Pass Labs XP-30 vs Krell Evo 202

I am considering upgrading my preamp and would appreciate your help in comparing the Pass Labs XP-30 and the Krell Evo 202. I am also interested in finding out how much of an upgrade each of these will be over my current Classe CP-50.

My current setup is,
Thiel 7.2 Speakers
Krell FPB 400cx Amp
Classe CP-50 Preamp
Esoteric X-03 SACD Player

Note: I have already tried a Conrad Johnson 16 LSII. I preferred the sound of my Classe to this unit in my system. The Conrad Johnson reduced the amount of detail at all frequencies compared to the Classe. The Conrad Johnson also produced images that are big and somewhat smeared together where as the Classe has space between the images. The Classe soundstage also had more depth and width.
I have in for review the Pass Labs XP-30 for, were I"m a staff reviewer.  It's the finest Solid State Line-stage I have heard in the last twenty years.  No offense to you, I would not even mention, based on performance- yes I have heard the other two preamps you talk about, in the same breath as the XP-30. 
better also listen to the top end Ayre

are you wedded to SS or maybe ready for an ARC Ref??
Ok, I'm going to get laughed at but you'll never know unless you try it. I know of someone that replaced his Pass XP-30 with a Linear Tube Audio MZ2-S designed by David Berning and says it's better. You will laugh because of the huge difference in price but it's the finest preamp I've ever heard. 
I've heard the Pass XP 30 and. ... well.... um.

It was fine.  It was just fine. I was not moved to tears or anything.


Teajay gives an impression of the Pass XP  30 that is quite the contrast to lancelock and Erik. Different ears and most likely different audio systems.  In reality the Linear Tube Audio preamplifier could be as good  (or better) sounding despite its much lower cost. You really do have to listen to audio components to form an opinion regarding their sonic merits. 

Concerning the Pass XP 30 some will find it to sound astonishing and moved to tears. Others such as Erik will find it less than tears evoking. 

I would just stick with what you've got, especially the amp as these speakers need that kind of drive .

You could for a trial period try the Schiit Freya preamp it's a 3 in one balanced or single ended  output, with a very good volume control, can be passive, active tube, or active solid state, with the Krells  "Input Impedance 100 kohms, a great match with all three modes.  
At $699 it's a steal and you can return it if not happy.

Cheers George
I would take a hard listen to the Krell Phantom two box preamp. There's one on audiogon listed that looks like it could be had for half off. I actually don't see how you could audition one since out of production now. A very special piece of gear. I use one with an Agostino amp. 

Thanks for the input so far everyone.

Based on price I would hope the Pass Labs to have the best overall performance. For each option, I am looking to compare the amount of performance improvement I would get vs the cost.You mentioned that you had heard the Classe, Krell, and Pass units. On a scale of 1 to 100, if you were to give the Pass Labs XP30 a 100, what would you rank the Classe CP50 and the Krell EVO 202?

I actually considered the Ayre KXR and from what I have gathered it has good performance. I am a bit concerned about trying it in this specific application with the Thiels based on what I have heard about its tonal balance. The Thiels are right at the edge of being to hot on the top end and from what I have read I gathered that the Ayre is pretty hot on the top end also so I am a bit concerned that It would not be a synergistic match for the Thiels. However this is just a hunch, If anyone has actual experience with Ayre and Thiel I would like to hear your input on this combo?

I am open to tube options. My last venture into tubes described in my original post ended up with me keeping the solid state Classe. One of the things i like about the Classe is that the images come out of a completely black back ground where as the tube pre I tried had a higher noise floor which could be heard throughout the soundstage. Also, I lost a lot of detail and the images smeared together with the tube pre I tried. If there are some tube options that can produce this black background, not loose the detail, and keep space between the instruments in the soundstage I am open to considering them.

I looked up the Liner Tube Audio MZ2-s and i did not see an option for balanced output. My amp only has balanced and cast inputs so I don’t think it will work in this application.

What preamp does moves you to tears?

I agree with you comment about listening. I would say one of the purposes of this tread is to narrow the choices to those most likely to be successful in my system and then step two would be to buy used the one that seems like it is most likely to get the desired result and listen to it as you have described.

Tell me more about what you like about the Phantom. My understanding is that the Phantom is the updated version of the EVO 202 i am considering. From what I have read here these units are supposed to sound pretty similar with the Phantom being slightly more refined.
Nothing really in a long time has been all that for me. When I last really got excited about a preamp it was a CJ premiere, and a Sonic Frontiers.

