Pass Labs XA200.5

Much has been said of the Nelson Pass’ XA.5 series. They are among the most reviewed and most recommended amplifier on these pages. And yet, I feel compelled to add my contribution by heaping some additional praise. I have said there is no such thing as a perfect amplifier. Now I am starting to think that if Nelson has not achieved it, he certainly comes very close. The Pass Labs XA200.5 has exceeded all expectations. Coming upon 12 months, my enthusiasm has not diminished. This amplifier has put me into a state of satisfaction, placing it solidly in a 'final destination' category.

Over the past year, I have spoken to many enthusiasts and dealers about amplifier choices. One could get as many recommendations as people you can call. Although I was curious about Pass amps on my current speakers based upon past experience, many dealers were characteristically unenthused. I went out on a limb with the Pass. If you think you know the Pass line based upon the X or X.5 series, then think again.

The XA.5 lets music soar. The words that come to mind are ‘majestic’, ‘natural’, ‘relaxed’, and ‘flowing’. There is a texture and depth to the midrange that I believe is unique to a handful of solid-state amplifiers. In addition, there is what I call the paradoxical midrange, wherein a sense of warmth is also accompanied by increased detail. Many amplifiers create a sense of ‘warmth’ by adding a haze over the midrange. The Pass is totally clear and open across the mids. The words dry and clinical do not even enter the mind. These mids are wet, plump, and juicy.

The bass is just natural, full, and controlled. The entire presentation is effortless, controlled, and delineated, with no strain or compression even with the loudest climaxes. The higher frequencies have energy and detail without glare or hardness. There is no added background noise, and music rises and falls into a natural acoustic space. The music is dynamic, interesting, and compelling. Music can be delicate and subtle one moment, and powerful and fierce the next. These amps are fun, exciting, and thrilling.

The Pass is expensive, but not as expensive as its competition. I don’t need to say anything further about customer support, build quality, or reliability. I do not like to tell people what to buy, but one should definitely consider auditioning these Pass amps in your search for that elusive amplifier. Combining this amp with a quality tubed preamp (BAT Rex), the Tripoint Troy, and Jade Audio cables has really created a very natural presentation that has brought me closer to live music that transcends debates of tubes vs. solid state. I feel that these 4 pieces in combination are at the heart of my system.
my experience with pass amplifiers has only been with the ALEPH-3 and the ALEPH 1.2 monoblocks. i like the aleph design much more than the present cosmetics. but soundwise the aleph's were some of the best solid state amps ever made. for example, i heard the 1.2's driving B&W 801v3 speakers and all the "problems" with the upper-mids and treble were gone- the speakers really sang like never before.
the xa.5 series have much improved circuit designs and all that, but i wonder if a "piano" sounds more organic than what i heard several years ago. and i really wish pass labs could come up with a more elegant purposeful design that matches the wonderful sound they make. meters and extra layers of aluminum costs more but doesn't have any functional advantages.
Personally, I'm a fan of their current design. It is classic, and totally their own. Very easy to spot. They are massive, and exude quality. Yet, it is a very simple design as well.

I know that not everyone likes the bright blue lights in a dark room, and wonder about the functionality of the meter. But I just think of it as part of Nelson's design and his philosophy on Class A power.

I'm not sure about the Aleph and the sound of piano. It is true that progress is not always in a straight upward line. But, I think Nelson has probably combined an amp with massive power but also with that rich and organic presentation as well. I don't want to start reciting copy, but it seems as though that has been the goal.
Thanks for that mini review Rtn1. I have owned the Aleph 3, 5, and 2 monos. I now own the XA160.5. At first, I too, preferred the Aleph looks because of the rugged purposeful aesthetic that FF mentions, but the current Pass look is growing on me. I happily trade the very good sonics and excellent look of the Aleph for the truly great sonics and good look of the XA.5 They are incredible amps in my system.
i don't like to post negative opinions except when it comes to a product i have considered buying for myself a hundred times...
also, looking at the design of past and present Pass preamps and integrated amps, they are exactly the kind of functional and attractive components that i would love to have. except that i am researching monoblocks that i won't have to think about replacing for a long long time. vitus, soulution, the new rowland 925's due to come out soon, and others also look tempting.
a final note- sorry, another negative one- i purchased a Bach transcription SACD (chandos) the other day, and could not believe how terrible the recording was, even through my EMM Lab cdp. i actually got up again to see if something was wrong with the player... what good is all of my expensive gear and a supposedly good recording when out comes an orchestra that sounds like it's playing under water?
sorry- i must apologize again. you may return to your "perfect" system.
mine is crap...
I love XA200.5. Period ! Along with Plinius Reference, BAT VK500SE-M and mine Spectron - the best musical powerful amps around !!!!
A pair of Pass Labs XA200.5 costs a bit more then average year income before tax. €36.500 for a pair of amps. If €36.500 is not as expensive as the competition then i wonder what the competition would be?
The XA30.5 is running $3500 used right now. If your speakers are kind, this is a good value. I maintain that the XA200.5 remains a good value. Value is not the same as expense. The XA200.5 weighs 360 lbs. Alternatives include the most boutique and exclusive brands, such as Boulder, Solution, FM Acoustics, Gryphon. The Boulder 2000 monoblocks are $80k. All things are relative. But no, I am not saying these are 'affordable', as I am saying that are a good value in their class.
Hello Mordante,

I don;t know prices in Euro but in USD, BAT VK600SE-M is about $28k, Plinius Reference (stereo) - $18k and Spectron monoblocks with all upgrades about $11k. Not cheap but, IMO, its life long investment with any of these amps.

