pass labs xa30 to valve amplifier.

hi all, i have the above amplifier direct to droplet cd player and zingali 20.6 ( i think thats model number) , chord anthem 2 xlr and epic speaker cable. no preamp as droplet has volume control.

ive been thinking of valve amps recently, but have never been able to hear one. the pass is excellent but i was wondering how a valve amp would change the sound. would a valve one have the same level of clarity and detail? i have heard valve amps offer a more laid back, spacial sound, with emphasis on soundstage? wht kind of price range should i be looking at to better the pass? any thought?
I think it is a mistake to think all valve[ or tube as we say here in the colonies] amps sound the same. I have heard ones that sound as you describe and others that sound more upfront and brighter than my own SS gear. I would focus on a perticular amp and how it compares with your present amp; which is very good.
Here in the US, in the '80s and early '90s tube (valve) amps started to get more popular again. A lot of these models were mellow, and a lot lacked detail. Nowadays, they have a variety of different sound characteristics. I'm not familiar with the one you mentioned, but the newer ones can vary quite a bit.

Some newer tube amps may have too much detail, for some people. Newer coupling capacitors, and other parts have changed. A tube amp still seems to have a midrange that a lot feel is more closer to real, than a solid state. That is were most of the music is.

They use mosfet and other (transistors), to try to replicate tubes. And, a lot of these (solid state) are more laid back sounding, than some tube amps. So these newer tube amps can be more detailed than the average solid state. You really need to compare them, and I mean various ones to get an idea. The combination of different gear will influence the outcome too. Just hearing one or two won't give you a real idea in my opinion.

