I have Pass's 30.5 and 100.5 amps and I pair them with Conrad Johnson ART and ACT 2.2 tube preamps. I find them to be great preamps no matter what I hook them up to including some small triode amps.
Both of those pres are no longer current so used is your only option. New: I don't have experience with their newer ET line or their current flagship, the GAT. I have no desire to change what I have now. If I did, I would give their newer top tier stuff a chance. Good luck.
I have an XA30.5 and it sounds truly sublime. In my opinion it sounds like the best of what tubes and solid state can offer in one solution.
With that in mind, I would recommend you consider getting a totally transparent preamp. I'm using a Placette Audio Active preamp which is a match made in heaven with my amp. It also takes extra consideration to match it with your source as well.
Just received my VAC Ren. MKIII to go with my XA30.5 and my Wilson Sofia's all i can say is wow. No tubish sound here. Very transparent. I don't think you can't do any better. It has balanced outs which the pass likes very much.
It does everything just right. I bought it to help tame the tweeters which it did very well, but what was not expected was how well the mid's performed. Female voices will just make you melt. I believe I am finally off the merry go round. It sounds that good.
I heard an ARC Ref 3 with a Pass X350.5 playing through WP 8's, and it was the best application of the Ref 3 that I've heard.
Dear Onemug, Erndog, Mwilliams and Azaud,
Many thanks for your input!
Very good to know that the pres you kindly posted work fine with Pass gear!
Did anyone of you directly compare the pres you use with the XP-10/20? If yes, I would really appreciate some words on the differences you observed in your system.
Such a comparison would be really interesting for me.
I heard today the XP-10 in my system and was very much impressed. Outstanding PRAT, great bass control and a lot of overview in complex passages of music. Everything seems under control and the music has still a good fun factor.
One point I am not sure about were microdynamics (while macrodynamics were great!). Female voices were really good but this aspect could perhaps be even better with other pres. But this aspect may already be a question of the right power cord. In any case the XP-10 is an impressive and very good Pre (to my ears, in my system).
So if anyone else has compared directly a great tube pre (or ss) with the XP-10/20 in a system using the XA.5 series of Pass amps please let me know!
After I purchased the Pass amps, my dealer let me demo the XP-20. I liked it a lot. I preferred my tube pres and returned the 20 but I told the dealer, "If any of my tube preamps ever give me a problem, I will just send you a check for a new 20." So far my tube pres have been flawless so that's what I use.
In comparison: I heard more dynamic contrast with the CJ's especially at low volume levels where I do a lot of my listening. The 20 could do low levels very well but the tubes showed more contrast at those levels.
This is not to say that any tube pre will work for me. What attracted me to the ART and ACT was their design: class A,no NFB,just one gain stage and no cathode follower. It's hard to get any simpler than that but it all comes down to how it sounds to "you" and these sound great to me.
I've been using a Purity Audio Design Ultra GT pre-amp with my XA100.5s and a pair of Wilson Sashas. I can't say enough good things about the match. The guys at Purity really went all out on this beast - Dueland coupling caps, Bybees purifiers and music rails, separate acrylic chassis, silver throughout, etc. The dual 12AU7s allow me the perfect amount of tuning to compliment my tastes.
Bill and Joe from Purity are class acts and have been receiving some great reviews on their stuff. Worth a look.
I would also point you to the Purity Audio Design Reference (two steps below the Ultra GT). I haven't listened to it but I trust Martin G. DeWulf's ears. He is not prone to exhuberance, but he raved about it on the latest issue of Bound for Sound.
Many thanks again for your time!
Did you (or also others) compare your ACT 2.2 with a VAC Ren. Sig. MKII or a Hovland HP200 or a Lamm LL2 deluxe together with the Pass XA.5´s?
Those units are also sometimes on offer as used items here in Europe and are (as I guess) in a similar price range.
Your answer also shows me that the XP20 would also be a quite good choice.
What other pres did you use with your XA30.5 which were bettered in your system by the Vac?
Many thanks in advance!
Dear Kj001 and Vladimir,
Thank you for this interesting suggestion. The reviewss sound really good but it will be hard to hear such a unit in Europe.
The same is true for Placette kindly suggested by Erndog.
In any case many thanks!
I have not compared my CJ's to the others you mentioned. They are all top tier preamps. Hard to go wrong with any of them. One will ultimately suit "your" tastes the most. Good luck.
I have the Pass XA60.5 Monoblocks also and I use the Jeff Rowland Capri Pre-Amp with them. I am very happy with the sound and the synergy between the Pass and Rowland gear.
Boso27, I would agree you probably won't find many units (if any) in Europe at this time since they have only been manufacturing the line for a year and a half. If you were seriously interested, I imagine they might be willing to make arrangements on a demo.
Best of luck in your search.