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PASS LABS!I have owned many Krell power amps and pre-amps over the years. About 3 years ago Kell fired their service manager Patrick and ever since the service went to hell. About 2.5 years ago I bought Pass Labs X350.5 after a bit of frustration with Krell's service dept. I have been very pleased with the X350.5s performance and Pass Lab's Service. It does sound different than the Krell FPB 600 amp I had prior which I had throw in the trash. I find myself listening a lot longer than I could with the Krell. I have a friend who has owns a Krell EVO 202 and it does sound nice with an EVO 402 Power Amp , but it is a lot of money for what you get. My friend agrees that my system sounds much better than his. I have a radically different room and speakers combo. I just recently purchased Pass Labs XP-10 and I am real happy with it. It replaced my Pass Labs Aleph P. It was HUGE improvement! I have used my friend's EVO 202 in my system and it did work well with my Pass power amp, I am very weary of purchasing anymore Krell products. Both the EVO 202 and the XP 10 are great sounding pre-amps the Pass seemed a bit more quiet, had better separation between instruments, and the Pass tonal balance and sound stage is much more real. I hear the XP 20 is a bit better than the XP 10. Now that the Krell has changed hands maybe it can fix its problems. I do not know what will happen. I think a Chinese holding company now owns it but I do not know for sure. I heard the name of holding group is KT holdings.
I own a Pass XP-20 and it sounds great with my Pass amps. It is extremely transparent, neutral and quiet. It is also easy to use and has a newer, more convenient remote. I have also heard great sounding tube preamps, as others suggest, in other systems with other amps. I tried the highly regarded Doshi preamp in my system and it was a very bad match for the Pass amps. SS and tubes can both be great IME, but it depends on system matching and your tastes. What's the rest of the system?
I'd get Pass over Krell to answer your question. Others suggest tubes, but that is not your question.
Tube pre-amps can have a great sound but I tend to lean towards the solid state.I did go down the tube path for a little while and I decided I do not need too many more options I.E. different tubes to try out. I drove my self nuts trying all the different tubes. Then I found myself spending a fortune on tubes. I have to say the my tube amps and pre-amps sounded great but I hear much more resolution with a super high quality Solid State pre-amp power amp combos. With out knowing your system I cannot give advice on tubes vs solid state but I do know that the Pass stuff sounds great!
Pass or spectral. I do not know. I have no ear time on spectral equipment. From what I see in the forums and reviews it looks good. Without ear time I cannot make a recommendation. They have a lot of fans as does Pass Labs. I have heard the McIntosh sound very good in several systems. It is not the sound for me. But I run Apogees Duetta Signatures which are 3 ohms nominal so I need current and lots of power. The autofomer that McIntosh uses is not for me. I like when an Amp doubles it power as the impedance becomes more difficult to drive the more watts but the current is constant. It make my Apogees sing! At 3 ohms my Pass Labs X350.5 is like having 1000watts per side although I do not play it all that loud you can feel the music and the instruments and voices are spooky good.