It still depends on the listener. I guess we vary more than the amps do. I use both. But, I lean toward tube amps for serious listening. A hybrid won't get you there, nor just a tube preamp. You need at least a tube power amp. And, tube power and preamp, for the full experience. A tube integrated, if done right and powerful enough, may work too.
Thank you for the replies. im in the uk and to listen to one or two ill have to travel half a day, and that will be most likely from the same manufacturer at one location. hi end audio dealers have been in decline for years here. my pass labs 30.5 sounds extremely good and there is no complaint in the sound department. perhaps its over detailed but i like the sound that way. i want to experience a tube amplifier that is in the same calibre as the pass,or even better. to date, ive never heard a single note from a tube amplifier. anyone point me to manufacturers that make good ones? thank you kindly.
Since 30 watts are enough to drive your speakers, I would consider the Music Reference RM10 MKII. I've owned both amps and it would be a good contest to see if tubes are your cup of tea. Your XA-30.5 is the finest SS I have heard (Alpeh J not bad either). A new RM is $1995 - relatively cheap, point-to-point, EL84 based tube amp with 35 watts into 8 ohms. A very neutral, revealing amp.
Thnk you Pubul57 for the reply and recommendation of valve amplifier. yes 30 watts drive the Zingali to very high levels with superb clarity. im told the zingali are very sensitive so 35 watts would easily be enough. ill investigate music reference. anyone with other suggestions? i would like to hear them. many thanks again.
If the Zingali's have a highish, flat input impedance the Atma-sphere S30 OTL (stere amp) would also be worth considering - 30 watts, Class A, triode, OTL. Given how little power you need, these would give you a very good idea of what good tube amps can do. I owne their M60 monoblocks since I need a bit more power, but hard to beat an OTL with appropriate speakers. Both RM and S30 are revealing and incisive in the way that good SS can be - neither is tubish in the derogatory sense, but they do the bloom thing spatially that is quite addictive that SS has a hard time replicating.
Hi James, as you're in the UK I'd suggest contacting Anglesound Audio near Watford. Always looked after me and does Pass along with a number of tube brands, I've heard Almarro sound good there. I'm sure if nothing else he'd offer you some good advice. (I'm not connected with the business, just a customer)
thank you for the reply. its exactly the - bloom thing spatially - im looking for for. thank you for the atma sphere recommendation. ill check on the net for further information. both sound they might be hard to find in the uk, but ill look into it. yes , its really surprising what 30 w can do into Zingalis. the dealer i purchased the 30.5 promised they would deliver loud levels without distortion and he was right. initially i was not sure as i had a monster x350 ( 350 w ) pass that i sadly trashed by connecting a subwoofer incorrectly. pass are really good but that caution should be explicit, in red , in the manual as incorrect connection will damage the unit! thanks again.
Are the EAR integrated expensive in the UK? They have a 15 watter that is said to be wonderful, but I have never heard it.
i think that ear is not that expensive( relatively speaking) but its a matter of finding these various gems in the uk. i have heard of the brand. i dont mind travelling though to get something i really like. thanks for the response, very much appreciated.
The good thing is you do not need a lot of power, which is a good thing with tube amps, lower power is generally simpler, fewer output devices, much less money, and I have always found that with the same basic circuit, less power sounds better than more power if it is sufficient power for you speakers.
I agree with you,simpler design(fewer parts and minimalist approach) + quaility execution/built = better sound. I once believed the more power the better(can`t have too much power school of thought). I was wrong.
Have you ever considered a tube preamp or do you want to stay direct from Droplet to amp?
hi, i did consider a tube preamp. would that change the sound? im not saying the sound from the pass is not good, it is very good indeed and even over 4 yrs listening to it, it still pleases me hugely, but as mentioned before i want to experience the tube sound for the first time to see what all the fuss is about. are they really that good? if i went for tube amp or preamp, if worthwhile, i guess the chord anthem 2 xlr would be unusable? any good preamps? thank you.
A tube pre can change the sound a bit, but in my experience the tube experience and the distinctive sound of tubes comes much more from the tube amp / speaker relationship than a tube pre. You have a great amp, so if you want to experiment, I think a tube amp or integrated tube amp would be the direction I would go. IMHO a tube preamp won't give you enough of the tube experience - which does not mean a tube preamp and SS amp can't sound wonderful, but IME it is not the real tube experience that tubeahololics love.
defride. thank you for the pointer. ill check that for sure. from their website, they sell the xa30.5 so a comparison could possible made there. im not too far from there too. if anything, i might be able to hear a quality tube amp to get an idea of what all the rave is about them. the droplet, incidently has valves, and sounds really good. perhaps partnering with a valve power amp might be of some benefit. any thoughts, anyone. thanks.
I agree with Pubul57's recommendation of an Atma Sphere OTL amp, a great choice for clarity, detail, speed and enough tube bloom.
I think I know what you might be up to. You want to experience Lamm, both hybrid and all tube( sorry, valve), and VAC, that's Valve Amplification Company. Both American.
Lamms are just great, they would be my choice if I could afford them at least second hand, or third one for that matter. They sound bloody awesome. I know that many think very highly of VAC too though it probably won't have Lamm's drive and dynamics but will have magical midrange and highs to die for. Lamm of course is extremely good in this department too.
Both are expensive but might last a lifetime.
God save the Queen and her subjects.
Thanks you all for the information. Im looking into them all. Anyone got any other they would endorse, id like to know. Thanks.
hi, ive been investigating some of the products mentioned by posters here, and others. ive listed ear, atmasphere, vac, almarra, melody. i have the pass xa30.5. i want to make a purchase that is worthwile and not a step down which would be very disappointing. a dealer here has suggested atmasphere s30, though it retails considerably less than the pass. can this be an upgrade? not too keen on the connections at front though, but ultimately i could live with that as its sound quality im after. he also is of the opinion a pre is better than direct connection. anyone mind giving me some further pointers? would a older valve amp be in the league of modern designs? i would also consider preowned one. my zingalis are 92? efficient and zingali say the minimum is 10 watts. 30 in my pass goes really loud, so would this be a true third drop in power? im after really clean bass. any further pointers would be very much appreciated. Thank you all.
I feel pretty strongly that if an OTL can match well with you speaker in terms of power and impedance drive, it is very, very difficult to beat an OTL. Note the M60s are better yet with most speakers, especially in providing incredible bass response that seem untube like. I had the XA30.5 and the Atma M60s in my home for several months going back and forth - I don't have the Pass anymore - which does not mean it is not a great amp, it absolutely is. I would use SS if I needed to, my speakers don't need what SS can do, otherwise I might have kept the Pass with no regrets, as there no absolutes here, but if you want to possibly find "magic", OTL is likely (not guaranteed)to make you feel like you found it IMHO. Think about it: Class A, (real)Triode operation, and no transformers!
Pupul, thank you for the reply. i appreciate the response. the atmosphere s30 is appox 1500 less than the pass xa30.5. that got me thinking. the mono bloc power amps in their range get pricier and i dont really need that much power.
its such a shame they put the connections to the front! it spoils a little what would have been a really good looking retro styled piece of kit.

