Pass Labs XP-10 & XP-20 preamps

Hello, I was wondering if anyone has heard the new Pass Labs preamps: the XP-10 & the XP-20? I wonder how they would compare to the Jeff Rowland Capri preamp? Thank you. Stan
The XP-20 has not yet been released.

Dealer disclaimer
Hi AudioFeil, I think that the XP-20 was used at a couple audio shows in Europe a few months ago and I was hoping that perhaps it has been shown (and heard) at a US audio show as well. The XP-20 lists for $8800 and Pass Labs told me that it sounds better than the $10000 list Pass Labs X 0.2 preamp. I currently own a X 0.2. Thanks! Stan
Huh! My Pass Labs X1 is already getting old replaced by this X20?
>>My Pass Labs X1 is already getting old<<

It is almost 10 years old.

That is an eternity in high end audio.

Dealer disclaimer
The X 0.2 was first introduced in 2001. The X-1 was first introduced in 1999. The X 2.5 was first introduced in 2001. The X 0.2, X-1 and X 2.5 have not been discontinued. Stan
Mine is 2 years old .. Audiofeil .. but apart this it doesn't sound like a legacy preamplifier
My eternity remark was tongue in cheek as many manufacturers introduce new products yearly despite any significant improvements. Case in point, many cable companies feel a need to introduce new models almost monthly despite infinitesimal (if any) changes.

Although you've had your preamp for 2 years, the model itself is almost 10 years old.

You're right though; it is not a legacy component.

But very few are.
I have the XP-10 which has replaced my venerable XO.2. It is part of an all Pass front-end (X350.5, X-3, XONOs (2). I can assure you that it is MUCH better than XO.2 (which was my standard for nearly 8 years). It is quieter, has better imaging, better detail retrieval and direct access to inputs. It does lack tape input and amplifier turn-on functions (which the XP-20 will have). You would have to decide if it is worth 3000.00 for these two functions although I am told that XP-20 will sound better due to 2-chassis design. If you are considering a move to upgrade, this is a good time to do it. Needless to say, the XP-10 shares the same build quality as all of the other Pass components.
I am very familiar with JRDG Capri, but have not heard the Pass XP-10 or XP-20. . . A live a/b comparison would be very interesting indeed. G.
The XP 20 is introduced in The Netherlands on 6th oktober 2008 en in Belgium 15th oktober 2008. I have not yet spoken to people who listened.
I did speak to several people who listenend to the XP10.
The XP10 was introduced in Europe in april or may 2008.

Everybody is amazed en very enthousiastic. It is a futher major step forward compared to the X pre amplifiers. These are the comments i have heard: it brings you right in to the music, stage en 3d is enourmous, bass is great, it is very transparent, great details, air around the instruments, neutral colloration.
Allthough the X1 and X 0.2 are both great pre's, they all say that the XP10 is a huge step forward.

I recon that the XP20 will be a furter step.

I will listen to the equipment very soon.

Regards, Michael.

I traded in my X0.2 for the new XP-10. Babydoc is absolutely right. I did not think it could get much better, but it beat my X0.2. I use it with an XA30.5 and love them both.

Is anyone aware of an XP-20 review?
As I was browsing for information on the Pass XP-20, I found this web site with a German review of the XP-20. Just copy and paste the url into your browser and it should translate into English.
"The Absolute Sound" magazine just published a thorough review of the PASS XP20 (& XA160.5) in their current April/May issue. The Reviewer claimed both components to be among the best available and bought both! PASS has knocked-the-cover-off-the-ball with their current line-up.
I heard both the XP-10 and XP -20 extensively just a week ago. The X-P-20 was part of a system that used the XA 100.5 monos and X 600.5 monos.

