PASS LABS XA-30.5 vs XA-60.5


Hello all,
Has anyone heard the differences between these two amps, and have done A/B comparrisons on them? I have a XA-30.5 that I'm using with Totem Hawk Speakers. The XA-30.5 drives them very well, but I have been told the 60.5’s give you much better smoothness and cohesiveness, better imaging, better bass control, greater ease and greater resolution.

Here's the million dollar question:

I am ready for my next upgrade and have roughly $6000. Should I upgrade to the XA-60.5's or upgrade my Esoteric X03-SE cd player to the Esoteric seperates P-05 transport and D-05 DAC??

I have very appealing offers for both options.

Any Thoughts?

My system:

Pass Labs XA-30.5 amp
Pass Labs X0.2 preamp
Esoteric XO3-SE cd player
BPT 3.5 Ultra Sig. power conditioner
Totem Hawk speakers
AudioPath custom IC's and speaker cable
Shunyay Python CX power cords
roor
I have been told the 60.5’s give you much better smoothness and cohesiveness, better imaging, better bass control, greater ease and greater resolution.

Roor (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
In my system, on Silverline Audio Sonata III loudspeakers (93dB, 8 ohm), there was virtually no difference between the XA-30.5 and XA-60.5 in the qualities you listed.

The XA-60.5 could play louder. That was its only advantage.

IMO.
I have the 100.5's and 30.5.

First, does the needle on your 30.5 stay still or is it bouncing around?

If it's bouncing, maybe moving up to the 60.5's would be beneficial but I don't think day and night.

If it's not bouncing, I would urge you to think about getting the best preamp you could afford. I found great synergy with Conrad Johnsons newer preamps (CT-5 and ACT 2.2). They are: tube,class A,zero feedback,no cathode follower,only "one" gain stage,teflon capped preamps. Designs are great on paper but I can say they sound great with my Pass's. The CT-5,used,should easily be in your price range.

I haven't heard the Esoterics so I can't comment on how much improvement going to separates would be. Good luck.
Thanks for the response and recommendation. The needle on my XA-30.5 has always stayed right at 12 o'clock. The amp idles with the needle at 12 oclock and even at very high volume levels, the needle stays right at 12 o'clock (It's in class A all the time).
I have been led to believe that the Pass amps were designed to work best with balanced input. No c-j gear has balanced circuitry.
Unsound, good point but here are my thoughts.

Pass amps are balanced, so on paper, if you had a truly balanced preamp that you were happy with, that should be the way to go.

Some preamps have balance output jacks but aren't balanced themselves. You may or may not gain by using balanced connections. You can only listen for yourself and decide.

I would always choose the better sounding preamp regardless if it was truly balanced or "rca only". In my case, the CJ's sounded better than my previous fully balanced preamp. Running the Pass with rca's is fine. For me it was a case of 5 steps forward (better preamp) and 1 step backward (not being able to use the balanced input). Net gain was 4 steps. I just wanted better and got it.
If you want the full benefit of a fully balanced system, then your source should also be a fully balanced design component.. I would think.
This whole balanced issue often gets over analyzed, IMO. Unless one has obvious noise issues running with single ended equipment, or one has very long interconnects, then there should be no problem running single ended with Pass Labs amps provided the impedance match is good.
Tvad: I totally agree with both comments. I don't feel the XA-60.5's would sound any better than the XA-30.5 with efficient speakers. I also feel with good match of impedance, it doesn't make a difference between single ended and balanced in short runs (unless there's a system specific noise which I have never encountered). Anything over say 2 meters long, I think the balanced cable would then sound better.

I think if there's noise in the system, the ground should be looked at. I have a VERY ELABORATE GROUND SYSTEM which I have had truly fantasic results with. Here's the skinny:

I'm usiing wattgate audiograde receptacles with a 20 amp dedicated audio circuit. I run a single 10 awg wire from circuit breaker directly to the receptacle - ungrounded.