do you, or anyone else have experience with cd direct as opposed to using pre? the droplet player i have is connected direct. i did try with a pre from one of my first serious hi fi purchses, a musical fidelity a3 cr, but it didnt do anything to the sound. the xlr from cd to pass sounded better.

thank you kindly
The new models have the connection in the back of the amp. I think they were in the front to provide the shortest path to the input tubes, and to keep the wire from having to run through all th electronics, etc - an approach also taking be Convergent Audio Technologies - a bit of an inconvenience, but I suspect the best sound is had that way. Seems like the market prefers the connections on the back on aesthetic grounds and shorter ICs. Of course, if you run balanced, the cheap Mogami XLR IC is going to sound about as good as anything else you buy regardless of cost. What Ralph K of Atma-sphere said regarding the Mogami, and I have no reason not to believe it.
i have the XA 30.5 fed directly by Wadia cdp. i have tried various preamps including ARC ref 5 and prefer no preamp. this is my personal preference.
try tubes like Leben. but if you like the XA 30.5 why bother with tubes?
hi, thanks for the information.

i do like the pass xa30.5 very much. i have used it for nearly five years. one of the first imported to the uk, so i was told. the pass still gives me great pleasure and it has performed flawlessly.

ive never heard a valve/tube amp. i read alot on the net about the sound being different- more spacial, 3d etc. so having had my pass for nearly 5 yrs, i thought i give them a go and see for myselff. if i never hear, i will never know. for me its all about the music. its never been a case of owning this or that for the badge. sometimes i feel dealers are a bit stuck up because they have lavish premises in upmarket locations and expensive kit. they seem to forget , its only about music
the pass is a fantastic piece of kit that will be probably demoted to ps3 duties for my son. mad overkill for sure, but id never sell that amp as its given me so much musical enjoyment.

if it turns out valves arnt my thing, i can always get it back.
You cannot go wrong w an Atma-sphere or a VAC (based on what I have heard at my home). The EAR and Almarra gear is very highly regarded but I have never heard it. I'm a big fan of a very good pre-amp but one step at a time. If you are concerned about running the droplet straight into the Atma, drop an email to member Atmasphere, the designer and owner of the company. He can be depended upon for very good, impartial advice. Also member Trelja is v. familiar with the Consonance line and also will give you good advice. IMO, the Atma amps are not very tube-like in terms of the lush, romantic midrange people think of when they deride tube amps as colored. They are outstanding and the only amp I ever had that I regret selling (will get a pair of M-60s back here someday; so many amps, so little time!)
Thanks for the reply. The picture on the site for the s30 shows connections at front. i will clear this with the uk dealer. id want the latest version. i have a chord anthem 2 xlr 1.5 metre that will just make it, i think. i guess if if they are in front you run cables under the amp? if its too short, ill have some work adjusting heavy duty wood shelves in a chimney alcove..

yes, cables at the back would have looked tidier. if the amp is not too deep, it shouldnt be an issue for me.

hi, thank for the information. how would you decribe the sound? im going to arrange a demo loan of s30, but would be interested to know your view on the sound. the vac is something i was considering too,( based on advise here from people good enough to spare some time- never heard the name before) but the dealers very far and it would be a purchase without listening unless he agrees to send a demo amp on deposit. of the two, which would you prefer?

thank you
Like I said, if an OTL can drive your speaker, it is going to beat and tube amp with transformer IME. The M60s replace the CAT JL2s which they are many folks that consider it one of the very best high powered tube amps available; and I do think the CAT will drive speakers that would leave the OTL panting for breath, the transformers do serve a purpose afteal. But with my speakers that have a smooth and highish input impedance, the M60s drove me to the sell the CAT - something I never, ever, thought I would do.

