Pass Labs XA.5 vs XA.8


I moved from the XA60.5 to the XA100.5 to get a better handle on my Magnepan 3.7i and two DWMs.  It was  real trade-off between the two.  The XA100.5 were a touch better suited for the 3.7i and DWMs powerwise.  The meters move a bit less often but surprisingly it was not night and day.  The XA100.5 has a more laid back presentation than the XA60.5.  Lead vocals were not as front and center.  ...almost making it a touch more of a group than a lead and back-up.  Something like the Rolling Stones became a bit more of a band less than Mick Jagger.  On the other hand, female vocals lost a touch of the magic.  The lead sounds just as beautiful but a bit less forward.  ...especially when the female vocalist was unsupported.

So my question, I heard conflicting reports in the forums and in the press.   Some say that the 60.5 and 160.5 are more a like and the 100.5 and 200.5.  Other say that all the XA.5s are cut of the same clothe, so to speak.  Do others have opinions?

I've seen few reviews on the XA.8, but one suggested that the XA100.8 is a blend of the XA60.5 and XA100.5.  I fear reviews that say that the next generation is everything to everyone. Other pass forums have suggested that the XA100.5 and XA100.8 are quite different and one is not clearly better than the other.  ...which suggests that listening and demoing is the only way to go.  Any opinions are welcome.
tgonzales

I think that you're right, you're going to have to try the XA.8 in your own system. 

 I think that the reviews I've read and my experience say that the .8 amps are a little more revealing and have better bass.  The .5 amps are a little warmer.  But I couldn't guess how that would work out in your system.   You may just be making a sideways move.

If you're really itching for an upgrade, call Reno HiFi and get a .8 to try out.  If you're basically happy with your amp, save the money and enjoy what you have.

Guys-

are you using a Pass Labs pre-amp?
If not, which brand pre- are you ujsing, as well as, cabling?
All pass amplification.  X1 and X-Ono

cables are all audience au24 se. Balanced, unbalanced and speaker (both between amp and DWM and DWM and 3.7i). 
Very nice- tgonzales.

are you looking to upgrade your Pass Labs gear?
I took the leap and am demoing the XA100.8.  It's only been a few days but I can make the following observations.

1)  Greater reserves.  More in line with what the Magnepan 3.71i dual DWMs seem to need. The objective evidence being that the meter's needle moves much less often--and when it does move, moves less severely--suggesting that the XA.8 stay in class A longer than the XA.5.  This is not surprising given the specifications (200W vs 241W before leaving class A).

2) Quieter.  The XA100.8 has much blacker silent areas.  This was mentioned in some the web review, but it is very true.  This was surprising as the XA60.5 and 100.5 were very quiet.  The improvement is very impressive.

3) Better mid-range.  Only on direct comparison of the XA60.5 and XA100.5 was the mid-range of notably less sweet.  Female vocals (such acapella) were notably less there.  I can't say whether the XA100.8 matches the XA60.5, but the XA100.8 is a dramatic improvement on the XA100.5.

Something like piano keystrokes are very percussive as are snare drums.  My non-audiophile wife could easily note the improvement in the quietness, transparency and mid-range.

4) More powerful bass. This is the best bass control I had had on the Magnepan 3.7i and dual DWMs.  I imagine this still could be improved to get realistic power, but we're getting closer.

5) Dramatic.  The micro-dynamics are much more powerful and quicker.  Drum sets, as mentioned above, are powerful and driving.

6) Improved imaging and sound staging.  Instruments and vocals on something like the Band from the Big Pink are a bit better staged than the XA100.5.    This may very well be a effect of the better quietness and transparency.  

Switching from the XA60.5 to the XA100.5, I traded hi-fi separation for integration.  Moved from a lead vocalist and a supporting band to a driving band with the vocalist a more integrated.  More like what you hear at a live concert vs unrealistic (but beautiful) studio recordings.

The XA100.8 seems to step back closer to the XA60.5.  The vocalist is a bit more forward.  The band layered behind.  A bit more hi-fi than concert.  Again this may be an effect of the greater transparency.

7) Less romantic.  I have no way to objectively argue this point.  It is only a feeling.  The XA100.8 may be a bit less musical than the XA100.5.  It is very hard to ignore.  As many have noted there is a buttery richness to the XA100.5.  Warm blanket wonderful.  The XA100.8 has traded transparency for the warmth.

8) Ugly box.  There is no question that the XA100.5 is beautiful.  The face plate, meter.  The XA100.8 is much heavier, industrial and traditional hi-fi looking.  The heat fins are an improvement, with that said.

I'm still evaluating the two of the next week, but, on balance, I'm leaning toward the XA100.8 given the Magnepan's demands and my preference.  I missed the XA60.5 feel that I'm getting a bit of both now.  But, to be completely honest, I could have happily lived with the XA60.5, XA100.5 or XA100.8.
Thanks for the update, tgonzales.  As you say, all three of those Pass amps are great amps.  Let us know what you finally settle on.
I second tomcy6.

You have to try in your system.

Call Reno Hi-Fi and Pass Labs.  Both will give honest answers IMO.
Don, I agree that why I'm demo-ing the XA100.8 against the XA100.5.  The observations above stem that the current direct comparisons.

Ken at Reno Hi-Fi was very good to deal with as other have mentioned.  In the end, I think hearing is believing.
The XA.8 amps draw almost twice the power from the wall, and cost $$$ in electricity, over the XA.5's.

They are more neutral (i.e. Colder) than XA.5's IMO.

Must try in your own system before buying.

I prefer the XA.5's.    YMMV.
I agree Don that the XA.8s draw more from the wall than the XA.5s.  I think it is 50% for the series (300 Watts vs 450 Watts draw). Your point is evident from the heat generated.   I've never had the XA.5 more than lukewarm whereas the XA.8 get relatively hot to the touch if left on for extended periods of time.  Mind you that I'm in Chicago and it's still early March so the house is generally cold.

I think a bit of the current draw is mitigated by the power less than 1W stand-by draw.  With that said, I'm not sure what the XA.5s drawn in stand-by mode.

As for colder/more neutral, it's close.  The XA100.5 seemed a bit more romantic.  The XA60.5 had a sparkle that the XA100.5 seemed to lack.  The XA100.8 seemed to me and in my particular system a step closer to the XA60.5.  Vocalists a step more forward.  Bass more powerful.  Blacker, blacks.  

With that said, two points.  First, I decided to trade in the XA100.5s for the XA100.8; thus, some bias (in taste and buyer's honeymoon period).  Second, the XA100.5 were very good.  Different.  By a hair the XA100.5 were better than XA60.5 in my system.  A by a hair, the XA100.8 were better than the XA100.5s in my system.  And in all fairness, I may not have traded them if I hadn't still be in the trade-in period allowing for no depreciation to factor in and received a very reasonable price on the new model.

Listening to Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline right now, it is difficult to ignore the music and think about upgrades.   ...it's time to flip slides.  Good night.
I run XA60.5's on my Maggie 3.6's and could not be more pleased.

I want warm midrange for vocals, hence I prefer them over the XA100.5's.

The 60.5's have more than enough power for me.

Good listening!