Recently, sounding "really good" but not necessarily OMG!! I really liked the sound of the recent AR integrated and Ayre preamp with Wilson speakers.

Since I really have no space or heat/electrical budget for tubes, it would probably be an Ayre.

Oh, wait. The CAT I heard at the Magico demo was pretty outstanding, and far beyond my budget.



post pics of your gear In Virtual Systems. 

look into a Krell pre-amp.  Happy Listening!
Hey Jafant, it’s all a mess right now. :)

I use a Mytek Brooklyn, Parasound P7, ICEPower Amps with custom speakers. Parts similar to Gryphon stand mounts.

The Mytek sounds slightly better direct than through the P7, but I need the P7's multichannel capabilities.

In my fantasy world, I'd scope out something top notch.


I should point out that the Pass Pre/Amps I heard were not in my home and were driving Lawrence Audio Double Bass speakers.
Ok, I'm going to get laughed at but you'll never know unless you try it. I know of someone that replaced his Pass XP-30 with a Linear Tube Audio MZ2-S designed by David Berning and says it's better. You will laugh because of the huge difference in price but it's the finest preamp I've ever heard.
Isn't Linear Tube Audio MZ2-S an integrated amp?   What amp did he replaced besides Pass XP-30?

Pass XP 30 and. ... well.... um ...    

Nothing really in a long time has been all that for me. When I last really got excited about a preamp it was a CJ premiere, and a Sonic Frontiers. 
CJ too colored for my taste.  I had Sonic Frontier SFL-1, SFL-2, Line 3 and Power 3.  PCX upgraded Line 3 and Power 3 to the MAX, SE+.  Best move ever made is SELLING the Sonic Frontiers, POS!

We all have our personal preferences, to each his own.  OP, go listen and decide for yourself!
Post removed 

It's a shame you went through so many Sonic Frontiers gear if you didn't like any of it! How did that happen? :)


SFL-1 was my 1st tube preamp and then slowly upgraded to Line 3.   Actually SFL-1 and SFL-2 were pretty good compared to competition at the time.  My biggest mistake was tube rolling and upgrading Line 3 and Power 3.   Line 3 uses 10 6922/e88cc and 2 6U8A so for the money I spent, could of bought a new preamp.   I finally replaced the Sonic Frontiers with VAC and it's like going from Kia to Mercedes.

The plus side is gained tremendous amount of knowledge on tubes. :-)  

post pics here in Virtual Systems.  Happy Listening!
where are ya- cadence151 ?
Are you using a Krell preamp? If so, which one and how do you like it?
Hello cadence151-

I have not had an opportunity to demo any Krell products.  Perhaps you can suggest a dealer/retailer?
Ahhhh, CAD;

I'm going thru the preamp, upgrade;  currently

I was looking at;

cj et3
aathetix calypso
primaluna premium
cary SLP-98
arc ls-28

I've listened to all & currently more confused that ever!!!     Lol

I've heard: ac, arc & pl all at one spot
I finally heard a Cary SLP-05 at friends

I currently am trying ET3 at home

I " thought " I wanted a warm Preamp like the CJ Pv16.
After changing power cords I'm to the point I hear " delicate tonal shadings" now
l always thought the above was a load of " hoey"............
i guess, now with upgrades, I'm a just a "tad" warm side of neutral guy ( Pass Labs like)

so, ET3 I'm trying( tad warm side of neutral) with lots of details

Good of luck on deciding 
i listened to a focal speaker with the xs- pass pre and amp
It was so detailed It almost ripped my ears out
and I am a big Pass Labs fan!!!!!


Since your Krell amps are CAST capable, I would go with the 202 and run CAST cables with it. I have the 202 and have used it with a 600C and now with my 750Mcx's. To me, and in my system, this is an awesome pre. I have always felt that the Krell gear is better together than as mix and match components too.
I've heard the Classe and did not feel that it is even in the same class as the 202, especially if you use the CAST.
Good listening,
Try a VTL 5.5 or 2.5. Only tube preamps that satisfy my craving for solid state bass. I also have the CP50 and the VTL is comparable but different. Listened awhile back to an ARC SP14 and it didn’t measure up to either preamp.
give us an update on your preamp choice?Happy Listening!
Agreed johnjohn
a tubed preamp and solid state power amp are  a match made in heaven.This is especially true for electric guitar/electric bass music lovers.
Happy Listening!