Alfa, because he might very prefer it, even he loves the XA30.5s, which there is every reason in the world to love, but there is a reason so many audio loonies love tubes - try 'em, you just may like them - maintenance and all.
thank you for the response. im pretty sure my zingalis will be able to be driven by the s30. i will double check with the dealer. with 30 watts from the pass it can go really loud.

yes, lots of people have moved over to them in the uk too , it seems. i dont know anyone personally though, so its really good to get advise and pointers here. dealers , of course, only carry a very limited number of products so of course they would not recommend other products they do not deal in.

Well, either way, you will own some very fine equipment, with what you have, or what you are considering; everything mentioned on this thread could be the basis of an excellent system, so I don't think you going to wrong with the options you are considering, once you get the preamp or no preamp issue resolved.
Well, I wish you lived near Florida. I own the Cary SLI-80 F1 and have been kicking around the idea to try an XA30.5

I guess the grass is always greener on the other side. Anyway good luck, I hear OTL tubes sound great, but my speakers are 4 Ohm 92 DB and 7 drivers (Montana XP) and was thinking that a good solid state amp could control them better.
Your speaker seems well suited for what SS can provide - current and damping- good thing air-condition is readily available in Florida - though, I would say the M60s threw off more heat than the XA30.5. There must be a Agoner XA30.5 owner somewhere in Florida.
XA30.5 is excellent. As mentioned above the Atmasphere might not be what you are looking for. They are not bloomy. Also, in my case a fine tube preamp will do the trick. Pass can sound more valvy than most tube amps. To get more bloom you might sacrifice detail. Be careful as you might be going sideways at best.
This is an excellent thread and the tubed vs solid state discussion in some ways has been replaced with the amp/preamp characteristics that you most value. As many posters mentioned, you can get different sounds depending on the tubed/solid state components you choose. The speaker you have plays a big part in determining what the best match might be. Poster Koestner talked about having 4 ohm, 92 sensitivity speakers and thinking about a solid state amp. When you have a lot of drivers and are 4ohm, I have found that you need a good amount of juice to get the speakers to really light up. There are powerful ss and tube amps. I have had three of the amps in the Pass XA series and have written about my experiences with them. The XA30.5 just did not have enough juice to push my speakers and though a wonderful amp, in my situation, I needed more power. Keep in mind that with any decent speaker, you will notice changes when you play with the amp choice, the preamp choice(or lack of), as well as the source that you use. The will all effect the sound.
Thank you for the advice. I appreciate your honest views. Thats been in the back of my mind too- going downwards or sideways. something i want to avoid, of course. in fact a dealer who i contacted regarding an almarro 318b, hinted the same, so am considering options carefully. it would be great if one dealer carried a range of likely candidtates, but this is not the case so comparisons are difficult to make. i was considering a valve/tube preamp too to add to me pass. if anyone has suggestions and views, id really like to know.

and thank you to everyone with their contributions. it has given me a good start in a subject i did not know much about.
may i take the liberty of drifting. my speakers are also 4 ohm and 91dB sensitivity.Audio Physic Scorpio ii. the XA30.5 is excellent but sometimes i feel PERHAPS i need more power. i would rather consider changing the speaker. so what is a great speaker for this amp. a speaker that can play all genres.
my zingalis go really loud. they are 92 db and 8 ohm. i really cant imagine anyone playing louder, unless they have a very large room. i play all kinds of music from soft female vocals, electronic,jazz instrumental,pop, quality hard rock ( queens early hard rock years still one of my favourites, not to say their later stuff was not good, just different) to european dance and alot inbetween. surprisingly , the zingalis replay dance music incredibly well with the pass.
I have difficulty with 92db / 8ohm speakers running out of juice with the 30.5 which runs to 130 watts at redline, per Stereophile measured data.

