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 2 responses by georgesallit325

I have a Pass Labs XA30.8 and see they recommend balanced cables.

 I am using RCA interconnects as I have high-quality silver RCA cables and they sound superb. I use the Pass labs XP12 (and have a loan XP22 here) and I can I use balanced cables from my DAC (Audionote DAC4.1x) into the Pass preamp. My preference is for the RCA cables as the interconnects are much better quality than my balanced (Nordost and TA).

The pass preamps work really well into their power amp, which is not surprising.  I guess it depends on the price difference but in my case, the difference between the AN4.1 DAC balanced vs RCA is not sufficient to make me want to use balanced.
I have just got the XP22 and I am hoping to get one of the first reviews from Europe out soon. I  think it is now fully warmed up and burnt in. Literally, as the UK has had a lot of snow in the last few days and the preamp was stone cold when it arrived.

So far the XP22 has a much more 3D soundstage with a more detailed and natural sound, although it does not quite have the dynamics of the XP12 (yet?). So far so good and I am hoping it will settle down and fully surpass the XP12. The big question is it worth the extra $/£ 3,500?