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!
strats
Thanks for all the feedback everyone! Just wanted to report back on what I ordered. I purchased a second hand Golden Gate 1 (balanced with volume control). This has been refurbished at the Lampizator factory with a few upgrades and it is on its way. I also got RK KR242 tubes with a RK KR5U4G rectifier. I ordered a Lampizator flagship power cord as well. I can’t wait to hook it up!
@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.
Thanks @david_ten . This makes sense. I was hoping to get the best fit DAC and then build up other relevant accessories over time so I could get both over time. Having said that, I already have 3 dedicated lines. My power amp and DAC are each on their own dedicated line (everything else goes into a power conditioner on the third line). The DAC line has a Furutech GTX-D NCF outlet. The amp is on a Maestro outlet (it sounded fuller to me than the Furutech, at the expense of some precision).

Are there any power cords or interconnects that you would particularly recommend for this setup?
@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.
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?
Thanks for all the responses! This is very helpful. 

@georgesallit325, I considered the option of a single ended DAC into an XP12 and then going balanced from there to the amp. That could still be an option. I'm just concerned that it might not reach the level of the Lampi's volume control. It sounds like you have had a good experience with it though. How does the XP22 compare to the XP12? I would love to get some impressions. There seems to be very little about this comparison online.

@david_ten , my speakers are Pure Audio Project Trio 15s with Voxativ PiFe wood drivers. The input to my DAC is from a Signature Rendu SE. 
With Pass XA60.5 using the balanced input vs the single ended is quite a noticeable difference. More space around instruments/individuals and more depth to the room.
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.
@strats Knowing which speakers you are using, will be helpful.
strats
Both DAC’s were connected to a Pass preamp with 1 meter Shunyata interconnects. Pass literature recommends a balanced connection. The Luxman padded their outputs for the same voltage but the Bryston had double the voltage on balanced lines both claimed to be fully differential balanced units.  I do not know if the Lampy has a voltage differential balanced or if the increased voltage is necessary.
Thanks shannere! This is helpful. The DA06, has no volume control, right? Did you connect it to a Pass preamp? Were the connections from the DAC to preamp and preamp to power amp the same for the comparisons (single ended / balanced)? Roughly how long were the interconnects?

Was it the same with the Bryston DAC?
I have Pass equipment and prefer the sound when balanced. My DAC is a Luxman DA06 which offers both RCA and balanced and I like the balanced sound better. Previously I used  Bryston DAC with the same results.  According to Pass Labs a single ended input is cloned and inverted to create a balanced signal for internal usage.