One of the reasons I like Spectorn (besides sound, of course) is that when they introduce next generation of their amplifiers they always offer upgrades to the owners of previous generation - so you can keep up with the latest or be happy with what you have already: your choice. Theta, in its time, had the same policy - surely somebody else also does. Its nice to know if you bought your component in 2001 that you can bring it to today's specs and performance (well, for $$$...).

Wondering how much better is XA200.5 compare to XA160.5 considering that it's cost 33% more . Same circuitry except higher output. Considering it to drive a pair of Eggleston Savoy Signature . Thanks
I too am as happy as can be with my Pass XA amps. Have been on the amp Merry-go-round off and on for a while and now I think I'm finally able to jump off and just enjoy the darn things. They're fantastic amps, keepers for life.
Pass amps have always had a great following and I'm sure these latest models perform marvelous.

Hi Dob, still see you can't resist still marketing Spectron.

They sure have come dowm in cost dramtically making one think what's really up, I would not have been to happy to have paid for the same amps and mods you refer to only a few years ago @ approx $21K.

I don't know the benefit of the XA200.5 vs. 160.5 for the Savoy. Those are big speakers, but the impedence seems reasonable. Your best bet is to speak with Pass direct, or a dealer that carries both. There are no sonic compromises with going larger - just initial cost, heat, size, and energy consumption. If you have a big room and listen to complex orchestral music, err on the larger size. Rock music with alot of bass doesn't make the needles jump on my amps, but big orchestral and opera pieces can. That is why I say music complexity requires more power than just loudness.
I agree with Rtn1. I have not experienced any sonic penalty when switching to the bigger Class A Pass amps. Now that may be because the speakers needed the extra power, so overall the sound is better on balance and this may be overshadowing any small sonic penalty. I think it is really hard to know, but I have always had better results with the bigger amps.

I used to own a pair of Eggleston Rosas. They needed a lot of power, as do my current speakers. If you can afford to move up to the 200.5 and don't mind the heat, weight etc, I think you should do it.

You can also call Pass directly or Mark at RENO HiFi for advice.
Thanks for the feedback. My dedicated room size, 14.5 x24.75 x 10.50'. Yes I do prefer jazz, rock & classical music. Have been audition a few amp, namely , pathos adrenalin, gryphon colosseum & Viola bravo. Pathos adrenalin is a wonderful amp for vocal . However not sure it has the transient speed & dynamic swing I want. Not conclusive since the amp is only 3 days old when I audition it. gryphon is fantastic , transparent , detail , fast & exciting. Unfortunately at Euro 72k is too pricey for me. Viola , doesn't excite me. Heard a pass labs XA160 ( older model ) driving a savoy reasonably well but as well as I wanted . Not sure amp issue or simply because the Savoy is new with about 100 hrs play time. Hence the question. Off course I would expect XA200.5 to have better headroom but is the headroom necessary for an extra usd12k ( 3x my local currency). May be audition a vitus sm 010 mono block at 100watt class which is more powerful than it seems. 1 owner of goldmund 2500 ( 1k watt) claimed it seems more powerful than his goldmund. So the search is on
No matter what you say no amplifier is worth the thousands of mindless $$$$$$ they retail for these days. An aluminum/steel of highest grade box full of highest quality caps transformers and FETs no matter what won’t add up to $34000. $34000 gets you a Mustang for heaven’s sake ,open your eyes! If you talk about R&D then that Mustang has more of it in there!
Yes but in every hobby, there is that problem of perspective. For instance, I also like to collect coins. There are many coins worth the price of a house and you would ask yourself should I buy a house or hold this little coin in my hand for the same price. On the flip side of that coin (pun intended) you have to ask yourself should I give up this hobby all together and give that money to feed a hungry family. Everything is a situation (to quote Andy Sipowicz) and all things have to be taken into perspective.
Which is why the savvy among us never buy brand new and or retail price.  A quick romp around the classifieds will show a components true value. 
That antique old coin when I resale as you say might still buy me the same house or a bigger one as you implied, but an aluminum or steel fancy box full of capacitor transistor ,mos , chips ,silicon boards and transformer won’t even buy the same amplifier once again if I sell it the very next day I buy it. Think about that. I beg to differ but in any situation and looked at varied perspective I just don't wanna look like a fool.

I love our wonderful hobby- good, bad or indifferent. Indeed, everything is a situation. A luxury or high-end system is to be built by design. This design will yield many years of listening pleasure. My take anyhow.
It’s the love of music in first place. An emotional connection. And anything emotional is taken advantage of. I’m not at all against good audio or superb sounding audio systems but hiend audio , this very word hiend contradicts everything it stands for. We say sports cars,hypercars,mansions villas ,but don’t really add hiend to them generally...... never. This whole thing has become a fool’s paradise,with mindless price tags for the same boxes with different tunings and combinations but great acronyms for the same old tech done a little differently. All I wanna say is the price tags should be sane. A speaker even if Jesus makes them like Marten can’t cost $500,000 (NO MATTER WHAT!!!) or that partner in crime Jorma Design speaker cables (Prime series) can’t cost $20,000 a meter , let’s be real and not be taken for a ride just because we are emotional! Look where things have gone to! They weren’t like this always.Its a new phenomenon. Open your eyes. They have coined this new adjective "Audiofool" for a reason.We don’t wanna be grabbed by our p#$$@ and then be done the way just as they wanna do ...... ;)
There are four price levels and they all have their proper place. 1. Cheap (will work and I would not worry if I had cheap). 2. Mid-price (excellent stuff here - basically the place to be).  3. Expensive.  (Less value but still very much worth it if you can afford it). 4 Silly.  (This offers the most to the wealthy - benefits include (a) Bragging rights (b) beautiful cosmetics (c) placebo sound quality (d) many magazine reviews and advertisements to reinforce your purchasing choice).
Wonder what price level this one fits in?