Pass X-250 or McCormack DNA-2 Deluxe

OK, here is my question. Do I purchase the Pass X-250 or the McCormack DNA-2 Deluxe, both would be purchased used (Pass $3K-$3K, DNA-2 Deluxe $2K-$2.5K)?

My system consists of Sony SCD-777ES, AZ Silver Ref. ICs, BAT VK-30SE tube preamp (probably upgrade it to 31SE) and B&W 803 Matrix Series II speakers. I want the sound to be sweet, very fast, detailed, airy, smooth, extended, slight warmth, bass slam and mucho dynamics and more.

Has anyone compared these amps?

Thanks your input will be well received.
Buy the DNA-2 Deluxe. It's possible the Pass X-250 just might be a tad better sonically now but you'll save about $1500 or so with the DNA-2.

Down the road after you send your DNA-2 to Steve McCormack for his Rev. A upgrade ($2500), there would be only a select few solid state amps made that could even begin to compete with your new DNA-2 Rev. A.

I have been using Pass pre-amplification (X-1 and X-ONO) and have loved the combination, so I can't say anything bad about Pass Labs. The entire X-series has received pretty much universal applause. But if you are looking for bass slam and mucho dynamics, I don't think you can do any better than the McCormack. My DNA-225 has power reserves out of this world, belying the 225 power rating. The DNA-2 is even more of the same.

Neither amp, that you are considering, is particularily known for its airness and sweetness. Detail and power sure. The DNA-125 and DNA-225 were steps toward sweetness with detail. And the new Pass Labs XA-250 is promised to be even more of the same.

I hate to say it but your best bet may be listening to both before committing. Even though I don't think you can go wrong with either. One question though: How much power do you really need? A used DNA-125 would cost you even less as would one of the earlier Pass Labs Alepha series.

Best of luck,

Thomas Gonzales
Chicago, IL
I'm just wondering how you narrowed it down to these two, if you haven't heard either one? Thomas is correct about auditioning before buying if you can, and I don't hate to say it. :-)
arn't we talking about two different price levels?
i would add plinius sa250 in that list which is superior to them both.
if you can't stretch to plinius SA250 you can get SA100 which will bring you everything you've just stated into your speakers.
The Conrad Johnson MF2500 will also provide the qualities you seek and it works great with tube pre-amps. However, you really should try to audition if possible before you buy.
I dont' think the McCormack (even with the expensive upgrade) is in the same league as the Pass. My Opinion. Also do some research here, you'll see.
Personally, the best deal going at the $3k level (used) is a Gamut D200 amplifier. I cannot say how much I like about the Gamut in the time I have to write this post.

Anyway do more research.

Consider the new Bryston 4-B SST or 7-B SST or the awesome, musical, delicate yet powerful and nuanced Classe CA-301!

peter jasz.
I second the classe rec., good match for your speakers, however, your current choice and all recs are solid - you have to decide what floats your boat...good luck!
Keith Yates is a six figure home theater designer. Check out his site: Dealing with cost no object clientele, Keith is always on the look out for the very best audio gear available. Keith has given me permission to reprint a letter he sent me recently:

"I typically specify the speakers, subs and processors that go into my
projects. I'm increasingly being called on to spec the power amps and
source components, too. If Nelson would make his gear rack-friendly I'd
spec it in a heartbeat. In my opinion Nelson Pass is the only real genius circuit
designer in high-end audio. There are a few others whose parts- and
build-quality are at least as good (Burmester and Rowland come first to
mind, and maybe Spectral, Levinson and Boulder, too), but no one
combines execution and sheer circuit-inspiration as completely as

So there you have it. In my own experience, I have found the Pass X will sound like anything you want, as it has no character of it's own. What it will do, is give your music dazzling dynamic range, fatigueless listening like no other ss amp, and perfect clarity that works wonders with instrument tone decay. Your tube pre will be a very good choice. With the Pass, you will learn right away whether you have the right tubes or not. Your front end may or may not do. The Pass is as sweet and liquid as you want it. that's what I like, and I do it with tubes in the front end.

The McCormack is not even in the same league, with or without the revs. I don't see Plinius in Keith's short list either.
I agree with Muralman1, I recently acquired a pair of Pass X-600s. They can almost justify the outrageous price for High-End audio. The built quality is awesome, but the most important is that they make my Revel Salons come alive.
I agree with Mr Yates and am a BIG "fan" of Nelson's power amps. However, i am not "brainwashed" into thinking that there are other designs that aren't just as good or even better for specific situations. As mentioned above, the Gamut seems to be very well built and uses very high quality parts throughout. As such, it might be worth checking into also.

Having said that, i don't think that you could go wrong with either a Pass or McCormack product. I do think that there are sonic differences between them and an audition would be in order before plunking down the cash and making a long term commitment to either of them though. I don't think that it is so much a matter of which amp is "better" at this level so much as which one is more compatible with your system and personal preference.

Either way, don't forget to take into consideration that most all of Nelson's amps that i've ever tinkered with sound best when they are left on 24/7. I would "assume" that the McCormack might be similar but i have limited experience with these amps. You might want to check into how much idle current these amps pull and make sure that your installation will allow adequate ventilation for whichever one you pick. Sean

Personally I don't think Pass is a good match to
B&W speakers. The combo always sounds too analytical
to me. DNA-2 will be a much better match. Belles 250A
and Odyssey stratos are all very good selections.

my 0.02
My vote also for Pass X250, Mccormack sorry in my opinion is not in the same league, email me direct if you have any question.
First, with the high-end system you have and money your looking to spend on an amp, I wouldn't make any decision on an amp without auditioning them in your system and home. You're mixing a tube preamp with a SS amp, so (while rare) there are tech. issues that may impact performance and proper matching.

Instead of these huge single amplifiers, you may want to consider biamping with two smaller amps. Bi-amping almost always yields better results.

As for McCormack versus Pass, I think the McCormack offers great value, but, for elite systems, the upgrades are a necessity. The Rev A Gold upgrades put this amp in rarefied air (the Gold upgrades being the key to super elite performance). You can't beat Pass craftsmanship though, so either way I think you will be happy.
Thanks for all of your responses. I wish that I could audition the amps in my system but since the McCormack is not a current model, the seller is not interested in sending it to me for a home audition.

Everyones comments were well received.

Thanks again.

Happy Listening.
save your money and look for a threshold s/350e.......great match.....