes a real difference.

BTW, while the X-Ono is quite good, I would say that your XA100.8 and an XP20 cries out for an XP15
Although the XP20 is considered by many to be much better than X1, I believe the X1 to be more romantic and detailed. The XP20 goes to 60Khz and X1 goes to 100Khz!  Better for digital than phono?

I do not get a sense the XP20 is quieter. I feel your "grain" is coming from something other than the X1. I hear no grain on my X1, and it is dead quiet.

Keep the Xono. IMO it is better than the XP15.
I will chime in- The XP20 is the 3rd Pass preamp I've owned. It is deadly quiet and quieter than my prior Pass preamps. And by a wide margin better. Before this I thought the best preamp I ever owned was a CJ 17 LS2. I had an Aleph P before that and an XP10 after that. No contest- XP20 is AH MAY ZING.

I never owned the X-ono but I did have an Ono. On first listen comparing the Ono to the XP15 I was not impressed - the Ono is a solid piece of equipment. But on further listening, Pass did a great job with the XP15

After demo period, I have made the following observations concerning the Pass Labs X1 vs XP-20:
  • Better sound: I think the XP-20 is clearly better than the X1 with regard to transparency, bass definition/power and upper frequency sparkle (snares and cymbals in particular) most likely the result of its much better overall blackness/quietness.
  • Synergy: It feels that the XP-20 is a better partner with the XA100.8 than the X1 was.  I felt that the XA60.5 had better under frequency and placed a glow on female vocals which both the XA100.5 and XA100.8, although good, couldn't match.  The XP20 seems to allow the XA100.8 to sing more freely and gaining ground on the specialness of the XA60.5.
  • Better Design: The remote is night and day better than the beautiful yet heavy and awkward X1 remote.  

  • Limited Absolute Gain: I would have imagine the gain would have been higher as well.  The X1 in high gain mode seems to produce a few more SPLs out of the X100.8 and Magnepans. That's really not that significant given that I rarely push my set up beyond comfortable listening.  The high gain seemed a touch less transparent than the low gain mode.  With the XP20, I never notice any difference at any volume setting.  Unless I'm mistaken the earliest XP20 models had different low and high gain but was then incorporated into a single mode.
  • Aesthetics: I wish that the casework and footprint were a bit more like the X-Ono.  

So on balance, I will keep the Pass Labs XP-20.  Quality sonics and performance trump loudness and looks.