Single-ended vs. Balanced input for Pass Labs XA30.8 (input will be a Golden Gate DAC)

I'm seriously considering getting a Lampizator Golden Gate DAC (with volume control) and it would go directly into my amp (Pass Labs XA30.8). I will be placing the DAC very close to the amp and use a high quality interconnect between the units. The interconnect will about 2 feet long.

Now I need to decide if I should get a balanced or single ended Golden Gate DAC. The obvious benefit of single ended is that it is a lot cheaper, and trying out new tubes will be a lot cheaper.

I often hear people saying that Pass Labs amps sound better when using balanced inputs (from a true balanced source) rather than single ended inputs.

I would love to get impressions of people that have tried out both single ended and balanced inputs into Pass amps. Is there really a sonic advantage to balanced even for short runs with high quality interconnects? If you have tried both, how much of a difference do you hear?

Another option is to get a single ended Golden Gate DAC without a volume control and connect it to a high quality balanced preamp. However, from the discussions that I have read on the forums, it sounds like I would need a really expensive preamp to sound better than the Golden Gate's volume control, which would defeat the purpose. So, I would like to avoid this option. Moreover, I personally have not found a preamp that I have loved (although what I have tried is at a very different price point). I currently have a Benchmark DAC3. I have tried a (PS Audio BHK Signature, Schiit Freya, and Linear Tube Audio MircoZotl preamp). All had some advantages, but in all cases, I much preferred the Benchmark plugged in directly to the amp.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Showing 3 responses by david_ten

@strats Knowing which speakers you are using, will be helpful.
@strats   From PAP's site for the Trio 15s (Vox PiFe): "Technical Data
  • Sensitivity: 94 to 96db (in a typical room)
  • Nominal Impedance: 8ohm
  • Frequency Range: between 29 to 32hz – 19Khz (in a typical room)"
From Lampizator: "64 steps with Upto 6Vpp output" (I'm sure Lampizator can give you the output voltage for their single ended version, but it's probably safe to assume 'half' or ~3V)

Given the easy load your PAPs represent...

AND Conceding that the 30.8 is probably best driven using it's XLR inputs,....

I'd save the money on the 'Balanced' version of the Golden Gate and put the savings into a higher calibre / performing single ended cable and an upgraded power cord and outlet to the 30.8. Any additional savings can be invested in tubes, as you pointed out, or elsewhere.

All the best.
@strats  You are welcome!  Regarding cabling, as you know, making recommendations is tough and fraught with differing opinions and acceptance.

What I can advise is what has worked for me, and what I've preferred. Others are likely to find solutions in opposition to that or have enjoyed other combinations.

For me, cabling has delivered significant benefits.

Pass Labs, in the past has 'stood by' their stock cords, direct into an outlet...and this is pretty good, per their recommendation. More recently, they have reluctantly acknowledged benefits from using after-market power cords. 

I have chosen to use Triode Wire Labs 'Obsession' power cords across my components and this PC did result in performance benefits for my Pass XA30.8 from both Furutech and SR outlets. I, however, much prefer the SR outlets (while using Furutech NCF R connectors for my power cables).

For your IC choice, I suggest reaching out to Lampizator and What's Best Forum for recommendations. 

I've been very happy with the following ICs: Cardas Clear Reflection, Audience SX, SR Galileo UEF and SR Atmosphere X Euphoria cables. I've done in depth comparisons between all and all of these cables are very good and I can understand an audiophile choosing one over the other for synergy, matching and personal preference reasons. 

I have recently also worked with Verastarr's Grand Illusion Signature Silver IC and Scott Sheaffer's Found-Music 2112 silver IC. Both are exceptional as well. 

I'm personally using Scott Sheaffer's Found-Music 2112 IC as my preferred cable in my primary system.