I got to try the X-P10 in my system. Sorry folks, but the Fire preamp I am using in my system was the Clear winner.
I just traded in my X-1 for the new XP-20. It is still breaking in, but it is clearly superior and is an incredible combination with the XA100.5. It is difficult to describe, but I think it is more about what it does not do than what it does. It is extremely quiet and neutral. I hear much more of what is on the record and what I hear is more involving.
>>Sorry folks, but the Fire preamp I am using in my system was the Clear winner.<<

Nothing to be sorry about; it's what you prefer but not what others may find more pleasing. It's subjective.

Besides, you are incredibly biased. All one need do is read your posting history to read the same story in every post. Every post. Same stuff over and over.

When will the XP-20 be released? That pre should be bad-ass (in a good way). I still regret selling me X-1...

What am I to say? The reason I take interest in the Pass Labs products, is because that is the brand I left behind. Revisiting the brand and hearing the latest and greatest amps, and preamps, I noticed a terrific improvement over previous gear, and I should have said so. Still, the bass was over prodigious, while the mids and highs were some of the best from solid state I have heard.
Still, the bass was over prodigious, while the mids and highs were some of the best from solid state I have heard.
Muralman1 (System | Threads | Answers)
Components in high end audio do not work the same together from an electrical standpoint, and none of us have the same systems.

Therefore, I believe what we hear in our individual systems with our unique-to-us component and speaker mixtures can not necessarily be applied universally.

For example, what Muralman1 heard in his system with over prodigious bass might not have been the same were he to have listened with just one additional different element in the system, whether it was speakers, amplifiers or source.
The XP-10 and XP-20 is currently available at authorized Pass dealers.
Tvad, at one time, my system was intact, with the Pass preamp inserted in place of the Fire preamp. Another time the preamp and amps were switched to Pass. The H2O's dampening is 2000. The no feedback X-600.5 has a damping factor of 250. That would account for the bass bloat. Again the speakers are pigs to run, and only my amps can do it well.

Listening to all the best, the XA. 100.5 monos, and the X-600.5 amps doing bass, the result was more reasonable. That is because the magnetic field of the Apogee Full range is so much stronger. These Full Ranges

These speakers can go to deafening levels. Thanks to the XA being class A, the sound never got objectionable. The dynamics, body, and size the FRs put out a frightfully real stage.

Yes I am going to toot my horn again, and say, with no doubt whatsoever my system H2O/Scintilla has it all over the Pass/Full Range in reality. What I could get out of Full Ranges....... mmmm hmmmm.
Muralman1, there is no question whatsoever that you prefer your system to all others. Every reader here understands this.

Perhaps with different speakers, the over prodigious bass that you found less than ideal would not have been present.

My point is not to criticize your choices or your preferences, but is simply to highlight that the Pass preamp will undoubtedly produce varying results depending on the accompanying electronics and speakers. The Pass is not unique in this regard. The same applies to every other preamp made.

One should not assume that prodigious bass, out of balance with the rest of the frequency range (over prodigious as you put it), would follow in all other systems, although it would in some and not in others. Also, it's reasonable to assume there are listeners who would prefer prodigious bass.
Tvad, I understand you. There is a impedance mismatch between ICE amps and preamps. H Ho addressed that problem with the invention of the Fire. The thing is the Fire will work in any system.

One thing I did not get done when at the dealer's place, and that is set my system up with his Full Ranges. I decided not, because those speakers are using the foreign ribbons, and I knew already what that sounds like.
03-23-09: Muralman1
The thing is the Fire will work in any system.

As I believe will the Pass XP-20.

Nevertheless, the fact that each preamp will work in any system does not also mean each will sound the same in every system, because every amplifier has a unique impedance curve, as does every speaker.
Muralman1, why don't you start a new thread discussion of the Fire preamp? I had never heard of it before. Perhaps its virtues may be of some interest to others in these forums.
>>Muralman1, why don't you start a new thread discussion of the Fire preamp<<

No need for that.

If you read his posting history, that topic is discussed in each and every thread along with his system.

It's the same old Scintilla, H2O, Fire, nos digital, ribbon speaker cable crap. Post after post after post; thread after thread after thread.

