Pass Labs XA-160 vs Levinson 33H

I have a sneaky feeling that my beloved XA160 amps may not be the perfect match for my ARC Ref 3 preamp. I am also a little worried that I could use a tad more power though I am less worried about this than I am about the impedance match between my pre and amp.

Anyway, could anyone please let me know their thoughts on the 33H? How does it sound? I have read that Levinson can be cold and clinical. I love how my XA160 produces clean, organic music. I dont want to give this up. I am looking for feedback (good and bad) on the 33H. Any direct comparison between the Pass to the Levinson would be highly useful. Also, anyone using a REF 3 with the 33H?

Thanks in advance.
36626840 6836 4eb9 8773 cd66f27994f1tboooe
I brought my dartzeel (for which I am a dealer)over to my customers house. He had the levinson 32, 33H and Sonus faber Stradaveri's. In comparison to the dartzeel, I would not say that the 33H is cold and clinical. I would say it had an electronic glaze, was veiled, 2 dimensional, far less natural and closed in as compared to the dartzeel.
You other option would be to keep you Pass and get a low output impedance preamp like the Joule 150MKII, unless you just love the ARC pre, which many people do.
pubul57, I personally feel that amps have the least influence on the sound so I would be more willing to change my amps and keep my Ref 3.
I have to disagree on your comment of amps having the least influence on the sound. As someone once said, the preamp is the heart of your system and the amp is your brain. The amp and speaker synergy is just as important as the impedance matching of your amp and preamp. You can have a bad matching amp for your speakers and your system will sound bad no matter how good your preamp is. That's why we call it a "system".
Both are outstanding amps and rank among the world's best. Lack of power is more of an issue with the efficiency of your speakers than preamp impedance. Have you written Pass about the amp-preamp compatibility question? They're extremely responsive and helpful.
I noticed that you have the Usher speakers. You might consider the new Belles Monoblocks ( picture on the web site ).
The reviewer from Soundstage was raving about the Belles Combo when he heard from a local dealer in TX.
Love it when a dealer opines! Strange that such posts appear. A grain of salt is recommeded.
The amp is your brain? This comment makes no sense. Could you please elaborate?
At least we have a level-headed comment here from Output555.

Why not go for a Tenor amp? At least you will have some nice wood to look at while going crazy over its sound.
I don't want to be categorical, but I think the amp/speaker interface is far more important than the preamp, not that preamps are not important - they are, but the power/current/and ability to drive a speakers impedance is critical, most noticeably in the ability to produce deep bass where impedance dips in some speakers will make some amps compeltely incapable of producing satisfyin bass. I would think that the amps mentioned could drive most any speaker - so not a problem. But driving a 10Kohm amp input impedance is a problem with most (not all) tube preamps. It would not suprise me if the ARC is not getting the best from your Pass, but I'm not sure what the ARC's output impedance is. WHat does ARC say about driving the Pass?
ARC recommends 20Kohm input impedance at least. My Pass is 22Kohms input impedance. Am I too close to the lower limit??? Would getting something with higher input impedance help? If so, in what ways can I expect a high input impedance to improve the sound?
I guess brains was a poor choice. I was quoting someone else. I suppose a better choice of words for the amp would be the muscles and nerve center. Bottom line is correct matching of amp and speakers taking into consideration room size and choice of music and headroom needed.
ARC recommended the same 20k for my old ARC pre-amp which had a 600 ohm output (I assume the same output as the Ref 3). Ran it with an old Threshold with a high input impedence and another anp with a 10k input impedence. The mismatch (I'm told - I've never actually heard the result of a mis-match) causes a rolloff in the highs which will be precieved as such and a consequential softening of the bass (FWIW the sound of 'tight bass' is IMHO more of a result of
the correct presence of the high frequencies in a drum when struck or a bass when plucked).

For myself, I wouldn't be concerned with an impedence mis-match on you present system. Too bad you can't try that system with tubes - then you will have something to really be concerned with that you will actually hear and not just fret about! :-)
newbee, thanks. I am actually trying to arrange a demo of the ARC Ref210 amps. Lets hope I dont like it!
Have you considered auditioning a McCormack DNA-500:


I remembered from another forum you were pretty happy with the Parasound Halo A21 some two years ago or so... Why don't you say "STOP" yourself and simply - enjoy the music...?


Zoran, Macedonia
Zoran, you are right but what can I say, I like to upgrade a lot. The A21 was a pretty good amp though. Two years ago seems so long ago....Thanks again!
LOL. just how many pre's are you going to go thru before you find your soulmate ? why not give the vtl 6.5 a try, or the 7.5 mk 2. with the right PC and ICs, the synergy with the pass amps is really nice. By the way, the occassional distance i heard with the vtl 6.5 in my intense audition of the 6.5 / ref 3 a/b was COMPLETELY solved when i moved away from the cardas GR ICs to TA ultras. in the audition i used the TA ultras only on the ref 3 due to a miscommunication of advice for the vtl. had i used the TA ultras for the vtl as well, the audition would have been 4 hours rather than 4 days. i am sure many other excllnt ICs would have revealed the same results in my system. see my review \on this site. there is most likely an impedance issue with the ref 3 and pass amp. placing both in the same system may compromise the potential of each very excellent component. if your amps+speaker combo does it for you, look into the vtl pre and keep an open mid regarding ICs. speaker/amp synergy is the first priority, though i am sure there are a handful of superb amps for your speakers should you want to keep the ref 3. call up brooks berdan in pasadena for the vtl. cheers,marc
marc, there are just so many cool components to listen to out there! Its hard to stay satisfied with only one. Unfortunately I can only afford to have one at a time but that does not mean I can swap out the one frequently!