The reason for this is because I have a 15' long section of 3" diameter type K (thickest available) copper pipe tubing buried vertical in my back yard outside of my stereo room (yes, this was a job to bury). I then have thick insulated copper litz wire that Stealth custom made for me (spades both ends) running from the copper pipe into the house and it's connected to the ground screw on the back of my BPT 3.5 sig ultra power conditioner. I then plug all my components into the bpt. The bpt is the only item plugged into the ungrounded receptacle. It's a design that Serguei Timachev from Stealth and Chris Hoff from BPT helped me design. It's aweome. I have the litz wire connected to the copper pipe with copper fasteners. The top of the pipe is exposed and sticks out of the ground 2" (low enough so I can go over it with the lawnmower). I have a rubber compression style cap with a hose clamp that I can unscrew to remove the cap. Once a month I go out and remove the cap and fill the tube to the top with water (as this increases the conductivity) and improves the sound when compared to an empty gound pipe. The trick is to fasten the litz wire as far down on the pipe as possible because you want the wire connection to stay as wet as possible. Fastening the litz wire to the top of the pipe isn't nearly as good, because the water dries out of the pipe from the top down (water level decreases from tube about 1/2" per day).

It's the best diy audio ground design out there IMO.
Wow, Roor, how the heck DID you bury that thing? Did you have to dig a 15' hole, or could you pound it in with a sledge hammer? When I built my deck, I thought it was a chore to dig 4' down, but my soil is a mix of clay and rock that a shovel will not penetrate (had to use a pick).
Tvad,
your response regarding BAL. vs RCA is succinct and oh so right. Unless your cable run is long there`s no inherent superiority of balanced ICs. I`ve now heard many direct comparisons where RCA/single end circuit is equal or even out preforms a truely balanced circuit.

08-18-10: Charles1dad
Unless your cable run is long there`s no inherent superiority of balanced ICs.
Ground loop noise is another reason that balanced may be superior to single ended in some systems.

Balanced operation can eliminate the common-ground impedance mismatch that causes hum.
It would appear to me that the cases made re: balanced and single ended are generally sound, but not necessarily taking the specifics of the Pass circuitry (marketing?) into consideration:
http://www.passlabs.com/pdfs/articles/susy.pdf
From the Pass Labs XA-60.5 manual:
The question comes up all the time – are balanced inputs (XLR) better than single-ended (RCA)? The answer is that balanced lines generally give lower noise and slightly less distortion. They are recommended unless your favorite source component has only RCA outputs.

So, according to Pass Labs, utilizing the balanced inputs generally gives a lower noise floor (as has been discussed already), and slightly less distortion ("slightly less distortion" is not defined by specs in the manual).

Having tried both balanced and single ended operation on my XA-60.5, I preferred balanced, but using single ended did not produce an appreciable difference in sound other than an audible 6db reduction in gain.

There are many different personalities among audiophiles. Some would certainly claim a jaw dropping improvement when running Pass Labs amps balanced. I would characterize the difference as marginal.
Roor,
You've already got an excellent amp and source. I would put the $6000 into upgrading your speakers. Those seem to be the weakest link in your system.
Erndog: I agree and have decided to "pass" on the XA-60.5's for now. The weakest link is certainly the hawks, so I am on the hunt for speaks... My room isn't too big thgough - 16' x 12' x 8' ceilings so the hawks are no slouch in there.

Honest1: Yes, it sure was a big hole. I used shovels, and 6' heavy metal bar to loosen things up, and a post hole digger with extended/modified handles. It took about 8 solid hours. New Hampshire isn't named the Granite State for nothing, but I did hit small stones, clay and sand so it really wasn't too bad.
Any recommendations on speakers in the $5500-$7000 (used a'gon prices) if I upgrade my totem hawk speakers??