Nothing changes.
No, I changed the NOS DAC. None of it is crap. I invite anyone posting negatives about my sound to come listen for themselves to get the straight first. Otherwise, your opinions are crap.

The subject of the Pass Labs newest preamps was brought up. I listened to both, the 10 on two systems, and I gave my honest opinion.
Nobody said your stuff is crap; you missed the point.

Your posts are the epitome of redundancy; it's the same "crap" over and over and over; a broken record if you will.

Get it?
I took the advice here, and tried to start a new thread. That was yesterday
afternoon. I haven't got a rejection yet. We will see just what Audiogon is made

I am preaching to the class D crowd, an ever expanding audience. Admittedly, I
am upsetting the audio cart in doing so. ICE application is an exciting new field,
and I have made some pertinent findings.

I own a H2O S250 Signature amplifier as well as a Pass Labs X250.5 amplifier, and my speakers (Avalon Opus) are not nearly as difficult to drive as Muralman's Apogees. While I like the bass control of the H2O amplifier, in my system the Pass amp sounds more lively, more full and closer to live music.

I also own a H2O Fire but have a XP-10 coming soon to try out. The Fire is the best overall preamp I've yet heard, so it will be interesting to compare it to the XP-10 when mated with the Pass amplifier. I'll keep you posted.


That preamp comparison should be quite interesting. I look forward to reading about your results.


I recently brought in an XP-20 for a listen and had a question that I wanted to pose to Pass via email. Pass Labs answered in a very timely and professional manner.

I thought I'd post the question and the response from Pass in case anyone has one of these pieces and is having the same issue and uncertainty as I. Just note in the response from Pass, I am assuming the chip change would be after 3-23-09.

Question: When utilizing input 5 for the HT bypass, the volume level of the XP-20 defaults to "Unity Gain" of 59. When you change the input, i.e. to Input 3, the volume stays the same at 59. I read the manual throughly and was aware that the unit maintains that level when switching inputs? However, wouldn't it have been wiser to program the software to default to 59 when using input 5/HT Bypass and then when reverting back to another input, either recall what the last setting was i.e 25, versus maintaining that high level of 59? Am I missing something in the operational sequence?

Pass's response: No you are not. This has been changed in the software just last week. Your software could be changed with a new chip if you want.

This message is mainly meant for Peterayer, who wanted to hear how the Pass XP-10 and the H2O Audio Fire preamps compare in my system. I am running them into a Pass X250.5 which drives Avalon Opus speakers, with a Wavelength Cosecant V3 as a source.

As I'll explain below, Unlike Muralman1 I don't think that there is a clear winner in all categories, but after listening for a week my overall preference from a listening perspective leans towards the H2O Audio Fire.

Both the Pass XP 10 and the H2O Fire preamps are fairly similar sounding when run with their single ended connections, and less similar sounding when the Pass is run with its balanced connections to a balanced amp. The Pass allows adjustable gain of either zero or ten dB. I did all my listening at the 0 dB setting because it sounded better with my source. I could happily live with either preamp for different reasons, and I imagine that a person's preference between the two would ultimately depend on the nature of the rest of their system. Until I auditioned the Fire, I had never found a solid state preamp that I would choose to listen to over a tube preamp. I can also happily listen to the Pass, however there are some quantifiable differences between the two preamps that I'll point out.

1) When running with balanced connections to the Pass X250.5, the XP-10 becomes the quietest preamp I've ever heard. With the balanced connections, the Pass preamp allows more low level background detail to come through, which aids in imaging and sound stage depth. However, at the same time the balanced connections bring forth slightly drier bass, and the overall presentation is a bit thinner than both the Fire and the XP-10 running single ended connections. The balanced connection between the Pass amp and preamp aids in making sense of densely presented music, such as classical piano or symphonic music. The XP 10 via balanced connections also bring forth the least amount of added distortion I've ever heard coming from a preamp. On certain types of music the lack of distortion can be addictive, particularly piano and female vocals. However, the quieter, drier, slightly thinner sound is not universally welcoming on all types of music.

