Pass Labs X2.5 or Krell KAV-280p? WWYD?

I'm shopping the used preamp market, and see a few solid state units in my price range. Notably the Pass Labs X2.5 and the Krell KAV-280p. Within $500 of each other, both are very affordable.  And I need to say that borrowing one and listening to it in my system is not an option, I have to purchase on faith. So, I call on the vast experience of my fellow A'Goner's!  WWYD? (What would you do?)  

I have always been a solid state kind of guy, listen mostly to rock music, and my system consists of a Cary 306 CD player, VPI Scout w/Sumiko BPS III through a Phonomena phono pre, and Forte' Model 3 driving Legacy Focus 20/20 speakers in a 16x20 room. Most cables are Harmonic Technology Truthlink, with a Van Den Hul cable on phono and Legacy speaker cables. The amp is next on my list, so the Forte's days are numbered.  The preamp I'm replacing is a Parasound Halo 3. 

Has as anyone actually compared the two preamps? Or heard either one in a familiar system? I appreciate all opinions, advice, and testimonies. 
What would I do? I would buy the best tube preamp that I could afford.

Since you wish to limit yourself to SS though, I would look long and hard for a Klyne 7 series preamp. Hard to find on the used market, but when it comes to SS, hard to beat for the money. IMHO.
I have nothing against tubes per say, but I am spoiled by the features that solid state preamps offer in this price range. Remote control is a "must have" for me personally, balanced outputs, and 5 or 6 inputs, to get a tubed pre that has these features of the same quality as these units would most likely run into a substantial higher price. Same for the Klyne. I've heard the Klyne at the local salon, and it definitely is a fine piece of gear! But, they are not going to be selling anywhere near the price of these two pre's.  Maybe on my next preamp upgrade I can move into that price territory? 

Out of curiosity, what price range are you talking about?

It seems as if you are asking an awful lot from a preamp for a small amount of money. Especially if you are talking about a true differential design.

You may be able to get better quality by looking for an integrated amp in the lower price ranges (or even higher). Cost saving could be used on fewer chassis'/cords/cables instead of on lower quality internal components.

Especially since you are already saying that your amp is next on the list.
There are some very good integrated amps on the market these days.

That's just my $0.02.
The price of the two preamps I'm looking at are about $1500.  The reviews I've read on either of them are very positive. Of course they cost $4 K new, so, substantial depreciation there. I did look at an Audio Research tubed pre that has all the features I mentioned, but it was a full thousand bucks higher.  And you are right, I could probably get an intigrated amp for cheaper than separates. But these Legacy Focus speakers are power hungry monsters! I'm hoping for something like a 300wpc Krell or similar.  I'm even considering a D class amp for the sheer power they offer. 

I've thought about a tubed amp, perhaps a tubed intigrated, but if that was the route I was going to take, I'd do the whole thing different. With some smaller tube friendly speakers, perhaps in a smaller room. I might even build it all myself, with a Dynaco kit and speakers of my own design. But for now, I'm on the path of full scale system that can reach near realistic volume and dynamics. The fact is that if I move up from the Halo 3 to either of these preamps, I'm sure I will be blown away by the vast upgrade! So it's a win-win, I was just curious if anyone out there had any real preference for one over the other. I'm kind of leaning toward the Pass Labs just from reviews I've read. 
Another thing on my wish list is a Jolida tubed phono preamp, that may be the only tubes found in my setup, and could make a world of difference? 


you and I are in the same situation, as I am building my system, to boot.

You cannot go wrong w/ Pass Labs. IME, it is the best SS at this juncture and backed w/ excellent customer service!  Keep me posted & Happy Listening!

Wow! I didn't realize the 20/20's were that power hungry. You may be better off with separates then, as not many integrateds offer more than 200 wpc, especially lower priced ones.

If you could find one, and swing a deal on it, the CODA CSib integrated amp would probably be perfect for you though. Legacy Audio loves CODA amps, in fact they had CODA design and manufacturer their Legacy amps back when they were selling amps. I don't think Legacy still sells amps though.

There is a CSib for sale on Ebay, direct from the manufacturer with 10 year warranty, but the price is a bit steep at $4500 (List $6000). Maybe you could talk them down a bit.
The CSib does put out 400 wpc into 8 ohms though, and 800 wpc into 4 ohms. If you haven't heard of CODA, they also evolved from Threshold, just as Pass Labs did. Nelson Pass was the principle designer at Threshold for sure, but CODA was started in the 80's by 3 ex-Threshold engineers. Great amps!

As to your original question, if I had to choose a preamp for around $1500, of the two you mention, I'd go Pass Labs. I do like their amps better than their preamps though.

I'd still be more tempted to stretch a little bit for that Klyne SK6 3.5/P Preamp that already has a killer built in phono stage listed for sale on Audio Asylum Trader asking $2695, w/ $2450 in upgrades only two years ago. You may be able to get him down a few hundred, it's worth a shot.

Happy hunting,
Thanks John for your input. I have written a long, 3 paragraph response detailing why I've arrived at my decisions, and spoke about a Pass Labs X1 I'm bidding on today twice!, and twice it has lost it! So, frustrated I'm leaving it at this. Thanks Jafant for your input too, i'd like to hear what you are putting together! I'll update if and when I buy. 

I lost the bid on the Pass Preamp. So, rather than drop back and buy the Krell, I'm following your advice John and saving up for something better. What's waiting a few months in order to buy the last preamp I will ever need? (Ha!) well hopefully it will last me many years before I crave anyrhing different. There is much out there for $3500 in the used market, I'm sure something that can make me happy!  I read the Pass has volume increments of 3db steps? That does not sound very desirable to me. Even if it sounds amazing, that could get on my nerves.  So the search goes on. 

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A Coda Unison 3 Ultra  Limited Edition just popped up on the Audio Asylum Trader for a steal price of $1,250.

I have no affiliation with the seller. I just think at that price, it's a no brainer, especially with Legacy Audio speakers. Legacy and Coda were made for each other.
Thanks for the link John, that's a good looking intigrated! And you're right, Coda was making Legacy amps for a long time.  I just saw a Krell FBP 300 on eBay that's located right here in Virgina! Substantially more expensive than the Coda, but wow what an amp! 

There is certainly no shortage of great gear on the used market. I might have to cash out a few rare coins and just go for it. While it can be very hard to part with that kind of money, I have never regretted a dime I've spent on real high end gear. And despite what I've read concerning hi end stereo is not a safe investment, every single piece of my system is worth more than I paid for it! Am I just lucky? Or a careful shopper? Or is it just timing? 

so this post started out comparing two solid state preamps, but I'm in the market for a new amp and preamp, and either one that I find first will be fine with me. Thanks again for your input John. 


Happy hunting Russell. It's a buyers market out there right now. I know, I've overspent, and unfortunately I am on the other end now. 

If you do grab one of those big, old classic amps, make sure that it has been recapped recently, or be prepared for that possibility. Generally speaking, those big, power amps need to be recapped every 15-25 years.