My system:

Pass Labs XA-30.5 amp
Pass Labs X0.2 preamp
Esoteric XO3-SE cd player
BPT 3.5 Ultra Sig. power conditioner
Totem Hawk speakers
AudioPath custom IC's and speaker cable
Shunyaa Python CX power cords

Thanks

Greg

08-22-10: Roor
Any recommendations on speakers in the $5500-$7000 (used a'gon prices) if I upgrade my totem hawk speakers??
Not specifically, but I suggest you look at something with a high sensitivity rating (mid 90s+ dB).
The new Aerial 7's coming out or Aerial 9's would be nice.
If you are going to drop 6K on your next amp, I would listen to the Audio Research VS115- I think it would outpace ANY Pass product. imho.
>>09-08-10: 6550c
If you are going to drop 6K on your next amp, I would listen to the Audio Research VS115- I think it would outpace ANY Pass product<<

We can assume you've heard the entire Pass line?

And in what aspect(s) would it outpace them?

Thanks in advance.
Roor, the emdog is right. You weak link is he speakers. Changing amp or cd player will not give you any audible results. I had esoteric x-03se and upgraded it to x01d2. Until I upgraded speakers and cables, I did not hear any difference at all. You will waste your money. Pass amps are great, but you gotta move up with the speakers first, than I think the amp. After that may be cd player. X-03se is a sweet spot in esoteric line.
Emdog and Denon1:

I agree, and am in the process of negotiating the purchase of a pair of preowned Daedalus Ulysses speakers.
I did go with the XA-60.5's and there was a significant improvement in sound within my system.
Congratulations! What kind of differences are hearing? I assume they're pre-loved, or you'd be impatiently waiting for them to break in.
...there was a significant improvement in sound within my system.
Roor (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
For future readers, it will be helpful if you describe the improvement.
Improvements are much tighter bass with more weight and "heftyness" in the low end. The mids and highs are just as sweet as the XA-30.5

The 60.5's have more clarity, and overall are smoother than the XA-30.5

I don't like using the sound muddy or cloudy, but honestly when going back from the 60.5's to the 30.5 at any volume, the 30.5 sounds somewhat veiled. It was the same thing as a few years ago when I was going from the X-250.5 to the XA-30.5
In my opinion, the sound just gets more and more refined as I continued up the XA line to the 60.5's. They drive the totem hawks much more effortlessly with added nuances and microdynamics that I just couldn't hear with the 30.5

I'm upgrading speakers to the new Daedalus AP Ulysses. Lou at Daedalus strongly recommended the XA-60.5's and didn't think the XA-30.5 would have enough effortless power really needed to obtain the full effect. This was also the case with my totem hawks.
Interesting Roor. Other than more power, I did not find the XA-60.5 significantly different than the XA-30.5, and in fact I found the XA-30.5 to be the smoother of the two amps in the highs and mids. There was no veiling from either amp.

Probably comes down to different associated equipment and speakers used by us.
With the Esoteric X-03SE single box player, I could not tell the difference between these two amps. As soon as I moved up to the Esoteric P-05 and D-03 I tried the shootout between them again, and it was an improvement that wasn't subtle. The XA.5 amps take a LONG time to burn in properly, which is critical. I had similar results to your comparrison early on, but once the 60.5's had about 300 hours on them, they really came to life... much smoother in the mids and highs. Hope this helps.
I had similar results to your comparrison early on, but once the 60.5's had about 300 hours on them, they really came to life... much smoother in the mids and highs. Hope this helps.
Roor (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
I had my XA-60.5 for nearly two years, and I ran them seven days a week, sometimes 10 hours a day. The XA-30.5 still sounded better in some respects in my system.

Nevertheless, it's good to know you have arrived at something that satisfies you.
With speakers friendly to both amps, I hear very little difference between them.

Perhaps the XA-30.5 is a bit more polished.