2) The Fire presents greater micro-dynamics than the Pass XP 10. I level matched both preamps to within 0.2 dB, and the small dynamic volume shifts jump out more with the Fire with no increase in harshness. This is particulalry noticable in well recorded jazz percussion. Ride cymbal patterns show more dynamic shadings and dynamic drum whacks pop out more through the Fire.

3) The Fire has a slightly more realistic sounding treble region. The Fire, in fact, has the best treble that I've heard from any preamp. The microdynamic capabilities of the Fire and the sweet high frequencies allow beautiful detail and shimmer to come through from instruments such as acoustic / electric guitar, well recorded piano, and cymbals. However, when the frequency range drops down a bit into the upper midrange, I think the cleanliness of the Pass XP-10 presents female vocals better. When listening to specific higher frequencies of female vocals, it is relatively easy to hear that the XP-10 produces a cleaner signal than the Fire, and in these highly specific frequencies the cleaner signal is easier to listen to.

4) The Fire has a slightly warmer overall characteristic (especially if the Pass is run with balanced connections). Both preamps go very deep in the bass with plenty of control, but the midbass and midrange of the Fire is a bit more dense. How this relates to overall preference between the two preamps depends on the particular recording I am listening to. The slightly drier bass of the Pass will present more pitch definition on some bass heavy recordings, however the pitch definition can come at the expense of a slight loss of richness.

5) While both preamps do not sound at all like the typical solid state preamps I've listened to, I think the Fire has an overall slightly "sweeter" sound that results from its high frequency performance, slightly fuller presentation and increased micro-dynamics capabilities. I don't want to say that the Fire sounds more tube-like than the Pass, because the designer of the Fire might take offense at my choice of words, but hey, the Fire sounds more tube-like than the Pass. For the reasons I've pointed out above, I think the Fire can sound a bit more musical on a wider variety of recordings. However, my spouse disagrees with me. She likes the Pass better because the cleaner signal allows vocals to be more easily understood.

6) The Pass XP 10 has more features and better usability than the Fire. The Pass has an adjustable gain of 0 dB or 10 dB. The Pass has a beautiful full featured aluminum remote control that allows very fine control over the volume range, as well as the ability to directly switch to any input. The Pass has a balance control and a home theater pass through if you have needs for such. The Pass also has both balanced and single ended connection capabilities. The Fire has a remote control with volume swings that are, in my opinion, too large for the overall gain of the preamp when listening at low to medium volume levels. The remote on the Fire does not allow switching of inputs. The Fire can not be run without the remote because when the Fire is first turned on the circuit is automatically muted, and the only way to un-mute is via the remote. So, on a user functionality basis I think the Pass readily destroys the Fire.

7) Both preamps appear to be extremely well built. While the XP-10 costs five percent more than the Fire, the Fire offers an extremely robust external power supply, is hand built in the United States, and frankly offers quite a bit more physical product for the money. However, I think the luxurious usability of the Pass offers much in a different type of value.

In summary, I like both preamps for different reasons. The Fire gives more richness to the sound, and has the most beautiful, natural sounding treble I've ever heard from any preamp. Also, the micro dynamic capabilities of the Fire can really draw me in to recordings that aren't overly compressed. However, in some types of music the extremely clean sound of the Pass, when run with balanced connections, can be quite addictive and allow for easier following of dense musical passages. Also, the quieter sound of the Pass allows for better imaging in width, depth and height if your speakers do this kind of thing. Ergonomically, the Pass is a pleasure to use.

That is a very thoughtful, and plain facts review, Alan.

The mute feature of the Fire is to help avoid the powering up of the preamp after the amps. Henry can make the Fire without a remote control. I like the near infinite volume adjustment, and the circuit simplification.