If power is the only issue, and I'd really keep an eye on the bias meter, perhaps going upline to the 60.5 would do the trick.
The discussion about how loud it plays is one issue but the larger question is how it plays in the low to normal volume levels. That is where we live with the sound for the most part and different matches between amps and loudspeakers produce different results.
Pettyfeversk, your experience is with a multi-driver speaker and perhaps a 10" or more woofer? I'm thinking there is something about multi-driver speakers that makes a difference in the simple sensitivity/watts equation we normally make - seems that for some reason you do need more power and current than driving a 2-way with 7" "woofer" - even when the speakers have the same rated sensitivity. Anyone know if that is true? That just my experience, so I don't know if it is technically valid. My Merlins which are 89db played as loud as I could possibly stand and sounded wonder at lower volume with the 30 watts provided by the XA30.5. Also had the Music Reference RM9 SE (162 watts) for comparison - the Pass did not seem underpowered.

"I'm thinking there is something about multi-driver speakers that makes a difference in the simple sensitivity/watts equation we normally make"

I've heard/read that complex x/o's eat up power. That and the fact that you have the spectrum of music coming out of poly?/woofers, kevlar?/mids, titanium?/woofers at the same time makes me wonder how I was able to enjoy music out of "those" types in the past. The answer is, my ears didn't know any better.

These days, besides my Maggie 3.6's, I like a good 2 way with a x/o around 2.5K or higher. Trick is getting a mid/woofer to play nice up to and thru that point. I favor soft dome or ribbon tweeters also. Add to that an impedance (nice if it's 8 ohms) that doesn't vary much (say 20%) and it becomes a recipe for pleasure for me.
Pubul57, as best I can make out, Bobby is pretty conservative with that 89db rating on the Merlins.
Multi-way speakers with complex crossovers DO eat up power. The phase angle and impedance both need to be factored in when choosing an least on paper.
Big impedance swings with a hi phase angle at some low dip in impedance is a recipe for 'Don't Buy Tubes'.....

That's why, IMO, the 'conventional wisdom' of Maggies being a bad load is a bunch of hooie. They mainly resistive or moderate phase angle nature of most of 'em make it a reasonable load for amps which can be happy with the lowish impedance and sensitivity.
Ralph, I also think the XA30.5 is very conservatively rated, but one might still need the more powerful XA amps, even with "sensitive" speakers if they loaded up with drivers and x-overs. I think, but I'm not sure, that ight be the case with Pettyfeversk's speakers and why moving up the power chain with Pass has proven to be a worthy improvement for him.
Yes, pub, per the Stereophile measurments linked above, it'll go to 130@8 and nearly 200@4.....
However, at that point you're clearly in A/B.
hi. isnt the pass xa30.5 pure class a? i thought it was.
I think it switches at some point to B for handling peak power demand - I'm sure it is addressed in the Stereophile review, perhaps Magfan can confirm the data from Atkinson's tests.
It's a confusing amp to rate for some folks.

Pass rates it as 30wpc class A. It's pure class A for 30wpc.

Stereophile got about 40wpc class A from it in their review IIRC.

Past 40wpc, their amp moved into class A/B operation. It didn't clip until it reached about 130wpc/8 ohms IIRC. So some folks feel it should be rated as a 130wpc amp that does 30wpc class A.

So it is pure class A for its entire rated power of 30wpc.

Pass has an article on their site titled "Leaving Class A" that explains it in more detail:

We get a lot of questions about this. A typical email reads, “I can’t sleep at night – I keep worrying about where my amplifier stops being Class A. As I listen to my system, I think I can hear the Klunk as the special Class A part of the amplifier kicks in and out!”

For starters, there is no special Class A circuit that kicks in and out, and for that matter, there certainly is no Klunk. There is just a push-pull amplifier output stage which is operated at a constant idle current known as the bias. In this regard, our power amplifiers are like other amplifiers on the market. The vast majority of amplifiers are push-pull designs with a certain amount of bias current.

Push-pull amplifiers generally operate in Class A mode up to a point where the output current is twice the value of the bias current. In the Class A region, both halves of the circuit share the signal simultaneously. Beyond that the signal is handled solely by the push (+) half of the amplifier or the pull (-) half.
There amps that never leave Class A? For some reason, I think my CAT JL2 worked that way, but not sure if that is even possible. Techheads?