Dealer disclaimer.
I've talked with other Pass dealers who hear the same improvements I noted above, within various systems. I also did a/b shootout with several audiophile friends listening and we all came to the same conclusion without question. The 60.5's are better all the way around...
I've talked with other Pass dealers who hear the same improvements I noted above, within various systems. I also did a/b shootout with several audiophile friends listening and we all came to the same conclusion without question. The 60.5's are better all the way around...
Roor (Threads | Answers | This Thread)
Apparently, I'm out on an island alone.

Regardless of what everyone else says, given speakers that can be driven properly by the XA-30.5, I'd still take the XA-30.5 over the XA-60.5.
>>10-11-10: Roor
The 60.5's are better all the way around...<<

Totally disagree

Dealer disclaimer
TVAD:

You ask my opinion and them slam me for it....nice. This is the last discussion I will participate in.
I wouldn't characterize a mild disagreement as one party "slamming" the other.

Actually Tvad has articulated his position graciously based on his experience with both products.

Not that it matters but I have over 1000 hours of listening experience with both amps and the XA30.5 is clearly a better sounding product given a friendly pair of speakers.

Dealer disclaimer
Roor - I thnk the key ot all of these posts that seem to disgree with you are teh words like "...given a friendly pair of speakers...", "...given speakers that can be driven properly by..." Perhaps your speakers are a difficult load for the 30.5, and that's why you prefer the 60.5. I don't know, just trying to be a peacemaker.
10-12-10: Honest1
Roor - I think the key to all of these posts that seem to disagree with you are the words like "...given a friendly pair of speakers...", "...given speakers that can be driven properly by..." Perhaps your speakers are a difficult load for the 30.5, and that's why you prefer the 60.5.
Kudos to you, Honest1, for understanding the concepts.
"Not that it matters but I have over 1000 hours of listening experience with both amps and the XA30.5 is clearly a better sounding product given a friendly pair of speakers."

When a dealer publicly makes a statement like this (i.e., fewer dollars = better sound, within certain parameters), I am inclined to take it seriously. I would still listen, of course.
Auxetophone,
Excellent point.

I've been following this thread for quite some time. Let me first say that I am a very happy owner of an xa-30.5 - great amp with my 94db speakers.
To me, Audiofeil's statement clearly sounds like a dealer trying to aim for the sweetest price point. Rather than a sign of any hidden truth or anything similar it is the mark of a shrewd dealer. Whatever.

With regards to the issue at hand, I think that given that Roor has Totem speakers (4ohm, not very efficient) - his preference for the xa-60.5 makes a lot of sense. If I owned his speakers, I would have opted to try the 60s first.
Noams,
I think you've mischaracterized me in using the word shrewd.

My opinion was offered based on experience with the products in question, I clearly disclosed my status, and in fact may have saved potential users a handful of money.

Lastly, Pass dealers have territorial restrictions. As such, I am unable to sell 99+% of this thread readers.

Stick with your Area 51 theories.
They make more sense.
Mr. Audiofeil,

Some caution is needed when reading your very decisive recommendation. With regards to Aliens,if you call business marketing an area 51 theory, than maybe I made a wrong use of the word "shrewd".
Noams,
There was no ulterior motive.

Read my posting history.

Deal with it and move on.
Noams,

Audiofeil is our site curmudgeon. At least when we know he is posting, he is not out on the street, wreacking havoc. It's just safer this way.
That's wreaking not wreacking Rtn1 and thanks for your opinion.

You can be the site's fool.

Deal?
No worries, Audiofeil. We don't have to agree.
In any event, I also find the xa-30.5 to be a great amp.
Fair enough Noams.

Enjoy the music.
hello all
i have the xa30.5 driving the audio physic scorpio ii 91dB and 4ohms. i wonder whether 30.5 is the best for me or should i upgrade to 60.5 or 100.5
Alfa100,
If the needle isn't moving on your 30.5, I would be inclined to keep it. If you do upgrade, go for the 100.5.
Thank you Onemug. The needle stays at 12oclock 95% of time except for when i play rock really loud. have you compared the CJ to Pass Labs XP20 preamp. the XP20 is SS and balanced.