I soldered Sonicap Platinum bypass caps over each poll of the big blues in my amp. You have Thetas, if I am not wrong. The improvement is not small, and it is very easy to do. The highs become even more sweeter. The rest is dialed in a lot clearer.

Also, the ribbon SCs I run from the monos to the speakers made a tremendous improvement. The stage leapt for to aft. The frequency extremes gained a lot too. I have Scintillas, so stage width is not limited.

The the micro-dynamics, you report with the Fire, gained as well with the ribbon SCs.

My little lecture...... Sorry.

Oh, one more thing. Can you tell us what cables you are using? Through my Scintillas all insulated cables inserted noise into the signal path. The Speltz wires showed me where the background noises were coming from. The ribbons extended the highs and lows greatly over the Anit-Cable. I can stand with my ear to the ribbons and hear nothing but clear music.
Hi Muralman,

I have a few sets of cables to choose from, but currently my favorites with the Pass amp are the Alpha Core Boa's, which I didn't like with my H2O amp. I think I am currently using Oval Nine's (I forget the manufacturer's name) upstairs with the H2O amp. I believe I am using Silver Audio Silver Bullet interconnects, although I'm not sure if the company is still around. Nevertheless, I am not the type of audiophile that can tolerate auditioning different cables. As long as they do not pick up RFI and do not sound tizzy or dull I am generally happy.

I took a look at your ribbon cables. I wouldn't use such cables here because I am using a stereo amp and those look a little too flimsy to place in an area where people might be walking.

I thank you and greatly appreciate your very thorough and well-written comparison between the two preamps. And in response to my simple question. Thanks for the effort. I had not heard of the H2O Fire and as Muralman1 writes so favorably about it and his amps, I was curious to know more, especially as I had just upgraded to the new Pass XP-20.

My pre has the separate power supply which the XP-10 does not and my amps are the XA.5 series instead of your X.5. I also find the Pass equipment to be extremely quiet, quite detailed and just slightly warm of neutral. That may be from the class A amps. Classical and complex passages are indeed easier to follow, as you write, and soundstage dimension and instrument location and separation are superb. Timbres, too, are very acurate to my ear. I do not hear the dry bass to which you refer, but again, that may be the amps. I do find the XP series to be cleaner and clearer than the X-1 which it replaced. The latter was darker and richer, but that may have been slight distortions. The XP seems more "accurate" which to me means more "musical" because it brings me closer to the sound of the Boston Symphony Orchestra than did the X-1.

Well, the Fire has some big fans on this site. It sounds like a wonderful preamp. Thank you for sharing your impressions with us.

Hi Peter, I just know what made the big changes here. I have demonstrated the noisiness of all jacketed cables on the H2O. There are folks in Europe who have gone so far as to use ribbons for speaker interiors.

I arrived at the ribbon SCs through deductive reasoning. Class D is a new field, and require new thinking.

I didn't get to hear the XA 100 monos on my speakers. I did get to hear them on the huge Full Range Apogees. That is a very special amp. The 600.5 amp is similar to the 600. the .5 was clearer than I remember. The bass was way loose on my speaker's panels.
Hi Peter,

The dryness in the bass which I spoke of seems to be going away as the XP10 is burning in.

I took a look at your system and judging from who you were working with when purchasing, we seem to live relatively close. I sent you an email via the Audiogon mail form. You are welcome to check out the Fire at some point if you wish.

I wish we all lived close. We could all learn a lot.
I recently purchased an XP-10 to pair with an Ayre V-5xe. The combination throws a stunning 3D soundstage, revealing musical details, timbre and depth that have always been there, but somehow missing until now. Coming back to separates required more rack space and other resources, but very happy with the outcome.
Muralman, was the bass loose with both the XA 100.5´s and the 600.5 on the Apogees?
"I didn't get to hear the XA 100 monos on my speakers. I did get to hear them on the huge Full Range Apogees. That is a very special amp. The 600.5 amp is similar to the 600. the .5 was clearer than I remember. The bass was way loose on my speaker's panels"