Recommended Preamp for Pass Labs XA30.8 and why


DAC: MSB Analog
Transport: MSB Platinum DATA CD IV
Cables: MIT Shotgun S1.3 Interconnect & Bi-wire speaker cable
Speakers: Esoteric MG-20

Considered Options:

Audio Research LS27
Conrad-Johnson ET3SE
Aesthetix Calypso Signature
PS Audio BHK Signature
Luxman CL-38u 

This is my very first post in the forum.
Since my speakers' balance has clearly been optimized for clarity and detail rather than warmth and richness
according to Stereophile's review, I prefer a tube preamp.
The MIT interconnect comes with adjustable impedance switching, so impedance matching isn't a major concern.
I prefer a smooth, detailed & balanced sound with wide and deep soundstages. 
Any suggestions will be appreciated.
Thank you so very much.
eddiekuo
Take a look at my review on the Linear Tube Audio's MicroZOTL headphone/preamplifier on hometheaterreview.com that I made one of my products of the year for the details of its performance.  In one of my systems I have a pair of Pass Labs XA-60.8 mono-blocks that were a match in sonic heaven with the MicroZOTL.  I have also heard with XA-30.8 with the same results.
conspicuous absence of any Pass pre-amps. 

I own an XP-20 and I rank it as the finest pre I've ever owned. Better than a CJ Premier 17LS2 I once had. With the Pass pre, solid state vs tubes is no longer either an issue or a consideration. 


conspicuous absence of any Pass pre-amps. 

I own an XP-20 and I rank it as the finest pre I've ever owned. Better than a CJ Premier 17LS2 I once had. With the Pass pre, solid state vs tubes is no longer either an issue or a consideration. 


I believe that Linear Tube Audio's MicroZOTL is a very special headphone amp / preamp.
Both TAS and Stereophile also have very positive reviews.
But with only two inputs / no remote / DC power supply.....
Hope I’ll have the chance to demo one in home in the future.

Because of space limit, I can only consider Pass Labs' SP10.
Actually I also considered Pass Labs' INT-60 integrated when I bought the XA30.8.
Pass' preamp has no HT bypass in or fixed record/tape out, so it can't be used with a headphone amp.
I would have purchased the INT-60 instead if not for the lacking of some preamp functions.
And I remember that lots of people recommend to mate tube preamp with solid state power amp.
I hope I can find other brand to match Pass perfectly.....
Pass xa30.8 is a robust and full sounding amp. It is not quickest though. I would suggest to get a preamp that is fast! Linear tube audio is a good option. So is CJ and ARC. Any preamp that slows down the proceedings a bit to favor tonal fullness or bloom should be avoided with these Pass amps.

Welcome! eddiekuo

you cannot go wrong w/ Aesthetix, ARC or CJ.
At this price-point and level of performance, listen to the models of interest prior to buying.
The the new Micro ZOTL version with 3 inputs and remote is called the MZ2-S. I have ordered one and will have it next week. I already own 2 Micro ZOTL's and can say that it's the finest preamp I've ever heard. The only thing that's hard to believe is the price. you can't go wrong with a trial period. If you don't like it send it back, even the shipping is cheap because the thing weights next to nothing.

My XP20 does have a tape loop which I do use hooked up to a headphone amp. 
The Rogue Audio RP-5 tube preamp fits the bill.  Plenty of inputs and a great MM MC phono stage, plus a processor loop and outputs for headphones.  I am positively thrilled with mine and I have a;ways had tube preamps.  It also is remote controlled and is dead quiet, even with the volume all the way up, no hiss whatsoever.

I am familiar with the Aesthetix  Calypso and while it is not a warm preamp, it does respond to the tubes you put in it, so you can adjust the sound with tubes.  It has a remote with balance control, which I like.

The only drawback with the tubes is that the tube that handles voltage amplification is a 12AX7, which is not as common and is usually more expensive than other tube types for NOS tubes.  For current production tubes, cost is not a factor. 

I don't know how it compares with the other preamps mentioned, but it's a good preamp and would work well in your system with the right tubes.

Buy your tubes from a reputable dealer and talk to them about what you want soundwise before placing an order. That will save you a lot of money and help ensure you get the sound you want.

Some reputable dealers, but not all, are:

Upscale Audio

Brent Jessee

Vintage Tube Services

Jim McShane

Tubemonger

There are more. Just search the archives for "tube dealers" and you’ll find a number of threads on this topic.

Thank you all for the inputs!!!

Teajay, the Linear Tube Audio's MicroZOTL does not have balanced inputs outputs, and from what I know, pass amps sound better thru balanced inputs. So your combo of MicroZOTL and XA-60.8 or X250.8 sounded better using RCA inputs than other
pre-amps (including pass XP-20) with these pass amps even using the XLR inputs/outputs? I am trying to get best pre-amp (without spending fortune) for my new coming X-350.8 amp. I would go with XP-20 but it has 2 units and with huge X-350.8 it will take a lot of space that I may not have.

Thanks.


Another consideration- eddiekuo

you must demo a Pass Labs pre-amp for a proper comparison.
Mcintosh C2500 can be had used or NOS
Mcintosh C2600 new

I recently purchased the C2500 NOS and love it. Before deciding, I researched VTL, CJ and AR, new and used. I’ve had it for three weeks now and it responds well to tube rolling and has an internal DAC, which I don’t use or need, plus two nice phono sections, MM and MC. In my system it has a smooth upper end and very good bass. It came with 6 12AX7’s that are ok. I put in two new Gold Lion in the main slots and and Mullards in the MC area, all were reissues.

Good luck